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Dona Spring declared her support for the treesitters at UC Berkeley’s Memorial stadium on June 22. She was applauded by supporters as she spoke from her wheelchair.
By Richard Brenneman
Dona Spring declared her support for the treesitters at UC Berkeley’s Memorial stadium on June 22. She was applauded by supporters as she spoke from her wheelchair.
 

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Flash: Judge Rules for UC Berkeley in Oak Grove Case

by Richard Brenneman
Tuesday July 22, 2008 - 07:10:00 PM

Berkeley’s treesitters and Memorial Stadium neighbors who had sued to block construction of a gym at the site of the adjacent oak grove were dealt a resounding setback Tuesday. 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller issued a judgment that upholds the university’s plans for a four-level gym at the grove site and hits the litigants—including the city and the late City Councilmember Dona Spring—with an order that they pay most of the university’s legal bill.  

Her order also ends, on July 29, the injunction which has blocked construction and the destruction of the grove. Construction could begin immediately after that date unless the plaintiffs are able to win a stay from the state appellate court.  

She also divided costs for the litigation, which produced over 40,000 pages of documentation and lasted 18 months, with 15 per cent to be paid by the university and the remaining 85 percent divided equally between: 

• The city of Berkeley, represented by Sacramento attorney Harriet Steiner; 

• The Panoramic Hill Association, represented by Alameda attorney Michael Lozeau, and 

•A group of plaintiffs represented by Oakland attorney Stephan Volker, which includes Spring, the California Oak Foundation and several other Berkeley residents. 

Just what those costs will include remains uncertain, with one university official stating that attorney fees probably wouldn’t be included. Volker agreed. 

The judgment and order, which follow Miller’s June 18 decision on the case, don’t hand the university an unequivocal victory. 

The judge rejected a claim by the university that the Alquist-Priolo Act, which governs construction within 50 feet of active earthquake faults, does apply to UC construction projects. 

That decision won’t affect the gym project, since the university eliminated three features connecting with gym project with the stadium which Judge Miller had ruled in June were governed by the law. 

She also gave the city a minor victory, denying the university’s contention that traffic, noise and other impacts from a planned seven additional events at the stadium were unknowable. The university sidestepped the issue by a decision to drop the planned events. 

“We are very pleased by this decision,” said Dan Mogulof, the university’s executive director for public affairs. 

“We see it as a vindication and validation of the process which led to our decision about where and how to build a facility that is absolutely necessary for the safety and well-being of our student athletes,” he said. 

Volker said he will be filing an appeal on behalf of the plaintiffs he represents within the next few days, though he couldn’t speak for the city or the Panoramic Hill Association. 

The appeal has to be filed within the next seven days, while the injunction is still in effect, in order to win an automatic 20-day continuation of the injunction, he said. 

“It is our belief the judge misread the law and has misapprehended the facts of the case,” said Volker. 

“The public has a vital interest in preserving the outstanding oak grove, and we believe we will be ultimately vindicated by the courts,” he said. 

Steiner is on a vacation in Hawaii and was unavailable for comment, and Lozeau is out of state attending a family reunion, Volker said, while Zach Cowan, Berkeley’s acting city attorney, is scheduled to be out of town Wednesday through Friday. 

But City Councilmember Linda Maio said the council will meet in closed session Thursday, “and we won’t recess until we’re done with this. Clearly, there are issues for us to deal with.” 

Maio said the recent adoption of the state’s green building code also raises new issues.  

Doug Buckwald, Director of Save the Oaks at the Stadium, issued this statement on Tuesday night:  

"Today (Tuesday, July 22, 2008) at 4:30 pm, Judge Barbara Miller issued her final judgment in the case of the Memorial Oak Grove dispute in Berkeley, California. The timing of her decision is highly prejudicial to the Petitioners, and this will make it difficult for them to exercise their legal right to an appeal. 

"Judge Miller issued a ruling which dissolves the injunction protecting the trees in seven days (calendar days, not business days) and so the university will be able to cut the trees down unless an appellate court issues a new injunction. That means that Petitioners will have to get a motion into appellate court as soon as possible to have any chance of saving the trees. Petitioners’ difficulty is magnified by the fact that two out of three of their attorneys are away on previously-scheduled vacations, and so they will be unable to participate fully in the process.  

"Also, the Berkeley City Council will be in a summer recess after tonight’s council meeting. They, too, will have to grapple with making a decision about how to proceed in a very brief amount of time. 

“Unfortunately, the timing of the court's decision makes it particularly difficult for us to proceed to the next step in the judicial process. The ruling has forced our legal team to rush into court with minimum time to consult with all clients and to prepare legal papers. 

“I believe that we have a strong case to take to the appellate court. It would be a real tragedy to lose the beloved oak grove now, and then win in court later when it would be too late to save the trees. You can’t put stumps and sawdust back in the ground and make things all better again. Those beautiful, majestic oaks would be gone forever. 

“Irrespective of the unfair time constraints of the judicial process, the university still could choose to do the right thing and spare the trees until the appellate court rules. That approach would be cooperative and would ensure that the legitimate interests of the city and community were not shortchanged on a legal technicality.  

“I can only hope that university officials have listened to the many people in this community who have spoken out in favor of the trees for the past two years--a coalition which includes a broad spectrum of Berkeley society--and they will realize the severe and lasting harm that will come of any rash action on their part to cut the trees down while we may still be standing at the courtroom door asking to be heard. Ignoring the wishes of the community like this would be counter to its paramount obligation to the public it serves. If it does so, the University of California will be forever stained in the eyes of many people who have supported it in the past. “


Employee Charges Downtown McDonald's Franchise With Discrimination

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday July 22, 2008 - 05:34:00 PM

The Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center of San Francisco filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Tuesday (today), alleging that the McDonald’s in downtown Berkeley unlawfully discriminated against one of its employees and her two co-workers because of their developmental disabilities. 

At a press conference Friday morning in San Francisco, Claudia Center, a senior staff attorney with the Legal Aid Center, said the center’s investigations revealed that at least three employees with severe disabilities were fired without notice or explanation when the franchise was sold in March. 

A former employee, Lisa Craib, 43, a Berkeley resident and a Berkeley High School graduate, claims that she was unfairly dismissed from the restaurant on the corner of University and Shattuck avenues, where she has worked for 21 years 

Craib, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome—a form of autism—worked the morning crew from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. cleaning tables, preparing salads and bussing. 

She said that shortly after the franchise was sold to a new owner in March, she and two other workers with disabilities were abruptly fired. 

“At the end of my shift on March 18, my supervisor told me that I ‘was no longer part of the team,’” Craib said. “I was extremely upset. I felt as though my home was being taken away from me. It hit me really hard.” 

According to Craib, her mother Karola Craib and sister Anne Craib a “Help Wanted—Equal Opportunity Employer” sign appeared on the window of the restaurant right after she was fired. 

“I believe that the new owner selected workers with disabilities for termination,” Lisa Craib stated in one of her claims. She also said that two co-workers with disabilities, and who are Regional Center clients, were fired the same week as she was. 

Nick Vergis, the new owner of the McDonald’s franchise and named in the complaint, told the Planet in a telephone interview Tuesday that he didn’t know anything about the charges. 

“I don’t even know who she (Lisa) is,” he said. “I don’t know anything about her at all. I bought the store in March, and all I can say is when stores exchange hands one company closes its business and the other company opens the business. It’s not a sworn affidavit, but it’s possible that no one was fired unless the prior company fired her. I don’t know what her employment history was ... If there was any kind of a problem, I wouldn’t know.” 

In an e-mail to the Planet, Jesse Waters of Dudell & Associates, the public relations firm representing McDonald’s Pacific Sierra region, forwarded a statement by Vergis a couple of hours after the interview. 

“Other than what has been reported in the media, I have not received any notice of a legal claim that has been filed against me,” the statement said. “I have a strict policy prohibiting any form of discrimination in hiring, termination, or any other aspect of employment. I comply with all applicable laws—including the American Disabilities Act—and continually strive to maintain an environment in which everyone feels valued and accepted. Beyond that, it would be inappropriate to further comment or speculate.” 

Craib’s lawyer, Center, said that she was only aware of one complaint against her client regarding her work performance at the restaurant: a customer claimed that Craib had invaded his personal space. 

Mike Maddy, who sold the franchise to Vergis, said he had no information about Craib’s dismissal. 

“I stopped doing business on March 17, and I had no more employees at midnight of March 17,” he said. Craib was fired the next day. 

Center said that when Craib was fired, McDonald’s failed to inform any of her support services, including the East Bay Regional Center, which referred her to the Arc of Alameda County for job coaching while she was working at McDonald’s. 

“I had a job coach provided by the Arc who interacted with the managers at McDonald’s,” Craib said. “When they fired me they didn’t tell the coach.” 

In her statement to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, Craib said she did not receive her last paycheck until May 18, two months after she was fired. 

“In fact, I received my last paycheck after I made a formal request for my personnel file, which I still haven’t received,” Craib said. 

“I enjoyed my job,” Craib told reporters at the press conference. “Having a job means that I have my own money. I can be responsible. I can make my own choices. Everyone in my family works. I grew up knowing that if you want something, go ahead and work for it. I want to take responsibility in the community. I want to be someone respected. I don’t want to be looked upon as an outcast.” 

She is currently taking classes at Creative Growth—an art studio workshop—and is on a nine-month unpaid internship with the Children’s Hospital in Oakland, which she hopes will eventually lead to a paid position. 

“The reason I filed the charges is not because I want to go back to working at McDonald’s,” Craib said. “I want to make people aware of what’s going on. I want Nick Vergis to realize that there is protection for the disabled. I want him to say ‘Yikes, what did I get myself into?” 

Center pointed out that although July 26 will mark the 18th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a lot more work remains to be done to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities. 

“The ADA was passed to promote the employment and integration of workers such as Lisa Craib and her coworkers,” Center said. “These actions cast serious doubt upon McDonald’s much publicized commitment to such ideals.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Candidate Watch: Arreguin Declares for District 4

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday July 22, 2008 - 05:36:00 PM

Today (Tuesday) Jesse Arreguin became the fifth candidate to replace recently deceased Councilmember Dona Spring in District 4. Arreguin chairs the elected Rent Stabilization Board, chairs the Housing Advisory Commission and is a member of the Zoning Adjustments Board. 

Arreguin, staff member to Councilmember Kriss Worthington, joins environmental activist Mary Rose “Redwood Mary” Kaczorowski, former School Board President Terry Doran, videographer LA Wood and Zero Waste Commissioner Asa Dodsworth, who have also taken out preliminary papers for District 4.  

Wednesday is the deadline for filing in-lieu papers for elected office, in which candidates must collect 150 signatures to have the $150 filing fee waived for declaring candidacy. Candidates may still declare their intention to run after Wednesday, but they must pay the filing fee. 

 

Rent Board 

Taylor Kelly, new to the area, has taken out papers for the Rent Stabilization Board, making him the 11th candidate running for the five open seats.  

Arreguin, who had previously taken out papers for the board, told the Planet that he is withdrawing his name from the race. 

For a complete list of candidates, go to: 

www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Clerk/Elections/Candidate%20Roster%20Nov%202008%20-%20WEB.pdf 

 


Man Recovering After Falling Multiple Stories

By Kristin McFarland
Tuesday July 22, 2008 - 05:33:00 PM

A man who fell multiple stories from a window in a Berkeley apartment building on Saturday is recovering from his injuries. Police responded to a report of a man down in the 2400 block of Channing Way just before 4 a.m. when witnesses reported seeing and hearing the fall. The police found no sign of foul play and consider the fall an accident. 

The 20-year-old man, who is neither a UC Berkeley student nor a Berkeley resident, suffered multipile injuries and was taken to the Alameda County Hospital, where he is still receiving treatment. The police would not disclose the man’s identity or the nature of his injuries.


Community Fears Bevatron Demolition Debris

By Judith Scherr
Monday July 21, 2008 - 05:07:00 PM

Fearing adverse health effects related to toxic debris from dismantling the Bevatron and the associated Building 51 at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and trucking the materials over several years through the streets of Berkeley, Councilmember Max Anderson is sponsoring a resolution for Tuesday’s City Council meeting—originally coauthored by recently deceased Councilmember Dona Spring—asking for a full environmental report on the impact of the demolition. 

Lab spokesperson Don Medley, who did not return calls for comment, sent a copy of a letter written to the mayor and council to the Planet in which he asks the council to oppose the resolution and asserts that the demolition will be conducted safely and according to state and federal regulations. 

At its 7 p.m. meeting, the City Council will also consider the reorganization of the Community Energy Services Corporation, Tom Bates Regional Sports Field maintenance and landscaping contracts, bee-friendly vegetation in parks, opposing the ban on marriage between same sex couples on the state ballot, the extension of residential parking permits to new neighborhoods, a moratorium on wireless telecommunication facilities, wording for the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance referendum title on the November ballot, an extension of the Panoramic Hill Urgency Ordinance, establishing a “sustainable energy financing district” and more. 

At a 6 p.m. workshop, the council will hear a presentation on “Economic development trends in urban industrial land use,” by Karen Chapple of UC Berkeley and a talk on sustainability by Billi Romain of the Energy and Sustainable Development division of planning. 

 

Bevatron demolition  

The Bevatron is a 54-year-old defunct nuclear accelerator located at LBNL, which is owned by the Department of Energy and managed by the University of California. Hazardous materials known to be present at the facility include low-level radiation, mercury and asbestos. 

“This is a city that says how green it is,” Mark McDonald, a member of the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste (CMTW), told the Planet, arguing that trucking toxics through town is contrary to city “green” policies. 

The CMTW originally called for preservation of the Bevatron building, which the city named a historic structure. Having lost that battle, the CMTW is leading the charge for a safe demolition. 

In addition to calling on the lab to prepare an environmental impact statement, the resolution before council asks the lab to respond to 25 questions, including dates when the demolition is scheduled and routes through Berkeley where debris is to be trucked. The resolution also calls for assurances that the hazardous material will be tightly covered and that the shell of the Bevatron will be maintained during the demolition of the interior of the facility. 

McDonald said there had been a cursory environmental review that did not take into account the 4,700 trips planned through Berkeley streets and the degree of toxicity of the material to be trucked. 

Lab spokesman Medley’s letter responds to some of the issues raised in the resolution. It asserts that an environmental impact statement is not required. “The Department of Energy completed an environmental assessment on the Bevatron and Building 51 demolition, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act,” the letter said. “Based on this assessment, the Department of Energy determined that the project does not require an environmental impact statement.” 

The letter gives the project dates: between August 2008 and October 2011. And it also gives the routes for the 4,700 truck trips: Cyclotron Road to Hearst Avenue, south on Oxford Street, then west on University Avenue to I-80. 

McDonald noted the lab has not revealed its future plans for the site, but the lab letter said it would be used for “in-fill” space for potential future activities. 

The preferred option, other than turning the facility into a museum—which has been rejected—is to seal the facility, McDonald said. “Leave it alone and let it decay in place,” he said. “It’s not a problem as it is.” 

The lab letter responds to this issue, saying that “the Berkeley Lab will dismantle and remove the Bevatron and surrounding blocks prior to the demolition of the building that contains them....” 

The extent of mercury at the site is just coming to light, McDonald said, pointing to a May 20, 2008 letter to the City Council by Otto J.A. Smith, professor emeritus in the UC Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department. Smith was professor in the department from 1950 to 1954, at the time the Bevatron was shipped to the university  

“Every time that the system was operated with both inverters connected, one Mercury Arc Ignition tube exploded,” he wrote the council. “The public deserves to know what tests have been made on mercury liquid in floors, walls, ceiling and tests of mercury vapor in the power room at the Bevatron.” 

“We don’t know what happened to all that mercury,” McDonald said, adding, “How would you feel about 4,700 truckloads with low-level radiation, mercury and asbestos going by your house?” 

The lab letter underscored the safety of the transported debris. Non-hazardous materials will be transported via trucks covered with tarps and, “All hazardous and radioactive material will be packaged in accordance with regulatory requirements. For example, all hazardous and radioactive material that is in the form of dust will be fully enclosed in containers,” it said. 

For a number of documents and articles on the Bevatron see: www.berkeleycitizen.org/bevatron/ 

For environmental assessment documents, see: www.lbl.gov/community/contruction/b51.html. 

 

The council will also consider: 

• a recommendation that the Community Energy Services Corporation, a $2.2 million nonprofit whose governing board is the city’s Energy Commission, begin to sever its ties with the city; 

• whether to place on the ballot a proposal to set a deadline for early withdrawal of troops from Iraq; 

• a $100,000 contract with Lifelong Medical for services to 10-15 persons identified under the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative (PCEI) to receive housing with support services; 

• a $200,000-per-year contract for the PCEI host program (see below, “Eyes and Ears for Berkeley Shopping Areas May Help, May Criminalize”) 

• execution of an agreement with the Association of Sports Fields Users under which it will collect parks fees from users and use the revenue to schedule, operate and maintain the Tom Bates Sports Complex at the foot of Gilman Street. 

• referring to the Parks and Recreation Commission a recommendation to have pollinator-friendly vegetation in the parks 

• opposing the marriage ban initiative. 

 


BUSD, City Differ on Naming West Campus as a Preferred Site for Warm Pool

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday July 21, 2008 - 05:06:00 PM

The Berkeley Board of Education approved a resolution Friday to work with the City of Berkeley to relocate the warm water pool from the landmarked Old Gym to an appropriate location without naming West Campus as a preferred site. 

The agreement came two days after the Berkeley City Council approved a similar resolution, but with wording which included West Campus as one of the favored sites. 

Mayor Tom Bates and warm water pool users criticized the board's decision to pull the West Campus site from the language of the resolution.  

Board president John Selawsky and board member Karen Hemphill abstained from voting. The other three members voted for the resolution. 

Some board members objected to naming West Campus, the site of the former Berkeley Adult School, on University Avenue—which has been vacant for several years and is the proposed new headquarters for the Berkeley Unified School District—as a possible site for the warm pool before consulting with its neighbors. 

The South of Bancroft Master Plan outlines the demolition of the seismically unsafe Old Gym in June 2011 to make room for new classrooms. According to the resolution, Berkeley Unified would work with the council to maintain the three community pool centers which are on district property, including the warm pool. The resolution calls for the city to prepare a ballot measure for the June 2010 election to improve the pools and fund a new warm pool site.  

Additionally, it calls for Bill Huyett, superintendent of the Berkeley public schools, to work with City Manager Phil Kamlarz to develop a public pool plan representing the interests of the school district, the City of Berkeley, which would operate and maintain the pools and community programs, the YMCA, which would bridge the gap for swimmers during construction, and pool users. 

The city and district would also work together to estimate funds and operating costs for potential sites, hold a public process to identify a site and recommend a preferred project and alternatives for the warm pool as required by CEQA. 

The city will fund the planning and environmental analysis and prepare detailed drawings and award a contract for construction, pending approval of the bond measure.  

JoAnn Cook, co-chair of the One Warm Pool Advocacy Group, urged board members to work closely with parents and teachers to win their support for the 2010 pools bond. 

Bates lauded the district for its positive spirit and cooperation at the beginning of the meeting, and added that “a lot of it has to do with your new superintendent.” 

Board members also remembered councilmember Dona Spring in their speeches, commending her for being a stalwart for the warm pool, and adjourning the meeting in her honor Friday. 

Selwasky said he was supportive of the city's decision to postpone the pools bond from this November to 2010 since it could have jeopardized the library and fire measures. 

Huyett informed the board that although the mayor had wanted to name West Campus as a preferred site in the document, the school district had acknowledged the possibility but had wanted to keep its options open for other sites as well. 

“West Campus pops into the mind since there are already pools there, there's space there and parking and access,” Selawsky said. “When you go through the list you really don't have that many possibilities.” 

Some board members expressed concern about naming a specific site as a preferred location since the action would undermine the community's trust in the district. 

“When you name a site, it looks like it has already been decided,” board member Joaquin Rivera said. “I want to make sure that the community of West Campus is involved in the process.” 

Board member Karen Hemphill said the district had just begun to gain the trust of the neighbors for rebuilding West Campus, which she said could be lost if future uses of the property were not discussed with them. 

“I am also troubled by calling out West Campus,” board member Shirley Issel said. “I think it's a viable option but it also has other pools which have their own uses. It sounds like we are making a commitment to West Campus if no other site is found.” 

Hemphill said that the district's previous mention of the tennis courts on Milvia Street as a possible site for a new warm pool had confused and frustrated people who have grown tired of the district changing its mind on the issue of where to move the pool. The school district has not made any decisions about whether the property would be sold or leased to the city for building a warm pool, although the city hired architects to come up with a schematic design for the site last year.  

“We are being asked to make a rallying cry that it [West Campus] is the best place to make a pool but I don't see the same level of commitment on the city's side to go out for a bond measure,” Hemphill said. “What if there's no bond measure? Does it become the responsibility of the school district?” 

Bates replied that naming the West Campus as a preferred site was “the real sticking point” for the warm water pool users. 

“The West Campus is actually a very, very good site,” he said. “The warm water pool people cooperated with us ... At least they know there is a site ... This was something we put together with all the parties and now you are changing the deal. I don't think anyone will believe you unless you nail it down.” 

Huyett pointed out the language in the resolution without the West Campus was still a strong one. 

“It says the city council and the district agree to conduct a public process that will relocate the warm water pool to an appropriate site,” Huyett said. 

The word “will” was later changed to “shall” by the board by a motion from Issel. 

Selawsky stressed the importance of keeping West Campus in the language as a symbolic gesture to the warm pool users.  

“I have been telling my people the school district was going to take some responsibility,” Cook said. “The one thing was West Campus, and now it's gone. It's gone like the pool, like the tennis courts. For you having the West Campus in the resolution is an esoteric thing maybe. But for us it's a symbol.” 

“Back to the tennis courts, back to the tennis courts,” Bates called out from his front row seat in the council chamber. 

Huyett said the board had arrived at its decision after giving the issue a lot of serious thought. 

“The majority of the board has the responsibility to have a process with the community,” he said. “I know the warm water pool people are desperate for a site but this [resolution] says the school district will be a partner in bringing them the solution.” 

The Berkeley City Council is scheduled to take up the warm water pool resolution at a council meeting Tuesday. 


Protesters Bring Tree Fight Home to UC’s Birgeneau

By Bay City News and Planet staff
Monday July 21, 2008 - 05:23:00 PM

Campus police arrested six protesters Sunday after they  

planted an oak seedling on the lawn of the university’s chancellor Robert Birgeneau. 

The six were among a group of 50 who marched around 5 p.m. from the grove at Memorial Stadium, which the university plans to ax to make way for a four-story, $140 million high tech gym and office complex, to Birgeneau’s residence. 

Once at the chancellor’s house, located on the university’s  

campus, the group dug a two-foot round circle and planted the oak seedling, UC Berkeley police spokesman Mitch Celaya said. 

The seedling, once an acorn that fell from one of the oak trees in  

the grove, is about 6 inches tall and has been maturing for a year, Buckwald  

said. 

Campus police reportedly watched as the protesters secured the  

seedling in the ground, according to Buckwald. 

“UC Berkeley police were observing the activities but didn’t say  

anything,” Buckwald said. 

After the seedling was planted, UC Berkeley police arrested six  

protesters who police believe were “the main participants in committing this  

act,” Celaya said. 

While the protesters had intended to maintain a vigil to preserve the tree, “they escorted us to the edge of the campus where a female officer tore up the sapling,” said Zachary Running Wolf, one of the original tree-sitters who ascended the branches on Big Game Day in December 2006. 

Though Running Wolf—a Berkeley mayoral candidate—has been repeatedly arrested since the start of the protest, he wasn’t one of those arrested Sunday. 

Four protesters were arrested near the north gate entrance to the  

university, and two were arrested just east of the chancellor’s house,  

according to Buckwald. 

The six were arrested for vandalism, trespassing and  

misdemeanor conspiracy, Celaya said 

Among those arrested was Terri Compost, who has been a prominent supporter of the tree-sit and who also serves on the university’s People Park Advisory Board, and Beverly Dove, one of the group of grandmothers who have gathered food supplies for the tree-sitters. Dove was released after booking but the other five were held overnight in jail pending a Monday afternoon court hearing. 

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said he wasn’t able to provide a current count of arrests made since the grove protests began, but as of June 13, 92 arrests had resulted in some period of custody for the protesters.  

The march comes days after Alameda County Superior Court Judge  

Barbara Miller said she will try to rule as soon as possible on UC Berkeley’s  

request that she modify an injunction which currently prevents the university  

from building a new sports training center at the site of the oak trees. 

Miller issued the injunction Jan. 29, 2007, which bars the  

university from going ahead with its proposed $140 million, 158,000-square  

foot project. A UC Board of Regents committee approved building the training  

center Dec. 5, 2006, prompting protesters against the project to climb into  

the grove of oak trees that would need to be torn down in order for the  

project to be completed in an effort to stop the project. 

Protesters have been living in the trees since then, and others  

have gathered at the base of the trees to offer support to the tree-sitters. 

Between four and six protesters remained in the trees as of Monday,  

according to Buckwald. 

The San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center has posted pictures of the planting and arrests at its website, www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/07/20/18518126.php. 

 

Tightwad Hill 

While one decision is near in the litigation that will determine the future of the grove, the university has reached a settlement in a second action which aimed to preserve the view from Tightwad Hill, so named for the fans who watch Cal Bears football for free from the slopes above the stadium. 

The spectators sued, charging that the university had failed to consider the impact on the hillside fans when it prepared its environmental impact report on proposed changes to the stadium itself—which include a raised bank of seating on the stadium’s eastern side that would block the view from much of the hillside. 

In reaching a settlement with the fans, the university agreed to confer with them before it adopts final plans for improvements at the stadium, according to the web page prepared by Mogulof and his staff at www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2008/06/stad-update.shtml. 

 


Planning Commission Resumes Work on West Berkeley ‘Project’

By Richard Brenneman
Monday July 21, 2008 - 05:05:00 PM

Planning commissioners will tackle the controversial project of changing West Berkeley’s zoning ordinances when they meet Wednesday night. 

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. at Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

The original name for the project, “flexibility,” generated worried questions from West Berkeley’s artisans and artists, who feel threatened by any changes in the current zoning rules that could lead to economic pressures that could force them out of their last foothold in the city. 

Members of WEBAIC, West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies, have diligently followed the progress of the proposed changes, keeping commissioners aware of their concerns. 

One of the items on Wednesday’s agenda is approval of a timeline that calls for approval of a set of zoning ordinance amendments by the end of the year. 

The commissioners will also ponder two staff-generated lists of policies which critics of existing zoning have designated as obstacles to development. They include bans on removing space from currently designated uses, prohibitions on conversions of space, lots split into different zones, limitations on building dimensions and setbacks, parking requirements, definitions of permitted uses and problems related to large projects involving multiple parcels. 

Also scheduled for consideration are hearings and first votes on tract maps for two in West Berkeley, one at 1331 Seventh St. and the other at 2831 Seventh St. 


Police Name Suspect in Sunday’s Russell Street Shooting

by Kristin McFarland
Monday July 21, 2008 - 08:36:00 AM

Berkeley police have issued a warrant for Gabriel Alejo, 18, of Berkeley, as the suspect in Sunday night’s Russell Street shooting. 

Police responded to a call reporting gunfire in the 1500 block of Russell Street shortly after 1 a.m. One man was shot in the arm and three women were hit by shrapnel in the shooting. All three victims were taken to the Alameda County hospital. Their status remains undisclosed, but Officer Andrew Frankel, the Berkeley Police Department’s public information officer, confirmed that none of the injuries was life-threatening. 

After witnesses helped identify the suspect, Berkeley police searched Alejo’s residence on 6th Street in West Berkeley later Sunday morning, but he has not yet been located.  

Frankel confirmed few details about the shooting. 

“We’re still working on the motive,” he said. 

The police describe Alejo as armed and dangerous. Homicide detectives request that anyone who has information about his whereabouts contact BPD. 


Oak Grove Protesters Arrested by UC Berkeley for Planting Seedling on Chancellor's Lawn

by Bay City News
Monday July 21, 2008 - 08:19:00 AM

Six protesters of the removal of a grove of oak trees on the University of California, Berkeley campus were arrested today after they planted an oak seedling on the lawn of the university's chancellor, a UC Berkeley police spokesman said. 

Around 5 p.m. Sunday a group of up to 50 people marched from the site of the oak grove, where four to six protesters are living in an attempt to keep the university from tearing down the trees to build a new sports training cnter, to UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's house, according to Doug Buckwald, a spokesman for the tree protesters.  

Once at the chancellor's house, located on the university' scampus, the group dug a 2-foot round circle and planted the oak seedling, UC Berkeley police spokesman Mitch Celaya said. 

The seedling, once an acorn that fell from one of the oak trees in the grove, is about 6 inches tall and has been maturing for a year, Buckwald said. 

Campus police reportedly watched as the protesters secured the seedling in the ground, according to Buckwald. 

"UC Berkeley police were observing the activities but didn't say anything," Buckwald said. 

After the seedling was planted, UC Berkeley police arrested six protesters who police believe were "the main participants in committing this act," Celaya said. 

Four protesters were arrested near the north gate entrance to the university, and two were arrested just east of the chancellor's house, according to Buckwald. 

The protesters were arrested for vandalism, trespassing and conspiracy, Celaya said. 

The protesters who participated in today's march from the oak grove to the chancellor's house had planned to keep a 24-hour vigil in front of the seedling, according to Buckwald. 

 


Candidate Watch: More Filings for Elections

By Judith Scherr
Monday July 21, 2008 - 05:04:00 PM

Three new candidates signed up for local seats today (Monday). 

Mary Rose “Redwood Mary” Kaczorowski, an environmental activist, is running for the District 4 seat. 

PhoeBe Sorgen, Peace and Justice commissioner, is running in District 6.  

Jesse Townley, a member of the Disaster and Fire Safety Commission, has signed up to run for the Rent Stabilization Board. 

For a complete list of candidates, go to: 

http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Clerk/Elections/Candidate%20Roster%20Nov%202008%20-%20WEB.pdf 


Eyes and Ears for Berkeley Shopping Areas May Help, May Criminalize

By Judith Scherr
Saturday July 19, 2008 - 03:58:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council on Tuesday could approve a two-year $200,000 per-year contract to improve shoppers’ experiences on Telegraph and Shattuck avenues by hiring “hosts” to assist out-of-towners and to direct people with inappropriate behaviors into services or—if they refuse help or if services are not available—to jail.  

The program is part of Mayor Tom Bates’ Public Commons for Everyone Initiative, which will also eventually include housing with services for 10-15 people perceived to behave in socially inappropriate ways near downtown or Telegraph Avenue businesses. 

The only bidder on the host contract is the same trio of organizations that actively lobbied the council for the program: the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District (TBID), the Downtown Business Association (DBA) and Options for Recovery. The group is collectively known as “DOT.” 

“When [the contract] came up, we were the natural people to go to,” Deborah Badhia, executive director of the DBA, told the Planet. City officials “knew we’d be interested,” she said. 

TBID and DBA directors who will manage the program in their respective districts if the contract is approved have told the City Council that people acting-out on the streets near businesses is one of the reasons people don’t shop on Telegraph or downtown. 

“There will be more people on the street, looking out for problems,” Badhia said, noting that business people can’t take care of customers inside their shops and watch the street at the same time. 

“Their sheer physical presence will help,” Badhia said. They will have uniforms, but not resemble police. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington expressed another view: The contract, he said “is political rewards for the people who aggressively advocated for arresting and criminalizing homeless people.”  

Worthington said he would lobby his council colleagues to put guidelines in place so that “arrests are the last resort—after extraordinary efforts.” 

One of the key reasons for vacant storefronts and a dearth of shoppers is high rents charged by property owners, Worthington told his council colleagues during earlier discussions on the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative, which was approved by the council in December 2007. 

City staff said that while DOT was the only entity to respond to the city’s Request for Proposals, a number of organizations were alerted to the opportunity. 

“We would have sent it to a whole bunch of people,” Sharon Phygesen, general services manager, told the Planet, adding, however, that the city will not release the names of those to whom the proposal was sent until after the contract is signed. 

The city also will not release a copy of the DOT’s bid, in which it elaborates the services it plans to render and the organization responsible for performing the services, until the contract is signed, Phygesen said. However, a staff report outlines the services, she said. (The staff report is Item 8 in the July 22 City Council packet, found on the council website.) 

Dr. Davida Coady, Options executive director, declined to talk about Options role in DOT. Roland Peterson, TBID executive director said however that Options will recruit and screen hosts. It is not clear at this time whom the hosts will work for. 

“Options’ interest is in diverting people into services who need them – their services of course,” Peterson said. 

Hosts will be largely recruited among “clean and sober” people who have graduated from the Options program, Bahdia said. 

Peterson said his role will be supervising the hosts on Telegraph Avenue once they’re hired. Bahdia will supervise those working downtown. Peterson said he’s had experience in that kind of supervision, having overseen the Telegraph Avenue clean-up crew. 

An organization which performed functions similar to those of the hosts, called the Berkeley Guides, lost its funding a few years ago. Peterson said the DOT hosts would receive more extensive training than the guides had. “They’ll know what the laws are,” he said, noting that the goal is for downtown and Telegraph to become a friendlier, more welcoming places, not for the hosts to become “quasi police.” 

“We want to engage people in services,” he said. The guides had radios that connected them with the police; the hosts will have cell phones so that they can call a mental health team, the public works department for clean-up, or other services as well as police, he said.  

Bahdia underscored that this is a pilot program. “It has to prove its merit. The city is asking us to put in place a process to assess performance,” she said. 

PCEI is funded through a 25 cent per hour increase in parking that went into effect in April. 


Candidate watch:

By Judith Scherr
Saturday July 19, 2008 - 03:58:00 PM

The city clerk listed three new candidates filing for office Friday: 

Denis McComb has taken out papers for mayor, bypassing the signature-in-lieu option and paying the $150 filing fee. 

Toya Groves, an Oakland school district teacher who advocated to preserve Kandy’s carwash at Sacramento Street and Ashby Avenue and was a member of the Ashby BART task force, is running for school board. 

Clydis Ruth Rogers has taken out papers for the Rent Stabilization Board. She is on the staff of Berkeley Youth Alternatives and on the bard of Affordable Housing Associates. 

 

For more on candidates who have announced for Berkeley offices, see story below: “Candidates Come Out for District 4.” 


RCPC Says No to College Avenue Safeway Expansion, Design Change Sought

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Saturday July 19, 2008 - 03:57:00 PM

After months of deliberating neighborhood concerns about Safeway’s proposed expansion plans on College Avenue, the Rockridge Community Planning Council (RCPC) announced its decision to oppose the project last week. 

The national supermarket chain was scheduled to submit an application for the proposed project to the Oakland Planning Department at the end of this month, but Safeway representatives said today (Friday) it had postponed plans to apply to the city to address the community’s concerns. 

Safeway’s plans to “lifestyle” a 25,000-square-foot store at the intersection of College and Claremont by expanding it to almost three times its current size has met with stiff opposition from a large number of nearby residents, who fear the project will ruin the neighborhood’s small-town charm, increase traffic and threaten local independent businesses. 

“We are not going to the planning committee right now,” Esperanza Greenwood, a spokesperson for Safeway, told the Planet. “We are going to be reviewing options and taking into consideration the community’s needs.” 

Greenwood said area residents had asked Safeway to take more input from the community and design a smaller project. 

“We are working with our design team to incorporate those inputs,” she said. “We are taking into account all the comments. It’s going to take us a while.” 

In a letter to Todd Paradis, manager of Safeway Inc’s Northern California Real Estate Section, on July 11, RCPC Chair Stuart Flashman explained the reason behind the board’s unanimous decision. 

“The Rockridge Community Planning Council appreciates Safeway’s efforts to involve the community in developing its plans for rebuilding its College Avenue Safeway store,” the letter stated. “It is in that spirit of cooperation and constructive criticism that the RCPC Board of Directors, acting on the unanimous recommendation of the RCPC Land Use Committee, opposes the current Safeway College Avenue rebuild project.” 

The organization cited the project’s size and incompatibility with the neighborhood, as well as inadequate information about the proposed plans as the principal reasons for opposing the plan. 

“The project is too big and will cause major negative impacts on the community,” Flashman’s letter said. “The information provided to the public is totally inadequate for serious discussion of the project. RCPC hopes that Safeway will take these criticisms to heart, especially given the strong and almost unanimously negative response its plans received at the recent community meeting on the project. The existing College Avenue Safeway has been and continues to be an important and valued part of the Rockridge community. We are hopeful that Safeway will come up with revised plans for remodeling or rebuilding this store that will respond to the community’s needs and concerns.” 

Speaking to the Planet this week, Flashman said the board gave considerable importance to the community’s concerns about the proposed project. 

“We’ve been looking at the project since last year and we considered the public’s comments at the last community meeting in June,” he said. “We are not asking Safeway to not upgrade the store, but we want it to keep to the current size.” 

About 300 people turned up at the June 19 public meeting at Peralta Elementary School to hear Safeway’s new plans for its College Avenue store, and more than 60 neighbors spoke against the project. 

One of them was Claremont resident Susan Shawl, who is spearheading the group Concerned Neighbors to oppose Safeway’s plans. 

“I am glad,” Shawl said of RCPC’s decision. “Safeway is talking about expanding the store to have all these different services, but we already have all those services in the store or nearby. We aren’t really getting anything more. I would like to see what Safeway has to say in response to RCPC’s decision.” 

In an e-mail to Shawl on July 10, Elizabeth Jewel of Aroner Jewel and Ellis, the public relations firm hired by Safeway to keep the community updated about the project, said the grocery chain was evaluating its next steps. 

“We are not going to adhere to any self-imposed timeline for submittal of the plans but rather take our time to continue listening to neighbors as new drawings are prepared,” she said. 

According to Safeway’s planners the new store will feature a full-service meat counter, an extensive organic produce section and a flower shop, departments it currently lacks. Shops directly across College Avenue from Safeway already include a florist, meat shop, and a produce market. 


Planners Sail Through Pair of Downtown Plan Chapters

By Richard Brenneman
Saturday July 19, 2008 - 03:56:00 PM

Berkeley planning commissioners zipped through a chapter and a half of the Downtown Area Plan on Thursday, including the potentially controversial section on historic buildings and design. 

Commissioners then made short work of the section on streetscapes and open space, spending the largest portion of their time on the future of the block of Center Street between Oxford Street and Shattuck Avenue. 

It’s in that space the Berkeley might—or might not—create a pedestrian plaza that might—or might not—include either a daylighted Strawberry Creek or something “to reference Strawberry Creek,” a term Commissioner Gene Poschman found a bit obscure. 

“I’m not sure what it means,” said Poschman. 

“It doesn’t mean a literal creek,” answered Matt Taecker, the city planner hired with the help of university funding to develop the plan. 

Why not just call it a “water feature?” Poschman suggested. 

Walter Hood, a nationally known landscape architect, is finishing a proposed design for the plaza under the auspices of EcoCity Builders, a Berkeley non-profit which raised grant money for his work. 

Commission Chair James Samuels, an architect himself, said he looked forward to Hood’s presentation to the commission in September, in part because “I frankly have a bit of difficulty reading his plans.” 

