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UC Berkeley Police raided the Memorial Stadium grove tree-sit Tuesday morning, cutting down the lines that linked trees and removing equipment used by the activists who are protesting the planned axing of the collection of Coastal Live Oaks and other trees to make way for a four-level high tech gym and office complex. A Daily Planet reporter was shoved in the back by one officer after he had been ordered away from the stadium rim, the only place offering a clear view of the activities below. The same officer confronted Doug Buckwald, a supporter of the tree-sitters. The stadium rim, as well as the sidewalk in front of the grove on Gayley Road, had been declared crime scenes, police said. A large crowd had gathered, thanks to phone calls and emails sent by supporters of the protest. An Alameda County Superior Court judge is expected to rule Wednesday on a lawsuit that has challenged the gym and other projects planned in the southeast area of the campus.
By Richard Brenneman
UC Berkeley Police raided the Memorial Stadium grove tree-sit Tuesday morning, cutting down the lines that linked trees and removing equipment used by the activists who are protesting the planned axing of the collection of Coastal Live Oaks and other trees to make way for a four-level high tech gym and office complex. A Daily Planet reporter was shoved in the back by one officer after he had been ordered away from the stadium rim, the only place offering a clear view of the activities below. The same officer confronted Doug Buckwald, a supporter of the tree-sitters. The stadium rim, as well as the sidewalk in front of the grove on Gayley Road, had been declared crime scenes, police said. A large crowd had gathered, thanks to phone calls and emails sent by supporters of the protest. An Alameda County Superior Court judge is expected to rule Wednesday on a lawsuit that has challenged the gym and other projects planned in the southeast area of the campus.


Flash: Judge Halts UC Memorial Stadium Gym Project

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday June 18, 2008 - 12:30:00 PM
UC Berkeley Police raided the Memorial Stadium grove tree-sit Tuesday morning, cutting down the lines that linked trees and removing equipment used by the activists who are protesting the planned axing of the collection of Coastal Live Oaks and other trees to make way for a four-level high tech gym and office complex. A Daily Planet reporter was shoved in the back by one officer after he had been ordered away from the stadium rim, the only place offering a clear view of the activities below. The same officer confronted Doug Buckwald, a supporter of the tree-sitters. The stadium rim, as well as the sidewalk in front of the grove on Gayley Road, had been declared crime scenes, police said. A large crowd had gathered, thanks to phone calls and emails sent by supporters of the protest. An Alameda County Superior Court judge is expected to rule Wednesday on a lawsuit that has challenged the gym and other projects planned in the southeast area of the campus.
By Richard Brenneman
UC Berkeley Police raided the Memorial Stadium grove tree-sit Tuesday morning, cutting down the lines that linked trees and removing equipment used by the activists who are protesting the planned axing of the collection of Coastal Live Oaks and other trees to make way for a four-level high tech gym and office complex. A Daily Planet reporter was shoved in the back by one officer after he had been ordered away from the stadium rim, the only place offering a clear view of the activities below. The same officer confronted Doug Buckwald, a supporter of the tree-sitters. The stadium rim, as well as the sidewalk in front of the grove on Gayley Road, had been declared crime scenes, police said. A large crowd had gathered, thanks to phone calls and emails sent by supporters of the protest. An Alameda County Superior Court judge is expected to rule Wednesday on a lawsuit that has challenged the gym and other projects planned in the southeast area of the campus.
By Richard Brenneman
By Richard Brenneman
By Richard Brenneman
By Richard Brenneman
By Richard Brenneman

An Alameda County Superior Court judge’s ruling has forced a halt to the planned construction of a gymnasium complex next to UC Berkeley’s California Memorial Stadium. 

While the ruling upheld most of the university’s plans for their Memorial Stadium gym, it also held that key parts of the decision approved by the UC Board of Regents need revision. 

Stephan Volker, one of the attorneys suing the university, hailed the judge’s ruling as a victory. 

Judge Barbara J. Miller decided that three key features of the planned stadium gym violate the Alquist-Priolo Act governing construction on or near earthquake faults. She rejected the university’s contention that the law doesn’t apply to them. 

The judge also said that the approval by the regents failed to adequately consider earthquake risks and noise and traffic from special events planned at the university. 

Though she upheld most of the university’s contentions, the judge’s decision halts the uiniversity’s plans to move forward on the project pending further environmental review. 

“We are ecstatic,” Volker said. 

The ruling late Wednesday comes at the end of two turbulent days at the site of an ongoing protest next to the western wall of Memorial Stadium. 

Arborists, backed by UC Berkeley campus police, armed with pistols, batons and at least two cherry-pickers, raided the ongoing tree-sit at Memorial Stadium Tuesday morning, cutting lines and threatening arrests. 

Then, soon after a press conference where UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof announced police weren’t going to seize tree-sitters from the branches, the civilian crews snatched one tree-sitter from her support line. 

By Wednesday morning at least five cranes and “cherry-picker” lifts were in place, including a massive new crane that towered over the oak grove as arborists with chain saws took down at least two branches while a reporter watched. 

UC Berkeley officials have tightly managed public perceptions of the event, closing off Memorial Stadium, the only place with a clear view of events on the ground,to public access. The university has plans to cut down the grove to build a four-level high tech gym and office complex dubbed the Student Athlete High Performance Center. 

The tree-sit, which began in December 2006 on Big Game day, has led to a steadily escalating conflict between protesters—who want to preserve the grove and a site that some claim may hold Native American burials—and a university eager to improve its aging athletic facilities to better accommodate alumni fans who are a major source of donations. 

Critics also question the university’s decision to build next to a stadium that sits directly atop the earthquake fault that federal geologists predict will cause the Bay Area’s next major earthquake. 

University officials have steadily escalated pressure on the activists occupying the grove, adding first one and then another barbed wire-topped fence to keep out the protest supporters who keep tree-sitters supplied with food and water and haul away their bodily wastes. 

Campus police tried Tuesday to keep supporters and the press off the sidewalk on Gayley Road. 

“It’s a crime scene,” said one officer. 

As members of the crowd yelled at the officers, the police in turn videotaped the protesters. 

This Berkeley Daily Planet reporter was threatened with arrest after he questioned an officer’s order to leave the rim of the stadium, the only place where activities of the officers could be monitored. 

As the reporter was leaving, he was shoved in the back by a university officer and would have fallen down the concrete stairs had not he been grabbed by Doug Buckwald, one of the long-time supporters of the tree-sit. 

Officer C. Chichester, badge 36, told this reporter, who was carrying valuable camera gear, that if he were arrested, “Who knows what would happen to your camera equipment when you’re in jail?” 

The stadium rim was the only place from which a journalist could have a view of the events unfolding in the grove below. It was from the rim that the reporter saw one of the cranes brush a support line, from which a tree-sitter was suspended between two evergreens at least 50 feet apart. 

Millipede, the treesitters suspended from the line, screamed in terror. She was the same tree-sitter arrested hours later. University spokesperson Dan Mogulof said she had bitten one of the workers. 

Zachary Running Wolf, the first of the tree-sitters, said she and other protesters had been terrified when the arborists placed a saw next to the lines from which the tree-sitters were suspended between the trees. 

Had the line snapped, the protesters would have been hurled to the ground in a potentially fatal fall, and for that reason the reporter objected to the forced move. 

Asked why the reporter and spectators were being moved, Chichester said, “Well, there are people down below and perhaps they feel threatened.” 

The stadium rim was blocked by police crime scene tape during the encounter. 

Asked the grounds for a potential arrest, Chichester said simply, “You’re trespassing.” He declined to cite a statute, and said, “You’ll be informed of that when you’re being booked at the jail.” 

License plates and all identifying signs were covered on almost all the contract equipment brought to the site to aid in the university’s operations at the grove. 

In addition to the cranes and cherry pickers, the university was bringing in new portable lights, and a communications van and a diesel fuel truck were also on hand. 

The fuel truck, from Pacific States Petroleum, was the only vehicle with visible license plates and corporate name and logo. 

Meanwhile, Judge Miller issued her decision late Wednesday in the lawsuit filed jointly by City Councilmember Dona Spring, the city itself and a group of environmental and neighborhood organizations challenging the stadium project itself. 

That ruling targets the decision of the UC Board of Regents to approve the gym, a stadium seismic retrofit and other projects in the southeast campus area. 

At least 40 uniformed officers participated in Tuesday’s raid, as well as at least five arborists in civilian garb. 

By Wednesday, police were also circulating among the throng who had gathered on scene to support the tree-sitters or simply watch the unfolding spectacle. Previously officers had largely remained behind the portable barriers that have blocked off the sidewalk along the eastern edge of Piedmont Avene/Gayley Road adjacent to the stadium. 

Officers Tuesday had also closed off the northbound lane of Piedmont between Bancroft Avenue and Stadium Rim Way and the roadway remained closed Wednesday, with the roadblock staffed by Berkeley city police. 

The most visible symbol of the protest Wednesday was Muffin, a blonde woman standing in her box-like perch atop an evergreen at least 50 feet above the ground. She stood, facing the massive crane that had been brought in hours before, as a crew of arborists in a basket suspended from the crane carried on work largely invisible to spectators below.

Flexibility Out, New Numbers Needed As West Berkeley ‘Project’ Continues

By Richard Brenneman
Monday June 16, 2008 - 04:55:00 PM

Forget flexibility: It’s now the “West Berkeley Project.” 

City staff has renamed the zoning modification effort now underway before the Planning Commission, in part because the phrase “West Berkeley Flexibility” evoked fears in the hearts of artists and craftsfolk who worry about being priced out of their last remaining refuge in the city. 

The City Council has directed commissioners to come up with a plan for easing some of West Berkeley’s zoning restrictions, and even supporters of the current system say they’d like to see some changes—but not radical revisions that could force them out of the city they love. 

No one denies that West Berkeley zoning regulations, created to complement the West Berkeley Plan, contains flaws that could use some legal tweaking. But critics feared that the “flexibility” approach could lead to sweeping changes that violated the spirit of a plan which sought to achieve accommodation between artists, crafts shops and major industrial tenants. 

West Berkeley’s MU-LI zone—for manufacturing and light industrial—is the city’s last bastion for artists and craftworkers priced out of Berkeley’s commercial zones. 

And even in West Berkeley, arts and crafts space has dwindled with the closing and demolition of the Drayage and the eviction of the Nexus collective. 

At the same time, biotech labs are claiming ever more space, and the Green Corridor initiative of East Bay city and county governments is working to bring in more corporate facilities that would complement and commercialize agrofuel and other high tech research now underway at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 

“We are calling it the West Berkeley Project because the ‘flexibility’ word was scary and didn’t necessarily suggest all we’re trying to do,” said planner Alex Amoroso. 

As part of the redefinition process, the city has hired Rick Auerbach, an activist with West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies (WEBAIC), to survey the MU-LI zone to find out what companies and studios are actually there, both on ground floor street frontages and on the floors above, said city Economic Development Director Michael Caplan. 

Dave Fogarty of the city’s economic development staff said that while the 1992 West Berkeley Plan anticipated 1.54 million square feet of new construction by 2005, only 475,000 square feet was actually built by 2005, most by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals on its 43-acre campus. 

Still, the total of 10.8 million square feet of total space in West Berkeley reported last year was close to what the plan has projected, “but the distribution was very different from what had been expected,” Fogarty said.  

“The main difference was the addition of a relatively large amount of manufacturing space,” developed at a time when, nationally, manufacturing “was not doing all that well,” he said. 

And while jobs had been expected to increase 20 percent from the baseline of 15,809, the actual growth was only 4 percent, to 16,454, he said. 

Caplan said the greatest job growth was at two industrial facilities, Bayer and Pacific Steel Casting. 

The area also lost three of its largest business: Flint Ink, McAuley Foundry and Peerless Lighting, though plans for a major mixed use research and live/work development at the Peerless site have been proposed by owner Douglas Herst. 


Unexpected growth 

Where West Berkeley did see growth was in areas not anticipated when the plan was developed, Caplan said, in part due to the advent of Internet retailing—which has allowed, for example, the opening of a wine retailer which does on-line business from a West Berkeley warehouse. 

But some critics question the numbers cited by planning staff, including Auerbach, whose hiring as a temporary consultant may help clarify a contentious issue. 

When commissioner Susan Wengraf asked Caplan for data on the number of self-employed artists and artisans who work in the area, Caplan said, “We’ll be able to show you in coming months,” citing Auerbach’s project, which is now underway. 

Auerbach said his work had shown that at least 787 individuals are working in at least 210 studios. 

“The main attraction is affordability,” he said. “West Berkeley used to be affordable.” 

Fogarty said the only numbers the city maintains have been derived from the business licenses all self-employed arts and crafts workers are legally required to obtain-though compliance may be less than universal. 

“Rick was able to get about 90 percent of them to say where they are located,” Caplan said. One challenge for the future will be figuring out “how to preserve these clusters and enhance them,” he said. 

Commissioner Roia Ferrazares said she was concerned that the city find a way to keep those jobs in West Berkeley that offer a path to a decent income and benefits for workers without college degrees and advanced training. 

Caplan said Green Corridor governments have been talking to community colleges and organizations to develop procedures for training a workforce for growing economic sectors-“a vocational education model that looks at energy technologies.” 

“Lab tech jobs are a good example,” he said. “You need training, but not a whole lot. Bayer is the model. For 15 years they have interacted with the school system to create training programs for lab technicians, and on their own initiative.”  

In that same period, he said, jobs have nearly doubled, from 600 to 1,775 today, “and a lot of the new employees are lab technicians, recruited locally, and many are high graduates.” The result, he said, “is the only large-scale success in West Berkeley.” 

Wengraf noted that as part of the conditions for Bayer’s use permit, planning commissioners had negotiated a Bayer-backed biotech training program at Berkeley High School. But, she said, “there were only 16 or 17 slots, and my concern was that we could have negotiated a lot more.” 

Still, she said, “it’s a great model to use in any future development agreements.” 


More questions 

Commissioner Harry Pollack said he wanted more information on the changes in the category of uses. “We need to understand that a little better ... because we have certain categories in our zoning ordinance that don’t seem to match up with 21st Century realities.” 

Mary Lou Van Deventer of Urban Ore told commissioners that some of the sites listed for potential development had already been used, and said that her recycling business had almost doubled in sales and added seven new employees in recent years and was planning on further expansion. 

She and others have noted that recycling is as much a “green” form of business as the high tech ventures targeted by the Green Corridor partnership. 

John Curl, a woodworker and WEBAIC activist, said the statistics cited by the city staff “are very questionable and need to be adjusted,” especially given the two different sets of classifications used.  

Auerbach agreed that existing date “is kind of questionable.” 

“It all comes down to the question, Is West Berkeley a successful area in terms of jobs, equity and other issues?” he said. And many of the apparently vacant spaces are being land-banked, he said, kept from development now by owners who are hoping for an increase in land prices.” 

By the end of the meeting, commissioners had few firm answers, but lots more questions for city staff to answer when they next take up the issue on July 23. 

The Planning Department’s page on the project-still labeled “West Berkeley Flexibility”-may be found at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=10764. 

Bared Breast Provokes Arrest at Marine Recruiting Station

By Judith Scherr
Monday June 16, 2008 - 04:57:00 PM

Pam Bennett of Code Pink was arrested Friday when she bared her breasts in front of Berkeley's downtown Marine Recruiting Station.  

“War is indecent—breasts are not,” Bennett told the Planet on Monday. “Four million people displaced, lacking food and water is indecent—breasts are not.” 

Bennett was protesting the war and recruitment for it in front of the recruiting station at 64 Shattuck Square with a group from Code Pink and Breasts not Bombs, an anti-war group which protests the war by taking off their shirts. She was the only one to be arrested. 

According to Officer Andrew Frankel, police department spokesperson, Bennett was arrested for violating Berkeley's law against nudity.  

Frankel said the other demonstrators put their shirts back on, when asked to do so by police officers, but Bennett took hers off a second time and was arrested. 

Bennett said that a second person took her shirt off twice, but that person was not arrested. Bennett claims she herself was arrested because she is a leader in the Code Pink actions. She said police are trying to intimidate Code Pink leaders. 

She had expected to use Friday's action to provoke questions among passers-by and to create an opportunity to discuss the obscenity of war. The arrest is “a violation of free speech rights,” she said.  

Frankel said the arrests were not complaint-driven. Police had advance notice of the demonstration and planned the arrests. “They were told we would not tolerate the violations,” Frankel said. 

Asked by the Planet why people are allowed to walk nude in the How Berkeley Can You Be Parade year after year, Frankel responded only that “I've never been to a How Berkeley Can You Be Parade.” 

Bennett told the Planet that the breast is a “symbol of survival-many of us were fed at the breast.” 

“I fed my children at the breast,” she said. “The symbol is clearly pro-peace and anti-war.” 

Bennett pointed out that Sherry Glaser, of Breasts not Bombs, has demonstrated in front of recruiting stations 15 times. There was an arrest only once, she said.  

Friday's arrest “was a totally political arrest. I was a political prisoner,” Bennett said. 

At a demonstration at the downtown Oakland recruiting station two years ago, the Planet witnessed a group of Oakland police officers negotiate with some 15 demonstrators-most of whom kept their shirts off for about an hour. The officers promised that as long as there was no violence or vandalism, there would be no arrests. And there weren't. 

“Berkeley's code is pretty clear,” Frankel told the Planet. “The courts will decide.” 

Moratorium on Panoramic Hill Development Goes to Council

By Judith Scherr
Monday June 16, 2008 - 04:57:00 PM

Jerry Wachtal describes the Panoramic Hill area where he lives as “a rare paradise,” where you can get to downtown Berkeley in seven minutes and be at home with “trees, birds and wild animals.”  

It’s an area, however, rife with danger, with narrow substandard roads, inadequate water to fight fires, an inadequate sewer system, a nearby earthquake fault and large projects planned by UC Berkeley which could impact the area’s scant water and sewer resources. 

Because these issues must be addressed, according to Wachtal, who heads up the Panoramic Hill Neighborhood Association, the neighborhood group has worked with city planners and Councilmember Gordon Wozniak to propose a temporary moratorium on development in the area. The City Council will address the issue at its meeting Tuesday. The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. 

In addition to the Panoramic HIl moratorium, the council will address instituting a moratorium on new cell phone antennas, tax measures to place before the voters in November, an updated budget and more. 

The proposed urgency ordinance, which would halt new development for 45 days in the Panoramic Hills area, including additions of more than 200 square feet, needs the approval of eight of the nine councilmembers. At the end of 45 days, the council could extend the moratorium for two years. 

“The moratorium would allow time for staff to propose a strategy for undertaking necessary long-range planning for Panoramic Hill and actions the council can approve in the near term to improve the safety of Hill residents,” says the staff report, written by Planning Director Dan Marks. 

During a contentious period in the recent past, in which the developer of a property at 161 Panoramic Way squared off with neighboring residents, there were allegations of neighborhood NIMBYism from the developers. 

But Wachtal said that’s not so. Pointing to a property under development near the controversial property, Wachtal told the Planet that the association does not object to rational development in the area. 

The neighborhood objected to developing 161 Panoramic Way—eventually approved by the City Council with a number of conditions—because the lot is “so steep we believe it can’t be built safely” and is situated where the road narrows between hair-pin turns, Wachtal said. 

(The property at 161 Panoramic Way is not included in the moratorium.) 

Also before the council on Tuesday will be: 

o A six-month moratorium on new cell phone antennas. The proposed ordinance will require eight of the nine councilmembers’ approval. 

• The question of which, if any, ballot measures to place before the voters in November. Proposed are: a fire and disaster preparedness tax, a library expansion and seismic safety bond and an advisory measure asking the school district not to demolish the warm pool until a new warm pool can be built. 

• A request to city staff to report on what needs to happen-perhaps a charter change or a policy change-to allow local businesses to get preferences for city purchases and “not corporate mega-stores,” Councilmember Dona Spring told the Planet. Spring is sponsoring the item. 

• An increase on the maximum income for 1-2 person households to qualify for the very low income exemption from specified local taxes and fees from $33,500 to $34,450.  

MediaNews East Bay Newsrooms Go Union in Narrow Vote

By Richard Brenneman
Monday June 16, 2008 - 04:56:00 PM

By a narrow margin, journalists at East Bay newspapers owned by the Bay Area News Group-East Bay (BANG-EB) voted to unionize Friday. 

The 104-92 vote gave the Northern California Media Workers Guild 53 percent of the ballots, less than the 60 percent of editorial staff who had signed union cards but enough to win. 

The vote reverses the upset handed to union members last August when the BANG-EB President and Publisher John Armstrong unilaterally consolidated the chain's newsrooms into a single unit. 

By merging the staffs with the non-union Contra Costa Times, recently acquired from the Sacramento-based McClatchy Company, the new non-union staff majority gave Armstrong the power to abolish guild shops at the Oakland Tribune, Fremont Argus, Tri-Valley Herald and Hayward Daily Review. The National Labor Relations Board upheld the move, setting the stage for Friday's election. 

Backed with $500,000 from the national union, the guild local launched the campaign, meeting with a strong counter-effort by management. 

BANG-EB is part of MediaNews Group, a privately held national chain headed by CEO Dean Singleton, who also chairs the Associated Press, the nation's largest news service and a cooperative. 

Singleton has established near-monopolies on daily news in both the Bay Area and the Los Angeles Basin, where the main competition is from two dominant, chain-owned dailies, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times. 

For a more detailed account of events leading up to the vote, see http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-06-05/article/30194 

Missing Rice University Student’s Car Found in West Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday June 16, 2008 - 04:58:00 PM

The Berkeley Police Department is helping Houston police investigate the disappearance of a 21-year-old student who has been missing since Dec. 15 from his off-campus Houston apartment, authorities said Friday. 

Computer science major Matthew J. Wilson, a junior at Rice University in Houston, Texas, was last seen working in his room by his roommate Elliot Harwell on Dec. 14. 

His car and backpack were also missing. 

Berkeley police became involved in Wilson’s case when officers found his 2004 silver Dodge Neon in the 1200 block of Allston Way in West Berkeley on June 10. 

According to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel, a West Berkeley resident alerted the Berkeley police about an abandoned auto on May 10. 

“We marked the car and did a follow up 30 days later and saw that the car was still there,” Officer Frankel said. “We ran a license check and learned that the car belonged to Matthew Wilson of Texas. At that point we leant that Matthew was missing since December.” 

Frankel said detectives had found no sign of foul play in the car to indicate any criminal activity. 

Frankel said the police was not sharing information about the contents found in the car, but that it had been found locked and covered with dust. 

“It looked like it had been parked there for a while,” he said.  

Frankel said police were not ruling out that Wilson took off in his car on his own accord from Texas and drove to Berkeley. 

“We are encouraging anyone who has seen Wilson to let us know,” he said. “We are splashing his pictures in the media and trying to get the word out. It’s possible that he is alive and well, and if that is the case, it’s important that he knows that his family wants to hear from him.” 

According to police reports, although no evidence of foul play has been found so far, Wilson’s family members believe he was unlikely to leave in the middle of his finals without communicating with them. 

Family and friends described him as a diligent student who was valedictorian at his high school in Oklahoma and an honor role student at Rice. 

Wilson reportedly made a $400 cash withdrawal from his bank account on Dec. 14, the day he was last seen 

Wilson’s family, Rice University and Crime Stoppers of Berkeley are offering $25,000 in reward money for information on Wilson’s disappearance or his whereabouts. 

Wilson, who is from Haworth, Okla., was described in police reports as a white male, weighing 135 lbs., 5-feet seven-inches tall, with red hair and green eyes. 

He wears glasses and had a full beard when his roommate last saw him. 

Anyone with information about Wilson’s case can call the Rice University Police Department at (713) 348-6000, Houston Crime Stoppers (713) 222-TIPS or the Berkeley Police Department at 981-5900 or 981-5741. 

AC Transit Puts Off Fare Hike

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Monday June 16, 2008 - 05:00:00 PM

Trying to strike a balance between budgetary necessities and political realities, the AC Transit Board of Directors put off consideration of a proposed across-the-board fare increase until after the November general election last week, opting instead to begin the process of putting a parcel tax increase measure on the fall ballot. 

The board unanimously directed staff on June 11 to come back with ballot measure language—including the exact amount of the proposed parcel tax increase—to be considered at the district’s June 25 board meeting. 

The proposed increase, which could range from $24 to $48 per year per parcel, would come on top of the $48-per-year parcel tax already being paid in the transit district. Voters in Alameda and Contra Costa counties last approved that amount in Measure BB in November of 2004. 

Any parcel tax increase would require a two-thirds voter majority for approval. 

With yearly operating expenses rising at four times the rate of revenue in the past three years, the district had been considering fare increases this year of 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for youth, seniors and the disabled, as well as several proposals to raise the prices of the district’s various passes and monthly tickets. 

But at a packed public hearing on the proposed fare increases held last month in the Council Chambers at Oakland City Hall, board members and transit district staff heard speaker after speaker urge the district to find some other source of revenue to balance its books. 

“That was the number one comment we heard at the fare hearing, and that’s something I agree with,” AC Transit Board Vice President Rebecca Kaplan said at Wednesday night’s meeting. “Public transit needs to be treated as a public good in the same way that we treat our road system. Most of the cost of maintaining our public roads comes out of the general tax funds which are paid by everyone, even by people who don’t own cars.”  

Saying that the general public benefits from having a public transit system in many ways, even when if they are not riding on the buses, Kaplan said that the burden of operating that system should be shared by the general public through a parcel tax increase rather than shouldered only by transit riders through a fare increase. 

While the proposed fare hike was clearly unpopular with AC Transit riders, board members were presented with a recently conducted study by Gene Bregman & Associates, a San Francisco public opinion and marketing research firm, showing 64 percent voter support for a $48 per year parcel tax increase ranging up to 75 percent voter support for a $24 per year increase. 

Saying that much support for a new increase was similar to support expressed at the same stage four years ago, before local voters eventually passed Measure BB, Bregman told transit board directors he was “very encouraged by the results.” 

AC Transit General Manager Rick Fernandez cautioned that even if a parcel tax increase is put on the November ballot and passed, a hike in bus fares next year might still be necessary because of rising fuel prices and cuts in state transit subsidies. 

“We know that we are going to be losing state revenue, we just don’t know how much,” Fernandez said. He added that the proposed parcel tax increase was “crucial to help stabilize our funding source.” 

While board members did not directly say that political considerations played a part in their decision to put off consideration of a fare increase, politics was clearly on their minds Wednesday night. In a preliminary discussion over how high a parcel tax increase the district should go for-$24, $36, or $48 per year, with lower polling approval percentages as the tax amount increased-Board President Chris Peeples noted that three board members (himself, Ward 1 Director Joe Wallace of Richmond and Ward 2 Director Greg Harper of Emeryville) will be up for re-election in November and a fourth board member, Kaplan, is in a runoff for the at-large Oakland City Council seat. 

Both Peeples and Harper said that opponents in those races would be expected to mount concerted political attacks against those board members, highlighting recent bad publicity AC Transit has received in the media and possibly driving down support for the proposed parcel tax. 

