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A law enforcement officer carries computer drives and discs seized during Wednesday
          morning’s raid at the Long Haul.
By Richard Brenneman
A law enforcement officer carries computer drives and discs seized during Wednesday morning’s raid at the Long Haul.


Oakland Police Announce Arrests of 'Principals' in Takeover Robberies

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Wednesday September 03, 2008 - 03:45:00 PM

Oakland police said today (Wednesday) that they have made what they consider a major breakthrough in the city’s restaurant takeover robberies, announcing the arrest of three suspects following a Tuesday night takeover at K&T Nail Salon at 108th Avenue and Bancroft in East Oakland. 

Arrested following the robbery were 29-year-old Leon Lester, 30-year-old Rachaan Lamonthe, and 20-year-old Shante Bostic. No cities of residence were released for the suspects, who remain in police custody. 

While no formal charges have yet been brought against the suspects, OPD says they believe the three were linked to the Aug. 4 robbery of Kerry House on Piedmont Avenue, the Aug. 22 robbery of Nomad Café on Shattuck Avenue, and the Aug. 24 robbery of Full Moon Seafood House at 20th Avenue and MacArthur. 

In addition, police say that at least one of the three arrestees was an “associate” of the two suspects earlier arrested in the July 16 Lamyx Tea Bar robbery (Lakeshore Avenue) and the July 18 El Torero Taqueria robbery (58th and International). However, police said that there was no evidence at this time to connect the suspects to members of West Oakland’s Acorn Gang, who police believe were responsible for takeover robberies in the spring of this year. 

OPD Public Information Officer Jeff Thomason said that while “by no means is the investigation into the [current string of] takeover robberies over,” police believe “we have the key principals in custody.” 

There was no word as of press time as to whether any of the three suspects had retained counsel. 

Police officials said that following the 6 p.m. robbery at the K&T Nail Salon, police found an automobile nearby fitting the description of the getaway car with ski masks, a firearm, and items taken in the robbery inside. Officials said that this led to the subsequent arrests of Lester, Lamonthe, and Bostic at another location. 

Deputy Chief Jeff Israel told a Wednesday afternoon press conference that it was “not just luck or happenstance” that led to the arrests, but that police had already suspected the three of involvement in the robberies “based upon tips gained from the public.” Israel said that the information gained earlier in the investigation allowed police to quickly locate the suspects once the getaway vehicle was found. 

Also appearing at Wednesday’s press conference was Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, who said he was “asking the residents of Oakland to continue to go about their lives normally and not let fear overtake us. We want to reassure residents that we will continue to make significant efforts until all of the culprits [in the takeover robberies] are brought to justice.” 

East Bay Police Collaborating to Identify Takeover Bandits

by Kristin McFarland
Wednesday September 03, 2008 - 03:44:00 PM

The East Bay has been plagued by takeover-style restaurant robberies this summer, with 11 robberies in Oakland, one in El Cerrito, one in Hayward, one in unincorporated Castro Valley, and two in Vallejo. 

Commander Mike Regan with the El Cerrito Police Department said it’s possible that “a couple of groups” are committing the crimes. 

According to Oakland police spokesperson Officer Jeff Thomason, Oakland police are considering most of the Oakland robberies to be related crimes, committed by one or two groups of suspects.  

“There are similarities with all the robberies in Oakland,” Thomason said. “But we have ruled out some as unrelated.” 

Thomason could not disclose which robberies have been dismissed as part of the string, citing the need for investigative discretion.  

Thomason also said that Oakland robbery investigators are collaborating with investigators in other jurisdictions to determine if those robberies are related to the Oakland crimes. 

Most of the Oakland robberies have been committed by two or three adult men wearing hoodies and/or ski masks. That description matches the suspects in nearly all the takeover robberies from Vallejo to Hayward, leaving out more specific essentials like approximate ages or even heights. 

This pattern is clear in the first five Oakland restaurant robberies, committed on July 26, 27 and 28, and Aug. 4 and 5, in which victims describe similar actions and suspects. In each case, two or three suspects, wearing hooded sweatshirts and ski masks, invaded a restaurant when it was crowded with patrons, threatened employees with a gun and stole cash from the register and customers before apparently fleeing the scene on foot. 

At this point, police told the public that they were investigating all the robberies as a related series. 

Two weeks passed with no additional reported takeover-style robberies. 

The series began again with a restaurant robbery in the Rockridge district of Oakland on Aug. 18. In this case, two armed, hooded suspects entered Pasta Pomodoro restaurant when no patrons were present, taking money from the restaurant. 

Three days later, two armed men invaded a restaurant in Castro Valley, forcing restaurant employees and four patrons into a back room before robbing them and the restaurant. 

Oakland saw four takeovers from Friday, Aug. 22, to Sunday Aug. 24, three in restaurants and one in a nail salon. 

But with these later robberies, the pattern shifted, and while some of the crimes seem to fit the earlier model, witness reports show some discrepancies from the original description of the robberies.  

Witnesses at the Nomad Cafe and Mama Rosa’s Pizza, robbed on Aug. 22 and Aug. 23 respectively, reported that the criminals seemed younger, more inexperienced. 

Officer Thomason at OPD, however, disagreed, saying the actions of the criminals lend more to the recognition of a series than sometimes unreliable witness reports. For example, Nomad manager Justin Garland reported that the criminals were caught on security camera as they removed their masks before exiting the restaurant. Officer Thomason, however, said that the security camera footage did not reflect that claim. 

At both the Nomad and Mama Rosa’s robberies, two suspects again forced employees and patrons into the back of the restaurants before robbing them. 

The two latest Oakland robberies, both on Sunday, Aug. 24, turned violent. At Full Moon Seafood and A Royal Nail Spa in Oakland, two armed, masked men robbed employees, and in each robbery, one employee was struck with a pistol by one of the suspects. 

The same weekend, Vallejo saw two takeover robberies, but not of restaurants; a Hollywood Video store and a 7-11 convenience store were robbed on Friday, Aug. 22 and Saturday, Aug. 23. The Hollywood Video was robbed by three armed suspects in hooded sweatshirts and gray bandanas, who forced employees and patrons onto the floor before robbing them. Three armed, masked men robbed the safe of the 7-11 and pistol whipped an employee after the safe was opened. 

On Monday, Aug. 25, a restaurant in Hayward was robbed by two armed men, one of whom chased a female employee with a gun. Employees and patrons were robbed, by the suspects were unable to open the cash register and fled. 

On Tuesday, Aug. 26, two men, one armed, one masked, robbed a restaurant in El Cerrito. The suspects robbed two patrons, the employees and the cash register before fleeing. Mike Regan with the El Cerrito police reported that in working with other jurisdictions, they have determined that this robbery is “related to a couple of others,” but certainly not all of the other takeovers. 

Both the Oakland police and Mayor Dellums have called for public assistance in identifying the suspects.

CONVENTION SPECIAL: Republicans React to Bristol Palin's Pregnancy

by Chris Krohn
Wednesday September 03, 2008 - 10:21:00 AM

ST. PAUL—Alaska Governor and current Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant, but the family says she will bear the child and marry the father.  

Barack Obama’s reaction: There was also “empathy from Barack Obama.” Obama was shown saying, “My mother had me when she was 18. How family deals with issues and, you know, teenage children, that shouldn’t be the topic of our politics.” (U.S. News and World Report) 

Here in St. Paul, Minn., site of the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC), 10 registered Republicans inside and outside the Convention Hall were asked how Alaska Governor and John McCain’s selection as vice president, Sarah Palin, reacted to the news of her daughter, Bristol, 17, being five months pregnant. 

Included in these interviews along with Republican delegates from Texas, Michigan and Oklahoma were a hospital technician, a retiree and waitress from St. Paul, a nurse from Iowa, and a political campaign consultant from Oklahoma. Almost to a person this group of random interviewees seemed to be right on message, even if the responses were more libertarian than mainstream Republican. They were perhaps best summed up by Mary Kiritschenko, a waitress from St. Paul. Her comments covered the gamut of reaction, “This is 2008, it’s awful (abortion) like it was when I was growing up. I like Palin, but it’s tough and this is America and there happens to be thousands of families in the same situation.” 

Brett Farley is a self-described conservative Republican and campaign political consultant from Okalahoma City. “It was a bit of a surprise, at first I thought ‘poor girl’ … but I think it helps her candidacy … I am now willing to wear a McCain button, as long as Palin’s name is on there.”  

Farley’s friend, fellow Okalahoma alternate delegate and lawyer, Jason Reese, describes himself as a moderate conservative. “Brett and I represent opposites within our party,” he smiles as he looks at his friend. “And good for her for getting married. We’re from the south and it’s good to see somebody living up to their obligation. The easy thing would have been to go off and have an abortion.”  

Reese added, “Palin brings in a reformist credential. She has stood up to people in her own party, she will stand up to the Tom Delays and Jack Abramoffs of the world. She’s a staunch conservative, but one moderates can live with.”  

Reese is the current Republican candidate for Labor Commissioner, a statewide office in Okalahoma. 

Perhaps Alvin, Texas-delegate Sandy Golden’s comments are as blunt as they are complex. “I’ve had two daughters who got pregnant when they were teenagers. My first reaction was I appreciate that the mother and the father have not rejected their daughter. I’m sure they are feeling horrible. I’m pro-family and pro-life and they [Golden’s daughters] were not raised that way … and they have paid dearly in a lot of ways.”  

Executive Producer and Grosse Pointe, Mich., delegate Julie Corbett said, “I was upset about it, but it’s a family matter and it should remain a family matter.”  

Lexington-Circle Pines, Minn. resident Bob Hanson, who works in Nutrition Services at a local hospital, was equally forgiving, if not outright enthusiastic for Palin’s candidacy. “Since I’ve learned more about Sarah I think she’s totally awesome. I’m not voting for [Bristol] I’m voting for her mother. I was also impressed to find out that she said her parents were life-long school teachers.”  

Linda Cooper from St. Paul said, “Sarah Palin’s daughter is just like every American teenager … she has her own road to travel through life and thank God she’s a pregnant teenager with an active mother and father.” 

Independent voters and St. Paul residents, Melissa Mattson, a restaurant manager, and community college student Katy Kobold may be representative of many voters in 2008.”Her daughter is not running for office,” says Kobold, “I heard about it this morning and it’s unfortunate that it has become public.”  

Mattson is more circumspect, “I’m still undecided and it [Bristol Palin’s pregnancy] does not make a difference in my vote … and what about the guys? There’s lots of young men out there that could be in the same situation but we may never know.”  

And just to add further complexity, Mattson’s friend, waitress Kiritschenko chimes in on cue, “Yeah, it just happened to my son last month [He got a girl pregnant].  


Shooting at Sacramento Street Barbershop Leaves Man Wounded

By Kristin McFarland
Tuesday September 02, 2008 - 05:12:00 PM

One person was injured today (Tuesday) in a shooting at Johnson’s House of Style at 2914 Sacramento St. 

At 12:49 p.m. Tuesday, BPD responded to reports of shots fired in the 2900 block of Sacramento. Upon arrival, police found the victim, a 22-year-old man, with apparent gunshot wounds. 

The victim was transported by the Berkeley Fire Department to Highland Hospital. Officer Andrew Frankel, BPD public information officer, could not disclose the victim’s condition. 

According to Frankel, although the police have no one in custody yet, they are still “working the scene” and investigating the crime. 

Citizen’s Group Calls Public Meeting to Discuss Draft Sunshine Ordinance

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday September 02, 2008 - 05:11:00 PM

The citizens’ group working on an alternate version of the Berkeley city attorney’s draft sunshine ordinance—which promises greater access to open government—will hold a public meeting at the Lutheran Church of the Cross on Sept. 9 to get community input on their recently released document. 

The group spent the better part of the summer crafting the draft after the Berkeley City Council in April postponed the public hearing on the city attorney’s draft ordinance and granted the group a 90-day extension to complete their work. 

City officials have been working on a local sunshine ordinance since 2001, when at the request of Councilmember Kriss Worthington the City Council asked the city manager’s office to look into improving the city’s sunshine policies, including the adoption of an ordinance.  

“A draft ordinance was drawn up by former City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque, but was deemed unsatisfactory by many,” said Dean Metzger, a spokesperson for the group. “So concerned Berkeley citizens with widespread public support volunteered their help.” 

This informal 10-member group—consisting of neighborhood leaders, political advocates, lawyers, members of the League of Women Voters, commissioners, former city officials and a former Berkeley mayor—worked with dozens of interested citizens to form a 34-page draft Sunshine Ordinance which will be turned over to the City Council for review today (Tuesday). 

Hundreds of e-mails were exchanged among community members—both political “insiders” and “outsiders”—who signed up through a public process. 

Metzger said the group’s advisors included public interest lawyer Terry Francke from Californians Aware and experienced sunshine advocates from San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. 

“We are at a point where we need to finish it,” he said. “We are calling it the formal draft and leaving the draft part in there. We want to see if anyone has major problems or major good ideas that we missed and make the final changes before we submit it to council in October.” 

Local sunshine ordinances, members of the citizens group said, strengthen the provisions of California’s Brown Act and Public Records Act to further protect public participation in democracy. 

The draft, Metzger said, attempts to maintain a critical balance between democratic participation and governmental flexibility. 

“Information is power, and the purpose of any sunshine ordinance is to maximize the flow of information in the democracy-downward, from government to citizens, by minimizing secrecy; and upward, from citizens to decision makers, by maximizing public input,” a separate document summarizing the draft said. 

“The challenge is to accomplish these goals in a way that is fair to all participants and does not obstruct legitimate government business. We feel it is important to encourage political participation by maintaining courtesy in public processes. Clear, fair rules, with means of redress, help to do this.” 

The draft points to the lack of enforcement as the Achilles Heel of all sunshine ordinances, and emphasizes that one of the goals of a sunshine commission is to head off lawsuits by raising awareness, integrating sunshine into public processes and gradually changing the culture of government. 

The summary states that the “sunshine ordinance must be specific enough that violations are legally clear, which necessarily occurs at the cost of brevity and some flexibility.” 

Members of the group have stressed from the very beginning that unless sunshine laws are enforceable in court they are completely meaningless. 

The draft ordinance facilitates enforcement by placing the burden of judicial redress upon a sunshine commission—which will enforce the ordinance—and the City of Berkeley, but adds that the essence of the ordinance is to be proactive and to help citizens and government work together more constructively. 


Sunshine Highlights: 


o Assures that meetings take place when and where people are most able to attend. 

o Keeps decision making in the open, and gives the public the right to know how their representatives voted in closed sessions. 

o Requires frequent enough City Council meetings so that meetings adjourn around 11 p.m. 

o Provides an orderly, predictable, and efficient structure for council meetings, while accommodating public participation protected by the Brown Act. 

o Ensures adequate time for decision makers to hear from the public and study relevant information before voting on an issue. 

o Permits the public to place items on the agendas of the City Council and commissions with 25 signatures. 

o Provides fair but flexible public comment opportunities at all meetings, while generally allowing city commissions to decide their own procedures. 

o Informs citizens about the significant activities of their representatives on regional agencies. 

o Creates a Community Engagement Process that assures public input on projects of citywide impact, such as budgets, area plans, and City-University relations. 


Access to Information 

o Designates staff and organizes records to assist with public information requests. 

o Guarantees timely access to public information, and minimizes delay and cost of obtaining copies of important documents. 

o Prohibits arbitrary withholding and redaction of city documents requested by the public. 



o Establishes an independent, appointed Sunshine Review Commission, with protections against influence by the City Council, City officials, and others. 

o Authorizes the Commission to work proactively with staff and decision makers to improve public processes, noticing, and access to information. 

o Requires timely rulings by the Commission on alleged sunshine violations, and provides penalties for violations in accord with existing Berkeley and state law. 

o Provides a legal budget for the Commission to bring enforcement actions, and minimizes financial risk for individuals seeking to address violations. 


Public meeting on Tue., Sept. 9 at the Lutheran Church of the Cross, 1744 University Ave., 7-9:30 p.m. 

For a copy of the Sunshine Ordinance please e-mail Metzger at drm1a2@sbcglobal.net 


Long Haul Activists Plan Rally at Sproul Plaza

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday September 02, 2008 - 04:32:00 PM

Supporters of Berkeley’s venerable Long Haul angered by last Wednesday’s raid will rally at Sproul Plaza Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

The protest comes in the wake of the seizure of 13 computers and a collection of disc and hard drives from the group’s offices at 3124 Shattuck Ave. as police searched for the source of what they described as threatening e-mails. 

But just who will defend the Long Haul in the long haul remains an open question. “Everybody wants money,” said one group activist Friday. 

While the Electronic Freedom Foundation blogged about the incident, media coordinator Rebecca Jeschke said the foundation was unable to do more because of attention demanded by other cases. 

“Unfortunately, we’re a small group,” she said Friday. 

EFF blogger Hugh D’Andrade posted a commentary on Deeplinks, the EFF blog, declaring, “The seizure of media computers would appear to be a violation of the Privacy Protection Act, which says that the authorities are not entitled to ‘search for or seize any work product materials possessed by a person reasonably believed to have a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper [or] broadcast.’” 

The raiders seized the hard drive used by Berkeley Liberation Radio, an underground radio station as well as all the computer used by the Slingshot, a 20-year-old radical quarterly. 

In a notice posted at the newspaper’s website, Slingshot staff said that the all subscriber information was apparently safe because it is stored on another machine off-site. [See http://slingshot/tao/ca/] 

“Government seizure of Slingshot collective computers is a direct attack on freedom of the press and in particular, the independent, non-corporate alternative press,” the group declared. 

Mitch Celaya, assistant chief of UC Berkeley police and the department spokesperson, said Wednesday’s raid was as the result of a campus investigation of threatening e-mails, though he wouldn’t identify the nature of the threats or their targets. 

Asked if the threats involved animal researcher, Celaya replied “not necessarily.” 

Also participating in the action at the Long Haul were representatives of the Federal Bureau of investigation and the Alameda County Sheriff’s office. 

Celaya said they were present “because they are members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.” 

The task force operates under the aegis of the FBI and includes representatives of other federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. 

“We’re the lead agency, and we executed the search warrant,” Celaya said. “We are conducting the investigation into the threatening emails.” 

Forensic investigators are examining the computers and storage media, “and if the computers are not stolen and are found not to be percipient to criminal acts, than they can be released” at some point, he said, while anything containing criminal evidence would be kept by the investigators. 

Alan Haber, Long Haul founder and the first president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1960, said the raid was the fruit of “a fascist legal system which should be overthrown.” 

Haber, speaking from his home in Michigan, said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau “should resign because he allowed his police to do blanket searches.” 

As for the Long Haul’s current occupants, which include the Infoshop, East Bay Prisoners Support, Bread Not Bombs, the Needle Exchange, the Slingshot newsletter and Cycles for Change, “I hope they sue [the university’s] pants off, so they can used the money to send lots of kids to school.” 

The Infoshop is one of several nationally, and part of an on-line network of activists, many of the anarchist persuasion, and serves as a focal point for activists focused on a range of issues. 

Among the items seized in last week’s raid was Berkeley Liberation Radio’s hard drive, containing files maintained by the underground radio station, which has been the target of repeated actions by the Federal Communications Commission. 

While the search warrant mentioned only the Infoshop, police seized all computers, discs and data storage media used by all the groups inside the building, which civil liberties attorney James B. Chanin said could raised serious legal problems for the police. 

The largest collection of hardware was located on the loft at the rear of facility, where a collection of computers was freely available for anyone who needed access to the on-line world. “We get homeless people and people who can’t afford computers,” said Long Haul activist Greg Horton. 

Meanwhile, the Long Haul has issued a call for hardware donations, and are seeking PCs and Macs—the former preferred—less than five years old. Dropoffs are welcome between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. weekdays and between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. weekends. 

A notice posted at the Long Haul Tuesday also called for volunteers to gather at 6 p.m. Wednesday to prepare signs for the protest. 



Morning Fires Leave Seven Homeless

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday September 02, 2008 - 04:29:00 PM

Back-to-back fires 

Berkeley firefighters battled back-to-back blazes this morning (Tuesday) that left seven people homeless and caused more than $250,000 in damage. 

Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said the first call came at 5:34 a.m. from an apartment building in the 1300 block of Derby Street. 

“On arrival, firefighters found one apartment unit fully involved,” he said. 

The fire left the apartments’ two residents without a dwelling and killed their cat. Red Cross workers had located temporary quarters for one of the occupants, said the deputy chief. 

It didn’t take long to find the cause: One of the tenants said a bed covering had ignited after it had come too close to an electric heater. “He tried to extinguish before calling 911,” said Deputy Chief Dong. 

The preliminary estimate of damage to the apartment building was placed at $100,000, while the loss to contents hadn’t been finalized by Tuesday afternoon. 

Firefighters returned to their station at 7:25 a.m., only to be summoned to another blaze four minutes later on Ashby Avenue at Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

“On arrival, they found smoke coming from the side of a two-story duplex,” said the deputy chief. 

Moments later, the heat blew out a side window and flames into the open air, scorching the side of the neighboring duplex and triggering a second alarm. 

“We had 27 firefighters, five engines, two trucks, two paramedic units and three chief officers” fighting the blaze, he said. 

Electrical power to the immediate area was also cut during the blaze to protect the emergency crews, and one of the five occupants displace by the blaze was also evaluated for additional medical care. 

The cause of the blaze remained under investigation Tuesday afternoon, but damage to the structure was set at $150,000, with damage to contents still to be determined. 

While the dire damage was largely confined to the first floor unit, the contents of the second story apartment sustained extensive smoke damage, said Deputy Chief Dong.  

In addition, the exterior of the nearby duplex suffered from paint damage. 

The fire also forced the closure of MLK at one of Berkeley’s busier intersections, and the road remained closed at noon while investigators remained on scene seeking to learn the cause of the fire. 

Five residents of the duplex were displaced by the fire, including one toddler. 


Firefighters afield  

Two Berkeley firefighters were waiting in Houston Tuesday morning to see if they’ll be needed in the emergency spawned by Hurricane Gustav. 

Deputy Chief Dong said they had been dispatched to Lafayette, La., with the Oakland Fire Department’s Search and Rescue Team but learned they weren’t needed, and then headed back to Houston to wait in case they are needed elsewhere. 


BART blaze 

Berkeley firefighters also handled a small Aug. 26 blaze that temporarily halted traffic on the BART near its North Berkeley Station. 

The call came at 6:46 p.m., resulting in the dispatch of a single engine to the tracks at Curtis and Gilman streets. 

On arrival, the firefighters saw smoke coming from the overhead tracks and called a first alarm. When the truck arrived, firefighters extended the ladder and climbed up to the tracks, while BART police shut down power to the third rail that powers the trains. 

A quick investigation determined that a fiberglass covering had fallen onto the third rail, which packs of punch of 1000 volts of DC power. 

After killing the flames with a dry chemical extinguisher power was restored to the system and the trains rolled again after an hour’s delay. 

CONVENTION SPECIAL: Obama’s Night—‘Change We Can Believe in’, or FDR, JFK, and LBJ Redux

By Christopher Krohn
Tuesday September 02, 2008 - 01:57:00 PM

Many in the media will be asking for a long time if Democratic nominee Barack Obama hit a political home run last Thursday night. However, if he didn’t completely leave Denver’s Mile High Stadium soaring majestically, then he hit an inside the park home-run. Either way he made it home.  

Combining the social programs of FDR and the vision and inventiveness of JFK he achieved lift-off with the 80,000-plus as they sailed with him to his 21st century new moon: children to educate and veterans to care for, fixing the economy, rebuilding cities, and saving farms. He outlined a nuts-and-bolts classic Democratic agenda but with a strong nod to the homeland security center-right within his party. The choreography and pace of the speech were typical Obama, rhetorical elegance.  

Nomination or coronation? It didn’t matter. As a two and a half minute standing ovation finally came to a simmer Obama declared, “With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.” The loud applause started again and he charged ahead offering an olive branch to his chief political rival throughout the campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton. He also recognized others—Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden—ending with “the love of my life,” his wife, Michelle.  

He spent some time telling the packed football stadium who he is, how he got that way, and how he wants to use the education he received from America’s promise to “restore America’s greatness.” The theme he would come back to as the night wore on had a familiar moral ring, “Imagine what it’s like being in somebody else’s shoes.” This resonated with a crowd that was hungry to get involved in moving America towards increased fuel efficiency, investment in renewable fuels and creating “five million new jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced.” This said in the face of a current President who has told Americans to go out and shop and not worry about the war in Iraq or the home mortgage crisis. Clearly, Obama would be a different kind of President. 

Obama said the country is not ‘a nation of whiners’ as one of the President’s economic surrogates, former Texas Sen. Phil Graham, said recently. The Americans Obama knows “work hard and give back and keep going without complaint.” The nominee introduced his “promise of America.” He said it was this promise that has allowed him to graduate from Harvard law school and to run for President. But this promise is threatened, Obama warned, by the Republican call for the now discredited ownership society—“give more and more to less and less and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.” The country he knows engages in “hard work” and “sacrifice.” Respect, empathy, kindness, and faith are the values Obama says he grew up practicing. His grandfather told him along time ago, “We’re Americans, we can do anything if we put our minds to it.” 

The “promise” Obama has lived, and the America he knows, comes from seeing his mom work the nightshift, his family at times relying on food stamps, and reaping the economic benefits that his grandfather received while going to college on the GI bill. This Democratic nominee wants to make it clear he does not come from the privileged America of a George Bush or a John McCain. Obama said it’s not that John McCain doesn’t care, it’s that he doesn’t know. “He doesn’t get it,” Obama emphatically stated.  

Obama focused much of the night on an updated New Deal and Great Society-type agenda that included: reforming the tax code, investing in new schools, criticizing greed, moving people out of poverty, rebuilding roads, improving technology and creating “an economy that honors the dignity of work.” Perhaps what neither FDR nor LBJ would have recognized in the speech was the Democratic nominee’s call for ending America’s dependence on foreign oil in 10 year’s time. It was that clarion call which resulted in one of the night’s biggest ovations. 

Obama continued by outlining “the promise” and then stating what he would do to make that promise, the American promise he called it, come true. Individual and collective responsibility is at its heart and soul. Simply put, the people have the freedom “to make of our own lives what we will.” The market should reward initiative and innovation and businesses should create “American” jobs, strive to play by the rules and protect workers as well.” 

And what would be Obama’s job? Government should protect its citizens, he said, provide educational opportunities, invest in infrastructure, keep water clean and “our toys safe.” Briefly put, “government should work for us, not against us.” 

In the past, Obama has been criticized for being short on specifics. And now, he was more specific. Start with the tax code and reward workers, small businesses, and companies who create jobs here in the US and no tax breaks for any company that ships jobs to other countries. He also has a plan to cut taxes for 95% of “all working families.” Obama goes on to call for an end to the American addiction to oil, (or just foreign oil?) “and we must understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution.”  

On one hand he says he will invest in natural gas, clean coal technology and perhaps more troubling, “finding ways to safely harness nuclear power.” And on the other, he says he would like to see a significant investment, $150 billion, in alternative fuels, especially wind and solar. 

Another large ovation was heard when he warned that the “stakes are too high for partisanship” as he spoke of those serving in the military. “They have not served a red America or a blue America, they have served the United States of America.” Then he spoke directly to his Republican rival, “So let us agree, Patriotism has no party.” And, “So I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.” 

He also made an appeal to bring the nation together by de-emphasizing the historic differences between the two parties and looking for some common ground: abortion (“surely we can agree on reducing the amount of unwanted pregnacies”); gun control (“uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47’s out of the hands of criminals”); gay marriage (“surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital”); and immigration (“I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from the infant child”). 

He ended where he began, reminding his audience that they have much work to do. So many children to educate, veterans to care for, an economy to fix and cities to rebuild. “America, we cannot turn our back.” 

Judge Orders ‘False Or Misleading’ Statements Stricken From AC Transit Challenger’s Ballot Statement

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday September 02, 2008 - 01:54:00 PM

An Alameda County Superior Court Judge has taken the first vote in the 2008 local general election, ruling that certain portions of AC Transit At Large Board challenger Joyce Roy’s submitted ballot statement were either false or misleading, and ordering them removed. 

Judge Frank Roesch’s ruling last week was in response to a lawsuit filed by Alameda County resident William Rowen against Roy. Rowen was represented by Oakland attorney David Stein, while Roy represented herself. 

Among the statements Roesch ordered omitted from Roy’s ballot statement were that AC Transit’s controversial Van Hool bus purchases are “sending jobs overseas,” that they are being conducted with “no bids,” that the Van Hool buses are “untested,” “cost more than American buses,” and “are hated by most drivers.” 

Roy, a retired Oakland architect and public transportation advocate, is challenging AC Transit Board President Chris Peeples for Peeples’ at-large board seat.  

Roy has been the most persistent public critic of AC Transit’s growing relationship with Belgian bus manufacturer Van Hool, while Peeples has been Van Hool’s most ardent supporter on the board.  

In recent years, AC Transit has been turning to Van Hool for purchase of much of its bus fleet, and the transit agency’s relationship with the bus manufacturer will be at the center of the Peeples-Roy election battle. 

While Peeples identified Rowen as “a friend,” he said that the Rowen lawsuit “was not an official activity” of the Peeples campaign. Peeples said he did help provide Rowen with several AC Transit documents submitted with the lawsuit and brought Rowen in contact with a number of AC Transit officials who submitted declarations. 

AC Transit Manager of Media Affairs Clarence Johnson said that AC Transit had “no official involvement” in the Rowen-Roy lawsuit, and that any documents provided to Rowen was done so because “an individual from the public asked us to provide him with factual information.”  

Johnson also said that “any involvement in the lawsuit by AC Transit officials was done on an individual basis, rather than by the district itself.”  

“As a public agency, we’re not allowed to have any involvement in political activity,” Johnson said by telephone shortly before the judge’s verdict was announced. “Whatever happens, we’ll live with the result.” 



CONVENTION SPECIAL: Protesters Do Come in Droves to St. Paul Most Come with an Anti-War Message

by Christopher Krohn, Special to the Planet
Tuesday September 02, 2008 - 08:52:00 AM

ST. PAUL—Schennile Hytower was waiting for her number 67 bus to go to work. It would carry her out to the airport where she manages one of the restaurants. A Michigan transplant, she has been in St. Paul for over a year now, “It’s a nice place,” she says as she boards the bus towards downtown. “I also have mixed feelings, but there’s more work here,” says Hytower on, Labor Day. She’ll have to change buses there to get to her airport job. 

And what about the Republican National Convention (RNC)? “My main annoyance is that everything will be blocked off downtown.” Hytower looks out the window as a middle-aged man with a couple of teenagers, all sporting ‘Obama ‘08’ t-shirts, board the bus. “I don’t have any real concerns except for the protesters getting out of hand.” Did you see Barack Obama’s speech Thursday night? “I thought it was awesome,” a smile creeps past her intense brown, almost wary eyes. She immediately adds, “I thought Hillary was very good. I saw a lot of unity, a lot of support for Obama.” 

Others board the bus and the mood is becoming almost jovial. Two women get on and see the family of Obama-istas and one of them shouts, “I wonder where you are going…yeah!,” as she finds her seat in the back of the bus. Her name is Paula Schroeder and she is heading to the state capitol building to be a part of a long-planned rally and march. Schroeder, from St. Paul, works as a pet groomer. She says she’s protesting because she is in “opposition to this administration…everything they have done in the areas of human rights, woman’s rights, environmental rights, peace policy.” She adds, “Even the Reagan administration initiated more peace efforts than this one.”  

Did you watch any of the DNC coverage? “Clinton was great and Obama was brilliant.” The bus comes to a halt across from a magnificent green lawn, which leads up to the capitol steps where others are readying a makeshift stage. As Schroeder and her partner descend the bus stairs she turns back and almost philosophically says, “We have a lot of single issue people…they’ve instilled a lot of fear in people.” 

The capitol is wrapped in hazy sunshine, temperatures already reaching into the high 80’s. Thousands can be seen streaming onto the grassy field coming off city buses, school buses, and vans. Groups have even arrived from the recent rather somber and controlled protests in Denver. But this protest is already shaping up to be anything but somber. Dozens of homemade signs are displayed, mostly aimed at stopping the war and bringing troops home “now.”  

The ‘Coalition to March on the RNC’ was months in the making, planning, and filing of law suits—3—against the City of St. Paul for better access to the actual convention site itself. The coalition is made up of national peace and anti-war organizations like United for Peace and Justice, Answer, and Troops out Now,” according to Coalition spokesperson Meredith Aby. The main issue for the rallyers? “We want the war to end, troops to come home now and to fund human needs not war,” says Aby, obviously harried, wanted by other media to do more interviews. With the RNC immobilized by Hurricane Gustav, many more reporters than might normally be here are present to cover this march. Certainly the one large march in Denver was barely covered, but the national media is definitely at this St. Paul event, even checking into the media tent and receiving credentials. “Our government continues to prioritize killing people in other countries rather than taking care of people in this country,” says Aby as if reading from a script. Why is it so many more protesters are here in St. Paul than Denver? “It’s harder to rally people [against Obama] rather than against an administration that is conducting a war.” 

As the rally part of the rally-march begins this reporter casually walks along the parade route in search of what awaits protesters, as they will get closer to the site of the convention. Down Cedar Street from the state capitol, and across the mighty Mississippi River which has its origins here in the Twin Cities, right on 7th Street towards the convention site, the Xcel Center, and then turning around before running into W. Kellogg Blvd. and marching back to the capitol along the same route. Riot clad police in groups of 10 or 12 were overheard being given final instructions. They were present on every block, presumably preparing for the marchers.  

None of these heavily armed men—no women were seen present as in Denver—would speak to a reporter and not one of their badges of identification was visible. Yes, these were ominous-looking individuals, obviously wanting to appear intimidating. And it was working. The few pedestrians present on this the first day of the RNC could be seen scurrying around the hard-shelled cops. A carefree mood it was not. Police have been called in, backed by National Guard troops, from all over the state and even cops from as far away as Arlington, Texas, who were seen paired with local Minnesota traffic officers stationed on many downtown street corners. 

Thomas Davis is a retired high school history teacher and third generation Democrat from Toledo, Ohio. This is his third Republican convention and he is here for one reason only, to collect political buttons. He says he cut his button-collecting teeth in Detroit in 1980—“when Reagan got the nomination”—and Philadelphia in 2000. He is adamant that St. Paul is not fully capitalizing on this opportunity of hosting a national convention. “St. Paul blew it! Where’s the ‘Welcome Republicans’ streamers hanging off the light poles,” he points up and motions his index finger in a circle above his head. “I don’t see any great outpouring of enthusiasm.” And while this is true, unlike Denver, the city of St. Paul has not provided much pomp and circumstance for Republicans. The delegates and supporters themselves have been rather subdued as evidenced in interviews on the street and inside the convention hall. In addition, nominee John McCain has also called on delegates to tone it down in the face of a hurricane baring down on the Gulf region. For the record too, St. Paul’s mayor is Chris Coleman a “DFL-er” (Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, former Sen. Hubert Humphrey was instrumental in the merging of the Democratic and Farmer and Labor parties in 1944), is arguably a progressive one too. The mayor’s web site touts education, livable neighborhoods, and the “Sustainable St. Paul Initiative” as his priorities. Coleman was also a Hillary Clinton supporter in the primary.  

The march arrived downtown almost on schedule, around 1:30pm, and it kept coming and coming and coming. With seemingly no end in sight the large contingent, marching 7 or 8 abreast, kept the police occupied throughout the day. Most of the estimated 10,000 (police) to 30,000 (organizers) marchers were vocal, peaceful, and at times playful. There were groups of break-away marchers, many dressed in black, bandanas covering their faces, playing cat and mouse games with the authorities. Police shot tear gas into several of these groups. Although the show of force on the part of the police was massive they still had their hands full. It wasn’t Denver.  

As their numbers increased, protesters became free to move around as the security apparatus focused more on breakaway marchers who smashed windows (Macy’s Department Store and First National Bank were but two locations) and blocked traffic. It seemed that so many police had been deployed in a ring around the convention hall itself that police were finding themselves overwhelmed by the large number of protesters. The protest fell considerably short of the 50,000 that organizers said would be coming.  

The day ended with over 300 arrests including nationally known journalist, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. She was released shortly after her arrest, according to her web site. [See story by Marjorie Cohn below.]People interviewed from St. Paul said they had never before seen this many protesters or this many police in their city before.  

With Gustav making landfall with less catastrophic effect than first expected, the RNC should continue tonight as scheduled from 3-9pm, although the speakers’ list is expected to be altered somewhat in order to accommodate those who did not speak Monday night. The protesters on the other hand, have a full week of activities planned: “Experience Guantanamo in St. Paul” display, “Substance RNC Music Festival,” “Bikers and Rollerbladers for Peace,” and another march is scheduled on Thursday the final day of the RNC. 