Samuels said he also wanted to make certain plaza designs wouldn’t block deliveries to the many restaurants located along the block or prevent vehicle access by the disabled and by residents who would be living in planned new housing. 

Blocking vehicle access, he said, means “you’re only asking for the property owners to yell and scream.” 

Jim Novosel, a fellow architect and commissioner, said that nothing in the chapters drafted by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee would deny needed access. 

Traffic and parking concerns popped up repeatedly during the discussions, though the traffic issue in particular will be tackled in depth in the upcoming access chapter. 

Harry Pollack, an attorney and commissioner, said he had problems with a chapter “that assumes it’s okay to have fewer lanes of traffic and no additional parking, or even fewer parking spaces.” 

Novosel said he was concerned that UC Berkeley had abandoned its plans for underground parking at the planned Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive building at Center and Oxford streets. 

Parking spaces form something of a political divide, with public transit advocates calling for their elimination or reduction to force people out of cars and onto buses, BART or bikes. 

But the commissioners sailed through the chapter with no major changes, though more language was tweaked. 

One term popped up again after Commissioner Roia Ferrazares had shot it down in previous chapters: “Wayfinding” devices, which turns out to mean signs offering directions. 

Poschman had more linguistic critiques as well. Looking at the streetscape chapter he asked, “What the hell is ‘a consistent vocabulary of features?’” 

“It sounds like a Steinberg cartoon” said Novosel. 

“I have problems with the whole paragraph,” said Samuels. 

“What about going back to the original DAPAC language?” asked Taecker. 

Nobody disagreed. 

Five commissioners were also DAPAC members. 

Commissioners have loaded their schedule to finish the plan in time to get it to the City Council early next year. The city must adopt the plan by May or risk the loss of some of the university funds mandated in the settle of a city lawsuit challenging the schools downtown expansion plans. 

Next Wednesday the commission will decide on building dimensions to be included in the plan’s environmental impact report outlining the plan’s physical and cultural consequences. 


Judge Denies Injunction Bid In Police Funding Lawsuit

By Bay City News Service and Berkeley Daily Planet Staff
Saturday July 19, 2008 - 03:53:00 PM

A judge on Friday denied a bid for a preliminary injunction to Oakland attorney-plaintiff Marleen Sacks, who says the city of Oakland should return $60 million to its taxpayers because it has failed to live up to its promise to hire more police officers under the Measure Y mandates. 

But Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch also denied the city's request to have the lawsuit dismissed, so it appears there will be a hearing on Sacks' case's merits in the fall. 

According to a release from the Oakland City Attorney's Office, the ruling agrees with an impartial analysis provided by the City Attorney's Office that was included in the ballot information given to every voter before the November 2004 election. The analysis said that the city could collect the tax so long as the money was an addition to the existing police budget. 

Measure Y was a parcel tax measure passed by Oakland voters in 2004 as a way, among other things, of adding 63 new uniformed police officers to the then-existing authorized strength of 740. 

Sacks, an attorney who lives and works in Oakland, alleges in her lawsuit that the city is in effect "robbing" its citizens by taking $7.7 million from Measure Y and using it for generalized police recruitment. At Mayor Ron Dellums' request earlier this year, the Oakland City Council approved that fund transfer both to fully staff both the 63 Measure Y positions and the 740 regular uniformed officer slots. Dellums’ administration and police department officials have been predicting for weeks that the city is on track to meet the goal of 803 uniformed officers by the end of the year. 

But in her lawsuit, Sacks charges that the city has illegally collected $60 million 

because it has failed to live up to the promise to have at least 739 officers in the years that it has collected funds for Measure Y. 

Sacks alleges that the city council's unanimous vote on March 4 to use $7.7 million in Measure Y funds to hire more officers is improper because she believes it's really a generalized recruiting drive that should be paid for out of the city's general fund. 

But in his ruling, Roesch said there's no basis for a preliminary injunction because Sacks didn't demonstrate that she and the city's taxpayers would suffer irreparable harm if an injunction isn't granted now. 

Roesch told lawyers for the city of Oakland that Sacks' petition 

"may be a hodgepodge of actions" and is "vaguely asserted" but he's inclined 

to let it proceed to a hearing on its merits. 

However, he allowed attorneys for the city to have 15 days to file 

a motion to request having Sacks' petition narrowed down. 

"The position of the City Attorney's Office has been the same from the beginning," City Attorney John Russo said in a prepared statement following the judge's decision. "Whether you agree with how Measure Y has been administered since its passage, the independent analysis our office gave to voters was unambiguous and correct." 

But after today's hearing, Sacks said she was disappointed but not surprised that Roesch didn't grant a preliminary injunction but she's "very pleased" that her suit can go forward. 

Sacks said "there must be accountability" because Oakland city officials and elected officials promised in 2004 that they would hire more police officers if Measure Y passed. 

Sacks alleged that, "The city wants to argue that all those lies and misrepresentations by city officials are irrelevant and that city officials and politicians can lie with impunity." 

 

 


More Arguments, No Decision In UC Berkeley Stadium Case

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 08:32:00 PM

Although Judge Barbara Miller has not yet issued her final decisions in the lawsuits challenging UC Berkeley's gymnasium project, the Berkeley City Council has scheduled special legal sessions for 5 p.m. Friday and Tuesday, at which they could decide whether or not to join other plaintiffs in any appeal. The meetings are closed, but public comment will be allowed. 

“The court does view the University of California as the primary prevailing party,” said the judge deciding the fate of the Berkeley campus grove now occupied by a dwindling crew of tree-sitters at a Thursday hearing in Hayward. 

The key decisions left for Alameda County Superior Court jurist Barbara J. Miller involve apportioning the legal costs for the 19-month old litigation, a ruling on how long the litigants will have to file appeals and another one on a motion by the university to lift her injunction blocking construction of a $140 million, four-level high tech gym and office complex next to the western wall of California Memorial Stadium. 

Still uncertain is a date when the university could call out the chainsaws and chop down the grove at California Memorial Stadium. 

If the city decides not to appeal, the university’s attorney said he will probably seek a bond from the remaining plaintiffs of up to $1.5 million a month to cover losses from continued site security and delayed construction. 

Miller's eventual order will determine the parties' share of the legal costs incurred by all for the lengthy legal action that has produced more than 40,000 pages of documents, mountains of motions and long hours of argument. Costs are normally assigned to prevailing parties, and each party claims to have prevailed on some issues in this case  

While the university lawyer and its chief spokesperson called the judge's comments at the hearing a victory for the school, Stephan Volker, an attorney for a group of plaintiffs which includes the California Oak Foundation and the late Berkeley City Councilmember Dona Spring, said part of the win was for his team. 

“We did prevail on several issues in this case,” he said. “The key ruling was that the Alquist-Priolo Act does apply to the university,” he told reporters after the hearing. 

That legislation governs construction within 50 feet of active earthquake faults, and applies to work on the stadium itself, though not, the judge ruled on June 18, the gym itself, which falls outside the zone. 

Charles Olson, the San Francisco attorney hired by the university to plead its case, said the university could begin preparations as soon as the judge issues her order. 

The university has already acted on one key complaint from the city by renouncing its plans to add an additional seven major non-football events at the stadium, which the city contended would have significant impacts on traffic, noise and other issues that would impact the streets and nearby neighborhood. 

But Volker said “construction of the gym is the first phase in a unitary project,” which includes renovations and seismic upgrades to the stadium itself, which sits directly over the Hayward Fault—the fissure federal geologists say is the most likely source of the Bay Area’s next major quake. 

Olson and university spokesperson Dan Mogulof said they hope to be able to move forward with the project before the first football game of the season is held Aug. 30. 

The goal is to have the fences gone in time for the game, if the judge’s ruling allows the university to proceed and an appeal to the district court does not continue the injunction. 

Some of the courtroom discussion focused on just how many days the plaintiff’s attorneys should be allowed to take to prepare their appeal for filing, given that once a motion has been filed in the higher court there could be an additional automatic 20-day stay allowed. Unless the appeals court continues the injunction, the university would be free to move forward after that.  

Volker said he is confident of eventual victory. “I have prosecuted over 100 appeals, and prevailed in about 85 percent of them,” he said. 

Just how soon the university would take down the coastal live oaks and other trees at the stadium remains an open question. 

While the university’s first move wouldn’t necessarily involve hauling out the chainsaws, Olson told the court that the university needed to be sure its workers wouldn’t be targets of objects thrown from the trees—an indication that a final move against the treesitters could be the university’s first move once the construction light turns green.  

 

Harriet Steiner, the Sacramento attorney hired to present the city’s case, said, “The trees are not the city’s clients. The city’s concern is public health and safety.” 

The third plaintiff’s lawyer in the case, Michael Lozeau, represents the Panoramic Hill Association, whose members live on the hillside above the stadium. 

Zachary Running Wolf, the Native American who launched the treesit on Big Game Day 2006 less just weeks after the UC Board of Regents approved the gym project and related developments, said that the struggle isn’t over, even if the legal battle is lost. 

“We’ll keep fighting,” he said. 


Candidates Come Out for District 4

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 08:33:00 PM

Candidates are beginning to line up to fill the District 4 seat left vacant by the death Sunday of Councilmember Dona Spring: Former School Board President Terry Doran, videographer LA Wood and Commissioner Asa Dodsworth have taken out preliminary papers. 

For Dodsworth, a member of the Zero Waste Commission, taking out the papers is a place-holder while he decides if he will actually run in the race. Dodsworth told the Planet he is concerned with bringing people together to build community. He would like to start a tutoring program for Berkeley High students, build “victory gardens” to provide food security and help neighbors come together in organizations block by block.  

The 2008 race will be the second LA Wood runs for the District 4 seat. He faced Spring in 2000, even though he says he espouses many of the late councilmember’s ideals. He picked up 9.9 percent of the votes in a four-way race in 2000. Spring won with 66.7 percent of the vote. 

Like Spring and Dodsworth, Wood has supported the tree sit at Memorial Grove. Several years ago, Wood and Spring collaborated on a video showing the needs of the animal shelter. Wood said he would champion neighborhood concerns, such as exclusive neighborhood parking on one side of the street near downtown. 

Doran, who serves on the Zoning Adjustments Board, did not return Planet calls before press time. 

As of the Planet’s Thursday afternoon deadline, no new candidates had filed for any other council seat. 

Candidates taking out papers to run in District 2 are incumbent Darryl Moore and Jon Crowder. 

Incumbent Max Anderson has taken out papers for District 3. 

Incumbent Laurie Capitelli will face Jason Ira Magid for the District 5 seat.  

Susan Wengraf is the only person running so far in District 6. The seat is being vacated by retiring Councilmember Betty Olds. 

 

Mayor 

To date incumbent Mayor Tom Bates is facing former Mayor Shirley Dean and Zachary Running Wolf. 

 

Rent Board 

One new candidate, low-income housing advocate Marcia Levenson, has taken out papers to run for the rent board.  

Other rent board candidates include incumbents Jesse Arreguin, Eleanor Walden and Jack Harrison, former rent board members Judy Ann Alberti and Robert Evans, and Jane Welford, Nicole Drake and Judy Shelton. 

 

School board  

School Board president John Selawsky and Beatriz Levya-Cutler have taken out papers to run for the two school board seats.  

Nomination papers for all offices must be returned to the clerk by Aug. 8.  


State Report Shows High Drop Out Rates for B-Tech

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 08:32:00 PM

The first statewide report on high school dropout and graduation rates tracking individual students revealed a high dropout rate for African Americans and Latinos compared to other ethnic groups, state educators said. 

The data, released by the state schools chief Jack O’Connell Wednesday, shows that one in four students dropped out of school last year, more than the State Department of Education had predicted before they began using the new student-tracking system. 

The Statewide Student Identifier provides each student with an identification number and allows for more accurate information about how many students are or are not completing school. 

Although dropout rate for students at Berkeley Unified School District (15.6 percent) were lower than the countywide (18.7 percent) and statewide (24.2 percent) rates, the dropout rate for Berkeley Technology Academy (59.3 percent) is more than three times the countywide rate and more than double the statewide rate. 

The dropout rate at Berkeley High School was 12.3 percent, lower than both the countywide and statewide rates. 

Berkeley Unified officials told the Planet a number of factors were responsible for B-Tech’s high dropout rate. 

“I don’t think you can compare B-Tech to Berkeley High School,” said Berkeley Board of Education president John Selawsky. “It should be compared to other continuation schools. It has a much lower attendance than Berkeley High. You are taking about a group of students who have not succeeded academically and many of them are discouraged. They find other things to do or get into the job market. It is mainly at-risk youth, but of course that is not an excuse.” 

Selawsky said although attendance rates had improved at B-Tech over the last few years, the numbers still lagged below Berkeley High. 

B-Tech principal Victor Diaz said the poorly designed structure of continuation schools was a major factor behind dropout rates. 

“Some kids who are sent to our school never show up,” he said. “Others spend a month, earn some credits and go back to Berkeley High. It really exacerbates the problem.” 

B-tech has around 160 students, up from 140 last year, Diaz said. 

“A bigger issue is how efficacious are continuation schools,” he said. “We are all doing more poorly than the state average. Continuation schools can take students only when they are 16. These kids have one and a half years to make up for four to five years of sporadic education. Continuation schools were designed to be punitive. They were not designed to be graduation machines.” 

Diaz said attendance was rising at B-Tech, as was the college enrollment rate - but he acknowledged a lot more work needs to be done. 

The state also learned for the first time that there were 4,609 dropouts who completed all their requirements for graduation except one: the exit exam, which became mandatory in 2006. 

There were several special education students who didn’t pass the state high school exit exam from B-Tech last year, Diaz said. 

“The state needs to make modifications in the test for special education kids,” he said. “There are a number of kids who don’t have the skills to perform in that test-taking setting.” 

In the 2006-07 school year, 67.6 percent of public school students in California graduated, the report said, with a four-year dropout rate of 24.2 percent. 

"Twenty-four percent of students dropping out is not good news,” O’Connell said in a statement. “The data reveal a disturbingly high dropout rate for Latinos and African Americans. But, the dropout rate itself is only part of the story. Now, using the new student-level data we will have a much clearer picture of why students drop out. This is data-rich information that will be a powerful tool to better target resources, assistance, and interventions to keep students in school and on track.” 

According to the report 42 percent of black students (19,440) and 30 percent of Latinos (69,035) quit school last year, followed by Native Americans (31 percent), Pacific Islanders (28 percent), whites (15 percent) and Filipinos (12 percent). 

“Statewide the numbers are staggering,” Selawsky said. “And it’s one of the reasons behind the achievement gap.” 

Selawsky said the district was hoping 2020 Vision—the new districtwide initiative recently launched by the school district and the City of Berkeley—would provide services to students at B-Tech to make them graduate. “Obviously kids with spotty attendance are not learning,” he said.  

To view your school’s dropout rate visit: http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest 

 

 


Berkeley Mourns Councilmember Dona Spring

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:33:00 AM
Dona Spring declared her support for the treesitters at UC Berkeley’s Memorial stadium on June 22. She was applauded by supporters as she spoke from her wheelchair.
By Richard Brenneman
Dona Spring declared her support for the treesitters at UC Berkeley’s Memorial stadium on June 22. She was applauded by supporters as she spoke from her wheelchair.
Councilmember Dona Spring joins Councilmember Kriss Worthington and Measure J supporters in a City Hall-step rally for their 2006 re-election. They then marched to the nearby Chamber of Commerce building to denounce huge independent expenditures of the Chamber PAC against Spring, Worthington and Measure J. The PAC has since been disbanded.
By Judith Scherr
Councilmember Dona Spring joins Councilmember Kriss Worthington and Measure J supporters in a City Hall-step rally for their 2006 re-election. They then marched to the nearby Chamber of Commerce building to denounce huge independent expenditures of the Chamber PAC against Spring, Worthington and Measure J. The PAC has since been disbanded.

Berkeley Councilmember Dona Spring, protector of the environment, fighter for housing rights and champion for human and animal life, died Sunday evening, July 13, at Alta Bates/Summit Hospital, after being diagnosed with pneumonia. She was 55.  

Spring took strong stands on unpopular issues, Councilmember Kriss Worthington told the Planet. 

“I don’t think she ever considered playing it safe,” he said, pointing as an example to her October 2001 resolution opposing the war in Afghanistan that led to a barrage of right-wing hate mail aimed at her and Berkeley. 

“She was a tough and wonderful person—one wants to use the word ‘saint,’” said Gene Poschman, Spring’s appointee to the Planning Commission.  

 

The trees 

Even as her body was increasingly ravaged by painful and debilitating rheumatoid arthritis, Spring turned her energies to the community’s latest battle with UC Berkeley—saving the trees in Memorial Grove where the university wants to construct a gymnasium adjacent to the earthquake-fault-traversed football stadium.  

“She had energy up to the last. She came up to the trees,” said Councilmember Betty Olds, a grove supporter. While disagreeing with Spring on many issues, Olds found in Spring an ally in environmental and animal welfare issues. 

At the June 24 City Council meeting, the last in which she participated, Spring urged council to pass a resolution asking the university to allow supporters to bring food and water to the tree-sitters and to return the streets and sidewalks to city control. As the clock ticked toward 12:30 a.m., Spring mustered only four of the five votes needed to continue the meeting and take action on her resolution.  

The modified resolution, calling on the university to provide 1,800 calories of nutritious food to the tree-sitters, passed at the following meeting. Hospitalized at Alta Bates, Spring missed the meeting. 

Speaking at Tuesday evening’s council meeting meeting after each councilmember had made remarks honoring Spring, Dennis Walton, who described himself as Spring’s 27-year “companion and soul mate,” thanked the council, saying, “Dona held each of you—and everyone she met—in high regard.” 

And he joked, “I’m getting a message from Dona—‘Can we meet at the Oak Grove?’ She’s saying, ‘Don’t mourn, organize.’” 

Walton went on more seriously: “She’s relieved of suffering of untold dimensions. She had a Sherman tank running through her body every day. But she put all that pain aside. We’ll carry on.” 

Her physical deterioration coupled with the inadequate disabled access in the City Council chambers, caused Spring to participate in council meetings over the last two years or so via speakerphone. Walton thanked staff for making that possible. 

Spring explained her need to teleconference in a 2006 interview with the Planet. 

“First of all, the facility is not very accessible. When it’s crowded in there, I actually feel it’s dangerous getting past the stairs, with people popping in and out. Also when I go past the bathroom door, the doors open out. Once I hit my hand so that wasn’t too pleasant. I’m glad I didn’t break anything.  

“The dais is such a cramped area. And I’ve got a big machine [wheelchair] so it’s very difficult and tight to get in there.  

“One of the real problems is that there’s no controlling the heat. It’s an old building and an old furnace. I have to wear a body brace, which is hot. I’m also going through the change of life, which also contributes to it. I feel almost like fainting from the heat. They even got a fan for me, which I have on me, but it blows around other councilmembers’ papers. I also need more assistance in getting to my papers, which I think is a distraction to the other councilmembers, when I have to ask, “Can you get me this paper—can you help me with that paper?” 

Even as she lay in bed in the intensive care unit, Spring was working on how she could get a computer and phone hook up to participate in the July 8 council meeting, said Councilmember Linda Maio, who visited Spring at Alta Bates.  

Spring had especially wanted to participate in the council deliberation on the tree-sit issue and the question of the warm pool, Maio said.  

 

Council ally 

Spring’s most consistent ally on the council was Worthington. 

“We were a good tag team,” Worthington said. “She would usually initiate things and I’d figure out how we could move in the right direction—I mean left [politically].” 

Worthington said Spring raised the issue of instant runoff voting before he even knew what it was. “At first it sounded weird,” Worthington said. 

But after Spring explained it, he said he understood “there’s a great logic to this.” 

Spring spoke to the Planet about IRV in a 2006 interview: 

“I first introduced this to the council in 1993 when Loni Hancock was mayor. It was too new of an idea back then. I didn’t get one other vote … I tried to peddle it to the League of Women Voters. They set up committees to study it. It took them a decade, but they finally came on board … More and more communities are looking into it. San Francisco got it first. They beat Berkeley. Then Berkeley [approved it]…. It’s going to be the way of the future, which is really going to give the voters more of an ability to reflect on their choices and not have to ‘throw away’ their vote on someone who isn’t the anointed one or has got the party backing behind them. So I’m very gratified.” 

 

Animal rights  

Olds came on the council in 1993, the same year as Spring. They worked closely publicizing the need to pass a bond to fund a new animal shelter. Both were part of a committee searching for a location.  

It took years for the search to bear fruit, but on Tuesday the council voted to purchase property near Aquatic Park for the new shelter, which, according Mayor Tom Bates, will likely be named in Spring’s honor. 

Spring carried her defense of four-footed creatures further, campaigning against the “frivolous” use of animals for experimental purposes. 

She was not without a sense of humor on the question, Poschman said. When she would call, he would regularly joke, “Oh just a minute, Dona—I have to turn over the veal on the barbecue” and she would laugh, he said. 

Spring’s rheumatoid arthritis began to manifest itself around the time of her graduation, with honors, from UC Berkeley in anthropology and psychology. 

Soon after graduation she went to work at Berkeley’s Center for Independent Living. CIL Deputy Director Gerald Baptiste told the Planet that he began work at the agency after Spring had left, but the two worked together on numerous disability-related issues over the years.  

“Our last conversation was about the warm pool,” Baptiste said.  

Spring was a passionate advocate for building a new warm pool to be used primarily by the disabled and seniors. At her last council meeting she continued her advocacy to get the issue before the voters on the November ballot. On Tuesday, however, the council decided to postpone going to the voters for bond funding for two years. 

Baptiste also worked with Spring to get the city to provide more curb cuts for people in wheelchairs to get from the sidewalk into the street.  

“She would ensure there was money in the budget for them,” he said, adding, “She was in pain a lot and it did not stop her.”  

 

Mayor weighs in 

Bates, who fought frequently with Spring, told the Planet she provided a balance on the council. “She had strongly held points of view,” he said. “I have been totally inspired by her and her tenacity—she fought right to the end.”  

At a November 2007 council meeting, Spring was infuriated when Bates dismissed her request to allow a group of disabled people to speak early in the meeting on the warm-pool issue, given their dependence on time-regulated transportation. Bates had used the early portion of the meeting, while TV cameras rolled in the council chambers, to present his proposal for financing solar panels. 

After the meeting, Spring told the Planet: “He had the audacity to say, we had no control over it … He wanted to showcase his solar project.” 

The two had very different visions for downtown, which was part of Spring’s council district. Bates supports development downtown and Spring strongly objected to plans to build 17-story buildings. 

“I’m going to miss her a lot, even though we had disagreements,” Bates said.  

 

A Green 

Growing up in Montana and Colorado, Spring loved to hike and fish. Her strong desire to protect nature and all living things brought her to the Green Party. She served on the Alameda County Green Party Central Committee for two years, beginning in 1990. Before that, she sat on the Democratic Central Committee from 1986-1988.  

Rent Board Commissioner and Green Party member Pam Webster said Spring helped lead the way for Greens to enter the local political arena, through encouragement, example and appointment to commissions.  

“She’s definitely a role model,” Webster said. 

In its endorsement for Spring in 2006, an election in which she won with over 71 percent of the vote, the Alameda County Green Party wrote: “Dona has chalked up a solid environmental record, opposing hotel development on the waterfront and preserving it as protected wildlife habitat space. She has been a leader in Berkeley’s actions to reduce its green-house-gas emissions to be in accordance with the standards of the Kyoto accords. She worked to win accountability from UC Berkeley and the city in the use and reduction of toxins, and to decrease the flow of heavy metals into the storm drains. Ambient air emissions studies and tests in West Berkeley were initiated by Spring. When the City Council voted to clear cut nearly 250 downtown trees, Spring opposed the plan, insisting on a tree-by-tree survey that saved over a hundred trees.” 

 

Peace and Justice 

Worthington recalls how Spring lobbied the council to vote for the impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. 

“First she had to push just to get it on the agenda,” Worthington said. Then she brought peace activists Dan Ellsberg and Cindy Sheehan to the meeting to speak in favor of the item. The council passed impeachment unanimously and eventually placed it before the voters, where it got 59 percent of the vote. 

“The whole idea is to start a grass fire surging up on this issue,” Spring said at the time. 

 

Housing for all 

“Dona was the staunchest supporter on the council for affordable housing,” Maio said. “She would doggedly go after many little enhancements and benefits” on projects. 

Because she knew the details of the projects, she was able to lead the fight against any move by developers to create even one less affordable housing unit or less open space than promised, Worthington said.  

Spring supported rent control and tenants rights, Rent Board member Webster said, adding that she worked with Spring supporting Measure J, a 2006 ballot measure to enhance the city’s ability to preserve historic structures. 

“I could always count on her as an ally,” Webster said. 

 

Serving community 

Jill Posener, a member of the Humane Commission, said she worked with Spring on animal welfare issues and much more.  

She not only had “a steel trap of a mind,” but engaged in quiet generous acts such as writing a personal check so that a cat at the animal shelter could get a needed operation, Posener said. 

“She was a great American. She never failed to put her constituents first” but would help anyone living in any council district, Posener said. “She truly walked the walk—in a wheelchair!”  

Memorial services are pending.


Dona Spring: An Appreciation

By Becky O’Malley
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:34:00 AM

Dona Spring was the bravest person I’ve ever met. No, she wasn’t just brave, she was fierce, as fierce as a lioness defending her cubs. She loved justice as much as she despised injustice, and for Dona “Justice for All” included all species, not just all humans. 

She might have complained to someone about her gradually deteriorating physical capacity (she had a progressive and particularly pernicious form of arthritis) but if so, I never heard her do it. She turned her reliance on a wheelchair for mobility into a political plus, rolling along the sidewalk for door-to-door campaigning and calling voters on her cellphone to come out to talk.  

When she was no longer able to maneuver around Berkeley’s notoriously inaccessible City Council chamber, she telecommuted, participating in council meetings by speakerphone from her home after a legal battle over her right to do so. Last week, while she was hospitalized with the pneumonia that eventually took her life, she tried unsuccessfully to join Tuesday’s meeting from her hospital bed. 

She never gave up. She was often a lone vote, or one of two or three, for something that she believed in, but that didn’t deter her from speaking up for what she knew was right. She demanded respect from her fellow councilmembers, some of whom from time to time fell prey to the temptation to treat a disabled person in a patronizing way.  

It’s been said that Kriss Worthington has been the brains of the current Berkeley City Council, and Dona its heart. That’s true to a degree, but besides having a quick intuitive grasp of which issues were important, Dona worked hard to make sure she mastered all the ins and outs of policy matters in order to vote intelligently and speak coherently for what she believed in. 

On many occasions in the last few years, the majority of councilmembers would be ready to rubber-stamp yet another attempt to take something from the public for private benefit when Dona would ask over the speaker phone to get on the speakers’ queue—often needing to be persistent even to get recognized—and she would set them straight (not, sad to say, that they would often change their votes at her behest). 

She joined Betty Olds and Shirley Dean, formerly tagged as adversaries when the old progressive–moderate split was perceived as defining the Berkeley City Council, in actively supporting the tree-sitters who are opposing the destruction of UC’s Memorial Grove to build a gymnasium close to the Hayward fault. Despite her failing health (toward the end she couldn’t even sit up in her wheelchair) she went out to the grove and spoke to the press about the cause. 

But Dona Spring was no plaster saint. She could make wicked and telling comments about political opponents on occasion. And she loved pretty clothes, usually of the ethnic or tie-dyed persuasion, with sequins if possible. Over the years she sported an assortment of far-out hair colors and hairdos.  

People who lack Dona’s experience (that’s most of us, after all, thank goodness) are prone to make knowing comments about the importance of “quality of life” for physically challenged people. What such comments often miss is that your quality of life can and should be whatever you make of it.  

Dona Spring loved her life, just about every minute of it, even the many painful ones, and she fought to the end to hang on to it as long as possible. She was well aware that many Berkeley citizens relied on her to speak up for what is right—she relished the opportunity to do so and hated the idea of letting them down  

At the end, she obeyed Dylan Thomas’s exhortation to his father: “Do not go gentle into that good night…” 

Friends who visited her in the hospital during her last illness report that her spirit was still full of fight even as her body betrayed her. Later lines in Thomas’s poem describe her end: 

“Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright 

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” 

Dona left her life as she had lived it, with many items on her to-do list. Those who loved and appreciated her should take to heart Joe Hill’s dying advice to his comrades: “Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize.” The best memorial to Dona Spring would be to carry on the work she so ably started.


Berkeley City Council Delays Pools Measure

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:35:00 AM

Following the death Sunday of Councilmember Dona Spring, the warm pool’s most dedicated City Council advocate, pool supporters got some—but not all—of what they had wanted at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. 

Neither the $15 million bond to replace the warm pool—the old warm pool at Berkeley High is slated for demolition in 2011—nor a $23 million bond to replace the warm pool and refurbish the three outdoor pools will be before the voters in November, as previously discussed. 

Instead, the council voted 7-1 to wait until 2010 to place the warm pool—and perhaps the outdoor pools as well—on the ballot. 

Councilmember Kriss Wor-thington voted in opposition, objecting to the way the task force guiding the project would be selected. 

Just before the meeting was to begin, the council received Bates’ plan: while the bond measure would not be on the ballot until 2010, preliminary work would begin immediately, funded by $300,000 in city money already set aside for the warm pool. 

Bates’ resolution includes assembling an 11-member pools task force to guide work in creating a comprehensive plan that would include refurbishing the three outdoor pools, funding an environmental impact report on a new warm-water pool, likely to be at the school district’s West Campus at Bonar and University avenues, and the use of the YMCA during an interim period when no warm pool would be available. 

“If we put the issue before the voters this November and went through the normal process, it would take us approximately 49 months—it could be cut back maybe a few months,” Bates said. “If we established the committee, and the city paid for the committee’s work in terms of consulting and the wherewithal around the meetings and the notification and then conduced an EIR on the project that was selected, it would end up going to the ballot in June 2010.” 

If it went on the ballot in 2010, he explained the timeline would be approximately the same. “It would take approximately 49 months,” Bates said. 

Warm water pool users said they were concerned about the gap in service between when the pool would be demolished in 2011and when a new one could be built, given that for many of them, the warm water pool is their only source of exercise. 

The YMCA’s pools are not warm enough and hours where the disabled could be served are limited, pool advocates told the council. 

Warm-water-pool advocate, JoAnn Cook, chair of One Warm Pool, told the Planet after the meeting that the collaboration between the school district and council was good, but that it should have begun early enough so that no period of time would occur without a warm water pool. 

The high school is slated to demolish the pool in 2010; the school district plans to float a bond at the same time to build classrooms and a new gymnasium where the pool is now located. 

Councilmember Darryl Moore objected to naming West Campus, in his council district, as the preferred site for the warm-water pool, since there had been no public process to date that included neighborhood input. 

Speaking for outdoor pool users, Rob Collier told the council he supported creating a plan with the broader vision that included addressing issues for both warm and outdoor pools. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington expressed concern about task force membership, as defined in the resolution. He called for appointments to be made under the council’s “Fair Representation Ordinance,” so that councilmembers (and presumably school board members) could each appoint members, rather than having appointments controlled by the mayor and school board president, who, according to Bates’ plan, would also co-chair the committee.  

The draft resolution, approved 7-1 with Worthington voting in opposition, will go to the school board at a special meeting Friday at 4 p.m. in the City Council chambers. 

To get a copy of the resolution, call the city clerk’s office at 981-6900.


Council Upholds Zoning Board’s Bayer Decision

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:35:00 AM

With deceased Councilmember Dona Spring’s spot on the council dais overflowing with flowers and a poster with a photograph and inscription, “Speak truth to power,” the council carried on its regular business of the day, after accolades to Spring from councilmembers and the public. 

 

921 Parker 

The council upheld the decision of the zoning board 7-0-1, with Councilmember Kriss Worthing-ton abstaining, giving the Bayer corporation the green light to occupy 921 Parker St. with offices, even though the property is located in a district zoned for light industrial use.  

Appellant Zelda Bronstein argued that the city’s ruling, based on the fact that Bayer was renting and did not own the Parker Street property and that it would be re-converted to light industrial use after Bayer vacated the property in 10 years, was not an adequate legal reason for sidestepping the West Berkeley Plan aimed at keeping the area’s mix of residences and light industry.  

Acting City Attorney Zach Cowan argued that approval of the temporary conversion to office space was at the zoning board’s “discretion.” Debra Sanderson, land-use planning manager for the city, said the 921 Parker site was unique in that it was close enough to the main Bayer site to have a “door connecting to the [Bayer] property.” 

 

LPO on the ballot 

For more than 20 years Berkeley has had a Landmarks Preservation Ordinance that preservationists have said protected historic resources. But three years ago, the City Council adopted a new ordinance that preservationists said would not provide effective protection. A ballot alternative, Measure J, lost in 2006, after which the council-adopted ordinance was supposed to go into effect.  

But opponents, including the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and the Berkeley Neighborhood Preservation Organization, circulated a referendum petition which put the new version on hold. If adopted, the measure would reject the new ordinance and leave the old one in place. 

At the City Council, referendum advocates have been arguing for a few weeks with the Acting City Attorney Zach Cowan about what the ballot language should say so that voters understand the question before them. 

Cowan said he would rewrite his ballot question for next week’s final council meeting of the year. The ballot language he presented on Tuesday simply asked voters if the latest landmark ordinance should be repealed. Preservationists contend that the ballot question should clearly state that the new ordinance constitutes a substantial revision of the old one. 

The council also: 

• Voted unanimously to begin procedures to purchase 1 Bolivar Drive for the new animal shelter, using bond funds and funds from the sale of the old shelter. 

• Met in a workshop with the new Berkeley Housing Authority and learned that, while new staff is on board, the new board has been trained and the wait list has been revised, the authority continues to be in “troubled” status. Having neglected to appoint a mandated joint housing-city committee, the mayor and board chair appointed one Tuesday evening. 

In a separate off-agenda item from the city manager, the council learned, after the BHA submitted a freedom of information request to HUD for the information, that HUD had completed its investigation of the problems of the former Berkeley Housing Authority and determined that there was sloppy work by some employees but no criminal activity, as had been alleged by the former city attorney. 

The council put off until next week: 

• Discussion of instant runoff voting—the city clerk’s office is waiting for an update from the California secretary of state. Meanwhile, Berkeley’s July 14 date to have the voting machines certified has passed. The clerk’s office has concluded that there will be no IRV vote in Berkeley this year. 

• A resolution of support for the California Voters FIRST Act on redistricting on the November ballot; 

• Two resolutions in support of the AC Transit Ballot Measure, one placing conditions on the support. 


Sea Scout Leader Gets Six Years in Sex Abuse Case

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:36:00 AM

Berkeley Sea Scouts leader Eugene Evans was convicted of two counts of child molestation Monday and is expected to spend six years in prison under a plea deal with the Alameda County district attorney’s office. 

Evans, who was in the news a few years ago for suing the City of Berkeley after it denied the Sea Scouts a free dock at the Marina because of its parent group’s ban on gays and atheists, pleaded no contest to the two charges Monday. 

According to authorities, Evans will also have to register as a sexual offender under the state’s Sex Offender Registra-tion Act and pay up to $10,000 in compensation to the victims. 

Under the plea deal numerous other counts of child molestation and showing of pornography to minors was dropped. 

Evans, 64, remains free under a $500,000 bail until he is sentenced on Sept. 14. 

Berkeley police arrested Evans on six counts of sexual abuse in December, including lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14, Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Andrew Frankel told the Planet. 

The Alameda County district attorney’s office added more sexual abuse counts later, charging him with ongoing acts with four youths, Frankel said. 

His victims’ ages ranged between 13 and 17, authorities said, and the crimes were reportedly carried out on the S.S.S. Farallon, the troop’s ship, after scout meetings.  

Evans was arrested again in May when additional victims surfaced and pornographic material was found on his boat. Evans was charged with molesting three minors and exposing four others to pornographic material. 

Calls to Phil Schnayerson, Evans’ attorney, were not returned by press time. 

In 2006, Evans defended the Berkeley Sea Scouts’ right to a free berth at the Marina, arguing the city was punishing the group for something that wasn’t its fault. The Sea Scouts are bound to the policies of their parent body, the Boy Scouts of America, which mandates that gays and atheists be excluded from the organization. 

Although the city had allowed the Sea Scouts free berth space since the 1930s, its subsidy was revoked after the city adopted a nondiscrimination policy for marina use in 1997.  

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the case, Evans v. City of Berkeley, in October 2006, allowed Berkeley to treat the Sea Scouts differently from other non-profits because of its ban on atheists and gays. 

Evans kept denying charges of sexual abuse made against him from the first day until his court appearance Monday.  

Although a steady flow of supporters had turned up in court to defend him on previous appearances, only one supporter sat next to Evans before he pleaded guilty to the two counts Monday. 

Evans, who served as skipper of the Berkeley Boy Scouts for 35 years, was also a former teacher at Encinal High School in Alameda. 

A group of former sea scouts is continuing with the program at the marina. 

Jeri Morgado, president of the Alameda Council Boy Scouts, said the council took immediate steps to permanently remove Evans from the scouting program when they found out about the initial charges in December. 

“The safety of our youth is our highest priority,” she said 

Erik Coker, executive officer of the Farallon’s corporate board, declined to comment on Evan’s conviction. 

Coker said Mischa Block, a Berkeley resident, had taken over as skipper when the news about Evans’ charges broke in December. 

“As soon as the allegations came out, Evans separated himself from the ship,” Block said. 

He added a group of former sea scout members had come forward to help with the ship’s operations once Evans left the ship. 

“Gene was not able to be here, so a lot of the crew got together and kept the show going,” he said. “We are not missing a beat. We are just moving forward.” 

The boy scouts recently returned from a summer cruise, Coker said, adding that despite the loss of the free berth, the group was doing fine.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Telegraph Merchants Petition Against Amplified Preaching

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:40:00 AM
SOS Ministries, which sets up its amplifiers at Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue, say its making music and preaching to save souls. Nearby merchants want them muzzled.
By Judith Scherr
SOS Ministries, which sets up its amplifiers at Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue, say its making music and preaching to save souls. Nearby merchants want them muzzled.

“Where will you spend eternity?” The preacher’s saving souls. His voice—amplified at no more than 65 decibels according to SOS Ministries—resonates through speakers, carrying the message of salvation through Jesus Christ along the Telegraph Avenue/Haste Street corridors. 

And also, it goes into nearby offices and shops, not to mention penetrating—assaulting, some say—the ears of open-air vendors and Telegraph Avenue strollers,. 

Lawrence Rosenbaum and his ministry have been preaching for more than 20 years on the Berkeley avenue and in San Francisco. 

Some 80 people who work near Haste and Telegraph have had enough of them. A petition bearing their names was handed to the City Council June 24. It targets not only “clogging up our corner on our busiest day of the week, specifically to interfere with our business,” but also “our city government [officials], who have done nothing on our behalf over the many years we have had this issue in our face.”  

Initiated by Marc Weinstein of Amoeba Records—Weinstein was on vacation and unavailable for comment—the petition is now in the hands of the city manager’s staff. 

Deputy City Manager Christine Daniel told the Planet that city staff is addressing the issue by updating an outdated noise ordinance. 

She pointed out, however, that no ordinance would address the content of speech, something the petition emphasizes. 

“We wouldn’t consider regulating speech,” she said. 