New Candidates Collecting Signatures for Berkeley Elections

By Judith Scherr
Monday June 16, 2008 - 04:54:00 PM

Three candidates for local offices added their names on Friday to the list of those collecting signatures for Berkeleyl elections on Nov. 4: Beatriz Levya-Cutler for school board and Robert J. Evans and Eleanor Walden for Rent Stabilization Board. 

Each valid signature collected is worth $1 toward the $150 charged candidates who run for office in Berkeley. 


School board  

Beatriz Levya-Cutler is collecting signatures to run for school board. She is the executive director of BAHIA, Inc., described on its website as a full-time private, non-profit, bilingual (Spanish-English) program in Berkeley, addressing the city's needs by providing a bilingual, culturally diverse child care center for lower-income, working families and student parents. 

John Selawsky, school board president, is also collecting signatures to run for a new term on the school board. 


Rent board 

Robert J. Evans is collecting signatures to run for Rent Stabilization Board commissioner. Evans served a four-year rent board term beginning in 2002 but did not run for a second term in 2006. Rent board commissioners serve a maximum of two terms. Evans was described in his 2002 campaign statement as a housing rights attorney. 

Incumbent Rent Board member Eleanor Walden has also taken out papers to collect signatures to run for a second term on the board, as has. Rent Board Chair Jesse Arreguin . Nicole Drake, aide to Councilmember Linda Maio, is also collecting signatures to run for the board. 


City Council 

Among those who have taken out signature-in-lieu papers to run for the Berkeley City Council are incumbent councilmembers Darryl Moore, District 2; Max Anderson, District 3 and Laurie Capitelli, District 5. Susan Wengraf, aide to retiring District 6 Councilmember Betty Olds and her appointee to the Planning Commission, has taken out papers for District 6 



No one has taken out papers for the mayor's race, although Zachary Running Wolf, who ran against Mayor Tom Bates in 2006 and is active in the Save the Oaks campaign, has declared himself a candidate. 

Berkeley Police Exonerate Officer in Shooting Death; DA Yet to Weigh In

By Judith Scherr
Friday June 13, 2008 - 09:40:00 PM

The February shooting death of Anita Gay, 51, by Officer Rashawn Cummings was justified, Berkeley police say. 

“My conclusion is that he acted appropriately,” Police Chief Doug Hambleton told the Planet on Friday, the day after a three-inch Berkeley Police report was released to the public.  

The Alameda County district attorney has received the Berkeley Police Department report and is conducting its own investigation, Hambleton said, adding that the district attorney has not yet issued findings on the case. 

After the Feb. 16 incident Cummings was placed on two weeks paid administrative leave, then returned to full duty. Cummings has been with the department since December 2002. 

The entire Police Review Commission will sit as a Board of Inquiry to look into the incident, according to PRC Officer Victoria Urbi, who staffs the commission. Urbi said she is taking the lead in the investigation. 

Following the commission’s hearing on the incident, which will likely be in July, a subcomittee will review policies to see if different procedures are needed to avoid such an incident in the future. 

Andrea Prichett of Copwatch said she welcomes the PRC investigation. “They need to ask the question, ‘Did this woman need to die?’” she said. 

Prichett also wants the PRC to look at why the officer responded alone to a domestic violence call. 

“I’m sorry the chief doesn’t see anything wrong,” Prichett added.  

Copwatch is planning a vigil for Anita Gay June 16, 5-7 p.m. at the southeast corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Ashby Avenue. 

The incident began with a call from neighbors concerning a smashed window. 

Gay was interviewed at the time, but not detained. “We suspected that she was involved somehow. We had no witnesses to corroborate it,” Cummings told the investigator when interviewed soon after the incident. 

The police report describes a second call to the same address. “Officer Cummings was the first to arrive,” the report says. 

The call was “a report of a 415 family [disturbance] between mother and daughter,” Cummings told investigators. 

The officer went on to say that he witnessed a woman at a window above, yelling down to a woman on the ground whom he recognized from the earlier call as Gay. 

The woman above, Gay’s adult daughter Leniece Lomack, was yelling “’Don’t hide the knife now.’” according to Cummings. He told investigators he shined his flashlight on Gay and saw her put the knife into her waistband. 

“So as I approached, I kind of keep my distance because at the time I was by myself. I didn’t have any cover,” he told investigators. 

He said he then told Gay to put her hands on a wall near the foot of the staircase. She complied after being told twice. The officer was six-to-eight feet behind Gay at the time. 

“I didn’t want to go hands on with her yet because I hadn’t had cover with me and I wasn’t trying to fight with someone who had a knife in their waistband without cover,” he told investigators. 

At that point Laniece Lomack came outside and exchanged curses with Gay, Cummings said. 

“After they yelled at each other for a minute, Anita just spontaneously , within less than a second, grabs the knife from her waistband real fast, raised it above ... her head and ran up the stairs as if she was gonna stab the woman on the porch,” he said. “At that point I tried to holler at her, but it happened so fast, I couldn’t get two words out. I drew my gun and I fired twice.” 

(Testimony indicates that one shot killed Gay and the other grazed the eye of one of Gay’s daughters.) 

“Do you have any doubt in your mind whatsoever had you not been able to get your gun out that she would have stabbed her?” the investigator asked Cummings, who responded, “I’m positive she would have got stabbed.” 

Cummings told investigators his goal in shooting Gay was to try to incapacitate Gay.  

Asked why he didn’t use pepper spray, Cummings responded that it isn’t effective on everyone. 

Both of Gay’s daughters, Sherrie and Laniece Lomack, witnessed the incident and corroborated the officer’s testimony, according to transcripts of testimony. 

Sherrie Lomack told officers her mother was an alcoholic and a “crackhead” and would become violent when she drank. She said she was drunk the day of the incident. 

Questioned as to why she and her sister came out of the apartment after they had initially locked themselves in for fear that their mother would hurt them, Sherrie Lomack said they came out because they felt safe with police there. 

“We didn’t go down until the police was there.” Sherrie Lomack told investigators.  

The first 100 pages of the police report reviewed by the Planet does not indicate that police told the sisters to stay inside the apartment. 

The investigator asked Sherrie Lomack, “He saved your sister’s life?” 

“Yes he did,” she responded. 

“And saved your life?” the investigator continued. 

“Yes, he did. Yes, he did,” Sherrie Lomack answered.  



Commissioners Hear BRT Fears, Praise; Plan More Discussions

By Richard Brenneman
Friday June 13, 2008 - 09:41:00 PM

The ongoing battle over bus rapid transit (BRT) smoldered anew when Berkeley’s planning and transportation commissions took their second joint look at the concept Wednesday night. 

Ultimately it will be up to city councilmembers to choose the locally preferred alternative (LPA) for the city’s portion of a bus corridor that will run from downtown Berkeley to the San Leandro BART station. 

AC Transit’s proposals to halve the number of traffic lanes along Telegraph Avenue, eliminate on-avenue parking spots and severely restrict options for left turns from side streets onto the heavily traveled avenue have generated the greatest heat. 

But supporters like Charles Siegel say the concerns of neighbors and merchants—“Their fears are fantasies”—would be resolved by mitigations offered by the transit agency in the project’s environmental impact report. 

Berkeleyans for Better Transportation Options (BBTOP) has presented its own alternative to BRT, which the group has dubbed Rapid Bus Plus, and city transportation planner Karen Vuicich said their proposal would be considered by city staff as it develops a local alternative proposal. 

Also to be considered in addition to AC Transit’s BRT proposal will be a “no-build alternative,” she said. 

“Our overall goal is to provide the best information to the city council so that they can decide on an LPA,” Vuicich said.  

Meanwhile, AC Transit officials will study the BBTOP proposal, and staff will report back to the commission July 9 “with a clear description” of the Rapid Bus Plus proposal. 

Commissioner will hear and discuss a staff presentation focusing on the effects of all the alternatives in September, and the following month will discuss which alternative would be the best option for consideration by the council, but no vote will be taken, Vuicich said. 

Questioned by commissioner Harry Pollack about which proposal offered shorter times between buses, Vuicich and colleague Matt Nichols said the dedicated lane proposed as part of the BRT plan offered the shortest wait times, allowing for 12 buses per hour compared to a maximum of six without the bus-only lane. 

The most pointed questions came from the Planning Commission, while the transportation panel has more specialized familiarity with the subject at hand. 

Gene Poschman said he was unhappy that little attention seemed to have been given to the larger impacts of the BRT proposal. 

“One problem I’ve got is that underneath the economic development criteria are the two words ‘land use,’ which really could take several pages,” he said. 

And one term included in the staff glossary of bus-related terms particularly piqued his interest: Transit Village, a term which, if invoked under state law, can lead to taller buildings and greater densities than would otherwise be allowed under local ordinances. 

“Is Telegraph Avenue with or without BRT” eligible for the height and density bonuses?" he mused. “This is just one kind of impact. The neighborhood and land use impacts have to be fleshed out.” 

BRT booster Sarah Syed of the Transportation Commission said she wanted to see more detailed figures and background information, and asked for a discussion of reported ridership increases that have followed in the ongoing gasoline price escalation. 

Public comments came down on both sides of the issue. 

Michael Katz, a member of BBTOP, faulted AC Transit’s advocates for campaigning for BRT by adopting a policy of “conversion by ideal" to transform people from car to bus riders because of the presumption that some kind of moral benefit results. 

“We offer the community more bang for the buck,” he said, with shorter buses and shorter waits between buses. Gas prices were already prompting an increase in bus ridership, “and we think we can get optimal results without the detriment of dedicated lanes. The shift is already happening.” 

Martha Jones, a member of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association board, said she was concerned both about the aesthetics of the proposed stations and by problems she said had been experienced by the Los Angeles Orange Line BRT system 

“They’ve had so many collisions with left-turning vehicles that buses have been slowed to 10 miles per hour before all intersections,” she said. Jones aid she was also concerned about construction impacts on Telegraph and in downtown Berkeley. 

Steve Geller, a BRT booster, urged the commissions to get moving, declaring that “each BRT bus takes 60 cars off the road,” adding that UC Berkeley had promised to scale back on building new campus parking facilities if BRT is approved. 

Skip BRT and go straight to an ecopass system that would help everyone ride the existing system, urged Merilee Mitchell. 

Describing the BRT proposal as the biggest infrastructure transformation in the city since the construction of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, Bruce Wicinas said the current proposal offers only crude choices for the downtown routes and asked for more detailed descriptions of their alternatives and the tradeoffs involved. 

Joel Ramos of the Transformation and Land Use Coalition—which has endorsed the BRT concept—said he would leave design of the Berkeley part of the program “to the professionals.” 

“We encourage the commissions to move it along and not let this window of opportunity pass us by,” he said. 

Steve Finacom, a Telegraph area resident, ran through a list of concerns starting with the loss of street trees entailed by the construction process, the impacts of adding traffic lights to every intersection along the route and blocking of left turns onto Telegraph at most intersections and potential public safety impacts. 

“Another key issue is what is the legal mechanism that AC Transit proposes to guarantee they deliver on what they propose and which would allow the city to enforce that,” he said. 

The commissioners also heard from another BRT supporter, Helen Burke, an environmental activist who had just stepped down from her seat on the Planning Commission. 

“I’m not going away mad,” she said. “I’m just going away,” adding with a smile, “I always wanted to be on this side of the microphone.”  

BRT offers the city the biggest bang for the buck for reducing carbon emissions as called for in the city’s Climate Action Plan, Burke said, adding “there’s a way to listen to the concerns” of Telegraph Avenue merchants “and still move forward.” 

Planning Commissioners Tackle Downtown Plan

By Richard Brennema
Friday June 13, 2008 - 09:44:00 PM

The Berkeley Planning Commission continues its look at the Downtown Area Plan Wednesday night, with three separate chapters on the agenda for the 7 p.m. session. 

Crafted by the City Council-appointed Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) over the course of two years, the document charts the outlines of growth in the city center. 

Commissioners will present their own recommendations to the council, which will be presented alongside the original DAPAC draft, leaving the final selections and revisions to the council itself. 

On the table Wednesday nights are the chapters on Economic Development, Historic Preservation & Urban Design and Draft Streetscapes & Open Space. 

The meeting will be held in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 

The plan chapters are available online at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=10828 

Berkeley Firefighters Defeat Two Blazes, Tackle a Third

By Richard Brenneman
Friday June 13, 2008 - 02:50:00 PM
A helicopter drops water scooped from Lake Temescal onto the smouldering embers of a fire that consumed two acres of hillside Thursday near the site where the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire ignited.
By Richard Brenneman
A helicopter drops water scooped from Lake Temescal onto the smouldering embers of a fire that consumed two acres of hillside Thursday near the site where the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire ignited.

Berkeley firefighters found themselves fighting flames on two fronts Thursday, one at the site of the disastrous 1991 hills fire, the other in West Berkeley. 

The first call came at 11:18 a.m., when callers reported flames rising from the brush near Buckingham Boulevard, Tunnel Road and Hiller Drive on the Berkeley side of the Caldecott Tunnel entrance. 

One engine company and two chief officers from Berkeley joined the firelines as they helped contain the blaze to two acres, aided in part by the lack of the stiff breezes which had fanned the catastrophic fire 17 years earlier. 

Oakland Fire Department Lt. David Brue said the fire “was contained at 1:45 p.m.” when “we started to release some of the crews. 

At its peak, 60 to 70 firefighters from Oakland, Berkeley and the East Bay Regional Parks district were battling the flames, which had threatened townhouses on the slopes above the blaze.  

“Some of the condo buildings were scorched on the outside,” said Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong. 

Two helicopters ran relays to douse the flames, scooping up water from Lake Temescal. By the time the blaze was contained, no structures had been damaged, Brue said. 

“We will maintain crews on the site through the night to make sure it doesn’t flare up,” said the Oakland firefighter. 

He said the cause of the blaze remains under investigation. “We know where it started,” he said, “but not how.” 

Deputy Chief Dong said Berkeley sent two engine companies and two chief officers to Oakland, only to have the two officers recalled an hour later and rushed to the 1900 block of McGee Avenue, where two homes and a van were ablaze. 

“A California Highway Patrol officer saw smoke coming from the rear of one of the houses and pounded on the door. He notified the occupant that the rear of his home was on fire,” said Dong. 

The fire went to two alarms, drawing in 25 firefighters, including three chief officer, five engine companies, two trucks and a pair of ambulances. 

The fire apparently started in the residence at 1933 McGee and spread to the home at 1931. The van, parked in a narrow driveway between the two homes, also fell victim to the flames. 

One resident received minor injuries during an effort to notify other residents of the houses, said the deputy chief. 

The van belonged to a workman who was installing a heater in the home at 1931 McGee, and while several recent fires in Berkeley have resulted from torchwork used in installing pipes, that wasn’t the case with Thursday’s fire, said Deputy Chief Dong. 

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation pending interviews with residents who were unavailable Thursday. 

Three occupants were displaced by the flames. The damage is estimated at $300,000. 

Berkeley firefighters are also busy fighting yet another fire—this one in Butte County, where the Humboldt Fire—name after a ridge and not the town or county—has consumed scores of homes and doubled in size in less than 24 hours. 

“We sent one engine company last night, and altogether, Alameda County has provided 21 engine companies and three chief officers,” said Deputy Chief Dong. 

The Berkeley crew was assigned to save threatened homes in the town of Paradise, he said. 

Warm temperatures and a dry winter have led to an unusually early start of the fire season, and Berkeley’s firefighters—like their colleagues around the state—anticipate a long, hot summer. 

Berkeley Planning Search for New City Attorney

By Judith Scherr
Friday June 13, 2008 - 01:04:00 PM

City Manager Phil Kamlarz has told a number of councilmembers, including Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Dona Spring, that he is planning a nationwide search for a permanent replacement for former City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque after the budget has been put to rest.  

The matter hasn’t been discussed publicly, but it doesn’t have to be unless the manager talks to five members of the council about it. And he says he hasn’t.  

If, how and when a search is conducted and who is nominated to fill an opening is entirely up to the manager under Berkeley’s charter. The council’s role is to vote on whether to affirm or reject the manager’s nomination.  

It’s also up to the city manager to decide whether to keep an individual as “acting” department head or to open the position to new applicants.  

In October 2007, after Albuquerque’s resignation, the manager named Assistant City Attorney Zach Cowan to the position of Acting City Attorney.  

City procedures now make it is impossible to apply for a position-even to leave a resume-when there is an “acting” department head.  

Human Resources Manager Dave Abel agrees that this situation is problematic, but says new software is on the way so that in the fall a person who wants to apply for a position, for example to be city attorney, will be able to leave an e-mail address to be notified as soon as the position is open.  

All department heads, except the auditor, who is elected, serve at the manager’s behest.  

Berkeley is one among only a handful of California cities where the manager nominates the city attorney. City Councils appoint them in 464 of 478 incorporated California cities, according to 2004 statistics from the League of California Cities. Eleven of the city attorneys are elected, according to the league’s 2006 statistics.  

In February, Mayor Tom Bates asked the city manager, as part of a session on possible ballot measures, to research information on the way other cities appoint their attorneys.  

The mayor told the Planet that he had an interest in the question because, at the time, he thought a council-appointed city attorney might be a good move. The individual “would be directly accountable to the council,” he said.  

On the other hand, he said, “I worry about political whims and political motivation.”  

He said he reasoned further that the city attorney is accountable to the council indirectly. “The city attorney is not directly accountable to the council, but the city manager is ... The city manager is accountable to the city council members.”  

He said he concluded, “Our system works well.”  

Nonetheless, Bates said he’s been talking to the city manager about allowing the City Council to choose between the manager’s top two candidates.  

Currently Kamlarz is faced with naming two of the most important administrators in the city, both the city attorney and the city clerk.  

After a medical-related leave, City Clerk Pamyla Means resigned in May. Last week Kamlarz named former Deputy City Clerk Deanna Despain as acting city clerk.  

In Berkeley, the city manager appoints the city clerk. In some cities the city council appoints the clerk, and 154 cities in California elect their city clerks.

BUSD School Board Rescinds Lay-Offs of Teachers

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday June 13, 2008 - 01:04:00 PM

The Berkeley Unified School District announced this week that all teachers who received lay-off notices as a result of proposed education budget cuts will be able to keep their jobs. 

All certificated staff have been brought back, Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources Lisa Udell said, and only two Berkeley High School counselors remain on the potential lay-off list. 

The school board on Wednesday unanimously approved district superintendent Bill Huyett’s budget reduction proposal, which anticipated a loss of $2.9 million in general fund revenue and program reductions to cover increased costs for 2008-2009. 

The district administrationer recommended a $2.4 million cut from the unrestricted general fund budget and programs. 

The superintendent’s budget reduction proposal was based on recommendations from district staff and his Budget Advisory Committee, which was formed in March to provide feedback on budget cuts. 

The superintendent’s proposed list of budget reductions include cutting $700,000 from the special education program, including transportation.  

Strategies suggested to meet these cuts include reducing non-public school placements by providing a greater continuum of services in the district, reducing the number of instructional aides at specific schools and reducing transportation costs by slashing the number of non-public school placements. 

“Despite the cuts we are making, we are not touching music and arts and libraries thanks to local parcel taxes,” said school board president John Selawsky. 

A number of classified employees are still on the potential lay-off list. Udell said she would be able to comment on their status after June 30. The board is scheduled to approve the 2008-2009 budget on June 25. 

No Plea From Hoeft-Edenfield in UC Stabbing Case

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday June 13, 2008 - 01:03:00 PM

Berkeley City College student Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield—charged with the murder of UC Berkeley nuclear engineering student Chris Wootton—did not enter a plea during an appearance Thursday at the Alameda County Superior Court. 

Judge John True ordered the case to be continued to July 15 to give the District Attorney and Deputy Defender Tony Cheng—who is representing Hoeft-Edenfield—time to review the case. 

Nuclear engineering student Wootton, 21, a Sigma Pi fraternity member, was stabbed once in his upper chest, between his ribs, in front of a group of students outside the Chi Omega sorority house on Piedmont Avenue on May 3. Hoeft-Edenfield, 20, was arrested later that day. 

Hoeft-Edenfield’s mother Ellen, who lives in Berkeley, declined to comment on the case Thursday at the courthouse. 

“Our lawyers have told us not to comment,” she said, standing outside the Wiley W. Manuel courtroom in Oakland with friends and family. “I want everything to come out in court.” 

Three of Hoeft-Edenfield’s friends from Berkeley City College also came to court, but they said Hoeft-Edenfield’s lawyers had asked them not to talk about the case. 

Cheng requested that Judge True give both sides time to review documents, tapes and CDs before proceeding with the case. 

He also requested sealed envelopes containing letters from Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where Wootton was taken after being stabbed, and asked for letters from MySpace.com to be delivered to the court. 

Wootton’s MySpace page contained an April 16, 2006 entry by Wootton where he recounts taking part in a drunken group beating of someone he accuses of having “disrespected” one of his fraternity members. Some of Wootton's family and friends have suggested that Wootton may have been trying to break up a fight when he got stabbed.  

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Greg Dolge, who will be prosecuting Hoeft-Edenfield, said he could not comment on why documents from MySpace.com were requested. 

“No comments on the context of the case,” he said. “We are in the process of preparing the case right now and reviewing all the information.” 



Point Molate Casino Gets Fast-Track Status

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 09:53:00 AM
Casino developer James D. Levine listens as Navy officials describe their plans for an expedited handover of the Point Molate site where Levine and the Guidiville Band of Pomos hope to build a resort complex.
By Richard Brenneman
Casino developer James D. Levine listens as Navy officials describe their plans for an expedited handover of the Point Molate site where Levine and the Guidiville Band of Pomos hope to build a resort complex.

Reports of its death having been greatly exaggerated, Rich-mond’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. 

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 Rich-mond 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 that 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 clean-ups weren’t completed. 

Normally, under terms of the federal base-closure law, the Navy would have retained ownership until the site was rendered legally safe, but in rare instances, a Finding Suitability for Early Transfer [FOSET] allows for early handover. Under terms of the FOSET, cleanup would continue under the supervision of the state water board, with 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, which 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 the documents hit Schwarzenegger’s desk. 

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

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

The FOSET covers 41.1 acres that the Navy deems “suitable for early transfer with appropriate notices, covenants, easements, and restrictions,” which are specified in the proposal. 

Once finalized, the agreement will be included in the documents the regional water board sends Gov. Arnold Schwar-zenegger along with the board’s request to defer the normal requirement to complete site cleanup before the handover. 

Along with the FOSET, Schwarzenegger will receive: 

• The water board’s tentative site cleanup order to the city and Levine’s company; 

• A land-use covenant between Levine’s company, Upstream Point Molate, the city and the water board, barring any actions that would hamper the cleanup, and 

• A draft deed, which will include restrictions specified in the other two documents. 


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 in 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 scale 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 ensure that 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 environmental impact review (EIR) and a federal environmental 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, and 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 the 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, has 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. 


Opposition mounts 

One Richmond activist said she’s concerned about the key role played in the cleanup by the water board. 

Sherry Padgett of Bay Area Residents for Responsible Development played a leading role in the water board’s surrender of cleanup control at another site linked to Levine, a former board employee who later went private as a principal of the firm that designed cleanup plans for the Zeneca and UC Berkeley Richmond Field Station sites. 

Jursidiction was assumed by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which is staffed with scientists trained in toxicology—unlike the water board, which has none. 

Both the Zeneca site, home to a century of chemical manufacturing, and the field station, home to a munitions factory and the place where wastes from the Zeneca site were later dumped, have yielded toxic hotspots undetected by the water board. 

Padgett said the sped-up transfer of Point Molate “appears to be more hand-in-glove work between Jim Levine and the water board, a process that happens behind doors closed to the public.” 

Padgett said she was concerned that community members may be too distracted by ongoing problems with Chevron, Zeneca and the university-owned site to confront problems at Point Molate. 

Two environmental groups are promising opposition of their own to the accelerated handover. 

Sierra Club activist and attorney Norman La Force said his organization will oppose the FOSET and the draft EIR. 

“We will do what we can to stop this project,” he said. 

Robert Cheasty, president of Citizens for Eastshore State Park (CESP) and former Albany mayor, said “CESP is still committed to parkland and an open shoreline,” he said. “We look forward to the opportunity for continuous open shoreline at Point Molate.” 

Chevron has opposed the casino from the start, and the city “walked away from their offer of $80 million in coin of the realm and a real park with light industrial development,” Cheasty said. “I can’t believe they did that.” 

The oil giant has opposed the casino project on grounds of security, stating that the site would be unsafe if there were a disaster at the refinery itself. 

Levine ridiculed the latter notion during the RAB meeting, asking why the site was unsafe, since it was a refiner-designated evacuation route in the event of just such a disaster. 

Some of the most formidable opposition may come from Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, a long time ally of Padgett’s efforts to tighten oversight at the other contaminated sites in the city. 

“My position continues to be that we need a sustainable Point Molate, and a casino certainly isn’t going to bring the kinds of change we need,” McLaughlin said. 

The mayor said that increases in crime, ranging from familial violence to drug abuse, robbery and prostitution follow in the wake of casino development. 

“We need something that doesn’t simply transfer wealth from the have-nots to the haves,” she said, arguing that recreational and park facilities would better serve the community. 

McLaughlin said that she also hopes for support from Assemblymember Loni Hancock in her probable new role as state senator for the district. “Although she took campaign money from Upstream, I hope she will work with us as she has in the past,” McLaughlin said. 

The mayor said she will talk to Nancy Skinner, the Democrat who won the primary to replace Hancock in the Assembly. 



The FOSET is available online at http://www.bracpmo.navy.mil/bracbases/california/ptmolate/viewdocs.aspx?doc_cat=enviro_docs. 

The document is also available for a first-hand look at both the Richmond Public Library, 325 Civic Center Plaza, and at the Richmond Redevelopment Agency’s office in the temporary City Hall quarters at 1401 Marina Way South. 


Berkeley Juneteenth Festival Called Off for this Year

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 09:53:00 AM

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

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. 

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. Organizers promise that the Berkeley festival, possibly the biggest Juneteenth celebration in the Bay Area, will be back next 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 Emanci-pation 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. “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. 

“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 out on a Sunday to have fun.” 

Juneteenth’s youth stages 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. 


B-Tech Grads Look to the Future

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM
Berkeley Technical Academy students celebrate their graduation June 5.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Berkeley Technical Academy students celebrate their graduation June 5.

Berkeley Technology Academy Principal Victor Diaz summed up the school year at the 2008 graduation ceremony at UC Berkeley’s Alumni Hall on June 5: “It was a year of extreme highs and extreme lows—a crazy, crazy year.” 

The school graduated 42 students, twice as many as last year, a feat Diaz attributed to a rise in enrollment coupled with “a high success rate.” The school was the recipient of 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 ex-pelled, 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 vic- 

tim 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 in 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’ top students, 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, wearing dark shades, jumped up and down next to her. 

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

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. 

“Yeah, 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.”

Violent Crime Skyrockets on UC Berkeley Campus

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

UC Berkeley became a much more dangerous place last year, according to crime figures released by campus police. 

The major crime increase follows in the wake of controversy over last summer’s rehiring of just-retired campus Police Chief Victoria L. Harrison.  

While figures from the FBI released this week show that violent crime dropped slightly in the city of Berkeley—from 646 cases of assault, robbery, rape and murder in 2006 to 639 last year—it was assault that caused the campus violent crime rate to soar 58 percent over the same span. 