CONVENTION SPECIAL: News Analysis:Preemptive Strikes Against Protest at RNC

By Marjorie Cohn, Special to the Planet By Marjorie Cohn
Tuesday September 02, 2008 - 08:48:00 AM

In the months leading up to the Republican National Convention, the FBI-led Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force actively recruited people to infiltrate vegan groups and other leftist organizations and report back about their activities. On May 21, the Minneapolis City Pages ran a recruiting story called "Moles Wanted." Law enforcement sought to preempt lawful protest against the policies of the Bush administration during the convention. 


Since Friday, local police and sheriffs, working with the FBI, conducted preemptive searches, seizures and arrests. Glenn Greenwald described the targeting of protestors by "teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets." Journalists were detained at gunpoint and lawyers representing detainees were handcuffed at the scene.  


"I was personally present and saw officers with riot gear and assault rifles, pump action shotguns," said Bruce Nestor, the President of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, who is representing several of the protestors. "The neighbor of one of the houses had a gun pointed in her face when she walked out on her back porch to see what was going on. There were children in all of these houses, and children were held at gunpoint."  


The raids targeted members of "Food Not Bombs," an anti-war, anti-authoritarian protest group that provides free vegetarian meals every week in hundreds of cities all over the world. They served meals to rescue workers at the World Trade Center after 9/11 and to nearly 20 communities in the Gulf region following Hurricane Katrina.  


Also targeted were members of I-Witness Video, a media watchdog group that monitors the police to protect civil liberties. The group worked with the National Lawyers Guild to gain the dismissal of charges or acquittals of about 400 of the 1,800 who were arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. Preemptive policing was used at that time as well. Police infiltrated protest groups in advance of the convention. 


Nestor said that no violence or illegality has taken place to justify the arrests. "Seizing boxes of political literature shows the motive of these raids was political," he said.  


Further evidence of the political nature of the police action was the boarding up of the Convergence Center, where protestors had gathered, for unspecified code violations. St. Paul City Council member David Thune said, "Normally we only board up buildings that are vacant and ramshackle." Thune and fellow City Council member Elizabeth Glidden decried "actions that appear excessive and create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation for those who wish to exercise their first amendment rights." 


"So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protestors who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months-long espionage efforts to track what they do," Greenwald wrote on Salon. 


Preventive detention violates the Fourth Amendment, which requires that warrants be supported by probable cause. Protestors were charged with "conspiracy to commit riot," a rarely-used statute that is so vague, it is probably unconstitutional. Nestor said it "basically criminalizes political advocacy." 


On Sunday, the National Lawyers Guild and Communities United Against Police Brutality filed an emergency motion requesting an injunction to prevent police from seizing video equipment and cellular phones used to document their conduct. 


During Monday's demonstration, law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force. At least 284 people were arrested, including Amy Goodman, the prominent host of Democracy Now!, as well as the show's producers, Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. "St. Paul was the most militarized I have ever seen an American city to be," Greenwald wrote, "with troops of federal, state and local law enforcement agents marching around with riot gear, machine guns, and tear gas cannisters, shouting military chants and marching in military formations." 


Bruce Nestor said the timing of the arrests was intended to stop protest activity, "to make people fearful of the protests, but also to discourage people from protesting," he told Amy Goodman. Nevertheless, 10,000 people, many opposed to the Iraq war, turned out to demonstrate on Monday. A legal team from the National Lawyers Guild has been working diligently to protect the constitutional rights of protestors.  


Marjorie Cohn is president of the National Lawyers Guild and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (with Kathleen Gilberd), which will be published this winter by PoliPointPress. Her articles are archived at www.marjoriecohn.com.  

Berkeley School Board Race is Underway

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Sunday August 31, 2008 - 02:52:00 PM

With two months left to go for the November municipal elections, candidates for the Berkeley Board of Education are pushing for endorsements and mobilizing supporters through fundraisers, campaign kick-offs and websites. 

One incumbent and three newcomers will compete for the two available seats on the five member school board.  

John Selawsky 

Born in Brooklyn, two-term incumbent and school board Chair John Selawsky graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a B.A. in urban education. 

Selawsky, a writer and editor, works at the downtown Berkeley YMCA and supervises the youth program Childwatch. 

Married to Berkeley rent board commissioner Pam Webster, Selawsky has lived in Berkeley for 21 years and has a son, Peter, who attended the Berkeley public schools and is currently at Occidental College in Los Angeles. 

Selawsky was appointed to the Community Environmental Commission in 1995 by the late councilmember Dona Spring, serving until 2000, and subsequently elected its chair for two terms. 

He has also served as co-chair of the Planning and Oversight Committee, co-chair of People’s Park Advisory Board and been a member the Audit Committee, the Policy Subcommittee, the 2x2 Committee with the City of Berkeley and the music and arts committees for the Berkeley Unified School District. 

A familiar face at community meetings, Selawsky also defended Berkeley Unified’s student assignment plan in the California Superior Court, pushed for the solarization of Washington Elementary School, co-founded the Safe Routes to Schools Committee in 2003 and worked with the LGBTQ community to include LGBTQ students and their families in Berkeley Unified’s non-discrimination policy. 

Selawsky also worked with the district’s East Campus neighbors and Berkeley High to find a solution for the contentious Derby Street baseball field plan and was part of the district team that successfully gained International Baccalaureate certification for Berkeley High School. 

During his first term as school board member, Selawsky helped to improved the district’s budget and later went on to guide the Berkeley Adult School’s move to San Pablo Avenue. 

“I’m running for re-election because I have energy and enthusiasm, and I believe I have been an effective boardmember,” Selawsky said. “I bring a lot of experience, skills, and knowledge to the board, and particularly now in tight economic times and the uncertainty of state and other funding my fiscal and operational experience is essential in maintaining financial solvency and systems and operational integrity for the district. I have many accomplishments and much work still to be done.” 

Selawsky, recently endorsed by the Sierra Club, County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan and school boardmembers Shirley Issel, Nancy Riddle and Joaquin Rivera, said he hopes to focus on improvements and reforms throughout the district, particularly closing the student achievement gap and build safe and secure school campuses. 

He also wants to solarize half the district’s schools over the next five years and strengthen the district’s arts and music programs.  

Selawsky will be sharing his campaign headquarters at 2030 University Ave. with City Council candidate Jesse Arreguin and is in the process of updating his website. 

Priscilla Myrick 

An active mother of two, Myrick is a longterm Berkeley resident and has worked in the Bay Area biotech industry for four years 

After graduating in religious studies from UC Berkeley, Myrick obtained her MBA in finance and accounting from Columbia University. 

She is a founding committee member of the Association of Bioscience Financial Officers and has served on the Berkeley High School Governance Council and School Site Council, the Berkeley High School Site Plan Subcommittee and the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee for Small Schools.  

Myrick described herself as the proud parent of two Berkeley High graduates who decided to apply her financial management skills to the non profit and education worlds. 

She helped establish a nonprofit that brought a writing coach program to Berkeley secondary school students and volunteers as a literacy coach at Berkeley High, King and Longfellow middle schools. 

As a board member and treasurer with Building Opportunities for Self-sufficiency (BOSS) from 1999 to 2003, Myrick helped local homeless families and youth. 

“I first became involved in Berkeley public schools years ago, when I was invited to join the Citizens’ Budget Oversight Committee for the Berkeley Unified School District,” Myrick said. “But volunteering in the classroom taught me more about the needs of students than any finance committee. It’s hard to see teachers pay for pencils out of their own pockets while district resources often aren’t well managed. That experience, coupled with the never-ending budget crunch for public schools across California, has convinced me of the need for someone with fiscal management strength on our school board.” 

If elected, Myrick hopes to make significant gains in closing the achievement gap by supporting and strengthening programs that work to raising literacy and math proficiency levels for all students., constructing adequate classrooms—especially at Berkeley High—and improving school board accountability for spending decisions and fiscal management among other things. 

Myrick’s list of endorsements include councilmembers Betty Olds and Gordon Wozniak, former City of Berkeley mayor Shirley Dean, former school board president Elizabeth Shaughnessy and Susan P. Helmrich, co-president, Berkeley High School Development Group. 

Her website:  

Beatrice Leyva-Cutler 

An outspoken parent and community leader, Leyva-Cutler was born and raised in San Francisco and has been the executive director of the Bay Area Hispanic Institute for Advancement (BAHIA) for the past 20 years. 

Leyva-Cutler received her Master of Arts in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College and has lived in West Berkeley for 15 years  

She has worked at BAHIA, which provides bilingual care to a diverse community of families in Berkeley, for 28 years and has taught child development in Spanish at local community colleges to help more Latinos find jobs in education. 

“I have seen through my involvement with BAHIA, Latinos Unidos de Berkeley and United in Action that the only way we can improve the quality of education for all of Berkeley’s children is to be on the Berkeley school board,” said Leyva-Cutler, who works primarily with children and families in Berkeley. 

Leyva-Cutler described herself as a proud Latino mother and stepmother of two children and an energetic grandmother. 

“My accomplishments are simple,” she said. “My parents and many generations of my family members never finished elementary school. I am very proud that my daughter is now a second generation college graduate in our family, and that I have a son who is a senior and looking ahead to college. I am proud of who my children are considering that I have raised my children as a single mom for most of their lives. I have always put family first—even with my demanding work schedule and community work.” 

According to Leyva-Cutler, her children have always seen her engaged, active, involved and committed to education, children, youth and families. 

“They find me going to demonstrations, late night meetings, mentoring, being part of organizations and grassroots progressive groups that prioritize children and youth,” she said. 

“And they have heard themselves what a difference I have made in the community, what a difference BAHIA has made in the lives of many children now adults, and those who are now parents. I share the pride of many early childhood educators that embrace a child at a young age and never ever forget them—and take special pride, when they come back to their child care center, and want only our teachers to care for their children. This speaks volumes about early memories and the impact quality early care and education makes in the lives of children.” 

Leyva-Cutler wants to see the 2020 Vision, recently adopted by both Berkeley Unified and the City of Berkeley, implemented to address the achievement gap. 

She said she also wants to create open communication between homes and schools, teachers and parents and build opportunities for professional and educational advancement for youth, teachers, parents and taxpayers. 

Leyva-Cutlers endorsers include the sole endorsements of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and United in Action, the John George Democratic Club, Mayor Tom Bates, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, and councilmembers Lauri Capitelli, Max Anderson and Linda Maio. 

Her website:  

Toya Groves 

The mother of three young children who attend the Berkeley public schools, Groves is a south Berkeley resident and works as a case manager for teens at Berkeley Youth Alternatives, which serves at-risk youth in South and West Berkeley. 

A graduate of UC Berkeley in African American Studies, Groves majored in Woman’s Studies at the New College of California. 

Groves studied in Barbados under former school board member Pedro Noguera, where she learned about the vast differences in literacy rates among the Caribbean countries and the United States. 

She is the author of the book Don’t give it up!, a handbook for students and parents, and owns Cleva Clothes Boutique in Berkeley. 

Groves also taught seventh-grade language arts and social studies to primarily English language learners and at-risk youth from the Latin and African American communities at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland. 

“Being a teacher in Oakland allowed me to see first hand the plight of students who do not meet the standards set by No Child Left Behind while also forcing me to use clever teaching methods that were always changing to engage students and inspire them to learn,” she said. “I also became familiar with the low teaching wages and the struggle between maintaining a quality family life and pursuing a career that I loved. My experience in community organizing stems from the desire to preserve traditional values and hard working communities often uprooted by gentrification.” 

Groves also formed the Four Corners Association to save Kandy’s Car Wash, a black-owned business in South Berkeley and lent an active voice at Berkeley’s zoning commission meetings to talk about the issue. 

“Using the South Berkeley Area plan empowered our efforts,” she said. “However, we lost and the car wash closed. I am a community advocate who stands for the past, present, and the future. I value tremendously the idealistic and revolutionary ways that Berkeley was built upon by supporting the true meaning of diversity and community upliftment via government and education.” 

Groves said her community work highlighted current problems such as educational retention and deficiency, rising juvenile crime rates, fair treatment of blue collar workers, and affordable housing.  

“The work we do today directly reflects the future,” she said. “I am open to all new and innovative ideas that support our youth to grow into future world contributors.”  
























Democratic Convention in Photos

By Christopher Krohn
Friday August 29, 2008 - 09:12:00 AM

It's all over but the clean-up. Here are all the convention pictures. 



New Appeal Filed In Stadium Lawsuit

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 04:31:00 PM

The legal battle over UC Berkeley’s building plans at Memorial Stadium is back in the state Court of Appeals for the second time. 

The litigation pits environmentalists and neighbors against a cash-starved university which says it needs the buildings to open the wallets of donors and meet the needs of its athletes. 

The latest round of litigation features the California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hill Association and a group of Berkeley citizens against the UC Board of Regents. 

The City of Berkeley, a plaintiff at the trial court level, did not join the appeal after the City Council declined to join with its former co-plaintiffs. 

The first issue before the three-judge panel of the appellate court will be whether or not to bar the university from cutting down trees and starting construction before they have had a chance to decide the case, a process than often takes more than a year. 

The trees at the grove have been the scene of a treesit that began on Big Game Day 2006. The presence of the protesters led the university to construct fences around the site that remain as the Cal Bears hold their first home game Saturday.  

“Our case is fundamentally sound and we are confident that the court of appeals will reverse the lower court’s position,” said Oakland attorney Stephan Volker, who represents the oak advocates. 

“We’re eager to get into the appellate court to get these legal issues resolved,” said Michael Kelly, president of the Panoramic Hill Association. 

Kelly said the case was important because it would resolve critical legal and procedural issues. 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller ruled largely in favor of the university in the final decision handed down late Tuesday. 

But her decision, while clearing the way for a construction of a four-level gym and office complex west of Memorial Stadium, also challenges the university’s plans to renovate the stadium itself. 

Miller rejected the university’s contention that they could value the stadium at the price of building a new facility in conformance with current earthquake safety standards and sided with the plaintiffs’ position that cited current market value of the existing building as the value. 

What might seem an otherwise arcane semantic point becomes a major real-world concern in light of the Alquist-Priolo Act, which governs construction within 50 feet of active seismic faults. 

While Miller agree with the university that the gym—formally the Student Athlete High Performance Center—lies outside the zone, the stadium itself sits directly over the Hayward Fault. 

That fault has been deemed the most probable source of the region’s next major earthquake by state and federal geologists. 

Alquist-Priolo limits renovations and repairs to existing buildings within the 50 percent zone to half of the existing structure’s value, and if Miller’s contention is accepted, the university’s extensive plans for the stadium could be severely hampered. 

The new appeal is essentially the same document filed last month, which the appellate court rejected on the grounds that Judge Miller had yet to resolve one issue in the case. 

With Miller’s jurisdiction over the case concluded as of Tuesday’s ruling, the plaintiffs were again free to file their appeal. 

Dan Mogulof, the university’s spokesman on the legal fracas, said that the administration has made a binding commitment not to begin construction until the higher court has ruled on the immediate issues of whether to impose a stay on construction activities and issue a writ of supersedeas assuming jurisdiction over the case. 

“We’re optimistic about the outcome,” he said. “Based on the exhaustive and detailed nature of Judge Miller’s ruling, we’re optimistic that the court of appeal will clear the way for construction to begin in short order.” 

Michael Lozeau, attorney for the Panoramic Hill Association, said the appeal filed this week is essentially the same document that had been filed earlier. 

For more information on the previous filing, see http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-07-31/article/30708. 

Political Tidbits: Protesters Ousted from Civic Center Park, Large Demo Close to Pepsi Center

by Chris Krohn
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 04:29:00 PM

Denver—Civic Center Park, the park which some protesters have been using to hold demonstrations since last Saturday, was discovered on Wednesday morning to have a new six and half foot high fence. It was not immediately known why this occurred.  

Many I have spoken with today are questioning whether you can hold a meeting such as the DNC, which should fundamentally be about the free exercise of rights, speech, voting and at the same time squelch so many others' free speech rights outside the convention hall. A so-called “free speech zone” was created next to the Denver arena where this convention is being held. Protesters call it the “freedom cage,” and have boycotted it since the convention began. But Wednesday night the largest demonstration during this convention took place and the destination was the “freedom cage.” The 5000-plus demonstrators quickly overwhelmed the “cage” and the group headed to a showdown with more than 500 heavily armed police and their tank-like water cannon closer to the site of the DNC. Some 50 members of the Iraqi Veterans Against the War stood at attention and asked to present a one-page letter to a delegate of the Democratic Party. Finally the police accepted the letter and at sunset the crowd was dispersing. 

Maybe Sitting does Matter 

Where you sit can sometimes say a lot about how much the Dems love (need?) you. There is no mistake about where your state’s delegation is seated inside the Pepsi Center in Denver. Traditionally, the President and Vice-Presidential nominees sit right in front of the stage, and there they are: Illinois, front and center, and Delaware (Joe Biden’s state) stage right. The state that hosts the convention, Colorado, is stage left. Now is where it gets interesting. The states that are too close to call, or have potential to be in play, are given good seats. Michigan and Virginia, both important to the Dems, are pretty close, directly behind Colorado and Illinois. Pennsylvania is seated to the left of Michigan and Florida is directly behind Delaware, pretty good seats too. Nevada is behind Florida on stage right.  

Iowa is stage left as is Vermont and that is curious. Not Iowa, but Vermont. Ohio is out in center field behind Virginia and Michigan. Seems like Ohio and Vermont should switch places in terms of needed electoral votes. Now guess who is way out in stage center-left field (California) and far-left field (Minnesota)? Why, because they are likely to vote for the Obama-Biden ticket, as are New York, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Wisconsin, all out in stage center right and far right fields. So a seat is not just a seat at the DNC. 


Year of the Woman 

Nancy Pelosi just said that 100 years ago at the DNC in 1906 there were five women delegates. This year there are more women delegates than male delegates for the first time ever. 


Conyers to the Rescue 

When we get back in session, John Conyers, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, revealed Wednesday afternoon, we will issue a Contempt of Congress citation to one Karl Rove. Conyers also will continue to urge that Guantanamo be closed down, never to open again. More ideas: examine the abrogation of so many international treaties; "this notion that the President is above the law…the supreme court has said time and time again that the president is not above the law” has to be contested; “proactive and preventive is how the Dept of Justice should be run…our goal is to have a presidential election that is free and fair, unlike 2000 and 2004.” 


Rep. Mike Honda and former Army Chaplain James Yee Talk Rights 

The “American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections” 

(note: AMT has have gotten five congresspeople this week to address the concerns of American Muslims at a variety of forums at the Sheraton Hotel.) 

James Yee, former Army Captain was railroaded, jailed then exonerated and placed back in his former position at Ft. Lewis. It was too much for Yee though and he was given an honorable discharge.  

Yee’s story is that he was stationed at Guantanmo Bay U.S. military base. He was assigned as a Muslim Chaplain. “I used the chain of command to raise my concerns. Many people did not know about the abuses that are taking place down here. They got me out of there as soon as possible and place me in a South Carolina brig. I was not only found not guilty I was also given an honorable discharge,” and a medal. “At Guantanamo I was putting forward American values", Yee said, “humane treatment of prisoners and justice.” 

Then it was Mike Honda’s turn. Honda is a congressmember from Santa Clara county. He said, “I think quite frankly he’s (Yee) been framed.” Honda went on to say, “The Japanese community was the first one out there after 911 because we knew what was going to happen.” We were out there for Muslims and others. Honda went on to talk about Pat Tillman’s case. Why did they lie? We had hearings and that’s how we found out there’s 180,000 Blackwater…mercenaries in Iraq, he said. “The Patriot Act is the most unpatriotic act,” Honda believes. He also mentioned the prosecutions of Wen Ho Lee and Aaron Watada. Honda was asked what he expected from an Obama administration. He said, given the past eight years [of civil rights abuses] it’s time to develop a Department of Peace. We did it with energy and education…the power of example, it’s what Bill Clinton talked about last night. 


Now it's all over but the clean-up. Here are all the pictures from the Democratic convention, both inside the hall with the delegates and outside with the protesters. 



Flames Gut Popular Berkeley Gas Station

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 03:04:00 PM

Flames gutted one of Berkeley’s busiest gas station early Thursday morning, causing more than $700,000 in damage to the independent station U.S. Smog & Gas at 3000 Shattuck Ave. 

The station, run since 1996 by Shahzad Kahn and owned by him since 2003, has consistently undersold most gas stations in the East Bay. 

But the flames that were first reported at 2:54 a.m. were going strong by the time the first Berkeley Fire Department unit arrived moments later, said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong. 

By the time the flames were controlled at 3:40, 16 fire department personnel were on the scene. 

“They also had to protect the buildings nearby by,” said the deputy chief, including a home to the south on Shattuck and an apartment building to the west on Ashby Avenue. 

Some of the damage was inflicted by the firefighters themselves, as they were forced to cut through the station’s expensive roll-up doors that cover its garage bays. 

The official damage estimate is $500,000 in loses to the structure and $200,000 to contents, including expensive electronic gear used in smog-testing. 

“We also had PG&E come out to cut off the power to the building,” said Deputy Chief Dong. “We also notified the city’s Toxic Division to determine what kind of cleanup would be required.” 

Because the flames never reached the gas pumps outside, there was little danger of a gasoline fire, he said. 

Investigators have traced the origin of the blaze to an electrical problem, which may have involved both a heater and a refrigerator condenser. 

The gas station was also the location of a “spite fence” erected by Kahn to prevent the owner of the apartment building at 2076 Ashby Ave. from painting the eastern side of his building. 

Kahn had claimed that Athan Magannas had built the structure a foot over the property line, and demanded a six-figure payment. 

Magannas finally solved the problem by hiring workers to rappel down the side of the two-story structure and cover it with siding in the middle of the night. 

UC Police Seize Computers In Raid

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:14:00 AM
A law enforcement officer carries computer drives and discs seized during Wednesday
              morning’s raid at the Long Haul.
By Richard Brenneman
A law enforcement officer carries computer drives and discs seized during Wednesday morning’s raid at the Long Haul.

UC Berkeley police, guns drawn, raided an empty Long Haul Infoshop Wednesday morning, seizing 13 computers and other gear in a search for the source of threatening e-mails. 

“We did execute a search and seized computers,” said Robert Sanders, the university’s media manager for science communications. 

While Sanders didn’t offer details on the search, his role in covering recent threats to campus scientists conducting animal experiments may indicate the nature of the threats. 

If so, it would confirm speculation during the search raised by several people at the scene. 

Sanders has been widely quoted by journalists reporting on threats to Berkeley scientists, and concern was raised to a new level Aug. 2 when two firebombs targeted researchers affiliated with UC Santa Cruz. 

Even earlier, citing “illegal and violent acts” against animalresearchers, the UC chancellors adopted a joint statement Dec. 5 that declared “We will pursue all means available to us to help bring the individuals involved in criminal behavior to justice.” 

Others suggested the raid may have been the results of strong support of many Long Haul regulars for the ongoing tree-sit on the Berkeley campus. 

The building, which houses a collection of individual organizations ranging from the Needle Exchange to Bread Not Bombs to East Bay Prisoner Support, was targeted by a team of at least seven officers. 

According to the search warrant obtained by UC Berkeley Police Detective Bill Kasiske, officers believed the computers inside the offices at 3124 Shattuck Ave. contained evidence of felonies.  

In addition to offering a home to individual groups, Long Haul board member Greg Horton said the building’s Internet room provided computers to give online access for those otherwise unable to afford it. 

The document did not describe the alleged crimes nor did it name any perpetrators, and no arrests were made at the time of the raid.  

In addition to computers and data storage media, the warrant targeted all written, typed or electronically stored documents containing information of people who used the computers inside the building.  

Pattie Wall, an attorney for the Homeless Action Center (HAC), was working in her office next door at 3126 Shattuck when police knocked at the door. “They asked me if I had a key, and I said no.”  

Wall told the officers to check with the landlord, the Northern California Land Trust, but the trust’s director wasn’t in, so the officers returned, telling Wall they  

didn’t need a key. 

After they asked if there was a rear entrance, the officers went down the center hallway at HAC, drawing their pistols as they neared the rear door, said Wall.  

Then the officers walked out the door and to the back door of Long Haul and made their entry. 

Meanwhile Wall called staff at the Long Haul, who rushed to scene, also bringing civil rights attorney James B. Chanin, who has an office in the block to the north. 

Chanin said he was surprised by the warrant, since it didn’t identify any specific organization.  

“I can’t imagine the judge knew that the building housed many different organizations,” he said. “It would shock me if the judge knew that.”  

Chanin said that a warrant that targeted a specific group wouldn’t allow police “to go into a building and take everybody’s stuff. But that’s what I believe happened, and that’s not right.” 

Ian Winters, executive director of the land trust and Long Haul’s landlord, said the raid was the first in his memory, “and we never had any problems even while Long Haul had the marijuana club here.” 

By the time the raid was over, only monitors, keyboards and disconnected cables were left. 

Kathryn Miller, another board member, said the seizure would prevent publication of the next issue of the radical newspaper Slingshot, given that all the material for the edition was stored on the computers. 

The Slingshot is produced by one of four collectives that are listed on the Long Haul’s web page. The others are the Long Haul Infoshop, the bicycling advocacy group Cycles of Change and the Anarchist Study Group.  

The raid drew a small crowd, with many of the observers taking pictures of the officers through the building’s front windows and later as they carried out the computer hardware.  

Soul, a long-time broadcaster on Berkeley Liberation Radio, said the underground radio station had been impacted by the raid. “We had some of our stuff there,” she said. “They got our hard drive, and that really concerns us.” 

“This is really amazing,” she said. “During all the resistance to the Gulf War and other times they never raided the Long Haul. It’s the church we go to. It’s the heart of anarchy in Berkeley.”  

Soul said she believed the raid stemmed from the UC Berkeley campus police pressure on the tree-sit. “They know we’ve been associated with the tree-sitters.”  

She also pointed to a Feb. 17, 2004, City Council resolution urging federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to refrain from taking any action to interfere with Berkeley Liberation Radio. 

Chanin said he had contacted the National Lawyers Guild on behalf of the Long Haul tenants. 

“I’m a neighbor, so they came to me,” he said. 

The raiders were comparatively neat, taping severed locks and screws removed from lock hardware neatly on the walls next to the places where they’d been removed.  

Several items, including a petty cash envelope, had been left neatly arranged in a doorway, apparently after officers had photographed them.  

At the end of the raid, Detective Kasiske decline to say what police were seeking, and referred questions to Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya, who had not returned calls by deadline time. 

Campus police notified the Berkeley Police Department before the raid, said BPD spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, “but our department wasn’t involved,” she said. 

Law enforcement agencies traditionally notify another jurisdiction when carrying out operations in their jurisdiction, she said. 

Dan Mogulof, the university’s executive director of public affairs, said he was unaware of the raid. 

Zachary Running Wolf, the first of the tree-sitters at the Memorial Stadium Grove, was at the scene later in the morning, declaring that he believed he may have been a target.  

The building had once housed a medical marijuana clinic, but that facility had closed months earlier, leaving many at the scene to speculate that the raid may have stemmed from animal rights activism.  

The UC chancellors recently signed a joint letter deploring attacks on researchers who conduct animal experimentation, in the wake of two Aug. 2 firebomb attacks aimed at UC Santa Cruz researchers. 

Berkeley researchers have also been targeted by protesters, including confrontations at their homes and vandalism. 

For more information on Long Haul, see www.thelonghaul.org. 

Long Haul’s Radical History

By Al Winslow Special to the Planet
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:14:00 AM

It’s an anarchist “free space.” 

An anarchist saying speaks of “building a new society on the vacant lots of the old”; in this case, a sanctuary of Berkeley’s left, Berkeley’s seekers and sometimes Berkeley’s outcasts was built on the remains of Sugar’s Den Health Spa and Massage. 

“Sugar” reputedly was open-minded about the prostitution laws. Anyway, a fire put her out of business in the late 1970s. Reminders remain — charred wooden beams toward the back, a vivid sign amid political posters on an upstairs wall. 

“After the fire, Al (Haber) renteed the entire place for $100 and started making repairs,” Jesse Palmer wrote in History of the Long Haul. “The long hallway ... plus the political vision of the place gave it its name.” 

Haber, 70, a founder of Students for a Democratic Society in 1959, now lives in Michigan with his wife, Odile, a veteran of the 1968 Paris street rebellion that almost overthrew the French government; the government was saved, oddly, by the intervention of the establishment Communist Party.  

He visits Berkeley occasionally and stops by the Long Haul at 3124 Shattuck Ave., in an offbeat area at the edge of Berkeley that houses La Peña cultural center, the IRA-leaning Starry Plough Irish bar, a free-legal-aid office, James Chanin, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, and the Daily Planet. 

Haber is still hard to figure. Sometimes he seems bemused by what he has loosed. He talks frequently about unity, enough of it to make a difference.  

“For Al, the concept of union was much more than a labor union,” Jesse Palmer wrote in History of the Long Haul. “It meant a group for developing radical theory and tactics ... and supporting its members’ lives over the long haul. Al didn’t think everyone had to be in the same union—just that everybody be in one. 

“Anyway, that’s the way I see it,” Palmer said. 

Dominique and his companion, Melissa, came from South Dakota. They traveled in a van with their dog, Ginger, through a dozen states, from Louisiana to Oregon. “Both our moms thought it was cool, us driving around seeing the world,” Dominique said. 

About seven months ago, they found the Long Haul. “People were just talking to us. You could hang out there. You didn’t have to buy anything,” he said. “You have the usual in-fighting and excruciating staff meetings, and sometimes conflicting visions are being acted out here, but we are glad to be part of the herd.” 

Despite an off-putting reception desk with a person of presumed authority behind it, people wander in. 

Homeless people come in to use the bathroom. Coffee is free. The Internet is free. Books are all over the place. Somewhat aging donated food is free. 

“People have started out as total leeches but end up doing the dishes,” said Greg Horton, a member of the collective. 

Dominique said, “People have been banned, but it’s a pretty big process. You really have to push the line.” 

A notable evictee was the Berkeley Cannabis Club. It took six years. 

The club provided marijuana to people who had a doctor’s prescription but evolved into a money-maker with an expanding, paid staff and large amounts of cash passing around, according to people who were there. 

Anarchist process requires consensus—everybody must agree or abstain. Then everybody must agree or abstain on how to execute the decision. And so on. 

Six years to make a major decision isn’t that long.  

The Long Haul, celebrating its 15th anniversary, has a lifetime lease, presumably arranged by Haber, and pays $1,200 a month rent to the nonprofit Northern California Land Trust. 

Much of the money comes from groups that meet or rent space there—Cycles of Change, a bicycle advocacy group, Needle Exchange, East Bay Prisoners Support, Food Not Bombs, Berkeley Liberation Radio. 

The Long Haul is open Monday–Thursday 6–9 p.m., Saturdays 3–9 p.m., and Sundays 3–11 p.m. It can be reached at (510) 540-0751 or www.thelonghaul.org.

Rep. Barbara Lee Takes Active Role At Democratic Convention

By Christopher Krohn Special to the Planet
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:15:00 AM

DENVER—Congressmember Barbara Lee is tough to keep up with. In a relentless pace, she often outruns even her staff. That staff can be seen here in Denver, scurrying behind this determined Alameda County congressional representative. She can be fiery and fierce when she needs to be, and she always plays to win. 

Lee was a member of the California State Assembly and Senate and also worked as a staff member for then Rep. Ron Dellums, who retired in 1998, having served in the district since 1971. Lee was elected to Congress that same year and has been reelected every two years since. She typically wins with 85 percent of the vote in California’s 9th Congressional District. Lee is a member of the Appropriations Committee in Congress, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and First Vice Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. 

She met the Planet in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel off 16th Street in downtown Denver. The hotel is the hub for California Democratic Party delegates (441 total delegates, not all of whom are staying at the Sheraton).  

Daily Planet: So, what have you been doing at the convention so far?  

Lee: I attend the breakfast every morning for the California delegation, and meet with the Black Caucus; there are town hall-style meetings as well and, of course, I attend floor sessions [each day between 3-9 p.m. at the Pepsi Center].  

Planet: Anything different at this convention from four years ago?  

Lee: Basically we are getting more [attention]. Delegates are more progressive. The country is becoming more progressive, or at least Democrats are.  

Planet: How are things on the convention floor?  

Lee: Michelle Obama defined herself. We have to define ourselves and not let the other side define who we are—Hillary couldn’t have done it better—and the healthcare part [of the party platform]. 

(Earlier there had been a major progressive victory on the language of healthcare in the party platform, according to Tim Carpenter, National Executive Director for Progressive Democrats of America, a group that works closely with Lee’s congressional office. Carpenter said the progressives achieved a real victory in a recent platform committee “fight.” In an interview Carpenter said that “‘Universal coverage’ was changed to ‘guaranteed healthcare for all, every man, woman and child.”) 

Planet:So, what will be your agenda on January 20, 2009 when a President Obama is inaugurated?  

ee:End the occupation of Iraq as quickly as possible—from day one we will work on that. Healthcare … let’s begin that one immediately, and working to reduce poverty. We’ve been working on an “Out of Poverty” caucus. Barak Obama is committed to cutting it [poverty] in half. I’m committed to this and I will push Obama on it.  

Planet:And what specifically will you call for on Iraq? Obama committed to 16 months.  

Lee:Sixteen months is much too long. No more money to prolong this war, no permanent bases and no occupation. The Progressive Caucus will lead on this issue. 

Planet:Obama said he wants to take the troops out of Iraq and put them in Afghanistan. 

ee:You know the global war on terror is a “notion”—we don’t even understand what it is about. The Taliban is reconstituted, they’re growing heroin. Military action is not going to make us more secure in our country. We need a more comprehensive approach because no one says we should not defend ourselves.” 

Planet:And what about local issues, what are you working on there?  

Lee:My job is to make sure I get as much money as I can shake loose for the needs of the communities in my district; federal money. Those issues are crime prevention, community policing, health clinics, a green job training program, and money for community colleges. 

And just like that it was over. One of her aides grabbed her arm and as I rose to say goodbye that aide put herself between the congressmember and me. But by that time, though, she was already galloping away to the next town hall meeting, caucus or media interview. 


Judge Gives Stadium Win to UC

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:16:00 AM

The first round of the legal battle over the Memorial Stadium ended late Tuesday, and lawyers for the losing side are preparing their appeal. 

Michael Lozeau, attorney for the Panoramic Hill Association, said he was working on the documents to file with the state Court of Appeal. 

The decision by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller followed a brief hearing in her Hayward courtroom Monday morning. 

Lozeau and Stephan Volker, attorney for the California Oak Foundation, were opposed by Charles Olson, the San Francisco attorney who led the university’s defense in the lengthy and complex hearings in Miller’s Hayward courtroom. 

Also present was Harriet Steiner, the outside counsel hired by the City of Berkeley to represent the city’s interests in the case. The City Council declined to vote to appeal Judge Miller’s first version of her ruling late last month. 

“Judge Miller gave us five minutes,” said Volker after Monday’s hearing. “We said that we wanted the university to confirm that if wefiled an appeal in two days they would maintain the status quo until the appellate court ruled on our writ of supersedeas.” 

Volker said the university gave its assurances, though the judge had declined to state whether she would enforce their promise with the power of the court. 

The writ the plaintiffs want would halt enforcement of Miller’s ruling while the appellate court was mulling the merits of their challenge to the lower court’s decision. 

They have until Thursday to file the appeal, and even then there is some question whether or not a 20-day ban on new construction activity—including tree-clearing—would be automatically granted, given that Miller’s ruling Tuesday dissolved her earlier injunction against new construction. 

During Monday’s hearing, the university agreed to a two-day delay to give the losing side time to appeal, and university spokesperson Dan Mogulof Tuesday confirmed the university’s intention to honor the delay. 

The lawsuit, filed in December 2006, challenged the regents’ approval of the Student Athlete High Performance Center, a four-level high-tech gym and office complex planned immediately to the west of the landmark stadium. 

On a broader level, the plaintiffs challenged the environmental impact report for a group of projects the university has dubbed the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects. 

Plaintiffs, who also included a group of Berkeley residents, charged that the project violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Alquist-Priolo Act, which governs building within 50 feet of active earthquake faults. 

Judge Miller found that some aspects of the university’s original plans violated the seismic law, but withdrew her objections after the university scuttled the parts of the plans she had cited. 

While she also upheld the city’s challenge, which had charged the university wrongly certified that it couldn’t detail the impacts of seven new annual events planned for the stadium, she allowed the project to move forward after the university removed the events from their plans. 

An earlier filing with the state Court of Appeal was rejected after judges there declared that Miller had issued her first ruling before she had finished with the case, making an appeal premature. Then the plaintiffs withdrew their motion for a new trial, clearing the way for Monday’s hearing. 