Rosenbaum, who describes himself as Jewish and an evangelical Christian, said, similarly, that the problem that “a small minority” have is with the content and not the decibel level. 

“There’s a few people who don’t like us,” he said. “It’s the message they don’t like—not everyone likes Christians in Berkeley.”  

While the petition touches on the noise level, citing, “large and loud rallies,” it focuses mostly on what the evangelicals are saying and who the messenger is. 

“We, as locals, are insulted, not only by the message coming from these folks that we, as a community, are somehow in need of ‘saving’ by way of their particularly base and dogmatic way of seeing the world,” the petition says, adding that “none of these ‘performers’ or ‘preachers’ or ‘leafleters’ are actually from our community and know very little of our community.”  

It would be improper for the city to limit noise permits by where the applicant lives, Daniel says. 

The city gets involved only when the complaint is about the noise level, Daniel said.  

Complaints go to Manuel Ramirez, environmental health manager. 

“We respond to all complaints,” Ramirez told the Planet. “We go out and monitor levels and have found no violations.” 

That’s because the preachers turn down the volume to the required 65 decibels when they see the monitors coming, said Roland Peterson, who heads the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District and has an office some 60 yards from the gathering point of SOS Ministries.  

“It would take someone undercover” to get an accurate meter reading, he said, noting that he can hear the preachers and their music with his office doors closed. 

Chris (who did not want to give his last name) works at Zebra Tattoo, near Haste and Telegraph. “Every Saturday they get on the microphone and say if you don’t believe, you’re going to hell. They say it very loud, so loud you can hear everything inside our store,” he said. 

Peterson further pointed to the Berkeley Municipal Code, which has a clause saying, “The volume of sound shall be so controlled that it will not be unreasonably loud, raucous, jarring, disturbing or a nuisance to reasonable persons of normal sensitiveness within the area of audibility.” 

And so, apparently, a reasonable person could go through the appeals process described in Section 13.40.120 of the municipal code, which directs the aggrieved party to the Community Health Advisory Committee. 

The problem, however, is that the CHAC has not existed for “many, many years,” according to Health and Human Services Director Fred Medrano. 

Staff is currently at work on a new noise ordinance, which would respond to that vacuum, Ramirez said. Daniel and Ramirez said they were not ready to speak more fully about the ordinance, which will come before the City Council Sept. 16. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, whose district includes the Telegraph Avenue area, said rewriting the ordinance will be challenging given the need to respect the free speech of diverse groups such as Code Pink and SOS Ministries. He said perhaps the new rules can incorporate having the applicant move their proselytizing to different streets in the area. 

The petition concludes on a bitter note: “Any lip service the city government pays to helping build an improved business/residential destination around Telegraph Avenue is rendered laughable as they continue to allow the ‘skid row’ preachers to make a mess of our street.”


Service Workers Strike UC Campuses

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:41:00 AM

Despite what appeared to be a judge’s injunction not to strike, thousands of University of California hospital and service workers—including hundreds of UC Berkeley custodians, gardeners, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and more—walked the picket line, according to union officials.  

They’re staying off the job and picketing the university through Friday.  

Last week, a San Francisco Superior Court judge told workers not to carry out the planned five-day walkout, according to the university. 

But American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers Local 3299 President Lakesha Harrison told the Planet that the judge’s order did not explicitly bar them from striking as long as the union gave advance notice.  

“The University of California is disappointed that AFSCME has chosen to strike, despite the court’s ruling prohibiting such activity,” says a written statement from Howard Pripas, executive director for the university’s systemwide labor relations.  

Union organizer Mariecruz Manzanares told the Planet that, at first “people were worried. Management gave them letters saying the court said the strike was illegal and there would be disciplinary action.”  

When reluctant workers saw others on the picket line, they joined in, Manzanares said.  

University spokesperson Nicole Savickas said specific disciplinary action will differ location by location. “Every location has policies related to unexplained absences,” she told the Planet Monday.  

Teamsters working on various construction sites around campus are joining the strike, Manzanares said, adding that the university had brought in temporary workers, something she called “disrespectful.”  

University gardener Hank Chapot was picket captain at Kroeber Plaza. On Monday he told the Planet he maintained a presence of 12 workers there. There were 200 at Sproul Plaza and others at sites around the campus perimeter, he said. 

“There was 100 percent turnout from my department,” Chapot told the Planet. Chapot said the union had done its homework, having studies conducted that showed the workers were 20-to-25 percent behind other workers doing similar work. Some service workers earn as little as $10 per hour.  

“We’ve given back and given back to the university,” he said.  

Pickets plan to be at the Office of the President in downtown Oakland today (Thursday) and Friday. 


Candidates Sign Up for Mayoral, Rent Board, Council Races

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:41:00 AM

With the official opening of the filing period Monday, six new candidates have declared interest in running for Berkeley offices. 

Mayor Tom Bates took out nomination papers Monday and formally announced his bid for a third term in office. (The first term was for four years and was followed by a two-year term, designed to place the mayoral election on the ballot with the presidential election.) 

“I am pleased to announce that I am running for re-election as Berkeley’s mayor,” Bates said in a written statement and read, according to his staff, at a press conference on the steps of the civic center building. “In the last few years, working with the people of Berkeley, we have accomplished a great deal. We are recognized as one of the most sustainable and green cities in the country, we have built affordable housing, protected our neighborhoods, enhanced the arts, provided new jobs and safe places for our youth to gather while balancing our budget and receiving the highest bond rating for a city our size.”  

(In a phone interview Monday, Bates told the Planet he regretted not delaying the press conference, given the death the previous day of Councilmember Dona Spring. He said he had to go forward, having already announced the event to supporters and the media.) 

Former mayor Shirley Dean, defeated by Bates in 2002, will challenge Bates for the post, as will former mayoral candidate Zachary Running Wolf. Both have taken out signature-in-lieu papers, which allows them to collect 150 signatures in lieu of paying the $150 filing fee. (Bates took out signature-in-lieu papers on Monday and returned them the same day.) 

 

City Council 

Jon Crowder, who ran for the District 2 seat in 2000 and for mayor in 1998, has taken out signature-in-lieu papers to run against incumbent Darryl Moore for the District 2 seat.  

No challengers have come forward for the District 3 seat where Max Anderson is the incumbent and has taken out signature-in-lieu papers. 

Incumbent Laurie Capitelli will face Jason Ira Magid who took out signature-in-lieu papers Wednesday to run for the District 5 seat. 

Susan Wengraf, running for the District 6 seat being vacated by retiring Councilmember Betty Olds, has returned her signature-in-lieu documents and has taken out nomination papers for the office. 

The City Council approved an emergency item Tuesday, opening up the District 4 council seat for election. Councilmember Dona Spring, who held the seat since 1993, died Sunday. The new councilmember will fill her term in office, serving for two years. 

The candidate-filing period for District 4 opened Wednesday and closes at the same time other candidate filings close, on Aug. 8. Candidates can collect signatures in lieu of paying the $150 filing fee, but must file them under the same deadline as other candidates—July 24. 

Spring’s seat will remain empty until the new elected officials take office, Dec. 1, 2008. 

On Wednesday L A Wood, videographer, supporter of the tree-sit at the Memorial Stadium oak grove and active on environmental issues, was the first to take out papers to run for the District 4 seat. 

 

Rent board 

Jane Welford, active in library, open government and peace issues, has joined the increasingly crowded race for Rent Stabilization Board, as has Judy Ann Alberti, a union activist and former Rent Stabilization Board member. 

Other rent board candidates include incumbents Jesse Arreguin, Eleanor Walden and Jack Harrison. Nicole Drake, Judy Shelton and Robert Evans are also running for the five seats available on the board. All rent board candidates have taken out signature-in-lieu papers. 

 

School board 

School Board president John Selawsky and Beatriz Levya-Cutler have taken out papers to run for the two school board seats. 

Nomination papers for all offices must be returned to the clerk by Aug. 8.  


Planning Commission Leaps Tall Buildings

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:37:00 AM

Berkeley planning commissioners continued their march through the Downtown Area Plan last week with a side excursion through a controversial economic study. 

During its two-year term the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) has struggled to decide how many buildings should be built in Berkeley’s downtown area and how high they should be. 

Buildings of seven stories or higher have long been a focus of controversy in the city, pitting “smart growth” advocates against preservationists and neighborhood activists. 

While the smart growth group advocates higher and denser development as a key to halting urban sprawl, revitalizing downtown commerce and reducing automobile dependence, critics contend density brings traffic congestion, air and noise pollution and destroys the carefully nurtured character of nearby neighborhoods. 

DAPAC members worked out a compromise in their plan, allowing for more high-rise projects than most preservationists wanted but fewer than those desired by the smart growth minority. 

The plan’s Land Use Chapter passed by a divided vote, and a motion by the losing side to call for a study looking into whether it was economically feasible to build the permitted high-rises was defeated. 

But the feasibility study was resurrected by the Planning Commission, chaired by James Samuels, an architect who had been on the losing side of the DAPAC vote when he served on that committee. 

After the commission majority voted for the study, the city hired consultant Dena Belzer of Berkeley’s Strategic Economics group to carry it out, assisted by Steven Hixson, an Oakland development consultant. Hixson & Associates works primarily for private developers, though clients have included the University of California and school and library districts. 

Belzer’s Strategic Economics has produced reports for transit-oriented development (TOD) projects, a bete noir of the neighborhood activists because under California law a TOD designation allows denser development than would otherwise be allowed under local codes. 

Before the pair presented their report, city Planning and Development Director Dan Marks stressed that the document “is information, not policy” and was, in any case, not definitive. 

The two authors of the 41-page draft were quick to agree, especially given the current economic downturn, which has hit housing construction especially hard. 

Perhaps the most sobering news came when Belzer said that no apartment buildings over seven stories were ever likely to be built in Berkeley, and that only the tallest of the range of potential condo buildings were likely, in five to seven years at the earliest, presuming that the current recession is a typical product of the business cycle and not a symptom of a major change. 

According to the study, the 17-story, 180-foot “point towers,” which some had advocated, would only become economically feasible if the city allowed the buildings to be more massive than currently planned. 

A 140-foot condo tower would likely to be built only if the city reduced or eliminated the DAPAC plan’s green building requirements and the city halved the in-lieu fee for developers who chose to pay into a city housing fund rather than include condos at more affordable prices for those who otherwise couldn’t afford them. 

Under any scenario, no condo buildings between 75 feet and 120 feet are likely. 

During DAPAC’s deliberations over the plan, Marks had told the committee that concentrating new housing downtown offered the city a way to meet housing requirements set by regional government without raising the ire of other neighborhoods. 

The Association of Bay Area Governments sets quotas for the number of housing units that local governments are supposed to allow if developers are willing to build them, but doesn’t require actual construction. 

The DAPAC plan offered a compromise that would concentrate growth in the city center, while not giving in to planning staff suggestions that proposed 14 “point towers”—each 16-stories high—in the planning area. 

The plan calls for two hotels of up to 225 feet, four buildings at 100 feet and four others at 120 feet, with only one of the taller buildings allowed for office uses. It includes no buildings of the 140 or 180 feet height cited in the Belzer/Hixson report. 

While commissioners Susan Wengraf and Harry Pollack said they’d like to see more about the feasibility of office construction, Marks effectively nixed the notion, saying that another study would be needed for that, as well as more funding from the City Council. 

Final approval of the plan must come by next May lest the city begin to lose the compensatory funds from UC Berkeley specified in the settlement of a lawsuit over the impacts of the university’s plans to build 800,000 square feet of new construction downtown. 

Gene Poschman, the commission’s stickler on statutory and policy issues, said he was troubled by the premise of “a downtown plan revolving around luxury condos. That would be anathema to me.” 

Commissioners questioned a range of assumptions used in the study, ranging from land costs, feasibility of building at different heights, financing assumptions and the range of buildings used as models to determine feasibility. 

Armed with the questions raised Wednesday night, the study authors will refine the document and bring it back to the commission. The report will also be used in preparing the plan’s environmental impact. 

Commissioners also agreed that they wouldn’t create a subcommittee to review the chapters of the Downtown Area Plan they still have to cover before passing it on to the City Council, along with their own recommendations and revisions by city staff. 

The Blelzer/Hixson report is available at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=832. 

The Land Use and other chapters of the downtown plan at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=10828.


Planners Approve Wireless Ordinance

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:38:00 AM

Berkeley planning commissioners finally approved a new wireless ordinance for the city last week, after making two minor tweaks to a revision of the 17th version prepared by city staff. 

Only commissioner Patti Dacey voted against the ordinance at the July 9 meeting, while colleagues Gene Poschman and Roia Ferrazares abstained and five other colleagues voted for approval. 

The commission faced the task of trying to find an ordinance they could approve while being unable to raise the one issue that most alarmed critics of cell phone antennae—the potential health risks caused by the electromagnetic radiation they emit. 

Federal law forbids local governments from considering health impacts, so the most the law can do is encourage—but not require—the use of lower power broadcasters. 

The measure now goes to the City Council, which is considering a moratorium on new antenna placement until the city can hash out the issues. 

Commissioners also rejected creation of a subcommittee to review the Downtown Area Plan, which the City Council has to pass by May or risk losing payments from UC Berkeley mandated in the settlement of a lawsuit challenging the university’s off-campus building plans in the city center.


Court Hearing on Stadium Gym Could Spell Oak Grove’s Demise

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:39:00 AM

UC Berkeley squares off with its foes in a Hayward courtroom this morning (Thursday) during a hearing on the university’s bid to start construction at the site of the ongoing tree-sit. 

The university wants to demolish the grove of coastal live oaks and other trees where protesters have been occupying the branches since December 2006. 

The school wants to build a four-level gym and office complex and says further delays would cost the university more money as well as damage its ability to raise contributions from free-spending fans of its sports teams. 

Lawsuits were filed by the City of Berkeley and a collection of environmental and neighborhood groups, as well as the late City Councilmember Dona Spring, who conducted her last public protest at the grove June 22 when she confronted campus Assistant Police Chief Mitch Celaya and unsuccessfully demanded entrance to the city-owned sidewalk west of the stadium on Piedmont Avenue. 

The university has sealed off the sidewalk to deny access to supporters of the four remaining treesitters. 

The university’s opponents filed their final written arguments Friday in advance of the hearing before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller. 

While Miller had ruled against most of the claims challenging the approval by the UC Board of Regents of the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects environmental impact report (EIR), which included the gym, she said the project as described did raise possible violations of the Alquist-Priolo Act, which governs construction within 50 feet of active earthquake faults. 

The university responded by eliminating those aspects of the projects she cited, contending that nothing remains that would bar immediate construction. 

But the plaintiffs argue that the removal of one key feature, a grade beam that would buttress the western wall of Memorial Stadium, was removed from plans despite the earlier contention by university officials that it was required under the state building code. 

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in Department 512 at the Hayward courthouse. A victory for the university would pave the way for demolition of the grove, a move that would first require an end to the treesit.


Controversy Marks Tree-Sitter’s Arrest

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:39:00 AM

Controversy over Monday’s arrest of an oak grove tree-sitter who came down after a death in the family sparked outraged among supporters of the 17-month-old Berkeley protest. 

Jeff Muskrat, who had sneaked into the grove near UC Memorial Stadium July 6 while campus police were busy trying to prevent supporters from sending up food, came down Monday after negotiations with officers. 

Ayr, a stalwart of the ground support team for the protesters, said he and others were outraged by the decision by Capt. Guillermo Beckford to ask for incarceration rather than a release following booking at Berkeley’s city jail. 

The officer was videotaped by a KRON TV camera operator, stating that police had no objections to citing the tree-sitter and then releasing him after a booking at the Berkeley city jail. 

According to Ayr, Beckford said he had “changed his mind” and asked for Berkeley police to process Muskrat for custody at the county’s Santa Rita Jail. 

But later Monday afternoon, university spokesperson Dan Mogulof said, “It’s been made clear to the people who are holding him that the university has no objection to his being cited and released,” which he said he expected to happen later in the day. 

“There has been some confusion,” Mogulof said, “but that has been cleared up” after a conversation with Assistant Police Chief Mitchell Celaya. 

Mogulof declined to comment on Beckford’s alleged statements to Ayr and others. 

Meanwhile, tree-sit supporters gathered Wednesday at the grove to stage an overnight sleep-in so they would be on hand should an Alameda County judge rule Thursday in favor of the university’s request to be allowed to begin immediate construction of the four-level gym complex they want to build on the site.


Bad News Continues In the News Biz

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:42:00 AM

It’s been a bad news month for American journalism, starting with layoffs of East Bay journalists. 

In the wake of 29 layoffs at Dean Singleton’s Bay Area News Group-East Bay (BANG-EB), the Media Workers Guild has brought legal action charging that the dismissals targeted union activists who successfully battled to win recognition for their local. 

Sara Steffens, chair of the new guild bargaining unit, was herself laid off as one of the 29 editorial staff members who lost their jobs through dismissal or voluntary buyouts. 

In a Tuesday e-mail to union members, Steffens said the Guild had filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that: 

• Layoffs targeted employees who were active in union organizing efforts, 

• Management discounted merit raises without bargaining with the Guild and “in retaliation for union activities, and 

• Laid-off workers were asked to waive their federal labor law rights in order to receive a company severance package. 

One of Singleton’s first moves when he took over the Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News in August 2006 was to form BANG-EB, which combined his unionized East Bay holdings with the non-union Contra Costa Times. 

By that action he was able to create a new combined working force with a non-union majority. Decertification of the Media Guild local soon followed. 

Steffens and other union activists soon began organizing and won recognition when a slim majority of BANG-EB editorial employees voted to unionize on June 13. Two weeks later, BANG-EB announced that 29 editorial workers would lose their jobs July 11. 

 

Bad news 

Further south, Berkeley’s biggest corporate landlord was shedding reporters at a newspaper of his own, the Los Angeles Times. 

Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell, whose Equity Residential bought out local developer Patrick Kennedy’s Berkeley apartment buildings, also bought out the ailing Tribune Co., a national chain with holdings that include the flagship Chicago Tribune and the L.A. Times. 

Zell’s takeover of the ailing company hasn’t stopped its hemorrhaging of cash and employees, witnessed by the events in Los Angeles this week on a day employees have dubbed “Black Monday.” 

A reported 150 Times journalists lost their jobs, a figure that doesn’t include publisher David Hillier, who was also given the boot out of the executive suite’s revolving door. 

Similar decimations are taking place across Zell’s media empire, coupled with newspaper redesigns marked by shorter stories and bigger, flashier graphics and fewer sections. 

The most ominous numbers, though, come from Wall Street, which former San Francisco Chronicle editor turned “New Media” venture capitalist Alan D. Mutter has been tracking on his blog, Reflections of a Newsosaur (http://newsosaur.blogspot.com/). 

In an entry Wednesday morning, Mutter reports, “In a historic rout, newspaper shares have lost nearly $4 billion in value in the first 10 trading days of July, an amount greater than the combined market capitalization of all but the three largest publicly held publishing companies.” 

One of the biggest hits has been taken by the Sacramento-based McClatchy chain, which had bought the ailing Knight-Ridder chain, which included both the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times. 

McClatchy quickly sold the Bay Area papers to Singleton’s MediaNews Group, which already owned the Oakland Tribune, Fremont Argus and several other regional papers. 

All told, since Dec. 31, 2004, Mutter reports, the worth of McClatchy shares has plummeted from $5.7 billion to $387 million as of Wednesday morning, a decline of 93 percent. 

Even the venerable New York Times Co. has plunged 67 percent from year’s end in 2004, from $5.6 billion to $1.85 billion.


Loans Approved for Oakland’s Fox Theater

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:43:00 AM

The Oakland City Council approved $14.45 million in new city loans and grants to the Fox Oakland restoration project Tuesday night. Councilmembers made no comment in voting for the new expenditures, but not before a small coalition of Oakland residents had plenty to say in opposition. 

The reasons given by the city administrator’s office for the funding requests were cost overruns since 2006, design changes and modifications, and the projected cost of tenant improvements by the theater management as well as the Oakland School for the Arts.  

The council decision brings the total projected cost of the Fox Restoration project to $82.7 million.  

Included in the new funding request is $7.45 million for a bridge loan to the Fox Oakland Theater nonprofit operating organization, $2 million in tenant improve-ment grants to GASS Entertainment (managers of the Fox theater when the project is completed), $2.7 million in loans to the Fox Theater master tenant, and $2.3 million in loans for tenant improvements to the Oakland School of the Arts. 

Fox Oakland restoration project manager Phil Tagami defended the requests, saying that “the Fox Oakland doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the city,” adding that the tenant improvements that required the new funding were approved by the board of the Fox Oakland Theater, “not by me.”  

Tagami had told the council’s Community and Economic Development Committee members last week that the loans were needed especially because, while the project has identified 30 sources for funding, “many of those fundraising sources are on a different clock” and the city money is needed until those sources come through. 

But at Tuesday’s council meeting, Oakland business owner Geoffrey Pete blasted the city for not requiring collateral for the Fox Oakland operating organization and the arts school. 

“The city has a two-tiered system when it comes to requiring loans from developers,” Pete said, one for African-Americans and one for other developers. “When African-American developers have been given loans for city projects, they have to collateralize them with their homes, and some of them have lost their homes when they defaulted.” 

Pete named Joe Debro, developer of the old Alice Arts Center (now the Malonga Casquelord Center), as one of the developers who lost his home under such a loan arrangement. 

“You didn’t give Joe Debro a break,” Pete said. “He got one bite of the apple.” Pete urged the council to make Fox Oakland developer Phil Tagami and board members of the Oakland School of the Arts—including OSA founder Jerry Brown—to put up their homes as collateral for the requested loans.  

The original proposal for the Fox restoration loans had included no provision for collateral. But at Councilmember Jane Brunner’s request during last week’s Community and Economic Development Committee deliberations on the proposal, city staff added a provision to the loan agreements that the OSA loan would be backed by collateral from donations to OSA from a Clear Channel billboard in Oakland. 

During last week’s CED Committee deliberations, the proposal brought charges by the Oakland City Hall gadfly Sanjiv Handa, publisher of the East Bay News Service, that “I told you so” in 2006 that the Fox restoration would cost far more than the original bid. And Gene Hazzard of the Oakland Black Caucus told committee members that the city was allowing the Fox Oakland developers to “low-bid” the project originally and then come back and fully fund it through cost overruns. 

While Brunner said in response, “I think the Fox is terrific; downtown is looking different, and it’s going to look better and better,” she added, “I am concerned about what Gene (Hazzard) said about the low bidding.” 

The original cost of the restoration project, when it was approved by the City Council in the summer of 2006 was $60.1 million, $32 million of which is being provided by the city in loans. The project includes a restaurant, a restored Fox Oakland theater, retail space, and housing for Jerry Brown’s Oakland School for the Arts charter school. 

In a staff report recommending the new funding, Dan Lindheim, then in the position of interim director of the city’s Community and Economic Development Agency, signed off on an assertion that the city now finds itself over a barrel in the Fox Oakland project. 

“At this point in the project,” the staff report noted, “there seem to be few choices. To keep the project on schedule, adoption of the resolutions is required. If funding is not approved, project construction will likely stop until alternative funding sources are identified. This could prevent project completion and put the agency at risk of having to meet its obligations under the guarantees it made to the tax credit investors, a loss of almost $22.0 million in equity for the project. In addition, costs for remobilizing the contractor following work stoppage would greatly increase remaining project costs. Finally, without the additional funds, the tenant improvements required to attract tenants will not be made and parts of the project could remain vacant.”


Oakland Parcel Tax Would Fund Increased Police Staffing

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:43:00 AM

Oakland City Council decided Tuesday night to put on the November ballot a police parcel tax compromise measure co-written by Mayor Ron Dellums and Councilmember Jane Brunner, but the final 6-2 council vote did not reflect how close the proposal was to stalling and dying on the council chambers floor. 

Only a dramatic turnaround to support the measure by Councilmember Larry Reid—who admitted that only an hour before he had been prepared to vote against—ensured that Oakland voters will get the chance this fall to weigh in on a measure that would, among other things, add 105 uniformed police officers and 75 police service technicians to the Oakland Police Department’s ranks over a three-year period, bringing the total authorized uniformed police strength up to 908. 

To support the new hires, the Dellums-Brunner proposal would increase parcel taxes on single-family residential units by $275 in its third year, with a $188 extra per unit charge on multiple residential dwellings. Low-income households would be exempt from the tax increase. 

The Dellums-Brunner ballot measure mandates that the taxes and police staffing increases can only be triggered if the city reaches and maintains the current authorized level of 803 uniformed officers. The failure of such a staffing guarantee has been one of the chief criticisms of Measure Y, the 2002 measure in which Oakland voters taxed themselves to increase Oakland police strength to 803. 

If passed by voters in November, taxes would not begin being collected until August of 2009, with the additional authorized police officers scheduled to hit Oakland’s streets sometime in 2010. 

Only Council President Ignacio De La Fuente and Councilmember Desley Brooks voted against the Dellums-Brunner police parcel tax measure Tuesday night. 

Reid told councilmembers Tuesday that he agreed with some of the opponents of the Dellums-Brunner proposal that Measure Y “has not been fully implemented.”  

“I agree we face issues of transparency,” Reid said. “But transparency doesn’t trump democracy. As an elected official, I cannot in good conscience silence the voices of the citizens of this city. If the voters want more police, then they’ll approve the measure. If they don’t want more police, then they won’t approve.” 

Councilmember Henry Chang had opposed the measure when it came up to the council’s powerful Rules Committee last week, and said at the time he voted for it  

in committee was only so that the issue could be discussed before the full council. It was widely assumed that Chang would either vote against the measure at Tuesday’s council meeting-leading to a 4-4 tie if Reid had also voted no—or else abstain, thus preventing Dellums from casting a tie-breaking vote in favor of the ballot measure. But after Reid voted in support, Chang did so as well. 

“I changed my vote [in the Rules Committee] so the council could discuss this measure,” Chang said. “For the same reason, I’m voting now to put this on the ballot, so the public can have a healthy discussion on the issue.” 

The dramatic vote followed a rare appearance at the council meeting by Dellums, who said that “it’s important that we have an honest conversation in Oakland” about how many police are needed, and how they are to be paid for. “Let the citizens make that decision.” 

At last week’s Rules Committee meeting, Council President De La Fuente had said that he was “not willing to go to the taxpayers and ask them for $200 or $300 a year more” in taxes, and that if the City Council deems it necessary that more police should be hired in Oakland, “we need to bite the bullet and find a way to pay for it” out of the existing budget. At Tuesday night’s meeting, De La Fuente said that he would campaign against the ballot measure in November. It would appear he is going to have some company. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, Steve Edrington, Executive Director of Oakland’s Rental Housing Association, called the Dellums-Brunner measure “an outrageous proposal” and a “fraud on the voters. There’s no attempt to look at the budget and see where the money for added police can come from.” Edrington said that if the Dellums-Brunner ballot measure was such a good proposal, “let the mayor go out and get the signatures himself” to put it on the ballot, rather than asking for council to sponsor the measure. 

And Oakland resident Marleen Sacks, who is suing the City of Oakland over its failure to fully staff the Oakland Police Department under the Measure Y authorization, said that while “I believe Oakland needs more police officers, Measure Y has been an unmitigated failure,” and that there was “not sufficient accountability” in the new Dellums-Brunner ballot measure. 

And Greg McConnell, executive Director of the Safe Streets Committee, the sponsors of the aborted Safe Streets Initiative, warned that the original initiative could be put on the ballot at a later date if the Dellums-Brunner measure failed. 

Oakland’s police-increase ballot measure saga began earlier this year when a group of private citizens—later joined by influential political consultant Larry Tramutola—began circulating petitions for a November Oakland ballot measure called the “Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act Of 2008” that would raise uniformed police strength to 1,075 officers from the current-authorized 803. The Safe Streets measure was widely criticized for its failure to identify a funding source for the added uniformed police, with its advocates proposing that the money be taken out of the existing Oakland City budget. 

Late this spring, Mayor Dellums cut a deal with the Safe Streets measure advocates in which, in return for their dropping their 272 police-increase initiative, the mayor would propose a parcel tax measure calling for a smaller police increase. 

Explaining his reason for opposition to the Safe Streets Initiative Tuesday night, Dellums said that the citizen proposal had no provision for raising taxes, so that the estimated $68 million to $75 million needed to fund the police increase “would decimate several areas of the budget. If their measure had passed, we all ought to go home. That measure was irresponsible.” 

 

 


Oakland Council OKs Four Finalists for Army Base Development

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:44:00 AM

The Oakland City Council voted late Tuesday night to approve four finalist developers to bid on its 108-acre Oakland Army Base Gateway Development project. The four finalists—pared down from an original list of eight developers who bid on the job—will now be invited to submit requests for proposals within the next four to six months.  

Oakland is looking for several economic uses for land turned over to the city following the decommission of the Oakland Army Base, including activities related to the adjacent Port of Oakland, industrial, retail, and entertainment. A development team headed up by the Wayans Brothers of Los Angeles dropped out of an exclusive negotiating agreement with the city over the Gateway Development project last year. 

The Gateway Development proposal will be a test of whether Oakland—under the administration of Mayor Ron Dellums—will continue to favor locally connected developers or will become a major magnet for national and international development firms. 

One of the four finalists—Oakland-based Phil Tagami’s AMB/California Capital Group—has built several City of Oakland-funded projects, and is currently working on the restoration of Uptown’s Fox Oakland Theater. 

The other three finalists include one major player in national development, Denver/San Francisco-based Prologis/Catellus, and two major international players, Washington, D.C.-based Federal Development and Chicago-based First Industrial Realty. 

Tagami has been lobbying hard for the Oakland Army Base job with Oakland councilmembers, who will make the final decision on which a developer will be chosen once the RFP process is completed. 

At last week’s Council Community and Economic Development Committee meeting, which voted to send the RFP proposal to the full council, Councilmember Jane Brunner said that she will be looking at three areas when making the decision about who will develop the Army Base project: “I want to know how many jobs they are going to generate, I want to know how much revenue the project will generate for the city, and I want to see the project’s ‘vision.’ This is a gateway project for the city.” 

Brunner also said she wanted the proposal to have some flexibility built in to accommodate new economic developments in the coming years. 

“The market can change,” Brunner said. “Five years ago, we would have said that the army base development should center around housing. Today, we wouldn’t propose that.” 

Brunner suggested that the RFP contain an alternate retail component in order to meet possible changing economic conditions. 

But on Tuesday night, both Councilmembers Nancy Nadel, who represents the old Army Base area, and Pat Kernighan said they would not support putting an emphasis on retail in the Gateway proposal. 

“We’re focusing on retail in the upper Broadway area,” Nadel said. “We need to put heavier industry on [the old Army Base] site in order to keep it further away from residential areas. That’s a higher priority than having something that looks pretty for people coming over the bridge from San Francisco.” 

The council ultimately gave the four finalist developers the option to include a retail component in their proposals, if they wanted, with the council reserving the right to turn down any retail uses in their final decision. 

In response to its original request for qualifications on the Oakland Army Base project sent out in January of this year, 13 firms responded, many of them of national stature. Four of the companies that bid on developing the entire 108-acre site—Hillwood (a Ross Perot company), Oakland Bay Partners (a collection of Oakland and Bay Area firms formed specifically for the Gateway project), national development firm Prism Realty, and Oakland-based Triamid Galaxies—did not make the final staff cut for the RFP round of the development proposals. 

Five other firms—Oakland-based Jones Development Company, Modesto-based M&L Commodities, the Oakland Film Center, PCC Logistics (a division of Pacific Coast Container), and San Francisco-based W&E Group—all bid only on a portion of the proposed development track. 

In its original recommendation, city staff said that the RFP should ask developers to include the Oakland Film Center and a produce market proposed by Jones Development in their proposal. At the council’s request, the RFP will include a request that the developers make room on the site for PCC as well. PCC conducts national security-based container cargo searches, and said they need to be adjacent to Port of Oakland land in order to continue their operations.


Community Questions Berkeley Mayor About Pacific Steel Agreement

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:44:00 AM

Almost five months after the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with Pacific Steel Casting to cut emissions and odor within a specific timeline, community activists met with Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Linda Maio at the City Hall last week for their first update on the process. 

The council decided at the February meeting to give Pacific Steel a chance to address the community’s concerns. At that meeting several hundred angry Pacific Steel workers rallied to oppose Maio’s proposal to declare the West Berkeley-based foundry a “public nuisance” and refer it to the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board for odor abatement. They feared such moves might cost them their jobs. 

“It is amazing that it would take five months for the community to finally come to the table over this,” local activist L A Wood said. 

Bates informed the group that the foundry had upgraded two of its plants and said it was scheduled to release an odor- management plan in fall. 

“Between Jan. 1 and June 30, complaints have dropped 50 percent compared to the same period last year,” Bates said. 

The foundry has received 126 complaints related to odor this year, down from the 243 received within the same timeframe last year, he said. 

The citizen group pressed the mayor to establish a community-based odor task force to allow citizens to monitor Pacific Steel’s odors actively. 

Wood, one of the principal proponents of the idea, said the task force would be responsible for reviewing the history of the odor complaint protocols and inspection procedures of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and developing an odor monitoring plan. 

Neighbors have complained about a burnt copper-like smell from Pacific Steel for more than 20 years.  

Some, like Rosie Evans, who was at Wednesday’s meeting, have filed a class action nuisance lawsuit against the foundry for negligence, trespass, public and private nuisance, intentional misrepresentation and unlawful business practices. 

“Pacific Steel is finding that when odor complaints come in, it relates to Plants 1 and 2,” Bates said. “It’s trying to seal some of the fugitive air. Inspection activities are being focused on Plant 1.” 

Elizabeth Jewel of Aroner, Jewel and Ellis, the public relations firm representing Pacific Steel, said three major improvements have taken place since the council meeting in February. 

“We have installed a new hood in Plant 3, which will route the emissions into the carbon filters more efficiently,” Jewel told the Planet. 

She added that the company was waiting for a permit from the air district to carry out major upgrades in Plant 1 in order to cut down fugitive emissions, including a new hood and new ducts in various locations throughout the plant. 

“We are looking for ways to also improve the efficiency of the ventilation systems in Plant 2,” she said. “Since Plant 3 has the newest carbon system, we are spending time on upgrading plants 1 and 2.” 

Pacific Steel spent about half a million dollars for improvements on plants 1 and 3 this year, Jewel said. 

Bates said the air district has completed its review of Pacific Steel’s Health Risk Assessment Report and has sent it back to the steel plant since it required several corrections. 

According to a letter from Brian Bateman, director of the air district’s engineering division, the district found the report to be “comprehensive and completed in accordance with established guidelines and approved protocols,” except in certain sections which have to be revised and turned in by Aug. 4. 

“What we haven’t been able to define is where the odors are coming from, specifically which plant and their chemical components,” Wood said. “We were looking for a public process to go forward with it. We want to go down and find the history and nail it down.” 

Denny Larson, director of Global Community Monitor, also requested the city to work with citizens to address neighborhood concerns.  

Larson’s organization will be holding a community meeting about Pacific Steel’s emissions on July 31, from 7-9 p.m., at the Berkeley Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 1400 Eighth St. 

Maio said she would ask the city’s health department to investigate emissions from Pacific Steel. 


City, University Prepare to Dramatically Reduce Water Usage

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:45:00 AM

In the face of impending water restrictions and drought rates, both the city and UC Berkeley are bracing for water reductions of up to 30 percent. 

But don’t expect to see dry fountains or brown parks. The goal for each remains reduction of water consumption, not elimination. 

“I don’t think that anything will die; it’s just that some areas that can go stressed will go stressed,” said Sue Ferrera, the new city parks superintendent. “We won’t have perfectly equal coverage everywhere.” 

EBMUD will require that the city’s park system cut its water usage by 30 percent on each of its 300 meters. In the past month, park maintenance has started watering areas only every three days, adjusting sprinkler coverage to reduce waste, replacing leaking or high-flow sprinkler heads and simply letting some areas suffer. Ferrera said that a few areas of the parks and medians will “go brown,” but others will remain green. 

“It’s simply making sure the system works as well as it can and cutting back as much as possible,” Ferrera said. 

UC Berkeley, which has not yet received its reduction goal from EBMUD, must reduce its water consumption not only across its lawns and fountains, but also in labs, dormitories and construction sites. 

“There’s no one magic place where we can reduce and that will get us to our target,” said Christine Shaff, the communications manager for facilities services at the university. “It’ll be a lot of efforts in a lot of places.” 

A 2005 Sustainable Water Plan published on the Sustainability at UC Berkeley website (sustainability.berkeley.edu) re-ports that in 2003, the main campus used approximately 1.3 million gallons of water per day.  

Like the city, the university has cut back on irrigation, started watering only in the morning and set crews to locate and repair misdirected sprinkler heads.  

“We have cut back on irrigating,” Shaff said. “If people come over to campus, they may find lawns that are less green.” 

Additionally, the university will practice sheet mulching and experiment with low-waste irrigation systems. Decorative outdoor fountains will circulate water, and at least one will remain dry. Shaff said that although the university wishes to maintain its “look,” it is working closely with EBMUD to use water more efficiently. 

The university uses non-potable water from a well on campus to wash “hardscape” (sidewalks, paved lots) and construction sites. 

Indoors, all departments will look for ways to reduce water consumption, instating outreach programs for students and installing low-flow fixtures in laboratories and bathrooms. 

“It’s a hard balance to strike,” Shaff said. “But we’ll be working closely with EBMUD to meet our reduction goal.”  


Judge Sentences Hollis to 24 Years for Willis-Starbuck Death

Bay City News
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:45:00 AM

A judge sentenced Christopher Hollis to 24 years in state prison on Friday, the toughest sentence possible, for fatally shooting his friend Meleia Willis-Starbuck after responding to her plea for help in a Berkeley street confrontation nearly three years ago.  

Noting that Willis-Starbuck, 19, had called Hollis, a 24-year-old Hayward man who had attended Berkeley High School with her, to help her after she and several female friends got into a confrontation with a group of Cal football players, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Vernon Nakahara said it was sadly ironic that “her protector was the one who killed her.”  

On April 29, jurors convicted Hollis of voluntary manslaughter and two other charges for the incident near the intersection of College Avenue and Dwight Way in Berkeley about 2 a.m. on July 17, 2005. Prosecutor Elgin Lowe had asked jurors to convict Hollis of either first-degree murder or second-degree murder, but defense attorney Greg Syren said voluntary manslaughter would be more appropriate.  

In their closing arguments in Hollis’ trial, Lowe and Syren agreed that Willis-Starbuck called Hollis for help after she and several female friends got into a confrontation with a group of seven to 10 UC Berkeley football players after the players tried to pick up the women and then insulted them after their advances were rebuffed.  

The defense attorney and the prosecutor also agreed that Hollis fired at least several shots from a .30-caliber gun toward a crowd in the incident and that one of the bullets struck Willis-Starbuck in the heart and killed her.  

Willis-Starbuck had just completed her freshman year at Dartmouth College and had returned to Berkeley to take a summer job providing social and health services to low-income women.  

But Syren and Lowe strongly disagreed about the charge for which Hollis should be convicted.  

Lowe told jurors that they should convict Hollis of either first- or second-degree murder because by firing four or five shots he acted with conscious disregard for human life and he had time to reflect on his actions before aiming again and pulling the trigger for his final shots.  