Campus police report that while no homicides were recorded in either year, rapes increased by one (from six to seven) and robberies increased by three (from 24 to 27). The greatest increase came in assaults, which soared from 109 in 2006 to 185 last year. 

When figures for 2005 are added in, reported crimes of violence more than doubled over the three-year span, from 98 in 2005 to 219 last year. 

Firearms weren’t involved in any of last year’s campus assaults, while the use of knives remained constant at two per year. The use of other dangerous weapons doubled, from three to six, while so-called simple assaults scored the largest increase, from 95 in 2006 to 170 in 2007. 

FBI figures for Berkeley report a drop in aggravated assaults from 206 in 2006 to 179 in 2007. 

Property crimes declined both on campus and in the city, though the university logged a stunning 1,000 percent increase in arson from 2006 to 2007, from 1 to 11. Berkeley arsons dropped over the same period, from 36 to 29. 

Berkeley’s property crimes dropped from 7,323 in 2006 to 7,116, while the comparable campus figures were 926 and 853. 

Berkeley’s property crime was showing a slight increase in the first quarter of 2008, Police Chief Douglas N. Hambleton reported in a memorandum to the City Council Tuesday night, up to 1,929 from the prior’s year’s first quarter total of 1,826. 

Though violent crimes in the city dropped during the first quarter of 2008—from 170 from last year’s first quarter to 167 this year—murders are soaring in the city. 

While the city didn’t record any homicides in the first quarter of 2007, Berkeley had already logged three in the same period this year, and that figure has already more than doubled, rising to eight, including one officer-involved shooting. 

The rapidly escalating crime figures aren’t called out for attention in the text of department’s annual report, which notes only that patrol officers “made over 1,000 arrests and issued 1,667 citations for vehicle code violations.” 

Harrison was rehired last summer after taking a $2.1 million lump sum retirement payment, giving up her retiree medical, dental and legal benefits. She was rehired at her base pay at retirement of $175,000 increased by a stipend of $12,700 for her other responsibilities. 

Vice Chancellor Nathan Bostrum defended the action in testimony last month to the state Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education. 

The campus crime figures and the annual report are available online at http://annualreport.ucpd.ucla.edu/2007/berkeley/crime_statistics.html. 

The FBI figures are available at http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/2007prelim/

Council Postpones a Number of Decisions at June 10 Meeting

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 09:58:00 AM

No one showed up from the Firefighters Union to speak to the issue of putting a fire safety/disaster relief bond measure on the November ballot, so councilmembers decided to put off discussion on the measure until they could hear from the union at the June 17 meeting. They also took no action regarding a possible library bond measure. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington was ill and left the council meeting early; he asked that two items be discussed the following week: the moratorium on cell-phone antennas and a moratorium on issuing new zoning approvals in the Panoramic Hill area. 

With Councilmember Betty Olds abstaining, the council approved a recommendation from the Peace and Justice Commission in support of the people of Burma that includes declaring Aug. 8, 2008, as Burma Day in Berkeley. 

The council unanimously approved:  

• An increase in funding for $15,000 to the Berkeley Food and Housing Project to support its Quarter Meal program;  

• To refer a request for $100,000 for the Options Recovery Program to the City Manager for budget consideration; 

• Helping the YMCA secure $16 million in bond financing.  

It unanimously upheld the Zoning Adjustment Board’s decision to approve a full-service restaurant at 2130 Center Street, the site of the former Act 1 and Act 2 Theater, and ZAB’s decision to allow construction of an addition at 3025 College Ave. 

Before the meeting, about 15 people gathered on the steps of the Maudelle Shirek Building to call on the city to prevent the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from demolishing the Bevatron, scheduled to begin this month.  

Mark McDonald of the Peace and Justice Commission was among the protesters. He told the Planet that there would be 47,000 truck trips through Berkeley with debris that will contain asbestos, mercury and low-level radiation. The Bevatron should be sealed and allowed to decay in place, he said, noting that LBNL, unlike many other labs, has no buffer zone between it and neighboring residences. 

“Residents look out their windows and see these things,” he said.

Pools Won’t Be on Berkeley’s November Ballot

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 09:57:00 AM

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.” 

Washington Elementary Reaches Out to Family of Drowned Boy

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM
Jamon Lewis
Jamon Lewis

Nearly a month after Washington Elementary first-grader Jamon Lewis drowned in the Don Castro Regional Recreation Park on May 18, the school is still struggling to recover from his death. 

Students, staff and faculty are reaching out to help Jamon’s grief-stricken family. 

Jamon’s funeral expenses have left his mother, Jamie Ware, in a financial crisis so that she was unable to pay the family’s PG&E bills this month, district officials told the Planet Tuesday. 

“A Bank of America account was set up by someone in the community to help Jamon’s family, but the last time we checked, nothing was deposited,” said Washington’s Family Resource and After-School Coordinator Ann Callegari. 

Callegari said the family had barely been able to afford the funeral. 

“I just prayed someone would bless them,” she said. “There was this tiny little white casket with a tiny little boy in it. They didn’t even have money to buy flowers. The first graders made a card with a big picture of Jamon and all the kids wrote a note.” 

Six-year-old Jamon was found at the bottom of the five-foot lagoon after a swimmer noticed him, and officers who performed CPR were unable to revive him, East Bay Regional Parks District spokesperson Shelly Lewis said. 

He was taken to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where he later died, Lewis said. Lewis described the death as accidental, but said it remains under investigation. 

Since the incident took place over the Malcolm X birthday weekend, it went unnoticed by most people in the Berkeley Unified School District, district spokesperson Mark Coplan said. 

Jamon was described by the Washington community as “an active, lovable child with a huge smile.” 

“Jamon was always hungry, not because he did not eat at home but because of his high energy,” Callegari said. “We had a special place in the main office with nutritious snacks for Jamon ... On the last day I saw Jamon, he ran up to me in the cafeteria and gave me a big hug. The principal was nearby, and I said to her as Jamon ran in the other direction: ‘I love that kid.’ ” 

Lewis said that no one seemed to have witnessed Jamon drowning and that nobody had drowned in the lagoon in a decade. 

Callegari said she drove to Jamon’s house in Berkeley after receiving a phone call from Washington Principal Rita Kimball about the incident. 

“I asked his 15-year-old sister, Alexis Turner, how he was, and she told me he had passed away,” Callegari said. “It’s so frightening. It’s a huge, huge loss. Jamon was the youngest in the family.” 

Jamon’s brother Anthony is a fourth-grader at Washington who needs medicine to be able to attend school, said Callegari, who is spearheading support services for the family. 

“The family didn’t ask us for anything, but we put a sign up at school asking people for help,” she said. “Parents from our school have been taking food to the family every day since they lost Jamon, but more people need to know about this. Jamie is a single mom struggling financially, and she just adopted Alexis. I know that if their lights and gas were turned off, there is more they need.” 

According to school officials, Ware move her family to Berkeley in October in order to help her sister, a cancer patient, who died two months ago. 


Donations to the Jamon Ware Lewis Memorial Fund can be made at any Bank of America branch to the following account: 0837767510.

Berkeley High Hires New Soccer Coach after Parents Complain

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 09:55:00 AM

Berkeley High School replaced its soccer coach Tuesday because of what some community activists said were complaints filed against him for disrespectful and racist behavior. 

Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan acknowledged that a group of parents had complained to school authorities about former coach Eugenio Janu Juarez but refused to comment on specifics, since it was a personnel issue. 

“Some parents had asked the principal for the removal of the coach,” he said. “A position opened up after that, and we replaced Juarez. Parents aren’t always happy with coaches; it happens a lot of times.” 

Juarez, who has coached the Berkeley High boys’ soccer team for the last nine years with a one-year break, also teaches Spanish at the school’s World Language program, Coplan said. 

Juarez could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Messages were left for him at the Berkeley High reception desk, but the calls were not returned. 

Berkeley High Vice Principal Pasquale Scuderi cited personnel issues for not commenting on the incident. 

“We have hired a new coach and are extremely excited about it,” he said. 

Long-term Bay Area soccer club coach Phil Scicluna, who took over from Juarez on Tuesday, runs his own soccer coaching company and was an assistant coach at Berkeley High for two years before he was hired to lead the team. 

Juarez played a prominent role in supporting the family of Berkeley High student Yonas Mehari, who was shot to death during a family feud in North Oakland on Thanksgiving Day in 2006. 

In an interview with the Planet at that time, Juarez condemned the shooting and later dedicated the 2006-2007 soccer season to the memory of Yonas at a memorial service at the Berkeley High football fields. 

Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA) lead organizer Belen Pulido-Martinez told the Planet that she’d been told by parents that Juarez had been disrespectful toward his students over the course of his nearly decade-long tenure at the high school. Martinez said one of the BOCA parents complained to her last year when her son refused to attend soccer lessons because of Juarez’s behavior. 

“When parents told Juarez it was not acceptable to pull children’s ears, he replied that it was an old Mexican custom,” Martinez said. “I am Mexican. I have never heard of such a thing.” 

“He used bad words with the kids and called them feminine names,” she alleged. “He would make Victor into Victoria and so on, and scream at them in front of their parents. Although he was Mexican himself he was racist towards the Mexican students. He told them they would drop out of school. He used sexual language towards the Latina girls, telling them they would get pregnant and drop out. Kids started dropping out because of his terrible behavior. Soccer is one of the few games kids can play after school, but they just didn’t want to do it anymore after all this.” 

Martinez said that parents were not willing to speak directly to the Planet because they feared retaliation against their students. 

A group of parents from BOCA met with Scuderi, who supervises Berkeley High’s athletic department, in February to discuss the problem. 

“We worked with Scuderi to solve the problem, but something that bothers me is that he never told us we could file a complaint,” she said. 

Martinez said the group did their own research on the complaint process and filed a complaint with Scuderi when they met with him again at the end of February. 

“I don’t think he expected that,” she said. “Three weeks later he wrote a letter apologizing about the situation and telling us that the school would hire another coach to assist Juarez, who would ‘keep an eye on him.’” 

Martinez said the parents grew even more angry when they heard this and decided to take the matter up with the district. The group met with the district’s assistant superintendent, Neil Smith, in March and filed a second complaint against Juarez. 

Smith hired an investigator to watch over Juarez, Martinez said. 

On April 10, at a BOCA meeting with district Superintendent Bill Huyett at St. Joseph the Worker Church, parents complained to Huyett about Juarez. 

Huyett told the group that district officials were investigating the matter and that he was working with Smith to hire a new soccer coach. 

Martinez said the incident highlighted the absence of a proper complaint procedure in the district. 

“They don’t have a person to file a complaint to,” she said. “We suggested to the superintendent that he hire a person who can handle the complaint database, so that the forms don’t get lost and we can follow up with the district.” 

Scuderi said that BOCA members had been invited to participate in the selection of the new soccer coach.  

“We invited input from community members and I think the team is headed in a much better direction now,” he said. 

Berkeley High Athletic Director Kristen Glencher refused to comment on Juarez, but said the school was happy with his replacement. 

“Phil is highly ethical and really knowledgeable about soccer,” she said. “He has a real quiet strength and a great character, and he expects a lot from his team. He will bring strong leadership to our boys’ soccer program.” 

Scicluna played soccer at Livermore High School and at St. Mary’s College, where he majored in psychology. He played professionally for the Cameroon Spartans in Malta and for a semi-pro team in Michigan.

West Campus Rehabilitation Plan Presentation Delayed

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

Plans to rehabilitate the red brick building at the West Campus will be presented to the Berkeley Board of Education on June 18 before this issue comes out, Berkeley Unified School District officials said. 

The district will present the idea to community members at a meeting on Monday. 

A proposal to relocate the district’s administrative staff from the seismically unsafe Old City Hall building at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way to modulars at the former Berkeley Adult School parking lot on University Avenue met with protest from neighbors and local activists at a May 29 meeting. As a result, district Superintendent Bill Huyett asked Berkeley Unified Facilities Director Lew Jones to look at renovating the Bonar Street brick building. 

District officials had earlier planned to report the community’s comments from the meeting to the school board on Wednesday, June 11, and hold another meeting on June 16 to inform people about the board’s decision. 

The board was scheduled to vote on the plan on June 25, but this has now been postponed. 

“When we met with community members in May, it was clear that there was concern about the modular project proposed for the parking lot, and a great deal of support for reusing the existing brick classroom building in a scaled-down plan that would fit the budget,” district spokesperson Mark Coplan said. 

Since then, Huyett and Jones worked with Baker Vilar Architects—the firm hired by the district to design the West Campus project—to review the cost of rehabilitating the building, Coplan said. 

“The architects have come up with a ballpark figure, and the news is good,” he said. “It looks like a project which focuses all resources to the rehabilitation of the building might be possible at a higher cost than the modular option. Nothing has been finalized yet, but the building will have the same stuff that was in the modulars.” 

According to district officials, the cost of rehabilitating the brick building will be around $11 million. The modulars had an $8.5 million price tag. 

“Monday’s meeting will be an opportunity to explain the superintendent’s recommendation to the community,” Coplan said. 

The rehabilitation option will be presented to the board in August, Coplan said, at which point it would decide which option to pursue. 

Some community members have expressed concern that the district is moving too fast on the West Campus project plan. 

Berkeley resident Jennifer Mary Pearson asked in an e-mail to the district: “We are in summer and attendance will be skimpy until after Labor Day. Why the rush?” 

Others have stressed the importance of a public process for the West Campus project, including the application of the city’s zoning ordinance. 


West Campus Community Meeting 

Monday, June 16, 7-8:30 p.m. 

West Campus, 2100 Browning St. 

Boy’s Gym (north end of parking lot) 


For more information on the West Campus plans see www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-05-29/article/30124?headline=BUSD-Unveils-West-Campus-Plan-Tonight 

November Elections for Berkeley On Deck

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 09:59:00 AM

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 are up 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 reelection, 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 reelection. (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

Ballot Measure Would Put BRT Vote to the People

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 09:59:00 AM

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. Metz-ger 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 through 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, June 18, at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave.

Registrar Responds: Peace and Freedom Partymembers Get Non Partisan Ballot

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:00:00 AM

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 meant they would be given general ballots, allowing them to vote only on statewide 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 he 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 that 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 272-6961. 

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

Hamill Answers Charges Over Public Safety ‘Scare Tactics’

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:08:00 AM

The race to succeed Henry Chang as Oakland’s at-large city councilmember is going forward with scarcely a pause following last week’s primary elections, with Oakland District One School Board member Kerry Hamill responding to charges by AC Transit At-Large Director Rebecca Kaplan that public safety “scare tactics” employed by Hamill during the primary campaign may have “backfired.” 

“My five-point public-safety plan is completely reasonable and thoughtful,” Hamill said by telephone this week in response. “I got overwhelming agreement with it wherever I spoke at meetings or knocked on doors during the campaign. Public safety issues in Oakland are an everyday fact of life.” 

In a race that included three other candidates, Kaplan won 40.22 percent of last week’s vote to Hamill’s 21.93 percent. Because no candidate received a majority in the first round of voting, Kaplan and Hamill will face each other in a runoff in the Nov. 4 general election. 

Following last week’s election, the Daily Planet reported that “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.’” 

Kaplan’s comments referred, in part, to a controversial mailing by an organization called the Oakland Jobs PAC that indicated Hamill’s support for the Safe Streets Initiative, a ballot measure currently being circulated in Oakland that would increase Oakland’s police strength to 1,075 officers. 

Hamill took off from work on the day after last week’s election, and her interview this week was her first opportunity to answer Kaplan’s charges as well as criticism over the Safe Streets Initiative itself, particularly the charge that the proposed ballot initiative is silent on how those officers would be funded. 

“I’m not focused on any exact number of police to be added,” Hamill said. “I would never ask for an increase of police staffing without identifying how that increase would be funded. But I think the initiative petitions put pressure on the City Council to seriously address the public safety problems in Oakland and advance the conversation about those problems. The details of this will eventually be negotiated. It’s a fluid process. Ms. Kaplan knows this.” 

But Hamill did agree that her campaign website during the primary “did talk too much” about the issue of public safety at the expense of other important issues. 

The “Why I Am Running” section of Hamill’s website [http://hamillforcitycouncil.typepad.com/hamill_for_city_council/] talks almost exclusively of crime and violence issues, explaining that “the reality is that violent crime still defines Oakland.”  

The website includes a separate “Crime Platform” page that includes Hamill’s proposed five-point plan to reduce crime and violence in the city. There are no other platform pages on the website. 

Hamill promised that this will be changed, soon. 

“There are five or six very significant other issues that should be included,” she said. “I talked about them during the campaign, but never formalized them on my website. We are in the process of writing position papers on those issues and will be posting them on the website shortly.” 

Hamill also did not appear dismayed by running almost 20 percentage points behind the woman she will face in the November runoff. 

“This is going to be a whole new election,” she said. “Roughly 40,000 people cast votes in the primary, which is little more than 20 percent of Oakland’s voting universe. We’re expecting an 80 percent turnout in November, more than 100,000 additional voters. I congratulate my opponent on coming ahead in the first round. She ran a great race. But this is a whole new race.” 

In order to concentrate on that new race, Hamill said she is going to take a leave of absence from her position as division manager of local government and community relations for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District. Hamill also said that she has already secured the support of Oakland senior citizen volunteer Frank Rose, who came in fourth in last Tuesday’s election with 10.75 percent of the vote. 

Hamill chose not to run for reelection to the Oakland School Board in order to run for the at-large council seat, and her school board term expires at the end of this year. Kaplan was reelected to the AC Transit Board in 2006 for a term that expires in December 2010. If Kaplan loses in November, she will remain on the AC Transit board. If she wins, she will have to be replaced on the AC Transit board for the remaining two years of her term.

Oakland School Board Member Avoids Runoff Vote

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:00:00 AM

A quirk in the way in which the Alameda County Registrars Office posts online election results caused the Daily Planet to misreport one of last week’s races. 

In a story published last Thursday, “Challenges to Oakland Council Incumbents Fizzle,” the Planet reported that incumbent 7th District Oakland School Board member Alice Spearman was facing a November runoff against challenger former Acts Full Gospel Christian school principal Doris Limbrick after Spearman failed by 0.07 percentage points to get 50 percent plus one of Tuesday’s votes. 

That result was based upon Wednesday morning postings on the election results website of the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, which listed that the results were “100 percent reported.” The percentage refers to the number of precincts reporting a final count in their vote, but is easily construed to mean that the full election total count has been completed. 

In fact, even as the Registrar was reporting a 100 percent result on its website, the East Bay Express was reporting on Wednesday that “thousands of absentee [ballots were] still to be counted,” quoting Registrar of Voters spokesperson Guy Ashley as saying that the remaining count consisted of absentee ballots turned in to precincts on election night. 

The final count gave Spearman 50.59 percent of the vote, avoiding a November runoff in the District 7 School Board race.  

Reporting election results by precinct percentage—and not including a website notation that some absentee ballots may still remain to be counted—is a common practice in California, with Contra Costa, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Santa Clara counties all reporting precinct percentages in the same way as Alameda County. 

While indicating that he was “not making any excuses,” Alameda County Registrar of Voters spokesperson Guy Ashley said that the problem has arisen because of the recent massive rise in absentee voting in California. “In 2002, 10 percent of the votes cast in Alameda County were absentee,” Ashley said. “Now it’s over 50 percent, with a large number of those absentee votes turned in to the precincts on election day. It used to be that you could report the results about 2 a.m. after the counting of the precincts, and that was pretty much it. But now we end up with a sizable number of ballots to be counted after the precinct results have come in.” 

Ashley said that he would discuss with Registrar of Voters Dave Macdonald a suggestion that until all of the absentee votes are counted, a notation be placed on the election results website indicating that there are still votes outstanding that “might” affect any given race. 

“We want to make sure anyone going to our website gets the correct impression,” Ashley said. 

Meanwhile, according to Ashley, all votes have been counted in the Alameda County races as of Monday afternoon, with the possible exception of what he said “could be a small number of damaged absentee ballots that have to be re-marked” and then counted. Ashley “did not know for sure” if any such damaged ballots still remain to be counted. 


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

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:02:00 AM

U-Haul Berkeley was doing a brisk business last 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 By Judith Scherr 


U-Haul Berkeley was doing a brisk business last 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 this 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. 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 this 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. 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 this 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.)

Downtown Bank of America Robbed Wednesday

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:06:00 AM

A man held up the Bank of America branch at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and escaped with cash, Berkeley police said. 

The suspect, who eyewitnesses reported to be around 35 years old, six feet tall, dark complexioned, wearing a long-sleeved oversized T-shirt, dark sunglasses and a cap or a visor with a baseball style bill, has not been taken into custody yet, authorities said. 

Berkeley Police Department spokes-person Officer Andrew Frankel said the suspect went into the 2129 Shattuck Ave. branch with a handwritten note and gave it to the teller. 

“He also demanded money from her verbally,” he said. 

Frankel said although the suspect did not present any weapons, the teller said she believed he might have carried one. 

After the teller handed the suspect the cash—Frankel could not disclose the amount—he fled.  

He was pursued by bank security officers who later lost sight of him, police said. 

Although there were other customers in the bank, no one was injured during the hold-up. 

Frankel said, “Police are currently looking at the videos from the bank’s security cameras to learn more about the incident and get an image of the suspect.” 

Four suspects armed with shotguns stole $6,000 from the Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union at 2001 Ashby Ave. in Berkeley on May 13. They were later arrested in Oakland. 

Berkeley police are asking people to call the robbery division at 981-5742 or the police hotline at 981-5900 with any tips about Wednesday’s incident.

Reader Report: No Water Shortage for UC

By Paul Glusman
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:42:00 AM

While most people are refraining from washing cars or watering lawns, taking shorter showers, and flushing only when they really need to, the UC Berkeley is pouring water down the drain like it was—well—2007. 

On Saturday, June 7, this reporter noticed a shower that was running hot water in the men’s locker room at UC Berkeley’s Golden Bear Rec Center. Attempts were made to turn the water off, but water would still pour out of the shower even when the handle was all the way off. The reporter notified the lifeguards at the pool, and was informed by them that numerous people had complained of this, and it had been going on for about a week. The lifeguards had notified maintenance. 

On Sunday, June 8, the shower was still running. The person at the front desk said that everyone knew of the situation, that maintenance was on notice and because of a lot of red tape it was difficult to get anything done. 

On Wednesday, June 11, it was still running. 

It appeared that the shower was running at a rate that would fill a gallon jug in about one to two minutes. If it took two minutes, that would be 30 gallons per hour, for 24 hours per day, or 720 gallons per day wasted. In a week, that would amount to 5,040 gallons. If the shower was running at one gallon per minute, that figure would be doubled. 

The water was hot, so the university is not only wasting water, it is wasting energy to heat that water then let it run off eventually into the bay.  

Apparently some of us are living under drought restrictions, others are not. 

Bill Gates Dumps His Stock in Berkeley Biofuel Partner

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:43:00 AM

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 selling 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 Monday June 2 revealed a low of $3.36. 

As of June 4, the stock was at $2.79. 

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 price 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 America’s 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.

Two Strawberry Canyon Trees Felled for Safety Reasons

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:44:00 AM

Despite fears that Lawrence Berkeley National Lab was rushing ahead Tuesday with construction of a new road leading to the site of a proposed controversial new lab, crews were taking down two trees in Strawberry Canyon for safety reasons, not roadway building. 

The trees—located near the site where lab officials want to build a new road—were being given the ax because of threats to traffic on the roadway below.  

Even Doug Buchwald, a staunch supporter of the Memorial Stadium tree-sit, said he didn’t have any quarrel with the cutting down of the trees, given that one had already reportedly fallen and the roots of a second were exposed. 

“What I really understood was how quickly those machines can get rid of a tree,” he said, referring to the heavy-duty wood-chippers brought to the scene by private contractors. 

Lab officials on the scene weren’t able to comment on the record, given threats of litigation challenging construction of two new buildings at the lab. 

One, the Helios Building, would house the $500 million research program in crop-derived fuels and recovery of hard-to-reach oil and gas deposits. The roadway in question would provide easier access to that building, located toward the lab’s western edge. 

A second building, designed to house a federally funded computer center, is planned for the opposite end of the lab complex near Blackberry Gate. 

Lynn Yarris of the lab’s public affairs staff, said she was taken by surprise when calls started pouring in Tuesday morning about the tree removal. 

After calls of her own, she discovered that the cutting was a project by the university, not the lab, and involved the chopping up of one tree that had already fallen and two others—a redwood and an oak—that presented a hazard to traffic on the roadway below. 

One traffic lane was blocked during the arboreal operation. 

Foes of the two proposed buildings have challenged the projects in part because they say Strawberry Canyon is a cultural landscape and should be preserved.

T-Mobile Resubmits Plan for University Ave. Cell-Phone Antennas

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:44:00 AM

T-Mobile will be back today (Thursday) to ask the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) to approve a permit for constructing a new wireless telecommunication facility on the roof of the Affordable Housing Associates-owned building at 1725 University Ave.  

The 4-2 vote in favor of the project at the May 22 meeting was insufficient, with two zoning commissioners abstaining and one commissioner recusing herself from the vote. At least five members of the nine-member board must approve an item to pass it.  

According to zoning staff, the proposed project is consistent with the city’s zoning ordinance. The project included eight cell-phone antennas and related equipment.  

Area residents had raised concerns about the project at the May 8 ZAB meeting, which led zoning staff to suggest the possibility of a mediation between Affordable Housing Associates and the residents. 

According to a recent zoning staff report, the zoning department is still waiting for the outcome of the mediation. 

Some board members had raised the need for an equitable cell-phone policy, pointing out the predominance of antennas in south and central Berkeley. 

Federal law prohibits cities from considering health impacts of antennas, and although federal law does not require it, Berkeley’s zoning ordinance allows local government bodies to consider necessity when it comes to approving antennas.  

The city’s Planning Commission is currently looking at a draft Wireless Telecommunications Ordinance, which the city council has advised should comply with federal law.

Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson Stanley Kept on Track

By Jonathan Wafer Special to the Planet
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:59:00 AM
Trina Thompson Stanely
Trina Thompson Stanely

When Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson Stanley was growing up in West Oakland, she faced her share of challenges that could have deterred her life’s journey. She credits her success, becoming the first African American woman elected to the bench in Alameda County, on listening to and following the right people, those she calls her “guardian angels.”  

In the fifth-grade she moved to Vallejo, where she became a member of the track-and-field team at Vallejo High. She knew from an early age that she wanted to go to college and listened closely to the guidance of her Sunday School teacher who challenged her to get good grades. While a student at UC Berkeley, where she continued her track-and-field career, she agreed to live with her high school track coach and mentor, Mike Wilson, and his wife Hazel, whom she credits with giving her a positive environment in which she could flourish. 

Stanley went on to earn an degree in legal studies from UC Berkeley and then graduated from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law in 1986. Stanley’s ambition to become a lawyer was inspired by the children’s book Harriet the Spy and the television series, Perry Mason. After becoming a member of the California State Bar in 1987, Judge Stanley became the assistant public defender/ trial attorney in the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, representing and defending criminal clients through preliminary hearings.  