Miller promised at the end of that hearing to rule promptly on the case. 

The university’s plans for the gym require the leveling of most of the trees in the grove now located at the site—inspiring the ongoing tree-sit that has kept campus police busy at a time when crimes of violence at Cal have been soaring. 

While Miller’s decision would pave the way for construction of the gym, it raises serious questions about just how much work the university can do on the stadium itself. 

The judge sided with the plaintiffs on one of their key contentions, that the university could spend no more on the extensive renovations it plans than half of the stadium’s current market value. The university’s lawyers argued that replacement value should be used. 

The aging stadium sits directly over the Hayward Fault, which federal scientists say is the most likely site of the Bay Area’s next major earthquake. All sides agree the stadium is in poor shape and in need of a seismic retrofit if it is to become comparatively safe in a major temblor. 

The university’s planned renovations to the stadium include a complete interior retrofit, the addition of a new press box topped by luxury sky boxes for big ticket donors along the western wall, and a new bank of raised seating on the eastern side, as well as replacement of all the existing seating throughout the stadium. 

The university plans to overlap work on the western half of the stadium with construction of the gym complex. 

The long legal battle thwarted one of the university’s hopes, a landscape cleared of tree-sitters by the time of the first home game of the Cal Bears. 

With the protesters still aloft and little likelihood of their disappearance before the Bears tackle the Michigan State Spartans Saturday, Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, campus Police Chief Victoria Harrison and Vice Chancellor Nathan Brostrom have posted an open letter to attendees on the campus website.The letter promises that “we will have a robust police presence around the stadium to deter and to respond to any unlawful behavior.” 

Because of the elimination of access through the grove, the university has added eight new gates and 91 entry and exit points, with a concentration both above International House and at the north end of the stadium near Maxwell Family Field. 

Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m. 

At the tree-sit itself, the week has passed in relative calm, following in the wake of the university’s aggressive moves last Thursday. 

During the morning, contract arborists moved to isolate the protesters by slicing off all the lower branches of their last remaining sit in a redwood in the northern part of the grove. The crew, working for a Watsonville firm, also sliced off strategic branches from two nearby oaks, further isolating the tree-sitters. 

Later in the day the arborists were back, stripping away the weatherproof tarps used to shield the tree-sitters’ supplies and removing some of their belongings—a move a university spokesperson said was aimed at making sure the protesters had no weapons.

Arpeggio Brings Million-Dollar Condos to Downtown Berkeley

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:16:00 AM
Walter Armer, left, and Don Peterson of SNK Development watched crews at work on the Berkeley Arpeggio, their nine-story-plus loft project.
By Richard Brenneman
Walter Armer, left, and Don Peterson of SNK Development watched crews at work on the Berkeley Arpeggio, their nine-story-plus loft project.

Million-dollar condos? In Berkeley? Yes, says Don Peterson, president of SNK Development, the company now building the nine-story-plus Berkeley Arpeggio on Center Street. 

The costly condos will be on the ninth floor of the city’s newest high-rise, formerly known as the Seagate Building for its previous developer, which sold the site and development permits to the Phoenix-based firm three years ago. 

(Earlier this year, Seagate also unloaded its largest Berkeley property, the Wells-Fargo tower just to the east of the Arpeggio.) 

Peterson and Walter D. Armer, his vice president, met with a reporter recently atop the city parking structure to the west of the construction site, overlooking the deep hole where excavators were digging out the space to house the Arpeggio’s 160 parking spaces. 

“The three-level garage should be complete by the end of the year, and by January the work will be strictly vertical,” Peterson said. 

In addition to housing 143 condos—down from the originally planned 149—the Arpeggio will also contain what may be the last new cultural density bonus space in the city. 

Builders had two ways of exceeding the height and mass limits otherwise imposed by city zoning codes: provision of below-market-rate housing, the so-called “inclusionary bonus,” and provision of space for cultural activities. 

The only other building to incorporate both bonuses was the Gaia Building developed by Patrick Kennedy. A lengthy political battle over the long-vacant cultural space in that building—a fight that eventually ended up in court—spelled the end of the bonus. 

Seagate was able to gain an increased size for what was later named the Arpeggio both by offering below-market-rate condos and by including two rehearsal theaters and other space for the Berkeley Repertory Theater, with the proviso that the space also be available for use by other community organizations. The theater space will be ready for use by the end of next year, with the condos ready for occupancy a few months later, Armer said. 

Seagate steered the project through the city’s Planning Commission—which must approve all condo projects—and the Zoning Adjustments Board, and the permits they won and then sold included the mandate to fulfill both the housing and cultural obligations. 

While SNK has reduced the overall number of condos, Peterson said the 23 inclusionary units included in the original figure will remain. 

SNK Realty Group partnered with Captec Financial Group, Inc., of Ann Arbor, Mich., to form SNK Captec Arpeggio, LLC, the entity that bought the Berkeley property. Project financing, completed late last year, comes in the form of a $65 million construction loan from Pacific National Bank of San Francisco, Peterson said. 

While the nine penthouse units will have two bedrooms and a loft level above, the condos on the floors below are all one- and two-bedroom dwellings, as well as some “one-plus” units that include a secondary open-space area that can be used for a bedroom, den or office, Armer said. 

Asked who might buy the units, Peterson said, “We are looking at the university population and the Berkeley population,” with “empty-nesters” a target demographic as well as people who would like to live in the heart of the city’s theater district.” 

The building is on the same block as downtown Berkeley's two theaters, the Berkeley Rep and the Aurora. 

“They are the buyers who would like to live in this type of building, a class-A high-rise, which can only be found currently in San Francisco,” said Armer. 

Because the units will be unique in the East Bay, Peterson said sales prices will be near the top of the East Bay market for luxury condos but at the low end of the market on the other side of the Bay Bridge. 

The Arpeggio is the company’s seventh Bay Area project, and Peterson said he is currently working on another development in San Bruno that totals 350 units, including apartments in one structure and condos in a second building. 

Peterson said the company was drawn to the Berkeley site because it offered a prime location for a top-flight urban infill project, with its location in “a very dynamic neighborhood”—the BART station less than a block away and the UC Berkeley campus within easy walking distance. Berkeley also offered a community that the company believes is relatively immune to macro-level economic disruptions, in comparison with many other California cities, he said. Armer said construction has gone smoothly, and the builders found less underground water on-site than they had feared. A row of temporary wells has been lowering the water level and will continue under the garage, which is sealed off “like a bathtub.” 

The site will be a beehive of activity, with subcontractors from 40 different trades at work during the course of construction, Peterson said. First of many? While the Arpeggio includes an upper crust of million-dollar condos, Planning Commissioner Gene Poschman says we may be seeing plenty more if the city adopts height limits proposed for downtown Berkeley in a city-funded study done in connection with the new Downtown Area Plan now under review by the commission. 

That study was funded by the City Council after a commission majority voted to recommend it. 

According to what Poschman dubbed “the infeasibility study,” market conditions would allow for construction of 16- or 17-story condo towers only —not rental apartments—in addition to condo-containing hotels that could rise even higher. 

During the debate over the Arpeggio permit, city staff reported that the city’s current bonuses would have allowed the building to rise to 14 stories, well over the current downtown height limits—far more than the structure now rising or the Gaia Building, the only other cultural bonus recipient. 

Buildings—both apartments and condos—could still be financed at six floors or fewer. But the tall buildings, seen as a way to fulfill some of the regional housing-needs allocation imposed by regional government, could only be bankrolled as for-sale units, not rentals, the report said. 

“We’re talking about million-dollar condos,” Poschman told fellow commissioners. “Who’s going to live in them?” 

The feasibility study also said construction could be severely limited by the city mandate that requires developers to either sell some units for less than market rate or pay a substantial fee to finance city-backed subsidized housing elsewhere. 

The Arpeggio was given a city building permit under the existing law, so the building includes 23 units sold only to those who make 120 percent or less of the Oakland region’s median income. 

Even though the total number of condos dropped by six, the project will still include the original 11 inclusionary units and 12 density bonus units. 

Inclusionary units are mandated by a law requiring multi-family housing builders to set aside one in every five units for those earning—in the case of condos—no more than 120 percent of the area’s median income. 

Developers who pay the new city “in-lieu” fee can sell all their units at market rate if they pay the city a replacement fee for lost inclusionary units, totaling 62.5 percent of the difference between the market-rate sales price and the reduced price mandated if the inclusionary units were sold as such. 

The dozen density bonus units—which helped the Arpeggio to reach its full height and to offer the million-dollar terrace views on the top floors—are typically affordable to lower median incomes, in the range of 50 to 80 percent. 

Unlike Poschman, who voted with the commission to support the current fee schedule, Planning Commission Chair James Samuels abstained, calling the amount too high and a deterrent to needed housing.

Daily Cal in Financial Trouble

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:17:00 AM

UC Berkeley students might have noticed something missing from campus when they returned from their summer vacation on Wednesday. 

The university’s 137-year-old independent student newspaper announced Monday that it would stop publishing on Wednesdays starting this week, and scale back staff to brace against declining print advertising revenue. 

It will keep publishing on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and maintain an online edition throughout the week. 

Editor in Chief and President of the Daily Californian Bryan Thomas informed readers through an online post that the paper was in a difficult financial condition and would be implementing a number of changes with the beginning of the fall semester. 

“Falling print advertising revenue coupled with steadily rising costs are affecting newspapers across the nation and those effects have, without question, reached Berkeley,” Thomas wrote. “The Daily Cal is certainly unique in Berkeley, functioning as an entirely student-produced publication which is financially and editorially independent from the University of California. But it is not immune to the tides of change. The good news is that we will not be compromising the quality or integrity of our award-winning journalism.” 

The newspaper will be stepping up efforts to strengthen online coverage through new blogs and multimedia content five days a week with the intention of gradually moving closer to the 24-hour news cycle. 

“Our first responsibility is to train journalists for a 24-hour medium,” Thomas said. “That’s what the industry is looking for—skills in multimedia. We will be equipping staff to be ready, to be out there and to be the best-trained journalists. Since UC Berkeley doesn’t have an undergraduate program, we are basically it.” 

UC Berkeley’s Director of School Affairs at the Graduate School of Journalism Robert Gunnison said he was not surprised by the Daily Cal’s decision to cut publication and focus on web content. 

“It seems consistent with many of the things happening in print journalism today,” he said. “If you ask young people where they are getting their news from they will say online. So why not in The Daily Cal? Newspapers today have a technology problem and a production problem. Going online is certainly the long-term trend. For papers like the Daily Cal and the Berkeley Daily Planet, which focus on community, the web is the way of creating community.” 

The decision to cut publication by a day and reduce newsroom staff and compensation, Thomas said, was made around July when the paper started seeing a dip in national and local advertising over the summer. 

“As a nonprofit we do operate on a slim margin but we had some pretty big concerns from March through June with advertising dollars going elsewhere,” he told the Planet. “So we started drilling down and looking at everything we could do. We decided not to publish on Wednesdays to keep as minimum an impact as we can. A lot of sports coverage happens around the weekend, so you want students to be able to pick up a paper on Mondays and Tuesdays.” 

The paper gets almost 20 percent of its revenue from national advertisers who work through national college agencies, Thomas said, and local advertisers make up the next biggest chunk. 

Alumni fundraisers also help to sustain the paper’s budget, and the paper is getting ready to launch an endowment campaign this year. 

“We have talked to the university about fundraising and directing advertising dollars to us, but they don’t have a lot to go around either,” Thomas said. “They have expressed interest, but they know that we really pride ourselves on our independence and they are proud of us because of that too.” 

Published by the Independent Berkeley Students Publishing Company, the Daily Californian is a nonprofit that publishes 10,000 issues four days a week during the fall and spring semesters and twice a week during the summer. 

Established in 1871, the newspaper is one of the oldest on the West Coast and one of the oldest college newspapers in the country, serving the UC Berkeley and its surrounding community. 

The university’s attempt to fire three editors because of a controversial editorial on People’s Park paved the way for its independence in 1971. The offices of the Daily Cal operate out of a building on the south side of campus, which is leased from the university’s student government body. The paper is printed in Union City. 

Thomas said that although he couldn’t reveal the exact printing or production costs for the paper, they have been increasing over the years. 

The newspaper’s $1 million annual budget will see a decline this year, he said, but he could not give specifics on how much it might decline. 

“The next few weeks have usually been our strongest, with advertisers reaching out to students who are coming back to school,” he said. “We really have to look at that and figure out our next steps. It could get better or it could get worse.” 

The paper, which usually employs 150 students at any given time, will be cutting almost 25 percent of its newsroom staff—including reporters, photographers and designers—but will not eliminate any of its 13 editor positions. 

Ashley Chase, editor in chief of the Daily Emerald—the independent student newspaper of the University of Oregon—said the Eugene-based paper was facing a similar situation. 

“Our revenues have gone down, and we are scaling back quite a bit,” she said of the 45-employee newsroom. “There has been a 20 percent decline in the newsroom budget, and we are offsetting costs by eliminating a couple of positions, adjusting our pay scale and moving toward a paperless newsroom. We are still publishing our regular schedule of five days a week, but we are working on updating our online content.” 

Several hundred students apply for jobs at the Daily Californian every year, out of which only 50 or so are selected to work on the paper. 

“That’s why it’s even more unfortunate,” Thomas said. “We know hundreds of students will be applying this year but we won’t be able to offer them jobs. In the spring we accepted 50 of 200 applicants. In the fall, it was closer to about 60 of 250.” 

The $8 to $15 reporters are paid per article will also be reduced, but to what amount has yet to be decided, Thomas said. 

He added that the paper had witnessed budget constraints in the past as well. In 1993, the Daily Cal went from publishing three days a week to two because of poor financial management before building back to five days a week, and in 2001 it ran into debt. 

“We have been in debt in the past, but we are not in debt right now,” Thomas said. “This is definitely not the worst we have been in.” 



Budget Woes May Force Faculty Cuts, Says Chancellor

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:17:00 AM

At his annual back-to-school press briefing Monday, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau said the university, in response to ongoing budget woes, would cut back on hiring new faculty and not replace retiring faculty, which would gradually increase the current 18:1 student-to-teacher ratio on campus. 

However, UC officials were quick to point out that the university has not witnessed an increase in students requesting financial aid or students facing delays in receiving funds through federal loans. 

“One thing we need to protect here is education for students,” Birgeneau told reporters. “We need to ensure that we can maintain stability in our teaching programs ... We are less concerned about maintaining programs that are running now and more concerned about funding exciting new programs people come forward with.” 

Fall classes are scheduled to begin Wednesday for more than 35,000 students. New programs and services include a first-ever class for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, a linguistics course on Nzadi—a language spoken by fishermen along Congo’s Kasai River—and a new warning service created to provide emergency alerts and instructions to students through cell phone, text messages and e-mail. 

About 77 new students have enrolled in the Veterans in Higher Education undergraduate program, according to Ron Williams, the university’s coordinator of student reentry and veteran programs and services. 

The passage of a new federal GI bill, which will cover full tuition and living expenses for veterans, is expected to draw more student veterans to colleges, Williams said. 

Undergraduate fees for California residents total $8,932 for two semesters, a 7.38 percent increase from last year. 

Nonresident tuition and fees—$29,535—is also up from last year. 

More than 9,000 new students, including 4,300 freshmen, 2,000 community college transfer students and 2,800 graduate students, are expected to register for the new school year. 

About three-fourths of the incoming freshmen are graduates of the California public school system and 7.8 percent are from other countries. 

Birgeneau said that a couple of programs might have to wait a year or two before starting again and added that the university would increase efforts to ask alumni and friends to donate to the university. 

“Even if we are a public university, we need the philanthropic support that private institutions get,” he said. 

Birgeneau stressed on-campus safety—touching upon the stabbing of UC Berkeley nuclear engineering senior Chris Wootton in front of a campus sorority last spring and the recent string of robberies in the East Bay—and spoke about the new warning system. 

Called “WarnMe,” the service will provide immediate notification to students, faculty and staff about possible threats on campus when they sign up for it. Campus spokesperson Marie Felde said 11,000 students had signed up for the service so far. 

“Part of my speech to students this year will emphasize their personal responsibility toward alcohol and drugs and ask them to be street smart,” Birgeneau said. “Many students come from a rural area and often face challenges in a city.” 

He said that he was against a recent proposal to lower the legal drinking age from 21 to 18. 

“That will push it down to the high schools, and that’s not good,” he said. 

In response to a reporter’s question about the ongoing UC Memorial Stadium court case—on which Judge Barbara Miller ruled Tuesday—Birgeneau said the safety of the university’s student athletes comes first. 

“The sooner we can get them to a safe athletic facility the better,” he said. “The legal issues have delayed that for one and a half years and the people responsible for that should be ashamed of themselves. We are extremely proud of our current and former student athletes, many of whom have made us proud in the Beijing Olympics.”

Suspect Pleads Not Guilty In UC Stabbing Case

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:18:00 AM

Berkeley City College student Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield pleaded not guilty Monday to murder charges at the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland. 

Judge Morris Jacobson set Hoeft-Edenfield’s pretrial date for Oct. 22. 

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office charged Hoeft-Edenfield with the stabbing death of UC Berkeley nuclear engineering student Chris Wootton last spring. 

Wootton, 21, a Sigma Pi fraternity member, was stabbed once in his upper chest, between his ribs, in front of a group of students outside the Chi Omega sorority house on Piedmont Avenue on May 3.  

Hoeft-Edenfield, 20, was arrested later that day.  

Conflicting statements from witnesses present at the murder scene have not yet led to any definite conclusions as to what happened on the night of the fateful incident.  

Jacobson turned down Hoeft-Edenfield’s request for bail on Aug. 18 on the grounds that the evidence presented in the case had not convinced him that Hoeft-Edenfield had acted in self-defense.

Unions Score Victories Amidst Tough Economy

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:18:00 AM

Despite troubling economic news nationally, last week witnessed two major advances on the Berkeley labor front and a protest by city workers in a neighboring city: 

• Registered nurses approved a new contract with the city’s two Alta Bates Summit medical facilities [Alta Bates and Herrick Hospital] along with Oakland’s Summit Medical Center. 

• UC Berkeley postdoctoral students won state recognition of the United Auto Workers (UAW) as their bargaining unit. 

• Emeryville city employees held a protest outside City Hall Aug. 19, where they were joined by supporters from Berkeley and Oakland. Members of the Service Employees International Union have been working without a contract since last year. 

Meanwhile, journalists at Dean Singleton’s Bay Area News Group-EB continue their efforts to reach a contract with Me-diaNews Group, the newspaper colossus with more combined circulation in the Bay Area and Los Angeles Basin than the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times combined. 


Hospital pact 

Negotiators from Sutter Health’s Alta Bates Summit facilities met with their counterparts from the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA) with a federal mediator in charge of the session, leading to a settlement in the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 20. 

The new agreement, which runs through June 30, 2011, caps a 15-month dispute that has included three walkouts, the longest lasting 10 days. 

CNA representative and Liz Jacobs, R.N., said the agreement will be sent to members for ratification in the next two or three weeks. The vote would be earlier if CNA were not conducting simultaneous negotiations with other hospitals owned by Sutter throughout Northern California. 

The accord gives union members a 22 percent pay increase through the course of the agreement, including a 5 percent hike already given in May. The agreement “gives us a salary range on a par with the top-of-the-line Bay Area hospitals,” Jacobs said. 

The nurse activist said the main concerns of members involved patient safety, including staffing levels and adequate breaks and meal times. 

The Berkeley City Council—which includes Alta Bates R.N. Max Anderson—had supported the union. 

The same day the Berkeley settlement was reached, nurses at Marin General Hospital also reached an agreement with that Sutter-owned facility. 

Anderson said that as of Monday he hadn’t seen the proposed agreement, “but hopefully it’s better than their last ‘final offer,’” he said. “It’s been a long struggle and it took several short strikes to bring it this far.” 

The medical center “is extremely pleased to have come to a tentative agreement on a contract that provides our valued nurses with exceptional wages and benefits,” said Carolyn Kemp, the Alta Bates Summit media relations officer. 


Campus union 

Spokesperson for the budding union of university researchers is Matthew O’Connor, a Berkeley postdoctoral student in bioengineering currently working on muscle stem cell research. 

The state Public Employee Relations Board has certified that a majority of the eligible 5,000 postdoctoral researchers statewide have signed union cards. 

The UC Berkeley campus is home to about 1,000 eligible postdocs out of a total of about 1,100, O’Connor said. 

The next step for the PRO/LAW (the PRO is for Postdoctoral Researchers Organize) will be setting up an organizing committee, including the election of officers. Then it’s on to negotiating with the university. 

“This is the first postdoc union in California, and only the second one in the country,” O’Connor said. 

The only possible hitch would be a legal challenge to the recognition, he said. 

The successful organizing effort marked the second time the UAW had tried for recognition at UC Berkeley. The first attempt, in 2006, collapsed amid charges and countercharges by both sides after organizers said they had achieved the necessary number of signatures. 


Pressing issues 

Another major legal struggle that is shaping up for the months ahead is the status of editorial employees who work for media mogul Dean Singleton’s Me-diaNews newspapers operating under the collective mantle of BANG-EB (Bay Area News Group-East Bay). 

Despite the name, the group also includes the San Mateo Times. 

The union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, and an investigation is underway, said Karl Fischer, who chairs the Media Guild’s bargaining unit. 

Meanwhile, Fischer and his team were scheduled to hold their first talks with company officials Wednesday to begin negotiating the first-ever contract that will include journalists from the Contra Costa Times. 

Covering newsrooms from Hayward to Vallejo, including the Oakland Tribune, BANG-EB was formed after Singleton added the Times and San Jose Mercury-News to his regional portfolio, buying them from the Sacramento-based McClatchy chain. 

Severing the San Jose paper from the new unit and adding the non-union Contra Costa Times a year ago gave Singleton a non-union majority editorial staff, allowing him to end Guild representation at the Tribune and other shops. 

The union responded with an organizing campaign backed by the national, winning the requisite majority by a 104-92 decision June 13. 

A month later, BANG-EB eliminated 29 positions of the bargaining group’s 230 jobs, including those of many union activists. One was reporter Sara Steffens, chair of the Guild’s bargaining unit. 

“We felt that some of those who were laid off were unfairly chosen because of their union activities,” Fischer said. 

In the weeks since the layoffs, union representatives have been meeting with staffs of the individual papers, seeking to work out local issues as well as to agree on bargaining points for contract talks, he said. 

The economic crisis that has hit newsrooms across the nation had led to a major decline in the number of working reporters at Bay Area papers. The San Jose Mercury-News has cut two of every three newsroom jobs in the last four years, and the San Francisco Chronicle has lost about half its newsroom since 2000. 

Between layoffs, buyouts and attrition, Fischer estimates that the Contra Costa Times has lost about 100 of its 360 journalists and newsroom managers. 

Marshall Anstandig, the in-house labor lawyer who represents MediaNews, said that because of the current volatility in the news business, “our expectation is for a contract that gives us the flexibility to move as things change. 

“While in the old days, five- six- and even 10-year agreements were common, nowadays it’s hard to say we’ll even be in the same platform in six months,” he said, referring to the thus-far only partially successful transition from print to the Internet realm. 

The McClatchy chain recently announced a one-year, systemwide pay freeze for all employees, coming just a few weeks after 86 job cuts at the flagship Sacramento Bee. With a second round of layoffs in the works, the Bee sent all its staff a memo offering a voluntary separation package. 

The memo cited recent bankruptcies and closures of major advertisers, including Mervyn’s and Linens ’N’ Things. 

Kindergarten Enrollment Up on First Day of School

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:19:00 AM

Revamped classrooms, management changes and a record enrollment rate for kindergartners marked the first day of Berkeley Unified School District’s new school year on Wednesday. 

District officials are projecting that around 720 students will be starting kindergarten this year, up from the 627 in 2007-08. 

According to the district’s manager of admissions and assessment, Francisco Martinez, ultimately 640 students enrolled in kindergarten last year. 

“I went around to several kindergartens and saw bright cheery faces,” said district Superintendent Bill Huyett. “It was amazing to see the enthusiam of all the new moms and teachers.” 

In order to make room for the record number of kindergartners expected to join school this year, Berkeley Unified converted four classrooms—two at Malcolm X Elementary and one each at Rosa Parks and Cragmont elementaries—into kindergartens, increasing the total number of kindergartens in the district to 36. 

“We needed the space because we have more students,” Martinez said, adding that the district had not yet carried out an investigation about what prompted the sudden rise in enrollment. 

“We don’t have the time right now,” he said. “Maybe in the next couple of weeks.” 

Some parents said they enrolled their children into the Berkeley public schools because they preferred them over private institutions. 

“I chose to put my child in Berkeley Unified primarily because that’s where we live,” said Jill Herschman, whose son will be attending first grade at Berkeley Arts Magnet this year. “I am a strong supporter of public schools and would not consider private school unless there were some extreme circumstances.” 

Berkeley Unified also added a first-grade class at Berkeley Arts Magnet this year, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Neil Smith said. 

“We were overcrowded last year in our kindergarten classes at Berkeley Arts Magnet and expect a few more new first graders this year,” he said. “We have opened classes before during summer, so this is not unusual.” 

The district also has a new dining commons at King Middle School, which will serve as a cafeteria for King students and the district’s central kitchen. 

Other constructions carried out over the summer include rehabilitation of the King gymnasium, solar panels at Washington Elementary, King and Franklin CDCs and new classrooms at Berkeley High School. 

The list for improvements to school site includes new stage curtains at King and the Berkeley High Little Theater, new grass at Malcolm X, Longfellow and LeConte, sanded stage floors at Washington, Emerson, the Little Theater and the Community Theater at Berkeley High and painting of John Muir and Le Conte schools. 


Berkeley High without 11 teachers 

In his back-to-school e-tree message, Berkeley High Principal Jim Slemp informed parents that the school was short 11 permanent teachers as of Wednesday. 

“I am very disappointed to report to you that we have 11 teaching positions that have not been filled by our district Human Resources Department thus far and we will, unfortunately, have substitutes in these classes until the Human Resources Department can hire acceptable teachers,” he wrote. 

Calls to Slemp and the district’s Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Lisa Udell were not returned immediately. 

Huyett said the district was working hard to fill the open positions. 

“Sometimes when openings come up late in the school year it takes some time,” he said. “We have to make sure people are credentialed and fingerprinted and that their references are checked. We want to assure the public that we are doing our best to hire the most reliable teachers.” 

Berkeley High lost one of its teachers, Kalpna Mistry, who taught global studies at the Berkeley International High School, when she died in the Philippines earlier this month. 


Berkeley Unified staff changes 


Rory Bled retires as vice principal at Berkeley High School after 40 years of service with Berkeley Unified. Dianna Penney and Jimette Anderson are retiring as vice principals from King Middle School. Alan Joy retires as program supervisor for special education having served in Berkeley Unified since 2002. 


Rebecca Cheung, former middle-school principal and principal on special assignment, has completed her doctorate and has been promoted to director of evaluation and assessment.  

Pasquale Scuderi has been promoted from vice principal at Berkeley High School to director of personnel services. 

Francisco Martinez has been promoted from manager of enrollment and attendance to director of classified personnel. 

Pat Saddler is the new principal at Longfellow Middle School. Saddler was the principal at Rosa Parks Elementary. 

Kathy Hatzke leaves her position of program supervisor of special education to assume the position of principal at Rosa Parks Elementary. 

Evelyn Tamondong-Bradley has been promoted from coordinator of Independent Studies to principal at Cragmont Elementary School. 

Leslie Stenger is being promoted from teacher to vice principal at King Middle School. 

Kristin Glenchur moves up from athletic director to vice principal at Berkeley High School. 

New administrative hires: 

Julianna Sikes, the new principal at Thousand Oaks Elementary school, was most recently curriculum specialist in San Leandro Unified. 

Lori O’Connor is the new coordinator of Independent Studies and comes from a charter school in the Vallejo City Unified School District. 

Zachary Pless is the new program supervisor of Extended Day Programs, having taught high school social science in the Fairfield Suisun District. 

Mary Jackson comes to Willard Middle School as the vice principal. Jackson has been the vice principal at Tennyson High School in Hayward for eight years. 

Uri Skowronski, the new vice principal at Berkeley High School, leaves his position at Contra Costa Jewish Day School to join Berkeley Unified.

School Board OKs Design For South of Bancroft Project

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:19:00 AM

At a public meeting Wednesday the Berkeley Board of Education unanimously approved a schematic design for the $35 million South of Bancroft project, which would build about 55,000 square feet of new buildings and improve landscaping in the southern part of the Berkeley High School campus. 

The project proposes to tear down the high school’s historic Old Gym and the warm water pool it contains to make room for 15 new classrooms and a new gym. The new design is based on the 2005 South of Bancroft master plan, which was supposed to enhance physical education, build larger classrooms to replace the rooms lost after the demolition of the Old Gym and eliminate parking from the main campus, among other things. 

Designed by Emeryville-based Baker Vilar Architects, the same firm that is designing the rehabilitation of the Bonar Street building at the district’s West Campus site, the project will unfold in three phases by 2013, starting with the construction of a new stadium and facilities building adjacent to the school’s current athletic field. 

Jose Vilar of Baker Vilar Architects told the board that one of the goals of the project was to build an athletic quad for physical education, basketball and pre- and post-game activities. 

The new stadium will have 2,200 bleacher seats, which will allow Berkeley High to host championship tournaments, Vilar said. 

It will also have athletic team rooms and lockers, offices for the coach and the athletic director, a trainer’s room, storage, ticket booth, restrooms and a press box. 

The facilities building will house the campus trash and recycling, maintenance vehicles and a concessions area for the school’s athletic games. 

Phase 2 outlines the demolition of the Old Gym along Milvia Street and the demolition of the existing bleachers located west of the athletic field along Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

“The old bleachers are ugly and unsafe and don’t present a very good image of Berkeley High to the community,” Vilar said. 

New five-row 500-seat visitors’ bleachers will replace the old ones, with restrooms for students and the community on the north and south sides. 

According to a report to the board from Berkeley Unified School District Director of Facilities Lew Jones, the new bleachers will create a more welcoming ambience for the community along the western edge of the campus. 

He added that the current bleachers obstruct the view of the campus from MLK Jr. Way. They would be replaced by lower bleachers for a more “open look.” 

A few parents had insisted at an earlier community meeting that the bleachers be built at an adequate height to allow them to view the games properly. 

Jones said the community’s concerns would be taken into consideration. 

“We will be adding trees to the campus to reduce the ‘heat island effect,’” Vilar said. 

“We are mainly looking at using deciduous trees.” 

Phase 3 includes the construction of a two-story gymnasium, which will have space for a large multi-purpose gymnasium, a soft gym and fitness center and a three-story academic building with 15 classrooms, restrooms and an area for faculty and staff. 

“The gym and the classroom building are two separate structures but will appear as a single building,” Vilar said. “The gym will be connected to the classroom building through a foyer and stairs.” 

Improvements will be made along Channing Way, including a new regulation-size football field, an athletic quad, new gates and security fences and landscaping. 

“The three phases are a systematic method of fulfilling the primary goal of bringing the South of Bancroft [area] into conformance with the north end of the campus and to accommodate the school’s current space requirements,” Jones said. “We are proceeding with something that’s been around for a while. Having said that, I want to add we haven’t changed too much from the original plan. The project is going to be 650 square feet larger than what was originally planned because we have a greater number of locker rooms.” 

The project, Jones said, was slightly more than two percent over budget but added that it was not a matter of concern for the district at this point. 

Construction of Phase 1 is scheduled to be done between April 2010 and June 2011. 

The demolition of the Old Gym is expected to take place between June 2011 and November 2011, followed by the construction of a new classroom building and gymnasium from January 2012 to August 2013. 

The district currently lacks the funds to build the new classroom building, Jones said. 


To view the South of Bancroft project visit: www.berkeley.net/uploads/school_board/2008fall/08-20-08_packet.pdf.

King Middle School Gets New Cafeteria, BUSD Gets New Kitchen

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:20:00 AM

Until earlier this month, students at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley could pretty much eat their lunch anywhere they wanted. 

Most preferred the baseball field, the steps of the amphitheater or, as a former King middleschooler put it, “behind the trucks for maximum shade.” 

Berkeley Unified School District’s $8.7 million King Dining Commons project is set to change that. 

Students will now have tables, chairs, plates and silverware and most importantly their very own cafeteria, in which they will be required to eat lunch. 

Part of the $36 million King campus modernization and development plan, the dining commons will also serve as the district’s new central kitchen, preparing 3,000 hot lunches and 8,000 meals daily for hungry children at each of the city’s 16 public schools. 

The project, originally scheduled for completion last fall, ran into a few minor hiccups along the way but is finally up and running. 

Chef Ann Cooper, Berkeley Unified School District's director of nutrition services—who will be with the district through June—was busy supervising her team Friday in the state-of-the-art kitchen as they prepared pizza crusts and marinara sauce from scratch for the first day of the new school year, Wednesday. 

“I am very excited about the space,” Cooper said of the 14,000-square-foot building. “The scale of the place is just amazing. We also have new equipment. The equipment that we had at our old central kitchen at Jefferson [Elementary] was old and broken. It could not handle the quality and quantity of food that we were preparing. Moreover, there wasn’t any room for people to move around. All the aisles were crowded together and you couldn’t get anywhere without bumping into something.” 

Cooper currently supervises 55 employees from the district and 30 more from Network for a Healthy California. 

The new kitchen and cafeteria will serve 600 hot lunches to the middle-schoolers every day and the rest will be packed and transported to the city’s 15 other public schools. 

“We want more kids eating our food,” Cooper said. “Breakfast is up, but we want parents to urge their children to eat lunch at school.” 

The 2008-09 school year will see Cooper serving 852,000 breakfasts compared with 58,000 in 2003-04, when she first took over the district’s nutrition services program. 

Cooper said the implementation of the Universal Breakfast program, which delivers free breakfast to all Berkeley Unified students in their classrooms, has played an important role in the increase. 

Lunch is only up 2 percent in the same timeframe but has increased 18 percent since 2006-2007. That’s 416,000 lunches in the new school year compared with 351,000 in 2006-2007. 

Cooper has plans to start a campaign to promote school lunches and is working to make the menu more attractive to students by introducing more exotic entrees, such as Moroccan and tandoori chicken and locally grown brown rice. 

District Executive Chef Bonnie Christensen, who started out as a sous chef under Cooper two years ago, said she was already in love with the new dining commons. 

“Just look at this place,” said Christensen, who has worked at restaurants in San Francisco and Marin. “It’s breathtaking. You walk in here and realize that a lot of time and thought and craft went into it. You walk in to eat and you pause for a moment, and that matters. You can almost smell the wood.” 

Designed by Baker Vilar Architects, the new dining commons may be less kitchen than cathedral, with its high vaulted ceilings, tall glass windows, soft earth tones and old fashioned hardwood furniture. 

“You are not going to see these kinds of facilities in too many public schools,” Christensen said. “We are the model to say to the rest of the country that this is the way it’s done.” 

Christensen said the King Dining Commons project started five years ago with a lot of input from local culinary icon Alice Waters. 

“She [worships] food, and that’s what we are trying to do here,” Christensen said. 

Waters’ Chez Panisse Foundation is also behind King’s Edible Schoolyard, which teaches students to grow and cook their own food. 

King’s main academic building housed a cafeteria which was closed down in the 1980s, district officials said, leaving students with no place to eat lunch and paving the way for a new dining commons. 

The district’s original plan, Christensen said, was to use the King Dining Commons to cook meals for the middle and high schools only. 

“We were going to remodel the old central kitchen at Jefferson Elementary but realized that we didn’t have the staff to run two kitchens right now,” she said. “So we decided to see how everything works out of here [King] and put plans for Jefferson on hold.” 

Christensen proudly showed off the sleek beverage station inside the cafeteria which will serve organic milk and water to students. 

“We are doing away with water bottles because we don’t want landfills,” she said. “Some schools even sell children water bottles. Everything is wrong with that scenario.” 

Other features in the $2.3 million equipment package include a blast chiller, a custom-made salad bar, an elaborate recycling station, steam jacket kettles for soups and sauces and walk-in freezers for dairy, meat and produce. 

“You probably won’t see a blast chiller in too many public schools,” Christensen said smiling. “It cools down the food pretty fast. It can cool down 60 pounds of rice in 20 minutes and 50 pounds of chicken in 15 minutes. When you are feeding thousands everyday, something like this comes in handy.” 

The garde manger—French for keeper of cold food—section helps to keep the bacteria at bay, Christensen said, by separating the meat preparation room from the vegetable sauces and salads. 

“The thing is, salmonella spores can float all around,” she said. “This isolates bacteria and prevents cross-contamination. In a district kitchen, that’s really important.”