But Syren said Hollis should only be convicted of voluntary manslaughter because he “had no intent to kill anyone” and was only trying to disperse the crowd of people who were gathered on the street that morning.  

Judge Nakahara sentenced Hollis to 11 years for his manslaughter conviction, the maximum possible, plus another 10 years for using a gun.  

He sentenced Hollis to one year for his assault with a firearm conviction for apparently causing a minor injury to UC Berkeley football player Gary Doxy, who was grazed on his right wrist after Hollis opened fire, and one year for being an ex-felon in possession of a handgun.  

Hollis was convicted of selling marijuana for sale in 2002 and wasn’t supposed to be carrying any weapons.


Zoning Board Approves Offices for Ed Roberts Campus

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:46:00 AM

The Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board approved a use permit modification for the Ed Roberts Campus Thursday to allow offices of several nonprofits to be located in a residential zone near the Ashby BART, but they limited the ruling to include only those organizations. 

The result of years of work by many disability organizations, the Ed Roberts Campus is a two-story, 86,057-square-foot building planned for 3075 Adeline St., straddling two different zoning districts in South Berkeley—residential and south area/commercial—which will contain a community center and offices for the disability community.  

The original use permit for the campus, approved by the zoning board four years ago, allows community centers in the residential area along Adeline Street, while offices can only be located in the south area/commercial zone which encourages high density. 

ZAB declined to change the definition of a “community center” to allow future offices to go into the residential zone, as suggested by zoning staff, in order to avoid setting a precedent. 

A couple of community members said they supported the project but were concerned about the permit modification setting a precedent in the neighborhood, something that was shared by several zoning commissioners during the course of the meeting. 

“Everyone loves the project,” said Tony Hill, a neighbor. “But it seems to a few of us the project has changed in nature. It’s now going more and more towards a commercial project. Fewer and fewer Ed Roberts’ people want to rent the place, and more and more commercial people want to lease it. Is there a way to guarantee that it will be more of a disability center than commercial?” 

According to a report by the zoning staff, Through the Looking Glass, a family clinic and one of the nonprofits planning to move into the campus, would include a 2,425-square-foot child-care center located mainly in the commercial district and partially in the residential district, and a 5,020-square-foot office space, located entirely in the residential district. 

Representatives of Through the Looking Glass told the board the majority of its services were based around the East Bay community, especially in Alameda County.  

Both the City Council and the zoning board in their original condition of approval mandated that office space should be located in the commercial district, the staff report said, since an office was inconsistent with the use of a community center and thus not allowed in a residential district.  

The report states that other tenants approved for the residential district also have office and educational activities very similar to the family clinic. 

The report also adds that rising construction costs made the Ed Roberts Campus consider a broad range of tenants in order to finance the project, instead of limiting its focus to the disability community. 

Dmitri Belser, president of the Ed Roberts Campus board, said the mission of the campus had not changed despite efforts to look at a diverse group of leaseholders. 

“We have been working on this project for 14 years,” Belser said. “We have done a lot of work to make it appropriate for the neighborhood. Initially there were nine agencies who were partnering with us; now there are seven. But all of the agencies serve people with disabilities in different ways. The mission has not changed.” 

Commissioner Jesse Arreguin asked whether there was a way to guarantee that the commercial offices allowed on the campus would benefit the disability community. 

“The goal of the Ed Roberts Campus is to provide a space for organizations serving the disabled community,” Belser said.  

“The financial challenge is that the organization is taking on a significant amount of debt to build the building and wants the flexibility to have financial viability over time. The goal is to have organizations that serve the disabled community come in as long as they fit within the mode of a community center.” 

Guy Thomas, a board member for the Center for Accessible Technology—one of the partners of the Ed Roberts Campus—pressed the board to approve the modification so the “campus could have services without worrying about the zip code.” 

“We are very focused on being able to serve our community,” he said. “Of course you do need to expand the idea of what is disability-related. I hope we can move forward on this project after so many years.” 


Software Firm Must Provide Transit Subsidies

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:46:00 AM

The Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board mandated that a private software company provide transit subsidies to its employees as a condition of approval of its use permit onThursday. 

A group of North Berkeley neighbors expressed concern about traffic impacts from a proposed project at 1995-1999 El Dorado Ave. The applicant wants to build 4,234 square feet of office space in a renovated multi-tenant building, and to increase its height from 17.75 feet to 26.5 feet. 

Designed by David Trachtenberg—the architect who designed Berkeley Bowl—the building would be the only commercial building in the area apart from the PG&E substation located to its west. 

Trachtenberg told the zoning board that renovation and restoration plans include modifying the front facade and raising a part of the single-story roof to match the one on the second story. 

A couple of residents expressed concern about the scale of the project and how it would impact their privacy. Others complained that a software company was not an appropriate use for the area , which was zoned as a neighborhood commercial district, since it was not “functionally relevant” to the neighbors. 

The board asked applicant Brendan Madden, who owns Tom Sawyer Software, to limit the firm’s hours of operation to between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., as required by zoning in the neighborhood, and to limit patio hours for its staff from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to address privacy concerns. 

More than six neighbors testified about the lack of parking on the 1900 block of El Dorado, but said most of their concerns were addressed by a parking distribution plan Madden handed out right before the meeting which was later added to the board’s list of conditions. 

Madden outlined several public transit alternatives for his employees in this plan, including AC Transit, BART and a company shuttle which would drop off and pick up employees from the downtown BART, and a distribution of parking spots around the neighborhood which were not time-limited. 

The list also included transit subsidies—a tax-free commuter benefits program which allows employees to save on qualified commuting expenses—which zoning commissioner Jesse Arreguin suggested be included in the list of use permit conditions to minimize parking impacts.


Mary Davis Presente!

By Karl Kramer
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:47:00 AM
Mary Davis
By Cathy Barrows
Mary Davis

She has been called a Berkeley icon and a force of nature or, as she was honored on her 70th birthday, simply Bolshevik Mary. 

Mary Davis died of natural causes July 7, surrounded by family and friends, in hospice care in Berkeley at the age of 87. 

Leonore Mary Davis was born on July 21, 1920, at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco as the only child of Leonore Hurtzig and Robert J. Sherwood. Both parents died before Leonore, known as Mary, was 5 years old. 

She grew up with her paternal aunt in an apartment near Golden Gate Park where she often attended Sunday concerts and visited the DeYoung museum. A lover of music, she would buy cheap tickets to the opera that allowed her to listen while standing in the back. Her love of music continued throughout her life, and she played piano until her late 60s when she lost her finger in a bagel-shaping machine working in a bakery. 

Mary was raised in a working-class family. Her aunt’s husband worked on the streetcar lines. Nine years old at the time of the 1929 stock market crash, Mary grew up during the harsh years of the Depression. 

Although non-practicing Protestants, they honored the wishes of her Catholic mother by sending Mary to parochial school. Inspired by the workers march she witnessed during the 1934 San Francisco General Strike, Mary chose as her confirmation name Saint Jeanne d’Arc, the peasant girl who led the French army to recover her homeland from English domination and was burned at the stake by the English at age 19. 

Mary moved to Berkeley to attend the University of California. While there, she joined the Communist Party. Although she had planned to become a doctor, her political work became more important than finishing her education. 

She dedicated her life toward bringing whites and blacks together. She traveled to Washington to speak out for racial integration in the armed services. Working as a waitress in a Southern restaurant, she was fired for setting a table and serving black co-workers eating in the kitchen. Braving prevalent prejudices at a time when several states still had anti-miscegenation laws, she had her son, Owen, in 1952, with Clarence Davis, an African-American, followed by a daughter, Madeline, and a son, Robbin. 

Around 1949, Mary began working and union organizing at General Electric factory in West Oakland, where she made light bulbs on an assembly line. Later in life, her son Owen asked her about flashbacks he had of red lights and yelling in the darkness. Mary explained that she used to carry him on the picket line and the police would attack in the wee hours of the morning. 

During McCarthyism and the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), one morning as she was driving to work, she heard herself described on the radio as a Communist. When she arrived at the GE plant, no one would speak to her. A friend hid her at a country home to escape being forced to testify at a HUAC hearing. 

Mary continued working in factories until she retired. She marched against the Vietnam War, joined workers’ picket lines and campaigned to free Angela Davis from prison. 

Her political work for the Communist Party included distributing the People’s World, which she delivered to newsracks, kiosks, stores and Greyhound stations in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco. 

In the 1980s, several decades after the death of her children’s father, she began living with her life partner, Betty, in a cottage not far from the UC Berkeley campus. 

She was well known in the neighborhood for sweeping leaves off the sidewalks and decorating an old car in her driveway with objects she found on the street. Photographers would take pictures of her creation as a precursor to the now more prevalent “art cars.” 

After leaving the Communist Party, she joined the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS). At the organization’s Bolshevik Cafe, she did the fundraising pitch imitating the German-born actress and singer Marlene Dietrich, and singing the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” and a Slavic anarchists’ song “It’s Sister Jenny’s Turn to Throw the Bomb.” 

Mary spent her final years at Chaparral House, a nursing home in Berkeley. She kept up her political work by going to “mailing parties” of the Gray Panthers and meetings of the Billie Holiday Collective, which plans the Bolshevik Cafe. 

She is survived by her three children, Owen Sherwood Davis, Madeline Sherwood Davis, and Robbin Sherwood Davis; two granddaughters, Lucia Naboisek Davis and Sarafina Naboisek Davis; and her life partner, Betty Bishop. Another surviving relative is her first cousin, Blanche Hurtzig, who is married to Peter Mondavi, the wine maker. 

 


Film Depicts Spring’s Public and Personal Courage

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 10:03:00 AM

In Lindsay Vurek’s film, Courage in Life and Politics: The Dona Spring Story, the 15-year Berkeley councilmember’s fierce advocacy for the environment, animals, the downtrodden and the disabled shines bright. 

The 70-minute documentary, to be shown Friday, 7:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, at Cedar and Bonita streets, uses photographs, archival TV footage, and interviews of dozens of the councilmember’s friends and supporters, to show how Spring developed from a child who loved hiking and fishing, rode horses and even sky-dived to the adult environmentalist and peace activist, who grew into an honored city leader, even as she faced the personal struggle of grappling with painful rheumatoid arthritis that increasingly debilitated her body.  

“Dona’s courage, her vision, her integrity has always been inspiring,” says Rent Board Commissioner Pam Webster, a fellow Green Party member, speaking to the camera. 

Steve Freedkin, former chair of the Peace and Justice Commission, shared a similar view, recalling an instance, early in his stint on the commission, when he found himself embroiled in a fight over Israel-Palestine issues. He said Spring called him: “There was no agenda; there was no lobbying. It was just, ‘I’m with you,’” he said. 

Active Berkeleyans who have run for office, including Jesse Townley and Zelda Bronstein, said Spring served as a mentor during tough campaigns. 

Spring, too, pointed to those who inspired her. One was Michael Winter, a disabled man and leader in the disability rights movement. Winter ran for City Council in 1986. 

Although he lost, the run impressed Spring who said she had not thought, before she experienced Winter’s campaign, that a disabled person would be able to carry out the kind of grassroots campaigning necessary to win in Berkeley. 

Following Winter’s example, Spring ran and won her first term in 1992 with a slim margin and has won successive races handily. 

One of Spring’s boldest moments depicted in the film was the resolution she sponsored condemning the U.S. bombing in Afghanistan and calling on national leaders to explore other means of pursuing the 9/11 attackers. 

Her action—and the action of a slim City Council majority—drew fire from the right wing and condemnation from the Wall Street Journal. 

On Oct. 10, 2001, a Wall Street Journal article by James Taranto subtitled, “Berkeley’s Useless Idiots,” stated: “The Daily Californian reports that the Berkeley City Council is likely to approve a resolution denouncing America for defending itself against terrorism. Councilwoman Dona Spring uttered what may be the most idiotic comment we’ve heard in the past month: ‘Berkeley has always been an island of sanity in terms of the war madness that has prevailed in this country. The U.S. is now a terrorist. According to the Taliban these are terrorist attacks.’” 

In the film, Spring responds to her detractors: “Don’t there need to be voices in this country that can question whether the use of mass destruction of other countries is in our best interest?” she asks. 

The councilmember’s strident stand against “frivolous” use of animals in research also gained her notoriety, with appearances on a number of national TV shows, including the Ophrah Winfrey Show.  

Animal research is redundant, Spring said during one of her TV appearances. “It’s a real gravy train.” 

The film brings the audience up to date, with Spring’s work to save the oak grove next to Memorial Stadium on the UC Berkeley campus and her dedication to saving the warm pool on the Berkeley High School campus for disabled people and seniors to use. 

Berkeley author Michael Parenti, who lauds Spring in the film as someone “who does not sell out to special interests,” will introduce the film at Friday’s Unitarian church showing. 

 


Clarification

Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:39:00 AM

Mark Coplan, Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson, was quoted in the June 26, 2008 edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet regarding the departure of former Cragmont Principal Don Vu. This quote contained inaccurate information stating, “Vu’s contract had not been renewed after his first year at Cragmont and ... he was leaving to pursue other options.” 

Don Vu has informed the Planet that his resignation was solely his decision and that the district acknowledged that he had made significant contributions to Cragmont and BUSD during his time in Berkeley. District Superintendent Bill Huyett previously told the Planet that Vu had left on his own accord saying, “He took the initiative to get another job, and we are sad to see him go.” 

Vu states, “I am grateful to have had an opportunity to get to work with many good people in Berkeley this last year. I am also grateful to be in a position to be able to choose where I can work. I did not feel that Berkeley and Cragmont were a good fit for me. I was simply not happy there and chose to go back to a district where I can put all my focus on helping kids be successful.”


Opinion

Editorials

Could Cody’s Rise Again?

By Becky O’Malley
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM

When downtown shoppers pass the southeast corner of Shattuck and Allston these days, they’re apt to see unhappy-looking people with their noses pressed to the glass in the door of the storefront there. That’s because the last stand of the fabled Cody’s bookstore suddenly closed its doors a couple of weeks ago, leaving books on the shelves and signs announcing upcoming author talks in the windows. A combination of changes in the publishing industry and unsuccessful business decisions with accompanying debts prompted the current owner, a Japanese corporation, to withdraw funding from the enterprise.  

Cody’s Books, first under the ownership of beloved founders Fred and Pat Cody and then operated by a succession of buyers including Andy Ross, was older than many of its patrons, who took it for granted that Cody’s would always be there for them and their children. Its closing has left an enormous hole in the lives of chronic book browsers. They find it hard to imagine a Berkeley without a big independent bookstore, even though most new titles of their choice are now available online. The author talks that had become a staple at Cody’s were also very popular, with famous writers sometimes playing to standing-room-only crowds. 

It’s not that there are no independent bookstores left in the East Bay, of course. Bibliophiles were happy to hear that a buyer had been found for Black Oak Books, which is increasingly relying on used book sales. Moe’s on Telegraph, founded by Moe Moscowitz, a contemporary of the original Codys, and still run by his daughter, is going strong in that market, as is its neighbor Shakespeare and Co. In Oakland, Diesel and Spectator are alive and well. Mrs. Dalloway’s on College in the Elmwood serves a neighborhood and specialty market.  

But none of these fine businesses quite fills Cody’s niche. Book buyers, particularly those who shop with their kids, love stores that stock a well-chosen selection of all kinds of books in one place: the latest scholarly history or computer volumes under the same roof as escape fiction, with comfortable chairs and a cozy kids’ section to keep the younger readers busy (and to sell lots of books!) while the parents shop elsewhere. There are still stores like this around the bay. 

Bookshop Santa Cruz, owned and operated by the Coonerty family since it started, is the anchor tenant on Pacific in the center of that university town, a magnet for eager shoppers day and night. The last time we were there sex expert Susie Bright was delivering a late-night book talk to a rapt audience which must have numbered in the hundreds. In Menlo Park, Kepler’s almost went under, but after being closed for a tense month “angel investors” joined Clark Kepler, son of the founders, to re-open it in newly invigorated form. Bookshop West Portal, started by the founders of the late Clean Well Lighted Place for Books, is doing well. 

The Kepler’s story has inspired some Berkeleyans to wonder if it could also happen here. Could our community pull together to reconstitute a bookstore which would be a worthy successor to the one Fred and Pat Cody founded? Rumors have been circulating ever since the Shattuck store closed that Someone would buy out the recent Cody’s corporate investors and open it again. The name of the O’Malley family has been attached to some of these rumors, but—you read it here first—that’s not going to happen. We have our hands full rescuing one local institution. 

What we have been doing, though, is talking to a few local people who share our interest in trying to make something good happen on the Berkeley bookstore scene. First and foremost, no surprise, is Pat Cody, still vigorous, smart and creative in her eighties. She still knows the book business like the back of her hand, though she and Fred sold their store a long time ago. We’ve had a couple of meetings around Pat’s dining room table. 

Linda Schacht Gage, another participant, has distinguished herself in Berkeley book circles by her work for the Berkeley Public Library, on its board and running its annual Authors’ Dinners. Her husband John was Cody’s computer book buyer way back when, and though he went on to great success in the high tech world he’s still a book lover. Clark Kepler sat in on a meeting, as did Heyday Books publisher Malcolm Margolin. Other key book industry veterans have also been talking with us. 

We’ve discussed a number of promising options, including non-profits, co-op status and trying to attract a small number of public-spirited investors who don’t need to make big profits to a new company. Everyone agrees that we need to look at new models for what bookstores can do. In recent years the best bookstores have functioned as community centers, not only sponsoring author appearances but offering programs for school kids, for writers and more. We’d like to explore such directions. 

Now it’s time, we agree, to ask everyone in Berkeley and beyond who cares about bookstores to join the discussion. We’ll be holding a public meeting as soon as we can get it organized, and we want to invite everyone who’s interested to join in the effort. Pat Cody is going to start writing a blog to keep the community informed about what’s happening, and to provide a place for ideas to be presented. We’ll tell you where to find it when it happens.  

For now, if you have ideas to share, send them to books@berkeleydailyplanet.com—these letters will be forwarded to the blog when it’s up and running. Please get in touch soon. We need everyone’s help if we’re going to make this work. We believe it can. 


Cartoons

Dona Spring

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 01:03:00 PM


Click Here to Support Your Local Cartoonist!

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday July 24, 2008 - 01:15:00 PM

Help send your cartoonist to D.C.! 

 

Each year the Union of Concerned Scientists sponsors a cartooning contest on the topic of political interference in science. Hundreds of entries are whittled down to 12 cartoons to appear in their calendar, and this year Daily Planet editorial cartoonist Justin DeFreitas has two of the 12. The public votes on the best of the 12 and the winner gets an all-expenses-paid trip to D.C. and their cartoon on the cover of the calendar.  

 

You can vote for DeFreitas' "Lab Coats" cartoon (No. 11) here: http://ucsaction.org/campaign/science_idol_2008_vote 

 


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday July 21, 2008 - 02:20:00 PM

 

 

BERKELEY COMMUNITY MEDIA 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

One of Dona Spring’s final efforts was to help rescue Berkeley Community Media from an attempt by its landlord, the Berkeley Unified School District, to convert the Bay Area’s second largest public access TV facility into a “dedicated” high school classroom.  

When Dona discovered that architectural plans had already been approved before a public hearing could be held to examine community impact she moved quickly to alert her allies on the council and school board and the plans were subsequently changed preserving community access to city owned media resources for the immediate future.  

George Coates 

 

• 

WWDD? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a tribute to Dona Spring, when you are faced with a choice, say to yourself, “What would Dona have done?” And if once in a while you follow her lead, a little bit of Dona lives. No one can replace her. No one can even come close, but in her memory let us be a little more principled and try a little harder to make Berkeley the place she worked for with such dedication.  

Bonnie Hughes 

 

• 

DONA SPRING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I loved Dona Spring the first time I met her. I saw a strong light in her eyes that profoundly moved me. Dona was beautiful even when she was angry at Mayor Tom Bates and her other fellow members on the City Council when they voted against the principled resolutions she and Kriss Worthington championed. She held her own ground. She was an enlightened goddess, a sage and saint. She was a defender for the most vulnerable, needy, oppressed, the disabled and the homeless. It pained me to witness how much she and Kriss Worthington struggled for the city of Berkeley to uphold a strong commitment to human rights. It is easy now to say how much we loved Dona Spring but to show that love means action. Yes, let us mourn, but to honor her we must organize and thusly heal from our sad loss. Our mayor and the City Council need to do a lot more to honor the city’s long commitment to human rights, such as the need to house the poor. Like Dona, they of our City Council and we the people of Berkeley need to more to firmly confront UC Berkeley on saving the oak grove trees (as called for by city ordinance), the human rights of the tree-sit protesters to truly adequate food and water provisions and the right to public access to our city sidewalks. Like Jesus Christ overturning the tables of the moneychangers at the Temple, Councilmember Dona Spring often confronted the corrupt greed of the powerful who gained profit at the expense of the common folk and the greens and its creature dwellers (all of Divine Creation). She was our familia.  

Diane Villanueva 

 

• 

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Especially at this time, a few words about the hell that is rheumatoid arthritis seem appropriate. RA is a chronic disease, mainly characterized by inflammation of the lining, or synovium, of the joints. It can lead to long-term joint damage, resulting in chronic pain, loss of function and disability. RA differs from osteoarthritis, the arthritis that often accompanies old age. RA can affect body parts besides joints, e. g. eyes, mouth and lungs. RA is an autoimmune disease, meaning it results from one’s immune system attacking the body’s own tissues. Its cause is uncertain. Genes, environment and hormones may contribute.  

Of the 1.3 million Americans affected, two to three times as many women as men have the disease, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Why, you may ask (as you should), has there not been significant headway in curing RA? 

There is hope for tomorrow, as researchers begin to apply new technologies such as stem cell transplantation and novel imaging techniques. (Stem cells have the capacity to differentiate into specific cell types, which gives them the potential to change damaged tissue in which they are placed.) 

There are numerous RA-related websites. I suggest MedlinePlus which is available in Spanish and provides interactive contact. A “service of the U. S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health,” it can be found at www. nlm. nih. gov/medlineplus/rheumatoidarthritis. html#cat57.  

Helen Rippier Wheeler 

 

• 

UNDERSTANDING SATIRE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just received my copy of the New Yorker with the controversial cover showing Sen. Obama wearing a turban and long robe, Ms. Obama with an AK-47 rifle slung over her shoulder, and the couple giving each other a fist bump, and a photo of Osama bin Laden hanging on the wall. I must take issue with the criticism of the cover. For quite some time the cowardly among us have been spreading disinformation and misinformation about Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama. We’ve heard him called that “boy,” “magic negro,” “Osama” instead of “Obama,” a Muslim, equating Muslim with terrorist, and so on. If you repeat these whispers and lies often enough, people will begin to believe them or at least have second thoughts about the target of these remarks. What the New Yorker has done is taken these whispers and lies and co-opted them by saying: “Is this what you mean?” Don’t you see the irony? 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 

 

• 

SOS MINISTRIES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Larry Rosenbaum, the head of SOS Ministries, claims that “a small minority” of people have a problem with “the content and not the decibel level. “You’re lying again, Larry. And I don’t think Jesus takes kindly to people who lie in His name. It’s true that any group that comes out proseletyzing on a street corner about politics, religion, race, or any other sensitive subject, will find plenty of people who don’t like the content. But that’s not the issue. And it never was. (Though having to listen to that no-talent on the guitar play the same five songs week after week after week does leave something to be desired, content-wise.) You can come out here and preach on a soapbox (sans amplification) and no one will try to shut you down. Christian groups, in fact, have been doing that for years. The issue is the amplification. And the fact that you’re a public nuisance. And the community—the overwhelming majority of the community—is trying to rally its forces to do something about this nuisance.  

“There’s a few people that don’t like us. It’s the message they don’t like.” You’re lying again, Larry. I’ve had hundreds of people complain to me about your group just over the last few months. I’ve had hundreds of people sign my petition. You must be too busy talking, and not busy enough listening, Larry. Have you asked my friend who lives across the street in the apartment building on Telegraph directly facing your amplified performance? (I doubt it.) She says the sound echoes throughout her apartment for hours on Saturday, non-stop. She can barely think straight thanks to your racket.  

Larry goes on to claim it’s a “free speech issue.” You’re lying again, Larry. This isn’t a free speech issue. It never was. You have to pay for your permit for amplified sound. This is paid speech, not free speech. With all sorts of limitations and restrictions on it already. And these restrictions don’t come about by some fascist dictator that wants to crunch your righteous freedom (sorry, Lar, you make a pi-poor martyr), but by the entire community who comes together and tries to decide what kind of environment we want to live and work in.  

And by the way, Larry, there is plenty of support for Christianity in Berkeley. Haven’t you noticed all the churches? (Or does only your lunk-headed version of Christianity count?) In fact, Christianity is probably the most popular religion in Berkeley. Myself? My father is a Methodist minister. I support the right of all religions. Even the obnoxious, noisy ones like yours.  

Ace Backwords 

 

• 

FALSE CLAIMS ABOUT BRT EMISSIONS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Dean Metzger, the prime sponsor of the anti-BRT initiative claimed in a discussion on KPFA that BRT would not provide much reduction of greenhouse gases. However, AC Transit’s website directly contradicts his erroneous claim: 

“BRT reduces auto travel by 9,300 single trips per day, 21,000 miles per day and reduce fuel consumption by 690 gallons per day. These reductions also lead to reduced emissions and greenhouse gases.  

“C02 (Carbon Dioxide) emissions by 18,400 pounds per day” or 6,700,000 lbs per year! However, “The figures presented relate to the reduction of auto trips only, and do not include emissions from BRT bus trips.” 

To include the BRT trips operating at 10-12 minutes interval and down to five minutes during peak periods, the total daily trips will be around 220 and will emitting about what 440 cars would. Therefore the CO2 emissions reduction including buses would roughly be 94 percent of the 18,400 pounds per day or 6,313,000 lbs per year.  

Furthermore, since the buses will be operating on exclusive lanes at faster uniform speed without delays from traffic congestion, the bus emissions will be even le. Also, it is certain that AC Transit will be replacing the clean diesel-powered buses in the near future with even cleaner buses such as hybrids or possibly with zero-emitting hydrogen-powered buses a few years after the BRT is fully implemented, which would be no sooner than six years from now.  

If 81 percents of Berkeley citizens are committed to supporting the Carbon Reduction Plan, we should seriously consider that transportation produces 50 percent of our emissions. With the belabored Carbon Reduction legislation being proposed, it will be difficult to reach Berkeley’s reduction goals without coordinated individual lifestyle changes.  

Roy Nakadegawa 

 

• 

THE N WORD 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

OK, let’s agree with what J. Douglas Allen-Taylor says in his UnderCurrents column. Jesse Jackson still does not have the right to use the N-word. He is a minister and Allen-Taylor’s column, posted days after it was revealed, simply ignores that aspect of his whispered conversation.  

Allen-Taylor must think it’s proper language too. I don’t, and I do not like the derogatory “F” word used to describe myself or used by other gay friends and associates. Ignore Jackson’s words if you must; but to me, there is a lot more going on.  

Roy Brown 

 

• 

LET’S FIX BERKELEY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I love Berkeley. Berkeley has been good to my family and I’d like to think I’ve been good to it. My dad moved there in the ‘60s. My mom in the ‘70s. I was born at Alta Bates, as were my brother and sister. My brother, sister, and I have all lived in Berkeley for years at different times. My wife lived in Berkeley. As did her mother and father decades back.  

So, you can imagine my frustration at seeing Berkeley’s current condition. Roads, falling apart. The downtown, crumbling. Businesses, fleeing. Education system, in shambles. These are tough times for us all, but I trust the Berkeley City Council to work on behalf of all Berkleyans to solve the problems that they all face.  

I feel it is important to focus city resources on important problems and not focus them on leer important problems. I speak, in specific, about the Cal gymnasium project. And look, I don’t know too much about the court case. It is very confusing; I’m no lawyer. My vague understanding is that, going in, all the City Council could accomplish was a delay. Just a delay.  

What I do know strongly is that the City Council could help return Berkeley to one of the finest cities in our country. We could be the leaders in the modern environmental movement. Berkeley’s potential is unlimited. But when Berkeley is facing all these naive problems, the council needs to efficiently distribute its resources to biggest problems first. Is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money for a judge to tell us that Cal had it right 98 percent of the time the most efficient means of spending Berkeley’s limited taxpayer resources? I might not know a lot about the court case, but I know the answer to that question is a resounding no.  

And is spending hundreds of thousands more to lose at another court level, the most prudent distribution of city resources? I again feel strongly the answer is no. This is not about saving 40 lovely trees. This is not about protecting a sacred grove. This is about ensuring limited city resources focus on Berkeley’s biggest problems first. I call on the City Council to use its taxpayer money to work to put stores back on Shattuck Avenue, to fix potholes all across Berkeley, to improve facilities at all levels of the Berkeley public school system.  

Council, I call on you to end this lawsuit by not joining in any appeal. Please, focus city resources where they matter most. We all love Berkeley; let’s get to fixing it. Let’s make Berkeley the utopia we all know it can be. Let’s return Berkeley to its prior glory! 

T. Nathanial Hook  

San Francisco 

 

• 

AC TRANSIT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In order to be a barely adequate transit system, AC Transit must arrive on time, have enough routes to serve the entire service area at about quarter-mile intervals, and operate enough hours to get passengers to their destinations and back. Any new ideas that compromise those core necessities needs to be rethought.  

I am fully in favor of taking steps to get the buses running faster and more frequently, but not at the expense of their continuing to serve all the neighborhoods (although routes may need to be reconfigured from time to time), nor at the expense of reducing hours of service. If people cannot use the bus to do all their traveling within the area, they have no incentive to get rid of their cars, and if you have a car, you find yourself using it, even if a bus is available.  

The BRT concept puts the cart before the horse. It may become necessary someday for buses to have a dedicated lane, but it certainly is not now. Even the so-called rapid buses are delayed more by passenger boarding problems than by traffic problems. The odd configuration of the seats in the Van Hool buses, and the fact that the driver has to leave the cab to operate the lift only makes them worse.  

If AC transit wants to make improvements, they need to see the system from the point of view of the users. No matter how popular the Van Hool is in Europe, it doesn’t cut it in this area. I saw how the Van Hool is used in Paris, and there are two whopping differences. First, they have almost no seats, like a New York subway car. Secondly, they do not provide for disabled passengers, except that the jump seats are reserved for seniors.  

I am not at all suggesting that the seats be configured like the European coaches. The cultures are different, so our buses need to reflect our culture. Americans like to keep a greater distance from strangers when face to face, so half the facing seats go unused while people crowd into the aisles. Also, I don’t know who decided it was a good idea to have seniors climb up onto raised seats, but trust me, it is not.  

I wonder what happened to the Bus Riders’ Union. The union could conduct a real rider survey, asking the questions that the riders actually want to be asked and making sure the sample truly reflected the entire composition of the community, and publishing the results in general circulation pre so that everyone could see them.  

I resent the implication that anyone who is opposed to BRT or the Van Hools does not want the bus service to be improved. Many riders just don’t think the BRT concept or the Van Hool buses are an improvement.  

Marcella Murphy 

 

• 

POVERTY IN GAY SOCIETY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Pacific Center here in Berkeley has to make an effort to reach out to those who are queer and poor. A “Center for Human Growth,” as it proclaims to be, should extend a communal welcome to everyone, not just those who have a little something-something in their wallets.  

If the Pacific Center really cares about the poor, it will hook up with the Suitcase Clinic (or some-such organization) and work out a way to offer a safe-space once a week for homeless and quasi-homeless (or otherwise downtrodden) queer people to gather, talk about problems, get a free meal, et cetera.  

For the oldest queer community center in the Bay Area to omit an entire segment of queer society is disgusting. There is no excuse for it.  

Living on the street is not easy to do as a queer person. You have to be more closeted than in “mainstream” society, it can be harder to meet other queer people for friendships or dating, there is more exposure to drug and alcohol abuse, and so forth.  

I don’t want to just merely pick on the Pacific Center (and by extension its elite 20-somethings program called “X-20s”). After all, Pride ‘08 came and went. So how many queer people reading this letter went out on Pride Weekend and gave a homeless person a meal, a shirt, first aid kit, or even a smile? Or did Pride extend to only those who “made something of themselves”? 

There needs to be great change for the queer community in Berkeley (and the Bay Area in general); there needs to be more compassion, more humanity. And what better place for that change to start than at the Pacific Center? 

Nathan Pitts 

 

• 

NOT A FAILURE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

San Francisco’s own Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, was interviewed on CNN last week (July 17) and when asked about the president’s criticism of Congress called Bush “…a total failure.”  

She was wrong. Bush has succeeded in lying this nation into an unprovoked war, in authorizing warrantless wiretaps and retroactively immunizing telecommunications companies, in approving torture, denying due process. It now appears that he will succeed in evading accountability for these and other “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  

Failure is in the eye of the beholder.  

Marvin Chachere  

San Pablo 

 

• 

HAD ENOUGH! 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here we go again! The Oakland City Council voted to place a measure in November to institute a parcel tax increase to boost the police force. I agree with Mr. De La Fuente asking us to reject the tax increase. City Hall needs to get a grip and manage the affairs of the City without wasting anymore of the taxpayers’ money.  

Is anyone surprised at the latest revelation that Oakland’s budget deficit is on course to more than triple the $15 million shortfall that Deborah Edgerly figured in the City’s current spending plan, according to new projections obtained by the Chronicle? 

Almost daily there is yet another revelation regarding the mismanagement of the city’s affairs by incompetent administrators. If it were not for journalists like Chip Johnson, Matier and Ross, Courtney Ruby, Kelly Rayburn or Christopher Heredia we would not learn what is really going on at City Hall. Mr. De La Fuente is the only one who has stepped out of his comfort zone and expressed the outrage we all feel at the mismanagement and lack of accountability that prevails at Oakland City Hall.  

No more taxes. We’ve had enough.  

Tori Thompson 

Oakland 

 

• 

STIFLE THE URGE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have little doubt that Chuck Siegel’s recent characterization of smart-growth opponents as “anti-environmentalists” will generate an angry counterattack, and—as happens so often in Berkeley—an important discussion will degenerate into name-calling. As I see it, a big part of the problem is that the two sides have each created a caricature of the other.  

The smart-growth advocates (of which I am one) often fail to see that many of those who denounce the development plans and policies of Mayor Bates and city planning staff are not against the basic idea of having a moderate increase in density in the downtown and along major transit corridors. Most of these people supported the very same DAPAC downtown plan that Chuck argues for in his piece. And many of them would support the mixed-use projects along University, Shattuck and San Pablo if those projects were less intrusive on the surrounding neighborhoods.  

At the same time, many smart-growth opponents fail to see that well-designed urban development can promote successful human-scale neighborhoods that will allow Berkeley to begin the transition away from a car-dependent way of moving around. They want good bus service, but not the population density needed to make it viable. And some of them seem to wish that Berkeley could stay like it is, despite the fact that California’s population is growing by leaps and bounds and Berkeley is one of the most desirable places to live.  

If both sides could stifle the urge to denounce the other, perhaps a space could emerge for some fruitful dialogue.  

Steve Meyers 

 

• 

THE BRT OPPOSITION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

A few readers responded to my op-ed about “Berkeley’s Anti-Environmentalist Movement” by giving the reasons that they are against Bus Rapid Transit. They missed the point of my article, which was about development issues as much as about transit, and which criticized people who are against all of the changes in urban design that environmentalists agree are needed to deal with global warming.  

My article said very clearly: “They come up with a long list of excuses for opposing each project, but when you see the same people leading the opposition to one thing after another, it becomes clear that they are simply against everything.” 

The most transparent excuse for opposing BRT, one that we have heard over and over again, is: “I am an environmentalist who supports public transportation, but I support a better project than this one.” Then they go on to support Rapid Bus Plus, which would leave buses stuck in traffic. Or they go on to support more service, more eco-passes, or more shuttle buses, which do not conflict with BRT, which I would also support if there were funding for them, but which will not happen because there is no funding.  

They use this as an excuse to oppose BRT, which can be built soon, which will speed up bus service enough to shift 9,300 trips per day from cars to buses, and which will (according to recently released figures) reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 6,700,000 pounds per year.  

At least 98 percent of BRT opponents have never come forward in the past to support any public transportation projects that could actually be implemented. They have suddenly become born-again supporters of public transportation, now that they can use it as an excuse for opposing BRT.  

Charles Siegel 

 

• 

HERITAGE BOOKSTORES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s recent editorial, “Could Cody’s Rise Again?” has inspired me, an alumnus of UC Berkeley living across the world in India, and having re-visited Berkeley in 2006, to support whole heartedly the initiative O’Malley has taken to revive Cody’s Books. She needs to be congratulated for holding disunions with the various stakeholders, including the citizens of Berkeley. I am confident that with a positive approach, this renowned bookstore will re-open soon.  

Keppler’s, which faced a similar situation and was closed briefly, has been re-opened with a new outlook. Exactly in the same way, Cody’s has to be replanned to meet the requirements of the need of present-day book lovers, particularly as a community bookstore, where there must be adequate space for the whole family, so that the children and the parents can spend time in their niche without being disturbed. There must be an ambient and relaxed atmosphere with cozy seating where you can help yourself to coffee, tea and cold drinks. As an architect, I am planning such facilities for the new and renovated bookstores that are being set up in India. Oxford Books in India has a chain of such stores, with such facilities for the whole family in major cities around the country.  

The bookstores such as Cody’s and Keppler’s need to be preserved not only because they are loved by the people, but because they are heritage institutions as well, and they need to be preserved and maintained; they are as important as the landmark buildings. The City Council should come forward to support the positive approach initiated by the Daily Planet.  

Jane Jacob, in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, has practically pleaded for preserving such heritage bookstores and the corner grocery and drug stores in order to preserve the identities of cities, since the images of stores and landmark buildings can be easily visualized and identified with a particular city. She even mentioned that since these stores are managed by people who are well known to the local people, at times of emergency the local people take the help of these store owners.  

As a newcomer to Berkeley, when I started my graduate course, I would visualize the images of Cal Book Store (which has already been closed), Rex’s Drug Store, Cody’s Books, Blondie’s Pizza, and of course the International House (where I stayed) in order to find my bearing when I was lost. Easily identifiable images are quickly stored are in our memory.  

It is expected the citizens, business community of Berkeley and the Bay Area will come forward to raise the resources required to re-open Cody’s Books soon.  

Krishna P. Bhattacharjee  

 

• 

TOO LATE FOR A CHANGE? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

How fortunate many of us felt when we saw that someone as courageous and inspiring as Barack Obama had secured the Democratic nomination for president over the compromised and calculating political ambitions of Hillary Clinton. Now that Obama has become Hillary Clinton, um, is it too late to change our vote to Dennis Kucinich? 

Doug Buckwald 

 

• 

HOUSING ATOP THE  

NEW SAFEWAY? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The old, ugly Safeway building on Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley is about to be re-built. Finally! We’ll have a worthy competitor to expensive Andronico’s! 

What else could we get from this developmental change in our neighborhood? Could we possibly have affordable, accessible housing as part of this new construction? Affordable, accessible homes? In our own city? Is this a wonderful dream? What if there were apartments above the new Safeway supermarket? They would certainly be close to shopping! They would certainly be close to bus lines! They would certainly use less energy to heat than single-family houses! 