Then from 1991 to 2000 she started private practice with her own firm, the Law Offices of Trina Thompson Stanley.  

“I wanted my own Della Street,” Stanley said, referring to her fondness of Perry Mason. This private practice emphasized criminal defense trials. She also handled cases involving juvenile dependency in adoptions and guardianship. In January 2001, Trina became a juvenile court commissioner of Alameda County Superior Court. 

On Nov. 4, 2002, Stanley was elected to the bench, the first African American woman to have been elected in Alameda County, and she was sworn into office in January 2003.  

As a judge, Stanley presides over felony and misdemeanor jury trials, preliminary hearings, civil case management, civil settlement conferences and, at one time, the Mentor Diversion Program for first-time offenders aged 18-24.  

Stanley said she is particularly proud of her work in the Mentor Diversion Program, established by now-retired Judge Henry Ramsey. The program has been successful in helping to create a higher quality life for many kids, she said.  

“It instilled a sense of pride in the kids and transformed their anger into love,” Stanley said. She said she routinely keeps track of one-time troubled youth that come through her court.  

Stanley lectures nationally and has served as a legal commentator for the media. She also serves on a number of boards and associations, including California Young Lawyers, National Bar Association, American Bar Association, Alameda County Bar Association (past member), California Public Defender’s Association, Charles Houston Bar Association, Women Defender’s (past chairperson), California Attorney’s for Criminal Justice (CACJ past board member) and the Oakland Ensemble Theatre (past board member). 

She is also the mother of a daughter, 9 and a son, 22. 

All her time of the bench hasn’t kept her away from the track. She has kept running and is training for the Master’s Track Program for her age category. She said, “I love track because you have to take personal responsibility for the team effort.”

Why Cuts?

By Margot Pepper
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 11:03:00 AM

My second-grade students want to know the answer to that question and they’ve written a poem to elicit an answer. Each year my Spanish dual-immersion students at Rosa Parks produce laminated poetry bookmarks as part of our “Pepper Ink” labor unit. This year students chose their topic on the way back from the school library, after learning that their beloved librarian, Deborah Howe, might be in peril from the governor’s budget cuts—a deficit he cunningly created by rebating part of the vehicle license fee when he first took office. 

After they finished hand-decorating 150 of the colorful bookmarks, they were sent back unfinished from our district’s print shop on the deadline day. The attached note stated that because of the recent cuts, the district had run out of funds to pay the print shop for lamination. 

My students were heartbroken. The poem had taken them nearly two weeks to write, cut, edit and translate. Then Steven Westwood, a Xerox contractor for the Berkeley Unified Print Shop answered our saintly secretary Alicia’s calls. For days, he slogged through his impossible “to-do” list to come over to Rosa Parks and fix our brand-new laminator. Days turned to two weeks. Finally on a scorching Berkeley afternoon, he called. “Just let me pick up a lemonade for lunch and I’ll be right there.”  

After two days, the machinery was singing and tonight my students launched their bookmarks at the Open House. This is not the first time workers at the district Print Shop have performed beyond the call of duty. Last year, Ronnie González rushed the project to help us meet a deadline to sell bookmarks at a fundraiser for a top-performing classmate, Gerardo Espinoza, who had been deported to Mexico. Gerardo had since been hospitalized three times in his new rural Michoacán village for lack of clean water and proper nutrition.  

The poems Gerardo’s classmates had written appeared on the news and at a reading before the mayor of Berkeley. Thanks to Ronnie, we were able to sell so many of the bookmarks that the students’ Pepper Ink factory raised $500 to help pay for medicine and food for the Espinoza family, a sum which turned into well over $1,000, thanks to the Daily Planet and contributors such as the Berkeley Federation of Teachers.  

This year, the district will be hearing bids to see which company will run the district Print shop. My vote is with Ronnie and Steven—though I’m not exactly a Xerox corporation cheerleader. As for the Gobernator—paying what we used to for our destructive car registrations could defeat his covert agenda to dismantle our public schools.  


(For more facts about this agenda see “The Drive to Oust the Middle Class from Inner City Public Schools” http://urbanhabitat.org/node/1176 and “No Corporation Left Behind” http://www.monthlyreview.org/1106pepper.htm.) 



Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:02:00 AM

The name of a a in the May 29 article about a string of East Bay robberies was incorrect. The correct name is De Afghan Kabob House, located at 1160 University Ave.


Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:01:00 AM

The front-page story on June 5, “Big Win for Skinner, Hancock in State Elections,” mistakenly reported that Loni Hancock had been elected to the State Senate and Nancy Skinner had been elected to the State Assembly. They won the Democratic primary in those races for the November election.



Learning to Take a Graceful Bow

By Becky O’Malley
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:47:00 AM

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 Gov. 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.  



For a few more cynical comments on the local  

elections, visit the Editor’s Back Fence at  


The Editor's Back Fence

Whose Party Is It Anyway?

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 11:30:00 AM

Now that the election's behind us, I finally had time to sort through my mail this morning. I pulled out all of the glossy color postcards from the big pile of junk, leaving behind twelve Land's End catalogs and several offers of free trips to Las Vegas to shop for condos. 

Then I washed my hands. Don't want any of that slime to stick. 

Not, of course, that the casual voter could easily distinguish much of this pile of propaganda from the Land's End catalogs. The most eye-poppingly successful campaign, the one for Nancy Skinner for Assembly, took many of its greenest leaves from the Land's End playbook: bright eyes, rosy cheeks and nature, again and again and again and again, and then one more time, just in case.  

My favorite was the large multi-page piece with the title, in large letters on the front page, "Our East Bay Regional Parks", followed by six gorgeous full pages, each picturing a particular park in the system. The commercial didn't show up until the inside back cover, a page picturing "East Bay Regional Parks Director" Nancy Skinner.  

Who knows that Skinner's a fairly recent appointee to the EBRP board, and that she's just one among several directors? Or, for that matter, that her opponent Phil Polakoff was endorsed by the doyenne of East Bay environmentalists, Sylvia McLaughlin? Never mind, Skinner's happy to take the credit for the whole blooming park system. 

As a political person, I have to object to the use of this kind of fuzzy, non-specific image advertising, first pioneered for menthol cigarettes in the fifties to disguise the harm they were doing. (A cynical college friend used to call trips to the countryside "posing for Salem ads.") But as someone retired from a mid-life career as a marketeer, I have to say that Nancy Skinner's campaign, orchestrated by an expensive SF agency, was brilliant.  

Another favorite was this notice on a Loni Hancock mailer sent by the California Democratic Party, right up top next to the union bug:  

"LEADING BY EXAMPLE: This brochure was printed with soy-based inks on acid-free 100% recycled fiber, processed chlorine-free. By using environmentally friendly paper, we saved: 22 fully grown trees; 4,759 gallons of waste water; 10 million BTUs of energy NOT consumed; 1,759 pounds net of greenhouse gases." 

Whoop-de-do. No such notice on anything in the rest of the pile, so multiply that one out. What's the estimate of the greenhouse gas consumption of all of this expensive campaign mail? It's not bupkes. 

But to be fair, the California Democratic Party seems to be doing its damnedest to get rid of these silly campaigns altogether. I still haven't gotten a satisfactory explanation for Who the Hell the CDP is, or why they can't wait for the people to decide on candidates in the primaries ostensibly set up for that purpose.  

Just think of the greenhouse gases we'd have saved by letting their official endorsement of Hancock stand and cancelling the election altogether. We might as well cancel the November election while we're at it, since the result is already obvious.  

(I can even forgive a Planet reporter for saying or implying in our last issue that Hancock and Skinner were elected and not just, technically, nominated as the Democratic candidates for Senate and Assembly. The politicians have done their best to confuse us.) 

It's almost enough to make me take back all the snide remarks that I've made over the years about the Greens. Not, of course, that the candidate they managed to get elected to the assembly a while back did much better than the Dems. But maybe it's time to try again. 

For more carping about the current structure of the California Democratic Party machine, watch for Thomas Gangale's piece in Thursday's online commentary section. 


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. 


The Dream Ticket

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 01:13:00 PM

Obama's First Lesson

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 01:02:00 PM

Oil Weight

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 01:03:00 PM

Public Comment

Storm Drain Project Threatens Tidal Lagoons

By Mark Liolios
Tuesday June 17, 2008 - 03:59:00 PM

In the past decade, Berkeley’s Aquatic Park has been undergoing a striking renewal. Dreamland for Kids and the Addison Street bicycle/pedestrian bridge bring new life to the park, as do the community organizations that have established programs in park buildings. Habitat restoration along the bay shoreline has created new shelter for wildlife. However, these biologically rich tidal lagoons are at risk of repeated toxic contamination if the Berkeley City Council approves plans for a $2 million storm drain construction project. 

On Tuesday’s council agenda is the Aquatic Park Improvement Program (APIP) proposal. The proposal details how clean water bonds could be spent. While a stated goal of APIP is to improve wildlife habitat, the bulk of the funds would be used to create new storm water outlets into the park from the storm drains at each end. 

The purpose of this portion of the project is to increase tidal flow through the lagoons, but the expanded storm drain openings at the Potter and Strawberry Creek culverts would also allow the city to direct floodwaters to the park’s wetlands. Such water storage is one strategy to reduce flooding upstream, but not the only one, and the progressive damage to water quality in the park cannot be denied. 

The harm urban runoff causes to the shallow ponds of the park has been well known for decades. As industrial discharges into the park were largely eliminated in the ’60s, it became apparent that the many toxics in storm water runoff—nonpoint source pollution—were a major cause of lagoon contamination. 

In 1970, the State Water Board met in the City Council Chambers and issued an order permanently prohibiting the City of Berkeley from discharging storm water into the park’s lagoons. The order included a mandate that the city construct a storm water diversion pipe to carry runoff from local drainages away from the park and out to the open bay where dilution would minimize its negative impacts. 

The city is not now in compliance with that order. As part of the project planning, the consultants discovered that the diversion pipe does not meet its stated design purpose during times of heavy rain and high tides. Rather than carry local pollutants away from the park, water in the pipe actually flows backwards, carrying toxic runoff from the city’s entire southern watershed and discharging it into the lagoons at multiple locations. The unsealed access covers on the pipe literally explode upwards during major storm events, dumping more storm water into the ponds. Contaminated water also pools in the freshwater wetlands where the remnants of Potter Creek reach the bay and the great egrets of the region gather nightly to sleep. 

Besides the diversion pipe functioning opposite its intended purpose, gates that formerly blocked storm water intrusion were removed a decade ago—without required notification to the Water Board—allowing additional storm flow directly into the lagoons. 

The APIP proposal project calls for creating larger connections between the city’s two major storm drains and the waters of the park. Compliance with the Water Board order demands that all storm water be blocked from entering the lagoons. Clean water and wildlife habitat goals also demand that all storm water be diverted away from the park. 

The proposed discharge valves, however, would be operated by the city’s storm water managers. Their mandate is to limit flooding in commercial and residential districts and the new gates would allow them to shift storm water to the park. Flood control east of the railroad tracks would be the primary operational purpose of the discharge gates, not the protection of birds and their habitat. 

One standard flood control option was not studied, however—the installation of high-pressure pumps to move water from east of the railroad tracks directly out to the open bay. Pumps are used in other cities around the bay, and are able to move high volumes of water, protecting both human and natural environments from flooding. 

Although it is tempting to look at Aquatic Park as a storm water surge basin, a single storm could kill the food base when the highest bird population is present and when plentiful food is most needed. 

Storm water is the primary source of water pollution in the park. The negative impacts of these discharges into the park are already well known, as they were studied in the 1994 Aquatic Park Water Quality Study that first proposed opening storm drains into the park and using the park for storm water treatment. 

Four biotoxins in the runoff are at levels exceeding Water Board water quality objectives. Coliform levels are 10,000 higher than board objectives. Shorelines near discharge pipes are layered in bands of plastic and other trash. 

Even if the storm water were filtered to drinking water standards, the sudden loss of salinity can be toxic to the park’s marine life, the food base for migratory birds. Offshore bird roosts disappear when floodwaters are diverted to the lagoons, depriving birds of protected resting spots. Erosion of the shoreline is exacerbated, speeding the loss of shoreline trees needed by egrets and herons for resting and sleeping. Erosion also accelerates the reduction in water depth, raising summertime water temperatures and driving oxygen from the water. 

The storm drain construction project has the support of no environmental group. Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP), the Golden Gate Audubon Society, and the Sierra Club have all expressed opposition to using the park’s lagoons for storm water discharge. 

On top of all this, the city is seeking a construction permit from the State Water Board that overturns the permanent prohibition on storm water discharge into the park and replaces it with a new permit allowing such toxic discharges in perpetuity. 

The Sierra Club has written the Water Board pledging to fight any loosening of the 37-year-old discharge prohibition. Other groups will join that fight if the council votes to proceed with any project that allows storm water to reach the park. 

Tell the council you do not want storm water in the enclosed tidal ponds of Aquatic Park. Urge them to uphold the Water Board order prohibiting such discharges and to build projects that increase compliance with that order. Berkeley’s flood control improvements must be environmentally responsible, using pumps to increase pipe capacity, rather than polluting our regionally significant wildlife habitat. 

A one-way outbound gate at the park’s north end into the Strawberry Creek culvert could increase tidal flow in a way that does not change storm water discharges. Ask the City Council to develop such a low-harm project instead. Visit www.egretpark.org to read more. 


Mark Liolios is member of Aquatic Park EGRET.

Letters to the Editor

Monday June 16, 2008 - 11:59:00 AM




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Barbara Miller, the judge in the Memorial Stadium oak grove case, will announce her decision on Wednesday, June 18. So, after all these months, this is it! The “Save the Oaks” community asks that everyone come join us outside the oak grove on Tuesday night (June 17) for a joyous candlelight vigil starting at 8 p.m. Bring a candle, a song to share, and a musical instrument if you have one. 

On Wednesday, we will gather at the oak grove beginning at sunrise to await the judge’s decision. Please tell your friends to stop by, even for a short time. This may be our last chance to save these beautiful, irreplaceable, giving trees—including the spectacular 200-year-old “Grandmother Oak,” which was living here long before the university was built.  

One thing remains true: These precious living trees are not standing in the way of the university’s ability to build a new gym. Other sites are available that would be safer and more suitable. It’s time for the university to do the right thing and choose one of these sites. Can we save these trees? Yes we can! 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I see considerable confusion among the Daily Planet's anti-cell tower and anti-Bus Rapid Transit letter writers. 

Mina Davenport (June 5) asks both for cell towers to be spread evenly over more Berkeley neighborhoods, and for a moratorium on installing new cell towers. It's hard to see how the cellular companies could install cell towers in more locations as she requests, if the moratorium she requests is enforced. 

Michael Barglow (June 5) succumbs to a different sort of confusion by adding up the transmission wattage from several antennas to come up with a total number of watts of radiation being beamed into neighborhood homes. The antennas involved are directional, and he says they will be mounted on three sides of a building, so we can assume that the signals will be aimed in different directions. Combining them into a total makes no more sense than declaring three streets with 30 mile per hour traffic to have a combined 90-mile per hour traffic speed. 

While quoting wattage numbers, Mr. Barglow might also bolster his credibility by looking at signal decay and determining what the power levels would be where the signals would come into contact with people, instead of at the antenna. The Wikipedia article on radio propagation might be a good place to start. To put the numbers in perspective, the 1,200 watts Mr. Barglow claims as the output of the larger antennas is also the power output of my microwave oven. Nobody would want to be inside a microwave oven when it's running, but few people scrutinize the shielding of microwave ovens across the street. 

Meanwhile, on the Bus Rapid Transit issue, Joseph Stubbs (June 5) argues that there are no parallel routes to Telegraph Avenue for car traffic to use. Yet, Anne Wagley (June 12) uses the argument that BRT would parallel BART (which runs on Shattuck and Martin Luther King) too closely. Are the anti-BRT people asking us to believe that Telegraph, Shattuck and Martin Luther King are so close together that pedestrians would have no trouble getting from one to a public transit line on another, but too far apart for people to get between by car? 

Please, letter writers: I'd really like my phone and my local public transit to work well. Failing that, can I at least ask that if you re going to be obstructionists, you get your stories straight? 

Steve Gibbard 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is there any way Berkeley voters can amend the BRT ballot measure? Rather than simply voting yea or nay on making mass transit more convenient, several closely related measures could be part of a more comprehensive measure. 1) Berkeley voters can prohibit Planet Earth from manifesting global warming, such as conditions which may have abetted the recent and inconvenient Oakland Hills fire. 2) How do other populous countries have the chutzpah to think they deserve to emulate the American lifestyle?! Only Americans can waste the Earth’s resources: Americans wear U.S.-flag lapel pins and sing “God Bless America.” Let our ballot measure also prevent other nations from following our examples. 3) While Berkeley carnivores appreciate Sacramento politicians diverting most of California’s fresh water into the heavily subsidized hamburger-export agribusiness industry, our ballot measure should demand EBMUD allow unlimited water use for washing the cars and SUVs we idolize. Freedom of religion: Why deny BRT a dedicated lane if we can’t show off our shiny gas-guzzling idols? 4) And, Berkeley voters can simultaneously repeal the law of supply and demand, which inconveniently abets higher gas prices just because Americans are addicted to gas, other nations emulate our addiction, and the ethanol crop was flooded (possibly by global warming manifestations…what a waste of potential carwash water!). Why not have one rational and comprehensive ballot measure for Berkeley voters? Hurray for the power to vote for our own extinction! 

Mitch Cohen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Another amazing load of crap from Mr. Phelps. 

Greg McVicar 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

To: Equity Residential 

Attn: Cindy O'Hara 

2 North Riverside Plaza 

Chicago, IL 60606 



Dear Ms O'Hara, 

I am writing to inquire about leasing the office space advertised at 2561 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley, California, for the Pepper Spray Times for use by our editorial and features department and would like some clarification about the site. 

Your project information notice describes 2561 Shattuck Ave. as "...previously approved for theater space." 

If a zoning variance is required I can testify on your behalf to the need for office space previously approved for theater. Though there is no shortage of office space previously approved for theater in downtown Berkeley, such facilities are highly valued for overcoming the debilitating height restriction challenges driving so much business to other cities. 

By leasing office space previously approved for theater to the Pepper Spray Times, Equity Residential can show how a commitment to theater and the arts can be a wise business investment regardless of its impact on the theater community. The health of downtown 

Berkeley's business community depends on a plentiful supply of office space previously approved for theater and the office workers served in the inappropriately tall buildings that make it all possible. 

Thank you for providing prime retail commercial and office space previously approved for theater in Berkeley's downtown arts district. 

Our staff looks forward to moving in to 2561 Shattuck Ave. and "acting out" inappropriately on casual Fridays. That's the kind of theater we really like. 


Grace Underpressure 

Editor, Pepper Spray Times 


P.S.: We would love an autographed picture. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A man in the last row of the Berkeley Community Theater yesterday played pool on his cell phone, while a few seats down a young boy slept, snoring lightly. It was a long ceremony. The theater was full, the lights were down, the microphones worked most of the time. Thirteen students, mostly girls, spoke—chosen to honor the fact that each of them had gotten straight As, no A-minuses allowed—during their academic careers at the school. The school symphony played and a group sang, with soloists in each showing promise for extraordinary futures in music.  

Behind the seating area half a dozen or more parents and friends who use wheelchairs gathered to try to shoot pictures with their long lenses, since the front of the auditorium was blocked off for the graduates. Balloons and horns marked the granting of each diploma, as an orderly procession of girls in beautiful dresses, and boys—some in suits and some in tee shirts or hoodies, each with a carnation—filed across the stage. Some, due to various disabilities took longer to navigate the route, and they were cheered loudly for this extra effort.  

The diverse audience included people in suits and people in tee shirts, parents, family, friends, social workers, teachers, a juvenile commissioner, women in shorts and women with their heads covered—all there to cheer on the kids. The audience clapped and cheered enthusiastically through out the ceremony—after obediently turning off their cell phones and lowering their balloons so that everyone could see, until the very end, when the roughly three hundred strong eighth grade class chanted " '08, '08!" before filing out. They are high school kids now, starting again on the long road that will determine their futures. They are a fine looking bunch. 

Perhaps most impressive, though, in the Martin Luther King Junior Middle School graduation that took place Thursday afternoon, was the initial welcome to the audience in the thirty native languages of the 300 students, only the final one of which was English. For the Spanish greeting the crowd cheered, nearly everyone being able to understand. But there was also Ibo and Finnish, Russian and Czech, not to mention Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Hindi, and 22 others. 

So this is us, folks: the Berkeley demographic—unique, diverse, creative, interesting, talented and proud. And these are our kids who, if anything, are even more so. Congratulations to the MLK class of '08, and congratulations to us, the Berkeley Demographic. Berkeley is the greatest.  

Kristin Baldwin Seeman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In her June 12 musings on the recent primary election Becky O'Malley opined that Nancy Skinner's campaign had been "orchestrated by an expensive San Francisco agency." While "expensive" is simply inflammatory and conjectural on her part, we are definitely Los Angeles-based.  

Without being too defensive I would like to suggest that Nancy won because she had more volunteers and small donors than her opponents—and the best articulated and most substantive policy proposals. While O'Malley rightly pointed to one of her mailers as having a soft focus (it was an introductory, biographical piece) other mailers laid our detailed and specific proposals for addressing the state budget crisis, reforming schools and improving health care.  

Parke Skelton 

SG&A Campaigns 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am thinking about how to bring back students who are alienated from public education. I believe that if we offer more useful subjects to them like music, arts, computer science, business management and health sciences, students may get renewed interest in finishing school. Art and music are healing and relaxing subjects. 

These subjects can help them think on immediate and future goals. We have been forcing students to join classes that have no meaning for them. 

Once I had a class where most of the children (ages 5 to 12) came from broken homes. They had anger and unhappiness reflected on their faces. I decided to bring beads, string and scissors to the worktable. I announced that any one who could make something within an hour could take their handiwork home. To my surprise three hours passed without any disturbance or fight among the 30 children. The only time I heard a voice was when some one asked me if I had any more blue beads. The classroom had a CD player. The soothing background music plus the bead work served as a mind and body medicine for that group. 

This example shows that working attentively in a group can bring back lost feelings of togetherness. When students are relaxed naturally, they may be able to decide what to do next. It should not be difficult for the educators to be flexible and change the curriculum for the benefit of the average or low achiever students. This may help us improve the over all learning standard our students. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

While I agree with many of the points Sharon Hudson made regarding Bus Rapid Transit, I absolutely choked at her suggestion that the place to concentrate new regional development is in Oakland, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, which she thinks would welcome development dollars more than Berkeley’s “comfortable, middle-class neighborhoods.” Residents of single-family neighborhoods flanking International Boulevard don’t want giant ugly condo boxes going up on International any more than Berkeley residents near San Pablo, Shattuck, or Telegraph. In either case, development dollars do not benefit the residents, nor do condos increase property values. In fact, Oakland’s current condo glut is depressing values as developers resort to auctions to get rid of them. It may be true that lower-income residents can be fooled into supporting development that is not really in their best interests if developers and politicians promise jobs and/or affordable housing, as happened with the huge Oak-to-Ninth development, but then many highly educated middle-class citizens in both cities have drunk the Smart Growth Kool-Aid and really believe that “density near transit” will somehow save us from the coming global climate change catastrophe. 

That Ms. Hudson believes this development could be “intelligently integrated into new planning” shows a lack of knowledge of Oakland’s planning process, which is just as dysfunctional and developer-driven as Berkeley’s. Also, her assertion that Oakland has only one-third the population density of Berkeley is simply untrue—Berkeley has 9,823 persons per square mile, Oakland has 7,162 (about 75 percent). 

I do not see why Oakland OR Berkeley should bear the brunt of dense development. BART goes to Contra Costa County, and AC Transit serves other cities as well. Let’s see some huge condos in Concord. How about some density in Dublin? In any case, Oakland isn’t taking the fall so Berkeley’s middle-class neighborhoods can remain pleasantly uncongested. 

In reality, we cannot build our way out of the climate crisis. Unlimited population growth combined with unlimited economic growth on a finite planet is simply not sustainable, yet the majority of people (and certainly governmental entities like cities and AC Transit) just go on thinking that somehow we have to accommodate increasing population, or that if people just stop driving it will all be OK. It won’t. 

Jane Powell 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As another brave attempt at impeachment by Dennis Kucinich was politely ignored by the alleged "people's representatives" in the halls of Congress, I sent Speaker of the House Pelosi the following e-mail: 

"Dear Congresswoman Pelosi, 

I am again disappointed to hear that the leadership in the House will again table articles of impeachment against the two traitors in the White House. Must they have sex with prostitutes to be accused of wrongdoing? The president has broken laws he swore to uphold. He is a criminal and needs to be prosecuted for the sake of our democracy. 

Perhaps the title "President Pelosi" frightens you. Nevertheless it is your duty to bring Bush to justice or be stamped by history as failing your country when She needed you most." 

Anyone else out there disgusted enough to send her a nudge? Or should we just expect Team Cheney to politely leave the halls of power come January?  

Chuck Heinrichs 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Yesterday evening a polite and presentable, albeit nervous-seeming, young man rang our doorbell. My partner answered the door, with me just a few feet away in the den, listening to the conversation. 

He introduced himself as representing the Democratic National Committee and launched into a canned speech about the great need for fundraising to keep pace with the Republicans. My partner gently explained that we had already given an amount we felt we could afford directly to the Obama campaign. 

The fundraiser, trained to be persistent, then jumped to the part of his canned presentation which he was trained to say in response to someone having already given funds to Obama. My partner listened patiently (a lot more patiently than I would have) to his whole spiel. When he finished up, she repeated that although the reasons he presented may be correct, we had really given as much as we could at this time. 

The fundraiser then jumped to the response he was taught to give to someone who said they had given as much as they could afford. Though my partner continued to show patience, I was losing mine. I stepped to the front door and tried to gently tell the fundraiser that, while we were on the same political side, I really thought he needed to hear what my partner was saying—we were unable to give more money at this time. 

Instead of realizing that he had best leave because he had been turned down, the fundraiser started one more time to go into his pitch. At that point, hopefully not too meanly because he really seemed a nice young man, I more forcefully told him he needed to stop asking us for money and that he should tell his supervisors that, as a loyal Democrat, I was greatly concerned that this approach of badgering people to give money was counterproductive and could well turn out to lose the Democrats votes. 

His response? He said that if he told his bosses that, he would get yelled at. He had been taught, he explained, to keep asking for a donation until the door was slammed in his face. 

Well, to save this nice young man from having to tell his bosses what they don't want to hear, I will say it here. Don't bite the wallet that feeds you. If we say we are supporters and that we've given already, perhaps leave a brochure which explains why there is a need to give again. But that's it. Don't keep badgering. And certainly don't wait to have the door slammed in your face. Otherwise, I fear, the voters may slam the door on the Democratic candidates in November. 

Dan Alpert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was at the Breast Not Bombs peace demonstration this past Friday in front of the Marine Recruiters Office at 64 Shattuck Square in Berkeley. I was totally shocked that the Berkeley police would go ahead and arrest a Code Pink member for exercising her First Amendment right to bare her breasts at a public demonstration even after I told the police that a topless peace demonstration, even a totally nude one for that matter, was protected by the First Amendment as declared by U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks in a 2003 legal decision that was supported by the ACLU. 