Grinage Talks About Oakland Public Safety

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:21:00 AM

With concerns rising in Oakland over the issues of crime and violence, the Daily Planet sat down with Rashidah Grinage, Director of People United For A Better Oakland (PUEBLO), to talk about public safety in the city. PUEBLO is a progressive, non-profit group that has been working, among other things, on police reforms in the city for the past two decades. It is one of the most credible voices on the left on police and public safety issues.  

DAILY PLANET: I wanted to start off with the police parcel tax that's going to be on the ballot in November, and your thoughts about that, and maybe even going back to the Safe Streets Initiative that preceded it. Are you going to support that? Are you not going to support that? 

RASHIDAH GRINAGE: Certainly as a voter I'm not going to vote for it. PUEBLO can't take positions on ballot initiatives. It's part of our non-profit status. We are not permitted by law to endorse any ballot initiative or candidate. So officially, PUEBLO has no position on the parcel tax. Personally, of course, our members can take any position they want as citizens. And I can tell that I personally will not be voting for the parcel tax. 

PLANET: Why not? 

GRINAGE: My understanding of the relationship between the number of police officers you have in a city and the amount of crime that you have in a city, there is no correlation. The assumption behind the parcel tax is the more police you have on the streets, the less violence you will have on the streets. Our own history here in Oakland proves that that is not the case. My Public Records Act request indicates that this year, as of July 15, we had 8 more homicides than we had as of July 15 last year, starting from January of each year, and we had 23 more officers on the street this year as of July 15 as compared to July 15 of last year. So in other words, we have 23 more officers and we have eight more homicides. Not fewer homicides. So for me, there's no conclusion possible other than the conclusion that more police officers does not reduce violence. Now it may be that more police do deter fewer auto thefts or fewer burglaries. Although as you know, we've had quite a string of restaurant holdups lately as well. So if it turns out that the more officers we have, the more crime and violence we have, then the idea of adding even more police is irrational, if that's what's intended to reduce these statistics. So it doesn't make sense, particularly in view of the fact that this initiative will be competing with other initiatives like the Kids First Initiative, which seek to add more funding to programs for children and youth. 

PLANET: And you've got the Oakland Unified quality teacher initiative. 

GRINAGE: I'm not too familiar with it. 

PLANET: There's some controversy over it, because the state administrator is supporting it and the board and the local superintendent are not. 

GRINAGE: Is it kind of like merit pay or something? 

PLANET: I'm not sure. It may be something to that effect. I haven't looked at it closely enough. But part of the problem is that what the local board is saying is look, we just came to the voters for money. The same thing you're talking about. There's a lot of initiatives on the ballot. This is just not the time. 

GRINAGE: Right. The other issue that we want to look at in terms of policing, getting back to police, is it is our view that a lot of what is needed is a redeployment. So for example, we have a very bloated internal affairs unit. They've got somewhere between 26 and 28 sworn officers in internal affairs that are paid huge, huge amounts of money, not even including overtime. Because a lot of them are experienced officers that are at the top of the pay scale. And it is our feeling that the review and investigation of citizen complaints should be done by civilians, not by sworn officers. So what we would like to see is at least 20, if not 23, of those officers who are currently sitting behind a desk, allegedly investigating citizen complaints of police abuse, we would like them to be deployed to the streets. And we would like to have much more cost-effective investigators who are civilians investigating citizen complaints. So in other words, its not an issue of just hiring more officers, it's redeploying the officers to the streets who are currently sitting behind desks doing a job that could be done much more objectively, professionally, and with more credibility by citizens than by sworn officers anyway. 

PLANET: The mayor has begun in the last year and a half to initiate some of those reforms, to fully staff all of the uniformed officers, the 803, including the 63 Measure Y officers, and they won the arbitration on civilianization, as well as the geographical reorganization. You've been studying those issues for a long time. I was wondering what your thoughts are. Are we moving in the right direction in terms of police reform? Are there other things that we ought to be doing? 

GRINAGE: I think it's a mixed bag. On the one hand, you have what I think has been a lot of progress in terms of the arbitration and decisions that have come down in favor of the city and in favor of the police chief having the authority to be able to manage his department rather than having the OPOA (Oakland Police Officers Association) determine who's going to go where and do what. So I think that those decisions that affirm the responsibility and authority of the chief are very important. I also think that the decision that came down in favor of the opportunity to hire civilians for some of the positions that don't require a sworn officer, again are very positive. Sworn officers cost a lot more than civilians, even civilians with expertise, because of the enormous salary, overtime, and benefits that officers have. Many of those jobs can, in fact, be done far more cost effectively if you have a civilian doing them than if you have a sworn officer doing them. So it makes sense to civilianize to the extent that you can. And again, we would say that a prime example is Internal Affairs. Most people don't trust investigations done by officers of other officers, for obvious reasons. And so what our survey found two years ago was that only one in 10 people filed a complaint at all when they had a negative experience with police. And a reason they gave was because they didn't think it would do any good. In other words, they had no faith that filing a complaint would actually gain anything worthwhile. Which is another way of saying they didn't trust police to investigate objectively and credibly. So our point is, you know what, citizens don't trust Internal Affairs, you've got all of these expensive, highly-paid people in Internal Affairs doing investigations that nobody believes in anyway…have them do other jobs. Have them do jobs that really impact public safety, and turn the investigations of citizen complaints over to citizens. To civilians. So that's one example where we believe even more can be done in the way of civilianizing positions and allowing sworn officers to be redeployed to solving and stopping crime, which is what their primary function is, to promote public safety. 

PLANET: But you said that was a mixed bag. All of the things that you mentioned are positive. 

GRINAGE: Well the mixed bag, part of it is that we've had a lot of police shootings lately. That is another downside of the rapid acceleration of police hiring. Having several academies at once, running these people through the academies to get them on line to meet these goals of hiring “x” number of officers by a certain date. So you're basically rushing these people through this thing, putting them out, giving them presumably some kind of field training. But then in some cases, you've got a rookie riding along with a rookie instead of a rookie riding along with an experienced officer. So you've got the blind leading the blind in some situations, and as a result, you've got an increase in police-involved shootings, which certainly cannot be considered a good thing, by any measure. And in fact, we've asked for and have received affirmation that the Citizens Police Review Board is going to have a public hearing on Nov. 13 on the OPD policy of deadly force, when it's appropriate to use deadly force. What the policies are. What the training is like. And all of the issues that revolve all of these police-involved shootings. So that's going to be on Nov. 13. And we're certainly going to encourage people to come down for that. 

PLANET: In the news lately, and the blogsphere as well, and in the NCPC's (Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council), there's been an ongoing debate over whether crime is going up or going down in Oakland. And the mayor has weighed in a couple of times. He says that it's a problem of perception. And I think (City Councilmember) Jean Quan has said the same thing. But you hear other people point to the same statistics and say no, it's really a problem. In your opinion, what's really happening, and what should be response be? 

GRINAGE: Well, statistics-anybody knows-can be manipulated. A lot of it has to do with how you categorize certain crimes, whether you put something in one column or another column, to say whether it went up or down. And you've got a lot of different kinds of crimes. So on the one hand, if you select-and this is true for the FBI Crime Reports which depends on self-reporting from these agencies-a lot of it has to do with the way that certain crimes are categorized in terms of which column they go into. So whether you put something in a burglary column or in a theft column, auto theft column, or how you categorize them, in some instances will tell you if something goes up or if something goes down. It may have no relevance to the average citizen. Because the same numbers can be manipulated to say a lot of different things. I think the perception certainly is that violent crime has gone up. Now it may be true that certain other types of crime have been reduced. Maybe auto thefts have gone down. Maybe certain lesser crimes, like certain misdemeanors, have gone down. But there could be a lot of reasons for that. Maybe they're no longer seeking certain kinds of misdemeanor arrests, because the DA's office is overwhelmed anyway and they know that nothing is going to stick anyway, so why arrest somebody because he's got a quarter of an ounce of pot on him? In other words, there can be a lot of reasons for why numbers of crimes decrease. It can simply be that police ignore a lot of what they see, because it's not worth pursuing. But I think clearly, the numbers in terms of homicides have gone up, unequivocally. There's no argument about that. Certainly the number of police-involved shootings have gone up. I think, based on what we appear to see on the news, the number of restaurant-involved break-ins and robberies has gone up. So, yeah, it may be that other kinds of crimes have gone down, but maybe citizens aren't as concerned about those because they're nonviolent. And maybe they're more concerned about the violent crimes, which apparently have gone up. 

PLANET: If we just talk about the homicides and the takeover robberies, which is what has gotten everybody's attention, what should the response of the city be immediately? Is that something that there's anything the city can do immediately about to address that situation, or is it a long-term problem that's going to go up and down? 

GRINAGE: I don't know everything that the city is doing. They may be doing things that haven't been publicized. But there are certainly things that have been done in cities like Los Angeles, and cities in New Jersey, for example, around gang violence. There have been creative strategies in terms of bringing gang members together to work out a truce. At least according to (Oakland Police) Chief (Wayne Tucker), this recent spate of violent shootings has to do with the fact that they took the Acorn Gang out of the picture, and now other gangs are vying to fill the vacuum. At least, that's the analysis that the Chief provided a few days ago. 

PLANET: It seems to me that anybody studying drug dealing and gangs-and we go back in history in Oakland even to the Felix Mitchell breakup, and there was just an explosion of violence after that, when people come in and take over turf. 

GRINAGE: Right. 

PLANET: Do you think that the City was prepared for the aftermath of the Acorn Gang breakup? 

GRINAGE: Good question. Theoretically, they should have been. Theoretically they should have known that when they do that kind of a comprehensive takedown that there's going to be this kind of tussling over who gets to inherit that turf. So one would have thought they should have been prepared for that eventuality. So again, it's not clear to me the extent to which there is proactive, creative crime fighting going on. A lot of the shootings are occurring in areas where it's well-known that there's drug activity. That leads you to wonder about the deployment of officers. If you know where the drug corners are, where the hot spots are, and you know that certain street corners or certain blocks have been the scene of previous shootings. Why wouldn't you be having officers deployed there, kind of round-the-clock? You could set up a battle station there, in a certain sense. So I'm not saying that they're not doing that. But the fact that these shootings recur in the same areas would suggest that there isn't a police presence there. Or if there is, it doesn't make any difference, in the sense that it doesn't seem to be preventing additional shootings. So again, I don't know the extent to which sophisticated analysis is being done. I don't know the extent to which what I would consider to be more creative and pro-active crime fighting is occurring. Again, in the sense of maybe get the mayor to try to sit down with some of the gang leaders. It's been done elsewhere.  

PLANET: Hasn't Mayor Dellums promised that on more than one occasion? 

GRINAGE: I think a lot of us were led to believe, that's the kind of mayor he would be. He would not be your typical, pro-forma mayor who would be simply reactive, but would he would bring more of a visionary, creative, progressive approach-holistic approach-to the issue of public safety. I'm not sure we've seen the evidence that that's what's happening. Again, I'm not in a position to say it's not happening. But if it is happening, we don't know about it. 

PLANET: What about bringing in groups like the Guardian Angels? They seem to come up every time we have a problem and then they disappear. What's your thoughts about that as a solution?  

GRINAGE: It's clearly not a solution. I think it's a bumper sticker kind of thing. It's something that politicians do when they're up against the wall and they need to be seen to be doing something. They need to at least be seen as trying to respond. That's an obvious way they can show the public that they're trying to respond, trying to provide some relief. But it's not a long-term solution, clearly, because by definition, these guys are like the Red Cross. They come when there's an emergency and when things settle down, they leave. The long-term solution has to be—we've all known for a very long time, and what the citizens voted for—is community policing.  

PLANET: In your opinion, what is that?  

GRINAGE: That's the $64,000 auestion.  

PLANET: The answer varies depending on who you're talking to.  

GRINAGE: Sure. And that's been true historically, from Day One. Despite all the trainings and all the everything and all the money that's gone into it, people have different understandings of what it means.  

PLANET: What do you think it should mean?  

GRINAGE: Community policing, in my view, is a way for the community to basically determine the ways in which their particular neighborhood—which is configured in an NCPC—can be safe, can promote safety. And so it should be pro-active rather than reactive. In other words, the neighbors who live in a community should be empowered to determine what the problems are in their neighborhood, what are the things that they've seen that make their community less safe than they would like, and to work with the police as well as other agencies. And that's the part I think that's still not working well. The police are really supposed to be a connector between the NCPC—the neighborhood—and all of the agencies that are implemented to offer social services. In other words, you might have problems that arise from kids that are unemployed, kids that should be in school and aren't, kids that are coming from families that are dysfunctional or substance abuse issues. In all of those cases there are agencies that we taxpayers paid for that offer services that are needed by these people that are identified in the NCPC or by that community as being problematic. So the idea is that you deal with their issues. You don't just arrest them for loitering, or just arrest them for whatever. Because that is not a solution. Because after they've been arrested, they will be released, and they will come back, and they will be in the same circumstances that they were when they were arrested. So the idea of community policing is actually to address the problems holistically and pro-actively. Not just by arresting people, but by determining what the needs are, what the problems are, and how they can actually be solved. And by involving all of the public agencies, whether city or county agencies. Social services. Counseling. Substance abuse. Job training. All of those kinds of things that will provide a long-term solution for those that are identified as bringing problems to the community.  

PLANET: What about the complaint that some have made that NCPCs don't fully represent the neighborhoods?  

GRINAGE: That's a problem that is historic, and we've said that from the beginning. That goes back to the whole rollout of community policing in the early 90's under (former Oakland police chief) Joe Samuels. We were at the table when the beat maps were drawn, when all the trainings were funded by Levi Strauss, who provided a lot of the grant money for the trainings and all the rest of that stuff. And from the beginning we identified that as an issue. When it is not done properly, it basically pits the haves against the have-nots within beats. That basically you've got homeowners that belong to the NCPCs. A lot of it has to do with their property and their property values, which are contingent on public safety. And those people, their interests become pitted against those that are often renters, are often lower on the socio-economic scale. And so you have the we's against the them's. And you have to some degree some vigilantism, and some racism, frankly. The NCPCs become empowered because of their close relationship with the police to basically pursue those in the community they feel are the problems. And again, the effort seems to be one of law enforcement and arrest as opposed to problem-solving. The officers are supposed to be problem-solving officers. PSO's is the acronym. And PSO doesn't equal “arrest.”  

PLANET: So how does that get done properly? How do the NCPCs get constituted properly?  

GRINAGE: A lot of it has to do with the responsibility of the city to do outreach to those within the community that typically don't show up for these meetings and to reframe the NCPCs so that they don't have that stigma of the upper class within a neighborhood, the homeowners, the older against the younger. They have to somehow figure out how to encourage and motivate the other portion of that community to become involved and to be empowered and go to those meetings and participate. That has not been successful.  

PLANET: What's PUEBLO's next project?  

GRINAGE: What we're really focusing on at the moment-along with continuing to do outreach to be able to maintain our database on officers that are allegedly engaged in misconduct, which is an ongoing project that we have and have had for fifteen years. But in addition, our focus is to civilianize the complaint process. We believe that part of the reason that officers are in many cases repeat offenders-like this rookie (Hector) Jiminez who was involved in these two police shootings-is that citizens underreport misconduct. Because they underreport, and they don't file complaints, neither the police department nor the City has a good handle on what these officers are doing on the street. Until they screw up. Big time. So our point of view is that more accountability means that the police department itself will have a better sense of what these officers are doing, and can apply corrective action, remedial action, to get these officers to improve their job performance. Before we have these kinds of shootings, and other forms of misconduct. So that it all goes back to citizens feeling empowered and feeling motivated to file complaints when they feel they've been mistreated. That allows the city and the community to hold these officers accountable. It allows the police department itself to do a better job of monitoring their officers, particularly their rookie officers, and again, to intervene, get them to take corrective action, before we end up with these egregious situations like the Riders, like these police-involved shootings. So our perspective is, it is important to get a system of accountability that the public can have confidence in. We believe that as long as these investigations are being done by Internal Affairs, people will not file complaints, because they will not feel it will make any difference, or their complaint will be taken seriously or investigated objectively. Therefore, we want to see the entire complaint process moved out of Internal Affairs, moved over to the Citizen Police Review Board, and the city do outreach to the communities and say, “Look, if you have a complaint against the police, we have citizens who will investigate your complaint, not police officers.”  

PLANET: Is it true that right now the only place you can file that complaint is at the Oakland Police Department?  

GRINAGE: No. People can file with the Citizen Police Review Board. But a lot of people don't even know it exists. They're not even given that information. But they can go to either place. The CPRB is located on the 11th floor of City Hall. Which is another thing we want changed. We want that down on the ground floor somewhere. Frankly, I'd like to see that where the Internal Affairs is right now, which is in a building next to City Hall, on the street level. Easy access. Nowhere near the police department. Since 1994, we have been trying to improve the Citizens Police Review Board. We've gotten a lot of substantive changes, like subpoena power, like independent investigators, like a counsel to the board that rules on evidence that can be permitted and runs the hearing and all of that. So we really have a good system in place. But a lot of people don't even know about it, and therefore they don't use it.  

PLANET: Does PUEBLO provide any service for people who don't know where to go, but can come here first?  

GRINAGE: We absolutely try to do outreach to the extent that we can to get people to come to us first. One reason is that we need the names of the officers involved in alleged misconduct so that we can incorporate that into our database. Once they have filed with the City of Oakland, as a result of the Copley ruling, we no longer have access to the identity of the officers. Which means we can't capture that information for our database. So we definitely want to encourage people to come to PUEBLO first and then we will facilitate them filing a complaint with the Citizens Police Review Board.  

PLANET: And what's the phone number for PUEBLO that they can call?  

GRINAGE: (510) 452-2010. 

Court’s Richmond Casino Decision Awaited

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:25:00 AM

Richmond city officials, a would-be gambling tribe and a coalition of environmentalists are anxiously waiting for a final ruling on the legality of a $335 million city pact with the Scotts Valley Band of Pomos. 

The tentative ruling issued last Wednesday by Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barbara Zuniga declared the agreement invalid because the city failed to conduct a state-mandated environmental review before signing the pact. 

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) mandates examination of the environmental impacts and preparation of a detailed review, which includes both mitigations and alternatives if impacts are significant. 

No review was done of the agreement, which was the central issue raised by the judge in her proposed ruling. She noted that a clause in the agreement promising a CEQA review “if required” failed to meet the requirements of the law, given that the pact mandated specific construction projects.  

“We’re greatly heartened by the victory,” said Norman LaForce, president of the Sustainability, Parks Recycling and Wildlife Legal Defense Fund (SPRAWLDEF), Sierra Club activist and a former El Cerrito councilmember. “Once again, this shows that the City of Richmond really needs to be watchdogged, because its record on environmental issues is very poor.” 

SPRAWLDEF was joined in theaction by Citizens for East Shore Parks, which is headed by former Albany mayor Robert Cheasty. 

But Don Arnold, chair of the tribe that would own the casino and its land as a restored reservation, said Tuesday that he hadn’t seen the judge’s two-page tentative ruling declaring that the Municipal Services Agreement (MSA) between the city and the Scotts Valley Band of Pomos violated CEQA. 

“I didn’t see it,” said Arnold, who said he had been devoting his time to the care of his hospitalized spouse. “It sounds like something the lawyers should have handled.” 

The agreement, passed by the City Council in November 2006, promises the city $335 million over 20 years, primarily in return for providing police and fire services and roadway construction and improvements. The agreement is unusual in part because the casino lies outside the city, in unincorporated North Richmond, which falls under county jurisdiction. 

Arnold referred calls to Zell & Associates, a Point Richmond-based public relations firm whose clients include Chevron, Valero, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Comcast and the City of Richmond itself. 

Eric Zell, the firm’s principal and chief of staff to then-Assemblymember Tom Campbell from 1980 to 1987, said he didn’t believe the judge’s decision, if it were to become final, would impact the project’s timeline. 

“Once the project is taken into trust, we would be able to go forward with the project fairly soon,” he said, referring to a hoped-for decision by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take the land into the agency’s trust as a reservation for the tribe. 

Even if the judge’s decision should become final, Zell said, the next move is up to the city, which was the defendant in the litigation. One question is the nature of the environmental review that might be required, which could range from a mitigated negative declaration—a finding that corrective measures would minimize adverse impacts—to a full-blown environmental impact review, a more lengthy and costly process. 

An assistant in the office of Richmond City Attorney Scott Dickey referred a request for comment on the judge’s proposed ruling to City Manager Bill Lindsay, who had not responded by Wednesday’s deadline. 


Casino riches  

To a city wracked by unemployment, crime and a legacy of financial woes, the developers of two casinos have promised both riches and jobs.  

The Sugar Bowl Casino, one of two Richmond-area gambling projects now under review by the federal Department of the Interior, would be a $200 million, 225,000-square-foot, 1,940-slot machine Las Vegas-style gambling palace. 

In addition to the slots, the casino would house 55 table games and 13 Asian card games on the main casino floor, plus a poker room with 16 tables and a special room for “high-rollers” featuring 60 slots, five table games and three Asian card games. 

More than 3,500 parking spaces, a 1,500-seat showroom, a 600-seat buffet, a 250-seat entertainment lounge, a 150-seat sports bar and a food court and restaurant, each seating 120, are included in the plans. 

The agreement signed with the city calls for the city to provide police and fire services as well as roadway improvements, even though the site is outside city limits and unincorporated and therefore under the nominal jurisdiction of the county. 

Unlike Richmond’s other proposed casino complex, the billion-dollar destination resort proposed for the Point Molate shoreline within the existing city boundary, the Sugar Bowl doesn’t include a hotel complex, a shopping center or solar-powered condos. 

The Sugar Bowl and its parking structure would occupy much of a 29.87-acre industrial site along Richmond Parkway on a site bounded by Goodrick Avenue on the East and Parr Boulevard to the south. 

The project is now under federal environmental review, and an initial draft environmental impact statement (EIS), prepared under the guidelines set by the National Environmental Protection Act, was released earlier this year. 

The casino is the project of the Scotts Valley Band of Pomos, a landless tribe which has partnered with Noram Richmond LLC, which is part of the multi-corporate empire that has evolved from North American Sports Management, itself founded by Alan H. Ginsburg of Maitland, Fla., a corporate partner in Native American casino ventures spanning the nation from the extreme Southeast to the far Northwest. 

While the Sugar Bowl casino has taken a lead in the bureaucratic approval process, the court decision could give the lead to the Point Molate project, the brainchild of Berkeley environmental cleanup entrepreneur turned would-be gambling mogul Jim Levine. 

The Point Molate site is still undergoing an environmental cleanup to remove or safely contain hazards from its legacy as a one-time naval refueling station. The cleanup is under the aegis of Levine’s old company, LFR Recon of Emeryville. 

The casino in Levine’s project—designed to attract high-rollers from the lucrative Asian market—will be operated by the Rumsey Band of Wintuns, operators of one of California’s richest casinos, Cache Creek in Yolo County. 

The Point Molate environmental review is incorporating both the federal and the state processes, with both a CEQA EIR and a federal EIS in the works, Levine told a recent meeting of the citizens’ advisory group that has been following the environmental cleanup at the site. 

Levine and his partners originally agreed to pay the city $50 million for the land, which Richmond is getting from the Defense Department for $1 under federal military base closure legislation, with the promise of additional payments of more $300 million if the project is developed as planned. 

But that deal, which includes a municipal services agreement similar to the one the city signed with the Scotts Valley Band, was made when Harrah’s Operating Co.—then the world’s largest casino company—was on board to run the gambling operation. It has since been replaced by the Cache Creek operators. 

Funeral Held for Mayor Dellums’ Mother

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:26:00 AM

A funeral was held for the mother of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums at small, semi-private services Wednesday morning at Fouche’s Hudson Funeral Home in North Oakland. 

The 89-year-old Willa Mae Dellums, a Texas native but an Oakland resident since the age of five, passed away from natural causes a week ago. 

While the funeral services were not closed to the public, the Dellums family deliberately played down the event, with no public notices sent out. Family members, family friends and staff members were in attendance, along with a handful of local political officials, including longtime Dellums political ally Mayor Tom Bates of Berkeley. 

Dellums staff members—including Congressmember Barbara Lee in remarks put into the Congressional Record—described the mayor’s mother as a second mother, who could always be counted on to give help or advice. Her Congressional Record remarks noted that Lee would sometimes accompany Mrs. Dellums, who was several decades older, on walks around Lake Merritt, and that Mrs. Dellums walked so fast that Lee could barely keep up. It seemed an apt description of the life of Mayor Dellums’ mother, who never let her humble beginnings hold her or her children back. 

Lee herself could not be in attendance because of the Democratic National Convention. 

In remarks during the eulogy, Mayor Dellums said that his lifetime role as a political leader, social worker and social justice fighter was “in my genes,” particularly from his mother. The mayor described his mother as a “strong black woman” who inspired him to be a fighter but also taught him pride in himself and his race, as well as how to land a straight right-hand punch, which she had learned from her brother. 

Dellums said his mother was “unafraid of anything or anybody” and “did not suffer fools lightly” but also said that she was “not judgmental,” and added that his mother “could have been anything she wanted to be, but she decided to put her personal ambitions aside and be a mother to myself and my sister.” The mayor told a story in which he came home after a fight with a white junior-high-school classmate, thinking his mother would be pleased with him for standing up for himself. Instead, Dellums said his mother asked him why he had fought the boy. “Because he called me a dirty black African,” the young Dellums replied.  

The mayor said his mother told him that he shouldn’t have let the classmate call him dirty, but that he shouldn’t be upset about being called black or African, since he was of African descent and should be proud of the fact. The mayor said that his mother, who had dropped out of high school to have her two children after marrying the mayor’s father, took it upon herself to teach Dellums and his sister about black history out of “dusty books and old magazines,” becoming, as the mayor described it, “my first Black Studies instructor.”

Fire Department Log

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:26:00 AM

East Bay firefighters are watching the skies with concern as high-risk fire conditions arrive with the start of what they expect will be a three-day heat wave, said Deputy Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong. 

“We’re asking people to be vigilant and diligent,” he said, “and to call at the first sign of any fire or the smell of smoke.” 

The danger signs will be posted at all the city’s fire stations. 


Nose for fire  

Deputy Chief Dong wasn’t jesting when he urged folks to call at the first scent of smoke because it was just such a call that kept a fire from doing more damage than it did on Aug. 19 to a home in the 1000 block of The Alameda. 

“The call started out as an odor investigation,” he said.  

A call at 12:36 a.m. reported the smell of smoke in the area, and one engine was sent to check it out. Within minutes, the firefighters discovered the source of the smoke in a residential garage, and a call was sent out for a full complement of engines and firefighters. 

The fire apparently began after a coal from a barbecue lit earlier in the day rolled under a garage door and beneath a set of shelves, where it eventually ignited some books and papers. 

The flames did about $8,000 in damage to the shelves, garage and front porch, and about $4,000 to the structure’s contents, said Deputy Chief Dong. 


Basement blaze  

A Sunday afternoon basement fire caused about $5,000 in damage to a home in the 1100 block of Allston Way. 

Responding to a 12:50 p.m. call, firefighters arrived at the two-story home, where they quickly knocked down the flames, confining the damage to the basement. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation. 


Rug burn 

The fire department’s hazardous materials team rushed to the Washington Mutual Bank branch at 2150 Shattuck Ave. late Monday afternoon after a caller reported a possible chemical spill on the bank’s carpet. 

“The engine company found a section of the carpet had melted, apparently from an acid-type substance,” said Deputy Chief Dong. 

Further investigation revealed that the cause hadn’t been malicious. 

“It was something like acetone that had inadvertently leaked from a bag someone was carrying,” he said. 

By the time the hazmat team and Berkeley police were leaving the scene, a housekeeping crew was cutting away the damaged carpet and getting ready to replace it.

4 Oakland Restaurants Hit by Weekend Robberies

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:27:00 AM

Four takeover robberies in Oakland last weekend reflect a continuing crime trend in the East Bay. 

The Oakland crimes, which occurred at a nail salon in the 6600 block of Telegraph Avenue and Full Moon Seafod restaurant on MacArthur Boulevard on Sunday, and at Mama Rosa’s Pizza on High Street on Saturday and Shattuck Avenue’s Nomad Cafe on Friday, are the continuation of an eight-robbery string that began in July and continued through August, including the robbery of Rockridge’s Pasta Pomodoro restaurant on Monday, Aug. 18. The crimes bring the summer total of takeover robberies in Oakland to 13. 

That number does not include the series of robberies that occurred across Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville back in March, April and May, when Berkeley suffered from robberies by “the Lone Gunman.” 

“We have not experienced any takeover-style robberies that may be connected with this series or couple of series,” said BPD spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss. “We are concerned about these incidents, in particular their proximity to our south border.” 

Although the current series of takeovers has yet to touch Berkeley, the Nomad Cafe, located at 6500 Shattuck Ave., lies just south of the Berkeley border. 

On Friday at 10:05 p.m., just after the cafe had closed, two masked men, one carrying a gun, forced the two employees and two customers into a back closet while the suspects took money from the open safe. 

According to Justin Garland, general manager of the wireless Internet cafe, this is the first time in five years of operating that the restaurant has been robbed in this fashion, but the incident has not slowed business at all and Nomad employees have dealt “amazingly well” with the robbery, he said. 

“This weekend was one of the busiest I can remember,” Garland said. “It’s just been an outpouring of support from community members checking in on us. It certainly hasn’t scared anyone away.” 

At 1 p.m. on Monday, the cafe was nearly full of lunchtime customers. A reporter from Channel 2 News also appeared while Garland was speaking with The Planet. 

Garland said the Oakland police “were terrific,” arriving on the scene within four minutes of the phone call. The police dealt swiftly and efficiently with one incident in what is “obviously an epidemic,” Garland said. 

The string of Oakland crimes “makes me introspective about the bigger picture of what’s going on,” he said. “None of us here are taking it personally, even though it was an obvious invasion of our personal space and security. In a weird way, it makes us feel more connected to the other businesses in the community that have been robbed ... It doesn’t make me feel less safe or like this is a bad neighborhood.” 

Berkeley has seen sporadic takeover-style robberies this summer, and Sgt. Kusmiss said Berkeley police have been providing commercial districts with extra patrols to help prevent the recurrence of such crimes. In addition, she said that Berkeley robbery detectives regularly collaborate with Oakland police to discuss crime trends. 

Berkeley police warn businesses to be wary of suspicious cars or people lingering near their building and encourage businesses to report such activity to the BPD. Because takeover robberies typically occur near the end of the day when cash registers are fullest, police also warn business to be particularly mindful from late afternoon until closing time.

Police Blotter

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:27:00 AM

Welcome Week fraternity party has violent consequences 

A new UC student was struck in the face by a brick thrown by a young man trying to crash a Phi Gamma Delta frat party on Monday. 

Party-goers at the 2395 Piedmont Ave. house said two young men, “uninvited guests” to the party, were confronted on the front porch by two fraternity members when they tried to enter. 

When a fraternity member told the crashers it was a “closed party and they were not welcome,” the young men continued trying to sneak past. The fraternity members escorted the young men from the premises, after which the victim said “words were exchanged” between the crashers and frat members.  

Upon leaving, one of the young men picked up a red brick from the sidewalk and hurled it at the group of people standing on the house’s front porch. 

The victim, an 18-year-old UC student from the San Diego area, told the police that she was standing on the front porch, talking with her boyfriend, when suddenly she was struck in the forehead by a hard object. She fell, bleeding from the forehead. 

The suspect and his friend fled west on Channing Way. 

City and campus police and paramedics responded to the 10:55 p.m. call. The victim was transported to a local hospital, where she was treated for a one-inch laceration, which required stitches, and a chipped tooth. Due to the nature of her injury, she remains at the hospital for further monitoring. 

According to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, BPD community services bureau supervisor, UC Berkeley party crashing is common, frequently attempted by underage kids seeking alcohol. She also said injuries and violence at Welcome Week parties are common because new students often cannot handle their newfound freedom. 


Elderly woman robbed in rare daylight purse-snatching 

A purse was snatched from a 79-year-old woman in broad daylight on Shattuck Avenue on Monday morning. 

The victim, a Berkeley woman, was walking north on a Shattuck sidewalk past the Berkeley Honda dealership at 10:29 a.m. when a man ran up to her from the left and wrested her handbag away. 

The purse contained $200 cash, a driver’s license, assorted credit cards, keys and a green coin purse. 

Later that morning, a community member residing in the 1600 block of Stuart Street called the Berkeley Police Department to report finding an empty green coin purse with the victim’s name written inside discarded on the street. Police assume the suspect emptied the cash from the coin purse before tossing it aside. 

“This type of crime, midmorning, where a purse is stolen in a commercial area is fairly rare,” said Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, police community services bureau supervisor. 

Police reported that both the victim’s and a witness’s descriptions of the suspect were too vague to be useful in identifying the suspect.

Enviros Launch All-Out Campaign for Obama

By Randy Shaw BeyondChron.org
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:28:00 AM

DENVER—Next to the “Big Tent” housing bloggers and policy forums here in Denver is an unmarked suite where some of the nation’s leading environmental activists are at work. This is the office where Environmental America, Progressive Future, the Progressive Future Education Fund, Community Voters, and the Public Interest Network are plotting the biggest voter outreach and mobilization drive in environmental group history. 

While delegates, politicians and the press talked and partied, these dedicated environmentalists were contacting voters in eleven key states, in a scene reminiscent of a week before an election than a contest more than two months away. The combined effort of these groups will not only recruit tens of thousands of new volunteers, but they will engage in the type of intensive door-knocking and persuasion strategies that could swing key states to Obama and give Democrats a 60-vote, filibuster-proof Senate majority. Despite polls showing increased concern over global warming, environmental issues were barely mentioned in the presidential debates and have remained off the political radar screen for November. But a coalition of environmental groups is working to change this, and has embarked on an ambitious agenda to win a “working political majority” for environmental and other progressive issues. 


Environmentalists’ Multi-Pronged Strategy 

The above groups are implementing a multi-prong strategy that includes nonpartisan voter registration of African-Americans in ten states with high numbers of blacks, partisan voter registration, persuasion, and get out the vote efforts in eleven key states, the recruitment of tens of thousands of volunteers who themselves will recruit others, and likely Oregon and North Carolina. 

This is quite an ambitious agenda. One question I put to both Wendy Wendlandt, Political Director of the Public Interest Network, and Margie Alt, Executive Director of Environment America is whether the potential volunteer pool had already been claimed by the Obama campaign. After all, between the Obama fellows and the multiple offices in each state, one would think anyone looking for an entry point to volunteer would already have a place to go. 

But both emphasized that many people feel more comfortable working through an environmental group than through a political candidate’s campaign. And Environment America (EA) has a membership base that would more likely do their electoral work through their own organization. The conclusion: environmentalists, particularly those angered by the prospect of offshore drilling, are still looking for a place to make a difference, and could soon be joining EA’s electoral operation by the thousands. 


Taking on Offshore Drilling 

Both Alt and EA political director Ivan Frishberg see voter interest in environmental issues heightening despite their absence from the mainstream political debate. They saw the offshore drilling issues as galvanizing environmentally-oriented voters, some of whom may not be swayed to Obama on other issues. 

I asked Alt if there were not a risk that their efforts would simply duplicate the voter contacts made by the Obama campaign (not to mention potentially Move On and the Sierra Club). She said studies showed that some undecided voters need to be contacted seven to eleven times, and that the Obama campaign “could not be everywhere”—a conclusion that those unable to speak directly to voters despite repeated calls and door knocks can attest. 

Since EA’s focus will include infrequent voters regardless of their environmental concerns, having the group’s intense persuasion efforts occurring in eleven key states could prove pivotal. The group is likely to decide by the end of this week to expand their Senate focus to Oregon and North Carolina, races that decide whether Democrats obtain their 60-vote majority. 


Merkley Race Key 

No race appears more important for environmentalists than the Oregon Senate race between incumbent Republican Gordon Smith and Democrat Jeff Merkley. According to Jeremiah Baumann, Director of Environment Oregon, “Oregonians care more deeply about the environment than in prior elections, and Merkley is very strong on the environment.” 

Smith also has a strong environmental record—if one only looks at how he voted in 2008 as opposed to his pre-election year stands. This is a guy who won election vowing to oppose Alaska drilling and then voted in favor of it after taking office. 

Should Environment America decide to push Merkley, the increased resources could spell the difference in what is expected to be a very tight race. 


Colorado Up for Grabs 

Colorado is a major priority for the Public Interest Network and its environmentalist partners, and they hope to get Udall supporters into the Obama camp. Everyone I talked to was cautious about Obama’s prospects, in contrast to my own optimism that Latino votes would put him over the top. 

Colorado is such a priority that key national staffers like Wendlandt have relocated to Denver for the election. The state has not gone Democratic in a presidential election since 1992, and that was attributed to Ross Perot siphoning off Republican votes. 

If environmental groups can help bring Colorado into the Obama column, 2008 may be the last presidential primary season when green issues are kept out of sight.