Berkeley needs apartments for more people: apartments that are accessible, affordable and energy-efficient—apartments that people can live in without needing to drive their cars (or even needing to own a car). And where can we build such apartments? The Safeway site is a perfect location.  

Safeway has said that it would consider a housing component to their rebuilding project if the community wants it. Housing coupled with a better Safeway is a good community-strengthening idea. Please let me know if you agree by sending me an e-mail: david@stoloff. com. If enough people care, we may persuade Safeway to build something other than just a bigger store.  

David Stoloff 

 

• 

SAFEWAY ROBBERY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a resident of Ashby Place and witnessed a robbery at Safeway on Claremont and College on Monday night, July 7. When I returned to the store, I learned it was a successful robbery where the two thieves netted $900 and fled. I had just left the store after buying my groceries when two African-American youth approached the clerk behind the register. One had a shirt or cloth covering his face. I looked around for security and instinctively said to myself “I’ve got to get out of here, this looks dangerous.” I wondered, “Is this really happening, that I am in the presence of a robbery?” Moments later the boys fled the store and ran down the street.  

Most of all, I feared for my safety and wanted to get home as quickly as possible, not get involved in any way. Tonight, the clerk and security guard described how one of the guys shoved a pistol into the clerk’s ribs and demanded money from the drawer. Of course, they are taught to hand it over rather than endanger their own lives or the lives of patrons.  

Are we to tolerate this madness? Is this the society we want to live in, where one segment pays for food while another must steal for rent, or meals or a god-forsaken drug habit? Where is the social responsibility that says enough is enough? Instead, what I see are numb reactions with business as usual. The clerk and security guard continue their shifts. The robbery tallies as just one more crime statistic. No one cares.  

Would a parent allow a child to continue with deviant behavior or would he redirect that behavior? Where is society to step in as parents to take responsibility for our wayward children? We cannot turn away, because it only will get worse. Yes, people will steal, no matter what the security or hidden cameras, but society can be proactive.  

As a social work student in the MSW program at CSU East Bay at Concord, I am studying cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. The strategy of “positive reinforcement” applies here. Opportunities for advancement, as in education and jobs with positive role models offer incentives for growth. Without these opportunities for people to project into their future, we in conscious, hip, laid-back Rockridge, California may end up with a bullet in our backs.  

Mark Solomons 

 

• 

PANORAMIC HILL MORATORIUM 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I own 2 Panoramic Place with my husband. It is a beautiful lot which sits at the end of Panoramic Place and butts up against the Jordan fire. I am writing to you with a sense of incredulity and outrage that the City Council would even consider a moratorium on building on Panoramic Hill. A moratorium of this nature would be financially devastating to me and my family.  

Is the council aware of the rippling effect this decision will have on me and my family? With a moratorium in place, our property is useless to us. Do they realize this means major financial ruin and hardship for my family? Our son is dealing with multiple health problems, and we had counted on our property to help us during this difficult time.  

Who is behind this movement to gut the rights of property owners? Perhaps neighbors who wish to enjoy our property as open space adjacent to their property? Neighbors who are in violation of city code themselves? 

The Panoramic Hill Neighborhood Association is a small group of people on a mission to stop people from using their properties (note the struggles of the owner of 161 Panoramic Way). This group will say anything and use any means at their disposal (including fear mongering) to stop others from freely using their property. They get to use their property, some as illegal non-conforming multi-family dwellings and/or illegal rooming houses, but we can’t even build a modest-sized, single-family house on ours? 

Because this moratorium would make it impossible for us to use our property as we have every right to use it, then the least the city can do is buy it from us. Barring that, we ask that we be granted a written exemption from this moratorium by the city so that we can freely use our property. This action by the city would justly restore our basic property rights.  

I can’t believe that anybody, least of all the leaders of Berkeley, would knowingly inflict this much distress on a middle-class family just trying to get by. I can believe that the Panoramic Hill Neighborhood Association would act this heartlessly, which is why I am appealing to the mayor and the City Council to please consider their vote on this issue. Please consider the effect it will have on me and my family, and please vote your conscience.  

Grace Gillies 


Letters to the Editor

Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM

DONA SPRING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Goodbye Dona Spring. Rest in peace. You were a champion of parks and recreation and youth. We will miss you. 

Zasa and Stephen Swanson 

 

• 

HEART OF THE COUNCIL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I wish to thank Becky O’Malley for her editorial concerning the death of our beloved Dona Spring. While Kriss Worthington has both heart and brains, Dona was a rare woman who will be missed, but never forgotten. If Kriss was the brains, and Dona the heart of the City Council, where is our wizard, and who is the cowardly lion? 

With so many issues that Dona fought for (the warm pool, the tree-sitters) it is time for all of to organize and pull together as a people united in tribute to Dona and her amazing spirit. 

Lori Kossowsky 

 

• 

ROSS BIDS FAREWELL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

On June 20 Cody’s Books closed its doors forever. People will argue the causes of Cody’s closing. But I have no doubts on this matter. Cody’s was the victim of history. 

But it is less significant how one dies than how one lived. In this respect, Cody’s acquitted itself with honor and dignity. At the end of the day, when the record is written; it will be remembered that Cody’s added immeasurably to the life of the mind; that it profoundly enriched peoples lives; that it gave back more than it took; and that it was obedient to its own ideals. 

The doors close. The lights go out. The steadfast and courageous employees move on to new lives. Other book stores will come to serve Cody’s customers. But there will always be a place in our hearts for Cody’s. And it will serve as an inspiration for those who seek a better world. 

Good bye, Cody’s and good night. You have earned your rest. 

Andy Ross 

Former owner, Cody’s Books 

 

• 

ARITHMETIC 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

“Oh yes, it’s planting three trees for every one destroyed in the construction. Aren’t they teaching arithmetic up there anymore? Exactly what’s the amount of carbon processed by a sapling, or any tree in its first 50 years or so, as compared to the efficiency of the mature trees which will be eliminated if UC has its way?” 

Slight correction to make: in very recent studies by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (basically, labs which study making energy policy more efficient in the United States and solving global warming issues, ie, very enviro-friendly), it was found that young trees, specifically those less than 50 years old, absorb far more CO2 than mature ones. 

The researchers also said there’s a natural way to sequester carbon—by planting trees. Young trees, those less than 50 years old, pull carbon dioxide from the air and put out oxygen, through photosynthesis. 

“A 50-year-old Douglas fir appears to be at its peak in terms of carbon sequestration,” O’Connor said. “On the other hand, an old-growth tree that’s growing very slowly doesn’t do a very good job of it. 

“Through photosynthesis, forests absorb carbon dioxide and store it in their trees and soil. Absorption is the greatest when trees are young and growing vigorously, and tapers off as they mature.” 

Just thought Ms. O’Malley might want to print a correction in the next issue, and perhaps re-learn some arithmetic. Thanks for doing that! 

Nathan Moss 

 

• 

SHATTUCK SAFEWAY EXPANSION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have just returned from a short jaunt to South Lake Tahoe. As my stay was close to the South Lake Tahoe Safeway, I was in the store every morning for one thing or another. I was delighted with all it had to offer and excited that this would be how my new Safeway was going to be! I am a North Berkeley resident (also property owner and taxpayer) for the past 25 years. I find the current Shattuck Safeway unpleasing and often lacking in the products I want and need. I take the time and use the gas to drive to El Cerrito Plaza at least once a week to shop at that wonderful Lucky store, Trader Joe’s, and other offerings. I sincerely hope that the expansion and remodel will go forward as I for one would like to keep my dollars in Berkeley.  

Dorothy Snodgrass, in her July 3 letter, likened Berkeley to a one-horse hick town in her comments regarding downtown. I second that! 

Louise Brown 

 

• 

FAIR GAME 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’d like to comment on last week’s commentary from Joseph Buddenburg. 

Mr. Buddenburg, you speak of being harassed by UCPD and BPD because you are an animal rights activist. You think this is wrong and the city needs to acknowledge you’re special. Are you not the same activist who goes to the university employees’ homes and harasses the families and neighbors with your yelling and screaming? That’s the pot calling the kettle black, Mr. Buddenburg. Maybe a group ought to be started that goes to the homes of animal protesters and chant and yell and see how your families and neighbors like this. Would you consider that fair game Mr. Buddenburg? 

Let me show you a quote from SF Gate: “In the hills above the University of California’s Berkeley campus, nine protesters gathered in front of the home of a toxicology professor, their faces covered with scarves and hoods despite the warm spring weather. One scrawled “killer” in chalk on the scientist’s doorstep, while another hurled insults through a bullhorn and announced, ‘Your neighbor kills animals!’ Someone shattered a window.” 

Protest their work ethics at their places of work. You and your group of “thugs” are upset because they aren’t taking your abuse, they are doing something about it. I congratulate the UC employees and hope they continue with this. I for one am applauding UCPD for involving the federal government with these acts of terrorism by the animal rights protesters. 

A person’s home is their sanctuary. It should be kept that way. 

Jane Smith 

 

• 

OWN MEDICINE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m dying with laughter because Joseph Buddenberg can’t see the irony. He writes a commentary on how someone using legal methods can be annoying and threatening—everything Buddenberg himself does to private citizens all the time. It is hilarious that he thinks a cop saying “Until next time, Joseph!” is ominous, when one of his own, Dr. Jerry Vlasak, a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front press office, encourages murder. In an interview with the Associated Press, he said he is not encouraging anyone to commit murder, but “if you had to hurt somebody or intimidate them or kill them, it would be morally justifiable.” If saying goodbye is ominous, what does Buddenberg think Vlasak’s comments are? 

I hope the UCPD continue any and all legal activity that will annoy, scare, and threaten Buddenberg. Welcome him to a taste of his own medicine. 

Dennis Lawlor 

Walnut Creek 

 

• 

BOONDOGGLE IN A GREEN CLOAK 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Charles Siegel and other pro-BRT people insist on calling me, and other anti-BRT people, “anti-environmentalists.” 

Sorry, Charles, you are wrong. I am pro-environment, and anti-BRT. 

I, and other pro-environment and anti-BRT people would like to see regional transportation programs which help commuters get out of their cars, which BRT does not. We need to address regional transportation needs, for commuters to Berkeley from Marin and Contra Costa, not just locally from Oakland and San Leandro. Alameda County commuters already have a good network of county transportation options (BART, for example) for people who want to commute from San Leandro or Oakland to Berkeley. BRT does not add much to an already good public transportation system. 

In addition, I and other pro-environment and anti-BRT people would like to see better local public transportation for people in Berkeley who want to get out of their cars, yet still get around town. BRT will actually reduce local public transportation by lengthening the distance between stops along the BRT route. AC Transit has been cutting lines and service locally, and there are no guarantees that this process will not continue. Instead of AC Transit’s extended Van Hool buses, we need a network of mini-buses from residential areas to shopping areas. 

BRT is a boondoggle in a green cloak that will cost lots of money, will disrupt local businesses and neighborhoods, all for saving a few minutes of time on a bus route that already functions quite well without the dedicated lanes. 

We need public transportation that meets public needs, not one created just because there is the opportunity to receive federal funding. 

Anne Wagley 

 

• 

DEEP THOUGHTS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Charles Siegel always makes me think. His July 10 commentary, “Berkeley’s Anti-Environmentalist Movement,” chastising those who oppose the BRT boondoggle, made me think this: How have a group of frightened, stupid, thoughtless, ignorant, selfish, non-introspective, myopic, destructive, backward, small-town nay-sayers who “have not thought much about planning” managed to become “more effective” than the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation? 

If we knew the answer to that, we might solve a lot of problems. 

Sharon Hudson 

 

• 

BRT OPPOSITION IS NOT  

ANTI-ENVIRONMENT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am an opponent of Bus Rapid Transit. I have a degree from UC Berkeley and 30 years of experience in engineering, specializing in efficiency analysis. I also live on Parker Street near College Avenue, and I do not agree with Charles Siegel that people in this neighborhood are a bunch of ignorant villagers who are “against everything.” 

I am opposed to BRT for several reasons. The biggest reason is just that it is unnecessary. Dedicating a lane for buses doesn’t really speed up bus traffic very much. With a traditional shared lane, buses and cars move together at the speed limit. With a dedicated bus only lane, buses still need to obey the speed limit, so they can’t go much faster than they would in a shared lane. All that a dedicated bus lane does is force the cars off the road, which is a very wasteful way to manage an expensive roadway. If a BRT bus runs every 15 minutes, the dedicated bus lane will be empty 99 percent of the time. During the 14 minutes when the bus is not driving down the BRT lane, approximately 100 cars could be using a shared lane. So the capacity of a shared lane could be 100 cars and one bus every 15 minutes, but the capacity of a BRT lane would only be one bus every 15 minutes. This is extremely wasteful, like leaving your shower running while you are at work, or leaving your oven on 24 hours a day. All the money, energy and greenhouse gases that go into building and maintaining a bus lane only go toward the one bus every 15 minutes, whereas for a shared lane, those resources are shared with car traffic. 

Another reason I oppose BRT is because it will move an additional 160 cars per hour onto College Avenue. I don’t know where on College Avenue those cars will go, because College is packed solid at rush hour. None of the BRT people have been able to tell me where those extra 160 cars will go either. I encourage them to explain it to me, if they can figure it out. 

The third reason I oppose BRT is because if it ever gets built, we will be stuck with it for decades, even after it becomes obvious to everyone what a bad idea it is. My neighbors and I will have to put up with more cars speeding down our residential streets, more noise, more pollution, more accidents. And all for nothing, because BRT won’t really fix any of the problems around here. 

Some people are so anxious to appear green that they will back any new project, no matter how foolish, just to act like they are doing something important. The residents of this neighborhood should not have to suffer the consequences of a mistake like BRT. 

Russ Tilleman 

 

• 

TIME TO TAKE A STAND 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

At this point, the “no lane removal without a vote” initiative seems to be Berkeleyans’ only hope of getting representative government on the issue of Bus Rapid Transit. This is unfortunate. On July 8 in special closed session, the Berkeley City Council decided that to pursue litigation in an attempt to remove the item from the November ballot is a mistake. I want to be optimistic about this, but I don’t want to be fooled either, and I suspect that the initiative may not be out of the woods at all with regard to a contentious legal challenge. 

Bear in mind that what is going on here is a struggle to give citizens and residents a say in massive land-use decisions which will affect them, not in small and regulatory decisions which would merely be jammed up by an electoral process. Opponents like to wave their arms about that other idea, but that is misdirection. This is a time when major land-use decisions are made through elite consensus of stakeholders that do not include the public. BRT is a good example because it is only through the “pulling of teeth” that this enormous issue is being guided meaningfully towards public awareness before it is actually a done deal. It is one thing to have the illusion of adequate public process, and quite something else to actually have it. In this case it is needed. 

This initiative is about voter approval on a very specific issue—removal of existing lanes on our streets from general traffic or parking use so that they may be “dedicated” only to buses and/or other high-occupancy vehicles. Such an alteration is not prohibited by the measure. What it does require is a a popular vote on a project-by-project basis. This need for a vote does not affect or apply to bus stops, bike lanes, construction zones, temporary dedications or even permanent lane restrictions as long as the lane in question ultimately remains mixed-use. But opponents would have you believe that the city couldn’t make some routine, minor and even maintenance decisions without voter approval. This is completely bogus. The initiative is well written. 

The real reason that people who are in the know want to stop this initiative is because it might actually stop BRT at the popular level if people think it is a bad idea for Berkeley. But there is an election coming up, and stomping on democracy before an election is unseemly. So it just makes sense from a strategic point of view to see if the initiative can be defeated, and if it can’t, then attack it legally after the election is over. 

People should expect a well-funded campaign to defeat this initiative, full of puffed-up rhetoric and misdirection. This will include misdirection claiming that the machinations of public process on this issue have been stellar, that the whole idea is a practical mess, and that we cannot allow ourselves to be ruled by a few unreasonable obstructionists in the way of progress. Voters should also be wary of a bogus competing initiative designed to confuse everyone and make them both fail. I sincerely hope the City Council will be above using this tactic, but we shall see. 

Joseph Stubbs 

 

• 

BRT BALLOT MEASURE AND THE MORALITY OF THE CAR 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The November ballot will now include a measure to require voter approval for a bus-only lane for Bus Rapid Transit. This is very democratic; maybe we should also vote on line items in the city budget. 

This anti-BRT measure appears to be motivated by the prospect of a bus-only lane for BRT on Telegraph. If that’s the real issue, shouldn’t we simply have a vote on whether to allow bus-only lanes for BRT—or whether we should have BRT at all? Well, there may be some shame about blocking a major improvement in bus service while we are supposed to be implementing a Climate Action Plan which calls for cutting the 29 percent of Berkeley’s greenhouse gas which now comes from cars. 

Is there a moral aspect to driving a car? Should car drivers who refuse to ride the bus be demonized like cigarette smokers in offices and bars? Or does everyone have a moral right to drive a car for all purposes, regardless of the environmental and health consequences? 

I’ve heard people complain about “conversion by ordeal"—feeling compelled to ride buses because traffic is too heavy and/or parking is not to be found. Some people think BRT, with a bus-only lane on Telegraph, would cause more traffic. These people discount the idea that increased bus use might result in fewer cars on the road. If someone does not see themselves using BRT to get to work, it’s easy to believe that other drivers will take the same attitude, that the buses will run empty and just clog the roads for cars. 

We would not need bus-only lanes at all if people going to work chose to ride 60 to a big bus instead of one to a car. Actually, BRT was proposed to motivate this change of behavior by making buses run faster. If we’re going to vote to prevent the BRT from running fast enough, what are we going to do to motivate the mode-shift? 

The group behind the anti-BRT measure claims that if we implement proof-of-payment boarding and deploy hybrid buses, the riders will come, leaving their cars at home. Do any of these people want to sign a pledge to ride their BRT substitute? 

Steve Geller 

 

• 

LEASH LAWS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to encourage people to obey the posted rules for keeping dogs on leash. 

Early this morning, I was in César Chávez Park for a run. At one point a lovely little jackrabbit ran by. Ten minutes later I saw what I presume was the same jackrabbit chased and caught by two otherwise friendly dogs. The dogs were in an area of the park where they are supposed to be on leash. The dogs’ owner and I watched the jackrabbit’s death spasms, which were doubtlessly as upsetting to the dogs’ owner as they were to me. It was a gruesome way to start the day. 

One of the reasons for the rules about dogs being on leash is to protect wildlife. I would like to remind dog owners that in general dogs need to be on leash in Berkeley unless they are within a formally designated off-leash area. 

William McCoy 

 

• 

WATER USE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

A recent issue of the Daily Planet was overflowing with forward-thinking ideas for reducing our water and energy waste to combat both the drought and global warming crises. One letter writer cleverly advocated clotheslines and another proposed bringing back the age of the horse and buggy to replace the modern automobile. Perhaps the most imaginative idea was the proposal for sufficiently long-legged males in a household to urinate directly into the bathroom sink, thus saving a precious toilet flush. This recommendation reminds one of the old acrid-smelling European public toilet pissoires, which either had no plumbing attached to them or were rarely flushed. It’s not a bad idea, even if it discriminates on its face against women, children (who can’t reach the sink), lesbian couples, short-legged Central American immigrants and the disabled in wheelchairs. The old adage, “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” may have been sage advice in the pluvial 1970s when California had about half its current population and was awash in water before the current drastic effects of global warming threaten to turn our oasis state into a barren wasteland. 

In our family, we have gone a step further in our water and energy conservation efforts than just letting the grass dry out or peeing into the sink. We have brought back the chamber pot for everyone to use! Yes, prior to the relatively recent invention of indoor plumbing, for many thousands of years people have used simple, inexpensive reusable bedpans or chamber pots as an indoor bathroom convenience. It requires some adaptation of habits (try not to knock it over in the dark) and the sometimes redolent odors in the house on warm summer nights takes getting used to (imagine a porta-potty on a 105 degree day in the Central Valley), but the water savings are incalculable! Also, we borrowed the communal sponge idea from Asia, rather than continue the use of wasteful and unsanitary toilet paper to save our precious tree and paper product resources. But what about the ultimate disposal problem once the chamber pot nears overflowing? Well, we just pour it all into one large plastic trash can into which we add all of our other pet, garden and kitchen waste to form a nitrogen-rich compost stew (yum!). After a few short weeks, this sludge is ready to refresh your garden soil as peasants have done for countless generations the world over with both human and animal waste. Berkeley should show true communal leadership by handing out city-issued green-plastic chamber pots with the Berkeley city logo to every household as part of our broader recycling, conservation and water reduction program. Remember, as the old saying goes, “waste not, want not!” 

Edna Spector 

 

• 

STILL ALIVE, STILL WRITING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Marvin Chachere begins his July 10 commentary “Absurdity at the Top” by referring to “the late Jacques Barzun” of Columbia University. I’m pleased to report that Jacques Barzun is alive and well and living in San Antonio, where he was still writing as of his 100th birthday last November. 

Edward A. Hoffman 

Los Angeles 

 

• 

BHS CLASSROOM SHORTAGE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley High School desperately needs more classrooms. Ask any of the teachers or students, who number more than 3,000. Teachers have to move from room to room every 50 minutes, so they can’t personalize and enrich classroom environments. Students can’t find teachers to ask about homework assignments or request explanations about materials presented in class. So why, given this critical need, are people who want to continue swimming or maintaining a public-access studio at the Berkeley High campus able to pressure the Berkeley City Council into helping them permanently grab space at the high school? I’d like to run an equestrian camp for teens. How do I get on the city gravy train and abscond with BUSD property for myself and my small band of followers? 

The only place to build more classrooms for BHS is on the BHS campus. Swimmers can go to the Y warm pool, which is two blocks away and the same temperature. Public-access media personnel can set up camp anywhere. BHS students and teachers, however, can’t go elsewhere.  

Our high school students and their long-suffering teachers must have the BHS campus for their own purpose, which is to educate students in adequate classrooms. How can this idea even be controversial? Surely everyone, even in Berkeley, would agree that the best use of school property is to teach, not to provide space for a warm pool or public media access. Putting personal needs above the needs of a school community is the pinnacle of selfishness, and the Berkeley City Council needs to quit interfering with the Berkeley Unified School District’s use of its own property. 

Maureen Burke 

 

• 

CONFLICT IN MAYOR’S RACE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

What is mayoral candidate Zachary Running Wolf going to think when he finds out that Doug Buckwald wrote a commentary with candidate Shirley Dean? Sounds like trouble. One other item the Daily Planet readers might like to know that Becky O’Malley forgot to mention is that Cal is playing the Indian Institute of Technology I think sometime in November. Go Bears!  

Matthew Shoemaker 

 

• 

AFROPHOBIA 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I dread these presidential campaigns. The race card was played against a Greek-American not so long ago, so this year is anybody’s guess. The race card is played because it works and it works because afrophobia is so wide spread, not only in this country, but in the rest of the world as well. I’m pretty up on my history and have never ran across any mention of black folks tinkering with governments in Latin America, nor colonizing anybody, or flooding countries with opium, or sending American families to the desert or dropping atomic weapons. And yet so much fear, ill will and open hostility, even here in “liberal” Berkeley. 

Zac Morrison 

 

• 

FEINSTEIN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

For decades, I have watched the political ascent of Dianne Feinstein—California’s Joe Lieberman—after Dan White’s assassination of George Moscone made her mayor of San Francisco. She has always been a person of limited intelligence but boundless ambition and greed who cloaked her fundamental Republican sympathies in the filmiest of Democratic drag. She has been able to do so while the San Francisco Chronicle covered for her extraordinarily lucrative public-private partnership with her financier husband, Richard Blum (now chair of the UC Regents.) Despite (or because of) her consistent legislative enablement of the Cheney/Bush regime and of the military-industrial-media complex, Chronicle articles often describe her as “California’s respected centrist Democrat” and praise her “bipartisanship.” But then, the Chronicle has always represented those corporate interests who are Feinstein’s real constituents and with whose executives and campaign donors she and her husband socialize at their five lordly mansions. (See my book Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin for the dynastic history of the Chronicle before the Hearsts bought it. For the story of Feinsteins-Blum’s conflict of interest, see Peter Byrne’s investigation at www.bohemian.com/bohemian/02.21.07/byrne-0708.html.) 

Dianne Feinstein went the extra mile on Wednesday, voting against an amendment that would have stripped the already awful FISA bill of immunity for the telecom companies which illegally spied on American citizens. Two days before, she sent her would-be constituents a temporizing letter explaining why she would, once again, give the most unpopular president in history everything he wanted. As with her unconscionable explanation of why she voted to confirm Michael Mukasey as attorney general, she simply restated Bush’s talking points on why he needed legal cover for his crimes.  

In deleting the Fourth Amendment from the Constitution that she swore to defend and uphold, Dianne Feinstein (with Nancy Pelosi earlier) committed an act of bald treason. I urge everyone to vote to censure her and assure that she never holds “public” office again.  

Gray Brechin 

 

• 

BART 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I work in Berkeley and live in Walnut Creek. I take BART to work and in the morning it works OK. The problem is in the evening commute and on Saturday. Take BART from downtown Berkeley to MacArthur. The train going to Walnut Creek is waiting on the other platform. You hustle to get to the train as fast as you can. As soon as you make it on to the platform the train operator shuts the door and you are left waiting for the next train. This is not a one-time deal, it happens all the time and at different times. 

I have seen people run like they are being chased by the Berkeley cops from a peace protest, and they still don’t make it. Saturday is just horrible overall. Hey BART officials, people work on Saturdays, too. 

Serge Blandon 

 

• 

BICYCLE SAFETY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Commenting on the letter from Yolanda Huang in the July 10 issue: I’m sorry her son’s bike was wrecked, glad he wasn’t hurt. Her concerns about safety are very well founded, but I’m afraid that what she proposes as a solution—riding on the sidewalk—is definitely not the answer. I’ve been riding around town for 60 years and have yet to be hit by a car. As a child I rode on sidewalks, but as an adult I make it point not to do it. Absolutely never downtown—if I need to go along the sidewalk I dismount and walk the bike. In quiet neighborhoods I sometimes ride on the sidewalk for short distances if there are no pedestrians, but before I pass a pedestrian I dismount.  

It’s possible to ride on the streets with reasonable safety, but it takes practice and training. Ms. Huang and her son and others could find information about League of American Bicyclists-certified classes on the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC) or Bicycle Friendly Berkeley Coalition (BFBC) websites, or posted at bike shops in the area—try the Missing Link, on Shattuck near University. I was a long-time veteran street rider when I took the League course called “Road 1” in 2002, and I learned an immense amount; the course has definitely contributed to my ongoing survival.  

As a pedestrian, I’ve been hit by bikes—three times in Berkeley—and had any number of frightening near-misses. I’ve inadvertently pushed my garbage bin out of my driveway into the paths of speeding bikes so many times that I now look both ways whenever I step out of my yard, just as if I were crossing a street. I’m large, healthy and robust, it takes a good hit to knock me down, but what if I were 90 years old and frail? People need a place where they’re protected from contact with wheeled vehicles of all sorts, and the way American towns are laid out, the sidewalk is it.  

I strongly disagree with Ms. Huang, I support the law against sidewalk riding downtown. Frankly, I hope she gets that ticket she’s waiting for; it might motivate her to look for a better answer. I think people are people regardless of how they transport themselves, and just as motorists take chances with the safety of cyclists, cyclists will take chances with the safety of pedestrians, and for most of the same reasons—impatience, inattention, and a sort of failure of empathy that crowded conditions seem to bring on. Unhappily, we all need some sensible regulations to remind us to do the right thing—would it were otherwise, but it isn’t.  

David A. Coolidge 

 

• 

DeFREITAS CARTOONS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I really enjoy them. Thanks for the light moments in a dangerous time. 

Richard Phelps 

Oakland 

 

• 

ENABLING PEACE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

We need peace within to enable peace in the wider world. All our efforts to bring forced friendliness and democracy will not have a positive outcome. I hear how we have lost international standing because of our style of dealings with other nations. I don’t believe in forced understanding. I like to talk things over with the people, and wait patiently for good results to emerge. 

War creates fear and leads inevitably to retaliation. We should devote our attention instead to learning about other people’s thought processes. 

Let us also practice staying centered in our own lives and resolving our personal problems with patience. The influence of our peaceful way of resolving small conflicts is bound to ripple out to the wider human community. 

Romila Khanna 

Albany 

 

• 

MAD FOR IRAN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Iran sent a clear signal last week that they have achieved the possibility of mutually assured destruction (MAD). This is the same stalemate we faced with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. 

An aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in regards to military threats, “Our initial response would be to target Israel and set U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf ablaze.” That statement, along with their display of missile capability, makes it plain that Iran could and would destroy the oil ports, refining, and storage facilities of the neighboring gulf states. That action could immediately collapse the entire global economy. 

Defending the straits of Hormuz is irrelevant if there is no oil to ship. The complete ineffectiveness of Israel’s air power and army in stopping Hezbollah’s Iranian supplied missiles is an object lesson on our power to neutralize that threat. 

It is time for us to use the same effective strategy that eliminated the nuclear threat from other chronically belligerent, expansionist powers such as Great Britain and Russia: Establish friendly relations. 

There are no military options unless suicide is an option. It is time to talk. 

Thomas Laxar 

El Cerrito 

 

• 

COLUSA CIRCLE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

A proposal to develop the vacant lot at 401 Colusa Avenue/corner of Ocean View into a three-story building for street-level businesses and three condominiums is being presented at the Contra County Planning Commission Tuesday 22 July at 651 Pine St., Martinez. 

This lot now provides eight to 10 off-street parking spaces. Those spaces will be lost. And, instead of adding more parking for these activities, the proposal provides for 33 percent fewer parking spaces than are required under Contra Costa County guidelines. The Colusa Circle Improvement Association (CCIA) opposes the parking variance that would be needed. 

The 401 Colusa development is not the only one to create parking impacts. Other currently scheduled projects—the Hammond Project and Narsai’s development—have already received parking variances. 

Inadequate parking proposed in the 401 Colusa development will directly affect North Berkeley residents. Overflow parking from the Circle—with additional noise, fumes, and traffic—could spill over to nearby Berkeley streets—eg, Colusa south of the Circle towards Solano Avenue and Visalia on either side of Colusa. 

Increased congestion from parking problems in the Circle can cause back-ups between Solano and Fairmont Avenues at any time of day and, particularly, during morning and evening rush hours. Gridlock produces fumes and diminishes air quality. 

Colusa Avenue is the main vehicle connection between Solano Avenue/Thousand Oaks neighborhood and Fairmont Avenue, El Cerrito Plaza, BART, and freeways. It is used by cars, trucks, AC Transit buses, and bicyclists. Double-parked delivery trucks already impede traffic. 

Residents of North Berkeley shop in the Circle. Without adequate short-term parking it will be difficult to stop and shop at the Market or Semi-Freddi’s. Or leave shoes for repair. With fewer parking spaces, trips to the vet and drop-offs/pick-ups at the nursery school will be more difficult. Walking and biking are not always realistic choices. 

To support the Colusa Circle Improvement Association and its efforts to provide adequate parking, contact Supervisor John Gioia at Jgioia@bos.cccounty.us or Ryan Hernandez, county planner, at RAHern@cd.cccounty.us. 

Barbara Witte 

 

• 

BLUE TOOTH FRAUD 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hello.....Watson? Can you hear me? This is what the new Blue Tooth / Hand and Brain-Free law amounts to. After grappling with this cumbersome technology, which is supposedly created to keep the roads safe from distracted drivers, I can only long for the days when yelling excitedly across a telephone line actually was worth the effort. This new “consumer convenience,” and the law that has brought it on, has got to be one of the biggest frauds that the political machine has ever foisted on the public. Let me understand: It’s OK to turn our visual attention while driving 70 miles an hour, or through rush hour lunacy, to the Lilliputian keypads of our increasingly minuscule cell phones to dial out. Yet, it’s forbidden to “hold the phone to your ear.” It’s legally permissible to diddle around with our GPS devices, and poke through the circumlocutious menus of our car stereos but, hey...hold the phone to your ear while driving? Don’t think so! The biggest irony is that the law is supposed to prevent being distracted by communicating with someone while driving. Hello! Ever heard of passengers? Getting these devices to work with any facility has got to be more dangerous than any of the aforementioned activities that pre-occupy drivers all the time. Meanwhile, politicians and corporations are happily going along for the ride. 

Marc Winokur 

Oakland 

 

• 

REIGN OF TERROR 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As surely as day follows night, Monday morning newspapers will continue to report the killings that occurred in the East Bay over the weekend. In recent weeks there have been as many as five or six murders in a two-day period. Fortunately, there was just one reported shooting in today’s paper—that of a 15-year-old boy—bringing the total murder rate in Oakland this year to 72, with five months remaining. As with all shooting victims, they’re rushed to Highland Hospital where attempts to save them are mostly futile. With bullet-ridden bodies lining emergency rooms, Highland has become a veritable Chamber of Horrors. One can only imagine the high level of stress physicians and nurses experience amidst this gory scene, which is repeated week after week. 

Furthermore, what a nightmare these killings must be for all the good citizens residing in East Oakland, terrorized by senseless drive-by shootings; a mourner killed at a memorial service for his friend shot in a gun battle; a young boy shot while at piano practice, left paralyzed for life; parents losing a son for the second time to gun fire; children forbidden to play outdoors on their own street; and people afraid to step out of their houses in broad daylight. 

For this reign of terror—and how else can it be described—we need look no further than the United States Supreme Court for its shameful rejection of a ban on handguns. With this decision, the court has, in effect, declared that all Americans have a constitutional right to die from gunshot wounds! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 

 

• 

EDGERLY SCANDAL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mr. Allen-Taylor compares Ms. Edgerly to Henry Gardner and Robert Bobb and says that officials and others were quick to pounce because she didn’t have the “natural political defenses” of these two and was unable or unwilling to craft a positive political image or an “independent theory of city governance” by which to measure her accomplishments. 

I would point out that the crucial difference between Ms. Edgerly and the other two is that they were city managers, with extensive power to run the city under the weak-mayor, city-manager form of government. They were appointed by and reported to the City Council. Oakland has a strong-mayor system now. (No, no wisecracks about Dellums as a strong mayor.) Edgerly was city administrator, appointed by and serving at the pleasure of the mayor and accountable to him or her. She was not in a position to develop an independent theory of governance—what a grand notion!—and her job was, or should be, bureaucratic. She was the operations person. 

Big difference. Did Ms. Edgerly function in that capacity and did she administer the rules of city government even-handedly and fairly? We will find out eventually. 

Despite his sometimes insistence that he is not defending her, this does not ring true. Granted that the very serious charges that were bandied about have not been substantiated. But to show up (didn’t she?) during a police operation against a nephew raises at the very least questions about propriety and procedure, and gives the appearance of impropriety (doesn’t it?). In the great world beyond, that is enough for an office holder to take him or herself off the job—with pay of course—while the matter is pending, and gets to make a great speech about allowing the great work of (fill in the blank) to continue unimpeded by these egregious, outrageous, and totally false accusations etc etc. Mr. Allen-Taylor writes elsewhere that her intervention could have been nothing more than concern for a young relative. I find that to be a stretch and again, seems to be part of a defense of her actions. In addition, she’s the damn city administrator! The rules are different. 

Her willingness to thrust herself into this situation raises serious questions, whether criminality is involved or not. Personally, I think that we will find criminal activity in city government, not necessarily directly tied to Edgerly, but to employees with ties to criminal enterprises outside government.  

But coming at a time of serious and brazen crime in Oakland, an apparently somnolent mayor who has lacked either the will or skill to be a political leader in the city, and major efforts to restructure and expand the police department, the city administrator’s intervention hit a nerve with the public, and in my opinion, rightly so. It just smelled real bad and action needed to be taken fast—action based on an appearance of impropriety that would remove the issue from the political workings of the city. A responsible city administrator would have taken him/herself out immediately, in my opinion. 

Jason Mundstuk 

 

• 

JUDGMENT OF HISTORY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

There are certainly reasons to consider impeachment. History will judge Bush, but also judge us for not at least starting impeachment proceedings. 

Harry Gans 

 

• 

MEDIAN STRIP ADVERTISING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I notice lately a plethora of signs for a painting company stuck in the median strips along several streets, including Sacramento and San Pablo. While it doesn’t bother me to have an occasional yard sale sign there (they usually get removed promptly), or even a “Home Open” sign, which is there just for the day of open house, it really rankles to imagine what happens if this precedent is allowed to stand. There will be nothing to stop every other company from taking these much-needed green strips and filling them with advertising. Our visual and psychic spaces are already crammed with ads; enough already, in fact more than enough! How many civic nuisances, from cell-phone overuse to ear-splitting car stereo abuse, got a toehold because people didn’t realize how they would proliferate? 

I suggest that like-minded folks contact the code enforcement office of the city and urge them to have the company remove the signs at once. They violate city code. If you don’t see prompt results.... well, you’ll find that personal action is not difficult. And keep your eyes open for the next attempt to turn the still-uncommercialized parts of our environment into advertising space. 

Peggy Datz 

 

• 

CAL ATHLETICS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In terms of content there were no surprises in your latest editorial about UC Berkeley’s athletics program and our plans for a new training facility. The Planet’s positions are certainly predictable. The tone of the piece was, however, startling. Why all that personal animus? How does vitriol help promote constructive dialogue and debate? 

While the editorial did raise important issues about which reasonable people can disagree, a productive discussion about the role and relevance of athletics at a major research university is difficult when those you differ with are demonized. What follows are but a few examples of how, perhaps, anger and bias are hindering the newspaper’s important pursuit of facts, context and objective analysis without regard for their potential impact on pre-existing opinion. 

The editorial drew an unfavorable comparison between Berkeley and Harvard based on the supposition that our Ivy League pals give short shrift to athletics. Yet, even a cursory review of publicly available information reveals that Harvard’s intercollegiate program is far larger than our own. In fact, it’s the largest Division I program in the country. Whoops. 

Reference was also made to those “untold millions” UC Berkeley spends on athletics. If the Planet had ever asked we would have been delighted to tell you that our annual expenditure is about $9 million, a figure that represents less than one percent of our annual budget.  

The editorial casts doubt on the university’s need for a new facility. That is a legitimate line of questioning, so why not arrange for a reporter to get a first-hand look at the existing infrastructure? Come on over and test your assumptions. Our doors are open. 

Finally, there is the aspersion cast on the viability of our plans to retrofit and improve Memorial Stadium. So, why not seek out truly independent Alquist-Priolo experts who could validate—or challenge—the campus’ complete confidence that the job can and will be done within the confines of the law? You could also place a call to the City of Los Angeles and ask about the valuation model they use when retrofitting structures straddling an active fault line. (Hint: It’s the same as ours.) 

Finally, a word about the personal animus—you might want to hold a bit in reserve just in case we ever actually meet. You could discover a person far more objectionable than you ever imagined…or not. 

Dan Mogulof 

Executive Director 

Office of Public Affairs 

UC Berkeley 

 

• 

BRT HIDDEN AGENDA? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s time for city officials and our planning staff to be honest about the real scope of the proposed Bus Rapid Transit project. Some transportation planners and proponents have acknowledged in candid moments that having a BRT route only on Telegraph (and terminating in downtown Berkeley) really doesn’t make a lot of sense. Some have even admitted that the ultimate goal is to create a network of BRT buses on major streets throughout the whole city, giving exclusive use of many traffic lanes to AC Transit—and in the process, squeezing all cars, trucks, other buses, and bikes off to the side into a single lane. 