Middlebrooks' decision barred the State of Florida from trying to block plans by a group of women planning to gather in a state park, strip nude and form a peace symbol with their bodies in protest of a U.S. war on Iraq. In his 11-page order he stated that "nude overtly political speech in the form of a ‘living nude peace symbol' is expressive conduct well within the ambit of the First Amendment." 

As a past member of the Peace and Justice Commission in Berkeley I plan to contact the Berkeley major's office and all members of City Council that it is both ironic and hypocritical that the city most noted for birthing the Free Speech Movement would arrest a woman for exercising her right of free speech. 

If the major, city attorney or council do not take action then we can bring this to the attention of the Peace and Justice Commission and get a resolution adopted to present to council. 

I would also like to point out that I have accompanied Sherry Glaser, founder of Breasts Not Bombs, to at least a half-dozen previous Breasts Not Bombs demonstrations, including ones in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, and Sacramento and only in Sacramento were there any arrests. In that one the California Highway Patrol was forced to drop all charges when they realized they would lose their case in court and didn't want to risk setting a legal precedent that would expose and guarantee the legal right for women to bare their breasts in public or for anyone at all to be totally nude for that matter at a public demonstration. 

I would also like to note that when Berkeley resident Debbie Moore was arrested numerous times for exercising what she considered her right to be totally nude the City of Berkeley could not get a jury to convict her. That is why Berkeley stopped arresting people for being nude in public as a criminal offense and instead made it an infraction of law punishable by a fine only. This way they could avoid having a jury trial that would only lead to an acquittal. 

I totally agree with the group slogans: "Put the Marine Recruiters Under Abreast" and that "The issue is soft tissue." 

Alan Moore 

Musicians and Fine Artists for World Peace 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for your frequent coverage of the issue of the planned aerial pesticide spraying of the Bay Area for light brown apple moth (LBAM). Your most recent article “Reedley Says OK to Aerial Spray Plan for Bay Area” (June 5) touched on many aspects of the controversy, including a new study showing even greater health risks from the product that was used over Santa Cruz and Monterey. It is critical to point out that the Bay Area is still on target to be sprayed; lawsuits in Santa Cruz and Monterey that require the state to complete an environmental impact report (EIR) before resuming the aerial pesticide spraying apply only to those counties and not to the Bay Area. The state is required to provide only 72 hours notice before they spray an area, and Aug. 17—just two months from now—is still the date dictated by the governor when spraying can resume in California. 

In response to this impending crisis, Stop the Spray-East Bay and Pesticide Watch are sponsoring a free Town Hall to Stop the Spray on Monday June 23 from 7-9 pm, at Lakeside Park Garden Center at Lake Merritt, 666 Bellevue Ave. (off Grand Avenue), Oakland.  

Concerned East Bay residents will have the chance to learn about the latest legal and legislative strategies to protect our communities from the LBAM spraying program. Experts will present the most up-to-date science and health information. There will be an opportunity to get involved in the local movement to stop the spray. 

Our speakers will include Oakland City Attorney John Russo, providing the most current information on legal strategies to stop the spray in the Bay Area; Douglas MacLean, communications director for Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, reporting on legislative strategies and state politics; Daniel Harder, Ph.D., executive director of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, providing scientific evidence the moth is not a threat; and Lawrence Rose, MD, MPH; UCSF Occupational/Environmental Medicine Department, discussing toxicity of the spray and health effects. For more information go to www.stopthespray.org. 

Rachella Grossi 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in response to the June 12 article by Kristin Bender in the Oakland Tribune regarding the murder of Anita Gay by officer Rashawn Cummings of the Berkeley Police Department on Feb. 16. I have sent this letter to the Tribune, but I want to share it with Planet readers as well, because the Planet has dutifully and responsibly covered this issue (unlike the Tribune).  

As an active member of the community, I was outraged by this article that was so slanderous towards the family of Anita Gay. The article made it seem OK to shoot this woman in the back in cold blood because of perceived personal problems as she walked up stairs to her apartment. The quotes from Gay’s daughters included in the article were taken from late-night interrogation sessions following their mother’s murder, interrogation sessions that went on for hours without any legal representation present and in which there was blatant room for coercion. The article served as a callous pardon of criminal police behavior, justifying the shoot-to-kill policy and directly implying that this policy was appropriate to enact in the face of no immediate threat to either police or civilian lives. In the last 10 months, we have seen four people murdered by the police in Berkeley and Oakland. In each situation nobody’s life was threatened except those of the innocent people murdered by the cops. What this shows is that the murder of Anita Gay was not an isolated incident but rather an alarming pattern of conduct by the Berkeley and Oakland police departments. The fact that officer Cummings has been cleared of any wrong doing gives a green light for the police policy of shooting first and asking questions later. I will not sit back any longer while police terrorize our community. Perhaps it is naïve, but I believe strongly that the newspaper of record for this community should not either. The article published by the Tribune was not only grossly inaccurate, but unconscionably so. The Tribune owes our community fair and honest reporting about the issues directly affecting us, not some disgusting and ridiculous smokescreen for the police. I write this article to demand accountability from both the Berkeley and Oakland police forces and the Tribune. 

Rachel Reynolds 

Oakland ANSWER Coalition 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Summer of 2008. Anti-tax Republicans, to the detriment of tens of millions of Americans, blocked a bill that would have taxed windfall profits of oil companies. Big Oil will continue to yank our cord as long as they can get away with it. 

The majority of those locked up in World War II internment camps were Americans who "looked" Japanese. Is the same thing happening again as the Homeland Security Department and law enforcement round up citizens who look Mexican and Hispanic? 

McCain calls Obama bad for business. Now, that's the pot calling the kettle black. John McCain and Republicans have turned the U.S. economy on its head over the past seven years. 

Gay marriages haven't affected my marriage or anybody else’s I know. It does seem that the narrow-minded and conditioned folk who are steeped heavily in a particular set of moral and/or religious precepts, have been greatly bothered by the alternative marriages. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Back in 1991 I was halfway through graduate school when I started watching "Meet the Press." I was completing a master’s degree in public administration with the intention of running for Cleveland City Council in 1993. Over the next seventeen years I have never missed a show and have always been awestruck by the method used by Tim Russert to question his guests. My feeling was that if I could ever ask those types of questions {and be able to answer them as well} I would develop into an excellent public servant. Furthermore, the energy he exuded when hosting the show went far beyond any talk-show host. Tim portrayed a level of intensity that never appeared intimidating but yet kept everybody's attention focused on what was really important. He was businesslike but nice. He cared not just about the issues of the day but those he interviewed as well. "Meet the Press" was never about attacking someone but rather getting to the heart of what they believed based upon what they would say. It was not "gotcha politics" but rather an honest attempt at clarification which is so often lost in these days of sound bites. 

Tim was not only a great father but a great son as well. There are not too many public figures who would write about their relationship with their father and be so candid and honest about it as well. He truly loved his family. He also loved his extended family: the citizens of the United States of America. To all of us he will be remembered as a brother making us adopted sons and daughters of "Big Russ." Tim set an incredible example for all of us by living his Catholic faith. Here was a man of virtue who always maintained dignity and respect for his fellow citizen. He fought the good fight and has finished the race. We are overwhelmed with sadness at his sudden departure but will never forget what he did while he was among us. Our lives must strive to set similar examples. Today and tomorrow we shall morn him but the next day and the day after we shall miss him. Thank you, Tim. We love you. 

Joe Bialek 

Cleveland, Ohio 

Letters to the Editor

Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:48:00 AM


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: 

I was surprised to pick up your latest issue and read in the first sentence of your lead piece that Loni Hancock and Nancy Skinner had just been elected to the state Senate and to the state Assembly, respectively. While I guess we all have to face the fact that we currently have a one-party system in Berkeley and the East Bay (if not the State), I was nonetheless surprised that a well known Berkeley journalist would, with this choice of words, reveal her complete comfort with that situation and all that it means to the loyal opposition. 

Dennis White 


EDITOR’S NOTE: The article should have stated that Hancock and Skinner won the Democratic primaries, earning their party’s nomination for the November election.  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The “Deafghan Kabob” mentioned in the May 29 article about the recent armed robberies in Berkeley is actually De Afghan Kabob House. If the guy’s been robbed, I thought he should at least get credit for his delicious food and gracious hospitality. If you go there around 2 or 3 p.m. when it isn’t busy, you’ll think you’re in someone’s home being treated like royalty. 

It would be a bargain at twice the price.  

Carol Beth 





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: 

There are very few Americans, who also are elected officials, that have the courage and speak the truth to the illegal deeds of President Bush. Dennis Kucinich is a national hero. Bill O’Reilly, you’re nothing more than a muckraker and a disenfranchised human being. The devil has visited your soul, and anger and hate and lies are venom he lets spring from your mouth. 

Yeah Dennis, Barbara Lee! 

Gene Dussell 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

This started out as one simple question, but more intruded: 

1. What happened to Doonesbury and Boondocks ? (This one you can probably answer). 

2. Why do we still have the cumbersome, expensive, and absurd system of primary delegates to select our presidential candidates instead of one national primary? And where did the “superdelegate” concept come from? 

3. Where have all the good times gone? 

I don’t know either. 

Ruth Bird 


EDITOR’S NOTE: The Boondocks strip was retired by its creator, Aaron MacGruder, a couple of years ago as he shifted his focus to the animated television series. Garry Trudeau has been on sabbatical for a few months, thus Doonesbury has been in re-runs. Trudeau will begin producing new work sometime in the next weeks. As for the other questions, you’re on your own. 




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 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 include working 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: 

I was disappointed to read the article in the June 5 edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet regarding the Berkeley Community Media (BCM) studio as it does not accurately report the position of the staff and management of BCM. There is little reference to the progress made between BCM and the school district in that the lighting system within the studio can remain and therefore the issue resolved. The negative tone in the article derived from the quotes of a few disgruntled producers does not reflect the positive growth that BCM has experienced since its inception. It may help to understand the history of our situation when BCM was originally asked to relocate until the superintendent realized our value to the community and the complexity of making a change. BCM was granted a compromise that was gratefully accepted and to date includes the resolution of our lighting grid. 

I was surprised that the article cited an evaluation of diminished production from a former member who admittedly has not been at BCM for over four years which is in contrast to my opening statement which heralded the activity at BCM by its current membership. The reality is that April of 2008 was a record-breaking month in the use of BCM’s facilities by the community. In this area of media, Berkeley Community Media is known and well-respected nationwide and we are proud to bring Berkeley into the spotlight with such a dynamic resource as public access television. 

The new frontier for community media centers is rapidly changing in light of the digital age and Berkeley Community Media has the vision and tools to move into this new arena. It is a true benefit that support from the city and school district has enabled BCM to evolve from its humble beginnings to operating as one of the most successful access stations in the country. What was not stressed in the article is how appreciative BCM is to the City of Berkeley and Berkeley Unified School District for allowing the growth of our services and programming to continue. We understand Berkeley High’s immediate need for at least 10 new classrooms, and that this compromise is a real sacrifice on their part as well. BCM looks forward to providing the City, BUSD and the community with the best in public access television. 

David Jolliffe 

Executive Director 

Berkeley Community Media 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On June 13, I will end my long journey with Berkeley Unified School District when my younger daughter graduates from Berkeley High School.  

Part of me wants to be like Robin Williams’ Aladdin character when released from his lamp—I feel like shouting “I’m outta here!” But listening to Mollie thank her CAS staff and teachers “for allowing this community to exist and all of your hard work to create an environment that has helped all learning styles by not just reading out of a textbook,” I was grateful. While my husband and I would like to feel we played some role when Mollie joins her sister Megan (BHS 2005) at UCLA next fall, BUSD teachers deserve a large dose of the credit.  

My daughters spent their entire schooling in Berkeley public schools. Oxford, Longfellow, Willard and BHS teachers have pushed, prodded and encouraged them along with their classmates to succeed. This was done often under conditions that those outside of the field of education would not tolerate.  

My concern now is for the parents about to enroll their children in our schools. Will they have the same enrichment opportunities my girls received? Will budget cuts increase class size, slash programs and drive dedicated teachers into other occupations? I will continue to vote for school bond measures because I don’t believe you ever finish paying for your child’s education. But more importantly I will support candidates that make educating our children their top priority and encourage all parents to do likewise. 

Susan Brahan 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have become virtually a daily user of the Willard School pool. Were it not for this pool near my residence, I’d have little movement or aerobics save walking. My days of running for 40 years accumulated too much impact, so swimming is my God-sent exercise and enjoyment. Willard is affordable, I’m on a limited retirement, and it is accessible to me. Across this city there are hundreds like me, from baby boomers to the elderly. There are hundreds of infants, students, and summer camp children who all require and deserve the maintenance of our pools. And in addition, do not forget, there are those whose conditions are such that they could not keep active without the warm pool. 

It is incumbent upon the mayor and City Council to enable the community to give its strong approval to a bond issue to maintain all the pool facilities including the warm pool. They are not luxurious, we do not seek that. No, but they provide a life-giving spa and enable us all, young or old, to keep our bodies and minds vital. 

It is as clear as the pool water that we need the council’s support for our buoyancy. It is our life support system. 

With their help we will continue to be a vibrant community. We citizens, we people, all create new cells everyday, but piping, circulators, holding capacity of pool surfaces, and wearing surfaces where we, as well as the small children walk, need attention, care, and sometimes replacement. 

And when the council has put this on the ballot, the buck doesn’t stop there—we’ll need the mayor and council to stand by the call for all to vote for this funding. It is a vote for all, to have future health and well being. 

Wattie Taylor 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Monday, June 9, the Berkeley City Council Agenda Committee held a secret and possibly illegal meeting that I attended only on a hunch that it was happening. 

Neither the meeting itself nor the agenda were posted on the city’s website as is the norm and the expectation. When I asked the acting City Clerk Deanna Despain about this, she brazenly accused me of being in error. However, the absence of this information on the city website was seconded by Councilmembers Wozniak and Spring. Councilmember Spring actually needs up-to-date and accurate website material to do her council work since her disability usually requires her to work from home. 

If this were a one-time slip-up I would not have been so chagrined. However, I and many other citizen activists have been encountering many instances of incompetence and rudeness from the city clerk’s office. This is an important city office vis-à-vis the public as it is the gateway for the dissemination of information. My fear is that the current attitude and errors reflect a new in-your-face trend on the part of our city government.  

I hope that City Manager Phil Kamlarz will take steps to ensure and restore competence and good community relations in the city clerk’s office.  

Barbara Gilbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a member of the multi-city group that opposed the antennae at Kensington’s Colusa Circle. I truly wish Mr. Bryce Nesbitt had engaged us earlier instead of listening to our info listserv during these past months and then writing a letter afterwards accusing our group of wealthy, well-connected NIMBY-ness regarding opposing cell antennae (Daily Planet, June 5). 

We were actually a bunch of people acting in a grassroots way—learning how to contact government people, studying issues, creating materials, etc. We made it up as we went along, no “privileged” strings were pulled. Elbow grease and sturdy shoes, not “connections,” got the 900 flyers and posters out to every household in the 1,500-square-foot area around the proposed installation (after our postings were mysteriously removed from all the poles in Berkeley, El Cerrito and Kensington). It was an extremely stressful, jarring, and arduous experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. The only role that money played in our project is that indeed we had the luxury of taking ridiculously high amounts of time away from our work and free time to devote to information-gathering and distribution. That said, I wish comparable opportunity for everyone. 

I’m aware of environmental and other kinds of racism and classism and have been active in working against it on many fronts for years. As Mr. Nesbitt knows, I was the person to bring the issue up at the KMAC meeting. I and others are not opposed to all antennae, but definitely to ones that, among other things, beam unsafely at close range into people’s apartments next door (as this installation did) in any neighborhood. 

I would be interested in activity and dialog about sharing the burden of cell transmission more fairly, as well as in declaring a moratorium to study safety parameters, installation policy, equitable distribution and other issues. At KMAC I publicly pledged to support to more region-wide organizations that provide information and resources to less advantaged neighborhoods so that unsafe, nonconforming and unfair installations don’t happen there either. 

If Mr. Nesbitt and others care to have a conversation about this, or also have relationships with non-cell company organizations who are looking to study installations policy and perhaps equalize the burden, I for one would be very interested in engaging with them. 

Mary Ford 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I speak for the tenants of Strawberry Creek Lodge here on Addison Street, three blocks from the West Campus pool. 

This pool and the water aerobics class operating all through the winter months have offered us a chance to exercise in water on a daily basis. 

We need the City Council to support the repair work necessary to maintain this free and wonderful service for us “seniors,” “elders” or whatever name you want to call us old folk! 

Nance Wogan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) of the United Nations is meeting this week to address the growing global food crisis. The United States delegation, led by USDA Secretary Ed Schafer, is proposing that the world adopt Genetically Engineered (GE) crops as a silver bullet solution. However, Secretary Shafer’s GE “solution” is little more than a thinly veiled attempt at subsidizing biotech corporations and advancing the genetic contamination of organic and non-GE crops in famine stricken countries. 

GE crops are untested and unwanted by the majority of the planet’s population. Dozens of countries around the world currently ban the cultivation of any genetically engineered varieties as they have yet to be proven safe for the environment or for human consumption. Additionally, GE crops have not been demonstrated to significantly increase yield, but rather force farmers onto a deadly spiral of agrochemical and corporate patent monopolies. 

The root cause of hunger abroad has more to do with so-called free trade agreements and market speculation, than crop yields and patented hybrid crops. GE crops will only deepen the global food crisis. Impoverished and famine stricken countries need to supported by redeveloping their food sovereignty to avoid deepening the crisis. Global security is dependent upon long-term sustainability, not short-term corporate subsidies. 

Tawnia Queen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

On May 13 Mayor Tom Bates held his State of the City address at the Meyer Sound Studio in West Berkeley, by invitation only. Having now listened to the entire speech, I can see why he chose to exclude the public—and why he invited so many developers to what should be called his “State of Development” address. 

Like a cheerleader with stars in his eyes, Bates praised the massive condo and hotel projects he’s hoping will transform Berkeley’s downtown: “It’s going to be a hopping, jumping place. It’s going to be a legacy we’ll all be able to share in…” 

On the same day that I first heard this quixotic address, the Berkeley Voice reported that UC’s new president, Mark Yudof, might have to solve budget difficulties with “widespread layoffs.” 

The very next day, The Economist reported in an article titled “Dropping like a Brick” about the U.S. housing market, “[T]he average home is now worth 16 percent less than at the peak in 2006, and the

Shining Stars of Activism Don’t Fade, But Ignite Next Generation of Activism

By Karen Pickett
Tuesday June 17, 2008 - 03:56:00 PM

June 12 marked the one-year anniversary that our friend and comrade Hal Carlstad left us. He was well known and is missed by a great many people in the Bay Area peace, environmental, social justice, anti-death penalty, Unitarian, and anti-nuclear communities. Hal was everywhere. I first met him in the mid-1980s through Earth First! activities. He said he liked Earth First! because it was “less talk, more action.” It is the rare individual who, literally, every time he blinks his eyes he is thinking not of himself, but rather about what he can do next to bring about change, to build a more compassionate and just world. Hal was that rare individual.  

He was at the anti-war actions, he was anti-imperialist, pro-democracy, anti-colonialist, anti-nuke, defending the sacredness of life at San Quentin and in the forest; defending civil rights of activists at the Judi Bari trial and defending free speech at kpfa. He traveled to El Salvador, to Cuba, to Venezuela. With humility, with passion, with strength, with commitment. When he visited El Salvador in the late 80’s to see first hand the impact of U.S. policy, he was so moved by the direct impact and resultant needs of the people that he left behind his truck for people to use. He was also a bee keeper, photographer, potter and teacher. 

He was arrested at least 160 times in civil disobedience action, and probably more. He was singularly, the most unrelenting activist I know and his legacy shines on in new generations of activists ready to put their bodies on the line for what is precious and important. So many of us in the Bay Area miss Hal, but benefit from the fact that he so openly and passionately took principled action and inspired us all to do more. In challenging situations, I find myself asking: What Would Hal Do? 

Many of us paused a moment to remember Hal last Thursday, on the anniversary of his passing. We visited the redwood tree we planted in his memory near Canyon Meadow (Stream Trail) in Redwood Regional Park, and we remembered him at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian-Universalists that evening. 

In these times when there are so many challenges and battles on the environmental, social justice and anti-war fronts, I hold Hal up as a barometer to check myself as to whether I am really doing all I can. Letter writing, lobbying and voting are all important, but Hal always pushed the envelope—but he pushed it with humility, love and compassion. He stopped to smell the flowers and chuckle at the ironies. I’d rather have that kind of barometer to guide my activist work. Thanks for the inspiration, Hal. The light shines on. 


Karen Pickett is a Berkeley resident.

Dumbed Down Democrats

By Thomas Gangale
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:48:00 AM

One of my international relations instructors at San Francisco State knew the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of Massachusetts, and characterized him as a raging alcoholic. OK, I’m Irish on my mother’s side, that goes with the territory. But, he also said that Moynihan was smarter dead drunk than most of his colleagues were sober. Would that we had more Democrats like him these days. 

I’ll fess up: I just lost the election to the Sonoma County Democratic Central Committee. Hell, I haven’t won an election yet. Now, you can chalk up my attitude to sour grapes. I don’t care. Jesse Unruh said, “Winning isn’t everything, but losing is nothing." Right, so why should I cry over nothing?  

And, what a nothing the Central Committee is. I was in the office of one of our senior ranking elected officials the week before the June election, and a staffer declared loudly, “The Central Committee is a joke!” 

How much of a joke? 

One of last week’s winners is someone who a couple of years ago got the Central Committee to pass a resolution to ban from the committee’s sponsorship lists any local Democratic officeholder who “has publicly endorsed or supported non Democratic Party candidates or incumbents for an elective office, including non partisan offices,” or “has supported the appointment of a non Democrat to any commission, agency, committee, or other group." Shortly after I was appointed to the Democratic Central Committee a couple of years ago, I paid a courtesy call to the Republican Central Committee headquarters. They told me that this individual was the greatest gift that Democrats had ever given Republicans in Sonoma County. And, since he’s been reelected, he’s the gift that keeps on giving. 

This guy seems to be mostly about restricting what other people do. Late last year, he threatened to bring a motion before the Democratic Central Committee to enjoin me from advertising my book in the signature block of my own email messages. So much for freedom of speech. Last month, he got a majority of the Central Committee members present to agree to restrict the number of resolutions that its Issues and Legislation standing committee can report each month. That standing committee has been far too productive, and it has thrown more issues at the Central Committee than it can stand to think about. 

And he calls himself a “progressive.” 

I was chair of that Issues and Legislation Committee, for which I became much disliked. Among my many transgressions was to ask the Central Committee to take positions on a couple of proposed amendments to the California Constitution. I met with vehement resistance. They were too much for the former mayor of Sebastopol to handle. “These issues are too complex and confusing for us to take a position on!" The issues in question were Propositions 98 and 99, which appeared on the June 3 ballot. Never mind that any high school dropout who was registered to vote could take a position on these. She likes to impress her colleagues on the committee by claiming to have a master’s degree from Harvard. Well, so does George W. Bush. I take it that Harvard isn’t what it used to be. 

And she calls herself a “progressive.” 

But this last one takes the cake. This weekend, another of the recent winners asked me about a Central Committee member who won reelection, but who has accepted a job as a Department of Defense contractor and who will soon deploy either to Iraq or Afghanistan. Dr. Marilyn Dudley-Flores couldn’t find a job in academia in this state, so in her mid-50s, she is going to war, to be embedded with troops one-third her age. But she’s tough; 35 years ago, she was the Army’s first female infantry soldier trained for arctic and mountain combat. I said, “She’ll do all right. After all, she served under Norman Schwarzkopf.” 

The newly-elected Central Committee member, no spring chicken herself, replied, “That doesn’t mean anything to me." I looked at her with astonishment. When I saw the deer-in-the-headlights glaze in her eyes, I realized that she wasn’t being rude or flippant. 

“You know, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded American troops in the Gulf War?” 

“I wasn’t paying attention." I might as well have been talking about Caesar’s campaign in Gaul. She says that she wants to work on issues that are important to Sonoma County residents, and she calls herself a “progressive.” 

I suppose “progressives” might support our troops... if they knew where they were. 

When one loses to people of this caliber, it really is nothing. Well, perhaps it’s a bit of a repressed grimace, followed by an unrestrained belly-laugh. I take it as an article of faith that the democratic process works in the long run, but neither have I any doubt that in the short run it produces sub-optimal outcomes. Just look at who’s in DC and Sacramento. In any case, I never really lose; if a path before me closes, there are still so many others that are open. I have some more books to write, and perhaps the Sonoma County Democratic Central Committee has furnished me with some useful material. 

Meanwhile, I’ll drink a toast to Pat Moynihan. Maybe two. 


Thomas Gangale is the author of From the Primaries to the Polls: How to Repair America’s Broken Presidential Nomination Process, published by Praeger.

Why Loni Hancock and Nancy Skinner Won Big

By Randy Shaw
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:49:00 AM

Pick up a copy of the Berkeley Daily Planet and you are almost certain to find a letters to editor/opinion page filled with complaints about Berkeley city government. While such reader feedback is not a scientific sample, it does show that there are many, many people dissatisfied with one or more aspects of Berkeley’s quality of life. 

On June 3, Berkeley voters had an opportunity to express their concerns in two elections impacting Berkeley’s longstanding political leadership. Loni Hancock, a former Berkeley mayor and the wife of current mayor Tom Bates, was running for the State Senate. Nancy Skinner, the hand picked choice of Bates and Hancock, was one of four candidates in what was thought to be a tight Assembly contest.  

The election gave critics of Berkeley government the perfect opportunity to change the identities, if not the direction, of the city’s key players. And what did voters do? They gave Hancock a major vote of confidence, and went overwhelmingly for Skinner despite one of her opponents being a longtime councilmember endorsed by the Daily Planet and who likely started with much higher name recognition. 

What happened here? 

I think this election, like Bates’ large victory in November 2006, shows that most Berkeley voters do not pay close attention to t daily decisions of our city government. Most voters appreciate Bates for his creation of Eastshore Park, and his stellar two decades of work in the Assembly; few connect him to a stagnant downtown business district or the problems on Telegraph. Similarly, Loni Hancock’s long service to Berkeley has made her a local icon, overshadowing whatever effectiveness, or lack thereof, she exhibited in Sacramento. 

Some will argue that the June 3 results show that the letters and opinions expressed in the Daily Planet are entirely unrepresentative of the electorate. The resounding victory of the so-called Bates-Hancock “machine” will be said to confirm that there is a broad silent majority in favor of how Berkeley is being run. 

Tempting as it may be to accept this latter thesis, it is contrary to my experience talking to, and overhearing, Berkeley residents. And while the letters submitted to the Daily Planet disproportionately involve land use concerns, the lack of correspondence affirmatively praising Bates or the status quo is striking. 

Hancock had a huge advantage over Wilma Chan in name recognition in Berkeley, which was enhanced by the latter’s failure to campaign in our high-voting city (nobody seems to have even seen a Chan house sign) So her big victory is easier to understand. 