Albany-Berkeley Border Walking Tour Saturday

By Steven Finacom Special to the Planet
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:30:00 AM

Nearly a century ago, Berkeley and Albany were at war over waste. 

“The garbage problem with its many phases once more confronts this city in a menacing manner…” the Berkeley Daily Gazette darkly warned in a front-page story on Jan. 6, 1909. Berkeley had a lot of waste back then, more than 24 tons a day, according to the city engineer, who noted “you can imagine how fast it piles up.”  

The city was in the habit of hauling that waste out to the edge of Albany for disposal, and the good citizens living to the northwest didn’t like being downstream of the detritus of the self-styled Athens of the Pacific. 

The town trustees of Albany, then calling itself Ocean View, decided to call a halt. With the new year, their attorney advised Berkeley the dumping had to come to an end.  

Mother Nature lent a hand, with pouring rains that made the roads impassable for heavily laden garbage wagons. Berkeley’s trustees were reduced to considering dumping Berkeley garbage in Berkeley down on the waterfront, building an incinerator, or perhaps—the most humiliating option—begging Oakland to temporarily take Berkeley’s waste and haul it out to sea. 

Today, relations are better. Berkeley and Albany are generally comfortable neighbors, sharing a couple of shopping districts and neighborhoods. At most points the two communities merge into each other along blocks of quiet streets lined with well-kept, modest homes. In many areas the transition between towns is almost imperceptible. 

To celebrate and explore that common seam and the history of both communities, the Albany and Berkeley Historical societies are planning a joint boundary walk on Saturday Sept. 6. This commemorative walk also marks the 30th anniversary of the Berkeley Historical Society and the 100th anniversary of the city of Albany. It starts at the eastern boundary between Albany and Berkeley and ends at the western boundary.  

Learn about the antics of M. B. Curtis, famous star of Sam’l of Posen, and his upscale community on the Albany Berkeley border. The development he promoted included an ornate hotel, once one of the most prominent features of the Berkeley skyline. 

Visit historic churches and the members who have attended church there for generations. See where Codornices Creek is being daylighted, visit the homes of Albany’s most famous developer, Charles M. MacGregor (who also built in Berkeley) and revisit the site of the infamous Garbage Wars, of which the 1909 dispute, noted above, is but one episode. 

The walk will last about two hours, starting at 10 a.m. Participation is limited and reservations are on a first come-first-served basis. The cost is $10 per person. To register mail a check to the Berkeley Historical Society, Walking Tours, PO Box 1190, Berkeley, CA 94701-1190. Include your name, address, phone number and e-mail address. You will be sent a reservation confirmation and the location of the beginning of the walk. Center phone number is 848-0181. 



Sarah Palin Fails Her Most Important Job

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday September 02, 2008 - 03:41:00 PM

What’s a feminist to think? 

In my youth, people talked about trying to figure out the “standard liberal position” on a controversial issue. Later on, “liberal” got to be a no-no word as the hip left competed to see who could be more radical than thou. “Politically correct” was used without irony for a season or two among those who had an old left background, only to acquire a sarcastic edge among the rest of the left who distrusted the verities of previous eras. The compromise word de jour seems to be “progressive”—it’s a word even Republicans have been known to use. 

The term “feminist” has undergone a similar evolution. Regardless of what it meant in 1972 (and it meant many things to many people in those days) it seems to apply today to anyone who thinks a woman’s life choices should not be limited or defined by her gender. “Feminist” had a pejorative period, but that seems to have passed. Again, today even Republicans might qualify. 

But the selection of Alaska’s Miss Congeniality as John McCain’s running mate is putting a severe strain on any of the many kinds of feminist analysis now available to the au courant political pundit. And the news has been changing so fast that political writers are compelled to disclose not only the day but even the hour at which they reached their current conclusions. So readers should know that they’re now reading my Tuesday morning opinion, but by the Planet’s Thursday print issue it could all be different again. 

Let’s start with the bottom line, and then we can see how we got there. 

There’s no fool like an old fool, we old wives are prone to say, and John McCain has shown himself to be the prototypical, quintessential old fool in this one. What could he have been thinking? Or was he thinking at all? 

His choice of an essentially inexperienced ex-beauty queen to be a heartbeat away from a 72-year-old cancer survivor was bad enough. Worse was his campaign’s Tuesday announcement that they’d known about all Sarah Palin’s excess baggage all along: the pregnant daughter, Troopergate, Sarah’s long-standing support for the Alaska Independence Party (that one’s still building) and more. Exactly who thought that none of this mattered, and why did they think that? 

Barack Obama chivalrously said that families should be off limits, and since he’s the candidate that’s the right decision for him. But for the rest of us the question of how Sarah Palin has been discharging her life responsibilities should not be off limits at all, and in fact it should be central to the discussion of why McCain has demonstrated his complete lack of common sense in this matter by choosing her in the first place. 

Feminist though I am, I’m old-fashioned enough to think that if you decide to have children your most important job until they’re grown is raising them properly. Let’s hear no cant about Palin’s not “choosing” to have her five children. Anyone who understands the mechanics of conjugation between a man and a woman is choosing to have children unless they choose to prevent it. Even if you’re married, abstinence from man-woman sex is a surefire method of not conceiving the children you don’t plan to care for. This applies equally to men and to women. 

And Palin has not had any jobs so far that were anything like as hard as parenting a family of any size. Being the mayor of a little suburb with few administrative powers or responsibilities should have been a piece of cake. There are fewer people in Alaska than, say, Austin, and because of the oil bonanza it shouldn’t be nearly as hard to balance the budget there as it is in real states like California. Anyhow, the story about firing the guy who refused to fire her ex-brother-in-law suggests that Sarah hasn’t been doing a stellar job as governor. 

Does she get any extra points or demerits because she and her daughter are opposed to abortion, and have chosen to bear children in situations where some might have chosen abortion? Of course not—if being pro-choice means anything, it should mean not spending a lot of time dwelling on whether someone else’s choice in this sensitive and emotional decision is right or wrong. 

But being pro-choice does not mean approving any parent’s decision to neglect children once they’re born. Sarah and her husband will soon be responsible for six children altogether, since Bristol is obviously still no more than a child herself, despite her 16 or 17 years of life. Her mother’s cheery prediction that pregnancy “would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned” is not likely to happen. 

Make that seven kids, if the father of the newest baby is inducted into the Palin clan via a shotgun wedding. He said on his My Space page that he didn’t want kids, but now he’s got one, like it or don’t. It’s unlikely that he’s ready to be much of a parent either. 

What Sarah Palin did have a choice about, and still does, is taking care of all the kids she’s got. And don’t suggest that her husband will do it alone, because it’s too much for one person, male or female. For starters, though Down Syndrome kids can be a great joy to their parents, they also need even more hands-on attention than other babies, both when they’re infants and as they grow up. Bristol was pictured clutching little Trig during one press conference, but what’s going to happen when there are two babies who need someone to hold them? 

The middle Palin children are girls 13 and 7, just about the ages of my three granddaughters, who among them have four excellent fully functioning parents (not to mention grandparents and a great-grandmother) who have their hands full taking good care of their kids while also working at jobs. Just the needs of these two little girls alone should have been enough to cause Sarah and Todd Palin to question whether this is the year for her to undertake a demanding new career move—and they have five more to take care of. 

The oldest Palin child, a boy of 18, has gone into the army right out of high school. That’s usually the career choice of young people who don’t have many other opportunities available.  

Young Track Palin (even more unfortunately named than his sisters) would be better advised to continue his education (with ROTC if his patriotism demands it) instead of signing up for the Bridge to Nowhere that the invasion of Iraq has become. The fact that he decided to join the army instead would be taken as evidence of parental failure in many circles 

The final sentence in Palin’s announcement of her daughter’s condition was particularly unfortunate: "Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi's privacy…." 

Being president, or even vice-president, requires much more than the usual amount of focus and dedication, and leaves officeholders much less time to devote to their families. If the Palins, especially Sarah, really want to support these pregnant children, they would put their own professional ambitions on hold until both babies were in school and the young mother and father were able to support themselves and their child. If Sarah respected the privacy of the daughter and the boyfriend, she would not have thrust herself—and them—into the spotlight at this particular difficult moment.  

There’s no feminist ideology that mandates exploiting and neglecting your kids in order to get ahead. Nancy Pelosi, another mother of five, did it right, and Palin could too if she had an ounce of compassion or a grain of sense. 

The race for the U.S. presidency is not just one more beauty contest. That neither Sarah Palin nor John McCain seems to know this ultimately reflects on their judgment. It is clear and convincing evidence that neither is even remotely qualified to be president. And if a majority of Americans allow themselves to be hornswoggled by these two fools, the rest of us are going to have to consider moving to Canada. 

Watching the Big Show on the Small Screen

By Becky O’Malley
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:31:00 AM

We’ve taken to watching major news events on the Internet, on the biggish screen of my desktop computer. This has two advantages. The most obvious one is that we don’t currently have a working TV. I know, I deserve to have my official media membership card lifted on the spot for being dangerously out of touch.  

But really, it’s the television networks which are out of step, not me. Most of what they’ve offered for the last five years, both broadcast and cable, is dreck and more dreck. Some dramatic series are possible exceptions, but as soon as they’re over we can rent them and watch them at our leisure. There’s even a splendid little gizmo now that projects computer-generated images—even from DVDs—on any handy blank wall, making for jolly outdoor movie events of a summer’s evening. 

We just saw the circa-1935 Petrified Forest film, with Leslie Howard, Humphrey Bogart and an amazingly youthful Bette Davis, at the Cerrito Theater in El Cerrito, as a benefit for the Masquers’ Playhouse current production of the stage version. That big screen version was luxurious, but it would have been great at home too. Big-screen TVs are expensive and occupy a lot of space when you’re not watching them, but old movies aren’t quite right on small screens. The computer projector is the perfect compromise. 

The smaller screen of my computer is fine for political coverage, which is mostly talking heads. The second advantage of watching news on the computer, even if you own a TV, is that you can madly switch around checking out livelier websites during the dull parts, and even check your e-mail from time to time.  

If the current news is a convention, there couldn’t be a better solution. Conventions, in case you haven’t noticed, have lots of dull moments these days. That’s a bitter pill for me to swallow.  

In my family when I was growing up, conventions outranked the Olympics by a wide margin as avidly consumed periodic television spectaculars. They were loaded with drama. 

My earliest convention memory, from 1952, was of a very small round screen with a lot of people gathered around it. The Republican convention had my grandfather rooting for Robert Taft, the conservative’s conservative in the old respectable sense of the word, and everyone else in the room rooting against him for Ike. The Democrats that year featured a life-and-death struggle between the valiant coonskin-capped populist Estes Kefauver, who lost after coming into the convention far ahead in the primaries, and the suave, urbane Adlai Stevenson, who won the nomination battle but lost the war in November. Great theater. Terrific speeches. 

Today’s conventions also feature good speeches, but in between they’re padded with lots of other stuff that’s frankly dull as dishwater. Who’s the audience for a segment showing a bubble-gum band, genre unknown, and lots of oddly-hatted middle-aged ladies trying to shimmy for the cameras in time with the drum machine? (I can mock them since I’m one myself, but don’t you dare try it!) 

But the speeches, the speeches! Some could put you to sleep, but others could break your heart.  

Seeing Caroline Kennedy gave me the same pleasure I get from encountering the grown children of now-dead friends, recognizing a familiar smile or a prominent nose handed down from their parents. She’s one of Those Kennedys all right, I’d know her anywhere. 

And her Uncle Teddy, whom she introduced? The first time I saw Uncle Teddy was in a converted laundromat on Shattuck, opening the Berkeley headquarters for his brother Jack in 1960. My roommate’s boyfriend Dave skipped the event, saying “If I want to see an Irish mug like that, I can look in the mirror when I’m shaving.”  

Teddy’s Irish mug, like his Irish heart, has held up pretty well all these years, and his Irish voice was in fine fettle on Monday. Yes, OK, I admit it, I shed a few furtive tears watching him carry it on, as did my Irish daughter who wasn’t even born before his brothers died. The Irish poet Yeats said that “too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart,” but Teddy Kennedy’s heart is still beating in sympathy with everyone who needs his help. 

This week, it was Barack Obama. Sen. Edward Kennedy, presente! In case anyone at the convention doubted it, Teddy wanted to tell them himself that electing Barack Obama will be the best way to carry the work forward after the last of the older generation of fighters has gone. 

Watching the speeches on my computer had an odd third benefit. Some setting or other caused the convention image to fade every few minutes, to be replaced by my screen-saver slide show, a collection of photos, mostly of my granddaughters.  

The anticipated purpose of Michelle Obama’s speech was to place the Obamas firmly in the realm of Everyfamily, not odd or exotic, not even super-smart (though they are), but just plain folks. All that virtue on parade did seem like a bit too much of a good thing after a while, though.  

She looks like a strong, salty woman, and I’d bet that when she’s at home she’s more direct and less smarmy. But she had a job to do, and she did it well. Mimicking the current parental style, you’d have to tell her “Good job, Michelle!” Or as Dubya would have it, “Mission Accomplished.”  

Having my own girls pop up on the screen from time to time provided a nice shift of focus. Politics is more fun for some of us than sports, but politics also has, as they say, a higher purpose. For me, those kids and the world they will inherit are central to why we’re going to all this trouble, and that’s a concept Michelle Obama seems to share. 

In my on-screen slideshow, the granddaughter whose ancestors came from Africa and Asia as well as Europe wears her Cleopatra costume for Halloween. I’d hoped that she might become, if not Queen of Egypt, the first U.S. president of African descent, but it looks like Barack will beat her to it, and good for him.  

One of her cousins is shown cradling her violin, and the other is doing acrobatics in a kids’ backyard circus. I remembered when I saw them that I shook hands with Dr. Martin Luther King at the 1964 Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, when I was pregnant with their mother—maybe they’ve inherited some special blessing because I did. Seeing them on the screen, I hoped that their future world will have time for pleasure as well as for politics, that it will be filled with song, not burdened with strife. 

The dialogue featuring the Obama girls at the end of Michelle’s speech reminded me once again of my own grandkids. The older one, Malia, has inherited her father’s million-dollar smile and her mother’s regal poise, and like my oldest granddaughter she seems conscious of the expectations adults have for her. Seven-year-old Sasha, playfully milking her moment of microphone access to the fullest, could have been a dark-skinned clone of my roguish blonde diva granddaughter of the same age, always ready for the spotlight.  

Corny? Sure. Staged? Maybe. So what?  

All in all, a pretty good show. Not as exciting as the 1952 floor fights, but it had its moments. At our house, we loved it.  

And then there was Hillary. No one could ask for more than she gave in her speech on Tuesday. There were no obvious punches pulled, no wink-wink nudge-nudge.  

She showed herself to be a real, 100 percent gold-plated trooper, not a quiver in her stiff upper lip as she touted Barack Obama. But then, she’d have to be tough, wouldn’t she, to put up with philandering Bill all these years?  

He was shown on camera from time to time as she talked, mugging and rolling his eyes. Bill’s own moment in the sun was scheduled for Wednesday, after the Planet’s deadline. Let’s hope he behaved himself. 


Women and the GOP

By Justin DeFreitas
Friday August 29, 2008 - 12:02:00 PM

McCain and Palin Storm the New Camelot

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 01:19:00 PM

The Recipe for a Democratic Victory

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 01:02:00 PM

Obama's Text Message

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 01:18:00 PM

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:32:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Further to Bob Burnett’s “Framing the Election” (Aug 21), here is a simple ad that might save the Dems, if they had the courage to blanket the country with it: 

“John McCain says he wants diplomacy not war. But McCain’s idea of diplomacy is exactly like Bush’s—bullying other nations into doing what he tells them. It’s a recipe for more conflict, more blood, and either higher taxes or national bankruptcy.” 

Fred Matthews 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am fed up with bicyclists who act as if traffic laws don’t apply to them and ride as if they’re only ones who have the right to be on the road. 

There have been countless times when I have nearly been hit by bike riders while walking across the street in a crosswalk. Around 7 yesterday evening, for example, I was crossing Telegraph at Oregon. All four lanes of car traffic came to a gentle stop, respecting the crosswalk. However, as usual, a bike rider refused to slow or even alter their path and came within a few inches of hitting me.  

I had always thought that being environmentally responsible was about looking out for the greater good. Apparently these riders are so wrapped up in their own egos and arrogance that they forget traffic rules also apply to them; especially the laws protecting pedestrians from harm. I have to say, there’s something perverse about pedestrians feeling safer around cars than bicycles.  

Steve Berley 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Once again Berkeley cops have demonstrated how out of control they are. On Wednesday, Aug. 20, someone in KPFA management (name to be revealed when KPFA finalizes its spin) called the cops to report a “trespass” by a KPFA volunteer, a pregnant single mom, who just happens to be African American. He called them because she wouldn’t get off the phone when he so ordered. She was finalizing a ride home and told him so. 

The cops hog-tied her and broke her arm. Yes, it is happening here. Shame on them, KPFA, and on all Berkeleyans for putting up with this behavior for so long. 

To Berkeley cops: It is possible to have law enforcement without brutality. 

Since there have been so many cop over-reactions recently, one must conclude that population control by any means necessary, and especially minority population control, is a priority for our city government. 

As for KPFA, the first statement from Interim Program Manager Sasha Lilley was that she had nothing to do with it, i.e. abdication of responsibility, instant state of denial, and no sense of outrage. 

There is this phenomenon among many so called progressives: they talk the talk and have the oh so correct analysis but in their daily lives, they share the same bullying mind set as Bush and Co. with one exception: they’re Green. 

Who’s gonna write “What’s the Matter with Berkeley”? 

Maris Arnold 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While I agree with Ms. Leyva-Cutler that Berkeley residents must “join together in a comprehensive approach” to solve the dismal academic performance of Berkeley High students, her faith in advisories is puzzling. Advisories will reduce academic instructional minutes when students, particularly in small schools, need all the academic instructional minutes they can absorb. Advisories do not qualify as instructional minutes. The thought of reducing English and math instructional time and replacing it with advisories is simply ridiculous. 

Advisories were voted down a few months ago by our school board. I find it remarkable that the BHS principal applied for a grant to implement advisories when the school board said no. Further, advisories will require many more classrooms than are available at the currently space-crunched high school. And I can’t imagine how they can possibly provide what they claim to offer, which is an adult who can look out for students’ interests, when teacher loads will increase on average from 150 students to 170. 

Advisories are part of the small school orthodoxy, none of which has proved successful. Take a look at the test scores in the small schools compared to the rest of Berkeley High. They are significantly lower, with a downward trend since small school inception. Why the blind faith in small schools when they have as few as 4 percent of their students achieving proficiency or above in math and students from the main body of the school achieve over 35 percent proficiency or above in math? Across the board, small school students score much lower in both English and math than students in the main body of Berkeley High, and it’s getting worse every year. 

Let’s join together in a comprehensive approach to ensure our students acquire the basic literacy and numeracy skills they’ll need for any path they choose to take. Advisories are the Emperor’s New Clothes of education trends. 

Peter Kuhn 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks are due to Beatriz Leyva-Cutler for clearly explaining why the BUSD needs to implement an academic advisory program for all students at Berkeley High (Commentary, Aug. 21). Here’s a small example of how easily a student could be knocked off course for graduation.  

Yesterday my daughter picked up her class schedule for her senior year at Berkeley High. At first glance, the schedule looked more than fine—she had been assigned to all the exciting electives that she had requested. Later, however, she took a second look and realized that there was a serious error: She was not registered for one of the few courses that she absolutely needed to graduate and maintain UC/CSU eligibility, namely American government and economics. Since my daughter understands how to navigate the system, I’m sure she will manage to get her schedule fixed expeditiously, but if she were less informed, the error could have been utterly disastrous. A comprehensive advisory system would ensure that all students were informed and on track for graduation. 

Carol S. Lashof 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s understandable that Russ Tilleman (Aug. 21) has concerns about AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit project for Telegraph Avenue and downtown. We are, even after seven years of planning, still only halfway through the environmental review process, so it’s still not possible to know exactly what the final project would be if approved and built. Only after the City Council chooses among several project alternatives will AC Transit be able to complete its final environmental impact report—and only then will we be able to study both potential impacts and their potential mitigations. In 2009 facts will replace fears, and we can then have a more informed conversation. 

That said, it is possible even now to look at Mr. Tilleman’s BRT concerns with a dispassionate eye.  

Start with the issue of traffic in the neighborhoods. It’s true that some drivers have been “cutting through” the neighborhoods south of campus from the major streets—for many years. That’s why neighbors advocated for traffic controls such as diverters, designed not to “force traffic onto the major streets” but to keep cut-through traffic out of the neighborhood streets. That benefit does come at some cost—diverters do “complicate driving around the neighborhoods”—but most residents continue to favor that tradeoff. Some neighborhoods, however, made a different choice: the Willard neighborhood voted down the installation of diverters, and many residents there complain to this day about ever-increasing cut-through traffic on Hillegass and other streets.  

The BRT project actually gives us a chance to make neighborhood traffic better. AC Transit has committed to mitigating any potential increase in neighborhood traffic that would result from its project—and effective mitigations, which the city can’t afford on its own, have the potential to decrease cut-through traffic below even today’s levels. Neighbors should be deeply involved in ensuring that any future tradeoffs required are optimal ones.  

We can also address Mr. Tillman’s other concern: that BRT will “complicate navigating” by cars on Telegraph because of changes to signals and left-turn lanes. Right now there’s no way to evaluate that, since Berkeley has not selected the actual routes that need to be designed for effective traffic management. The subject will receive detailed evaluation in the Final EIR, but until then it’s simply not fair to assume the worst. Traffic engineers know how to optimize flow in transit corridors; we should give AC Transit’s staff the chance to propose actual final plans before condemning the entire project. 

Mr. Tilleman asks, “Is there anything we will be able to do to limit [BRT’s] impact on traffic?” The answer is certainly yes—work with the city and AC Transit to require vigorous and effective mitigations of potential traffic impacts as part of the BRT implementation. In the end, an ounce of mitigation will prove much more helpful than a pound of ungrounded fears. 

Alan Tobey 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In “BRT — Facts Will Replace Fears, Alan Tobey suggests that we wait to make the final decision on Bus Rapid Transit until all the facts are in. In this, Mr. Tobey and I are in complete agreement. However, if we value the quality of our neighborhoods, we should not leave the final decision to AC Transit and an unresponsive City Council. That is the point of the initiative to require voter approval of BRT. This initiative measure, on the ballot in November, does not stop BRT at this time. All it does is claim the right of the final decision for the people of Berkeley. What’s wrong with that? 

Mr. Tobey states that AC Transit might somehow mitigate the traffic displaced from Telegraph. But their proposed mitigation for the parked cars that BRT will displace from Telegraph is to install parking meters in the residential neighborhoods! These meters will force residents out of their street parking spaces and assign those spaces to the Telegraph businesses. Anyone who parks in these neighborhoods knows that losing 80 to 100 street parking spaces for the residents is going to be a big problem. This is not what I call acceptable mitigation. It’s just moving the problem around from one place to another, in the hope of finding a place to put it where people aren’t politically active. 

One possible “mitigation” for the College Avenue BRT traffic would be to remove all the parking spaces on College and convert it to four lanes of traffic. That might look good from AC Transit’s management offices or the Berkeley City Council chambers, but for the rest of us it wouldn’t look very nice. So I expect that the traffic mitigation will be extremely unsatisfactory. There are just not very many major North-South streets in Berkeley, only College, Shattuck, and possibly MLK are close enough to accept any vehicles displaced from Telegraph. Even if AC Transit could find a way to restructure Berkeley streets to direct more traffic onto Shattuck, it is also very busy at peak times. Adding Telegraph cars to Shattuck then would likely push some Shattuck traffic onto MLK, which would increase congestion there. 

For all these negative impacts, and a grossly wasteful $400 million price tag, BRT appears to be nearly worthless. It offers only to slightly reduce bus travel time on Telegraph, something that could easily be accomplished by adding a few more buses to the current service. So I suggest that we pass the voter initiative in November, and declare our rights as citizens of Berkeley to decide the future of our neighborhoods. 

Russ Tilleman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Nightmare is back on the north side. Verizon plans to put 10-12 cell-phone antennas on the French Hotel at 1540 Shattuck. Verizon’s application to get a use permit is moving forward. It will be up for consideration at the Zoning Adjustments Board Sept. 11. Before the ZAB meeting, Verizon is organizing a meeting with the neighbors of the French Hotel to let them know of their plan. The meeting is on Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center at 1901 Hearst Ave. 

There are already many antennas in this area. Three at 1600 Shattuck, four more at 2095 Rose. If there more antennas get installed in this area, the level of radiation will exceed what is set by the FCC. 

Neighbors of the French Hotel are encouraged to come to the Verizon meeting. But, please do not go inside the room where Verizon has its display. Instead stage a protest outside this room. Wireless providers count how many people attend such meetings and make a report to the Planning Department that the meeting was a success and was attended by so many people. 

Perhaps this time, people will be able to stop the Verizon Corporation. 

Mina Davenport 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is so absurd and so offensive to the decency of all Americans—and especially Barack Obama—that there continues to be cynical commentary about the need for Hillary Clinton to be on his presidential ticket in order for him to prevail this November. The Clintons wrapped up their tenure in presidential politics as a national disgrace: he the philandering pervert and she the pragmatic first lady who sacrificed her self-respect and integrity among women by staying with her disgraced and deceitful yet politically popular husband so she could win a senate seat in New York. 

Bill Clinton was a devil to the Democratic Party. He abdicated much of the platform in order to win the White House and gave away the economic well-being of the middle class to big business. Bill Clinton achieved NAFTA. He will be remembered for that effort in the same vein that Howard Jarvis will forever own the consequences of California’s Proposition 13. 

Above and beyond the damage and scandal, President Clinton exhibited the epitome of hubris by allowing himself to be glorified as the “first black president.” How foolish, and how embarrassing. The Clintons both have made great efforts to capitalize on that, as if blacks weren’t qualified to produce the first black president and the job needed to go to a white person. Proof of that is the furious response President Clinton had to the results of the North Carolina primaries, as if to say that Carolinians had no business voting for a black candidate when they already had the wife of the “first black president” on the ticket. That sort of mentality is the remnant of growing up in Arkansas during the heyday of the Klan, and the Clintons aren’t as far removed from such stuff as they’d wish, or like us to believe. 

We will all be better off without another Clinton in the Executive Branch—or for that matter, slumming around Washington in dark sunglasses while blowing a saxophone and bragging about his exploits as a black president. 

Michael Minasian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m happy to know that Oakland City Administrator Deborah Edgerly didn’t get to keep her position and that Mayor Ron Dellums fired her. It is so pathetic that this woman could callously put the lives of police officers in danger as a favor to a misbehaving relative: so long as her “peeps” are protected, apparently all is well, from her perspective. She thought she could get away with her nepotistic activity and not be charged. Further, this is an example of the conspiratorial mismanagement plaguing many U.S. cities in the worst way, and cannot but bring to mind what some refer to as “black privilege.” In San Jose, Mayor Gonzales was fired and he apologized and held his head in shame for a relatively inconsequential garbage scandal. Instead of being arrogant about his back-handed deal, he repented. I personally had compassion for him as he seemed sincerely sorry. Oakland should be appreciative that they have John Russo as a fair and unbiased city attorney. 

Diane Villanueva 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Democrats at their convention revel in this year’s anniversaries of women’s right to vote and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. On the one hand, celebration from Denver by politicians who can’t demand single-payer-health-care, or immediate withdrawal from Iraq, or fat taxes on the fat cats is mere empty gesture. On the other hand, gestures can spark hope for causes. 

Take, for instance, the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, where there was recently another anniversary celebration of the 1979 overthrow of dictator Somoza. On the one hand, the anniversary cheerleading by Nicaragua president Daniel Ortega was empty gesture, considering his abandonment of so much of his earlier left-revolution program. 

On the other hand, the Sandinista revolution wasn’t just about Ortega’s commitment to health care, literacy and land reform in his country. It was also about hope for a new Latin America. Padre Uriel Molina at his hippy Catholic church in Managua had his salsa band sum up Sandinistaismo at the end of each service. The musicians would break into their paean to the revolution expected in Argentina, expected in Uruguay, expected in Paraguay, in Venezuela, in Bolivia, in Brazil, in Chile, in Ecuador, in Haiti and on and on and on. And, they have almost all happened, incompletely, of course. Our struggle always messes up. But we’ll keep truckin, with the help of the hope that comes from gestures. 

Ted Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I don’t understand why the Iraq government is even negotiating with the United States over a total withdrawal date. Iraq is a sovereign nation and, if as a sovereign nation, it decides it no longer wants a foreign force within its borders, that, it seems to me, should end the discussion. After all isn’t that what we are essentially arguing in the Russia-Georgia conflict. Remember, the Bush administration’s justification for invading and now occupying Iraq was bogus to begin with. That is, the administration’s falsehoods regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s links to al Qaeda. Thus, we never had a legitimate reason to be in Iraq. Therefore, we should declare our mission—whatever it is/was—accomplished and leave Iraq post haste.  

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

How could John Edwards do this? Betray his wife when she had small children and dying with cancer to top it off. Did he think his sardonic smile and Ken doll looks were going to erase the pain in his wife’s breast, make her forgive? What about those young children—they did not chose to be born. He engineered it, now what would happen to them? Was he looking for a plea bargain? What kind of affidavit did he give his wife?  

His girlfriend called them lovely lips though they were more lawyerly lips that played elastically with the truth till one day the elastic would break like the elastic of his knickers and the Enquirer would break the news. Wasn’t his wife broken enough with terminal cancer or did he want to close out the case strong, drive home the point beyond breaking point? The news story says that this girlfriend, this Reille Hunter, is upset with the wife—how twisted the logic, like the tongue he snaked into her. And what about the girlfriend’s baby? There is plenty of blame to bump against but the baby is not to blame. 

And what about the boy and girl? How did he prepare his brief or the problem was he had no brief. Did he declare that he had nothing to declare or did he forget his Edwardian oath of 30 years ago—did he think the statute of limitations had run out?  

Yes, the lawyer has layers, only he shed his too quickly. And the politician has talking points, only he preferred Reille to right. Yes wasn’t he always to the left? And he preferred talking about poverty but actually preferred the Hunter to being hunted. And yes, he talked about caring for Katrina but that girl got gobbled—maybe he needed his Miranda. But he did not care much about being stuck with sonnets, shall we say of the Elizabethan kind you know. 

Is that Reille all he had to say? 

Roopa Ramamoorthi 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Both want to get us out of Iraq, saving the lives of Iraqi civilians and U.S. military personnel. 

Both want to send more U.S. military personnel to Afghanistan where more Afghani civilians and more U.S. military personnel will die. 

Why is the life of an Iraqi civilian of greater worth than the life of an Afghani civilian? 

Why is a U.S. military person dying in Afghanistan rather than in Iraq any different, at least to his/her parents and friends? 

Why not bring our military personnel home, from both Iraq and Afghanistan now or in the very near future? 

Please do whatever you can to prevent this Obama-McCain plan from going forth! 

Irving Gershenberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Please don’t encourage the wholesale clear-cutting of trees—sticky aphid secretion, called honeydew, is manageable without pesticides or tree destruction. 

If we could reduce the pesticide use in town and on the UC campus, we would improve the population of insects which eat aphids, such as ladybird beetles, syrphid flies, lacewings, and parasitoid wasps, creating a natural reduction in aphid population. 

There’s more: aphids are assisted by ants, parades of which you will see running up aphid-infested trees to enjoy the honeydew. The ants herd and protect the aphids, which is easy to disrupt or stop with a ring of sticky pest-strip around the tree trunk. 

There is at least one neighborhood in Berkeley which successfully used this technique to save constantly washing the sticky honeydew off its windshields. It takes a consistent neighborhood effort, but it can be done. 

The City of Berkeley has never tried this technique, but has been overly eager to replace one tree with another, robbing the community of beautiful old trees in the hope of stumbling into an unnaturally bug-free world. 

Don’t encourage them! We need our aphids to feed our pollinators, who assist our crops, etc. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Imagine a loud two-ton cigarette going 50 miles per hour, then parking to leave an oil pool near the curb for animals to drink from after an acid rain. This doesn’t require much imagination. 

Let he who casts the first stone do his tossing in a secluded glass house. 

Ove Ofteness 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I do not want to ride in a taxi while the driver is simultaneously baby/childsitting, driving one-handedly, and or chatting on one of his phones. 

I cannot ride in a taxi that has sliding doors and high steps. For a significant number of persons needing a taxi ride, there are potential problems associated with these cabs: for example, some are unable to board and exit a van-type taxi’s high step and to manage opening and closing the sliding door. (This type of cab seats five persons, where as the conventional cab’s rear seat accommodates two or three; drivers refuse to allow passengers in the front passenger seat.) Such exclusions are part of what it is to be old and or disabled and to need to be able to select an accessible vehicle from among the line of waiting cabs. At present, this type of cab appears to be in the minority, and were it not a requirement that one board the next-in-line, it would not be a problem for us. Requiring passengers to board the first taxicab in the Center and Shattuck lineup is possibly a fairness-related measure necessary to keep order among the drivers. 

It should be possible for an old and or disabled person to phone for a cab and—assuming it arrives—have it pull up on her/his side of the street, in front of the building rather than across a high-traffic street in the middle of the block. 

I have attempted unsuccessfully to communicate these matters to Kelly Wallace, Health and Human Services Division on Aging manager and to the Commission on Aging, of which Wallace is secretary. The most recent posted Commission on Aging meeting minutes are from May. Berkeley Paratransit and taxi scrip for disabled and seniors are based in the Housing Department. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jonathan Orbiculus’ dreamy “if, then” solution (“An Opinionated Solution,” Aug. 14) is shared by many, as it is so obvious. 

The “if” part stands in the way. The fractious status quo of nation-state sovereignty has been with us since 1648, with the conclusion of the Thirty Years war. In recent years, though, this planetary political framework has lagged in relevance, at huge and sad cost, behind other globalities which emphasize inter-relation and inter-dependence, such as the biosphere, Internet, and the “globalization” of capital and commerce. 

A new political globality is crucial, and we rather few world federalists believe it should be not international, but supranational. World government is an idea whose time had come some generations, even ages, ago, via the likes of the “Games” gatherings of ancient Greece, Dante (who was an international lawyer too), Henri IV, Rousseau, Einstein, and E.B. White. For all too predictable reasons it has been dissed, ridiculed, and ignored. And then there are the feather-nesting elected and appointed powers for whom the current system works nicely, buoyed by international clubs like the UN which encourage debate, resolution, and er, “peacekeeping,” without legal teeth. 

Orbiculus wants to divert money and lives from war to worthier pursuits. Since this pastime has been engaged only by sovereign powers (city-states; monarchies, often with the church joining in; and modern nations and their alliances), a supranational sovereignty—that of the peoples of Earth—wouldn’t have others to mess with. If lesser polities could make war, California’s budget problems might quickly vanish with a targeted military strike on Nevada and its gilded casinos. 

The idea here is not the erasure of current nations, borders, or cultures. It is rather that only a democratically, constitutionally derived world governing body with courts and executives created by enforceable laws (with enumerated individual rights) can solve those ails that nations or extra-legal bodies cannot and will not settle themselves. 

The hoped-for result? An end to the War System and its arsenals of mass destruction and massive “collateral” damage. Peace, justice, world greening, and freedom under law (aka liberty) would thrive across the globe. Even the polar bears would be thankful. 

At very least, this evolutionary step should have a place at the round table of world solutions. Until then, the curious are invited to contact us world-federalist masochists at dwfed@dwfed.org. 

Phil Allen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Police forces increasingly assume that there are no victims in society (except the police who are allegedly “always victims”).  

Civilians are generally seen as criminals fighting amongst themselves. Increasingly, the person reporting a crime is investigated, and the crime itself is ignored. 

Case in point: My car, clothes for the week, plus food for a few days were stolen. Instead of checking the crime scene, which had strong fingerprint evidence, I was told to keep my hands out of my pockets (I was cold, my sweater was stolen) and was interrogated for 30 minutes. I was repeatedly told by Albany police that I had done something to deserve the theft. I was taken down to the station interrogated again, and told nobody is really looking for the car and that I hopefully had learned my lesson. 

I have Asperger’s Syndrome. Instead of helping me cope with a difficult situation I couldn’t handle, Officer Foss of the Albany police department looked into me rather than the crime. Stranded with no food, no cellphone, no familiar faces around, I was the suspect. People on the Autism Spectrum need to be able to trust the police. Right now, we can’t. 

Nathan Pitts 

Autism Spectrum Liberation Front 

San Ramon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

John McCain is out of touch in understanding the economic realities of ordinary Americans, like myself. Imagine not being able to answer when asked, “How many houses do you have?” His economic situation is in stark contrast to the millions facing foreclosure, who can no longer answer “one.” He doesn’t have to worry about the bank foreclosing even one of his eight houses. 