Mayor Bates’ comments at the last City Council meeting lend support to this possibility. When discussing ballot language for the citizens’ initiative requiring public input before designating exclusive lanes for BRT, Bates said, “You do Telegraph, then you do Shattuck, then you do University, then you do Solano…” If this really is the BRT master plan, then it should be revealed in detail in the light of day, not in a brief comment late at night at a poorly-attended city meeting. 

It’s time for this Council to start governing in the open, and not just behind closed doors. What has happened to democracy in our city? Is it that they think we are too ignorant to offer reasonable suggestions about our transit needs? Or are they just afraid to let the people have a voice? 

It’s time to let the sun shine on the whole shady BRT planning process. The citizens’ initiative (requiring a vote of the people before giving up our right to use the streets we paid for) is a good first step. 

Casey Silva 

 

• 

BUT CHARLES, IT’S A  

BAD PROPOSAL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his July 10 commentary, Charles Siegel refers to “a petition to stop better public transportation.” What is he talking about? The whole problem with AC Transit’s BRT proposal is that it’s bad public transportation chasing a pot of public money. 

If dedicated lanes were implemented on Telegraph Avenue, the local buses would become a problem. To solve this, AC transit officials have decided that eliminating the local bus stops works for them. Taking away the local stops seems mean-spirited to me; obviously it would be a hardship to riders for whom walking is painful or difficult. 

Most people I’ve talked to want more frequent service with smaller buses. But AC Transit Board member Greg Harper said in a public meeting that that would never happen—bus drivers are too expensive. (If running small buses frequently is too expensive, how would AC afford to run humongous buses frequently for BRT?). 

Emily Wilcox, a Berkeley resident who is disabled, wrote in a June 10 letter to the Planning Commission, “I oppose implementing the elaborate, lane-grabbing, version of Bus Rapid Transit proposed for Telegraph Avenue. My primary reasons are the resulting long-term operating expense increases for a service adjacent to an existing BART line and the consequences of the budget crisis that will inevitably follow.” 

Later in the letter she explains, “. . . In the past, para-transit users have been cut from the service due to the elimination of fixed-routes. One day you are near enough to a fixed-route and eligible. The next day—due to route cuts and the three-fourths mile requirement—you are not.” 

Charlie Betcher, former president of the Bus Rider’s Union, readily signed our petition to require voter approval for dedicated bus lanes. He told me that he heard a news clip reporting that if BRT were successful, AC Transit would be able to cut 50 percent of their local lines. Is that Siegel’s view of better public transportation? It sure isn’t mine. 

Gale Garcia 

 

• 

‘AT-RISK YOUTH’? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was so proud of my kids when I read the article about what they are doing along with eight other kids in South Berkeley, sanding and painting benches. What confused me was the assumption that they are “at-risk” youths, maybe because they said to the reporter that they walk from the B-Tech to Adeline? And the B-Tech is an alternative school for trouble kids. As far as I know these teenagers applied in the Youth Works program from the city of Berkeley in March to get a job in the summer and Youth Works is a completely different program from B-Tech. So, please don’t make assumptions. These children not only are changing the face of a street with their beautiful art but they are showing other kids and the community what they can in their free time. They are also learning how to work, and they chose to do it the hard way. I didn’t tell my kids what job to do during the summer. My daughter had the chance to work at an office but she decided to paint benches and make her own designs and my son is working as a volunteer. 

The article “At-Risk Youth Beautify South Berkeley with Art Projects” should be named “Ten Hard Working Youth Beautify South Berkeley with Art Projects.”  

Diana Ortiz-Rodriguez 

 

• 

BETWEEN THE MINUTES  

AT KPFA 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Subtle ironies make the monthly KPFA board meetings entertaining. There are scenes such as this one that occurred last month, when it was reported that WBAI, the Pacifica sister station in New York, had asked for a loan of $20,000 to send their delegates to a Pacifica National Board meeting. 

That loan request was indignantly and adamantly opposed by several KPFA board members on the grounds that WBAI had grossly mismanaged itself, consequently gone deeply into debt and therefore lacked the money. “I don’t want to send KPFA listeners’ money to a station that’s been so irresponsible!” they declared, one after another. 

It’s true that WBAI is in horrible shape due to years of mismanagement—nothing new about that. But what amazed me was that these zealous watchdogs were all members of the so called “Concerned Listeners” (CL) faction—the very ones who had consistently, year after year, played co-dependent to WBAI, making it possible for the people operating that station to run it into the ground. 

I could scarcely believe my ears. Clearly, the CL faction had seen the light and gotten religion, at long last! Overnight, they’d suddenly become born-again converts to the narrow path of righteousness and responsibility! Or did I miss something? 

Yes, I had indeed missed something: It turns out that when all the votes of the NY station’s election of last fall were finally counted—thanks to a court order—the former ruling faction of that station had lost their majority on their Local Station Board. The mismanagers were out, and new people were in. The ousted faction had been staunch allies of CL & Co. So this meant that the new WBAI board would presumably be sending delegates to the national board who won’t be supporting Pacifica’s management clique. 

Daniel Borgström 

Oakland 

 

• 

DONA AND THE OAK GROVE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Dona Spring really loved the trees in Memorial Oak Grove, and spoke eloquently on many occasions calling for their protection. Let’s save them for her. 

Doug Buckwald 

 

• 

GOP RECORD 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

There ain’t no goodwill left in the GOP! People are losing their jobs, houses, health insurance, and having trouble filling up the gas tank. Yet, Republican and former Texas senator Phil Gramm says: Get over it, it’s all in your head. 

Very real suffering has descended upon tens of millions of Americans; It’s time that we face up to the hard facts. The Bush-led economy and its anti-tax ideology is not working.  

Will four more years of John McCain and war and another Republican administration fix things? Has seven years of George Bush and war and GOP deficit spending created a viable economy? 

Ron Lowe  

Nevada City


BRT: Why the ‘Voter Approval’ Initiative?

By Dean Metzger
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

On July 8 the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to put the “Voter Approval” initiative on the November ballot.  

Already the opposition to the initiative has begun. The first and most typical complaint against any initiative is that it is poorly written. Don’t believe it—this initiative does what it is supposed to do—it lets you, the voter, have a say in how our streets are to be used.  

The second common argument is that the initiative process is a bad way to legislate. Many would agree with this, but there are times when elected officials make laws that are potentially so detrimental to their constituents that citizens must take direct action.  

If our City Council actually approved any one of AC Transit’s three proposals for BRT with dedicated lanes, it would be massively detrimental to our neighborhoods and the local business community. The fourth option, the no-build option, would get the whole BRT issue back to the drawing board where a better, more effective plan could be developed. 

Over the past months and years there have been meetings and workshops discussing BRT. At one such meeting Alan Tobey, representing a group called Friends of BRT, was asked if that group would still support BRT if the final environmental impact report confirmed the draft EIR’s claim that “there would be no environmental improvements from this project.” Alan’s answer was to wait and see, and that the final EIR would solve the problems with this project. Yet the draft EIR and the plan within is the only document available to the public, and it shows BRT’s goals to be marginal at best. Once the final EIR is released, it will likely be approved in the form of the draft, and no mitigations will be required.  

The six members of Friends of BRT argue that the initiative is anti-environment, the result of fear of the unknown, and anti- public transit. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those of us who are working to improve public transportation want plans that actually accomplish that purpose.  

BRT supporters need to look at reality and join the forces for positive change instead of trying to support anything that moves. 

The city planners have already started whining that the initiative will make them prepare a comprehensive plan and put it to the public for a vote before it can be implemented. Well, shouldn’t the public know in detail what is likely to happen to them before it is approved?  

The talk about added cost is nonsense. Projects have to be planned—at a cost. Why is this any different? This is just an excuse to try to get the voters to defeat the initiative. Election costs are another bogus argument. The City of Berkeley must hold elections every two years anyway. There is no reason why special elections need to be held. Planning for any large project (BRT is huge) takes multi-years and should be timed to be presented on the city’s election cycle. In short, with proper planning, the cost of this initiative would be minimal. 

With all of the hysterics focused on the initiative by its opponents, they forget that this initiative does not stop the BRT project. All it says is that if the City Council is to give away city property to any project restricting use of our streets, the voters must have the final say—yes or no! What could be more democratic than that? 

Any project that is well thought out, planned, and benefits the community will get the support of the voters. BRT as currently configured just doesn’t fit; nor does it qualify as a good project that will accomplish the goal of getting people out of their cars and onto public transportation. 

 

Dean Metzger is a resident of the Claremont-Elmood neighborhood. 

 

 

 


Bright Light of Epiphany Shines Through the Trees

By Katlin Moore
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

In responding to Michael Stephens’ July 10 letter, “The Tree Sit Saga,” in which he criticizes my July 3 commentary, “City Must Continue Lawsuit Against UC,” I would just like to say that Mr. Stephens’ glaring rationality helped me to see the folly of my views, and I have now come around to his way of thinking. 

Mr. Stephens took me to task for asserting that the Memorial Stadium oak grove is a Native American burial ground. In believing it to be so, I must admit I was swayed by a document written by UC professors Alfred Kroeber and Robert Lowie. These two founders of California anthropology identified a skeleton found at the Memorial Stadium excavation site as “an adult male Native American between the ages of 25 and 30.” I was also influenced by a collection of archaeological reports published from 1907 to the mid 1950s, which describe 18 Native American skeletal remains unearthed within a 400-yard radius of Memorial Stadium. Richard Schwartz, our accomplished and longtime Berkeley historian, has said, “We don’t know the parameters of the burial site, but let’s find out before we blaze ahead [with the proposed construction] because once it’s gone, it is lost forever.” 

But even in the absence of such evidence, it would be my inclination to respect the wishes of today’s tribal leaders. These leaders have stated their opposition to the destruction of the oak grove and have deemed it a sacred place…for whatever reason. Our indigenous peoples have historically and unjustly lost and suffered a great deal, and the very miniscule-least I can do is to give support to their modest requests, and to honor what remains of their culture. 

But as I explained, Mr. Stephens brought about a change of heart in me, and now I realize that I should try to be more like UC Chancellor Birgeneau, who recently refused to meet with tribal leaders who were asking for the release of the 13,000 Native American remains stored in the basement of the Phoebe Hearst Museum. Apparently, it is the UC way to disrespect Native Americans, both past and present. I guess I need to get with the program. 

In my Stephens-inspired epiphany, I now understand that absolutely nothing comes before, or should ever take precedence over the possibility of creating an enhanced football experience. A new concrete sports training facility sitting on top of those bothersome trees would most certainly provide this. I therefor plan to contact the Sierra Club to let them know that their desire to preserve the grove is misguided and that football surely must come before their petty environmental concerns. In this manner, I will also call the California Native Plant Society and the California Oak Foundation. I will inform these eco-do-gooder organizations, that their efforts to protect and preserve an ecologically invaluable grove of healthy, gene-producing coast live oaks is not as important as producing football-generated profits for corporate entities posing as institutions of higher learning…such as UC Berkeley. 

At $120 million, it is of course expected and assumed that the proposed sports training facility will create some sort of super-winner type of athletes. This makes total sense, as everyone knows—that lifting weights inside of a new building makes one much stronger than lifting weights inside of an old building. 

I will also contact Frank Buckles, the last surviving World War I veteran, to let him know that his stated opposition to the destruction of the grove should be recounted. I will inform him that white, upper-middle-class Cal alumni driving in from Moraga for an enhanced football experience are vastly more important (and profitable) than honoring his service, and the memories of his 95 comrades in arms who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

Any fool can look around the UC campus and see that there is an annoying excess of irreplaceable, old-growth groves of coast live oaks. On the other hand, there is a dire shortage of man-made concrete structures. Especially now, with the earth succumbing to carbon emissions and global warming, more than ever, we need more buildings and less mature trees. 

I feel much better now that I have learned how an enhanced football experience, is worth any price, no matter how great. 

 

Katlin Moore is a Berkeley resident.


Crazier Than Thou

By Ted Friedman
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

If cities were comedians you could say Berkeley and San Francisco are riffing on each other. Each claims to be crazier. Why they would claim bragging rights is unclear. 

But that some sort of crazy image battle is being waged between the Goliath (San Francisco) and David (Berkeley) shows through the fog. Items: a satiric (and fictional) off ramp sign “Berkeley/making SF lass crazy since 1876” (Chronicle, Jun. 30) is not far from truth and may be predictive. Fanciful? Then how else to explain the yearly parade (How Berkeley Can You Be?) in which “eccentrics” compete for honors under police protection; or Berkeley’s weird jay-walking, skateboarding, bicycling, running in streets pattern which causes honking motorists from dullsville to think they’ve entered some twilight zone (who would say they haven’t?). Warning, twilight zone ahead. 

San Francisco, as depicted in SF Weekly in July, counters with a front-page article, “Non-conformity still reigns.” For non-conformity, read the less euphemistic “crazy.” 

Put up or shut up. Our crazies versus theirs. 

They nominate “the crooner” who addresses the San Francisco Board of Supervisors with a song medley, “a dreamy gleam in his eyes.” We’ll see that and raise with Ricky Starr and Rare. Ricky is long gone, banished from campus by those tsk-tsking UC authorities for whom intonation trumps spectacle. Rare, still active (like a volcano); his roar has a tonality beyond anything Rick could belt. What is he roaring about? “How do you like your meat…then comes the roar, “R-A-R-E.” His athletic prowess (25 chin-ups on a street sign) has declined but the roar rises to compensate. 

San Francisco counters with “The Exhibitionists,” two Castro-ites, nude males wearing “cock rings and the occasional hat.” Oops. Berkeley may be on the ropes here, having clothed its most notorious nudes. Some referee might award them points for the rings, though, (or the hat). 

San Francisco also has “The Good Samaritan,” who mocks snobs in the Castro between “good deeds.” Lame. Besides, Berkeley wins with our Jesus freaks at Haste and Telegraph, who mock religion while performing the good deed of proffered salvation, albeit as a pre-payment on their own heaven ambitions. 

San Francisco’s “Dog Father” seems nothing more that a Schnapps sipper with a dog and a death wish. But if they want to brag about their tippling (and haven’t they for a century?), Berkeley has a distinction or two in socially approved drinking, its students besotted from dangerous experiments. (For example, the student who fell to his death this year from his roof after his commencement.) And does anyone recall the notorious renegade dorm, the Chateau, where not too many years ago they climbed en mass to their roof, brazenly challenging an electric storm, yelling, pounding their chests—defiant, very drunk, then scampered down as the first lightning crack came close? Just when their last gasp of the ’60s peaked, they clashed with the Hillegass neighbors, were purged, and entered into Cal history, a curiosity. 

It’s not even close. Berkeley owns crazy or eccentric, Berzerk, weird, funky. Berkeley’s just more. Bring on the signs, just get it right. This is one screwy place and we love it. 

 

Forty-year Berkeley resident Ted Friedman has been a newspaper reporter, university instructor, and a syndicated feature writer.


Following in Dona’s Tire Tracks

By Jean Stewart
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

I want to thank Becky O’Malley for her heartfelt, intelligent, respectful appreciation of Dona Spring (see front page). I met Dona soon after moving to California 14 years ago. We had a warm collegial relationship; I greatly admired her work, and I think she had high regard for mine. The various causes to which she committed her time and energy were and are passionate commitments for me as well, including peace and social justice, disability rights, animal rights, and defense of the oak grove and the protesters perched in its branches. 

But I want to focus here on an issue to which O’Malley’s remembrance gracefully refers, an issue which seems to me to come into sharper focus as we think about and honor Dona’s life. Yes, she was a great role model, especially for those of us in the disability community who continue to struggle for our rights. O’Malley writes: “People who lack Dona’s experience (that’s most of us, after all, thank goodness) are prone to make knowing comments about the importance of ‘quality of life’ for physically challenged people. What such comments often miss is that your quality of life can and should be whatever you make of it.” I recall an editorial by O’Malley, in the wake of Terri Schiavo’s horrific death in March 2005, in which O’Malley, virtually alone among progressive commentators, took the brave position obliquely reiterated here. “There’s a clear implication,” O’Malley wrote then, “in some of these discussions [of proposed “death with dignity” bills] that the life of a disabled person is somehow lacking in dignity, no matter how much bill sponsors choose to deny it.” 

Yes, one’s quality of life is what one makes of it. It seems so simple, so obvious, doesn’t it? No one else—not judges, not lawyers, not family members, not doctors, not legislators, and not the non-disabled public at large—has a right to pronounce judgment as to the “quality” of our lives. In casting the issue as a “self-determination” or “freedom of choice” (or worse, as a “right to die”—what a revealing locution!) issue, the progressive community as a whole completely ignores the uneven playing field inherent in our disability-phobic culture—the fact that our lives are NOT valued, that we are viewed by those who, as O’Malley tactfully put it, lack Dona’s experience, as objects of pity rather than as equal players. They also conveniently ignore the profit motive which drives health care in this country. Put bluntly, our medical care costs more, and our lives are worth less.  

O’Malley pointed out, in her 2005 editorial, that there is an impulse, on the part of the so-called death with dignity movement, “to applaud the human tendency to say ‘I don’t want to be a burden,’ though it often arises from...low self-esteem.” What might lead a person with a disability living in 21st-century America to say to a doctor/judge/family member, Please end my life, I don’t want to be a burden? Those who “lack Dona’s experience” fail to frame this question, rushing to embrace disabled people’s “right to die”—and make no mistake, those who request assistance in committing suicide are overwhelmingly people with disabilities—without examining the factors that contribute to such despair. 

Let’s envision an imaginary suicidal disabled man, and compile a checklist. If his disability is the result of injury, did he receive adequate rehabilitation following the trauma? What are the conditions of his daily life? Is he treated respectfully by the people who most impact, and hold power over, his life, and by the public in general? Is his home, and the built environment he traverses (including public transportation), accessible? Does he receive appropriate and timely medical treatment, including palliative care for pain? Does he receive the daily assistance he requires, whatever form that might take—help with eating, dressing, bathing and personal hygiene, perhaps sign language interpreters, Braille, navigational assistance, etc? Is he employed, and if so, how is he treated by his boss and coworkers, and if not, why not? Why is the unemployment rate among people with disabilities so appallingly high? (67 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.) When he sank into depression and expressed the wish to end his life, did he receive counseling, or was it simply assumed that anyone with his level of disability would naturally want to die? Does he have access to any disabled role models who might juxtapose, against the soul-crushing stigma associated with disability, images of disabled people (like Dona) living strong, vital, creative lives? 

Some say we gimps here in the East Bay live in a bubble, compared with gimps elsewhere in the country. Perhaps the relative, perceived ease of our lives makes it harder for non-disabled folk here to connect the dots and consider the issue on a global, social-justice level. Certainly the trappings of our built environment (curb cuts, public buildings, buses and trains, etc.) are more accessible here than elsewhere in the United States, thus enabling us to be more visible, which gives us the semblance of equality. No snow banks to surmount in winter. A statewide in-home attendant program which allows the more fortunate among us disabled Californians to remain in our homes and communities and not be abandoned in nursing homes against our will when we need a little help with daily living. 

Yes, we’re a lucky lot, we Bay Area gimps. But oops, I forgot about the residents of Laguna Honda, world’s largest, industrial-strength nursing home, in San Francisco. Shall we ask those 1,200 trapped souls if they feel lucky? And oops, I forgot about Bob, my deaf friend whose recent attempts to renew his driver’s license brought him face-to-face with a DMV that seemed utterly oblivious of its obligation to accommodate his communicational needs, causing him multiple trips to the office, many long hours of waiting, and months of anguished worry. And oops, hmmm. I forgot about Dona! “When she was no longer able to maneuver around Berkeley’s notoriously inaccessible City Council chamber, she telecommuted, participating in council meetings by speakerphone from her home after a legal battle over her right to do so.”  

O’Malley rightly extols Dona’s bravery, her tenacity, her intelligence, her intuitive grasp of issues, her uncomplaining (about her physical deterioration and chronic pain) nature. But what if, for the sake of argument, she had occasionally (or frequently), justifiably, complained, annoying others around her and rendering them less than sympathetic? Or what if she’d been blessed with a lesser intellect, or less determination? What if, confronted with the inaccessibility of City Council chambers, and the legal battle over her right to participate in council meetings by speakerphone, she’d felt overwhelmed by the injustice of it all? And what if, acting out of that deadly (and all too familiar to us disabled folk) sense of overwhelm, she had decided to throw in the towel? What if she’d requested assistance in dying? Faced with the decision whether or not to extinguish her life, would a doctor/judge have identified the locus of her despair as the injustice of her disability (thus an irremediable stroke of fate), or as the injustice of the City Council’s refusal to accommodate her disability (an entirely remediable problem)? 

In its zeal to defend “the principle of personal autonomy,” “right to die” adherents decline to examine such environmental and social justice factors. They wax grandiloquent regarding “our Anglo-American legal tradition of personal autonomy in the right to self-determination,” harkening back to 19th-century philosopher John Stuart Mill’s widely quoted: “over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.” In reviewing the case of one California quadriplegic’s wish for suicide assistance, the California Supreme Court upheld his request, invoking this very passage by Mill. “Each man [sic],” they intoned, “is considered to be master of his own body...Our society has a long-standing tradition of recognizing the unique worth of the individual.” 

One cannot help but be struck by the hypocrisy of these words. Were our sovereignty over our own bodies and minds, our unique worth as individuals, as rigorously supported in our pursuit of full equality as it has been upheld in our pursuit of death, many of our sisters and brothers who have tragically been “helped” to die would probably still be with us. 

Dona was my sister in struggle. Like hers, my disability—though less apparent than hers—involves chronic pain and significantly limits my daily activity. Like Dona, I require assistance with various activities. (For example, I’m using speech recognition software to type these words.) Like her, I’m frequently unable to sit up in my scooter. And like Dona, I defy the privileged, non-disabled, white “right to die” movement (a movement from which poor people of color are conspicuously absent, perhaps because they’re too busy defending their right to live) to argue that my life somehow has less dignity than theirs. As anyone who knew her can attest, Dona glowed with dignity. 

In 1997, when the Supreme Court took up the issue of physician-assisted suicide, I joined a hardy band of my disabled comrades in front of the court’s stately headquarters in Washington D.C. Dona would have approved my scrawled sign: HANDS OFF MY PLUG! 

You’re right, Becky: Dona loved her life, and lived every inch of it with singular clarity, focus and zeal. Thank you for recognizing her worth, her inherent dignity. And thank you, Dona, for your passionate commitment to justice. Bless you. May the rest of us, shouldering your legacy, follow in your tire tracks. 

 

Jean Stewart is an El Sobrante writer, activist for disability rights and for peace and social justice activist, and author of The Body’s Memory.


Dona Spring’s Bevatron Resolution

By Mark McDonald
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:57:00 AM

With a profoundly heavy heart I received the sad news of the sudden passing of Berkeley City Councilmember Dona Spring, whom I called my friend. I frankly cannot now even try to quantify her positive impact on our town and the thought of moving forward without her leadership weighs hard. I truly appreciated her “big tent,” include-everybody vision of a progressive community and her self-effacing respect-for-everybody personal manner.  

Most of all I appreciated being able to run to her office at the last minute with some item or request and not having to spend time explaining a cause, because Dona always got it. When it came to protecting the well-being of the community or standing up for the rights of any member of the public, Dona always got it. I never observed any qualms or hesitation as she assailed the powerful for any constituent’s benefit. The powerful were wary of her and made efforts to unseat her.  

Over the 30 years I have lived in Berkeley I have come to the unfortunate and alarming conclusion that the health and well-being of the people who live in Berkeley are not the concerns of those who operate the University of California (UC Regents), the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (managed by UC for the Department of Energy) or their pro-development local supporters . Too often Berkeley’s elected representatives have been hesitant to upset the cozy “town-gown” relationship between the city government and the UC/LBNL hierarchy. Dona was never invited or interested in this club and was always there to speak for the best interests of Berkeley citizens. When it came to standing up to the latest expansionist development projects by the UC/LBNL complex and their impact on the average citizen, Dona always got it. When it came to criticizing UC/LBNL’s relationship to government to skirt development-impact laws, Dona always got it. When it required applying new thinking and principles around development to counteract the worsening environmental crisis, Dona was there in the lead.  

The most recent example of her leadership, thanks to Councilmember Max Anderson, is her item still scheduled for the July 22 Berkeley City Council meeting regarding the proposal to demolish the Bevatron, a huge historical accelerator facility at LBNL. Community members have been conducting a frustrating campaign for several years to convince the public and the DOE to preserve this facility and convert it to an educational and historical landmark. The four Nobel prizes awarded for work there, the anti-proton discovery there, the unique truss system and circular building with a cone shaped roof are all reasons why the facility is unique and usable as a badly needed Science museum for the older kids who outgrow the Lawrence Hall of Science children’s center. The $84 million designated for the demolition is badly needed to clean up LBNL’s underground radioactive and hazardous waste plumes which are spreading and threatening Berkeley’s and other local city’s water systems.  

Dona was the council’s only member of the Green Party and early on was a proponent of new guiding principals regarding waste generation and handling. Sealing lead paint onto house walls, not dredging waterway channels, and whenever possible leaving radioactive substances to decay in place and hazardous materials sealed rather than excavating and spreading has become a necessary option to hauling and dumping one community’s poisons onto another already overburdened community. Dona shared our concern about the proposed 4700 truck trips through Berkeley of low level rad-waste, asbestos, mercury and other extremely toxic substances which are safely locked up in the Bevatron structure but will become airborne when demolished. She understood that LBNL unlike the other national laboratories is unusual in that there is no buffer zone between their facilities and local occupied residential buildings. She supported our efforts to obtain an overall analysis of the impact of so many truck trips in such a small town already over-run with heavy equipment trucks during our current building bonanza, with last years two fatalities from construction truck accidents in mind. 

Folks concerned about the Bevatron demolition can show up at council chambers at 7 p.m. July 22 and offer public comment, write letters and/or contact the mayor and councilmembers. The only sincere way we can honor her spirit is to continue her work which I feel comfortable saying is what she would want. 

 

Mark McDonald is a Berkeley resident.


Columns

Dispatches From The Edge: Iran and Israel—To the Edge?

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:47:00 AM

Will they, or won’t they? Is Israel on a collision course with Iran, or is all the recent saber rattling about Israeli politics?  

On the “whack Teheran” side of the equation are several hair-raising statements and a recent war game that practiced just such an attack. 

Last month, Shaul Mofaz, Israel’s Transport Minister and a deputy prime minister, said “If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective.” Such an attack was becoming “unavoidable,” he added. 

Such talk is hardly new. Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter made it clear last December that Israel does not accept the conclusion of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran halted its nuclear weapon program in 2003. Dichter warned that “The American misconception concerning Iran’s nuclear weapons is liable to lead to a regional Yom Kipper [referring to the 1973 surprise attack on Israel] where Israel will be among the countries threatened.” Dichter is the former head of Israel’s internal intelligence agency, Shin Bet. 

According to Agence France-Presse, Shabtai Shavit, the former head of Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence organization, estimates Iran will have a nuclear weapon within “somewhere around a year” and, if sanctions don’t derail its current program, “what’s left is a military action.” 

Prime Minster Ehud Olmert also rejects the U.S. intelligence finding, as do President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. In a meeting with Cheney last March, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that “no option” against Iran would be ruled out. 

In April, National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Elizer warned that if Iran attacked Israel—a scenario virtually no one outside of Israel and the White House thinks is credible—it “would lead to the destruction of the Iranian nation.” Speaking on the eve of a five-day national civil defense exercise, Ben-Elizer said, “The Iranians are aware of our strength but continue to provoke us by arming their Syrian allies and Hezbollah,” suggesting that the Israelis might also hold Teheran responsible for any dust-up with Syria or Lebanon. 

Writing in the Beirut Daily Star, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer says he considers it “likely” that Israel will attack Iran before Bush leaves office. “The threat of another military confrontation hangs like a dark cloud over the Middle East.” Fischer speculates “that during his visit, Bush gave Israel the green light for an attack on Iran.” 

Former U.N. delegate and designated neo-conservative berserker John Bolton recently said much the same thing, predicting an attack after the U.S. elections but before Bush leaves office. 

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and currently with the Brookings Institute, told Reuters, “History shows Israel will use force to maintain its monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East,” and conjectures that “Israeli leaders may see the last few months of a friendly Bush administration as a window of opportunity.”  

Lastly, in late May and early June, Israeli Air Force war games (code name: “Glorious Spartan 08”) practiced long-range bombing attacks, as well as search and rescue operations, over the eastern Mediterranean. Israeli aircraft destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and bombed a site in Syria last year, claiming it was a nuclear facility. 

But all this bombast is hardly a reflection of general sentiment in Israel. According to a poll conducted by Shivuk Panorama last December, two-thirds of the Israelis are opposed to attacking Iran. Asked “Should Israel alone attack the Iranian nuclear installations?”, 67.2 percent said no, 20.9 percent said yes, and 11.9 percent had no opinion. 

There was also a sharp backlash at Mofaz for his “inevitable” attack remark. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai charged that Mofaz’s comments were a “cynical use of central strategic issues for internal political reasons.” 

Mofaz is positioning himself in the ruling Kadima government to take over should Olmert be brought down by corruption charges currently pending against him. Mofaz, a hawk on security issues, is trying to outmaneuver the more centrist Foreign Minster Tzipi Livni, who also has her eye on the prime minister post. 

Indeed, Livni has privately pooh-poohed the Iranian threat. Late last year, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that “in a series of closed discussions,” the Foreign Minister’s opinion was “that Iranian nuclear weapons did not pose an existential threat to Israel.” According to Haaretz correspondents Gidi Weitz and Na’ama Lanski, “Livni also criticized the exaggerated use that Prime Minster Ehud Olmert is making of the issue of the Iranian bomb, claiming that he is attempting to rally the public around him by playing on its most basic fears.” 

The Israeli press unanimously denounced Mofaz’s threat. Haaretz pointed out that his remark raised the price of oil $11 a barrel, adding “On the one hand that is impressive productivity; on the other it is scary. What is he planning for us during the real campaign? A world war? A clash of the Titans?” 

An Israeli foreign ministry official told Agence France Press “Everyone in the country understands his motives are election-related, but making statements like this puts Israel in a very awkward position internationally.” 

Speaking on Israeli Public Radio, a “senior defense ministry official” said Mofaz’s comments were “irresponsible and do not reflect the position of our government.” Even right-wing Likud Party MP Yuval Steinitz said Mofaz was “completely irresponsible to say these kind of things.” 

So who’s on first? 

There is no doubt that Mofaz is trying to carve out a position on the right, partly to distinguish himself from Livni, partly to steal some thunder from right-wing Likud champion Benjamin Netanyahu. But Dichter’s and Shavit’s remarks reflect a powerful section of the Israeli establishment that is not shy about using military force to settle political questions, be it with neighboring countries or in the Occupied Territories.  

Could Israel pull off such an attack? According to an Israeli assessment uncovered by the Financial Times, yes. 

Israeli planes armed with 2,000 lb and 5,000 lb laser-guided U.S. bunker busters would attack the Iranian enrichment plant at Natanz, and the heavy water production reactors at Arak. Submarine-fired cruise missiles would take out the light water reactor at Bushehr.  

Israeli planes would probably emerge relatively unscathed. The only thing the Iranians can throw up against them are ancient F-4 Phantoms, a very good plane in its day, but now 40 years old. Israel’s U.S.-made F-15 and F-16, packing U.S. Sidewinder air-to air-missiles, would make short work of them. Iran may have purchased Russian SA-20 anti-aircraft missiles, but nothing has been fielded yet. 

That such an attack would halt Iran’s nuclear program is doubtful. Iran has put most of its nuclear facilities underground and reportedly has dispersed them widely. 

Since Turkey and Syria would refuse to allow Israeli planes to fly over them, Israel would have to cross Jordan and then Iraq to launch the attack. The Jordanians would object, but there is little they could do about it, in part because they don’t have the military capacity to resist, in part because Amman is pretty much in hock to the United States. 

Because the United States controls Iraqi airspace, Washington would be in the middle of all this even if an American plane never left the ground. The Baghdad government would certainly protest, but it has even less military capabilities and political juice than the Jordanians. Washington would politely tell Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to stuff it. It is even possible that the United States would join the attack.  

An analysis by the Financial Times suggests that Tel Aviv’s threats might be aimed at convincing the United States that an Israeli attack was “inevitable,” thus pressuring Washington “to launch one itself to improve the chances of success.” 

However, the U.S. military (with the exception of the Air Force) seems less than enthusiastic about undertaking such an attack. Speaking to reporters July 2, Admiral Michael Mullen, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned about the dangers of opening a “third front,” and instead called for a “dialogue” with Iran.  

According to Anthony Cordsman of the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies, during Mullen’s recent trip to Israel the admiral warned the Israelis that the United States would not back an attack on Iran. 

The recent expose of the Bush administration’s efforts to destabilize Iran using U.S. Special Forces and ethnic minorities clearly was leaked to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh by high-ranking military officers unhappy with the prospect of yet another war in the Middle East. 

Nevertheless, a non-binding resolution heavily promoted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—H.Con.Res.362—is currently winding its way through the House and the Senate The legislation essentially calls for a U.S.-enforced blockade of Iran. It would prohibit “the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program.” 

A blockade is a violation of international law. It is also an act of war.  

The fallout from a war with Iran—some of it nuclear, most of it political—would be severe. It could ignite a regional war, and even if the Iranians don’t manage to close the Straits of Hormutz, oil prices would likely double (or triple). That, in turn, would send food costs, energy prices, and transportation expenses through the roof. 

Israeli analyst Alex Fishman sees the threats directed at Iran as part of a campaign to create a crisis “until someone blinks.” The problem with that strategy, he points out, is that “threats have a dynamic of their own … what happens if the Iranians don’t blink?” 

 

 

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Undercurrents: Media Treatment of Jackson-Obama Flap Obscures Underlying Issues

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:50:00 AM

Chinese-American author of Bone Fae Myenne Ng was at Moe’s Books in Berkeley this week, presenting her new novel in a dialogue with Berkeley author Ishmael Reed. Ng revealed that she had been a student years ago in Reed’s creative writing class at UC, saying that as one of three Asian-American students in the class the experience was “traumatic.” 

Perhaps thinking there was some juicy cross-ethnic rivalry to be revealed, given that Reed is well-known for his prickly advocacy of African-American causes, an audience member asked her to explain her brief comment. Ng replied that it was Reed’s “thoughtful” teaching method that helped bring her talent out. The problem for her and the other Asian-American class members, she explained, was that the stories they had to tell were private and very painful, and all of them came from a society and background that taught them to keep such revelations within their own group or family, or to themselves. 

It was refreshing, so refreshing, to hear such admissions of modesty and circumspection in these modern American times, living as we do in an era in which a major national pastime is the watching of people toss their soiled underwear at each other, back and forth, for the titillation and pleasure of any audience willing to sit and see. Like the sideshow freaks who used to work the old P.T. Barnum carney crowds, the purpose of such spectacles is not to solve the problem, or even to draw empathy or understanding. The purpose is merely to be entertained, consequences be damned. 

And so we have the national reaction to the recent troubles between the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, in which Mr. Jackson muttered to a companion—under his breath, but caught by a Fox News microphone—that he was going to “cut [Obama’s] nuts off” because of Mr. Obama’s recent activities. “I was in a conversation with a fellow guest on Sunday,” Mr. Jackson later explained to CNN. “He [the fellow guest] asked about Barack’s speeches lately at the black churches. I said he comes down as speaking down to black people.”  

There was widespread speculation that the immediate cause of Mr. Jackson’s ire was a Father’s Day speech recently given by Mr. Obama in which the presidential candidate said, among other things, that “if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing—missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.” Mr. Obama noted that this was especially true of the African-American community. 

“The moral message must be a much broader message,” Mr. Jackson later said to CNN in explaining his concerns with Mr. Obama. “What we need really is racial justice and urban policy and jobs and health care. That’s a range of issues on the menu.” 

That implied that the difference between the two men centered, perhaps, on who was responsible for correcting problems within the African-American community—African-Americans ourselves, or the broader community and government. That’s an important topic of discussion. But that’s not how the discussion got played out. 

I was watching CNN the morning the controversy broke, and Wolf Blitzer played it as tantalizing as an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Rather than quoting Mr. Jackson’s “cut his nuts off” remark—or use the euphemism “castration,” which was modest enough and would have worked just as well—Mr. Blitzer said that Mr. Jackson’s remarks were “too crude to be repeated on television,” and then proceeded to hold a discussion with on-the-air correspondents about the meaning of remarks that he, Mr. Blitzer, could not repeat. That any cable television station would blush at using the term “nuts” is fairly laughable in and of itself. But the omission had an effect, deliberate or not. It caused viewers to continue to watch the segment, hoping that Mr. Blitzer would give in and repeat what he had insisted could not be said on CNN, at the same time emphasizing and re-emphasizing the “cut his nuts off” remark itself, rather than the serious, underlying debate on the condition of the African-American family and community, and the various responsibilities therefore, being conducted at a distance between Mr. Jackson and Mr. Obama. Within hours, few print or online media outlets hesitated to reprint the “cut his nuts off” quote, and their treatment of the controversy—predictably—centered more upon the possible personal conflict between Mr. Jackson and Mr. Obama, rather than the underlying issue. 

But let’s get to the issue. 

The condition of the African-American community, and social network and institutions, and family, are a cause of deep concern among many African-Americans, far more than we write or talk about outside our community or close inner circle. The causes of this condition are easily evident, and anyone with a running knowledge of African-American and American history can tick them off on their fingers without any trouble. 

African-American writer and political-social activist Makani Themba, to whom I was married for a time, used to say that the Black Family was illegal for the first years of the African-American existence in this country. Extra-legal might be a more accurate statement. Few, if any, laws governed the practice of African slavery in this country, so that its regulations were set by local custom and the whims and economic interests of the slavers and the planter class. Marriage and close family connections amongst captive Africans were rarely encouraged even by the most benevolent of slavemasters and in many cases it was actively discouraged, since such practices interfered with plantation discipline, as well as with the ability of slavemasters to sell off individual family members for economic reasons. Among African men especially—most of whom had no economic responsibility for the raising of their children and many of whom never got the opportunity to even see their offspring—the practice was particularly devastating, fostering—among some—a lifestyle in which children were someone else’s problems. 

This was distinctly different from the culture of the African societies from which the African captives were kidnapped, cultures in which the idea of orphans was odd and foreign, and which the raising of children was the responsibility of the entire village (yes, dear, the saying that Hillary Clinton later appropriated was grounded in African reality). 

Of course, these pre-colonial African societies were almost identical in this way to almost every pre-capitalist rural society around the world, where the raising and educating of children more often than not was considered a communal responsibility. 

The difference between African slavery-era immigrants to America and all other immigrants was that African immigrants came with our cultural institutions smashed and scattered. Africa has the longest history of human habitation and, in those long years, has developed the most diverse population on this earth. For the most part, these language, religious, and cultural groups were separated and sent to different farms and plantations to keep captives divided and to prevent them from conspiring to run away or otherwise rebel. While indigenous African religion survived to this day, it had to do so hidden, mixed—for one example—among the Catholic saints, and important African cultural and communication institutions such as the drum were banned outright on pain of death or dismemberment. 