But Skinner’s landslide victory in what was supposed to be a close race---she nearly tripled Worthington’s vote overall---is more telling. I have known Nancy since the 1970’s, and she is a dynamic candidate, will be an excellent Assemblyperson, and clearly benefited from being the only woman in the field---but the margin of her triumph is a testament to voters’ fond memories of Assemblymember Tom Bates, not a show of support for his performance as Berkeley’s current mayor. 

I noted before the November 2006 mayoral election how the electorate did not blame Bates for Berkeley’s many problems. I saw then, and still see, a local electorate far more interested in national politics than in learning about Berkeley’s Downtown Plan. 

Occasionally, as occurred when Cody’s on Telegraph closed, a brief window opens and people start asking questions about municipal government. But these moments soon pass. Despite all of the promises in the wake of Cody’s demise, the Telegraph business climate remains troubled—but Berkeley residents in 2008 have been primarily riveted on the Obama campaign, not the failure of city government to address a declining commercial district.  

Unfortunately, the prospect that Berkeley residents will soon reengage with their city government is not good. 

Back in the 1960s and ’70s, Cal students like Nancy Skinner stayed politically involved in Berkeley after graduating. But high housing costs and other factors have changed this dynamic, so the flow of young people eager to challenge the city’s political leadership has been slowed to a trickle. One is struck by the fact that, like Bates and Hancock, those most involved in Berkeley politics have been so for decades; this is in stark contrast to San Francisco, where most local elected officials and activists were not engaged in city politics until the 1990s, if not later. 

Hancock’s victory means that Tom Bates will likely seek re-election in November. In the wake of the success of his political allies on June 3, and having easily won in 2006, Bates is unlikely to face a serious opponent. 

This means we can count on a continuing stream of anti-Bates letters in the Daily Planet, but it also means that the mayor’s administration is even less likely to pay them heed. The antidote to the mayor’s lack of vision, and lack of a proactive agenda, is a strong grassroots opposition; but as was again shown on June 3, this clearly does not exist.  


Randy Shaw is a Berkeley resident and author of the forthcoming Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also editor of BeyondChron.org.

A Tale of Two Cities

By Sharon Hudson
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:50:00 AM

Around noon on Friday, May 16, I waited at Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way to board the new 1R bus (Rapid Bus) to San Leandro. My goal? To see for myself why AC Transit chose the Telegraph Avenue/International Boulevard route for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). To do this, I would ride the BRT route to San Leandro, and several unfamiliar bus routes (Bancroft, MacArthur) back to Berkeley.  

As I waited, I asked a regular bus rider at the stop whether he had ever heard of BRT. He hadn’t. I explained that it was a plan to remove one traffic lane in each direction along Telegraph Avenue and International Boulevard, as well as most of the parking and left turns on Telegraph in Berkeley, to create bus-only lanes that would speed up bus service from Berkeley to San Leandro. 

I asked him what he thought of the idea, expecting that, as a bus rider, he would favor it. But instead he said thoughtfully, “Well, I guess that could work in some places, but it sure won’t work along the entire route.”  

The bus came at 12:15 p.m. It was a 60-foot articulated Van Hool containing eight riders. Without going into detail, let me confirm that the Van Hool buses compare unfavorably with every other bus I have ever ridden in any country, except for a few third-class buses in very poor countries.  

The Van Hools reveal AC Transit’s arrogant disregard for the “public” in public transit. One must also seriously question whether an organization that purchased these buses has either the integrity or the intelligence to research or analyze a $400 million project like BRT.  

By 12:30 p.m. we had departed 12th Street, Oakland; at 12:55 we stopped at Fruitvale; and we arrived at downtown San Leandro at 1:20, for a total ride of 65 minutes. Between 18 and 23 people rode the bus between downtown Oakland and San Leandro. 

Almost no street segment on this route (or the others I rode) was wide enough to accommodate dedicated bus lanes, two traffic lanes in each direction, and parking. In addition, long sections of the southern end of the route are planted with large, beautiful street trees, which locals do not want to trade for bus lanes. In downtown San Leandro I was happy to exit the miserable Van Hool for a quiet, cool bench in the shade. San Leandro is pleasant and functional without dedicated lanes, and that city was wise to reject them. 

Most people realize by now that BRT is not about improving transportation. For regional planners, it’s an attempt to consolidate future East Bay population density by incentivizing development in certain locations. For cities, it’s a way to get federal and state development dollars to increase the municipal tax base. For AC Transit, it’s a self-serving empire builder. For public consumption, BRT is greenwashed, though the idea that BRT is a good way to help reduce global warming is based on one false proposition after another.  

BRT is therefore driven by planning dogma, money, and developer shills, not by concern for, or input from, existing travelers or communities. That’s why only the uninitiated care whether BRT will “get more people onto buses.” Other bus routes are and could be equally or more heavily used but, for physical or political reasons, cannot handle the BRT infrastructure or as much future development. Decentralized, flexible transportation models, such as more coverage by smaller buses, are not considered. And relative intangibles like bus passes or socioeconomic changes just don’t say “America” like big, shiny engineering projects.  

So BRT is an expensive, technological, infrastructural, and permanent “solution” to a vaguely conceived transportation or environmental “problem” that is cultural (not mechanical) and in flux, and has only tenuous ties to the BRT route. This infrastructure-based approach is soooo 20th-century, but it refuses to die because it is familiar, relatively easy, and enriches powerful people. The final irony is that autos will probably stop emitting significant greenhouse gases long before transit development has any significant impact on driving.  

It is unfortunate that urban development assistance is predicated on an expensive and unwise transit boondoggle. But given that constraint, the place to concentrate new regional development is in Oakland, where substantial new density can be intelligently integrated into new planning.  

Oakland is the largest city and natural center of the East Bay, but with only about a third the population density of Berkeley. Oakland has many wide streets and enough room to increase population density through good planning that realistically accommodates future human needs, cars, and public transit. By comparison, Berkeley has bad planners, congested streets, settled and popular existing urban forms, and only modest space and limited appetite for increased population density. 

Oakland also has large areas of low-income neighborhoods. Every neighborhood should decide its own future, but in general such neighborhoods need and welcome development dollars more than the comfortable, middle-class neighborhoods of Berkeley. Money should go where it will help people who need it and want it. 

International Boulevard is a good place for new development. First, with miles of underutilized, one-story industrial property and surface parking lots, International Boulevard is close to an urban “blank slate.” It is flanked by low-density, low-income, single-family homes. If new development were planned correctly and respectfully (i.e., not secret or top-down), everyone in the area would benefit from increased amenities (including planned greenspace) and higher property values.  

Second, International Boulevard is not congested. A short distance away is a freeway and an efficient auto corridor—12th Street/San Leandro Street. This should make it possible to remove a lane from International Boulevard without bringing traffic to a standstill, even after significant development occurs. 

Third, although two-hour neighborhood parking along International Boulevard suggests that some parking problem already exists, reduction of on-street parking there looks feasible if it is carefully planned for. Oakland does not have to make the same mistakes that Berkeley has made. Oakland could insist that all new residential and commercial development along the BRT route provide plenty of off-street parking. This would create a viable commercial street with adequate business parking and minimal parking pressure on the residential side streets. 

By contrast, however, the BRT route north of downtown Oakland is much less rational, even destructive. Instead of looking for parts of town that have extra road capacity and would most benefit from smart development, it appears that BRT’s northern route was solely determined by the location of the University of California. But Telegraph buses serve UCB fine right now, and growth in Berkeley campus users—even if desirable—could never numerically justify the cost of the BRT infrastructure in Berkeley—about 10 percent of $400 million.  

However, by spurring UC-related development, BRT would concentrate future expansion of the Berkeley campus in its current crowded location, discouraging its logical and flexible growth elsewhere. And the high-density housing built on Telegraph near UC will inevitably become student housing, causing homeowners to flee from currently stable neighborhoods.  

Meanwhile, development along Telegraph would have none of the benefits of development in east Oakland. In Berkeley, BRT would force development and density on already-dense neighborhoods that don’t want it, remove parking from businesses and neighborhoods that need it, remove traffic lanes where UC employees and Berkeley residents need access to the freeway, marginally speed up the best bus service in the city, and do nothing to bring better buses or development to those in need.  

It’s equally hard to see the benefit of turning downtown Berkeley into a giant bus turnaround. Downtown Berkeley is a good place to increase density, but it is already eligible for most transit-oriented development incentives. So BRT would do little for downtown except disrupt pedestrians, traffic, parking, and shopping.  

Therefore, while BRT may help east Oakland, it is sadly inappropriate for Berkeley as currently proposed. But AC Transit is not entirely to blame for this fiasco. They had plenty of help from Berkeley’s green-eyed “planners” and “environmentalists.” Without their help, even an organization as misguided as AC Transit might not have come up with such a bad idea for Berkeley.

KPFA’s Current Dialing for Dollars Plan Is At Odds with Pacifica’s Mission

By Richard Phelps
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:51:00 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second part of a critique of KPFA’s current management’s “selling” and not playing public affairs. The first part appeared in the Daily Planet on May 22 and can be found at www.berkeleydailyplanet.com. 


As I pointed out in the first commentary, “KPFA: The Alternative Home Shopping Network,” speeches and other public affairs programs are being recorded, not for play on the air for all to hear, but for sale as “gifts.” This is a gross violation of Pacifica’s Mission as a source of alternative ideas in a society where the corporate media severely limits our access to “non-status quo” presentations.  

In my vision of Pacifica the stations would play important speeches etc. for all to hear in a timely fashion and with the programs ask us to contribute so that we may have access to such programs on the radio or in the station archives. Some of these speeches, when appropriate, could be aired live to give the station a sense of excitement, “this is where you hear it when it happens.” People talking on the streets and at work would be saying “did you hear Michael Eric Dyson on KPFA yesterday, he gave a really interesting perspective on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy.” This comment builds loyalty and encourages new people to tune in and donate. 

Now the comments are “ I heard part of a Dyson speech, and to hear it all I have to pay $60 and wait several weeks to get the CD.” And maybe “Damn, why aren’t they playing that all right now so I can hear it when it is timely?” or “I love KPFA and I can’t afford to pay for all the speeches, why aren’t they playing them so we can all hear them?” This type of comment kills loyalty and is partly responsible for the loss of 5,000 subscribers in the last five years. Unfortunately, this type of comment is appropriate given KPFA’s “selling” of public affairs instead of airing public affairs for all to hear!  

KPFA could also use such speeches to do outreach. For example, the Dyson speech could have been promoted in and thus made available to the Bay Area African-American communities. This community service would have increased KPFA’s listeners in these communities with a few dozen well-placed flyers. Mission accomplished! 

Speeches/programs could be played shortly after recording or when the station gets them, while still fresh and with on-air promotion to let everyone know when to tune in. Fund pitches could be made with the programs. And of course copies could be sold to anyone who would buy one. KPFA develops a reputation for being the place to get the current programs when they are happening. Not sometimes, all the time.  

This would give the station more presence in the community and develop more loyal listeners who, I believe, will donate for something that is “live” and responsive to community interests. This is much better than being known as the stations that plays one third of a speech to get us to buy it! “Pay per listen” radio is a retrograde concept at a “Free Speech” Pacifica station! Too much like “Pay Per View” on cable TV. 

The Pacifica Mission is to get alternative information out as far and wide as possible. KPFA is a radio station for all those with a radio to enjoy, not a CD sales center for those with the money to buy programs. Unfortunately in the last few years it has become much more of the latter and less of the former!  

Here are a few examples of the last fund drive tea$er program$. Michael Eric Dyson, $60, Isabel Allende, $60, Left Forum, $200, Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, $175, Rachel Corrie Speaks, $75.  

If you wanted to hear these programs with their several hours of current and interesting material it would cost you $570.00! And you wouldn’t get the CDs for several weeks or months, when they won’t be current. 

Along with this retrograde method of fund raising comes “Madison Avenue double talk.” Is this appropriate for Pacifica? Shouldn’t honesty and straight talk be the Pacifica method? A “gift” is something that is given, not paid for. There were some concrete examples of this “sales double speak” in the first article and here is a quote from Sasha Lilley, the interim program director, from the last fund drive:  

“The most important thing of all is the unfettered flow of radical information, culture, arts, news and politics that you get here on KPFA.” (May 20 at 11:47 a.m.)  

Now excuse me if you think I am going too far, but I believe that $570 is a fetter to most people who want to be well informed! Especially four times a year! And from the Mission perspective, every loss of non-corporate analysis or thoughts from public consciousness is a default to pervasive, corporate spin. Not playing important public affairs for all to hear prevents Pacifica from playing its part as the largest presumptive antidote for this poison.  

Non-corporate ideas are necessary to help develop alternative politics and culture. That is why the corporate media won’t provide them! Without these alternatives our rights and human possibilities are continually diminished. Is this what Pacifica is about? I think NOT and I don’t understand why the current management, who claim to be Mission adherents, doesn’t see the contradiction. Is it lack of vision or concern or both?  

The current “Concerned Listener” majority on the Local Station Board supports management’s “Madison Avenue” approach of selling public affairs instead of playing them for all to hear. They must be voted out in the next election if we want to save KPFA from this rightward drift.  

If you want more information on the struggle for the Pacifica Mission and democratic process, transparency and accountability at KPFA and Pacifica go to www.peoplesradio.net.  


Richard Phelps is a former chair of the KPFA Local Station Board and a 34-year listener/subscriber.

ENRONed Again

By James Sayre
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:52:00 AM

We’re being ENRONed again: this time by oil futures contracts speculators who are unnecessarily and very profitably driving up the price of crude oil and hence retail gasoline prices. Curious as to why you are suddenly paying over four dollars a gallon for gasoline? No, it’s not due to “supply-and-demand,” no, it’s not due to “OPEC,” nor is it due to “peak oil.” It’s due to totally unregulated electronic oil futures trading in world markets. Check out the very lucid article that explains the unseen financial machinations in oil futures markets written by F. W. Engdahl on May 2, entitled, “Perhaps 60 Percent of Today’s Oil Price is Pure Speculation.” It may be viewed at www.financialsense.com/editorials/2008/0502.html. 

In a nutshell, he suggests that the Bush administration dropped the ball in January 2006, when they allowed totally unregulated electronic trading of oil futures contracts in New York. Previously these electronic trades had been made at the London Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) Futures Market. With that decision by the Bush administration, all of the world’s oil prices were then opened to upward pressure from speculative futures contracts. In essence, oil futures contracts made by speculators, banks, hedge funds and pension funds all competed with real demand on the spot markets and had the effect of driving up both wholesale oil prices and retail gasoline prices. Speculators have made billions of dollars on their trading of oil futures contracts. All of their profits come right out of our pockets. 

Even with a stable oil supply, there is a slow worldwide increase in demand for oil, which creates a long-term upward pressure on oil prices. However, with the relentless saber-rattling and war-mongering by Bush and Cheney in the last several years, and the more recent war talks by McCain and the Israelis, the oil futures markets are rife with speculation and paranoia. This war talk keeps ratcheting up the prices on the oil futures contracts and hence the wholesale spot market prices. It is an endless spiral of greed and paranoia. 

As long as there is no tough and effective oversight of the electronic oil futures markets by the Bush administration, the oil prices will climb endlessly. These oil prices will be quickly followed by hikes in the retail gasoline prices at the pump. The 60% speculation share of the $4.25/gallon gasoline price, is about $2.55/gallon, which is what we consumers are paying to these oil speculators as a “service fee.” Not a bad “fee,” since the speculators produce no usable goods or services...Just a few large greedy oil futures traders helping themselves to your gas money. 

Without this added-on oil futures “service fee,” you would be paying about $1.75/gallon for gasoline. Write, call or smoke-signal your Representatives and Senators today and suggest that they read the June 2006 report by The U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations entitled, “The Role of Market Speculation in Rising Oil and Gas Prices.” Then demand that they investigate and then force the Bush administration to firmly regulate the computerized oil futures contracts trading in New York, London and Dubai. 


James K. Sayre is an Oakland resident.

Message to Governor: State Needs More Revenue

By Sam Frankel
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:52:00 AM

I was at a meeting the a few weeks ago at the local high school. It had been called by the president of the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), as a city-wide PTA meeting. One of the parents who attended has a son in elementary school, and this afternoon had been his very first little league game. His mom left before the game was over to attend this meeting. Parents should not need to make decisions between watching their children play ball and working to secure adequate funding for our schools, yet that is exactly what this mother had to do. Her choice was to work for better funding for education, reasoning that there will be other games to watch, and only one education to worry about. 

Gov. Schwarzenegger talks about wanting to set California on a path that would “bank” our surplus income in good economic years, and then draw from this reserve to help us through the lean times, without having to cut as much. On the surface this sounds like an idea with some merit. I’m sure the mother mentioned above would appreciate this. She wouldn’t need to choose between conflicting desires.  

However, if the past several years are any indication of good economic years, then he is clearly missing the point. Our past several state budgets have been balanced on borrowed money and bonds. Both of these require future budgets to pay additional money from the general fund to cover the cost of interest, leaving less of the general fund to cover the cost of providing needed services. If the past several years had been good economic years, we wouldn’t have needed to borrow and float bonds to balance those budgets.  

It seems to me that if we needed to borrow and float bonds to balance the past several budgets, then they weren’t really balanced. It seems to me that even in those “good” economic years, the state’s income wasn’t sufficient to cover the cost of its expenses. For the governor to say that now is the time to cut shows how out of touch he is with the reality that we are not having a spending crisis, we are having a revenue crisis. 

It is clear that what our state budget needs is an increase in its revenue, not a cut in its expenses. Millions of Californians, not to mention millions of visitors to our state, enjoy our state parks each year, and won’t be able to with the proposed cuts. Millions of Californians benefit from Medi-Cal, and will lose service when doctors refuse to see patients because of the cuts to their payments. Millions of children depend upon the teachers that will lose jobs with these cuts. Millions of Californians benefit from the myriad jobs and services that Schwarzenegger is proposing to cut. It is clear that what our state budget needs is an increase in its revenue, not a cut in its expenses.  

Let’s reinstate the Vehicle License Fee. Schwarzenegger’s cut only saved the average Californian $100 per year, but it would bring in enough to money to stop the education cuts. Let’s raise the top tax bracket from 9.3 percent to 11 percent, an amount the wealthy can easily afford. Let’s close the loophole that allows the wealthy to evade paying taxes on yachts. Every state in the union, and country in the world, that has oil being pumped from its land taxes those that do the pumping, except California. Let’s tax this oil extraction as every other state does. Let’s limit mortgage interest deductions to $50,000. What middle class family pays over $4,000 each month in interest on their mortgage payments? These are only a few of the possible ways for our state to increase its revenue, and thus save our vital services, without putting this burden on the average working family.  

Each and everyone of us needs to contact our elected state officials, letting them know in no uncertain terms that they have our full support for increasing state revenue. We also need to contact all our family and friends around the state, having them make the same contacts, multiplying our voices a hundred times.  

Over 20 Republican legislators have signed a pledge stating they will not sign any budget that raises taxes. It is particularly important that we contact family and friends living in these districts to have them lobby their respective representatives.  

Last, but not least, we need to let everyone know that this is about a range of issues. We are not trying to simply save our state parks. We are not simply trying to save Medi-Cal. We are not simply trying to save education. We are trying to save all these, and the hope for better lives for millions of us that will be negatively affected by all the governor’s proposed cuts.  

Now is the time to make those calls, write those letters or e-mails. Now is the time to let your elected officials know that we must increase state revenue. 


Sam Frankel is a second grade teacher at Berkeley Arts Magnet Elementary School.

Questions About the Memorial Stadium Oak Grove

By Doug Buckwald
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:53:00 AM

With the judge’s decision imminent in the lawsuits over the university’s plan to cut down the Memorial Stadium oak grove and build a gymnasium/office complex at the site, the atmosphere is crackling with tension—or is that just the wind rustling through the leaves? It has been one and a half years since this issue leapt onto the local and national stage with a dramatic Big Game tree-sitting protest, and the conflict remains as compelling to this day. There are some persistent questions that have remained in my mind over this period of time, and I want to present them to your readers in the hope of creating a safe atmosphere to engage in a reasonable discussion of the conflict over the proposed construction in the oak grove. 

Have you met any of the tree-sitters? 

A number of people seem quite ready to demonize and marginalize the tree-sitters. This causes me to wonder how many of them have spent any time at all talking with these arboreal protesters. I myself have found almost all of the ones I’ve met to be truly gentle and well-meaning people, typically very well-informed about many environmental and political issues. And they have certainly demonstrated the courage of their convictions—and that alone is saying a lot these days! Besides that, it is a tremendous challenge to live in a tree, and I think most of us realize that the tree-sitters have survived in their tree-top homes for this long—and endured two cold winters—only because of the support they get from the community. Countless citizens have continued to come forward to supply them with food, water, and other necessities because they believe in their cause, which, at its heart, is the principle that the community has the right to be involved in critical land use and development decisions that directly impact our lives. 

Should the university disobey our local environmental laws? 

The particular law relevant in this case is the Berkeley ordinance protecting all the California coast live oaks throughout the city. A private citizen would not be allowed to cut down even a single one of these protected trees—not without an officially-documented need and special approval. Yet the university is proposing to destroy forty-two of them in one fell swoop, along with 60 other mature trees. In order to do so, the university is relying on its blanket exemption as a state institution, which allows it to disobey all local laws. 

However, the Berkeley ordinance was passed for important environmental reasons: These oaks are very susceptible to Sudden Oak Death Syndrome, and oak woodlands throughout the state are being cut down as suburban development continues. In short, we need to save all the coast live oaks we have left—and healthy specimen trees such as the ones in the oak grove could someday represent a valuable gene bank for the regeneration of the species. In such a case, recognizing UC Berkeley’s repeated claim to be a leader in environmental stewardship, shouldn’t it choose to obey this law?  

Should UC Berkeley still be considered a public university? 

And there is a more basic problem with the state legal sovereignty argument. It fails to take into account the fact that U.C. Berkeley is now a public (state) institution in name only. At present, only 20 percent to 30 percent of its funding comes directly from the state. This is important because the allocation of funding is understood to be the most important way—and sometimes the only way—for the public to regulate state institutions, and this democratic control mechanism is almost entirely absent at UC Berkeley now. Because of this new reality, former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl himself stated that the university had become a “state-assisted institution” rather than a public one. 

Not only that, the university’s governing body, an appointed Board of Regents made up almost entirely of elite business executives accountable to nobody, is virtually impervious to public input. Their operating practices are almost indistinguishable from those of a private corporation—with the additional luxury that there are no shareholders that could fire or discipline them. Somehow, the public got completely left out of this so-called public institution. 

In recognition of these facts, I believe that the university should no longer benefit from the many rights and privileges granted to true public institutions. In my opinion, UC Berkeley should now join all the other private entities that must obey local and state laws, including paying their fair share of taxes for the services they use. 

Who cares about the safety of the Cal athletes? 

I truly wonder about the sincerity of some people who claim to care about the safety of the Cal athletes who continue to work out underneath earthquake-threatened Memorial Stadium. For at least the past ten years, the university has known about the significant earthquake risks posed to athletes who work out in the training rooms below the stadium. In spite of this clear danger, UC officials have neglected to secure a safe alternate site for these athletes to train in. Yet during this same period of time, several other large campus buildings were closed due to earthquake risks and their programs were relocated. Was it an accident that the safety of the Cal student-athletes was completely overlooked? 

Whatever the reason, I think the university should get to work immediately on finding a suitable alternate location for a temporary gym for these dedicated student-athletes. What’s more, I think anybody who genuinely cares about their safety would agree that this is a step we can take now that that would be both reasonable and beneficial, no matter which side of the issue you are on. In fact, if I were the parent of a Cal athlete, I would be on the phone today asking the chancellor to get my child out of that stadium into a safe building. 

Can the university cooperate with the community? 

In essence, this whole conflict is over how much power an institution ought to have over the lives of the residents in its host community. Many people are simply not aware of the many detrimental impacts Berkeley citizens face due to unchecked and unmitigated university expansion. If they are so inclined, they can easily inform themselves by talking with these residents, and I encourage them to do so. A lot of damage has been done to the physical environment and the social fabric around campus—and most of this damage was completely avoidable. 

The sad truth is that almost all of the city-university conflicts that have arisen over the past half century were really missed opportunities to initiate mutual cooperation that would have benefited us all. Each group would today be stronger and more dynamic—and certainly more harmonious—if these opportunities had been seized. 

In the current situation, it is entirely possible for the university to achieve all of its goals and still operate in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Why not choose this path now? In the complex and precarious world we live in, it is frankly irresponsible for any institution to continue operating in a way that allows it to focus only on its own goals and needs, while neglecting the substantial harm it causes others. 

If we really are serious about saving our planet, we all need to begin to work together in authentic and respectful ways. Starting here, starting now. Given UC Berkeley’s international reputation, such an effort in this community would certainly inspire others around the world to take similar cooperative actions. How many more opportunities will we have if we let this one slip away, too? 


Doug Buckwald is a Cal Bears fan and an oak tree fan. He is the director of Save the Oaks (www.saveoaks.com).


The Public Eye: Hillary’s Judgment

By Bob Burnett
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:45:00 AM

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 Sen. 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. Sen. 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, Clinton 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, Feb. 5, 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 Clinton, 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, Clinton’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: Sen. 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, Clinton 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 that 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 Sen. Obama himself. 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 that she should appeal the outcome in the August Democratic convention—Clinton asked them to e-mail her suggestions for her next course of action. Her speech lacked graciousness. 

Some have criticized the 16-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.

Undercurrents: Obama’s Negotiating Skills Will Be Put an Early Test

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:46:00 AM

Does Baraka Obama—if and when he is president of the United States—have the skills to go head-to-head with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad and come to some agreement of mutual benefit to both countries as well as to the Middle East and to the rest of the world? 

Though the ramifications and dangers are in no way the same, we are going to see a test of the temper of Mr. Obama’s skills as he and his campaign attempt to win over that hard core fringe of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s supporters who say that after the bruising primary battle between Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton, they will never vote for the Illinois senator, under any circumstances. To win the ability to negotiate with government leaders in Tehran, Mr. Obama must first go back to Dayton and Akron and Pittsburg and Scranton and other key communities in America’s heartland. 

It’s going to be a tough sell, in part because—there being few actual, definable transgressions Mr. Obama and his campaign committed against the Clinton campaign other than, of course, winning the nomination from her—there is a minimum of actual grievances to redress. Instead, in his move to bring the whole of the Clinton faithful under his wing, Mr. Obama is battling shadows, the hardest category of opponent to fight. 

In Danny Devito’s great movie on the career of Jimmy Hoffa, the Teamsters leader—played by Jack Nicholson—explains why political leaders should avoid “slights” against their members and constituents. A real grievance can be addressed and solved, Nicholson says, but a perceived slight cannot. Because it has no basis in fact, it lingers, festers, and never goes away. 