In another interview, McCain gaffed when asked “What is rich?” “About $5 million,” he managed to stumble upon. By his standards, he and Cindy are well above being rich, they are “super rich.” 

Mr. McCain accuses Mr. Obama of raising taxes. But Obama does not plan to raise the taxes of those middle-class families with incomes below $150,000. In fact, he will cut their taxes by $1,000, and will offer students who perform community service a $4,000 tax break to pay for college tuition. John McCain’s tax plan does nothing for middle-class families. Barack will also set minimum wage to rise with inflation. McCain has voted against raising the minimum wage 19 times. 

Now, I ask you, who is more in touch with the average American? Barack Obama. 

Mertis Shekeloff  

If That Ain’t Class Warfare, What Is It?

By David MaCaray
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:32:00 AM

The recent five-day tactical strike called by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) against the University of California is yet another example of the difficult road facing organized labor, particularly those unions who represent low-end or unskilled workers. 

Before resorting to their symbolic walkout (which began on July 14 and ended one minute after midnight, on July 19), the 8,500 members of AFSCME’s Local 3299 had given their UC bosses ample opportunity to settle. In fact, the local had been working without a contract for almost a year. According to Local 3299 president LaKesha Harrison, although negotiations had continued, sporadically, for several months, little progress had been made. 

It should be noted that AFSCME isn’t one of your traditional, fiery-eyed, militant labor unions (such as the ILWU or Hoffa’s Teamsters). This membership clearly wasn’t looking to strike. Indeed, the decision to hit the bricks had been postponed for months and was made, finally, out of a sense of desperation, when negotiations between the parties appeared hopelessly deadlocked. 

It should also be noted that AFSCME wages are so shriekingly low, nearly three-quarters of the membership qualifies for food stamps or other government assistance. Think about that: Nearly three-fourths of these union families fall below the federal poverty line. Still, the AFSCME folks made it clear that they weren’t going after a gold-plated contract; rather, what they were seeking was a decent and equitable one—one that would take full-time workers off welfare. 

To no one’s surprise, the UC regents didn’t see it that way. While college administrators have no problem justifying their $400,000 a year salaries, they can’t bring themselves to pay their own employees a wage adequate to keeping them off federal poverty rolls. As of this writing, with Local 3299 members having been back on their jobs for a month, there still has been no agreement on a new contract. 

But this UC labor dispute has raised some larger questions, many of which don’t have easy answers. It’s been suggested, for example, that UC’s refusal to pay their low-end employees a living wage is more a sociological phenomenon than an economic one, that the impasse is, in fact, rooted in social hierarchy rather than simple dollars and cents. 

Of course, because “class warfare” is so toxic a subject, any claim that hourly workers are being systematically exploited by corporate interests—particularly when those hourly workers are predominantly minorities and when those corporate interests are represented by a renowned and liberal institution of higher learning—is going to be met with denials, no matter how powerful the claim’s gravitational pull. 

In 1970 a group of sociologists conducted an experiment that endeavored to gauge people’s general attitude toward social “class.” The experimenters set up two cars—a shiny new Cadillac, and a beat-up old Ford station wagon—at a traffic intersection. The drivers of both cars were instructed not to move when the light changed to green, but to wait for the car behind them to honk their horn. 

They then timed how long it took for the motorist behind each vehicle to begin honking. The results were revealing. The experimenters found that the overwhelming majority of motorists began honking at the “poor” car almost immediately. By contrast, these same motorists waited, on average, more than twice as long before honking at the “rich” car. 

So what did this prove? Admittedly, because the experiment was done pseudo-scientifically, it didn’t really prove anything. But if we wanted to extrapolate, we could say that it exposed people’s deep-seated contempt for those of lesser economic means and, by extension, those belonging to a “lower class.” 

Instead of cutting the guy in the beat-up car a little slack, the drivers did the exact opposite. By honking their horns they engaged in the automotive equivalent of scolding, of chastising another driver, and, significantly, they did it far quicker to the “poor” person than to the “rich” one, thereby revealing a sense of class superiority. 

Would it be too reckless to suggest that what was displayed in the traffic experiment is the same impulse underlying the public’s disdain for groups like janitors, housekeepers, nursing assistants and sanitation workers when they seek higher wages? 

When people see striking janitors, who earn $9.50 per hour, marching in front of an office building, carrying placards and demanding $11 per hour, they don’t automatically root for these workers. Alas, rooting for the underdog isn’t an instinct; it’s an acquired trait. And for people who haven’t acquired it, the public spectacle of unskilled workers demanding pay raises is going to be annoying or disturbing. (Incidentally, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, at the higher rate of $11 per hour, computes to $22,880 annually.) 

Yet, confoundingly, when these same people read about hedge fund managers making, literally, hundreds of millions of dollars in a single year through the exotic manipulation of currency, they don’t so much as bat an eye. While people are willing to give every consideration to an investment banker whose job they don’t fully grasp, they become harshly judgmental when it comes to people who work for a living—and who do something they can actually understand, such as mop office floors. 

The reason the University of California won’t offer a higher wage to these AFSCME members isn’t because the UC system can’t afford it. The reason they won’t offer a higher wage is because they don’t believe these workers and their families deserve it. Put another way, in the view of the University of California these workers and their families deserve to remain poor. And if that ain’t class warfare, what is it? 


David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and writer, was a former labor union rep. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net. This commentary originally ran in Counterpunch.

A Letter to KPFA Management and Paid Staff

By John F. Davies
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:33:00 AM

The following letter is being published in light of the outright physical removal of a long-time programmer from the KPFA studios, and the recent bannings and firings of unpaid staff. It was previously sent to the station over four months ago. 


After much reflection, I have decided to write this letter of concern. To begin with, I am a 19-year subscriber to KPFA, and have long supported its alternative voice that has challenged the corporate funded airwaves. A decade ago, I witnessed with amazement how a small group of avaricious board members came within inches of destroying the entire Pacifica network for the sake of making a quick buck. Sadly, I now see the same thing happening again, but with a different cast of characters. Since the stopping of the attempted sale of KPFA over seven years ago, I would have thought that there would have emerged from this a truly democratic community station whose programming reflected the different and diverse views that make up the San Francisco Bay Area. There would be far more participation in management decisions by the listeners, the unpaid staff, and volunteers. Alas, this is not what I hear going over the airwaves, nor what I read about in print or on the net. What I now see occurring at the station does indeed greatly trouble me. 

It appears that factionalism has once again raised its ugly head, only this new civil war comes from within the KPFA community itself. From what I see, it appears that the paid staff and their allies have taken it upon themselves to make the final decisions concerning programming, fundraising, and the future direction of KPFA and Pacifica itself in general. It’s as if a silent coup has taken place, with no trace or mention of it spoken anywhere except off the airwaves. What used to be a voice of cutting edge radical opinion has now become as staid as a new age info ‘zine. Interesting station announcements have been replaced with perpetual pleading for dollars. More and more we hear only pieces of intriguing speeches and talks, but in order to hear it all, we the listeners have to shell out cash to get the complete recording. Perhaps the day will come when we will see the emergence of Pacifica Pay Audio, where in order to hear a complete show, you the listener must download a pledge payment, or some other type of fee. 

But, after all, isn’t it money that’s at the heart of all this? From what I heard during the debates at the last station board elections, there are two factions at work here. The first would be those who would call themselves “Concerned Listeners.” They support the current direction of the station, and want it to become more of as large national network, which would take the place of the bland and co-opted National Public Radio. That’s an extremely expensive proposition, and would require massive amounts of funding to accomplish. Apparently, this faction wants to woo a more moneyed listener audience to form a pledge base for this plan, And indeed, a lot of their support tends to come from the more left-liberal faction of the Democratic Party, and other like-minded people. I will even make an educated guess and say that in order to obtain these potential resources, much of the station programming has been watered down and tailored to issues which reflect the concerns of these “affluent radicals.” 

The second faction, some of whom refer to themselves as “People’s Radio,” tend to be more community oriented and concerned with grassroots issues that affect their neighborhood and region. They want to see the station’s direction determined more by listener representatives instead of a select staff, and want more grassroots participation in the station’s affairs. While they have their many imperfections, I myself feel that their voices should be considered very seriously, as many of these people have been some of the staunchest defenders of KPFA and its mission, especially during the last crisis. While they may lack the financial resources of the “Concerned Listeners,” they make up for it by having a large body of dedicated individuals. Indeed, they are the reason why KPFA still exists, and what has upset me very much is the almost patronizing way that this group has been treated by the station management and paid staff. As a result, programs which have taken a stand against the local economic status quo, such as Poor News Network, have been pushed off the airwaves. The reason always given is “broadcast professionalism,” but I find it an interesting coincidence that these shows also express opinions which would greatly offend this new moneyed base of network support. 

In conclusion, I find it a tragedy that what was supposed to be an experiment in media democracy has now become the purveyance of the select few who have taken it upon themselves to know what is right for the majority of the listener audience. While I have nothing against national or international coverage by Pacifica (Democracy Now! being a shining example.), the network should take a good look at itself and ask the question why they have lost almost 5000 subscribers over the last five years. Perhaps the only reason why I keep subscribing are the great music programs which still have the semblance of free form and spontaneity, something which almost all the public affairs programs badly lack. If KPFA loses sight of its original mission, which is to serve the local community, this will ultimately mean the end of the station itself. 


John F. Davies is a Berkeley resident.

Hillary Die-Hards Oppose Equal Pay for Women

By Paul Glusman
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:34:00 AM

If any women’s rights issue should be without controversy, the proposition that women should get paid the same amount as men do for the same work would seem to be primary. Who could be against that? Well, it turns out that Republican presidential nominee John McCain is against it. Oddly a group of women who purportedly are acting for women’s rights are going to support McCain, and by doing so, back his position that women aren’t entitled to be paid the same as men are paid for doing the exact same job. 

A bit more than one year ago, the United States Supreme Court issued an extremely right-wing ideological opinion in the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber. In short, Lily Ledbetter had worked for Goodyear for decades and learned that she was making substantially less than men doing the same job. She sued and won. The Supreme Court decided that she lost. Overturning decades of decisions, it held that unless a woman sued for pay violations within six months of the first unequal paycheck, the statute of limitations had lapsed and there was nothing a woman could do. While the decision was narrowly one interpreting the statute of limitations, in fact it took away most women’s right to legal redress for discrimination in pay. Very few people are aware, during the first six months of employment, that they are being paid less than others in the same position. Sometimes the pay differential during that time may not be that great but will increase over years of work. Often people who are newly hired feel uncomfortable asking their employers and fellow employees what others earn. This isn’t the sort of thing that is posted on bulletin boards or the company’s web site. The courts have understood this and before the Ledbetter decision have almost unanimously ruled that each unequal paycheck was a separate and new violation of the law which would start the running of a new statute of limitations. The Supreme Court though decided that once a wrong goes on long enough, it turns into the right thing to do.  

If this Supreme Court had ruled on the Emancipation Proclamation, it would have ordered that only slaves enslaved in the previous six months could be freed. 

There was an outcry, not only from women’s rights advocates, but from most people concerned about ending discrimination in the workplace. The Democratic controlled House of Representatives quickly passed a new law which would have overturned the Ledbetter decision. The law then went before the Senate. 

To their credit, both Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama suspended campaigning during the primary season to return to Washington and back the new bill. In the Senate, unlike the house, a minority can keep a bill from being voted on. In order to force a vote, the supporters of a bill have to gather 60 votes to enforce “cloture” or the closing of debate. 

Sen. John McCain however, did not return to Washington to vote. Since he did not return, he would not be one of the senators making up the 60 votes needed to cut off debate. He explained why: “I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what’s being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems. This is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system.” 

This is political double-talk. He said he was for pay equity. He just didn’t want women to be able to sue in courts, the only way they could achieve pay equity. The code here is that equality in the workplace is less important than the freedom of employers to do what they want. Presumably, equality for African-American workers, the disabled, gays and lesbians, seniors and the like are all less important than stopping government from enforcing fairness in jobs in the view of the “maverick” John McCain. McCain, by not voting for cloture, thus came down squarely against a woman’s right to be paid the same as a man for doing the same work. 

Now, because they are opposed to the way the Democratic Party treats women—specifically Hillary Clinton—a substantial portion of Clinton’s supporters are going to sabotage women’s rights (as well as the rights of racial minorities, gays, the disabled, seniors and others) to equal pay and equal rights on the job. These Hillary supporters are so angry that are going to vote for a troglodyte who (while living on his wife’s money) will complete the destruction of the equality of women in the workplace. 

It makes no sense that anyone except those with the most extreme views about the right to discriminate would support such a candidate, and one hopes that the disgruntled Hillary supporters will see this.  


Paul Glusman is a Berkeley attorney.

It’s Time for UC to Call a Truce!

By Mary Rose “Redwood Mary” Kaczorowski
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:35:00 AM

On the university seal, at Sather Gate and on every other UC branded item, the motto “Let there be light” is paired with an open book and the five-pointed university star that emanates rays of light representing the discovery and sharing of knowledge. On UC’s website one can view the following: “Principles of community for the University of California, Berkeley, are rooted in our mission of teaching, research and public service. They reflect our passion for critical inquiry, debate, discovery and innovation, and our deep commitment to contributing to a better world. Every member of the UC Berkeley community has a role in sustaining a safe, caring and humane environment in which these values can thrive. We place honesty and integrity in our teaching, learning, research and administration at the highest level.” Also highlighted on UC Berkeley’s website are the university’s fundamental missions, which are teaching, research and public service. 

How does this all play out in relation to the predomination of a battle by a university against a community standing for protection of an oak grove? 

How can a university feed a one sided pitch to alumni, students and sports fans against a community trying to do the right thing—as in enforce its Oak Moratorium Ordinance and pleading to move the much needed Student High Performance Sports facility to another already identified and much more appropriate and safer alternative site central to the services and infrastructure of campus? 

Over 175 tree-sitters have taken their turn in these beautiful trees. People visit from all over to witness their courage. 

Over 250 arrests of students, fathers, mothers and kids by UC’s taxpayer- and tuition-supported police force plus a double steel-gauged fence topped with barbed wire and a permanent closing off of a public, free-speech sidewalk were the processes chosen by UC. Possibilities could have included a more noble choice fitting of an eminent institution. Back at day one of this project, UC could have had Town Hall meetings to truly engage in an open transparent, step-by-step public process and not push through an already decided project. Democracy is time consuming but necessary if we are to claim here in Berkeley acting out of a democratic process and that includes a public taxpayer benefited university! 

I will never forget the red fox and raccoons scurrying past the ugly generators lighting up the night sky and spewing dirty diesel into the Berkeley air night after night as the for hire Landmark Security personnel stand guard all night. I will never forget a UC football player who came to the grove and said in objection “This is just crazy to cut these trees.” When asked if he could lend his voice, his reply was “I am under contract…I am not allowed to say anything unless they approve it or I will loose my scholarship.” 

I will also never forget when I asked Chancellor Robert Birgeneau at an open reception at International House with my bold kindness “Can you help us save these trees?” He screamed at me and said, “I absolutely will not. You are endangering the safety of the students.” There was a profound silence that followed and as I quietly left, and police were dispatched to arrest me for this act of asking. 

I also will never forget the screaming of a tree-sitter as his line was cut by arborists—putting him in danger as a UC spokesperson’s media interview was broadcast that morning stating that UC will not go in and endanger the tree-sitters. But I also will remember my walks through the grove before the plans came down to chop it down. It has a wild edge and is a place where animals and humans can co-exist. I will also remember school children visiting the grove, students studying in the grove under these beautiful trees, and a mom bringing her two children to eat their lunch under the cool shade of the trees. 

All this expense and energy of battle for 600-plus days of war against the community just for the university to be powerfully right and in contradiction of everything this university is supposed to teach and stand for…and for what and at what expense? Who really gains? 

We do have a choice. There are indeed options. We can have a brand new sports facility away from the Hayward Fault and we can save this grove where the fox and deer can again run free through this wildlife corridor. 

We can all work together, if we choose, and in integrity, and in transparency—and by way of a conservation easement we can protect this grove of coast live oaks and redwoods, and cedars and California bay laurel and all the species they harbor and the soil they hold. 

We can then together, in an act of reconciliation, dedicate the grove it to all veterans of wars and to native peoples and return this grove to the peaceful shaded place it was and for all future generations of children and students and elders to enjoy and for birds and animals to traverse and roam and we know can do this. 

We can also obtain the help of the entire City of Berkeley and its diverse community, its youth and the Cal staff, the Golden Bears, students, faculty and alumni to accomplish this. We can focus on something positive and raise the bar! 

Noted philanthropists Barclay Simpson and his wife Sharon can also help and also the Goldman Family, the founders of the Goldman Environmental Prize whose recipients are honored for tackling some of the most pressing environmental issues of the day through grassroots efforts, helping to educate and motivate local communities to get involved in the effort to protect the natural environment around them and to stand up for their rights. 

We can do this together and set the example with leadership and exemplify the living meaning of “Let there be light.” 

Go Cal! Go Berkeley! Yes to trees! Yes to being good sports and good neighbors! 


Mary Rose Kaczorowski is a Berkeley activist.

Waiting on the World to Change

By Michelle Milam
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:35:00 AM

I am thinking in moments. I was born nearly 10 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and nearly 16 years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. My baby sister is five years my junior, my best friend and “sister” is five years my senior. My young cousin was born in the 1990s, and my goddaughter was born in 2000. Many of the children I work with are two generations removed from the civil upheaval of the 1960s. I find it ironic that Barack Obama was born eight weeks after the world received that fateful news that shots struck the presidential motorcade in Dallas. 

We are the face of the next generation of Americans who have been given the keys to an elusive and magical kingdom. What we do with it will determine the future not only for this country, but the world. 

I am struck by the irony of a changing season and a constant hope. Via the Internet, I watched Sen. Kennedy graciously and proudly pass the torch at the DNC the other night. Nearly 40 years before me, on a black and white television, my mother watched as many of the great and influential change makers of her generation were gunned down. Young men of my father’s generation lived an unsure existence never knowing if they’d be drafted into war. Today many of our young men and women are not only fighting an enemy on a foreign soil, we are fighting a domestic enemy—one who looks like us, holding a handgun and ready to take aim. 

My grandparents, only two generations from slavery, lived under Jim Crow. After coming to work in the shipyards of Richmond, they finally bought a home in El Cerrito after being told by a couple down the street, “Nobody will sell to a black family.” Today, many of our generation have moved home, since despite our education, in the face of foreclosure, a sour economy and high housing markets, the keys to the kingdom are under glass. 

Is eight years of conservative rule enough? Barack Obama seems to teeter precariously on a thin line between familiarity and risk, baiting the national conscious, hoping that Americas will vote it. 

I agree with McCain and Clinton supporters; this election is not about political experience, something that would matter more in a typical business as usual election year. McCain and the Clinton-Bush dynasty have more than enough experience to roll Obama under a bus back to Chicago. But what do all those moments of experience mean if this moment demands something decidedly different? What values does this generation believe in? 

There is really only one question that needs to be answered, and that question is not whether Barack Obama is ready to lead. 

Is America ready to change? 

Be careful, if you breathe, you may miss the moment. 


Michelle Milam is a Richmond resident. 

The Politically Multi-Faceted Joe Lieberman

By Rizwan A. Rahmani
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:36:00 AM

When it comes to party politics, Joseph Lieberman is neither a donkey nor an elephant: He is a politician of a genus that is quite a conundrum. He is more of a platypus, doing a dance of policies that is hewn together by very contradictory political allegiances, and it is duplicitous at best. Once upon a time, he was a Democratic senator from Connecticut, who was also a vice presidential candidate on the Gore ticket. While he ran on the Democratic ticket, he very shrewdly kept his Connecticut senatorial bid alive. After the so called failed ticket of Al Gore, he served his term as the senator from Connecticut (he won his bid). Then suddenly he found himself lost in a primary by a challenger who was a newcomer, and was against the war in Iraq. Then the senator did a political do-over and shed his Democratic skin faster than you could say Connecticut, and turned around and ran as an independent: so much for staying true to your political ideals. It was the sort of political chameleonic act that should have alarmed the voters of the state, and should have raised eyebrows in terms of what he really stood for. 

But by joining the terror chorus of the Bushies, he shrilled forth in unison the fear mantra of the neocons with a pitch that had discordant component of Islam-o-phobia which verged on myopic and hateful, he somehow weaseled out a win as an independent. He was suddenly a true believer of the war and its policies promulgated by the Bush and Cheney conglomerate, and agreed totally with this president. Albeit some of his former party members partially came along with him cowering under populist sentiments of the time. 

I am curious as to who Sen. Lieberman really represents? He certainly doesn’t speak for the Democrats on most foreign policy issues, and he doesn’t seem to have any altruistic allegiances to United States or the Republicans. If anything, he is a staunch supporter of Israel, and the Republican candidate John McCain. He is pleased to be his surrogate and coach him (tell McCain exactly what he wants him to say) on foreign policy issues rather overtly on camera; policies that mostly interest the senator is Middle East and the interest of Israel in the region. Which explains his support of McCain: McCain has been a hawk on the war in Iraq, and sings a distasteful Beach Boys parody about bombing Iran. 

After John Hagee, the controversial pastor, whose support John McCain openly sought, commented about Hitler and the Jews, McCain had the good sense to denounce the pastor finally. But Sen. Lieberman quite curiously still called the pastor a Moses for the Jewish people! The senator takes on his former Democratic Party comrades to defend McCain’s stance on Iraq and Iran, and he is now going to speak at RNC convention a la Zell Miller? He is rumored to be McCain’s possible VP candidate for his unwavering support of the senior senator from Arizona. 

Iran is a tiny midge on the radar screen of United States’ security concerns. All intelligence estimates by the CIA indicate that it is about four to six years away from achieving any viable nuclear weapon. But the same report also found that Iran had stopped pursuing its nuclear ambition in 2003. If Iran did manage to produce a nuclear warhead, it has no means of delivery that betters 1,240 miles by best estimates—which may threaten its neighbors and possibly Israel. However, Iran has been also deliberately exaggerating its own capabilities to thwart any notion of preemptive strike by Israel or the United States. But if you have been listening to the neocons (McCain) and Joseph Lieberman, Iran is a grave threat to United States and civilization as a whole! The senator has been also passing some spurious intelligence report in front of the senate that certain IEDs were Iranian made and were being used to kill Americans, hoping that United States will take the bait and bomb Iran preemptively (Seymour Hersh and Norman Podhoretz egging on alongside) without considering a diplomatic option. There has been no definitive proof of any such involvement; these IEDs were made from parts that are easily available in black market, and anyone with a little knowledge of explosives can put them together. 

A lack of diplomatic recourse has already costed us about 500 billion dollars. United States military is overstretched, and its coffers are virtually emptied, and there is no hope it will get full anytime soon. It is not in its best interest to start another war, let alone with Iran. Iraq may not have been the cake walk the Neocons predicted and duped this administration into believing. But Iran will certainly be a tougher adversary, not to mention the cost of such a war plus the cost in goodwill and human lives. United States cannot afford to wage a war or sully its image any further than it already has in that part of the world. But to Joe Lieberman, that is the least of United States’ problem. So again, whose interest the senator is really representing? 


Rizwan A. Rahmani is an Oakland  



The Public Eye: Wrapping Up the Democratic Convention

By Bob Burnett
Tuesday September 02, 2008 - 04:58:00 PM

As Democrats left Denver, there was an overwhelming consensus that the 2008 Convention was extraordinarily successful. Dems united behind Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Here are a few final thoughts about the week. 

Hillary Voters: While we met a number of Democrats who had been supporters of Hillary Clinton, none indicated they would bolt the party for John McCain. That’s not to say there weren’t hurt feelings, but Clintonites seem willing to bite the bullet and support Obama. During the convention, the Bay Area’s most ardent Clinton supporter, Susie Tompkins Buell, said she’s supporting Obama. 

Sarah Palin: McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate indicates he didn’t have any good choices. The leading male picks had serious problems: Lieberman and Ridge were pro-choice, Pawlenty was vapid, and McCain didn’t like Romney. The GOP bet on Palin because they hope a female candidate will attract Hillary voters—particularly independent woman. Furthermore, Palin is a conservative Christian, who solidifies that part of the Republican base and her selection generated excitement that’s been notably missing from the McCain campaign. 

CEO Obama: Republicans claim that Gov. Palin is a proven manager—of a state with a population of 683,000—80,000 less than that of San Francisco. Maybe the 21 months she’s been in office make her a proven manager, but during that same period, Barack Obama has managed one of the most successful political campaigns in American history: a campaign that just conducted the most effective Democratic Convention ever, ending with an acceptance speech in front of 84,000 people and watched by more than 40 million Americans. 

Diversity: More than half of the delegates were women, another quarter were African-American, and one-sixth were Hispanic. Clearly, the Democratic Party is no longer the party of old white men. In this sense, Barack Obama is representative of Democrats: his youth and race stand in stark contrast to that of John McCain. 

It’s the Economy: Lost in the excitement generated by Obama’s magnificent speech was the fact that he focused on the economy and got much more specific about his plan to help working Americans. It’s hard to imagine that John McCain can put together an effective economic plan—and certainly the case Sarah Palin won’t help him with this aspect of his campaign, whereas Joe Biden will help Obama. 

Women’s Issues: On Thursday night, Obama spoke of the necessity to reduce “the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country” and to ensure women have “equal pay for equal work.” To this point in the presidential campaign, women’s issues, such as reproductive rights and pay equity, have been submerged by the economy, gas prices, and Iraq. The addition of Sarah Palin will change that as she’s resolutely pro-life and almost as bad as McCain, who has a dreadful record on issues affecting women and children. Look for the Obama campaign to run an ad, featuring Hillary Clinton, which criticizes McCain-Palin and urges women to vote for Obama. 

Patriotism: Wednesday night during the Tammy Duckworth convention speech, when attendees chanted “USA” and waved thousands of American flags, Democrats took back the issue of patriotism, arguing they’re the party that supports our troops. 

Winners and Losers: There were several big winners: Michelle Obama’s Monday night speech was much better than anyone expected; her public appearances were marked by humor and grace. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s Tuesday night speech on energy policy was both savvy and funny. 

The big loser was the mainstream media, which exaggerated the dissension between Clinton and Obama supporters. Another loser was the American public, which—unless viewers happened to be watching CSPAN— missed some great speeches that the main channels didn’t feature because they focused on a couple of big-name speeches each night. 

Future Stars: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar ran the DSCC “meet the Senate candidates” breakfast and was smart and funny. When women wonder would could be the next Democratic female presidential candidate, they should keep an eye on Klobuchar. The Senate candidate with the most buzz was Andrew Rice, who is opposing the dreadful James Imhofe in Oklahoma. Rice shouldn’t have a chance in such a heavily Republican state, but the combination of his personal history—he’s a former Christian missionary whose brother died in the 9/11 attacks—and Imhofe’s extremism has turned this into a close race. We also met Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, who is charismatic and energetic and probably will run for Senate one of these days. 

Best Joke: We liked this analysis of Republican leaders: “George H.W. Bush was born on third base and thought he’d hit a triple. George W. Bush was born on third base and promptly stole second. John McCain was born on second base and married third base.” 


Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bobburnett@comcast.net.

The Public Eye: Democrats Fight Back

By Bob Burnett
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 03:06:00 PM

Wednesday: So far, all of the Democrats' Denver convention objectives have been met: the convention logistics have been flawless; Michelle Obama's speech argued effectively that she and her husband are Americans, "just like you"; Hillary and Bill Clinton gave Obama the resounding support required to unify the Party; and Democrats began to explain why Obama is the right choice for America while John McCain is not. 

Wednesday night, former President Clinton gave the evenings most eagerly awaited speech. Many Dems worried he would give a tepid endorsement, but Clinton quickly allayed their fears, "I am honored to be here tonight to support Barack Obama." "Like Hillary, I want all of you who supported her to vote for Barack Obama in November." 

Bill Clinton needed to state that Obama is prepared to be Commander-in-Chief, prepared to lead the United States because of his leadership and intelligence. The former President effectively conveyed this message: "Barack Obama is ready to be President of the United States." "Sixteen years ago, [Democrats] gave me the profound honor to lead our party to victory and to lead our nation to a new era of peace and broadly shared prosperity. Together, we prevailed in a campaign in which the Republicans said I was too young and too inexperienced to be Commander-in-Chief. Sound familiar? It didn't work in 1992, because we were on the right side of history. And it won't work in 2008, because Barack Obama is on the right side of history." 

Clinton attacked John McCain as embracing "the extreme philosophy which has defined his party for more than 25 years," a philosophy that has ravaged the American economy and imperiled our national security." 

If it was Bill Clinton's job to build up Barack Obama it was former Presidential candidate John Kerry's job to bring down John McCain. Giving one of the most forceful speeches of his career, Kerry lauded Obama's credentials to be Commander-in-Chief and then turned on McCain: "How desperate [McCain is] to tell the son of a single mother who chose community service over money and privilege that he doesn't put America first." 

Kerry observed that candidate McCain's proposals don't jibe with those of Senator McCain. "Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote... Let me tell you, before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself." 

Wednesday night, Democrats trotted out a number of veterans, like Kerry, to argue that Obama has good judgment while McCain does not. Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy - the only Iraq War veteran in Congress - took the stage surrounded by two-dozen Iraq War veterans. Murphy argued that by supporting full health care coverage for veterans and longer rest periods between rotations, Obama has fully supported our troops, while McCain has not. It was a theme repeated by Senator Jack Reed, a West Point graduate and Vietnam vet, and echoed by Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy and Rear Admiral John Hutson. But the most effective advocate was Tammy Duckworth. 

Duckworth appeared after a moving video, narrated by Tom Hanks, which talked about the grievous injuries suffered by America's veterans - particularly veterans of the Iraq War. On November 12, 2004, Army Major Tammy Duckworth was in Iraq, flying a Black Hawk helicopter, when a rocket-propelled grenade downed it. Duckworth lost both her legs and now walks with the aid of prosthetics. In 2006, after an unsuccessful run for Congress, Duckworth became head of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs. 

She began with a simple endorsement: "I know Barack Obama. I met him when he visited me and other wounded troops at Walter Reed. He came without reporters. He wasn't looking for credit... He knew that wherever you stand on the war, you must love the warrior, and he does." Then she blasted McCain: "The administration of George Bush-supported by John McCain every step of the way-has let our warriors down." "When our warriors come home they deserve the best VA medical care, but too often they get bureaucracy, not benefits. They find inadequate access, inferior facilities and infuriating paperwork. And now, John McCain wants to ration care." 

Wednesday's convention proceedings concluded with the nomination of Joe Biden for Vice-President and his acceptance speech. Earlier, Bill Clinton noted that when Barack Obama selected Biden, "he hit a home run." 

Joe Biden effectively summarized the convention themes: "Barack Obama gets it. Like many of us, Barack worked his way up. His is a great American story." In contrast, John McCain doesn't get it; he doesn't understand the American dream is slipping away. 

Like John Kerry, Biden has known John McCain a long time, "But I profoundly disagree with the direction that John wants to take the country." Noting that McCain has voted with George Bush "95 percent of the time," Biden argued that a McCain presidency would be "more of the same" and opined: "The choice in this election is clear. These times require more than a good soldier; they require a wise leader, a leader who can deliver change--the change everybody knows we need." 

Biden concluded, "These are extraordinary times. This is an extraordinary election. The American people are ready. I'm ready. Barack Obama is ready." 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bobburnett@comcast.net 

Undercurrents: ‘Crisis’ Management Not the Solution to Oakland Crime, Violence

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:30:00 AM

Oakland is facing a chickens-coming-home-to-roost summer, where years of official and unofficial neglect of the root causes of crime are now surfacing into what some members of the public, politicians, and elements of the media are labeling a public safety “crisis.” 

This is an enormously complicated and sensitive subject, so toxic that few—if any—Oakland public officials are going to address it head-on. But if we as a city are going to work our way out of this problem in Oakland, we are going to have to have an honest, serious, and adult discussion about the sources of the problem and those things that continue to divide us and keep us from working in a common effort on short-term and long-term solutions. 

I put the word “crisis” in quotes, not to belittle the situation but to emphasize that this is where the disagreement begins. It is, therefore, the appropriate place to begin to divide the question and sort out the sources of the problems, both in our communities and in our own collective minds, beliefs, and attitudes. 

The first questions to settle are: Is Oakland currently in a public safety “crisis”? Who and what determines when we are in such a “crisis”? And if we are currently in a public safety “crisis,” what are the component parts that define the current situation? 

The public safety “crisis” is not like those declarations of emergencies that the Oakland City Council regularly passes about AIDS or medical cannabis, or that the governor or president proclaims when some major disaster—human-caused or natural—occurs. No official or legislative body is empowered to declare a public safety “crisis” in Oakland. It appears to be a confluence of events, of public opinion—expressed both in conversations in homes and on the streets and in blog entries and Internet discussion—a concentration of both media and organization attention on a single set of circumstances, and the resulting response by public officials. While various components can help whip us up into the status of such a “crisis,” no individual entity can create a state of “crisis” by itself. 

By this standard, Oakland is currently facing a public safety “crisis.” There appear to be three events that have led us to this situation. The first is Oakland’s long-time unresolved problem of crime and violence that stretches over several years. The second is the two-year spike in violent crimes and homicides. The third is the summer’s rash of restaurant takeover robberies. 

By themselves, any one of these situations would have provoked some sort of attention and response by the city and its residents. Taken together, they have reached that point where the strain on the city’s social tectonic plates has become so severe, the pressure of magma so great, that the tenor of the city has come together in an overflow of demands that “something must be done.” 

This is where the issue divides, and where we have to examine it most carefully. 

The tipping point that has pushed this into a full-blown public “crisis” appears to be the restaurant takeovers, which have occurred either in Oakland’s more affluent neighborhoods—such as Rockridge or Grand Avenue/Lakeshore—or in those neighborhoods that are on the border between middle class and underclass. 

I struggle not to be misunderstood here.  

I dine out in—and sometimes take my friends and family members to—areas of the city where some of the recent takeover robberies have occurred. Some of my friends are owners and workers at the Nomad Café, which is just down the street from the Daily Planet offices and one of the sites of a recent takeover robbery. For reasons that should be obvious from reading the above, I want those robberies stopped. 

But I also note that so far we have been lucky, and most of the takeover robberies have not resulted in serious injury. That does not seek to minimize them or suggest that they should somehow be “acceptable” parts of the Oakland experience, but only to emphasize that there are far more dangerous situations in the city. 

One of the centers of Oakland’s violence has been among African-American youth, and this has been the situation at least since I was raising three of my daughters in the city through the ’90s. I feel for the people who worry about their safety while dining in Oakland restaurants. But I also know that for at least the past 20 years, Oakland’s African-American youth have not felt entirely safe attending social events in the city. From hip hop concerts to nightclubs to house parties to sports events to get-togethers in city parks, many such events have been broken up by fights and gunfire. For many of the youth of our city, their entire teenage and early adult years have been lost. For far too many, their lives have been lost. What has also been lost in the understanding of this situation is that the violence itself has been perpetrated by a relative handful of individuals, while the vast, vast majority of these youth only want to go out and have a good time without the attending drama, and to come back home safe and sound. 

No citywide feeling of public safety “crisis” has seemed to emerge from this situation, which many—too many—seem to feel is simply part of Oakland’s landscape. 

Where the city has mobilized a “solution” to the problem, it has been to attempt to eliminate gatherings of African-American youth altogether rather than find a way to make those gatherings safe. We once wrote about the HotBoyz hip hop concert at the Oakland auditorium where fighting broke out in the audience, and where Alameda County sheriff’s deputies stayed inside to protect the building while driving innocent spectators out into the parking lot, where the fighting had spread and where some of the participants were going to their trunks for guns. For many years, we chronicled the situation in which Oakland police drove African-American youth out of nonviolent neighborhood social gatherings in East Oakland parking lots into the streets, thus creating the “crisis” that became the illegal street sideshows. When problems erupted with some African-American youth outside the Festival at the Lake or at the tail-end of Carijama, Oakland police and Oakland public officials simply ended the events, rather than come up with a solution that both kept the events and kept the vast majority safe, including the African-American youth who were not participating in any of the problems. 

In the meantime, Oakland is currently in the midst of gang warfare between various gang factions centered in the Latino community. A year ago, Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker reported to the public that Latino gang warfare accounted for a large portion of Oakland’s ongoing violence. We know that an unknown number of Oakland’s Latino youth have been attacked on the city’s streets—some of them killed—because they were mistakenly identified as members of a rival gang. What horror it must be for Latino kids to walk Oakland’s streets, knowing that their lives are in such danger. To either a greater or lesser degree of success, Oakland has initiated a crackdown on these Latino gangs. But have the public safety concerns of the city’s Latino youth—far more serious and prevalent than those experienced by the city’s restaurant patrons—shocked us enough to mobilize the city into a declaration of “crisis”? 