The result of these practices was that African-American culture had to be built sometimes from scratch, patching together a conglomerate of African and European customs, traditions, and institutions. 

This patchwork culture held remarkably well, both through the end of slavery and through the Hundred Years of Terror that followed, the dark years when the fires of the Abolitionists and the Union soldiers had burned out and when the greater nation abandoned African-Americans as a cause and left us mostly to our own devices and the terrorist mercies of the segregationists. Anchored in the Christian church, the African-American culture of those middle years fostered a remarkably strong system of family values and responsibility, and African-Americans of today caught up in the geneaology movement look to the years of the 1860s to the 1960s as the period when our families and family ties were the strongest. 

More than anything else, the end of segregation ended that Golden Era of the Black American Family. Sometimes voluntarily and enthusiastically—sometimes merely by default—African-Americans gradually traded in portions of our culture and the heart of our cultural institutions for entrance into the greater American culture. It was only after a generation that we came to realize that the greater American culture itself was something of a hollow shell, taken over more and more by a consumer culture, driven by an economic engine that needed us as workers, for a time, and as people to buy the nation’s products. 

One of the most insidious aspects of consumer culture is that it needs to divide, isolate, and compartmentalize—not to stave off rebellion, although that is a complementary by-product—but in order to better identify its target audience. Youth needs the calming and educating influence of elders to guide and shape its fire and enthusiasm, and almost every pre-American culture around the world mixed young and old together. Once the driving force of the rebellious ’60s but now stripped of any pretence of actual rebellion, we have seen in this country, however, the rise of something called a “youth culture,” in which young people are segregated among themselves, to listen to their own music, to set their own standards, to pursue their own lifestyles and goals, and—most important—to buy their own products. Is it any wonder that—driven by our youngest, least attentive, and least experienced—we are becoming a nation fixated upon immediate gratification, often without the patience to follow the simplest storyline or serious, mature debate? 

Capitalism, unregulated, will race pell-mell in the direction of its own destruction, eating up the world’s oil reserves, for example, or warming the ozone layer beyond the capacity of the world to sustain a human habitation unless forcefully made to stop. Vladimir Lenin—who had more humor to him than is normally given credit in the Western world—once joked that the definition of a capitalist was someone who would offer you a good deal on a new rope as the hangman was leading you up the stairs of the gallows. 

But human culture—the culture created out of millions of years of inhabitance on this earth—has a solid strain of self-preservation to it, and left to our own devices, after a bit of pain and confusion, most communities will right themselves, eventually, and get their internal institutions back on the right track. Left to ourselves, like any other people, African-Americans would reform our crumbled institutions, rebuild our lost and scattered communities, and reclaim our responsibilities. It would not be easy. It would take time. But left to ourselves, for a time, we would do it. 

This is a time for African-Americans to turn inward, a time of introspection rather than pronouncement, rather than continuing the national media-driven circus parade that rewards garishness and clownishness, and ends up only going round and round, in a circle. 

If you interpret this as my advocating separation, then I’ve failed to make my point. 

What is needed is some space.


Wild Neighbors: Following the Passionvines

By Joe Eaton
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 10:05:00 AM
Gulf fritillary visiting a Cleveland sage.
By Ron Sullivan
Gulf fritillary visiting a Cleveland sage.

If there’s a passionvine in your neighborhood, you may have noticed a big showy butterfly, flame-orange with silvery spots like a spatter of mercury on the underside of its hindwing, hanging around. That would be a Gulf fritillary, which is actually a longwing rather than a true fritillary.  

Someone once proposed renaming it the silver-spotted flambeau, which didn’t catch on. In Hawaii, where its larval host plant is ubiquitous, it’s called, sensibly enough, the passionvine butterfly. 

By whatever name, it’s one of the few North American members of a mostly tropical group. The butterflies can’t tolerate cold winters, and those at the northern end of the range stage mass southward migrations. Common in the Southeast (hence the Gulf part), its range is limited by that of its host plants. One species of passionvine gets as far north as Arkansas, where we called it maypop and made jam from it, and there are a bunch of wild species in Florida.  

California has no native passionvines, though, and the Gulf fritillary didn’t establish itself here until they had been planted as ornamentals. It’s not clear when the butterflies first turned up; one lepidopterist speculated they followed the Southern Pacific tracks, but they might have wandered up from Mexico. After colonizing Southern California, they followed their food plant north, reaching the Bay Area in the 1950s. Art Shapiro at UC Davis says this species is pretty much an urban butterfly, especially common in Berkeley. 

When the adult butterflies emerge from their chrysalids in spring, there’s a brief courtship in which the male fans his wings to give his mate a heady dose of pheromones. Then she lays her barrel-shaped eggs on stalks, so ants and other small predators can’t get at them on a passionvine leaf. The caterpillars hatch out and begin to munch. 

Flowering plants have a many-sided relationship with animals. A passionvine needs to have its flowers pollinated, its seeds distributed, and its leaves left the hell alone. So it’s evolved colorful fragrant blossoms to attract pollinating insects, and tasty fruit enclosing seeds that will hopefully be deposited somewhere away from the parent vine. And several lines of leaf defense have been developed. 

One tropical passionvine has hook-shaped hairs that puncture the soft bodies of caterpillars. Some resort to trickery: their leaves have projections that look like fine places to lay an egg but that are jettisoned by the plant once an egg is deposited. Still others have nectar glands that attract ants, which eat the longwing eggs or larvae, or faux eggs that make the leaf appear to have been preempted. 

The most common defense, though, is chemical. Passionvine leaves contain substances called cyanogenic glycosides, precursors of cyanide. This is enough to deter most leaf-eaters, but the evolutionary arms race hasn’t gone far enough to make the leaves unpalatable to the larvae of longwing butterflies. 

The butterflies get an advantage from their toxic diet. Experiments have shown that birds find Gulf fritillaries and other longwings distasteful. And it’s in the butterfly’s interest to advertise this. Gulf fritillaries may have evolved their vivid colors for the same reason that deer hunters wear Blaze Orange vests: to maximize their visibility. 

That would only work for predators with color vision, of course, which happens to include birds. The idea is that an inexperienced bird will take a bite of fritillary, go “Feh!,” and avoid big orange butterflies from then on. The learning process takes its toll of a few individuals, but the species benefits. 

Gulf fritillary caterpillars are also fairly gaudy, at least in their later stages: orange with menacing-looking black spines. The chrysalis, in contrast, is a cryptic object that looks like a curled-up dead leaf. 

Other butterflies publicize their bad taste in similar ways: the monarch, whose caterpillar stores up milkweed toxins, white butterflies that feed on mustard, the pipevine swallowtail whose larval diet is, guess what? And there’s an advantage to being orange, or whatever warning coloration: a bird that had tried to eat a fritillary might also pass up monarchs, and vice versa. 

This is where mimicry comes in: palatable butterflies which have evolved a protective resemblance to the distasteful ones. In the tropics this gets really complex, as most things do: there’s a whole raft of passionvine-feeding longwing species whose colors and patterns have converged to better spread the message, and free riders pretending to be poisonous. 

Warning coloration is not just a butterfly thing: it occurs in amphibians, sea creatures, and at least one bird, the hooded pitohui of New Guinea. It’s a nice bonus that the colors that function as keep-away signals to predators are also pleasing to humans. If you have room and a sunny exposure, you might consider planting your own passionvine to attract Gulf fritlliaries. Just remember not to eat the leaves.


About the House: Do You Speak Toaster?

By Matt Cantor
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 10:04:00 AM

I was chatting with my friend Charlie this morning about things variously fixable and unfixable. Charlie is that rarely spotted bird, the philosopher/handyman (et mariner/gadabout/movie and social critic). My little secret is that even though I have these last 20 years inspected buildings for a living, my roots run deep in the same garden that Charlie curates.  

When talking houses, I don’t know anyone I’m more likely to finish sentences for (and he, me). Well, today we got on one of our favorite subjects: the arcane knowledge of repair (or how things really get fixed). 

A lot of what fixers like Charlie and me talk about on this subject has little to do with sprockets or circuits and more to do with the behavior of things. How machines, doorways or houses seem to think or feel. Also, we talk about trips to the hardware store and how to keep them to a minimum (AKA, what you keep in your truck, car or toolbox). 

May years ago, when I spent my days fixing pretty much everything in Mrs. Jones’ house (mostly because I thought I could, foolish me) I began to have this very odd experience of what was really involved in fixing things. Though this, I developed a sort of epistemology of repair. One of the discoveries was this: Machines need to be touched.  

Here’s how I discovered this: 

I don’t remember which thing was first—could have been a stove or a light fixture or a washing machine. It was probably something of relative complexity. I would set about to take the thing apart and see if I could discover the cause for its failure (not coming on, making a noise, whatever). I would take it apart piece by piece, handling each item, turning it over it my hand to see what function it served and how it fit into the whole. Bit by bit I would arrive at some place where it seemed that all the causal elements has been revealed. And yet, much of the time, it would not be clear that there was any one obvious perpetrator. I’d scratch my head and put it all back together, only to discover that the symptoms had gone into remission. The fridge would hum, not buzz. The washing machine would wash once again, the furnace would heat.  

Now, of course, this didn’t work all the time, and often, a specific part would be found to bear responsibility. But it is strange and not-at-all rare for this simple process to produce results all by itself. Explanation? Objects need to be touched. Talking helps but mostly they just need to be touched. Those little wires and washers need physical contact every decade or so or they fall into depression and malaise.  

Charming though this theory seems, we agree, Charlie and I, that there is a less heart-warming reason for this. When we take things apart and put them back together, there are many procedures involved which, if performed well, produce a positive change. Every wiring connection that gets separated and reconnected can remove some oxide or be snugged a bit tighter, eliminating resistance. Every screw replaced may be a bit tighter, potentially eliminating a buzz or an electrically resistant connection. There are far too many of these notions to present here, but the point should be clear. Add to this that the process can often involve a repair that we were unaware of. For instance, when taking things apart, it’s sometimes hard to be sure that the spring in your hand was actually attached to it’s origins or termini when you took the thing apart. Maybe yes, maybe no. If you put the thing back together right, that might be the thing that makes it go whir and makes the sun shine once again upon your laundry day.  

Kicking things usually doesn’t work. People who kick machines that don’t work or drawers that stick get what they deserve. The mechanical world just laughs at these people and then proceeds to further break down just to spite their sorry selves.  

Then there are the conspiracies. Sometimes it’s said that things break or fail in threes (or maybe that only applies to dead celebrities). Maybe, but it’s certainly true that when it rains it pours. I’m sure that these are tests of character, rather than genuine revolts by the mechanical world. I tend to think that washing machines are pretty happy with their lot, whether operational or not. But if there is a consciousness at work among our things, I believe it is teaching us a lesson. The lesson is: get used to it. Things break down. Kicking dishwashers or screaming at the toaster won’t help. Laughter works fairly well though.  

Then there is the advanced course. Sit down with the microwave (actually, I don’t speak microwave) and get to know it. Take the door panel off, one screw at a time, and then just let the thing talk to you. This is one of the great repair secrets. I think it works for medicine and accounting too, actually.  

Take your time. Touch each thing. Look for loose parts. When you take things apart, lay them neatly out in a reverse time-line so that you know which goes back first and last. Consider the thinking of the designer. Look for where things rub. Look for scars or burn marks. Gently clean things off and set them aside. See if there is a screw or wire or washer laying in the bottom and then see if you can find its home. 

Sadly, the age of the fixable thing may be coming to an end. So many devices today are made with plastic riveted parts and have no real way of performing a repair. The toasters, lamps and stoves of the past were so much easier to repair having been assembled with real screws, nuts, wires and bolts.  

It reminds of me Merlin’s sorry resignation that the age of magic was coming to an end. Spirits once lived in all our machines and mechanisms and an occasional handling and a good talking to might be all that was needed. But more and more today, when I try to reason with my house, well … It’s just like talking to a wall. 


Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:58:00 AM

THURSDAY, JULY 17 

FILM 

United Artists: 90 Years “Manhattan” at 6:30 p.m. and “Annie Hall” at 8:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Radialvedic” Works by Jill Gallenstein, Kristina Lewis and Kana Tanaka. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Johansson PRojects, 2300 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. www.johanssonprojects.com 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Adam David Miller reads from “Ticket to Exile” at 7:30 p.m. at Books Inc. Alameda, 1334 Park St., Alameda. npetrulakis@booksinc.net 

Anita Amirrezvani “The Blood of Flowers” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Wendy Bartlett reads from her novel “Broad Reach” at 7:30 p.m. at OCSC, 1 Spinnaker Way, Berkeley Marina. 612-2428. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Vukani Mawethu Choir, a cappella gospel in a celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Green & Root, Andrea Prichett, Claudia Russell at 8 p.m. at Rose St. House of Music, 1839 Rose St. Cost is $5-$20. 594-4000, ext. 687. 

Ed Gerhard at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Fourtet with Tyler Blanton at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Mirthkon, The Fuzzy Cousins, Brian Kenney Fresno at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Suzanna Smith Jazz Ensemble at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Dobet Gnahoré, from the Ivory Coast, at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

FRIDAY, JULY 18 

THEATER 

Actors Ensemble of Berkeley “The Matchmaker” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., through Aug. 16. Tickets are $10-$12. 649-5999. www.aeofberkeley.org  

Altarena Playhouse “Hay Fever” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through Aug. 9. 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. auoratheatre.org 

Citizen Josh with Josh Kornbluth Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sun. 5 p.m., at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. through July 20. Tickets are $20-$25. 841-6500, ext. 303. www.shotgunplayers.org 

Contra Costa Civic Theater “Kiss Me Kate” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, through Aug. 3. Tickets are $15-$24. 524-9132. www.ccct.org 

Subterranean Shakespeare “The Merry Wives of Windsor” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at The Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. Tickets are $12-$17. For reservations call 276-3871. 

Westminster Summer Musicals “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” Fri. - Sun. at 8 p.m., through July 20 at Woodminster Amphitheater, 3300 Jaoquin Miller Rod, Oakland. Tickets are $23-$38. 531-9597. www.woodminster.com 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Present Tension” Works by Jerry Carniglia, Judith Foosaner and Ann Weber, on display through Aug. 30 at Chandra Cerrito Contemporaty, 25 Grand Ave., upper level, Oakland. www.chandracerrito.com 

“Out of the Fill” featuring the art group Sniff with works by Scott Hewitt, Scott Meadows and David Ryan. Reception at 5 p.m. at Eclectix, 7523 Fairmount Ave., El Cerrito. www.eclectixgallery.com 

FILM 

The Long View: A Celebration of Widescreen “Violent Saturday” at 7 p.m. and “Point Blank” at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Berkeley Opera “Tosca” at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are 16-$44. 925-798-1300. www.berkeleyopera.org 

Ojada, Latin jazz, at 5 p.m. outdoors at Broadway at Water Street, Jack London Square, Oakland.  

Yosvany Terry “Ye-dé-gbé & the Afro Caribbean Legacy” at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Brama Sukarma, trombone, at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Eric Swinderman Group featuring Joyce Grant at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Mawungira Enharira, Mamadou & Vanessa at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

In the Steel of the Night with Bobby Black, Joel Goldmark & David Phillips at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Fred Odell, David Gale at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Buxter Hoot’n, The Blank Tapes, Ed Masuga at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $9. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Babyland, The Prids, Swann Danger at 7:30 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 

Spyro Gyra at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

SATURDAY, JULY 19 

CHILDREN  

“The Day We Danced in Underpants” with author Sarah Wilson at 4 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

“Harvest at the Lake” Native American stories Sat. and Sun. at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m., singer/storyteller Juan L. Sánchez at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259.  

THEATER 

San Francisco Mime Troupe “Red State” Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. at Cedar Rose Park. Free, donations accepted. 415-285-1717. www.sfmt.org 

Woman’s Will “The Good Person of Szechuan” Sat. and Sun. at 1 p.m. at John Hinkle Park. Free. For addtional performances see www.womanswill.org 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Nocturnes ... in Berkeley?” A Night Photography Group Show with works by Tim Baskerville, Denise Fuson, Sherry Glassman, Mark Jaremko, Joe Reifer, Charity Vargas, and John Vias. Reception for the artists at 2 p.m. at The LightRoom, 2263 Fifth St. 649-8111. 

“Grace and Joy: A Photo Exhibit of Cheetahs and Greyhounds” at 1 p.m. at 398 Colusa Ave., at the Circle. Kensington. Proceeds of sales benefit Greyhound Friends for Life adoption and advocacy group. 528-1210. www.greyhoundfriendsforlife.com 

“Dreams in Metaphor” Black and white photographs by Moja Ma’at opens at Photolab Gallery, 2235 Fifth St. Exhibition runs through Aug. 30. 644-1400. www.photolaboratory.com 

FILM 

Hecho por México: The Films of Gabriel Figueroa “A Woman in Love” at 6:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Afternoon Delight Poetry Reading with Julia Vinograd, MK Chavez and Jan Steckel at 2 p.m. at Lakeview Branch Library, 550 El Embarcadero, in the Lakeshore district near Lake Merritt, Oakland. Free. 238-7344.  

“Legends: The Blues Photography of Samuel Ribitch” Artist talk at 2 p.m. in the community Meeting Room, 3rd flr, Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6100. 

Teen Playreaders “I Hate Hamlet” at 8 p.m. at the Willard Middle School Metal Shop Theater, 2425 Stuart St. at Telegraph. 981-6121.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Bay Street Arts and Music Festival with local music, dance, arts, Sa. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Bay St., Emeryville. 655-4002. www.baystreetemeryville.com 

The Function, hip-hop, at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7-$8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Robin Gregory & Her Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Aux Cajunals at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun/zydeco dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

The Brew with Iron & the Albatross, Katy Stephan at 8 p.m. at the JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $10-$15. 848-0237. 

KC Turner, The Courtney Janes at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Bitches Brew at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Rory Block at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Chris Almada, saxophone, at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Roger Rocha and the Goldenhearts at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Mississippi Riders with Doug Blumer at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7. 558-0881. 

Gamelan X at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Calabrese, Switchblade Riot, Apathetic Youth 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. 

Spyro Gyra at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

SUNDAY, JULY 20 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Together and Apart” Individual and collaborative works by Peggy Forman and Jan Schachter. Reception for the artists at 2 p.m. at Collector’s Gallery, Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak, Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2022. www.museumca.org 

FILM 

United Artists: 90 Years “The Thief of Bagdad” at 4 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Teen Playreaders “I Hate Hamlet” at 6 p.m.in front of the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6121.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Midsummer Mozart Festival Program I at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley. For ticket information call 415-627-9141. www.midsummermozart.org 

Berkeley Opera “Tosca” at 2 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are 16-$44. 925-798-1300. www.berkeleyopera.org 

Oakland Jazz Choir at 2 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $20-$33. 228-3218. 

Oakland Municipal Band at 1 p.m. at the Lakeside Park Bandstand. Bring your beach chair and picnic. 339-2818. 

Brazilian Flavor featuring Dandara at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Lemon Juju at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Americana Unplugged, with The Stairwell Sisters, live bluegrass, at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Axis Mundi at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Oaktown Jazz Workshop at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

John Palowitch Group at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

This Time Tomorrow, Meltdown, New Lows at 5 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

MONDAY, JULY 21 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Actors Reading Writers “An Evening with Author N.M. Kelby” at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave between Dana and Ellsworth. 932-0214. 

Virago Theatre Company: Visions and Voices Play Reading Series “The Afterlife of the Mind” by William Bevis at 7 p.m. at MONART Drawing Studio, 1918 Encinal Ave., Alameda. Cost is $10. www.viragotheatre.org 

LaborFest 2008 “Compared to What” a play reading about the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters at 7:30 p.m. at Fellowship of Humanity Hall, 370 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. 444-8521. 

Yosvany Terry “Ye-dé-gbé & the Afro Caribbean Legacy” lecture demonstration at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Poetry Express open mic theme night on “teamwork” plus the 2008 San Francisco Slam Team of Matt Blesse, Dre, Steven Meads, Mark States and Leigh Ann at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Downtown Jam Session with Glen Pearson at 7 p.m. at Ed Kelly Hall, Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, 1616 Franklin St., Oakland. Cost is $5. www.opcmucsic.org 

West Coast Songwriters Competition at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $5. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Anna Maria Flechero, with Cedar Walton at at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $16. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

TUESDAY, JULY 22 

FILM 

United Artists: 90 Years “Red River” at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Natural History from the University of California Press” with the Science and Natural History Editor, Jenny Wapner, in conversation with William McClung at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Zydeco Flames in a benefit for Ashkenaz doorman Edwin Thaxter at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Singers’ Open Mic with Kelly Park at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Claudia Russell & the Folk Unlimited Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Robert Walter Trio, with James Singleton and Johnny Vidacovich 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. 

WEDNESDAY, JULY 23 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Toasting the End of Capitalism” Collage and photography by Maria Gilardin at NoneSuch Space, 2865 Broadway at 29th Street, 2nd fl., Oakland, through Aug. 23. 650-224-3108. annskinnerjones@yahoo.com 

FILM 

The Long View: A Celebration of the Widescreen “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

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 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Summer Sounds at Oakland City Center with Stung! Police tribute band, at noon at 12th and Broadway, Oakland.  

Music on the Main with LAVA, Richmond BLOCO and Ballet Lisanga at 5 p.m. in the parking lot at the corner of Macdonald Ave. and Marina Way, next to the Richmond BART station. 236-4049. www.richmondmainstreet.org 

In Jazz We Trust at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Russian Village Singers at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. www.lebateauivre.net 

Jah Arkitekt Sound System at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $7. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Hip Bones, instrumental jazz, with funk and rock, from North Carolina, at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Marley’s Ghost at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Robert Walter Trio, with James Singleton and Johnny Vidacovich at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$16. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

THURSDAY, JULY 24 

FILM 

Hecho por México: The Films of Gabriel Figueroa “A New Dawn” at 6:30 p.m. and “Los olvidados” at 8:40 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

 

 

 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Residency Projects Part 3” Works by Katsutoshi Yuasa and Richard T. Walker. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Kala Art Insitute, 1060 Heinz Ave. 549-2977. 

“The Sacred Subjects” New works by Rocky Rische-Baird, Hunter Mack and Clay Cahoon. Reception for the artists at 5 p.m. at Esteban Sabar Gallery, 480 23rd St., Oakland. 444-7411. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Katie Hafner reads from “A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould’s Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Bruce Pavlick describes “The California Deserts: An Ecological Rediscovery” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Underscore Orchestra, The Black Olive Babes, Balkan, gypsy, world, at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

High Country at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Mack Rucks Sextet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Julay Brooks and The Nightbirds, The Backyard Party Boys, bluegrass, at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 

Speak the Music, beat-boxing, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Charles Wheal at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Hank Jones & Roberta Gambarini at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20-$26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazz Mafia Unit at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

FRIDAY, JULY 25 

THEATER 

Actors Ensemble of Berkeley “The Matchmaker” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., through Aug. 16. Tickets are $10-$12. 649-5999. www.aeofberkeley.org  

Altarena Playhouse “Hay Fever” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through Aug. 9. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Contra Costa Civic Theater “Kiss Me Kate” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, through Aug. 3. Tickets are $15-$24. 524-9132. www.ccct.org 

Subterranean Shakespeare “The Merry Wives of Windsor” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at The Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. Tickets are $12-$17. For reservations call 276-3871.  

Youth Musical Theater Company, “Into the Woods” Fri.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $8-$18. 800-838-3006. www.brownpapertickets.com  

FILM 

The Long View: A Celebration of Widescreen “It’s Always Fair Weather” at 7 p.m. and “Giants and Toys” at 9 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

The 2008 14th Annual Brainwash Movie Festival Shorts from around the world, Fri. and Sat. at 9 p.m. at Mandela Village Arts Center, 1357 5th St., Oakland. Cost is $9 per night. http://brainwashm.com 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Downtown Rhythm, old school funk, at 5 p.m. outdoors at Broadway at Water St., Jack London Square, Oakland.  

Rosa Los Santos, in a celebration of Peruvian Independence Day, at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15-$18. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Bay Area Classical Harmonies “The Forgotten Tales of Armenia” at 7:30 p.m. at Pro Arts Gallery, 550 Second St., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$18. http://forgottentalesofarmenia.eventbrite.com 

Ryan Coleman “The Depthet” at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Sylvia Cuenca & Her Group at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Modern Kirtan Explorations with Dave Stringer and Suzanne Sterling at 8 p.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $20-$25. 486-8700. 

Sister I-Live, reggae, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Phil Marsh at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Mike Eckstein, Jayde Blade at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

The New Centuries, Cloud Archive, Tartufi, indie rock, at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Shipwreck Ad, Pulling Teeth, Bitter End, The Helm at 7:30 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $8. 525-9926. 

Green Machine at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Blue Vipers of Brooklyn, early jazz, swing, and blues, at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

SATURDAY, JULY 26 

CHILDREN  

“The Girl Who Lost Her Smile” Sat. and Sun. at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259. www.fairyland.org 

THEATER 

Woman’s Will “The Good Person of Szechuan” at 1 p.m. at Mosswood Park, Oakland. For addtional performances see www.womanswill.org 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Out from Under” Oil paintings of George A. Sariot. Reception at 6 p.m. at the Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. Exhibition runs through July 31. 848-1228. giorgigallery.com 

FILM 

Hecho por México: The Films of Gabriel Figueroa “Nazarin” at 6:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Tito y su son de Cuba at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Marcus Shelby Quartet & Faye Carol “Harriet Tubman & Jazz” at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $16. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Baba Ken & the West African Highlife Band at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. African dance lesson at 9 p.m. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Todd Haemmerle, Danny Scherr at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Crooked Jades at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Issa Mwongozi Trio at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Dangerous Rhythm with Tim Fox at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

O-Shen at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Brod Bob, Superfinos VTO, Silver Griffin, grunge, rock and roll, at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Hank Jones & Roberta Gambarini at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20-$26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

The Ergs, Hunchback, In the Red, Nothington at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

SUNDAY, JULY 27 

THEATER 

Woman’s Will “The Good Person of Szechuan” at 1 p.m. at Dimond Park, Oakland. For addtional performances see www.womanswill.org 

FILM 

United Artists: 90 Years “The Magnificent Seven” at 5 p.m. and “Ride Lonesome” at 7:30 p.m. at 3 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Great Night of Soul Poetry at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Rock Reborn Hunger Festival from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate, 2960 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland. Cost is 10 cans of food or $10. 875-5297. 

Midsummer Mozart Festival Program II at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley. For ticket information call 415-627-9141. www.midsummermozart.org 

Oakland Municipal Band at 1 p.m. at the Lakeside Park Bandstand. Bring your beach chair and picnic. 339-2818. 

Jeff & Vidya at 8 p.m. at 383 61st St., Oakland. Not wheelchair accessible. Donation $15-$20. RSVP requested. 655-2771. 

Tribute to Utah Phillips at 7 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Black Olive Babes at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Jacob Wolkenhauer at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Americana Unplugged with Jeanie & Chucks Country Roundup, live bluegrass, at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Band Works at 1 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $5. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Nick Lamb Quartet at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Geoffrey Keezer “The Art of Solo Piano” at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10-$20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Kugleplex at 8 p.m. at the JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Cost is 10-$15. www.jcceastbay.org


Eclectix Gallery Hosts SNIFF’S ‘Out of the Landfill’

By Osha Neumann Special to the Planet
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:58:00 AM

Four artists, improvising together like a jazz combo in a groove, called themselves SNIFF after what dogs do, and for five years painted up a storm at the Albany landfill. Now three of the four original SNIFFs, Scott Hewitt, Scott Meadows, and David Ryan, are back together and I’m happy to say their work is as wacky-wild and utterly resistant to interpretation as ever.  

The SNIFFs did their first joint paintings “out at the fill” in 1998 on concrete blocks. When a floating dock washed ashore they painted on the decking. Their work was raucous, irrelevant, bawdy, and full of operatic extravagance. Their landfill period ended in 2003 when Scott Peterson’s attorneys held a press conference claiming they had evidence of a satanic cult operating on the landfill that might have murdered Peterson’s wife Laci. Their evidence? The paintings of SNIFF. The tsunami of publicity that followed blew the group apart—it came too fast and for the wrong reasons. 

Now SNIFF’s out of the fill and into the comparative safety of a gallery. Their show consists of one mural-size painting that wraps around an entire room. It’s a landscape with figures. At one end a thatched hut can be seen through the trees. There’s snow on the roof and a sign on the front advertising “Girls.” Bright yellow light streams through the windows. A woman lounges in the open doorway. At the other end a carnival is in progress. An unsavory crowd dances out front in the shadows. In between these two questionable establishments is a dark woods.  

What’s happening in the woods? A sinister tattooed jack rabbit squats in a corner. Not far away is a gender-ambiguous big foot in red panty briefs with hairy legs and a fat butt. A hunter who’s torn the head off his bear costume sits against a dead tree, cradling a gun with a bent barrel while a blue squirrel licks his white face. A village burns in the distance. What set the fire? Was it the pyromaniac bluebird flying through the forest with a lighted match in its beak? It’s clearly responsible for the burning pine tree, and the house in flames where the snowman lives who now runs away in his black galoshes. Who are the seven mismatched riders bundled on top of the rearing blue stallion with the black tail? And why are there two parallel worlds in this wintry woods—the world of the big people and that of the little ones, the tiny woman in a see-through dress who plays golf with the bear, the miniature caballero holding the reins of a leaping stallion, and the crew of little dying sailors, sprawled over the gunny wale of a boat that sails on a fetid sea. 

SNIFF provides no explanation to its riddles: No explanation of the “Last Chance” gas station, empty and deserted, but brightly lit in the middle of the woods; nor of the red station wagon that’s seen better days, stopped on the road in front of it. No explanation of the load tied to its roof: the Egyptian mummy, (on which sits a family of little people), and the gigantic fish with iridescent scales from whose mouth dangle four little legs attached to two naked buttocks. From the ass hole of one sparks spray into the night. Or farts. Who knows? 

There’s no explanation for the crew inside the car: the couple embracing beneath the green blanket in the way back; the fat balding man in the back seat, with a hand out the window holding a glowing tiny blue pixie; or the woman in the purple dress asleep in the front seat, who has tied a string to her finger a string that attaches to a carrot that trails behind the car, attracting a jackalope.  

Bright are the headlights of the station wagon piercing the darkness. Caught in their glare is a gigantic black bull. Frightened is the deer with the Mexican saddle blanket that leaps over a guard rail, throwing to the ground the drunken elf that rode it.  

And what of the owl woman with the headlamp breasts, the monkey sitting in a tree in a clown costume with his finger to his lips, and the multiple women in red dresses packing six shooters with daggers stuck in their stockings, and ... Like one of those Russian nesting dolls, the picture has mysteries within mysteries. 

The eclectix gallery where these mysteries unfold is a single room behind a store packed to the gills with curios and gag gifts—lava lamps, spiders in plexiglas, gummy hearts, nerd glasses, R. Crumb devil girl lunchboxes, plastic ants, comic underwear, and ceramic Tiki mug party packs. In El Cerrito, in this unlikely setting, far from the power centers of the art world, without benefit of white walls and the other accoutrements of artistic respectability, is one of the best damn paintings ever painted in the East Bay. 

OUT OF THE FILL 

Through Aug. 3 at Eclectix Gallery, 7523 Fairmont Ave., El Cerrito. Artist reception 5-8 p.m. July 18.


Wilde’s Humorous ‘An Ideal Husband’ Staged by Cal Shakes

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:59:00 AM

Before a mural of shepherds and shepherdesses in modern imitation of Restoration style (Annie Smart’s set), to bowed strings (on tape) guests troop into the home of a Member of Parliament, for a party that will see its host blackmailed to go against his principles by a femme fatale, amid all the frothy talk, in CalShakes’ production of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. 

Originally staged the same year as The Importance of Being Earnest—and as Wilde’s scandal and downfall—Ideal Husband has lately been said to have “more substance” than Earnest. For “more substance,” read “story” or even “plot.”  

An Ideal Husband seems to be a forerunner of what will later be called “Problem Plays,” in this case about the private lives of public people. But Wilde’s version is not so much melodrama as a comedy of humor in Pirandello’s definition: a sense of the opposite. Everything is found to be other than it purports to be, and events come round full circle, but less through that dramatic device called perpeteia—fate, or a chance downfall—than through Wilde’s sense of masks, of surfaces being more important than the depths which underpin them.  

The players prove quite good at their deadly badinage. Stacy Ross as scheming Mrs. Cheveley; Michael Butler as Robert Chiltern, her prey; and Julie Eccles as his too-upright, adoring wife Gertrude, Mrs. Cheveley’s nemesis at school—this triangle would play out perfectly if Wilde’s play were merely a drama adorned with bon mots and larded with wit. Elijah Alexander plays Lord Goring (who, like Algernon in Earnest portrays something of Wilde’s own persona) with a kind of silly abandon, not Oscar’s impenetrable poise. His madcap ingenue, Mabel Chiltern (Sarah Nealis), just misses being a screwball and preserves her comic aplomb. Joan Mankin’s sad, comic visage, spouting absurdities with the odd ring of truth over a flute of champagne as Lady Markby, has something the others are missing from Wilde’s inverted scheme of things. 

It might have been the ideal cast, but Jonathan Moscone’s direction takes it in another direction, adorning Wildean deadpan with sitcom mugging and physical routines, making his imperturbable observations, which are a lens trained on society beyond irony or wit, merely funny and forgettable. “Humor is a serious distortion of our world,” said poet George Seferis. 

This is most apparent in one of the final scenes, when Lord Goring, after proving to be the saving grace while acting the clueless ne’er-do-well, convinces Gertrude to sacrifice her domestic ideals so her husband may realize his public ambitions, through a homiletic speech she repeats, word for word, to Robert. 

The director (and a few critics) take this to be an unfortunate anachronism, Wilde’s sexist slip showing, to shake up a few metaphors. And so the audience gasps, or hisses. 

But Wilde is a dramatist, and a humorist. Every meticulous detail, much less an important turn, can only be seen through his eyes examining his characters in society, finding that “sense of the opposite.”  

“It is always worthwhile to ask a question, though it is not always worthwhile to answer one.” Wilde was more the pagan philosopher than the activist—or maybe a kind of time bomb. He exposed Anglo-Saxon society in a way it couldn’t challenge or ignore, not in a witty puppet show where the author winks at the audience, twitting it and begging its indulgence. 

Like his surrogate, Lord Goring, Wilde did nothing, “and it is a comfort,” not cynical but playfully serious. Like Gore Vidal, Wilde might have said, “I have nothing to say—only to add.” 

AN IDEAL HUSBAND 

Through July 27 at Bruns Amphitheater, 

100 Gateway Blvd., Orinda. 

548-9666, www.calshakes.org.


Woman’s Will Stages Brecht’s ‘Good Person of Szechuan’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 10:00:00 AM

Three gods descend to earth but can’t find anyone to put them up. The future of the race might depend on them finding that one good person to prove hard times haven’t turned mankind sour.  

Finally, a waterseller refers them to a prostitute, who gives them shelter. The gods reveal themselves and reward her—in part to test whether success will spoil her. Immediately, everyone, rich and poor, seems to want a piece of “the Angel of the Slums,” the woman “who can’t say no” to someone in need, until in desperation she poses as a hard-nosed male cousin to get the others off her back. Her fortunes continue to prosper, until the “cousin” is accused of doing away with the absent good samaritan and put on trial ... 

Told like that, Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechuan sounds almost like a shaggy dog story. Brecht’s late plays, after he returned from a desultory turn as emigré Hollywood screenwriter to postwar Germany to lead the Berliner Ensemble in East Berlin, were often cast in the form of theatrical parables, and Woman’s Will is staging The Good Person outdoors, for free, in John Hinkel Park (through this weekend at 1 p.m., then on and off in other East Bay Parks) in a broad fashion as a kind of fairytale for adults. 

As is Woman’s Will’s mission, whether playing Shakespeare in the park, or—say—Oscar Wilde, site-specific in Victorian mansions, all the performers are female, close to 20 in number, directed by founder Erin Merritt, who has staged Brecht before, Happy End as cabaret at Luka’s Taproom in Oakland. El Beh, a graduate of UC’s Performance Studies, stands out in her portrayal of the kind and harried Shen Te and her “tough cop” pretend cousin, Shui Ta, as does her fellow UC alumna, Holly Chou, as Wang, the steadfast waterseller.  

“A hand held out to the hungry will be ripped away.” Brecht couched hard truths in the form of aphorisms and maxims that pepper the texts of his plays. “Why bother philosophizing when the milk’s already spilt?”  

This play of his is quietly ambitious, for it fulfills perhaps his greatest contribution to the stage in both theory and practice—the Social Gesture—by identifying it with the primal theatrical act: in order to overcome oppression, a too-sympathetic woman pretends to be an aggressive man—the duplicity of the stage, with a vengeance, both politically and theatrically transparent to the audience. 

Brecht performed alfresco makes a great deal of sense. He wanted his audiences to be relaxed, enjoying what they saw and interested in what it portrayed, but not manipulated by vicarious identification with the characters or the suspense that leads up to an already decided fate.  

In fact, his praise of classical poetry was not of its venerable antiquity, the admiration of past ages, but its freshness. Virgil and Ovid, he said, should be read outdoors, in the sunlight and open air. 

THE GOOD PERSON OF SZECHUAN 

Presented by Woman’s Will (www.womanswill.org). The following performances are free, donations accepted. 

 

July 19, 1 p.m., John Hinkel Park, Berkeley 

July 20, 1 p.m., John Hinkel Park, Berkeley 

July 25, 6 p.m., Hillside Clubhouse Lawn, Rossmoor (Walnut Creek) 

July 26, 1 p.m., Mosswood Park, Oakland 

July 27, 1 p.m., Dimond Park, Oakland 

Aug. 2, 1 p.m., San Felipe Park, Hayward 

Aug. 2, 6 p.m., Centennial Park, Pleasanton 

Aug. 3, 1 p.m., Rengstorff House, Mountain View 

Aug. 9, 1 p.m., Dolores Park, San Francisco 

Aug. 10, 1 p.m., Dolores Park, San Francisco 

Aug. 15, 6 p.m., Yerba Buena Children’s Garden, San Francisco 

Aug. 16, 4 p.m., Yerba Buena Children's Garden, San Francisco 

Aug. 17, 1 p.m., Dolores Park, San Francisco 


Berkeley Opera Presents Puccini’s ‘Tosca’

By Jaime Robles Special to the Planet
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 10:01:00 AM

Saturday the Berkeley Opera opened its production of Puccini’s Tosca as the final opera of its 2008 season. Unlike most of last year’s productions, this Tosca makes no attempt to update the story for a contemporary audience. Both the opera and the company are better served by this decision.  

Tosca, premiered in Rome in 1900, is often referred to as a potboiler, with emotional extremes, clear delineation of good and evil and music that is melodically lovely, harmonically engaging and thoroughly accessible. But that is a misnomer for an opera that required four years to write the libretto and compose the score.  

There are moments, though, that transcend the sentimentality suggested by the work, and most of those are found in the dynamic between Tosca, the singer whose unruly passions make her both victim and savior, and Scarpia, the unscrupulous and sadistic officer who lusts after her.  