Had Mr. Obama or anyone on his senior campaign staff made some denigrating remark about Ms. Clinton in particular or women candidates or the women’s movement in general, such a transgression could be apologized for, explained, and atoned for, and some measure of closure brought. But in going through the expressions of anger and disappointment among Clinton supporters following her concession at the end of the primary season, wherein many of the expressions of “No-bama” were voiced, it is difficult to find some actual Obama statement or action that led to such sentiments. The worst I have found—aimed at Mr. Obama himself—is that he has the habit of sometimes addressing women who he has just met as “sweetie,” something which some observers—understandably—regard as condescending, akin to referring to a 40-year-old African-American man as a “boy.” My guess is that this has less to do with Mr. Obama considering women as a less serious form of the human species—something hard to imagine of a man who shares his life with a woman as intelligent and assertive as Michele Obama—but more an unthinking carryover from past habits. We all carry such baggage with us in areas of our purses and pants pockets that we don’t often explore. The question is not so much the having of it, but what we do about it once someone points it out to us. For Mr. Obama’s part, we will just have to see if we hear the term “sweetie” out of his mouth again, for any reason, and judge therefrom. 

Beyond any actual offense of denigration coming from Mr. Obama or his senior staff, there are two areas that seem to have ticked off the Clinton dead-doggers (“dead dog” refers to a popular saying of someone staying at a bar “until the last dog is hung;” my father used to use that phrase, and damned if I could ever figure out what the hanging of a dog had to do with it, but my understanding always was of someone who hung around—doggedly?—at a nightspot while the crew was cleaning up and ready to go home and the bartender was cashing out the till, long after reason dictated that the party was over and all the partyers should have been on their way). 

Back to the things that ticked off the Clinton die-hards. 

The first grievance they hold seems to be not against Mr. Obama or his campaign, but against Obama supporters. The second is the argument that in winning the Democratic nomination, Mr. Obama spoiled a once-in-a-generation opportunity to elect the first woman as president of the United States. We will address these grievances in turn. 

Anyone who browsed the reader comment sections of blogs or online newspapers during the primary season knows how lively—to put the most benign description of it—was the debate between supporters of Mr. Obama and supporters of Ms. Clinton at the height of the battle. At times, particularly as the campaigns went into their end-games, the exchanges got pretty nasty. Some of the complaints you are now hearing from the Clinton die-hard camp go back to things said or written by Obama supporters during those days. 

The operative word, however, is that these were things said or written by Obama supporters, not by Mr. Obama or his official campaign, itself. 

There are times when a campaign is responsible for the conduct of its supporters, but that comes when the campaign or its candidate knowingly and purposefully—but often surreptitiously, through code words rather than overt calls—taps into dark prejudices for the purposes of winning an election. One thinks immediately of the Republican welfare-queen/black-criminal-coddling presidential campaigns from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to George Bush Sr. that targeted White anti-black fears, unleashing the political backlash that tore down many of the gains against anti-black discrimination made during the Civil Rights/Black Power era. Whether you thought tearing down those gains was a good thing or not, the aid and comfort given to such political backlash by Mr. Nixon, Mr. Reagan, and Mr. Bush Sr. certainly deserved much of the credit, or blame. 

To the best of my knowledge, no such anti-woman rhetoric came out of the Obama campaign, itself, either overtly or in wink-and-nod form. If Mr. Obama’s supporters took that line they did that on their own, without his encouragement or carte blanche. It would seem a bit unfair, therefore, for some supporters of Ms. Clinton to punish Mr. Obama for things said by his supporters over which the Illinois Senator had no control and which seem contrary to his core values. 

On the second grievance of the die-hard Clintonistas, it is an undoubted fact that had Mr. Obama not entered the race, Ms. Clinton would have been the odds-on favorite not only to win the Democratic nomination, but probably the general election as well, breaking a major “glass ceiling” gender barrier to become the first woman president of the United States. It would have been an enormous historic achievement. 

The “grievance”—if you can pretty it up by using such a term—is not so much that Mr. Obama decided to run for president, but that he ran such a good campaign that he beat Ms. Clinton. None of the Clintonistas appear be mad at former North Carolina Senator John Edwards for running in the primaries; Mr. Edwards, of course, lost. The conclusion by the hard-core Clintonistas is that it was a woman’s turn this year, and in deference, Mr. Obama should have stepped aside, or at least had the good grace to follow Mr. Edwards’ lead and lose.  

It is an odd argument to make against Barack Obama. 

If one accepts the premise of political “turns,” it is difficult to make a case that the “turn” of women in the American presidency supercedes the “turn” of African-Americans. Judging whose oppression is worse than whose is a silly pastime—a bit like picking at sores on each other’s legs to see which one runs the nastiest—and I won’t go down that road. But certainly, one can say that the subjugation of women and the subjugation of African-Americans in the history and present of this country are comparable. 

But if we are talking about the taking of “turns” between African-Americans and women—that is, if we agree that the last of the old oppressions ought to be lifted against both, and it is only a matter of which group gets their part lifted next—then logic would dictate that the African-American “turn” ought to come next, since civil rights gains among African-Americans turn almost immediately into gains for women. 

The struggle to abolish slavery in the 19th century—ending with the defeat of the Confederacy and the passage of the 13th Amendment—led almost directly into the struggle to win American women the right to vote. Many of the early leaders of the women’s suffrage movement—Susan B. Anthony being the most prominent example—in fact got their start, their inspiration, and their early training in abolitionism. The same can be said about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, which provided a leadership training ground and helped set the stage for the Feminist Movement that immediately followed. 

One struggles to find examples in the opposite direction—women’s rights movements or significant gains that have led directly into movements or significant gains for African-American freedom or rights. 

In this regard, it is easy to see how the breakup of the color barrier to the American presidency—the election of Barack Obama—could lead directly to a comparable breakup of the gender barrier, and a woman president—either Republican or Democrat—to follow within a reasonable time. It is more difficult-though, in fairness, not impossible—to see the opposite, that the election of Hillary Clinton would have opened the doors to a followup African-American presidency. That is not an argument that Barack Obama should have been preferred over Hillary Clinton in order to speed up the day that both an African-American and a woman could serve as American President. It’s simply my own analysis of how America has operated, up until now. 

But these are all logical arguments, and logic will have little sway in what amounts to an illogical situation. That’s the way of the world, whether it’s in politics, a divorce proceeding, or negotiations between nations. It takes a top-flight negotiator to make their way through troubled waters, call out “peace, be still,” and come out with an agreement. In the case of the wooing of the Hillary Clinton hard-core, we will soon see if Mr. Obama is made up of such stuff, and if his negotiating skills are world class. 

Green Neighbors: Mayten, a Tree Refugee

By Ron Sullivan
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 12:22:00 PM
A street row of maytens in San Francisco.
By Ron Sullivan
A street row of maytens in San Francisco.

Chilean mayten, Maytenus boari, has for quite a while been touted as a substitute for “California” peppertree, Schinus molle, since the latter has been ravaged by scale insects and disease. The peppertree was supposedly introduced by Spanish missionaries, who brought it up from South America. It’s been in the California landscape a long time, so we have some senior specimens. It’s a pity to lose them wholesale, and I don’t see mayten as filling that same aesthetic niche as peppertree’s gnarled black trunk dressed in such unlikely, graceful foliage.  

Mayten is a handsome tree in its own right, more gracile overall and with similarly feathery leaves, casting a light shade that’s often all we’d want in the fog belt. It’s drought-tolerant and evergreen, and takes pruning well when it’s done right. (That’s the rub, isn’t it?)  

Maytens share the family Celastraceae—distant relatives of oaks and apples—with an odd lot of species, including the bittersweet vine and the khat shrub, whose leaves provide a popular recreational drug in places like Yemen and Somalia. Typical maytens are tree-sized. They occur widely in the Americas (Mexico to Tierra del Fuego), Africa (Ethiopia to South Africa), and Southeast Asia. Most are found in tropical areas; the Chilean mayten is one of the few exceptions.  

Every exotic street tree has a context somewhere. The homeland of the Chilean mayten is a plant community called the matorral—the Chilean matorral, to be exact, as opposed to similar formations elsewhere in the Americas. It used to cover about a hundred-kilometer-wide strip of Chile’s central coast. 

Chilean matorral, like California chaparral and European maquis, evolved in a summer-dry Mediterranean climate. Its sclerophyll (hard-leaved) shrubs play the same ecological role as their chaparral counterparts. But there are differences: matorral shrubs are spaced farther apart than chaparral shrubs, and bromeliads, vines, and bulbs, including the flagrantly gaudy alstroemerias, grow in their shelter-or did until they were grazed to death by feral rabbits. 

The wildlife is different too: instead of quail and wrentits, the Chilean matorral has tinamous (superficially partridge-like birds that are actually related to ostriches and rheas), giant hummingbirds the size of starlings, and mouse opossums the size of, well, mice, in some cases. At least seven bird species are matorral endemics.  

Within the matorral, the Chilean mayten grows only in the coast range, in moist canyons and on south-facing slopes. Its associates include the Jubaea or wine palm, whose sweet sap, collected like maple syrup, used to be the country’s major source of sugar. There aren’t many of those palms left; the matorral as a whole has been badly trashed and is minimally protected. 

I don’t know if anyone has attempted a mayten census, but there may be more specimens in California than in Chile by now. It’s an adaptable tree—maybe a little too adaptable.  

The California Invasive Plants Council hasn’t listed it yet, but notes that there’s a localized infestation on Angel Island. I recall hearing about rogue maytens in Strawberry Canyon a few years ago, and up in Davis. It’s a weed in New Zealand, and they’re starting to give it the stink-eye in Spain. That’s the problem with the perfect plant, anywhere you plant it.  






About the House: Why Your Dryer Is Trying to Kill You

By Matt Cantor
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 12:21:00 PM

Clothes dryers seem innocuous enough but actually, it turns out that they’re killers. More accurately, I should say, they’re arsonists, because they cause about 15,000 fires a year. 

The problem is that lint doesn’t get captured adequately at lint traps and manages to build up in vent lines and can eventually catch fire. Lint is terribly flammable you know. I had this great idea recently (see how rich I am from all my great ideas?) to collect lint, add a little paraffin and roll it into logs for the fireplace. Yeah, it is a bad idea. Oh well.  

Long dryer vents are worse than short ones when it comes to collecting lint and starting fires. There are also a range of other issues also make one vent more trouble than another. I know I’m weird but I actually find this really fascinating. 

Modern codes limit the length of dryer vents to around 25 feet total length. The old length was 14 feet and somehow things got safer recently. I don’t get it, really. This total length is reduced by any bends because bends create friction and diminish the capacity of the dryer to push the lint to the outdoors. A 90 degree bend should decrease the total length by five feet and a 45 degree bend decreases the total by two and a half feet. As you can see, vents get quite a bit shorter very fast when you make a few turns. 

The code doesn’t say anything about vents that rise but I believe that this is serious matter as well. One of the goofiest things I’ve ever seen is a built-in-place dryer vent that goes up through the roof. These are guaranteed to clog as the weight of lint continues to drag it down where it will rest and clog lower in the system. These become even more dangerous because you can’t see them or notice when they’re getting full of lint. 

Something that the code does say is that dryer vents need to be made up of smooth material since corrugated piping is a lint collector. All those ridges help the little fibers to grab on and pretty soon you’re all clogged up. By the way, if the clothes are still damp after an hour, this could be the reason (a clogged vent). 

Another thing that captures lint is a screw that’s used to connect two lengths of dryer vent. Again, the trusty code book says no to screwing these vent pipes together for just this reason. Personally, I like metal foil tape for these connections. Be sure to use four-inch smooth metal ducting and place the male ends facing away from the dryer and toward the outside so that they can’t catch lint either. 

When installing a dryer vent, it’s also a good idea (and a requirement) that the vent be well secured in place. Finish your installation with a hood and a damper (a little flapper to keep the bad things outside). There can’t be any screen in the system and if the reason for that isn’t obvious, you need to go back and start this article over again. 

In short, a dryer vent should be short, straight, not go up any more than absolutely necessary and be as smooth as possible. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a dryer that was placed near an outside wall but had some elaborate Rube Goldberg device running through the crawlspace to somewhere in France when they could simply have gone right through the wall and made things simpler, cheaper and safer. 

By the way, there are now these cool brushes you can stick on your drill that whisk out even lengthily or circuitous dryer vents and I’d say that this is a very nice idea for the truly safety conscious person with entirely too much time to spare. The Quick-Clean dryer vent brush system (I saw this at hartshearth.com) is a nice looking example. 

Now, that’s all very nice but it’s not actually what I want to talk about today. This is. 

So, I’m looking at this condo about two years ago and I get to the laundry closet. You know, there aren’t any more laundry ROOMS now, there’re all closets with just enough room for a stacked pair about six-feet high. Well, that’s fine but this particular one has no dryer vent. I pointed this out as a deficiency and the realtor calls me back a day or two later and says that the builder has an exemption from this requirement because they’re going to use ventless dryers. I say that there is no such thing and swear on a stack of bibles and my mother’s wedding band and a troop of midget acrobats. Well, guess what? (you guessed!). Yes, Darleen, there is a ventless clothes dryer. 

So how in the world does this work? It works through condensation. In fact, these are now referred to as condensing dryers. By running the damp hot air that normally exits a dryer through a cooling cycle (usually using cooler room air although water can also be used) the moisture in the air reaches dew point and turns back into liquid water which is then captured in a vessel or run to a drain. This process can save energy because the hot air is cycled back into the dryer via a separate loop rather than going out the vent on a conventional dryer. 

There are other kinds of dryers coming along including heat-pump dryers and steam compression dryers. These hold the promise of lower energy cost and quicker dryer time but for now, the condensation dryer seems to be our intrepid lead. 

The reason to buy these is the same as our friend, the developer of that condo would have. That being that the dryer ended up being located where a vent would be too long or otherwise too difficult to manifest. 

Years ago, as a lad, I traveled to England. As my journey proceeded and my rucksack became increasingly fragrant, I found myself in a London laundromat. Having finished a load of wash, I began placing my clothes in a dryer when a rather frumpy but cheerful woman stepped up and said, “Here then, darlin’, you don’t want to waste all that money now, do you?” and began stuffing my wet clothing into a small, weighty, cylindrical machine. “Use the extractor, then, won’t you?, It’s free.” And it was. The extractor was a high power wringer that, in a minute or two, removed about 90 percent of the water from the clothing so that the drying would take only a small fraction of the time that the dryer alone would have required. English energy costs have always been high compared to ours and they’d seen what we readily overlook; that it’s cheaper to run a motor and spin clothes than it is to boil the water out of them. Still, a heating process (or dehumidification) is still needed to finish up. These are used in the U.S. today but only in large laundry processes (and, of course, that little one at the gym for your swim suit). 

Clearly, there’s a lot to think about with dryers but I’ll leave you with a last thought and I hope this one will be the one to linger. Anyway you look at it, dryers cost energy and require mining (for the metals) and drilling for oil or coal. They add CO2 to the atmosphere and cost money to operate. Clothes lines are cheap and the sun and wind are free. Also, clothes dried this way last longer, since they’re literally burning up just a little bit every time you put them through the dryer. 

There’s so much more to say on this topic but this will have to do for today. Thanks for listening. Sometime I just need to vent. 

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:53:00 AM



Bloomsday at the Berkeley Public Library with a reading of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” from 3:30 to 5 p.m. outside the library at 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6121. 

Celebrate Bloomsday with Thomas Lynch reading from Joyce’s “Ulysses” at noon at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Peter Heehs talks about “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo” Indian philopsher and political leader, at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

Poetry Express with Tim Donnelly at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 


Jazzschool Studio Band at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $8-$12. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Crosspulse Rhythm Duo in a special evening for children and their families at 6:30 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 17. 


Paradox, guerrilla theater, movement, and video, Tues.-Thurs. at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $6-$8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 


Philip Moffitt discusses his new book “Dancing with Life” at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Freight and Salvage Open Mic at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $4.50-$5.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Ron Hansen reads from “Exiles” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

Yuan-tsung Chen reads from her new book “Return to the Middle Kingdom” at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 98 Broadway, Oakland. 


Sauce Piquante at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Singers’ Open Mic with Ellen Hoffman at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com  

Ryan Shaw at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$16. 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. 



Latino Film Festival “Super Amigos” at 6:30 p.m. at Richmond Public Library, Madeline F. Whittlesey Community Room, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond. Free. 620-6561. 


Elisabeth Pisani discusses “The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

Aaron Shurin, poet, at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

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


Summer Sounds at Oakland City Center with Natasha Miller, jazz vocalist, at noon at 12th and Broadway, Oakland.  

Michael Coleman’s BEEP at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

A Cure for the Mondays, A-OK’s, The Happy Adams at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Barbara Hadenfeldt Quartette at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. www.lebateauivre.net 

Whiskey Brothers, old time and bluegrass, at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Conjunto Rovira at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Salsa dance lessons at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Ezra Gale Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Ivan Lins at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$18. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Paradox, guerrilla theater, movement, and video, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $6-$8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 


“Double Vision: Cubist and Abstract Expressions” Works by Carol Manasse and Steve Carlson. Conversations with the artists at 5 p.m. at Craft & Cultural Arts Gallery, State of California Office Bldg., 1515 Clay St., Oakland. 622-8710. 


Louder, Faster: Punk in Performance “Target Video” with filmmaker Joe Rees in person at 8:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 









Theodore Hamm describes “The New Blue Media: How Michael Moore, MoveOn.org, Jon Stewart and Company are Trasforming Progressive Politics” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

Ed Park, editor of “The Believer,” reads from his debut novel “Personal Days” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Marianne Wiggins reads from her latest novel “The Shadow Catcher” at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Ron Arons reads from “The Jews of Sing-Sing” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


Mistah F.A.B., Trackademics, Jack Spirit Collective, Paragon, in a benefit for Oakland Youth Radio, at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10 and up. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Ragas and Redwoods with sitarist Josh Feinberg and tabla player Javad Butah at 5 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Dr. Cost is $10-$15. Reservations required. 643-2755. 

Scott Nygaard, Phil Kotapish and Marshsa Genensky at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$219.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Jim Grantham Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Montana Slim, The Bluegrass Revolution, Devines Jug Band at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Jeff Gutman at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Dee Dee Bridgewater’s Red Earth Project at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $26-$30. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Selector: Dietsnakes 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 


Superfest International Disability Film Festival Fri. and Sat. noon to 5 p.m., Sun. 2 to 7 p.m. at Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $5-$20/day, sliding scale. for complete list of films see www.culturedisabilitytalent.org 


Dorothy Hearst reads from “The Promise of the Wolves” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. www.codysbooks.com  


Company C Contemporary Ballet at the 2008 Oakland Dance Festival at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, 1428 Alice St., Oakland. Tickets are $10-$25. www.companycballet.org 

Homage to Atahualpa Yupanqui with Suni Paz, Rafael Manriquez, Lichi Fuentes, Ramon Ramero and others at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $13-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Pacific Coast Jazz: Rebirth of the Cool at 6 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak at 10th St., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2022. www.museumca.org 

Summer Series of Sound with Jeff Oster, jazz trumpet/flugelhorn at 7:30 p.m. at Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda. Tickets are $15-$20. 865-5060. www.rhythmix.org 

Peter White, smooth jazz, at 8 p.m. at the Claremont Resort, Tunnel Rd. Dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets are $59-$119. 898-0034. 

Danny Caron Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Gamelan X at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Mayne Smith & Friends at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Mere Ours and Marianne Barlow at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Raised by Robots, The Long Thaw at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Mindset, Foreign Nature 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. 

3rd Date at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Bayonics, Felonious at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 548-1159.  

DJ Toph One at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



“Tiles, Tablets & Messages” An exhibition of ceramic tiles. Reception at 6 p.m. at The Potters’ Studio at 637 Cedar St. at 2nd. Exhibition runs though July 13th. 528-3286. info@berkeleypottersstudio.com 

“Graphic Arts Loan Collection: 50 Years” Reception at 3 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


“Between Two Worlds” on the Mapuche peoples’ in southern Chile at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 


Rhythm & Muse Young Performers’ Night with Maurisha Williams and Ryan Wood at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. 527-9753. 


Solstice Music Festival with rock, pop, alternative, folk, jazz and others from 1 to 7 p.m. along MacArthur Blvd, in Laurel Village, and surrounding Laurel Elementary School. www.laurelsolsticemusicfestival.org 

The Eusebius Duo performs works of Brahms and Schumann wtih Monika Gruber, violin; Hillary Nordwell, piano at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $12-$18. 549-3864. www.trinitychamberconcerts.com 

Garden of Memory: Solstice Celebration from 5 to 9 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $5-$12. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Lloyd Gregory Quintet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

2008 West Coast Beatbox Championship with Kid Beyond, Soulati, Infinit, Butterscotch, Many Elements at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Jody Stecher & Bill Evans Secret Life of Banjos at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Planet Loop at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Ren the Vinyl Archeologist, hip hop, at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 548-1159.  

Root Doctors at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7. 558-0881. 

Scott Waters and Fred Odell at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Alma Desnuda, The Loyd Family Players at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $9. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Jazzschool Advanced Youth Jazz Workshop at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Von Iva, Easy Street 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. 



Nigerian Brothers with Ken Okulolo at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


MATRIX: Artists & Curator in Conversation with Mike Mandel, Larry Sultan and Constance Lewallen at 3 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

The Rites Of Summer Poetry Festival, featuring Melinda Gohn, Blake More, Jack & Adele Foley, Mary Rudge, H.D. Moe, Paul Blake, Dale Jensen, Judy Wells, Mark Schwartz, Gary Bolstridge, Jeff Grossman, Marsha Campbell, Ana Elsner, Morton Felix, tentatively ruth weiss & others plus an open mic, from 1 to 5 p.m. at 1735 10th St. A prize will be given for the best Greek costume or dress, potluck Greek dishes will be served & the admission is free with donations welcome. 528-8713. 

Roseanne Olson, photographer, on “This Is Who I Am: Our Beauty in All Shapes and Sizes” at 4 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

Charles Entrekin reads from his new novel, “Red Mountain: Birmingham, Alabama, 1965” at 2 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

Tori Kropp reads from “The Joy of Pregnancy: The COmplete, Candid, and Reassuring Companion for Parents-To-Be” at 4 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


“Bluegrass for the Greenbelt” Annual benefit concert for Greenbelt Alliance at 2 p.m. at the Dunsmuir Historic Estate in Oakland, and features Hot Buttered Rum, Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands, and The Wronglers. Tickets are $25-$60, children under 12 free. www.BluegrassForTheGreenbelt.org 


San Francisco Choral Artists “Songs of Survival: Music of the Holocaust” at 4 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 114 Montecito Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $9-$28. 415-979-5779. www.sfca.org 

“Jazzy Classics, Classical Jazz: The Jewish-American Experience” with Kit Eakle, Jeb Gist, Matt Eakle, Zachary Ostroff and Rory Judge at 7 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., Point Richmond. Cost is $15. 236-0527. 

Butta Fly Soul and Valeria Troutt, jazz, at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $12-$20, free for youth 18 and under. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Tango No. 9 at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Ari Chersky at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Americana Unplugged with The Mountin Boys at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 


CalShakes Presents ‘Pericles’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:54:00 AM

Through a great arch of blasted oak shambles a mysterious figure, shrouded in a mantle disguising his face. Once unveiled, the rambler looks Moorish, or like some tattooed Tuareg tribesman. He is Gower (played by Shawn Hamilton), a pre-Tudor English poet, transposed to a Mediterranean identity, as he narrates the CalShakes’ production of the Bard’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre. 

Pericles sprawls in a different way than, say, the histories often do. With an air of the fabulous, its protagonists are constantly on the move, and being blown off course, escaping from threats or seeking to be reunited with those lost along the way. The Aegean, Levantine and North African ports-of-call become verbal touchstones, summoning up a sense of mysterious antiquity—and of often-iniquitous deeds in the story: Antioch, Ephesus, Tarsus, Mytilene, Pentapolis—and Tyre.  

It’s a romance, from the ancient tradition of embellished storytelling, though unlike Shakespeare’s comedies taken from old romances and Roman plays. For a long time, this difference in tone, an art of both appearances and indirection, made academics and reviewers alike, uneasy—it seemed most un-Bardlike. But Pericles has often proved its popularity with all kinds of audiences, and more modern styles of staging—including some hybrid with radio drama techniques—have restored the symbiosis of narrative and drama to the drawn-out tale of a hero in constant search. 

But searching for what? Though complicated at first glance, the story is not hard to follow, though the upshot of all this wandering and wistfulness may prove a puzzle, if the audience isn’t content with just a happy end. 

The CalShakes cast is ready for the shifting locales and identities, in any case. CalShakes associate actors returning to perform for another summer—Ron Campbell, Domenique Lozano, Delia MacDougall and Danny Sheie—are joined by Christopher Kelly (in the title role), Hamilton and Alex Morf, as well as Allison Brennan, Mairin Lee, Kristoffer Barrows and Daniel Duque-Estrada, to shape-shift into some fifty characters.  

The regulars seem to keep growing as an ensemble (and Sheie and MacDougall particularly are in top form, slipping in and out of character, with the welcome addition of Morf’s equal flexibility and good comedic skills), with Joel Sass’ adaptation and direction rendering the constant, sealike flux of the tale—with its insistent, thematic chords—clear and entertaining, as the young Pericles seeks a worthy mate ... then pursues and mourns his losses along the way, later brought back from melancholy by miraculous reunions. 

The fantastic element is discussed in the program by the eponymous Laura Hope, company dramaturg, bringing up Sass’ belief that the times are “hungry for miracles” and a use of archetypes to convey what has often been lost in scholarly arguments (one quoted being from the ubiquitous Harold Bloom) over Shakespeare’s exact role in the writing of this collaborative work. 

With the participation of scholar Philippa Kelly as production dramaturg, who presided over last year’s excellent King Lear, and the facility of cast and production staff, there’s both a narrative clarity and delightful vignettes in Pericles, as the action flits from court to shipboard, bawdy house to temple, colloquy of fishermen over a huge catch and a castaway to a tournament for a princess’ hand, with much fun when the actors simulate equestrian footwork. 

But something’s missing behind the bright, shifting surface, hinted at in the wistfulness of much of the tale. There’s a reason the story opens with a riddle of incest and brutal response to its unraveling, and why the assassins and slanderers who crop up either back off or are converted to friends of the beleaguered Prince and his family.  

The specifically allegorical sense of these adventures—and allegory itself changes its face as quickly as the adventures themselves—seems to get lost, or downplayed. Maybe because of that persistent reticence that considers such modes of meaning are out-of-date and merely academic—though filmmaker Raul Ruiz has spoken at the Pacific Film Archive of the common coin of allegoric speech, even on Oprah (”There have been dark clouds in my life ... but I know Spring will come, the birds will sing ...”) and of its protean, poetic nature, constantly refreshing itself and its referents. 

There’s a good discussion of the meaning of Pericles in the Arden Shakespeare volume, of the truly wonderful recognition scene between long-separated father and daughter (and, later, partly lifted from Euripides, husband and wife). The very facility of the multiform “presentational” stage techniques to further the flow of the narrative perhaps also drains the most significant tableaux of their primitive sense of wonder—that absolute touchstone of theater, in which (to paraphrase actor-director Oleg Liptsin) “the performance makes the spectators melt together into one, an audience” in an ecstatic present moment.