They have not. 

I mention the problems surrounding the city’s African-American and Latino youth only as the most obvious beginning example. The roots of the current problem clearly go deeper and farther than that. 

I want the restaurant takeover robberies to stop. I must repeat that, because I know that there will be the usual gaggle of bloggers who will suggest otherwise, and that I am suggesting that the city turn a blind eye to such crimes. But what worries me is that once those robberies ease up or end—either by the capture of the perpetrators or by such an increase in police presence that they are encouraged to go elsewhere—the city’s sense of a public safety “crisis” will ease, and the bulk of our attention will go elsewhere. 

To begin to solve Oakland’s public safety and crime and violence problems, we have to stop the cycle of crisis management—where our attention ebbs and flows like the tide on an ocean beach—and to approach them, instead, as a long-term situation that will not be ended overnight but must be attacked steadily, diligently and intelligently, with results that may or may not be seen in our generation. 

Mayor Dellums is the only Oakland leader or institution with the reach long enough to bring in all of the city’s factions, institutions, and neighborhoods to begin such a multi-phase effort. To his enormous credit, Mr. Dellums has begun to introduce component parts of such an effort through his administration, on both the law enforcement side and the social causes side. But for the most part, the mayor has done this without involving Oakland’s general community in the effort, so that large portions have either gone off on their own tack or been left out altogether. 

My hope—and suggestion—is that Mr. Dellums will start at the point he promised us in his State of the City address last January, with a citywide public safety dialogue. Not a press conference. Or a couple of meetings. Or a series of pronouncements fueled by the latest concern. But a serious effort—such as took place with the mayoral task forces or the Blue Ribbon Housing Commission—to involve a broad swath of Oakland residents, organizations, and institutions in a beginning dialogue on two pressing topics. 

What is the nature and what are the causes of Oakland’s crime and violence? 

What is the program for a solution, both immediate and in the long term? 

Unless and until we settle those issues, any city or community action or reaction is going to be only furtive, limited, and ultimately unsuccessful. 

Wild Neighbors: Mudflat Menu—Biofilm with a Side of Clamworms

By Joe Eaton
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:46:00 AM

This is the season when the mudflats of San Francisco Bay swarm with southbound migrant shorebirds: willets, godwits, curlews, dowitchers, plovers, and, outnumbering all the rest, western sandpipers. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, scientists from the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (now PRBO Conservation Science) attempted to estimate the birds’ year-round numbers. For western sandpipers, they came up with average fall and winter counts of over 100,000 individuals and spring counts of over 500,000. The peak spring count exceeded 700,000. That’s a lot of avian biomass, even at nine-tenths of an ounce per bird. 

For all these migrants, the Bay is a critically important refueling stop. These birds, some of which travel from the Arctic to Patagonia, need to keep their fuel reserves high. You can see them working their way methodically across the flats, searching for food. Long-billed birds like curlews, godwits, and dowitchers probe deep into the mud; shorter-billed sandpipers and plovers make shallower probes or peck at the surface. 

But what are they eating? In the case of the western sandpiper, we used to think we knew. The literature is full of dietary studies in which biologists shot a sample of sandpipers and inventoried their stomach contents. At Palo Alto, small crustaceans called ostracodes made up 63 percent of the total diet, along with clams, mud snails, amphipod crustaceans, and clamworms. Elsewhere, as at the Copper River Delta in Alaska, bivalve mollusks were more important.  

It turns out, though, that these small invertebrates may be only a supplemental food source. What the sandpipers are mostly eating is biofilm.  

And what is biofilm? It may help to think of it as primordial ooze. A biofilm is a community of microorganisms, including bacteria and algae, embedded in a matrix of polymeric compounds. 

They’re all over the place: streambed rocks, stagnant ponds, hot springs, Antarctic glaciers, boat hulls, pipes. Dental plaque is a kind of biofilm.  

The mudflat version of biofilm is dominated by photosynthetic microalgae, diatoms for the most part, collectively called microphytobenthos. It doesn’t sound that appetizing to me either, but it had been recognized as a food source for snails and other invertebrates, and a few species of fish. No one had suspected that shorebirds might be grazing it as well. 

That was before a team of Japanese, Canadian, and French biologists led by Tomohiro Kuwae caught western sandpipers in the act in British Columbia’s Fraser River Estuary. As reported earlier this year in the journal Ecology, they used high-speed video to record the birds’ feeding behavior, traditional shoot-and-count stomach content studies, and analysis of the birds’ droppings to establish that the sandpipers were actually eating biofilm. 

For one thing, the birds behaved differently than they did when pursuing tidal invertebrates. They moved more slowly, which makes sense: biofilm isn’t going anywhere. In a movement distinct from either pecking or probing, the birds collected a small dab of biofilm with their bill tip, worked it back and forth in the bill, and swallowed it. The process takes about three-tenths of a second and leaves telltale chains of bill-tip impressions in the mud. The video recordings clearly showed that the sandpipers were not capturing snails or other surface-dwelling invertebrates. 

The grazing birds’ stomachs were packed with sediment ingested with the biofilm. Both stomach contents and droppings showed chlorophyll levels and stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios consistent with a diatom diet. Kuwae and his associates calculated that biofilm could account for half the daily energy requirement of a sandpiper during migration. 

This is startling. The sandpipers are eating a whole level lower in the food chain than we thought. Instead of being primarily predators, feeding on worms, mollusks, and crustaceans, they’re grazing like bison or wildebeest. Biofilm feeding, the scientists speculate, could be a way of hedging nutritional bets during long-distance migration, reducing competition among species of mudflat-feeding birds, and loading up on carbohydrates for instant energy. 

I’m assuming that somebody will confirm biofilm grazing in San Francisco Bay sooner or later. If so, there will be some interesting local complications. The sandpipers would be competing with the invasive Asian hornsnail (Batillaria attramentaria), which hitchhiked here in shipments of Japanese oysters. Batillaria, a diatom-grazing specialist, has already overrun Elkhorn Slough, displacing native snails. Three years ago, UC Davis graduate student Heidi Weiskel discovered the alien snail in our Bay. 

In the longer term, the whole shorebird smorgasbord is at risk. San Francisco Bay has been getting deeper over the last century as sediment input has declined, and sea level rise will amplify that trend. The intertidal mudflats haven’t kept up. Without human intervention, we could lose that whole extraordinarily productive part of the estuarine ecosystem.  

About the House: Taking Green Measures to Illuminate Your Home

By Matt Cantor
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:45:00 AM

We’re all trying to do our part to be a little greener these days. I see you down at the market with your cloth bags, you Prius drivers (not to mention drivers of 25-year-old cars, another very green tack). Many of us, nay, most of us, are trying to do something and studies have revealed in the recent past that most Americans are even willing to pay more for items such as organic produce and cleaner energy.  

The problem is that many of these things seem slightly out of reach so with this in mind, I will offer a short list of things that you can either do right now or plan for in the future that are relatively simple to do (some are more expensive or complex but you can table them and talk them up until your ready). 

Before I get into these simpler or easier things, I’d like to take a second to mention Berkeley’s recent Solar initiative called FIRST (Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology). The idea is terrific. Berkeley would provide financing for you to put solar panels on your roof (photovoltaics that generate electricity) and would directly pay for an approved solar installer to do the job. You would then pay for the system over about 20 years (that’s what’s proposed at this point) at a monthly fee that would be roughly the same as your electric bill. Though proposed last October, we don’t have anything happening yet and I encourage my readers to inquire with their city councilmember or the mayor’s office as to the progress on this initiative. In short, we need this thing. By the way, one great thing this city has done recently (thanks to our dear departed Dona Spring) is to waive the cost on permits for photovoltaic systems, so if you want to go ahead now and buy your own system, you’ll save on the permits.  

As of my last calculation, Germans are buying solar panels at a rate nearly 30 times ours (per capita) and this is virtually certain to be linked to their ability to charge the utility company several times the going rate for power on what their panels generate. In short, in the case of Germany, it’s a money MAKER for the buyers of panels. While we don’t have that yet (and should, especially given that we’ve been told in the recent past that we don’t have enough power generation capacity in the state (anyone remember ENRON). 

Anyway, I think it’s great that Berkeley is doing this and I hope they’ll get it under way sooner than later. This is how we save our planet (at least in part). (By the way, the mayor’s website says that this is due to go online in a pilot form mid-’08 and this is, let’s see, August?) 

On a more illuminating note, lets look at what you can do today at a low cost to save energy in your home. I know you’re hearing this a lot these days but I do feel duty-bound to add this one because it’s really true. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) save enormous amounts of energy. A PG&E program subsidizes the cost of CFLs available through many stores and I’ve found bulbs as cheap as a quarter at some stores (e.g. the awesome 99 Ranch Market). 

You can also contact CESC (Community Energy Services Corp.) or California Youth Energy Services about CFLs as well as other low cost or free energy upgrades. 

Lighting accounts for about 9 percent of your residential electrical bill and use of CFLs can reduce it by about 7 percent. This means that the cost of CFLs will almost certainly pay for themselves in the first year and possibly in the first two months. They’re also better today than in the past. My new friend Julie, a local contractor was telling me yesterday that she just hates fluorescent lighting and I don’t think she’s alone. The queasy Cicada-bombilating lamps of the past managed to make everyone look (and feel) as if they were in a David Lynch film.  

Today’s CFLs are all but reinvented in several respects. Their color spectrums are better, they buzz almost nil and have much less discernible flicker. They also tend to come to full brightness much faster. The early models that could barely compete with 25 watt incandescent have been augmented with larger ones that easily mimic 100 watts. I’ve finally started to use them in my main interiors and there have been few, if any, complaints. Oh yes, we also have dimmable ones now and for those who know a little about this technology, this is quite the Leap Forward (Yes, many are made in China).  

For the really forward thinking, LED (light emitting diode) bulbs are now available (most easily found on the web). While these are still quite expensive (roughly $20+/piece), they use far less power than CFLs and have extremely long lifespans. In typical use, they will last 10-30 years. This means that for those bulbs that are very difficult to get to (top of the stairwell on a very scary ladder) they already pay for themselves.  

Keep your eye out for LEDs and let PG&E know (they send you an envelope with their address on it every month!) that you’d like to see them fund LEDs the way they do CFLs, although you may want to send the note Aaaanold, instead, with your next tax payment. The state is ultimately the source of the mandates that make PGE provide us with energy conservation incentives like cheap CFLs. 

Split-seam piping insulation is also very cheap ($1-$2/6 foot length) and super easy to install. The hardest part is clearing the cobwebs in the crawlspace. You just pull it apart far enough to snug around a pipe and remove a release paper thus revealing an adhesive that seals the whole thing around the pipe (they also stay on without the glue most of the time). If you put these on all your hot pipes, as well as cold pipes within a few feet of the water heater, you can reduce your heat loss and lower your water heater bill by quite a few bucks each year. This will definitely pay for itself in the first year (unless you pay someone to do it for you, in which case it may take a little longer). 

Weather-stripping windows and doors sounds like something Jimmy Carter would be advocating (and he would, wouldn’t he?) but yes, it’s still one of the cheapest, quickest reimbursing upgrades you can make. Just Do It (I stole that). 

If you still haven’t tried a programmable thermostat for your furnace, it’s about time. This is a cost/energy/carbon saving device that doubles as a thermal valet. In other words, these cost savers also make sure you’re cozy by turning the heat up around the time you wake up to make the house nice and warm for climbing out from under that big IKEA duvet. No need to fear the VCR effect (endless flashing 12 a.m.), most basic models come already programmed with a simple sensible setting (surely served by some shrewd soldier of science). You will need to set the clock but this is manageable and you may, eventually, change the morning or evening setting without bursting a blood vessel. These are very big savers for most of us who don’t think about the temp setting at all hours of the day. They start around $50 bucks and usually only require two lo-voltage wires be attached. Yes We Can! (eventually, these apophthegms will get old). 

By the way, energystar.gov says that an average American household can save $180/Yr. by using a programmable thermostat and even if we’re half of that around here, it’s still a free dinner at Chez Panisse every year. 

There are, of course, many other things we can all do and finding the ones that feel right for you is certainly part of the course toward success. We’ve stopped buying bananas (a tragedy) due to the global carbon footprint of shipping said fruit and have cut back on meat (again) because of its environmental savagery. The chicken coop is almost done and the garden is in full fruit, as it were. Every little bit does help.  

Perhaps, if we’re very lucky, we’ll even end up with a new president capable of turning down the heat. Now wouldn’t that be nice. 

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:38:00 AM



Pro Arts New Visions 2008 Group show opens at Pro Arts Gallery, 550 Second St., Oakland, and runs through Oct. 24. www.proartsgallery.org 


International Latino Film Society “Tres/Three” and “Lorca; así que pasen cien años” at 7 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5-$6. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 


Artists’ Talk: Ellen Lake & Takehito Etani at 7p.m. in the Kala Gallery, 1060 Heinz Ave. 

Peter Orner discusses the plight of undocumented workers in the United States as part of the Literature and Conversation series at 7:30 p.m. at JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

Country Joe McDonald Open Mic Night at 7 p.m. at Cafe de la Paz, 1600 Shattuck Ave. 843-0662. 


Ditty Bops at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Babshad Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Jean-Paul Buongiorno at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Geva Alon, Krystle Warren, Steven Taylor-Ramirez at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 

The Creations at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Maraca at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“A Noir Musical” and “Staged Reading” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun at 2 p.m., at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $16. 800-838-3006. 

Aurora Theatre “The Best Man” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. at 2081 Addison St. through Sept. 28. Tickets are $40-$42. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Rep “Yellowjackets” by Itamar Moses, a Berkeley resident, set at Berkeley High School, Tues.-Sun. at the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St., through Oct. 12. Tickets are $27-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Crowded Fire Theater Company “The Listener” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Aug. 31. Tickets are $15-$25. 415-433-1235. crowdedfire.org 

Masquers Playhouse “The Petrified Forest” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, through Sept. 27. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org  

Rough and Tumble “Candide” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun at 7 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. through Sept. 21. Tickets are $16-$22. 499-0356. www.randt.org 


“AeroSoul” Works by the TCB Crew, celebrating the significance of spray can art. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St. Oakland. www.joycegordongallery.com 


Robert Bowman performs Mozart, Prokofiev, Gottschalk, Scarlatti, and Brahms at 8 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $10-$15. 845-1350. www.hillsideclub.org  

GTS Band, old school 60s, 70s, 80s, at 5 p.m. outdoors at Broadway at Water St., Jack London Square, Oakland.  

Ill Ones, hip-hop, at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7-$8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Darryl Rowe & His Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Caribbean Allstars at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Amy Meyers & Jennifer Corday at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Wilson Wong, Nomad at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Mushroom, The Moore Brothers, Matt Baldwin at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Sahn Maru, Appalachian Terror Unit, Wartorn at 7:30 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

Mary Redent at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Rocker T, More Love Band, reggae, at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 548-1159.  

Greg Scott, R&B, at 9 p.m. at Maxwell’s, 341 13th St., Oakland. Cost is $10. 839-6169. 

Bobi Cespedes with Marco Diaz, Saul Sierra, Jose Roberto Hernandez, Sandy Peres and Julio Perez at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $18-$24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Puppet Show “The Adventures of Peer Gynt” Sat. and Sun. at 11 a.m., 2 and 4 p.m. and “Perez & Mondinga Mexican Fiesta” at noon at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259. www.fairyland.org 


Shotgun Players “Ubu for President” An adaptation of the plays of Alfred Jarry, Sat. and Sun., and Mon. Sept. 1, at 4 p.m. at John Hinkel Park, Southampton Ave., off the Arlington, through Sept. 14. Free, donations accepted. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 


Art & Soul in downtown Oakland with over 60 bands on six stages, participatory art projects, artisans and community group, Sat.-Mon. noon to 6 p.m. at Frank Ogawa Plaza. COst is $5-$10. 238-7402. art&soul@oaklandnet.com 

Violin Variations Themes and variations for solo violin at 8 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. Cost is $10-$15. 524-5203. 

Fuga, Tocayo at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Quejerema! at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $15. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Nice Guy Trio, Jessica and Ramon at 8 p.m. at the JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $10-$15. 848-0237. 

Zydeco Flames at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun/Zydeco dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Moment’s Notice Improvised dance, music and theater at 8 p.m. at Western Sky Studio, 2525 8th St. Tickets are $8-$15 at the door. 692-6295. 

Brindl, Will Edwards at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Suzanna Smith at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Pebble Theory, Silver Griffin, Hey Young Believer at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

The Force, Static Thought, Das Kapital 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. 



Kit Parra Latin Jazz Ensemble at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Paul H. Taylor and the Montara Mountain Boys at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Americana Unplugged: Redwing Bluegrass Band at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

The Strange Boys, Crystal Antlers at 5 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 



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 

Umalali: The Garifuna Women’s Project at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $5-$18 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Neil Marcus and Petra Kuppers, poets, read from their new book “Cripple Poetics: A Love Story” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 


Gator Beat at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Singers’ Open Mic with Ellen Hoffman at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Anthony Wilson, Chinco Pinheiro Quartet “Nova” at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $5-$16. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“Quilts by Jennifer Snedecker” on display at the Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park, through Oct. 31. 525-2233. 

Landscape and Urban Photography by Patrick Smith opens at the LightRoom Gallery, 2263 Fifth St., and runs through Oct. 3. 649-8111. www.lightroom.com 


George Lakoff on “The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st Century American Politics with an 18th Century Brain” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Malcolm Margolin on “Drawing Inspiration from California Indian Belief and Practice” at 7:30 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 526-3805. 

Frank B. Wilderson, III, Black American member of the African National Congress on “Red, White & Black: Cinema and the Structure of US Antagonisms” at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Wen-hsin Yeh on “Shanghai Splendor: Economic Sentiments and the Making of Modern China, 1843-1949” at 4 p.m. at the IEAS Conference Room, 2223 Fulton St., 6th flr. 643-6536. 


Wednesday Noon Concert, with April Paik and Melissa Lin, violin, Garrett McLean, viola, Ting Chin, cello, at 12:15 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Vive le Jazz at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Red Hot Chachkas at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Yiddish dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Whiskey Brothers, old-time and bluegrass at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Candela at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Salsa dance lessons at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Leni Stern “Africa” at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$16. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com  



Samuel Lucas, in conversation with Aarti Shah on “Theorizing Discrimination in an Era of Contested Prejudice” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Raj Patel discusses his book “Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System” at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 


Afrissippi at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Workshop at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Rick Udler at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Fiveplay at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $12. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

The Dave G Collective at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Jane Monheit at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $18-$24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“A Noir Musical” and “Staged Reading” Thurs.-Fri. at 8 p.m., Sat. at 2 and 8 p.m., at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $16. 800-838-3006. 

Aurora Theatre “The Best Man” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. at 2081 Addison St. through Sept. 28. Tickets are $40-$42. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Rep “Yellowjackets” by Itamar Moses, a Berkeley resident, set at Berkeley High School, Tues.-Sun. at the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St., through Oct. 12. Tickets are $27-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Impact Theatre “Ching Chong Chinaman” Thurs.-Sun. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, through Oct. 11. Tickets are $10-$17. 464-4468. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “The Petrified Forest” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, through Sept. 27. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Rough and Tumble “Candide” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun at 7 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. through Sept. 21. Tickets are $16-$22. 499-0356. www.randt.org 

Shotgun Players “Ubu for President” An adaptation of the plays of Alfred Jarry, Sat. and Sun. at 4 p.m. at John Hinkel Park, Southampton Ave., off the Arlington, through Sept. 14. Free, donations accepted. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

Woodminster Summer Musicals “The Pirates of Penzance” Fri.-Sun. at 8 p.m., at Woodminster Amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park, 3300 Joaquin Miller Rd., Oakland. through Sept. 15. Tickets are $23-$38. 531-9597. www.woodminster.com 


“Reconfigured Figurines” Works by Susan Sanford. Opening reception at 2 p.m. at Alta Galleria, 2890 College Ave., Suite 4. 414-4485. www.altagalleria.com 

Doug Minkler “Banned and Recovered: Artist Responds to Censorship” Opening reception at 6:30 p.m. at the African American Museum and Library, 659 14th St., Oakland. Through Dec. 31. 637-0200. 

“The Reading Chair” A story by Vicki Gunter, read in performance. Ceramic sculpture illustrate the story. At 7 p.m. at Oakopolis, 447 25th St., Oakland. 663-6920. 

“Double Vision” Works by David Best, Donald Farnsowrth, Era Farnsworth, Robert Hudson, Raymond Saunders, Richard Shaw and William Wiley. Reception at 7 p.m. at Front Gallery, 35 Grand Ave., Oakland. 444-1900. 

Joesam “New Works: Paintings” Opening reception at 5:30 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. www.joycegordongallery.com 

“Kwatro-Kantos” Works by the Filipino Collective. Artists’ reception at 6 p.m. at 21 Grand, 416 25th St., at Broadway, Oakland. 444-7263. www.kwatro-kantos.com 

“Chosen Terrain” Pastel drawings by Jamie Morgan, photographs by Mary Curtis Ratcliff. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Mercury 20 Gallery, 25 Grand Ave., Oakland. Exhibition runs through Sept. 27. 701-4620. www.mercurytwenty.com 

“Bob’s Wondrous Women” Works by Robert Wahrhaftig. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Frank Bette Center for the Arts, 1601 Paru St., Alameda. info@frankbettecenter.org 


ITVS Community Cinema “Runners High” A documentary by Justine Jacob and Alex da Silva on teenagers from a tough East Oakland neighborhood training for a marathon at 6:30 p.m., followed by discussion, at Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. Part of the Port Huron Project 5. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

“Urban Landscapes” Film and video shown at 8 p.m., outdoors on The Great Wall of Oakland, Grand Ave just west of Broadway. www.oaklandculturalarts.org 


Studio One Reading Series with William Moor and Daphne Gottlieb at 7:30 p.m. at Studio One, 365 45th St. at Broadway, Oakland. Suggested donation $3-$15. 597-5027. 


Right Rights for all People A benefit for Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action at 7 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Suggested donation $15. 665-5821. 

Bernard Anderson and Old School Flavor at 5 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

“The Best Kept Secret” at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10-$20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Rhonda Benin & Her Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Stompy Jones at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Rosebud Blue at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

“Un Viernes Flamenco” at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15-$18. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 







The Original Crooked Jades, The Stripmall Ballads at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $9. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Born/Dead, Dead Section, Fix My Head 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. 

Arc Angel, Black Lung, Pop Ices at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$7. 548-1159.  

Jane Monheit at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $18-$24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“Harvest at the Lake” Native American stories at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259. www.fairyland.org 


Bay Area Poets Coalition open reading from 3 to 5 p.m. at Strawberry Creek Lodge, 1320 Addison St. Park on the street, not in Lodge parking lot. 527-9905. poetalk@aol.com 


Blumenstock & Johnson, violin and harpsichord, perform Bach & Telemann at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Cost is $10-$15. 549-3864. www.trinitychamberconcerts.com 

Angela Gheorghiu, soprano with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $35-$100. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Macy Blackman & the Mighty Fines at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Pellejo Seco at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cuban salsa lesson at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Gateswingers Jazz Band at 8 p.m. at 33 Revolutions Record Shop and Cafe, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836.  

Sotaque Baiano, Brazilian, at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

George Kuo, Martin Pahinui and Aaron Mahi at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Burlesque ‘n’ Brass, featuring Hot Pink Feathers and Blue Bone at 9 p.m. at Café Van Kleef, 1621 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Cost is $10. 763-7711. 

Dogwood Speaks, Brod Rob, The Knosckout Brothers at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

La Plebe, Disaster Strikes, Armistice 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. 



“At Play” Paintings by Angie Cha, Julie Lee Gochman and Jamie Treacy, and mixed media figurative sculpture by Marsha Balian. Artists’ reception at 3 p.m. at Community Art Gallery, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, 2450 Ashby Ave. Exhibition runs through Nov. 13. 204-1667.  


Larry Vann Group at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Sheppard’s Krook, Ed’s in Therapy, Jenna & The Big Weenies, Resucitations, in a benefit for Children’s Hospital, at 4 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $8. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com

DeYoung’s Chihuly Glass Exhibit a Dazzling Array of Color and Form

By Steven Finacom Special to the Planet
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:37:00 AM
By Steven Finacom
By Steven Finacom

Thousands of glass art objects—strange, striking, beautiful, and combined in fantastic arrangements—currently populate the special exhibit galleries of San Francisco’s de Young. They range from palm-of-your-hand pieces to gigantic supernovas of glittering glass tentacles, singular, vivid, bowls big enough to float baby Moses down the Nile, and hallucinogenically hued “marbles” blown as big as sofa hassocks. 

The museum is showing a broad survey of the work of the Washington-based Dale Chihuly. It’s a powerful, fragile, splendid display worth seeing before it closes Sept. 28. 

Perhaps you’ve put off seeing this exhibit because some art critics don’t care for Chihuly. Apparently, he’s a bit too commercial, too popular and not sufficiently obte. In essence, if I read one review correctly, it’s discouragingly lowbrow when a critic or curator isn’t needed to explain what art means. 

Chihuly’s exhibit text offers this observation about his glass sculptures. “Obviously, people are going to look at them and see things they want to see in them. I prefer that than if I told them what it is they should be seeing.” 

I’ve seen things I like in Chihuly exhibits in recent years: the first, in 2000, at the San Jose Museum of Art; the second, last year, outdoors in the New York Botanical Garden; now, at the de Young.  

My uncritical advice is to go see Chihuly exhibits when they’re around. They are like satisfying, entertaining movies; the art may not sweep the Oscars, but they’re a pleasure to experience. 

At San Jose, as now at the de Young, the displays are tightly structured, with objects placed in darkened, blank boxes and rooms and carefully spot lit. This can produce quite dramatic effects with single pieces or whole walls, islands, and constellations of glass appearing as glowing objects ap-proached through the gloom. 

At the New York Botanical Garden, in comparison, the glass artworks were in gardens or greenhouses, where wind and sun could play across them as they contrasted with the surrounding plants and structures.  

The most enticing pieces in New York were in the twin, open-air, water-lily pools of the Haupt Conservatory. Wooden boats, each piled impossibly full of glass, were surrounded by glass floats, all glittering in the afternoon sun.  

At the de Young, there are similar glass-laden boats, but they are displayed in a dark room. gliding on a black mirror glass surface as if crossing the River Styx. Single, planet-like, brilliant globes seem to float around them. 

The Chihuly exhibit is a “one way only” progression, although when we were there on opening day the guards didn’t seem too intent on stopping those who decided to backtrack to revisit an earlier room. 

Don’t cross the taped lines on the floor around many of the fragile sculptures, however. Photography is allowed, and perhaps too enthusiastically taken to. Many were intent on documenting, not necessarily contemplating, everything.  

Each room displays a different form, style, or era of Chihuly’s work. Some cohere as unified sculptural sets, including a large space filled with white birch logs and lavender glass lances, and another where dozens of yellow and red fan-like forms project in frozen undulation on a vertical framework.  

Other rooms feature diverse, stand-alone, single pieces, including intricate vases and several of Chihuly’s chandelier shapes that look like giant octopi, fantastical spiders, or starbursts descending from the ceiling.  

There’s a room of recent “black glass” pieces and a space that mixes antique Native American baskets with glass forms in colors and patterns recalling the woven designs. There are also a lot of rather abstracted drawings by Chihuly, as well as Indian trade blankets he uses for pattern inspiration. 

Many of the pieces are quite beautiful, others frankly weird, and at several points you’re likely to stop and think, “I had no idea you could do THAT in glass.”  

The finale of the exhibit is a long room with a raised, mirrored, podium down the center, sprouting a gigantic “milleflora garden” of glass—reed shapes, spiky aloe-like growths, balls, sinuous stalks, many of them towering over the viewer.  

My favorite space—both at the de Young, and at the earlier San Jose exhibit—has been the room with a “ceiling” of glass panels. Laid atop, in studied confusion, are hundreds, if not thousands, of glass sea-form shapes all brilliantly lit from above.  

The objects range from hefty “shells” worthy of a giant clam to delicate cups the size of a sea urchin. It’s an otherworldly coral reef or a beach awash with a rhythm of glass shapes, an effect the designers have slyly enhanced by inserting, here and there, tiny golden glass putti mermaids and octopi. 

It’s easy to spend a great deal of time in this room, discovering new patterns and yet another “most beautiful” piece of glass. 

It’s also the best room for people watching. Many are just lost in rapture although a few get no more than a crick in their neck. At San Jose, the floor was carpeted, and many people lay down on their backs for a better view; the de Young has low benches but, alas, a hard wood floor. 

There’s only one installation outside the special galleries, a huge yellow glass column in the “Pool of Enchantment” adjacent to the museum. You can see it without admission, and it’s lit at night. 

The DeYoung museum, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, is accessible from the East Bay by BART, then Muni bus, or by car. The Chihuly exhibit runs through Sunday, Sept. 28. Tuesday-Thursday, 9:30 a..m.-5:15 p.m., Fridays until 8:45 p.m., and Saturdays -Sundays until 6:15 p.m. Standard admission, including a $5 surcharge for the Chihuly exhibit, is $15 adults, $12 seniors, $11 youths (11-17) and college students with ID. www.chihulyatthedeyoung.org or call (415) 750-3600.

Berkeley Rep Stages Itamar Moses’ ‘Yellowjackets’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:39:00 AM

“The initial idea I had for the play,” said Itamar Moses, a 1995 Berkeley High graduate and emerging playwright, of Yellowjacket, his play commissioned by Berkeley Rep that opens Friday, “was about what I did in school, hiding in the newspaper office. A simpler play, about the paper. I thought there probably was a play there. 

“Then talking to Tony [Taccone, artistic director of The Rep], say three years ago, about the commission, and the four or five ideas I wanted to write next, I mentioned Berkeley High School, and he said, ‘Why not for us?’ ” 

Moses’ play, named after the sports teams at Berkeley High (just as the paper, which he edited, is called The Jacket), deals with the upshot of an event he remembers, an insensitive article published in the paper and the controversy that followed, dividing students, parents and teachers along race and class lines. “The inciting incident was a fight on campus and the coverage the newspaper gave it ... Living in, growing up in Berkeley, it’s really, really easy to have all the appropriate liberal ideals, to espouse them and think you uphold them—until events personally affect you, or your children, putting your loved ones on the line for progressive ideals. More specifically, for people who came here in the ’60s, living in the hills, how do you react if your kid’s physically assaulted?” 

Instead of the simpler play, about the newspaper, Moses began taking notes, writing speeches, scenes. “I didn’t know what it would become. It was capturing the multifaceted insanity, from the ironic reversals that took place, a well-intentioned newspaper story backfiring, not responding to racism meaningfully, being superficial instead. What began to emerge was the central metaphor, the debate at the center. Aristotle would have jumped at it. There was a built-in dramatic structure, not as rigid as in [his earlier play] Bach in Leipzig, which was based on my noticing that a tight farcical structure is fugue-like, but more like an epic structure. Something in the way of Angels in America or half of Continental Divide. What makes epics isn’t that they’re long, but that the characters don’t necessarily meet each other, but are still connected. I was running different stories about school together, noticing the analogies, mirroring what everybody was talking about. It occurred to me the play could be tracked, just like history classes that were created as I was on my way out of school were tracked. This was all at the center, in the bones of the structure, underscoring the ideas debated. It took me a couple years to execute that—sort of!” 

Madeleine Oldham, The Rep’s literary manager and dramaturg, commented on her reactions to the script in its successive drafts. “I don’t think Itamar’s intention shifted at all. It wasn’t like the writing I usually see. It was made up of short scenes, feeling like an HBO show, yet amazingly complicated. It moves in the way high school moves, teenagers move. I think it’s great writing—and good for high school students.” 

Moses joked, “Like Berkeley High, it’s messy, chaotic ... someone from one scene will just walk through another. But even messiness can be kind of formal, have rigor—if it’s organized messiness.” 

One of the cast (and almost all are from the Bay Area, several who lived in Berkeley), Amaya Alonso Hallifax, grew up in Berkeley, attending Oxford, Longfellow and Crowden Schools, going to high school in the North Bay—“but took the tour of Berkeley High almost every year, thinking I might transfer.” She commented that the play “is incredibly representative of the stories I heard about it all, from my group of friends—who are pretty wide-ranging racially and socio-economically—and it contains the opposing points of view inside. Growing up in Berkeley you’re always hyperaware problems exist. I was aware from the age of six of the legacy of Civil Rights; you hear the rhetoric your whole life. Then you get into high school, begin to deal with the realities of your life, and it’s not the ’60s, a different atmosphere. You’ve heard the talk, but what walk? And the adults around you don’t necessarily understand.” 

Hallifax continued about the play. “All my friends love talking about it. They’ve been lovely with yearbooks and remembering inappropriate stories ... the aberrative stuff, but also a teacher who was important to them. There are a lot of really recognizable stories about teachers in the play.” 

“Some iconic Berkeley High legends went into this play,” Moses said. 

Moses left Berkeley two weeks after he finished high school, attending Yale and New York University, at both of which he later taught playwrighting. He lives in Brooklyn. If Madeleine Oldham remembers coming to Berkeley from back East “and being slapped in the face ... by how it’s everything you think it is, and more complicted than just that,” and now feels at home here, Moses can talk about “without moving back here, writing Yellowjacket is a figurative way of going back ... there’s a conversation at the end of the play—Amaya’s in it—that says, ‘You don’t have to stay, it’s where the fuck you’re from.’ It doesn’t feel that long ago, doesn’t feel like a period piece, as Tony’s described it. I wanted to show the play to Berkeley, to make it hyperspeculative and fun; universal, but something so young people feel it accurately represents their perspective. I feel I had a clearer-eyed view when I was a teenager. And I still think adults can be short-sighted. 

“It’s not just Berkeley, it’s true everywhere,” Moses concluded. “Berkeley’s a great place to look at. People talk about it. And here they think they can solve it. Does the play have a life outside Berkeley? In a weird way, Berkeley is the least equipped to see it; it’s where it’ll be seen most literally, judged as how factually accurate it is. Elsewhere, it’ll be seen as a metaphor, Berkeley as a symbol—any urban high school as a microcosm of society.” 


Tuesday-Sunday through Oct. 12 at the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St. $27-$71. 647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org.

Masquers Present ‘Petrified Forest’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:40:00 AM

Before Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands—before Sam Shepard, for that matter—a prominent American playwright tied together a crime spree in the West, an offbeat sense of romance and the Existential angst of war babies and wannabe great artists. The result was The Petrified Forest, which launched both Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis when the Hollywood film version got made. 

Now the Masquers in Point Richmond are staging Petrified Forest in a good community theater production, and the clear lines of the well-wrought play about the exhaustion of the Frontier myth (if not the American Dream) are clearer on stage than in the movie, with dialogue which places it in time rather than dating it. 

Petrified Forest, is set in the Depression, on “the edge of nowhere,” Black Mesa Filling Station and Cafe (John Hull’s excellent set of a counter joint with the ominous sign, “Tipping is UnAmerican/Keep Your Change” on the till—looking out on a rocky scape changing colors with Rob Bradshaw’s lighting), down the road from the Petrified Forest. From the first exchanges, a Lineman (Ted Bigornia) talking up revolution and the Bolsheviks, with Legionnaire Jason Maple (John Burke) deriding him, and old codger Gramp Maple (George Adams as Jason’s father, who really owns the joint) trying to chat up every stranger with tall tales of his bygone youth and Billy The Kid, Sherwood’s dialogue establishes flurries of vigorous discussion, social contention contrasted by personal musings acted out. The middle of nowhere, but everybody seems to wander through—and everybody wants what they don’t have or can’t get, wrangling with the others about what they, or the country, ought to do.  

The positivism, and yet ardent nay-saying, of American individualistic enthusiasm is writ large on the diverse countenances of this cast of characters. Jason wants his old man to sell the place so he can go into public life in Southern California. His daughter and waitress Gabby (a very good Laura Morgan) wants to follow her long-gone war bride mother back to France, and reads aloud from the book of Francois Villon poems her mother has sent. Gas pump boy and former Nevada Tech football star Boze (solid Craig Eychner) wants Gabby’s love (or at least her virginity), and a little respect besides. And, wandering in from the road, hitchhiker Alan Squier (a convincing Kyle Johnson, in the Leslie Howard role), ex-gigolo and deferred great author, late of New England and the Riviera, just wants his next meal, the next ride and maybe a sympathetic ear for his self-deprecation, which he finds in rebellious, dreamy Gabby. 