Soprano Jillian Khuner plays Floria Tosca and, though she lacks burning intensity, her singing is accomplished and lovely, and she gives the role an unmistakable sweetness. Her second act “Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore” was beautiful—well phrased, solidly consistent in the midrange and clear in the upper tones.  

The aria deserves its celebrity, not simply because of its lyric grace but also because it reveals an aspect of the artist’s function: that of healer, beneficent and generous: “I lived for my art, I lived for love,/ I never did harm to a living soul!/… I gave my song to the stars, to heaven, which smiled with more beauty/ In the hour of grief.” 

The evil Scarpia is sung by John Minagro, who provides a sophisticated and somewhat contemplative villain, adding to his wickedness and aligning well with Khuner’s softer and more innocent Tosca. The ending of the first act, during which the music rises and falls with the ominous regularity of a death knell as Scarpia plots—“Va’ Tosca, nel tuo cuor s’annida Scarpia” (“Go, Tosca, Scarpia nests in your heart”)—then moves inexorably into Scarpia’s closing aria “A doppia mira tendo” (“At two goals I aim’) interlaced with the chorus singing “Adiutorium nostrum” (“My help is in God’s name”), was especially well done.  

Members of the Piedmont choruses, directed by Robert Geary, and the Berkeley Opera chorus, directed by Susan Swerdlow, combined to provide an admirable choral foil.  

Scarpia’s darkness resides not only in his lust but also in his religious hypocrisy. He is not simply a Don Juan; his schemes are more perverse, more sadistic, revealed in the second act scene when Tosca must listen to her lover being tortured while deciding whether or not to succumb to Scarpia’s sexual demands in order to save him. 

Tenor Kevin Courtemanche sings the part of Mario Cavaradossi, the painter who is Tosca’s lover. He has a bright powerful voice and he gives generously of it, giving the role a forceful energy. His singing lofted him above his unprepossessing physical stage presence, giving the character substance and vibrance. He rightly earned the audience’s most enthusiastic bravos. 

Basses Steven Hoffmann (Angelotti), John Bischoff (Sacristan), Nicholas Aliaga (Sciarrone) and Michael Crozier (Jailer), and tenor Jose Hernandez (Spoletta) added to the production’s overall excellent singing. 

This was an excellent and engaging production, modest but well sung and enjoyable. 

TOSCA 

Presented by Berkeley Opera at 8 p.m. Friday, and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave.


Festival Opera’s ‘Trovatore’ Opens in Walnut Creek

By Jaime Robles Special to the Planet
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 10:02:00 AM

Lorenzo in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice asserts, “The man that hath no music in himself,/ Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,/ Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils,” but he wasn’t Giuseppe Verdi. Il Trovatore, the second in Verdi’s trilogia popolare, clearly demonstrates that the reigning king of opera in late-19th century Italy believed that “sweet sounds” were the absolute best mate for treason, stratagems and spoiled lives. 

Jealousy and revenge are the driving passions of many of Verdi’s gloomy operas, but Il Trovatore seems especially endowed with a dark palette of murky human emotions. The Festival Opera’s current production, housed in the Dean Lesher Auditorium in Walnut Creek, excellently inhabits the work by providing a stellar cast filled with fine soloists and a wonderfully well-coached chorus.  

Tenor Noah Stewart is in the lead as the trovatore, Manrico, the troubadour-soldier raised by gypsies. A former member of the San Francisco Opera’s Merola and Adler programs, who has appeared on the SF Opera stage in Der Rosenkavalier, Samson and Delilah, and Phillip Glass’ Appomattox, Stewart has a gorgeous voice, richly colored in the low and middle range and with a vibrant emotional intensity in the higher notes. He uses his voice at full power to drive along the emotions of the story, weaving his way, and ours, through the plot’s less plausible convolutions and the rather stolid direction by Giulio Cesare Perrone. 

He was vocally matched by Hope Briggs as the lovely Lady Leonora. Briggs also has a warm, complex sound in the mid and lower registers and vibrant, focused notes in the high parts of her range that can slice through you like a knife. Equally powerful dynamically, Stewart and Briggs performed beautifully together during their love scenes, Briggs bringing a gracious presence to the role (as she does to similar aristocratic roles) and Stewart the slightly self-conscious dignity of a young man in love in the midst of war. 

Mezzo Patrice Houston sang Azucena, the gypsy. Houston is a wonderful singer—with a voice like soft butter tinged with honey and an astounding legato line, but frankly, she’s just not creepy enough for my taste. More than any other character, Azucena is the one through which the dark fates twist the lives within the opera, and she’s mad as a hatter. Having watched her mother die at the stake, she steals the Count’s infant son in order to throw him into the flames in revenge for her mother’s unwarranted execution. But her fit of vengeful fury so overwhelms her senses that she throws her own infant into the fire and doesn’t realize what she’s done until he’s nothing but a heap of charred bones. 

As we learn at opera’s finale, Azucena has raised the Count’s son only to sacrifice him on the altar of revenge: another lunatic act. Houston, with her fine, beautifully integrated voice, just doesn’t project enough craziness to command the audience to believe in her bat-winged harpies of revenge. Likewise, Scott Bearden, another excellent singer, does not project the commanding evilness that drives the jealousy of the Count so that his one ambition in life seems to be to kill Manrico, his rival for Leonora’s love.  

Nonetheless, it was a pleasure to listen to these singers. An interesting attribute of Verdi’s operas in general is that both music and singers can sound pleasant, engaging and even playful while the most horrific events occur. The music just rolls on. 

Kirk Eichelberger sang a splendid Ferrando. His bass voice is always a pleasure to hear. Michael Morgan of the Oakland East Bay Symphony led the excellent ensemble. Director Perrone’s stage sets fit well into the opera’s atmosphere: composed of faux green marble columns, they lent a strangely subterranean quality to the drama. Designer Susanna Douthit’s costumes were oddly mixed, with Manrico’s gang looking motley and Saracen but sporting crucifixes. 

Despite its irregularities, which are only a small part of the opera’s overall effect, this is a Trovatore to see and be caught up in its drama, savoring its wild emotions and splendid vocal theater. 

IL TROVATORE 

Presented by Festival Opera at 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek. (925) 943-SHOW, www.festivalopera.com.


Berkeley, SF, San Jose Host Midsummer Mozart Festival

By Ira Steingroot Special to the Planet
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 10:00:00 AM

Beginning this evening and stretching over the next two and a half weeks, rabid Mozart fans can hear 17 of the master’s compositions played by two outstanding musical aggregations. The Midsummer Mozart Festival orchestra conducted by the illuminating George Cleve will perform five separate programs at six venues.  

The San Francisco Symphony led by assistant conductor James Gaffigan plays an All About Mozart program this evening as part of its Summer in the City concert series. The pieces to be performed will range from the early Divertimento, written in his hometown of Salzburg by the 17-year-old, yet already seasoned, composer, to the Andante for Mechanical Organ, composed in Vienna in 1791, just six months before his death at 35.  

Whether you like Mozart’s operas, symphonies, piano sonatas and concertos or the less rarely heard ballet, oboe and horn music, there is plenty to delight and surprise.  

For tonight’s San Francisco Symphony concert at 8 p.m. at Davies Hall, Gaffigan and the orchestra are joined by piano prodigies Peng Peng (15) and Conrad Tao (13) for the quintessential musical prodigy’s beautiful but infrequently performed Piano Concerto No. 10 for two pianos, composed by the 23-year-old Mozart for his sister and himself. Also on the program are the ballet music, a seldom-heard gem from the opera Idomeneo, and Mozart’s glorious final Symphony No. 41, appropriately named the Jupiter. 

For its first program of the season, the Midsummer Mozart Festival Orchestra will perform the aforementioned early Divertimento; the romantic Piano Concerto No. 23, featuring Jon Nakamatsu; the first of Mozart’s four last, increasingly complex symphonies, No. 38, known as “Prague” after its premiere there in 1786; and the lyrical Oboe Concerto, featuring Laura Griffiths. This piece has only been known in this form since the 1920s when it was discovered that Mozart’s Flute Concerto, K.314, was a transcription of this previously composed work for oboe. 

The Midsummer Mozart Festival program will be performed this evening, Thursday, July 17, 7:30 p.m., at Mission Santa Clara, SCU Campus, Santa Clara; Friday, July 18, 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco; Saturday, July 19, 6:30 p.m., Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Sonoma (outdoors), where dinner can be ordered with tickets; and Sunday, July 20, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, here in Berkeley. 

The second program of the festival will feature two spectacular compositions, the Serenade for Woodwinds and Contrabass, “Gran Partita,” and the Piano Concerto No. 24, with Nikolai Demidenko as soloist. In the “Gran Partita” Mozart plays six pairs of horns and a string bass like an organ. These are the greatest horn orchestrations before Duke Ellington. The Piano Concerto, one of only two that he wrote in a minor key, was one of the few pieces by Mozart to be popular in the 19th century. Its emotional sturm und drang anticipates romanticism.  

This second program will be performed Thursday, July 24, 7:30 p.m., Mission Santa Clara, SCU Campus, Santa Clara; Friday, July 25, 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco; Saturday, July 26, 6:30 p.m., Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Sonoma; and Sunday, July 27, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley. 

For its unprecedented third week of programming, Midsummer Mozart has come up with three ambitious concerts. First, a solo piano recital bringing back Nikolai Demidenko to perform well-known favorites such as the Piano Sonata, another dark piece in a minor key; and the Adagio, K.540; as well as less well-known works like the remarkable, Bach-influenced Praeludium and Fugue, K.394; the touching Allegro, which he wrote for his wife Constanze and her youngest sister Sophie; and the almost never performed Andante for a mechanical organ. As a lagniappe, Demidenko will also give out with all 24 Preludes of Chopin’s Op. 28. This concert will only be performed on Thursday, July 31, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley. 

The second added concert will be a semi-staged performance of the opera, The Abduction from the Seraglio, featuring sopranos Christina Major and Khori Dastoor, tenors Isaac Hurtado and Matthew O’Neill, bass-baritone Jeremy Galyon, and William Neely in the spoken role of Pasha Selim, under the direction of Barbara Heroux with George Cleve conducting the orchestra. Although staging will be minimal, the performers will be in costume. All of the spoken dialogue will be in English with all of the singing in German. The Abduction is famous for its compassion, brilliant music and “Turkish” percussion. The opera will be performed on Friday, Aug. 1, and Sunday, Aug. 3, 7:30 p.m., in the intimate California Theater, San Jose. 

Finally, in a unique piece of programming, George Cleve will share the baton with T. W. Kang, the ex-Intel executive and sometime classical conductor and pianist. Cleve will conduct the Piano Concerto No. 20, featuring Young Jean Park. Kang will conduct the “Prague” symphony and will share the piano keyboard with Park, his wife, for the intricate and technically demanding Five Variations on an Original Andante. This concert will only be performed on August 2, 7:30 p.m., Le Petit Trianon, San Jose.  

 

For more information on the Midsummer Mozart Festival, call (415) 627-9141 or see www.midsummermozart.org. For more information about the San Francisco Symphony, call (415) 864-6000 or see sfsymphony.org.  


Moving Pictures: New to DVD

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 01:04:00 PM

The Furies 

Ambition, deception, manipulation and dispossession: The Furies (1950), Anthony Mann's genre-defying noir-epic-western-melodrama, has enough treachery and love and treacherous love to fill several pictures.  

Mann brought everything he had learned during his apprenticeship in the world of noir — even his cinematographer — to this, one of his first forays into the western, a genre to which he had long aspired. Also completed and released that same year was Winchester '73, one of the more famous and accomplished of Mann's westerns, and the first of many collaborations with Jimmy Stewart.  

Winchester '73, along with Mann's later westerns, especially the ones featuring Stewart, has long overshadowed The Furies. And while there may be plenty of justification for that fact — Mann having matured greatly as a director over time — The Furies does not deserve to be overlooked. For while it is certainly a flawed film, it has more than its merits: fascinating dynamics, superb photography, and excellent performances by Walter Houston and Barbara Stanwyck, two formidable actors at the peak of their talents in their portrayal of a father-daughter relationship so Freudian that it borders on incest.  

Houston, in his final screen appearance, delivers a delightfully hammy portrayal of a ham-fisted tycoon, a lordly lord of the manor forever seeking to re-establish his prowess and power. Houston plays it for all it's worthy, making his T.C. Jeffords into a brawling blowhard, full of bluster and braggadocio. As with his celebrated role in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Houston manages to walk the line of histrionic bluster without quite slipping into caricature, rendering Jeffords by turn a tyrant and a fool, but always a man—human, humane and fallible.  

Stanwyck is at her steely, brassy best as Jeffords' daughter, a wild, tempestuous siren of a tomboy and heiress to his sprawling New Mexico ranch. Stanwyck manages once again to defy her era's gender stereotypes; her Vance Jeffords is strong-willed, wily and tough as the rugged landscape she oversees. And yet her beauty, sensuality and charismatic self-confidence, even arrogance, make her as alluring as any eye-batting southwestern belle.  

The bond between father and daughter is as sexual as it is familial, and as ruthless as it is tender. T.C. and Vance admire each other with a curious gleam in their eyes, looking upon each other with equal parts fascination and wariness. The proud T.C. does not want to give up an inch of his domain, while Vance is eager to prove herself every bit as much a ruthless tycoon as her father by taking over his role. Mann squares them off in face-to-face compositions, each leaning toward the other in shots that convey both aggression and love. T.C. is frequently pictured in his office, where mounted bull horns on the wall perch just above his head, signaling both his swaggering arrogance and his susceptibility to the feints and jabs of the stoic Rip Darrow, played by Wendell Corey with the haughty stillness of a matador.  

Criterion has given the film the full treatment, with an excellent (if phallic symbol-obsessed) commentary by film historian Jim Kitses, and a pressing of the novel by Niven Busch on which the film was based.  

1950. 109 minutes. $39.95. www.criterion.com.  

 

 

Senator Obama Goes to Africa  

In August of 2006, Illinois Senator Barack Obama embarked on a diplomatic trip to Africa. Along the way, he made his first visit in 14 years to Kenya, birthplace of his father. Thousands turned out to see the would-be president wherever he went, and to his credit Obama sought to make the most of it, using every appearance to draw attention to issues of the region.  

The trip was documented in a film called Senator Obama Goes to Africa. First Run Features recently released the film on DVD.  

A diplomatic trip is just that: a chance to hobnob and kibitz with the people, with dignitaries and politicians. It's a series of speeches and photo-ops, and for the most part that's all this film manages to capture. As we've seen in the ensuing two years, Obama and his staff know how to stage-manage his appearances, how to harness the excitement he inspires, and this documentary captures that clearly if a little too faithfully. We see crowds cheering their son of a native son, we hear Africans opining on the greatness of the man and the impact of his presence, and then we see the man himself, in press conferences and one-on-one interviews, underlining for us once again his sincerity, his graciousness, his humility. The film comes across more as a campaign commercial than a documentary.  

There is only one voice that manages to break the hagiographic spell. Ellis Close, contributing editor to Newsweek, is the only talking head in the picture who expresses anything resembling a dissenting voice. Close goes beyond the press-release rhetoric and flatly states the political underpinnings of the trip, namely Obama's need to establish a foreign-policy credential. That's not exactly earth-shattering insight, but it provides some much-needed perspective on the event, helping to ground this otherwise giddy portrait in the world of politics. Close is essentially the only voice in the film that manages to puncture the Prodigal Son storyline with a bit of reality, pointing out the political benefits of the positions Obama adopts on his journey in an effort to establish credibility in the eyes of not only his African hosts, but for those back in the States as well. The film would have been greatly enhanced had it sought out more such voices, for the resulting portrait would have been a fuller, more revealing document about a candidate and a man who is far more interesting than his carefully crafted public image would suggest.  

2007. 60 minutes. $19.95. www.firstrunfeatures.com.  

 

 

Who Are You, Polly Magoo?  

Criterion's bills its Eclipse series as a line of forgotten or overshadowed classics for "the adventurous home viewer," and perhaps no release in the series fits the bill as well as the William Klein collection.  

The Delirious Fictions of William Klein contains three stinging satires by the New York photographer-turned-filmmaker: Who Are You, Polly Magoo? (1966), Mr. Freedom (1969), and The Model Couple (1977).  

Polly Magoo follows the seemingly meteoric rise of a young Brooklyn-born model, an average freckle-faced girl who rises to the top of the European fashion world. Klein had done time in that world as a fashion photographer, and here he turns his camera around to reveal a blistering portrait of a vacuous, image-obsessed culture. Polly is essentially what she has always been, a simple girl, youthful, callow and naive, but through the magic of makeup, wigs and a loving lens she is transformed into a goddess, an icon, a harbinger of a youth movement of which she is only dimly aware and that may not really exist anyway.  

Klein captures the phenomenon from all angles, from the media-created cultural movement that Polly is said to represent, to the political ramifications of that cultural shift, and the simpler, more primal level of love and sex and fantasy, as Polly is essentially reduced to a static, seamless sex object, a blank slate of penetrating gazes, parted lips and kinky costumes upon which men can project their seediest desires.  

1966. 101 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Part of a collection, The Delirious Fictions of William Klein. $44.95. www.criterion.com.  

 

 

Before the Rain  

Also new from Criterion: Before the Rain (1994), the first film made in newly independent Macedonia and centering on the violence and bloodshed in the Balkan states in the early 1990s. The film is beautifully photographed, and with a range of color palettes, from dusty, sepia-toned landscapes to the cool, glowing decor of nightclub interiors.  

The disc features a making-of documentary, a music video by director Milcho Manchevski, and a commentary by Manchevski and film scholar Annette Insdorf, who has also provided excellent commentaries for films by her late friend, the great Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski.  

1994. 113 minutes. In Macedonian, English and Albanian with English subtitles. $39.95. www.criterion.com.


About the House: Do You Speak Toaster?

By Matt Cantor
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 10:04:00 AM

I was chatting with my friend Charlie this morning about things variously fixable and unfixable. Charlie is that rarely spotted bird, the philosopher/handyman (et mariner/gadabout/movie and social critic). My little secret is that even though I have these last 20 years inspected buildings for a living, my roots run deep in the same garden that Charlie curates.  

When talking houses, I don’t know anyone I’m more likely to finish sentences for (and he, me). Well, today we got on one of our favorite subjects: the arcane knowledge of repair (or how things really get fixed). 

A lot of what fixers like Charlie and me talk about on this subject has little to do with sprockets or circuits and more to do with the behavior of things. How machines, doorways or houses seem to think or feel. Also, we talk about trips to the hardware store and how to keep them to a minimum (AKA, what you keep in your truck, car or toolbox). 

May years ago, when I spent my days fixing pretty much everything in Mrs. Jones’ house (mostly because I thought I could, foolish me) I began to have this very odd experience of what was really involved in fixing things. Though this, I developed a sort of epistemology of repair. One of the discoveries was this: Machines need to be touched.  

Here’s how I discovered this: 

I don’t remember which thing was first—could have been a stove or a light fixture or a washing machine. It was probably something of relative complexity. I would set about to take the thing apart and see if I could discover the cause for its failure (not coming on, making a noise, whatever). I would take it apart piece by piece, handling each item, turning it over it my hand to see what function it served and how it fit into the whole. Bit by bit I would arrive at some place where it seemed that all the causal elements has been revealed. And yet, much of the time, it would not be clear that there was any one obvious perpetrator. I’d scratch my head and put it all back together, only to discover that the symptoms had gone into remission. The fridge would hum, not buzz. The washing machine would wash once again, the furnace would heat.  

Now, of course, this didn’t work all the time, and often, a specific part would be found to bear responsibility. But it is strange and not-at-all rare for this simple process to produce results all by itself. Explanation? Objects need to be touched. Talking helps but mostly they just need to be touched. Those little wires and washers need physical contact every decade or so or they fall into depression and malaise.  

Charming though this theory seems, we agree, Charlie and I, that there is a less heart-warming reason for this. When we take things apart and put them back together, there are many procedures involved which, if performed well, produce a positive change. Every wiring connection that gets separated and reconnected can remove some oxide or be snugged a bit tighter, eliminating resistance. Every screw replaced may be a bit tighter, potentially eliminating a buzz or an electrically resistant connection. There are far too many of these notions to present here, but the point should be clear. Add to this that the process can often involve a repair that we were unaware of. For instance, when taking things apart, it’s sometimes hard to be sure that the spring in your hand was actually attached to it’s origins or termini when you took the thing apart. Maybe yes, maybe no. If you put the thing back together right, that might be the thing that makes it go whir and makes the sun shine once again upon your laundry day.  

Kicking things usually doesn’t work. People who kick machines that don’t work or drawers that stick get what they deserve. The mechanical world just laughs at these people and then proceeds to further break down just to spite their sorry selves.  

Then there are the conspiracies. Sometimes it’s said that things break or fail in threes (or maybe that only applies to dead celebrities). Maybe, but it’s certainly true that when it rains it pours. I’m sure that these are tests of character, rather than genuine revolts by the mechanical world. I tend to think that washing machines are pretty happy with their lot, whether operational or not. But if there is a consciousness at work among our things, I believe it is teaching us a lesson. The lesson is: get used to it. Things break down. Kicking dishwashers or screaming at the toaster won’t help. Laughter works fairly well though.  

Then there is the advanced course. Sit down with the microwave (actually, I don’t speak microwave) and get to know it. Take the door panel off, one screw at a time, and then just let the thing talk to you. This is one of the great repair secrets. I think it works for medicine and accounting too, actually.  

Take your time. Touch each thing. Look for loose parts. When you take things apart, lay them neatly out in a reverse time-line so that you know which goes back first and last. Consider the thinking of the designer. Look for where things rub. Look for scars or burn marks. Gently clean things off and set them aside. See if there is a screw or wire or washer laying in the bottom and then see if you can find its home. 

Sadly, the age of the fixable thing may be coming to an end. So many devices today are made with plastic riveted parts and have no real way of performing a repair. The toasters, lamps and stoves of the past were so much easier to repair having been assembled with real screws, nuts, wires and bolts.  

It reminds of me Merlin’s sorry resignation that the age of magic was coming to an end. Spirits once lived in all our machines and mechanisms and an occasional handling and a good talking to might be all that was needed. But more and more today, when I try to reason with my house, well … It’s just like talking to a wall. 


Community Calendar

Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:45:00 AM

THURSDAY, JULY 17 

Diabetes Screening Drop in anytime between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. at Frances Albrier Center, San Pablo Park, 2800 Park St. Do not eat or drink anything for 8 hours, with the exception of water, before the test. 981-5367. 

Tilden Explorers An after-school nature adventure program for 5-7 year olds. We will capture and release butterflies from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

Electronic Recycling/Blood Drive from 9 a.m .to 3 p.m. at American Red Cross, 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. 670-1420. www.com-cycle.com 

Berkeley Communicators meets at 7:30 a.m. at Au Coquelet, 2000 University Ave. Rob.Flammia@gmail.com 

Three Beats for Nothing South Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Thurs. at 10 a.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, Ellis at Ashby. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

“Dancing with Pain” A movement workshop with Loolwa Khazzoom on dealing with chronic pain at 7:30 p.m. at the JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Cost is $15-$20. 843-3131. 

Temescal Street Cinema “Touching Home” at 8:30 p.m. outdoors at 49th and Telegraph. Bring a chair. www.temescalstreetcolletive.org 

Avatar Metaphysical Toastmasters Club at 6:45 at Spud’s Pizza, 3290 Adeline at Alcatraz. namaste@avatar.freetoasthost.info  

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

Baby & Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a..m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

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 

FRIDAY, JULY 18 

“Dona Spring -Courage in Life and Politics” A film by Linsey Vurek and Valerie Trost on Berkeley’s councilmember and the progressive causes she champions, at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, Cedar at Bonita. Donation $10, no one turned away. 495-5132. www.bfuu.org 

Eco Access for the Blind or Visually Impaired Explore the bird life in varied habitat of the Point Pinole Regional Shoreline with a naturalist guide, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration required 1-888-EB-PARKS. 

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. 

LaborFest 2008 International Working Class Film and Video Festival “Eugene Debs & The American Movement” at 7 p.m. at Niebyl Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave. Donation requested. 

Center for Nonviolence Education “Teaching Hope: The Nonviolent Classroom” Workshops and speakers for educators, activists, and students, Fri. from 6 to 9 p.m. and Sat. from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Bishop O’Dowd High School, 9500 Stearns Ave., Oakland. Cost is $20-$125. www.efnv.org 

Maggidic Conference Jewish storytelling and ritual arts, from Wed. through Sun. at Chochmat HaLev, 2215 Prince St. Donation $5-$20 per event. For a complete schedule see www.maggidconference.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. 

Three Beats for Nothing Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Fri. at 10 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, Hearst at MLK. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

SATURDAY, JULY 19 

Fresh Tracks: A Taste of Tilden Join naturalist David Zuckermann on a 2-mile hike to enjoy magnificent bay views and learn the history of the park, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., includes lunch. Cost is $38-$44. Registration required. 1-888-EB-PARKS. 

Family Fun at the Little Farm pet a rabbit, feed a goat, or grind some corn to feed the chickens, and play a scavenger game, from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Little Farm, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Butterfly Basics We will look for, capture and release buckeyes, swallowtails, checkerspots and more, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Walking Tour of Fruitvale sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance. Meet at 10 a.m. at the Fruitvale BART station to discovery the history of international food in this neighborhood. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Non-violent Civil Disobedience Training against the Light Brown Apple Moth Trapping & Eradication Program from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at 1924 Cedar St., at Bonita. 

Vegetarian Cooking Class “Greens, Greens, Glorious Greens” Learn to prepare Kale and Califlower Salad with Orange Cashew Cream, Swiss Chard with Caramelized Onions, Greens with Sesame Miso Dressing, Borscht and Orechiette Pasta with Dark Greens, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St. at Castro. Cost is $50 in advance, plus $5 materials fee. To register call 531-COOK. 

LaborFest 2008 “East Bay Schools, The New Deal & The Education Crisis Today” A presentation and walk. Meet at 9:30 p.m. at Berkeley High School Entrance on Milvia. 649-7395. 

“The Sandinistas and Nicaragua” A report-back from the recent delegation to Nicaragua, at 6:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. Donation of $5-$10 benefits projects in Nicaragua. 415-924-3227. www.mitfamericas.org 

Cottontail Cafe and Bunny Adoption from 1 to 4 p.m. at RabbitEARS, 377 Colusa Ave, Kensington. 525-6155.  

Flap in The Breeze Create your own flag, pennant or banner, from 1 to 4 p.m. at The Museum of Children’s Art, 538 9th St., Oakland. Cost is $7. 465-8770. www.mocha.org 

Oakland Zoomobile for ages 3 and up at 2 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

“Brain Boosters” Learn how to improve brain and neurological function through healthy eating at 10 a.m. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

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.  

Around the World Tour of Plants at 1:30 p.m., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755.  

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. 

SUNDAY, JULY 20 

Bay to Barkers Dog Walk/Run and Festival from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Park in the Berkeley Marina, with dog Olympiad games, line dance, and “Do You Look LIke Your Dog” contest. Registration is $25-$30, benefits Berkeley Humane Society. www.berkeleyhumane.org 

Bruce Lee Memorial Martial Arts Show Honoring former Oakland resident Bruce Lee at 5 p.m. at Lincoln Square Gym, 10th and Harrison, Oakland. 

Community Labyrinth Peace Walk at 3 p.m. at Willard Middle School, Telegraph Ave. between Derby and Stuart. Everyone welcome. Wheelchair accessible. 526-7377. info@eastbaylabyrinthproject.org  

Oakland Fund for the Arts Sidewalk Sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Egghouse, 229 Harrison St. at Third, Oakland. 

The Art of Solar Cooking A workshop on the design and use of solar cookers from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at EcoHouse, 1305 Hopkins St., enter though garden on Peralta. Cost is $15 sliding scale, plus $5 materials fee. 548-2220, ext. 233. 

El Cerrito Historical Society meets at noon at Huber Park, 7711 Sea View Dr., El Cerrito. Please bring a salad, a main dish, or a dessert. The primary business on the agenda will be to discuss a recommendation regarding the Society’s project to name the creeks in El Cerrito. 526-7507. 

Sushi Basics Learn the natural and cultural history of this ancient cuisine and you prepare and taste seven different types of sushi. Parent participation required for children 8-10 years. Cost is $25-$39. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

East Bay Atheists meets to watch the documentary “The Disappearance of Madalyn Murray O’Hair” at 1:30 p.m. at Berkeley Main Library, 3rd Floor Meeting Room, 2090 Kittredge St. 222-7580. 

Social Action Forum with Rev. Barbara Meyers on “Forming a Mental Health Community” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensigton. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

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 Sandra Guimares and Roselene Costa on “Psychotherapy and the Buddhist Path” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000.  

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.  

MONDAY, JULY 21 

Berkeley Green Monday with Kirsten Schwind on “Local Action on Climate Change and Peak Oil” at 7:30 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. www.berkeleygreens.org 

“Leadership for Success for Young Enterprises” at 6:30 p.m. at Siemens Technology-To-Business Center, 1995 University Avenue, Suite 375. Cost is $15-$20. To register, contact mailto:info@ebig.org 

World Affairs/Politics Discussion Group, for people 60 years and over, meets at 9:45 a.m. at Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave, Albany. Cost is $3.  

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

Dragonboating Year round classes at the Berkeley Marina, Dock M. Meets Mon, Wed., Thurs. at 6 p.m. Sat. at 10:30 a.m. For details see www.dragonmax.org 

Free Boatbuilding Classes for Youth Mon.-Wed. from 3 to 7 p.m. at Berkeley Boathouse, 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Classes cover woodworking, boatbuilding, and boat repair. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

TUESDAY, JULY 22 

Diabetes Screening Drop in anytime between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. at James Kenney Park, 1700 8th St. Do not eat or drink anything for 8 hours, with the exception of water, before the test. 981-5367. 

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 Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

East Bay Vivarium’s Traveling Reptile Show Get a close-up look at tarantulas, scorpions, frogs, lizards and snakes, at 6:30 p.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 17. 

“Natural History from the University of California Press” with the Science and Natural History Editor, Jenny Wapner, in conversation with William McClung at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

El Cerrito Democratic Club will discuss November’s state and local ballot measures at 7:30 p.m. at El Cerrito United Methodist Church, 6830 Stockton St., near Richmond Ave. Soft-drinks and pizza at 7 p.m. for $4. On-site childcare for children ages 3-8 by reservation at 375-5647. www.ecdclub.org 

Eyewitness Cuba: Advancing in Times of Crisis with Bill Hackwell at 7 p.m. at 636 9th St. at MLK, Oakland 435-0844. www.ANSWERcoalition.org 

“Extraordinary Adventures for the Seasoned Traveler” Don Mankin describes the transformative power of travel at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

“Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy And Great Power Rivalry: What is Happening and What It Might Mean” A talk by Raymond Lotta, at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way at Telegraph. 848-1196. 

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. 

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Yarn Wranglers Come knit and crochet at 6:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

Street Level Cycles Community Bike Program Come use our tools as well as receive help with performing repairs free of charge. Youth classes available. Tues., Thurs., and Sat. from 2 to 6 p.m. at at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

Fresh Produce Stand at San Pablo Park from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Frances Albrier Community Center. Sponsored by the Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice. 848-1704. www.ecologycenter.org 

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

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

Sing-A-Long Group from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave., Albany. 524-9122. 

WEDNESDAY, JULY 23 

Birding with the Golden Gate Audubon Society at Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the large spherical cage near the Nature Center at Perkins and Bellevie. 834-1066, 528-2093. 

Tilden Tots Join a nature adventure program for 3 and 4 year olds, each accompanied by an adult (grandparents welcome)! We will learn about butterflies from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 636-1684. 

Unlock your Family Treasures What not to keep and what to do with it, with Marilyn Ellis of Lighthouse Organizers at 1:30 p.m. at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, Corner of MLK. Sponsored by the Berkeley Gray Panthers. 548-9696. 

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

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www. 

geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 

Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

Berkeley CopWatch Drop-in office hours from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. 548-0425. 

Stitch ‘n Bitch at 6:30 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

THURSDAY, JULY 24 

Tilden Tots Join a nature adventure program for 3 and 4 year olds, each accompanied by an adult (grandparents welcome)! We will learn about butterflies from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 636-1684. 

“The California Deserts: An Ecological Rediscovery” with author Bruce Pavlik at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

“Journey to Acceptance” with Geri Taekens on her struggle with losing her vision, at noon at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6107.  

Appropriate Technology in Central America Learn about the work that Energia, Ambiente, y Salud (ENASA) does in Central America creating sustainable business models at 7 p.m. at Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $5 - $25. All proceeds benefit ENASA. 548-2220, ext. 233. erc@ecologycenter.org 

Women of Color Resource Center’s PeaceGAMES Community Launch Learn about the new education curriculum at 6 p.m. at East Side Arts Alliance, 2277 International Blvd, Oakland. 444-2700 ext. 305. 

Three Beats for Nothing South Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Thurs. at 10 a.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, Ellis at Ashby. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

Expressive Arts Workshop Join AgeSong to learn how arts and music can help the quality of life for our elders at 5:30 p.m. at AgeSong at Lakeside Park, 486 Perkins St. RSVP to 444-4684. rsvp@agesong.com 

Assoc. for Women in Science meets to discuss “Work and Family: Achieving Balance” with Mary Ann Mason at 6:30 p.m. at Novartis, bldg. 4, room 104, 5300 Chiron Way, Emeryville. RSVP to www.ebawis.org 

Teen Book Cub meets to discuss magazines at 4 p.m. at the Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue at Ashby. 981-6107.  

Red Cross Blood Drive from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Kaiser Permaente Lobby, 300 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.BeADonor.com 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

Baby & Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a..m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY, JULY 25 

The Sydney B. Mitchell Iris Society annual sale and auction of irises at 7:30 p.m. at Lakeside Park Garden Center, 666 Bellevue Ave., Oakland CA. Free. http://bayareairis.org 

LaborFest 2008 International Working Class Film and Video Festival “Un Poquito De Tanta Verdad” about control of the media in Oaxaca at 7 p.m. at Niebyl Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave. Donation requested. 

Summer Outdoor Movie Series “Big Night” at 8:30 p.m. at Charles Chocolates, 6529 Hollis St, Emeryville. Free. Bring a chair or blanket. 652-4412, ext. 311. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Kaiser Permaente Lobby, 300 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.BeADonor.com 

Circle Dancing, simple folk dancing with instruction at 8 p.m. at Hillside Community Church, 1422 Navellier St. Potluck at 7 p.m. Donation of $5 requested. 528-4253. www.circledancing.com 

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. 

Three Beats for Nothing Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Fri. at 10 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, Hearst at MLK. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

SATURDAY, JULY 26 

Berkeley Kite Festival and West Coast Kite Championships Sat. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina. HighlineKites.com/Berkeley_Kite_Festival 

Help Restore Cerrito Creek with Friends of Five Creeks. Meet at 10 a.m. at Creekside Park, south end of Santa Clara Ave., El Cerrito. 848-9358. www.fivecreeks.org 

Garden Classrooms & Spiral Gardens Walk, along the southern end of the Santa Fe Right of Way to the Spiral Gardens farm and gardening center, returning to Strawberry Creek Park for lunch. Bring a bag lunch or buy something from the nearby cafe. Meet at 10:30 a.m. on the paved portion of the Santa Fe Right of Way at Delaware, near McGee. 527-3773. 

Toddler Time on the Trails Bring your preschool-aged toddler to discover the wonders of nature from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Area, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-EB-PARKS. 

Bicycle Trip to the Eastshore State Park with the Golden Gate Audubon Society. Meet at 8:10 a.m. at the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station to bird along the Bay trail from Richmond to Emerville. Bring bicycle lock, lunch and liquids. Helmet required. 547-1233. 

Walking Tour “Rail Meets Water: Then and Now” sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance. Meet at 10 a.m. in the parking lot of Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Peach and Other Stone Fruit Tasting from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Center St. at MLK, Jr. Way. 548-3333. www.ecologycenter.org 

The Sydney B. Mitchell Iris Society will hold its annual sidewalk sale of irises from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of the Downtown Oakland YMCA, 2350 Broadway, Oakland. http://bayareairis.org. 

Sidewalk Art Sale and Benefit of animal portraits and art cards Patricia Leslie to benefit the Animal Switchboard's Cora Fund, which provides short-term boarding funds for rescued dogs, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 2427 San Mateo St., Richmond Annex. the-tranquil-ctr@earthlink.net 

Wriggling Worms Discover the wonder of worms as you dig through compost, search under logs and rocks, and make worm homes, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center. Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

LaborFest 2008 Oakland 1946 General Strike Walk Meet at 10 a.m. at Latham Square, Telegraph and Broadway, Oakland to revisit the sites of Oakland’s “Work Holiday.” 

LaborFest 2008 “Workers Power in the Present” An interactive presentation led by members of the Bay Area Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World at 7 p.m. at Niebyl Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave. Donation requested. 

Jewish Literature and Discussion Series meets to discuss “Portnoy’s Complaint” by Philip Roth at 2 p.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043. 

Fundraiser for Berkeley High Tennis Teams Social Mixed Doubles and BBQ at 4:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Tennis Club, One Tunnel Rd. Cost is $25-$60. Registration required. 865-0935. 

Summer Board Game Days from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 17. 

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. 

SUNDAY, JULY 27 

Walking Tour “West Lake Merritt to the Bandstand” sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance. Meet at 11 a.m. at the El Embarcadero pergola, across from Lakeview Library. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Drawing Reptiles & Amphibians A class with Carolynne Griffin from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak, Oakland. Cost is $45-$55. Registration required. 238-2365. www.museumca.org 

Mini-Gardeners Explore the world of gardens, dig in the soil, plant a plant, make a craft, sing songs, for ages 3-5 with a parent, from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to repair a flat, from 10 to 11 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

Reptile Rendevous Learn about the reptiles that call the nature area home, from 2 to 3 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Rock Reborn Hunger Festival from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate, 2960 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland. Cost is 10 cans of food or $10. 875-5297. 

Social Action Forum with DeVone Boggan on “Neighborhood Safety in Richmond” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensigton. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

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 Joleen Vries on “Mental Clarity through Meditation” 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 

ONGOING 

Summer Lunch For Kids & Teens from June 16 to August 15 Meal sites are located at various schools and community centers throughout Oakland and Alameda County. For information call 800-870-3663 for a meal site near you or visit www.summerlunch.org To make a donation see www.accfb.org  

Contra Costa Chorale is accepting new singers. Rehearsals begin August 25, at 7:15 p.m. at Hillside Community Church, 1422 Navallier Street, El Cerrito. 527-2026. www.ccchorale.org 

CITY MEETINGS 

Transportation Commission meets Thurs., July 17, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7010.  

City Council meets Tues., July 22, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci. 

berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil 

Civic Arts Commission meets Wed., July 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7533.  

Energy Commission meets Wed., July 23, at 6:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5434.  

Planning Commission meets Wed., July 23, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7484. 

Police Review Commission meets Wed., July 23, at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 981-4950.  

Mental Health Commission meets Wed., July 24 , at 6:30 p.m. at 2640 MLK Jr. Way, at Derby. 981-5213.  

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., July 24, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7410.