Baroque & Beyond: Sheli Nan at the Giorgi Gallery

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:55:00 AM

My goal is to reach the audience, to evoke and provoke,” said Berkeley composer Sheli Nan of the multi-faceted program, for both modern and Baroque instruments and voice, of her music, “The Berkeley Baroque & Beyond Experience,” Friday at Giorgi Gallery. There will be a possible second performance on Saturday. 

The program will include new arias from Saga—Portrait of a 21st Century Child, Nan’s “opera for our time,” as she calls it: “Absinthe Avec Mes Amis,” a violin and harpsichord sonata (with Nan accompanying American Bach Soloists first place winner violinist Andrew Fouts, for whom she composed the piece); “Journey,” a song cycle for baritone and piano; and “The Mad Dance of Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” for solo flute and voice. 

Other performers include Jonathan Davis, Zachary Gordin, Ayelet Cohen, Meghan Dibble, Jo Vincent Parks and Marvin Sanders. Nan will play harpsichord and piano. 

Nan, who refers to herself as “a contemporary Baroque composer,” said her music “draws a great deal from Baroque form, but with 21st Century harmonies—neo-melodic harmonies.”  

With over 16 editions of her music published by East Bay publishers (Peter Ballinger of PRB Productions and Glen Shannon of Screaming Mary Music), Nan’s career as a composer took off when “I was discovered by Charles Amirkhanian [then of KPFA].” Nan declares, “I’m very much a Berkeley phenomenon!” 

Discussing her opera, from which other selections have been presented by San Francisco Cabaret Opera earlier this spring, Nan compared it to work by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht: “an awful theme couched by beautiful music. I often wonder about this as a composer, offering the music to listeners in order to digest hard truths. There’ll be three arias from the second act. The singers are really aligned to the characters, pouring themselves into it. The story’s important to tell; the opera has such immediacy to it. Now, in the third act, I have to decide who lives and who dies. These are my characters! But the old have to make way for the new. Can that be rendered symbolically? Is redemption really a necessity?” 

Nan, who has three CDs and two books (The Essential Piano Teacher’s Guide and the forthcoming Bach the Teacher), as well as many articles on music to her credit, played with a Nigerian band and an Afro-Cuban group and was invited by the Cuban government to play in Cuba in 2003, for which she received special permission from the State Department. 

Her symphony, Signatures in Time and Place, will be performed by the San Francisco Composers Orchestra this fall. 


The Berkeley Baroque & Beyond Experience 

8 p.m. Friday at the Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Blvd., with possible second performance on Saturday. $35 general, $25 musicians and students (CD and glass of wine included). More info at shelinan.com.  

Reservations: 919-4493. 

One-Act Opera ‘Trap Door’ at The Lab in San Francisco

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:55:00 AM

Happy is the man who hears/The helicopter beat its wings/The sky goes black with flying things/For him it sings,/It’s only music, music.” So sings the Iraqi insurgent cabbie (tenor Mark Hernandez as Omar), as he sets out an Improvised Explosive Device in Lisa Scola Prosek’s one act opera, Trap Door, playing tonight, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in The Lab, 16th St. near Mission in San Francisco.  

As soon as his IED explodes, there’s an American television journalist on the scene (soprano Bianca Showalter as Jane), exclaiming “I don’t know yet/Just what to think/I will reserve my judgment/Who’s in the right/Who’s in the fight/What should I wear/Have they finished my hair?/Can’t even sleep with this terrible heat”—shifting gears into the collective (or imperial) first person for her interview: “We’d like to know, we’d like to learn/we’re deeply concerned/We don’t know just what to think/Will you please tell America/Why you blow up these bombs here everyday!” 

(And Omar, mistaking her for a U.S. official, asks for a visa to New Jersey—“Out on the coastline”—where his cousin has a few taxis: “He’s always been my favorite cousin.”) 

Prosek, who plays piano in the accompanying chamber group under the direction of Martha Stoddard—with Michel Taddei on double bass; Eduard Prosek (the composer’s son), trumpet; Katrina Wreede, viola; Beth Snelling, cello; and Phil Freihofer on oboe—has fashioned an opera from a very particular contemporary sense of both traditional vocal styles (especially Bel Canto) and modern music (among others, she’s studied with Milton Babbitt and Lukas Foss). Her own libretto, taken from images and lines out of a dream, reflects the deeply satiric tradition of her native Rome—ever allusive, ever ironic. Trap Door is a rare, even unique entry among the performed works that have answered to the ongoing war in the Middle East. 

The story, however, is crystal clear, a series of episodes, of tableaux that picture events around Pvt. Able (the splendid baritone and stoic presence of Clifton Romig), following him through a tour of duty, looping back from his questioning in a court martial for killing a civilian (by soprano Eliza O’Malley as the prosecutor, as the chorus scribbles on clipboards); to going to boot camp, then leaving the wives and mothers for deployment; to declaring love to a Laundry Lady (soprano Maria Mikheyenko as Ashley) who spurns him because her Independent Contractor boss (baritone James McGoff) makes so much more than the soldiers; to being wounded on patrol and having morphine dreams in the hospital; to facing off with the enemy in combat; to taking part in an interlude of gospel choir music for a TV music video, and finally, after an incident in the burning heat and flashing light where he shoots an unarmed man, being sent home “to face the music.” 

Making this an opera in the truest sense—a collection of “works” in different media, fused together—are the collaborators: Jim Cave’s remarkable stage direction, that often has the disarming clarity, yet dissociation, of a dream; and Jacob Kalousek’s “soft” scenography: projected video that saturates each scene, more than background for singers acting—more like water for fish to swim in. And the performers swim indeed, singing and often changing roles, borne along by the ever-fluid rhythms and harmonies of Prosek’s score. 

Not singing, or speaking, but a wonderful presence from the start—when he strolls out with a tiny Igloo cooler, glances at his watch, opens the ragged curtain, ushers the cast onstage—Roham Shaikani, a longtime Jim Cave collaborator (as well as with Shotgun Players and Darvag Theatre Co.), eloquently interacts with the ensemble, or looks on, observing. 

Much the same troupe produced Scola’s opera of Machiavelli’s delightfully sardonic Belfagor at Thick House a year ago, but this original is even better: compact, perfectly delineated, yet haunting, with the fleeting sense of a mirage, an apparition, the afterimage of what was or might have been: “And what you reach for slips away/And what you hold you do not want/And then it comes again, you hear the music, music.” 

Book Zoo: North Oakland’s Newest Used Bookstore

By Ralph Dranow Special to the Planet
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:57:00 AM
Erik Lyngen and Nick Raymond’s shop is the latest addition to Telegraph Avenue’s string of eclectic bookstores.
By Michael Howerton
Erik Lyngen and Nick Raymond’s shop is the latest addition to Telegraph Avenue’s string of eclectic bookstores.

Walking into Book Zoo feels like stepping into someone’s living room. It’s a funky little used bookstore in North Oakland, with hardwood floors, an abundance of plants, posters, and artwork, a children’s play area, and hanging in the back, an American flag with the peace symbol. Erik Lyngen and Nick Raymond are co-owners of Book Zoo, mavericks who don’t use a cash register or sell books online and are trusting souls who leave a cart with sale books out overnight with a slot in the door for payment. 

The place feels inviting, but Erik and Nick face some serious challenges. The store, at 6395 Telegraph Ave., off Alcatraz, has been open nearly a year and a half in its present location. Business has been slow so far. Erik and Nick couldn’t afford the high rent of a more traditional shopping district, so they settled on a somewhat problematical location. “It’s hard getting people out of their geographical grooves. A lot of people have written off this area. There’s a little bit of everything here, drugs, alcoholism, prostitution, urinating in public, homelessness,” says Erik, 37, a friendly guy with a mop of black, curly hair. 

And then there’s the larger issue of a small independent bookstore attempting to survive in today’s climate of chain bookstores, Amazon.com, and a blizzard of available media options: radio, TV, movies, CDs, DVDs, video games, etc. The East Bay has a relatively high degree of literacy, with an abundance of book lovers, and yet many independent bookstores have not been able to survive here. Cody’s Books and Shambhala Books, two longtime fixtures on Berkeley’s bustling Telegraph Avenue stretch, were forced to close shop in the past few years. 

Dyrell Van Fleet of Bibliomania in Oakland, who sells antiquarian and collectible books, says, “The Internet undersells booksellers. Ten copies are competing against each other, so people who know about books are being replaced by people scanning bar codes.” 

Van Fleet sells books online but admires Erik and Nick for sticking to their principles. “Selling books online would help their economic viability. I’m glad that people like Erik come along, young booksellers with a lot of enthusiasm.” 

Erik and Nick served their apprenticeship at local bookstores and now enjoy being their own boss. It allows them the freedom to buy the out-of-the-mainstream books of radical politics, art, sexuality, and the occult they stock their shelves with, shelves with often playful labels like “druggy fiction” or “bathroom reading.” Many intriguing titles, such as The Way of Endless Life: Taoist Drinking Songs, Tales of Wo-Chi-Ca: Blacks, Whites and Reds at Camp, The Psychic World of California, and Ann Hooper’s Pocket Sex Guide greet customers. 

Erik and Nick honor their core values of simplicity and ease by using minimal technology. They record sales by hand, although later some information might be entered into the computer. They believe selling books online is too far removed from the relaxed, intimate reading experience they pride themselves on creating for their customers. “You can’t easily browse online. They can’t compete with us,” Erik says. 

“It depresses me to think the Internet’s highest function is a home-based shopping mall,” adds Nick, 28, who’s tall and lanky, an appealing combination of shyness and congeniality. 

They feel that Book Zoo’s friendly ambience and eclectic selection of high-quality, affordable books will eventually bring in more customers. They are the only workers in the store, which they see as a distinct advantage: it cuts down on paperwork for employees and allows Erik and Nick to coordinate their used book buying, giving Book Zoo a more coherent character than stores with several different buyers. 

They’re firm believers in word-of-mouth and would like to have regular author events, which would help spread the word to the numerous independently thinking book lovers. But Erik and Nick have limited time; each works second jobs, Erik at the Institute of East Asian Studies at UC Berkeley and Nick at the Oakland Public Library. In addition, Erik is married and has a 2-year-old daughter, Ramona. 

Still, there are occasional author events at Book Zoo. On a cool, gray Sunday afternoon, I attended a screenprinting demonstration by John Isaacson, author of Do It Yourself Screenprinting, with the subtitle Turning Your Home into a T-Shirt Factory. About 15 people, mainly young women, some new to the store, were in attendance. Anyone who wanted to got the chance to make a print, including Erik’s daughter. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. I didn’t make a print but was happy to discover a copy of Selected Essays by Robert Louis Stevenson, in good condition, for only $4. 

The turnout pleased Erik, who remarked, “Drawing a young crowd is our only hope of survival because the core of used bookstore customers are 50- to 60-year-old men. They’re automatic; you don’t have to make a big effort to get them.” 

He spoke excitedly about a poetry reading at the store given by two 1960s icons and current political activists, John Sinclair, a founder of the White Panthers, and Ted Rosenthal, ardent marijuana advocate. “John’s poetry lit up the small room. It’s nice knowing we could stage events that tie us into a higher stream, history that’s still happening. The community involvement at our readings when there are good exchanges reminds us it’s not just an anonymous space.” 

I understood Erik’s feeling of exhilaration, having once been a bookstore reading series coordinator myself. Also, his comments made me realize that Book Zoo has a strong ’60s flavor, a sense of exploration, of going against conventional wisdom, as well as a longing for community. Perhaps these qual-ities, combined with Book Zoo’s small town feel, make it unique among local bookstores. 

In the mid-’90s, Erik and his wife, Sarah Guy, spent two years teaching English in Japan, followed by a year traveling about the United States supporting themselves by odd jobs. They settled down in Oakland, California in 1999. The following year, Erik got a job at Walden Pond Books and became fast friends with co-worker Nick. When the idea of opening his own bookstore began calling to Erik, he and Nick discussed becoming partners.  

In 2003, they opened a tiny, cave-like store called Book Zoo on Telegraph Avenue and Blake Street in Berkeley, about a mile from their current location. They closed the store three years later, reluctantly acknowledging it was a lost cause. Nick recalls, “It seemed to attract every esoteric personality. We were very lenient at first about drug use and other behavior. Sometimes people used the bathroom for hours at a time. This store has more room and more sunlight. There’s a more diverse population, and it’s a lot more kid-friendly.” 

Erik’s wife Sarah and daughter are in the store a lot, mingling easily with customers, adding to Book Zoo’s personal flavor. Sarah is blonde, blue-eyed, and has a quiet, calm manner. She teaches kindergarten at Archway School, a small private school in Berkeley. She says, “The hardest part is the money burden. Everything I make at Archway goes back into the store at this point.”  

But she smiles recalling how Book Zoo got launched, with friends enthusiastically pitching in to build shelves and paint. 

Steve Margulis and Peter Herkoff are former colleagues of Erik’s and Nick’s at Walden Pond Books. Margulis says, “Since Erik and Nick opened their first bookstore, I’ve seen how much they’ve learned. Their stock is so much better now than at the hole-in-the-wall. There are feel-good vibes the moment you walk in now. They’re still working out their philosophy. Will it be a neighborhood store or one that draws people from further away?” 

Peter adds, “Erik and Nick have a lot of integrity and passion and knowledge of books. They’re very eclectic, which is good but also limiting. They have a certain philosophy of not carrying popular literature. As a neighborhood bookstore that feels right, but you worry about their long-term sustainability. They’re a throwback to a different world, like the old general store.” 

And Sarah puts Book Zoo in a larger perspective. “I want more independent stores like this where you can ask questions about what’s important to you. I want to live in a community where I know the people who run the stores, and they know their customers.”  



4-10 p.m. Thurday and Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.  

6395 Telegraph Ave.  

654-2665. http://bookzoo.net.


Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:58:00 AM



Wilde Irish, Berkeley’s resident Irish thespians, will put on their fifth annual Bloomsday celebration—the day Leopold Bloom wandered Dublin (and many psychic scapes) in James Joyce’s Ulysses—their annual benefit, this Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in the Gaia Arts Center, Allston near Shattuck, with words of Joyce, performances, music, wine and Irish morsels. $25. wildeirish.org or 644-9940.

About the House: Why Your Dryer Is Trying to Kill You

By Matt Cantor
Thursday June 12, 2008 - 12:21:00 PM

Clothes dryers seem innocuous enough but actually, it turns out that they’re killers. More accurately, I should say, they’re arsonists, because they cause about 15,000 fires a year. 

The problem is that lint doesn’t get captured adequately at lint traps and manages to build up in vent lines and can eventually catch fire. Lint is terribly flammable you know. I had this great idea recently (see how rich I am from all my great ideas?) to collect lint, add a little paraffin and roll it into logs for the fireplace. Yeah, it is a bad idea. Oh well.  

Long dryer vents are worse than short ones when it comes to collecting lint and starting fires. There are also a range of other issues also make one vent more trouble than another. I know I’m weird but I actually find this really fascinating. 

Modern codes limit the length of dryer vents to around 25 feet total length. The old length was 14 feet and somehow things got safer recently. I don’t get it, really. This total length is reduced by any bends because bends create friction and diminish the capacity of the dryer to push the lint to the outdoors. A 90 degree bend should decrease the total length by five feet and a 45 degree bend decreases the total by two and a half feet. As you can see, vents get quite a bit shorter very fast when you make a few turns. 

The code doesn’t say anything about vents that rise but I believe that this is serious matter as well. One of the goofiest things I’ve ever seen is a built-in-place dryer vent that goes up through the roof. These are guaranteed to clog as the weight of lint continues to drag it down where it will rest and clog lower in the system. These become even more dangerous because you can’t see them or notice when they’re getting full of lint. 

Something that the code does say is that dryer vents need to be made up of smooth material since corrugated piping is a lint collector. All those ridges help the little fibers to grab on and pretty soon you’re all clogged up. By the way, if the clothes are still damp after an hour, this could be the reason (a clogged vent). 

Another thing that captures lint is a screw that’s used to connect two lengths of dryer vent. Again, the trusty code book says no to screwing these vent pipes together for just this reason. Personally, I like metal foil tape for these connections. Be sure to use four-inch smooth metal ducting and place the male ends facing away from the dryer and toward the outside so that they can’t catch lint either. 

When installing a dryer vent, it’s also a good idea (and a requirement) that the vent be well secured in place. Finish your installation with a hood and a damper (a little flapper to keep the bad things outside). There can’t be any screen in the system and if the reason for that isn’t obvious, you need to go back and start this article over again. 

In short, a dryer vent should be short, straight, not go up any more than absolutely necessary and be as smooth as possible. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a dryer that was placed near an outside wall but had some elaborate Rube Goldberg device running through the crawlspace to somewhere in France when they could simply have gone right through the wall and made things simpler, cheaper and safer. 

By the way, there are now these cool brushes you can stick on your drill that whisk out even lengthily or circuitous dryer vents and I’d say that this is a very nice idea for the truly safety conscious person with entirely too much time to spare. The Quick-Clean dryer vent brush system (I saw this at hartshearth.com) is a nice looking example. 

Now, that’s all very nice but it’s not actually what I want to talk about today. This is. 

So, I’m looking at this condo about two years ago and I get to the laundry closet. You know, there aren’t any more laundry ROOMS now, there’re all closets with just enough room for a stacked pair about six-feet high. Well, that’s fine but this particular one has no dryer vent. I pointed this out as a deficiency and the realtor calls me back a day or two later and says that the builder has an exemption from this requirement because they’re going to use ventless dryers. I say that there is no such thing and swear on a stack of bibles and my mother’s wedding band and a troop of midget acrobats. Well, guess what? (you guessed!). Yes, Darleen, there is a ventless clothes dryer. 

So how in the world does this work? It works through condensation. In fact, these are now referred to as condensing dryers. By running the damp hot air that normally exits a dryer through a cooling cycle (usually using cooler room air although water can also be used) the moisture in the air reaches dew point and turns back into liquid water which is then captured in a vessel or run to a drain. This process can save energy because the hot air is cycled back into the dryer via a separate loop rather than going out the vent on a conventional dryer. 

There are other kinds of dryers coming along including heat-pump dryers and steam compression dryers. These hold the promise of lower energy cost and quicker dryer time but for now, the condensation dryer seems to be our intrepid lead. 

The reason to buy these is the same as our friend, the developer of that condo would have. That being that the dryer ended up being located where a vent would be too long or otherwise too difficult to manifest. 

Years ago, as a lad, I traveled to England. As my journey proceeded and my rucksack became increasingly fragrant, I found myself in a London laundromat. Having finished a load of wash, I began placing my clothes in a dryer when a rather frumpy but cheerful woman stepped up and said, “Here then, darlin’, you don’t want to waste all that money now, do you?” and began stuffing my wet clothing into a small, weighty, cylindrical machine. “Use the extractor, then, won’t you?, It’s free.” And it was. The extractor was a high power wringer that, in a minute or two, removed about 90 percent of the water from the clothing so that the drying would take only a small fraction of the time that the dryer alone would have required. English energy costs have always been high compared to ours and they’d seen what we readily overlook; that it’s cheaper to run a motor and spin clothes than it is to boil the water out of them. Still, a heating process (or dehumidification) is still needed to finish up. These are used in the U.S. today but only in large laundry processes (and, of course, that little one at the gym for your swim suit). 

Clearly, there’s a lot to think about with dryers but I’ll leave you with a last thought and I hope this one will be the one to linger. Anyway you look at it, dryers cost energy and require mining (for the metals) and drilling for oil or coal. They add CO2 to the atmosphere and cost money to operate. Clothes lines are cheap and the sun and wind are free. Also, clothes dried this way last longer, since they’re literally burning up just a little bit every time you put them through the dryer. 

There’s so much more to say on this topic but this will have to do for today. Thanks for listening. Sometime I just need to vent. 

Community Calendar

Thursday June 12, 2008 - 10:07:00 AM


Vigil to Honor the Life of Anita Gay at 5 p.m. at Ashby and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. 655-7313. www.justiceforanita.org 

“Democratic Struggles in the Muslim World and the Rise of Neocolonialism” with Agha Saeed at 7:30 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Free, open to all. www.berkeleygreens.org 

Insect Discovery Lab for ages 3 and up at 6:30 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

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. 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.  


Living Graveyard and Reading the Names of Californians who have died in Iraq and the names of Iraqis who have died from noon to 1 p.m. at the Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay St. Bring a pad to lie on and a white sheet to cover yourself with. 655-1162. www.epicalc.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 Lone Oak area od Tilden Regional Park. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

Gay Pride Day for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, f1901 Hearst Ave. Sponsored by the NBSC and the Coming Out Again Group. 981-5190. 

Safeway on Solano Community Meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Haver Hall at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 849-4811. 

Music for Monotones Non-singers can improve their skills with Fran Avni at 7 p.m. at JCC East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Co-sponsored by Aquarian Minyan. Donation $10-$15. 843-3131. 

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition “Big Oil: Enemy of Working People” A community discussion at 7 p.m. at 636 9th St. at MLK, Oakland. 435-0844. answer@ANSWERsf.org 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

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

Walkin’ In Pride Celebrate LGBT Pride Month with a nature walk from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Brinones, Bear Creek Staging Area. Bring layered clothing and water, no dogs please. 525-2233. 

“Root of All Evil” A documentary with with Richard Dawkins, on the state of the three Abrahamic religions in the world today, at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Simplicity Forum Learn the health and spitutal benefits of simple living at 6:30 p.m. at the Claremont Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave. at Ashby. 

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

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www. 


Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

Stitch ‘n Bitch at 6:30 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  


Educator’s Workshop “Kids in Gardens” Learn about teaching from a school garden, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Melrose Leadership Academy, Oakland. Cost is $49, and includes lesson plans and course reader. 665-3430. www.thewateshedproject.org 

“Beyond the Recruiter” Boot Camp Tour for youth, June 22-27, to visit military bases, veterans groups, and families affected by the war. Orientation session from 6 to 7 p.m. at 1470 Fruitvale Ave., Oakland. For information call 619-857-4947. www.baypeace.org 

Temescal Street Cinema “Light and Shadow” short experimental films, at 8:30 p.m. outdoors at 49th and Telegraph. Bring a chair. www.temescalstreetcolletive.org 

Berkeley Communicators, a Toastmaster’s club, meets at 7:30 a.m. at Au Coquelet, 2000 University Ave. Rob.Flammia@gmail.com  

Avatar Metaphysical Toastmasters Club meets at 6:45 p.m. at Spud’s Pizza, 3290 Adeline at Alcatraz. namaste@avatar. 


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. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 


Berkeley Youth Alternatives Garden Volunteer to help maintain the organic gardens. Tasks include weeding, sowing, transplanting, bed preparation, harvesting, fix-it projects, and more. Meet at 10 a.m. at the main garden, Bancroft Way, between Bonar and West. 647-0709. www.byaonline.org 

Iraq Moratorium Day and Vigil to Protest the War from 2 to 4 p.m. at the corners of University & Acton. Sponsored by Strawberry Creek Lodge Tenant’s Assoc & Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers. 548-9696. 

Summer Solstice Gathering at 7:30 p.m. at the Interim Solar Calendar, César Chávez Park, Berkeley Marina. Mini-Workshop on Astronomy and the Seasons.  

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Allison Richardson, Program Development Director, “Activate America,” YMCA of the East Bay on “Building Healthier People and Communities Through Activate America” 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 

Superfest International Disability Film Festival Fri. and Sat. noon to 5 p.m., Sun. 2 to 7 p.m. at Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $5-$20/day, sliding scale. for complete list of films see www.culturedisabilitytalent.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. 


Save the Bay Restoration Project Help remove non-native vegetation and promote the health of recently planted native plants from 9 a.m. to noon at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, Oakland. 452-9261, ext. 119. bayevents@saveSFbay.org  








“Lead-Safe Painting & Remodeling” Learn to detect and remedy lead hazards in the home to prevent lead poisoning. Taught by expert staff from the Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (ACLPPP), course offers simple solutions property owners can use to safely repair and renovate their homes. Register by phone or download registration form from website. From 10 a.m. to noon at Eastmont Branch Library, 7200 Bancroft Ave., Suite #211, Oakland.Free. 567-8280. www.aclppp.org/homeown.htm 

Walking Tour of Old Oakland “New Era/New Politics” highlights African-American leaders who have made their mark on Oakland. Meet at 10 a.m. and the African American Museum and Library at 659 14th St. 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

Solstice Saunter Celebrate the longest day of the year with a hike up Wildcat Peak, from 1 to 4 p.m. discovering flora and fauna along the way and a panoramic view from the top. For meeting place call 525-2233. 

Summer Solstice Salmon Celebration with music and speakers from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers' Market, Center St. at Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. 548-3333. www.ecologycenter.org 

“Alternative Materials: Cob and Strawbale” A seminar on two natural building methods from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Building Education Center, 812 Page St. Cost is $85. 525-7610. www.bldgeductr.org/seminars.html 

“Between Two Worlds” A documentary on the Mapuche peoples’ struggle to retain their indigenous culture in southern Chile at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.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. 

“Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Beneficials to the Garden” with Aerin Moore at 10 a.m. at Magic Gardens, 729 Heinz Ave. 644-2351. 

“Walk in the Wild: An Epicurian Escapade” A benefit for the Oakland Zoo with food, music, and dancing at the zoo. Tickets are $125 and up. www.aoklandzoo.org 

“Building Business, Building Community” A food contest, with chefs on site, and experts on food justice, foreclosure crisis, immigration and small business available to answer specific questions, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at De La Fuente Plaza, 34th Ave. between International Blvd and E12th St., by Fruitvale BART station. 532-5240. erodriguez@anewamerica.org  

Magic by Alex for ages 5 and up at 2 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043. 

“Stillness in Movement II” classes on the movement of Taijiquan, five consecutive Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at Center for Urban Peace, 2584 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. Sliding scale $20-$75. RSVP to 866-732-2320, ext. 6. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Around the World Tour of Plants at 1:30 p.m., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Oakland Artisans Marketplace Sat. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jack London Square. 238-4948. 

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


Where the Wild Things Live Discover homes everywhere, from under a tiny leaf to the tops of tall trees, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Green Sunday: “What Indigenous Americans Need From Allies” A discussion with Janeen Antoine, one of the founders of Bay Native Circle Radio, at 5 p.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave at 65th, Oakland. ACTransit 40, 64, and 17. www.acgreens.org 

Landscape Watering: Make Every Drop Count An introduction to sprinkler and drip irrigation solutions at 10:30 a.m. at Urban Farmer Store, 2121C San Joaquin St., Richmond. Free, but reservations required. 524-1604, richmondclasses@urbanfarmerstore.com  

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Sun. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Betty Cook on “Ancient Tibet; Buddhist Tibet” 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 


Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., June 12, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7410.  

Community Health Commission meets Thurs., June 12, at 6:45 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5356.  

Council Agenda Committee meets Mon., June 16, at 2:30 p.m., at 2180 Milvia St. 981-6900. 


City Council meets Tues., June 17, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci. 


Citizens Humane Commission meets Wed., June 18, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6601. 

Design Review Committee meets Thurs., June 19, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7415. 

Fair Campaign Practices Commission meets Thurs., June 19, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6950.  

Transportation Commission meets Thurs., June 19, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7010.