Into this little warren of hope pursued and lost come a rich couple from Ohio (Michael Haven and Michael Fay), disappointed by cliff dwellings, and first the rumor, then the reality, of Duke Mantee (a splendid, bluff, all-business Robert Taylor) and his gang (Bigornia, Peter Budinger and Edward Nason), bristling with lifted firepower, who hole up for a planned rendezvous with Duke’s moll after a murderous spree and ongoing manhunt throughout the Southwest. 

A funny recognition springs up between Mantee and Squier, which the ex-gigolo takes to be their thwarted chivalrous natures, though it’s more the bottled-up hysteria from all that social malaise that piques Squier’s melancholy. Duke orchestrates it as professional heist boss and mayhem-maker (in 1943, a proto-fascist Robin Hood?) 

The Masquers sell the story well, everybody lending something to their character and the ensemble. There’s still the need for more build-up, more intensity in both fore and background for some scenes and a sense of the offbeat at the end. It isn’t easy, nothing is entirely straightforward about Sherwood’s seemingly clear, but rhythmically (and characterologically) complicated script.  

A dozen years later, it would have been called Noir, or Existentialist. Adams gets Gramps’ sly, Walter Brennanesque humor, but not his meanness. Johnson delivers Squier’s world-weariness well, but not the moonshine- and gunpoint-inflated excitement that energizes his old rashness. But the brilliant dialogue covers for almost any lapse, and the rightness of the cast, as directed by Marti Baer, should ensure further development. Right now, it’s already a refreshing—and bracing—evening of theater in a community setting. 


Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 27 at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. $18.  

232-4031. www.masquers.org.

African-American Solo Performance Fest

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:40:00 AM

“I came to be in the Bay Area for one year, in 1984,” said Thomas Simpson, founder of AfroSolo, the annual festival of African-American solo performance that includes tributes and art exhibits. “I was in theater, from Nashville, and this was to be a step between there and L.A. or New York. For my 39th birthday in 1991, I had a party and invited artists to perform who I knew from taking a workshop on developing solo pieces. It occurred to me it should be staged every year as a way for us to tell our own stories, form our own works.” 

The first AfroSolo was in 1994 with more than a dozen performers over several nights, and John O’Neill, New Orleans man of the theater, as special guest.  

“It’s our desire to honor artists who have had a significant impact on African-American culture and culture in general,” Simpson said. Since then, AfroSolo has featured luminaries like Ruby Dee, Dick Gregory, Charles Brown. “But we’re really focused on local artists.” 

August is the time for AfroSolo, and the performances and tributes ran last week with an ongoing art exhibit in the third-floor African-American collection at the San Francisco Public Library, which runs through Oct. 16. 

“I invited 15 artists who exhibited with us in the past,” said Simpson, “to express the theme of this AfroSolo—‘Resilience: My Culture, My People, Me.’ There’s ceramics, painting, sculpture ... and the library has done an exceptional job exhibiting it.” 

Last week there was a night of tributes at Yoshi’s-San Francisco with Noah Griffin honoring Sammy Davis, Jr., a tribute to John Coltrane by Onaderuth—the band from San Francisco’s Coltrane Church—and operatic and negro spirituals baritone Robert Sims, who just completed another summer teaching at UC Berkeley’s Young Musicians Program, paying tribute to Duke Ellington. 

“He sang songs from the Sacred Concert Duke performed in Grace Cathedral in the mid-’60s,” Simpson said, “and a few of the spirituals he’s famous for.” 

Special guest was 86-year-old opera singer Hope Foye, there in person to receive her own tribute—and to perform for it. 

“She began with ‘Summertime,’ the first verse the way Gershwin taught her to sing it operatically,” Simpson recounted, “then the next in the jazz nightclub style she had sung at New York’s Cafe Society. Then songs from her time in Mexico, after she was subpoenaed by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee ... and ‘Spring Song’ [‘Is there going to be a war next spring?’], finishing with a sing-along of that song we sing in church, ‘Let There Be Peace On Earth.’” 

While expatriated, Foye—who now lives in San Pedro, in Southern California—spent a decade in Europe while the recipient of two Rockefeller awards. 

“But in America,” Simpson said, “she was shunned, coming back. Now a renaissance of her career has begun. Every year, during Black History Month, Union Bank makes a CD about an African-American notable. The CD of Hope Foye was handed out at KQED, and I looked her up.” 

Last weekend at the Marsh, former Mission District jazz club and mecca for solo performance, four local performing artists showed what AfroSolo is all about. Laura Elaine Ellis, cofounder and executive director of African & African-American Performing Arts Coalition and company member of Dimensions Dance Theater, danced her “re-imagining” of Nina Simone’s “Four Women,” with additional music by Ajayi Lumumba with Kimara Dixon. Dixon also did the visuals, projections beginning with galvanized tin sidings, with Ellis working through a quick series of poses and attitudes, convulsive bobs and quick turns to slide guitar, harmonica, bass and drums, then congas, following Simone’s song and with Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s spoken text over, finally after leaps and twists to changing images, down to silence and the dancer’s breath.  

Poet Marvin K. White, author of Last Rights and Nothin’ Ugly Fly, performed “Our Name Be Witness,” flipping through the pages of his book and coming out with lines like: “Make sure you crook your neck and look back,/See if somebody’s following you” or “Just because you win it, child,/ Don’t mean that it’s a prize” to a vocal yet rapt response from the audience. 

Angela Dean-Baham, who was excellent as Betty Shabazz in Anthony Davis’ opera X at Oakland Opera Theater a couple of years ago, related the life and sang snippets of the songs, both in persona, of the subject of her piece “Unsung Diva: The Life and Times of Sissieretta Jones, aka Black Patti,” African-American opera star of the Gilded Age: “I am what you would describe as dead. It is true, I must remind myself—although being a Negro is a little bit like being dead. There is a part of you, you can never enjoy ... By the time of my death, it was even unclear who I was. I was Juliet, I was Norma, I was Queen Aida ... I was free to be anyone—but me.” 

Especially memorable for the grace of delivery and the suggestiveness of its subject’s reserve, Dean-Baham delivers her forgotten diva’s musings with a gentle discretion, part of that older, pre-World War I demeanor that storyteller Jovelyn Richards, in the audience, said “must come nowadays from operatic training.”  

Pianist Trente Morant accompanied this brief, bittersweet and elegant elegy with sensitivity. 

Longtime jazz and theater figure Idris Ackamoor performed an unusually multidimensional memoir of his life and career in music with storytelling, performing (his brilliant accompanist on piano and drums, Frederick Harris, often joined in), music, dancing, slides and film, working in projections of Djano Reinhardt playing with a disabled hand (Idris accompanying on guitar, then swinging out on alto) and a phenomenal dance routine by Peg Leg Bates, stamping with his prosthesis like a stilt walker, with Idris tapping along—all to expand on Idris’ own story of the disability he overcame. A whirlwind tour through a life, a career and a few recent epochs, engaging, touching and humorous, was directed by his Cultural Odyssey cofounder, Rhodessa Jones. 

“Dance, poetry, theater, music and the stories of our lives,” said Thomas Simpson, summing it up at final curtain, “That’s AfroSolo.” 


RESILIENCE: My Culture, My People, Me! 

Presented through Oct. 16 at the San Francisco Public Library by the AfroSolo Theatre Company. (415) 771-2376. www.afrosolo.org org. 

Books: Scholar Addresses the Effects of Aging

By Conn Hallinan Special to the Planet
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:42:00 AM

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what crisis we should focus on: Global warming? Growing food shortages? The energy crunch? The looming danger of a deadly flu epidemic?  

What sometimes gets lost in the drama of the headlines and journalism’s addiction to “If it bleeds, it leads,” are the quiet stories that may not have the sizzle of rising sea levels or riots in Haiti, but which none-the-less present a challenge to our society as daunting as the media’s “catastrophe of the week.” 

By the year 2050, the number of people aged 65 or older will increase from 600 million to two billion. The U.S. will double its over 65 population by 2030, and the fastest growing demographic in the country is people over 85. 

At the same time as this population is on the rise, the number of doctors, nurses and caregivers who specialize in geriatrics is shrinking. There is one geriatrics doctor for every 5,000 patients, and only nine out of the 145 medical schools in the U.S. have geriatrics departments. Less than one percent of the 2.7 million nurses in the U.S. and Canada are trained in geriatrics, and the vast majority of nursing schools do not require courses in the subject. Lastly, the key demographic section of the population that currently cares for the elderly-women age 35 to 55-is shrinking. 

“The aging of the human populations represents one of the most significant public policy issues facing society,” writes William A. Satariano, a professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Public Health in his illuminating book on the epidemiology of aging. 

But aging is an intricately complex thing. It is rather like the old gospel song: “The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone, the hip bone…” Gerontology, Satariano writes, “is a multidisciplinary field that focuses on the biology, psychology, and sociology of aging.” 

How people age and what the outcome of that process is depends on issues such as gender, race and ethnicity, physical environment, networks of interpersonal relations, health behavior, and psychology. Women live longer, but are not as healthy. Why? Minorities have significantly worse health problems than whites. Why? Seniors who stay in their homes do better than those in care facilities. Why? 

To answer these questions, Satariano proposes an “ecological model,” that argues that the “differences in levels of health and well-being in populations are due to a dynamic interplay among biologic, behavioral, and environmental factors, a broad interplay of multilevel factors that unfolds over the life of individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities.”  

The book examines subjects like disease, cognition, depression, and accidents, among others, breaking each general topic area into the “dynamic interplay” model. The book also suggests practical solutions to problems like housing and transportation. Satariano, for instance, says that a partnership between public health professionals and communities can tackle problems like seniors’ access to food, safe parks, and local support services. 

A central theme in Satariano’s book is his argument that “aging is not associated uniformly with the risk of disease, disability and death.” Extending people’s life span is not enough, he says. The idea is not just to live longer, but to live better. 

“The Epidemiology of Aging” is extremely thorough but easily accessible to the average reader. Its steep sticker price will probably restrict it to policy makers, but every city planning commission in the country should have one on its desk. The model it proposes helps organize the various overlapping fields of study in a way that gives a reader an overall picture without losing the details. 

No one can avoid getting old, but what the quality of our lives are as we age is something we have some control over. This book is a helpful roadmap to all of our futures. 

Epidemiology of Aging: 

An Ecological Approach 

By William A. Satariano, PhD, MPH. $76.95. 

Jones and Bartlett Publishers. 2006. 







Moving Pictures: Indelible Imagery, Past and Present

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:44:00 AM

Ten years after the release of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922), the first and greatest of all vampire films, Carl Th. Dreyer released Vampyr (1932), the next great vampire film, and one that took the genre in a new direction. Vampyr is the vampire film reduced to its essence, to an unrelenting flow of eerie imagery, off-kilter camera movements and a hushed soundscape consisting of sparse, enigmatic dialogue and a muted, foreboding score. Less plot than impressionist montage, the film is an almost surrealist blend of unexplained actions and haunted faces. Imagine Dracula as presented by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. 

Criterion has released the film in a two-disc DVD set, complete with bonus features that include an interview with Dreyer, a commentary track, and a book containing the original script and the novella on which Dreyer claimed the film was based—though the final product bears little resemblance to its source. 

The film itself looks superb, though it is still not quite the film Dreyer would have wanted us to see. It’s a sound film—the director’s first—produced in several different languages. Dreyer shot Vampyr silent, his actors reading the lines in several languages and later synching the different scores for release in various countries. However, the only version that currently exists in a form suitable for restoration is the German, and thus we are left with something he tried mightily to avoid: his mesmerizing images are overlaid with the distraction of subtitles. Still, given the fate of other Dreyer films, we’re lucky to have any version at all. 

At the time, Vampyr seemed a most unlikely project for Dreyer. While it was certainly within reason to expect another masterpiece from this uncompromising filmmaker, Dreyer isn’t the first name that comes to mind when discussing the horror film. After all, this was the man who made The Passion of Joan of Arc just a few years earlier, a powerful and uncompromsing avant garde film that to this day remains one of cinema’s artistic masterpieces.  

Dreyer made just 14 films in his career and no two of them alike, altering his style and approach, often radically, to fit his subject matter. He began his career in the silent era in his native Denmark, creating several well-regarded works before venturing into the greater European film industry in search of more plentiful resources and increased autonomy. One of his films from this era, Mikaël (1924), a German production that showed at this year’s San Francisco Silent Film Festival, is considered one of the landmarks of early gay cinema.  

But nothing in that oeuvre would quite prepare a viewer for what came next.  

Dreyer went to France to make a film based on the trial of Joan of Arc. Joan had only recently been sainted after centuries of excommunication, and though the French were eager to see a film about her, they were more than a little chagrined to find the task handed over to a Dane, and the role of Joan given to an Italian. Rene Falconetti was a stage actress and a very successful one; The Passion of Joan of Arc would be her first and only screen appearance, and thus for decades she has been associated in the public mind with this role, a stunning performance of grace, passion, dignity and sorrow.  

Stylistically, it is a radical departure, not just from Dreyer’s previous work, but from virtually anything that came before it. Dreyer relied almost exclusively on close-ups and text to tell the tale, relegating the vast sets to relative obscurity, only allowing them to be glimpsed in a few sequences. The film was a commercial failure, and was recut and altered into many different forms, depending on the prevailing political forces in whichever county it was being presented in. The original negative was lost to fire, and Dreyer re-composed the film from alternate takes; that version too was lost to fire. For decades Passion then was considered lost forever, with no surviving prints of Dreyer’s original film known to exist, until one was accidentally discovered in 1986 in a supply closet in a Norwegian mental institution.  

After observing the fate of Passion, Dreyer sought a bit less controversial and more commercially viable project for his next film, and settled on horror as a genre which was not only popular, but conducive to artistic independence; horror films of the silent era had managed to go relatively untouched by censors while remaining uncompromising in artistic merit.  

The result is a moody, atmospheric film modeled on the horror genre but more restrained, more obscure and more elliptical in its examination of terror, mystery and the occult. Dreyer’s expressive camera work involves wonderfully disorienting movements that shuttle the camera from one indelible image to another. As the camera circles around rooms, the lens distorts the field of vision, causing walls to appear to shift and move, leaving the viewer at all times on uneven ground, with little in the plot or in the visual terrain to anchor oneself. This is not your typical horror film; it is a dreamlike and hallucinatory experience that is content to leave much of its mystery unresolved. 

Consecutive commercial failures left Dreyer unemployed for more than a decade afterward, either unwilling or unable to mount another production. He returned in 1943 with Day of Wrath, followed by Ordet (1955) and Gertrud (1964), all of which, along with The Passion of Joan of Arc, are also available in Criterion editions.  


Vampyr (1932). 75 minutes. $39.95. www.criterion.com. 


Early films by Victor Sjöström 

One of the most significant influences on the work of Carl Dreyer was Victor Sjöström, the great Swedish filmmaking pioneer who was instrumental in establishing cinema as an art form capable of great psychological complexity. 

Even before D.W. Griffith, says film critic Andrew Sarris, “it is possible that Victor Sjöström was the world’s first great director.” Sounds like hyperbole, but it isn’t. Though he is primarily known today for his work as an actor in Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, Sjöström not only made masterpieces before Griffith did, he made more of them. But, aside from an extensive retrospective mounted by Pacific Film Archive a few years back, and a single showing of The Phantom Carriage at the Castro more recently, Sjöström’s Swedish films have been difficult to track down.  

The restorations presented in the PFA series lent hope that his work would finally be released on DVD in quality editions, and now a couple of them are finally here. Kino has released three films on two discs, and hopefully more are on the way.  

The Outlaw and His Wife (1918) showcases two of the most distinguishable traits in Sjöström’s work: psychological depth, and a magnificent use of the natural world. Sjöström would use landscape throughout his European filmmaking career, and as much as he was allowed in his Hollywood sojourn, to lend greater realism, poetry and atmosphere to his probing dramas. In The Outlaw and His Wife, Sjöström plays a man who takes a job as a laborer on a widow’s farm. The two fall in love, but his troubled past catches up with him, resulting in a dramatic climax in which the couple battle the elements and pursuers amid a stunning backdrop of majestic mountains and panoramic vistas. This, one of Sjöström’s greatest works, is paired with a documentary that tracks the director’s career from his pioneering work in Sweden to America—where he directed Lillian Gish in The Scarlet Letter (1926) and The Wind (1928), and Lon Chaney and Norma Schearer in He Who Gets Slapped (1924)—and back again. 

A second disc contains A Man There Was (1917), based on an epic poem by Henrik Ibsen, in which Sjöström again takes the lead, playing a fisherman who, during the era of the Napoleonic Wars, is forced by his family’s destitution to break through a British blockade. Once again, nature plays a significant role as the turbulent sea mirrors the fisherman’s mental state.  

Also included on the disc is Ingeborg Holm (1913), an early Sjöström masterpiece that Bergman would later recall as “one of the most remarkable films ever made.” 


The Outlaw and His Wife / Victor Sjöström (1918/1981). 70 minutes and 65 minutes. $29.95. www.kino.com. 

A Man There Was / Ingeborg Holm (1917/1913). 53 minutes and 72 minutes. $29.95. www.kino.com. 


Brand Upon the Brain! 

Canadian cult director Guy Maddin has made a name for himself with offbeat, low-budget films that invoke the spirit and methods of silent cinema. With Brand Upon the Brain! (2006) Maddin produced an essentially silent film that he then blanketed with evocative scoring, sound effects and narration. It’s not so much a silent film as a disjointed, Cubist version of a silent cinema that only exists in memory, like a broken-down print found in a dusty archive, filled with jumpy images and disintegrating stock.  

Maddin has acknowledged his debt to silent-era filmmakers, including Carl Dreyer, but this is not some sort of post-modern homage. Despite all its technical flash, it’s a deeply personal film, apparently part of a trilogy of which the third installment, My Winipeg, has just recently been released. The plot sees a character named Guy Maddin returning to his childhood home—a lighthouse on a remote island where his parents ran an orphanage. It’s a whirlwind tour of memory and psychological pain, narrated madly by Isabella Rossellini. 

Criterion has released the film on DVD along with a few extra features that go a long way in illuminating the virtues of the film for those who might otherwise find it baffling. Several narrator options are available, as well as commentary and an interview with the infectiously ebullient Madden, who repeats the cinematic philosophy he articulated in a guest appearance at this year’s San Francisco Silent Festival: that melodrama, too often relegated to the lower realms of art, is not life exaggerated, but life liberated—a version of reality unfettered by the restrictions of the everyday world, like a cathartic dream. Or nightmare. Or, as with Brand Upon the Brain!, both.  


Brand Upon the Brain! (2006). 99 minutes. $39.95. www.criterion.com.

Oakland Magic Circle at Bjornson Hall

Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:43:00 AM

The Oakland Magic Circle, oldest stage magic club in the West, will hold their annual Interclub Competition this Monday at Bjornson Hall, 2258 MacArthur Blvd. near Fruitvale Avenue. At 7 p.m., a buffet banquet with close-up magic at the tables; the show at 8 p.m.—a competition of magicians and mentalists (mind readers) from all over Northen California, with illusions, sleight-of-hand, clairvoyance ... a warm atmosphere, everybody welcome. www.oaklandmagiccircle.com. For more information, contact David Sament at (415) 786-8365 or david@magicdavid.com.  

About the House: Taking Green Measures to Illuminate Your Home

By Matt Cantor
Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:45:00 AM

We’re all trying to do our part to be a little greener these days. I see you down at the market with your cloth bags, you Prius drivers (not to mention drivers of 25-year-old cars, another very green tack). Many of us, nay, most of us, are trying to do something and studies have revealed in the recent past that most Americans are even willing to pay more for items such as organic produce and cleaner energy.  

The problem is that many of these things seem slightly out of reach so with this in mind, I will offer a short list of things that you can either do right now or plan for in the future that are relatively simple to do (some are more expensive or complex but you can table them and talk them up until your ready). 

Before I get into these simpler or easier things, I’d like to take a second to mention Berkeley’s recent Solar initiative called FIRST (Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology). The idea is terrific. Berkeley would provide financing for you to put solar panels on your roof (photovoltaics that generate electricity) and would directly pay for an approved solar installer to do the job. You would then pay for the system over about 20 years (that’s what’s proposed at this point) at a monthly fee that would be roughly the same as your electric bill. Though proposed last October, we don’t have anything happening yet and I encourage my readers to inquire with their city councilmember or the mayor’s office as to the progress on this initiative. In short, we need this thing. By the way, one great thing this city has done recently (thanks to our dear departed Dona Spring) is to waive the cost on permits for photovoltaic systems, so if you want to go ahead now and buy your own system, you’ll save on the permits.  

As of my last calculation, Germans are buying solar panels at a rate nearly 30 times ours (per capita) and this is virtually certain to be linked to their ability to charge the utility company several times the going rate for power on what their panels generate. In short, in the case of Germany, it’s a money MAKER for the buyers of panels. While we don’t have that yet (and should, especially given that we’ve been told in the recent past that we don’t have enough power generation capacity in the state (anyone remember ENRON). 

Anyway, I think it’s great that Berkeley is doing this and I hope they’ll get it under way sooner than later. This is how we save our planet (at least in part). (By the way, the mayor’s website says that this is due to go online in a pilot form mid-’08 and this is, let’s see, August?) 

On a more illuminating note, lets look at what you can do today at a low cost to save energy in your home. I know you’re hearing this a lot these days but I do feel duty-bound to add this one because it’s really true. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) save enormous amounts of energy. A PG&E program subsidizes the cost of CFLs available through many stores and I’ve found bulbs as cheap as a quarter at some stores (e.g. the awesome 99 Ranch Market). 

You can also contact CESC (Community Energy Services Corp.) or California Youth Energy Services about CFLs as well as other low cost or free energy upgrades. 

Lighting accounts for about 9 percent of your residential electrical bill and use of CFLs can reduce it by about 7 percent. This means that the cost of CFLs will almost certainly pay for themselves in the first year and possibly in the first two months. They’re also better today than in the past. My new friend Julie, a local contractor was telling me yesterday that she just hates fluorescent lighting and I don’t think she’s alone. The queasy Cicada-bombilating lamps of the past managed to make everyone look (and feel) as if they were in a David Lynch film.  

Today’s CFLs are all but reinvented in several respects. Their color spectrums are better, they buzz almost nil and have much less discernible flicker. They also tend to come to full brightness much faster. The early models that could barely compete with 25 watt incandescent have been augmented with larger ones that easily mimic 100 watts. I’ve finally started to use them in my main interiors and there have been few, if any, complaints. Oh yes, we also have dimmable ones now and for those who know a little about this technology, this is quite the Leap Forward (Yes, many are made in China).  

For the really forward thinking, LED (light emitting diode) bulbs are now available (most easily found on the web). While these are still quite expensive (roughly $20+/piece), they use far less power than CFLs and have extremely long lifespans. In typical use, they will last 10-30 years. This means that for those bulbs that are very difficult to get to (top of the stairwell on a very scary ladder) they already pay for themselves.  

Keep your eye out for LEDs and let PG&E know (they send you an envelope with their address on it every month!) that you’d like to see them fund LEDs the way they do CFLs, although you may want to send the note Aaaanold, instead, with your next tax payment. The state is ultimately the source of the mandates that make PGE provide us with energy conservation incentives like cheap CFLs. 

Split-seam piping insulation is also very cheap ($1-$2/6 foot length) and super easy to install. The hardest part is clearing the cobwebs in the crawlspace. You just pull it apart far enough to snug around a pipe and remove a release paper thus revealing an adhesive that seals the whole thing around the pipe (they also stay on without the glue most of the time). If you put these on all your hot pipes, as well as cold pipes within a few feet of the water heater, you can reduce your heat loss and lower your water heater bill by quite a few bucks each year. This will definitely pay for itself in the first year (unless you pay someone to do it for you, in which case it may take a little longer). 

Weather-stripping windows and doors sounds like something Jimmy Carter would be advocating (and he would, wouldn’t he?) but yes, it’s still one of the cheapest, quickest reimbursing upgrades you can make. Just Do It (I stole that). 

If you still haven’t tried a programmable thermostat for your furnace, it’s about time. This is a cost/energy/carbon saving device that doubles as a thermal valet. In other words, these cost savers also make sure you’re cozy by turning the heat up around the time you wake up to make the house nice and warm for climbing out from under that big IKEA duvet. No need to fear the VCR effect (endless flashing 12 a.m.), most basic models come already programmed with a simple sensible setting (surely served by some shrewd soldier of science). You will need to set the clock but this is manageable and you may, eventually, change the morning or evening setting without bursting a blood vessel. These are very big savers for most of us who don’t think about the temp setting at all hours of the day. They start around $50 bucks and usually only require two lo-voltage wires be attached. Yes We Can! (eventually, these apophthegms will get old). 

By the way, energystar.gov says that an average American household can save $180/Yr. by using a programmable thermostat and even if we’re half of that around here, it’s still a free dinner at Chez Panisse every year. 

There are, of course, many other things we can all do and finding the ones that feel right for you is certainly part of the course toward success. We’ve stopped buying bananas (a tragedy) due to the global carbon footprint of shipping said fruit and have cut back on meat (again) because of its environmental savagery. The chicken coop is almost done and the garden is in full fruit, as it were. Every little bit does help.  

Perhaps, if we’re very lucky, we’ll even end up with a new president capable of turning down the heat. Now wouldn’t that be nice. 

Community Calendar

Thursday August 28, 2008 - 09:28:00 AM


Berkeley No-Wall Reception with indigenous Apache representatives from the US-Mexico border, at 3 p.m. at Berkeley City Hall, Redwood Room, 2180 Milvia St. Hosted by Councilmembers Anderson and Worthington. 981-7130, 981-7170. 

Nomination of Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention will be shown at 7 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Sponsored by the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Berkeley School Volunteers Orientation from 3 to 4 p.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Come learn about volunteer opportunities. Bring photo ID and two references. 644-8833. 

Young People’s Symphony Orchestra Auditions by appointment from 4 to 9 p.m. at Crowden Music Center. 849-9776. www.ypsomusic.net 

Toastmasters 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.  

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

World of Plants Tours Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 


Hurrican Katrina Commemoration at 3 p.m. with a march down Broadway to Oakland Police Dept., rally at 3:45 p.m. at 7th and Broadway. http://justcauseoakland.org 

Introduction to Pilates at 10:30 a.m. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

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 

Drop-In Acupuncture Clinic from 3 to 6 p.m. at Long Haul Info Shop, 3124 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $15-$30. 


Family Birdwalk Learn birding basics on a walk around the Nature Area seeking our feathered friends in a variety of habitats, from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Wildcat Peak Hike Join a 3-mile loop, from 2 to 4 p.m. to learn about the flora and fauna of the East Bay Hills. Bring water, a snack and a poem or story to share at the peak. Call for meeting place. 525-2233. 

Got a problem in the garden? Want expert advice on watering, plant selection, lawn care, or pest management? Visit the master gardener booth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Center Street between ML King and Milvia. 639-1275. 

Composting Class Learn the basics of composting and using worms in your garden at 10:30 a.m. at Smith & Hawken, 1330 10th St. Free. 527-1076. 

Walk the Line & Connect to the Home Front Walk the line of history and the keel of a victory ship, and learn about the men and women who contributed to victory on the home front during World War II, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. followed by optional 45 min. Bay Trail stroll. Meet park ranger at memorial by main parking lot at Rosie the Riveter Memorial, Marina Bay Park, Melville and Regatta, Richmond. 232-5050. www.nps.gov/rori/ 

All Hands on Deck: Building the Ships that Kept Democracy Afloat Learn about the 747 ships built at the Kaiser shipyards and the people that built them, from 2 to 3 p.m. at Historic Shipyard No. 3, 1337 Canal Blvd., Berth 6A, Richmond. Park outside SS Red Oak Victory gate. 232-5050. Directions to shipyard 237-2933. www.ssredoakvictory.com/contact.htm 

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 

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. 


Family Fun on the Farm Day Meet the animals, explore the gardens, and enjoy crafts, music games, and home-made ice cream, from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at Tilden Little Farm, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Solo Sierrans Hike in Tilden Park Meet at 5 p.m. at Lone Oak parking lot for an hour and a half hike through the cool woods. Optional dinner on Solano Ave. 234-8949. 

Leopard Shark Feeding Frenzy Feed our resident leopard shark and learn more about them and our other aquatic inhabitants at 2 p.m. at the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center, 4901 Breakwater Ave., Hayward. 670-7270.  

Social Action Forum with Gary Bogue, co-founder of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum on animal farming at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Yoga and Meditation at 9:15 a.m. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

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 Sylvia Gretchen on “Courage, Fear, and the Spiritual Path” 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 


Labor Day Open House at the Tilden Nature Center and Little Farm from 11 a.m. t0 3:30 p.m. with crafts, nature walks and farm activities for the whole family. 525-2233. 

Labor Day Sidewalk Art Show and Sale A fundraiser for nonprofit organization Animal Switchboard and its Cora Fund, which provides emergency boarding for rescued dogs. From 11 to 3 p.m. at 2427 San Mateo Street, Richmond Annex. 

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. 


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 Crab Cove Marine Conservation Area. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

Berkeley School Volunteers Orientation from 3 to 4 p.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Come learn about volunteer opportunities. Bring photo ID and two references. 644-8833. 

An Evening of Functional Wisdom with Indian Agricultural activist, Vandana Shiva, at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way at Dana. Tickets are $12-$15. www.brownpapertickets.com/event/40634 

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

Street Level Cycles Community Bike Program Come use our tools as well as receive help with performing repairs free of charge. Youth classes available. Tues., Thurs., and Sat. from 2 to 6 p.m. at at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

Fresh Produce Stand at San Pablo Park from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Frances Albrier Community Center. Sponsored by the Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice. 848-1704. www.ecologycenter.org 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Share your digital images, slides and prints and learn what other photographers are doing. Monthly field trips. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We offer ongoing classes in exercise and creative arts, and always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

Yarn Wranglers Come knit and crochet at 6:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 


Berkeley Path Wanderers Walk at Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront National Park. Meet at 10 a.m. at the end of the parking lot, closest to the water, 1401 Marina Way South, Richmond. 528-3246. 

“Shorebirds” A class with Bob Lewis of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, meets at 7 p.m. for three Wed. eves. at Oakland Museum of California, with Sat. morning field trips. Cost is $60. To register call 843-2222. 

“Drawing Inspiration from California Indian Belief and Practice” with Malcolm Margolin at 7:30 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Optional pasta dinner at 6:30 p.m. for $6, children free. Talk is free. For dinner reservations call 526-3805.  

“A Really Inconvenient Truth” A film by Joel Kovel on capitalism’s overproduction and consumption, at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Young People’s Symphony Orchestra Auditions, fro 4 to 9 p.m. by appointment at Crowden Music Center. 849-9776. 

Spanish Conversation Classes Wed. and Thurs. at 9:30 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst St. 981-5190. 

Bike Touring Adventures with Cubby Cashen and his dog, at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Jump Start Entrepreneurs Network meets at 8 a.m. at Cuppa Tea, 3202 College Ave. at Alcactraz. Cost is $5-6 includes breakfast. 899-8242. www.jumpstartten.com 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes and a warm hat. Heavy rain cancels. 548-9840. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www. 


Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

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.  


Baby & Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

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 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

World of Plants Tours Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 


Golden Gate Audubon Society Birding Walk at Jewel Lake in Tilden with Phila Rogers. Meet atat 8:30 a.m. at the parking lot at the north end of Central Park Dr. for a one-mile, two-hour plus stroll through this lush riparian area. Berries are ripening and migration is under way. 848-9156. 

Electronics Recycling Fri. and Sat. from 10 a.m. to 2 pm. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. Accepted are large and small electronics, CFL light bulbs, batteries and crayons. 549-9200. 

Right Rights for all People A benefit for Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action at 7 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. SUggested donation $15. 665-5821. 

Walk the Line & Connect to the Home Front Walk the line of history and the keel of a victory ship, and learn about the men and women who contributed to victory on the home front during World War II, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. followed by optional 45 min. Bay Trail stroll. Meet park ranger at memorial by main parking lot at Rosie the Riveter Memorial, Marina Bay Park, Melville and Regatta, Richmond. 232-5050. www.nps.gov/rori/ 

All Hands on Deck: Building the Ships that Kept Democracy Afloat Learn about the 747 ships built at the Kaiser shipyards and the people that built them, from 2 to 3 p.m. at Historic Shipyard No. 3, 1337 Canal Blvd., Berth 6A, Richmond. Park outside SS Red Oak Victory gate. 232-5050. Directions to shipyard 237-2933. www.ssredoakvictory.com/contact.htm 

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 

Drop-In Acupuncture Clinic from 3 to 6 p.m. at Long Haul Info Shop, 3124 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $15-$30. 


4th Annual East Bay AIDS Walk from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lake Merritt, Bellevue and Grand. Free. info@eastbayaidswalk.org http://eastbayaidswalk.org  

GI Suicide Awareness March & Rally at 5 p.m. at Sea Breeze Cafe, Frontage Rd and University Ave., followed by a march to Berkeley Fellowship for a film showing, music and speakers. Donation $10, no one turned away. 415-565-0201 ext. 27. 

Mini-Farmers in Tilden A farm exploration program, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 4-6 years, accompanied by an adult. We will explore the Little Farm, care for animals, do crafts and farm chores. Wear boots and dress to get dirty! Fee is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Berkeley Path Wanderers Hayward Fault Walk with a cartographer and emergency preparedenss officer from EBMUD. Meet at 10 a.m. at the playground at Codornices Park. 528-3246. 

Berkeley and Albany Historical Societies Boundary Walk at 10 a.m. Cost is $10. Reservations should be sent to Berkeley Historical Society, Walking Tours, PO Box 1190, Berkeley, CA 94701-1190. 848-0181. 

Project WET Educator’s Academy covering aquatic ecosystems, water conservation and pollution prevention, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Cost is $45-$51. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Nature Detectives Scat and Tracks Search for clues that mammals and birds leave behind as they make their living along the shoreline from 11 a.m. to noon at the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center, 4901 Breakwater Ave., Hayward. For 3-5 year olds and their caregivers. Cost is $5, registration required. 670-7270.  

Electronics Recycling from 10 a.m. to 2 pm. at Elephant Pharm 1607 Shattuck Ave. Accepted are large and small electronics, CFL light bulbs, batteries and crayons. 549-9200. 

Political Affairs Readers Group will discuss “New Times, New Opportunities” by Sam Webb, chair of the CPUSA at 10 a.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., between Alcatraz and 66th. 595-7417. 

El Cerrito Democratic Club Special Meeting to hear from WCCUSD candidates, and East Bay Regional Park District, AC Transit, and BART district at large candidates. There will also be a presentation on the WCCUSD Parcel Tax Extension. From 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at St. Peter CME Church, 5324 Cypress Ave., El Cerrito. 

Open House JFK University Graduate School of Professional Psychology at 6 p.m. at 2956 San Pablo Ave., 2nd flr. 649-7428. www.jfku.edu  

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.  

Meditation Class at noon at 7th Heaven Yoga Studio, 2820 7th St. Free. 665-4300. 

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. 


Birding for Beginners Learn the basics of birding while exploring the marsh trails, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center, 4901 Breakwater Ave., Hayward. Bring bird guides and binoculars. 670-7270.  

Montclair Village Jazz & Wine Festival from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at LaSalle Ave. and Mountain Blvd., Oakland. Festival is free, wine tasting tickets are $30-$50. www.MontclairJazzAndWine.org 





Brooks Island Boat Trip Join a guided boat trip across the Richmond Harbor to Brooks Island to explore the island’s natural and cultural history, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For experienced boaters who can provide their own kayak and safety gear. Cost is $20-$22. Registration required. 1-888-EB-PARKS. 

Key to Tree ID Learn to identify the trees in Tilden Park from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Center. 525-2233. 

Pond Cycles Learn the life cycles of the insects living in our ponds, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Progressive Democrats of the East Bay “Progressives Take Back Congress” with Bill Durston, challenging Rep. Dan Lungren in CD 3, and Norman Solomon, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Albatross Pub, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $25. pdeastbay@pdeastbay.org or www.pdeastbay.org 

Berkeley Rep Family Series “Ensemble Adventure” from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Nevo Education Center, 2071 Addison St. Free, but bring a book to donate to a school library. 647-2973. 

Personal Theology Seminar with Walter Truett Anderson on “Religion Without God” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Feldenkrais for Breast Cancer Survivors at 5 p.m. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

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 Mark Henderson on “Tibetan: The Buddhist Language of Translation” 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 



Commission on the Status of Women meets Wed., Sept. 3, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5190.  

Community Environmental Advisory Commission meets Thurs., Sept. 4, at 7 p.m., at 2118 Milvia St. Nabil Al-Hadithy, 981-7461.  

Housing Advisory Commission meets Thurs., Sept. 4, at 7 p.m., at the South Berkeley Senior Center. Oscar Sung, 981-5400.  

Landmarks Preservation Commission meets Thurs., Sept. 4, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7419.