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<b>The Campaign Against the Daily Planet</b>
          A few East Bay individuals are threatening to bankrupt the Berkeley Daily Planet unless it stops publishing criticisms of Israel’s policies and actions.
Justin DeFreitas
The Campaign Against the Daily Planet A few East Bay individuals are threatening to bankrupt the Berkeley Daily Planet unless it stops publishing criticisms of Israel’s policies and actions.


The Campaign Against the Daily Planet

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:17:00 AM
<b>The Campaign Against the Daily Planet</b>
              A few East Bay individuals are threatening to bankrupt the Berkeley Daily Planet unless it stops publishing criticisms of Israel’s policies and actions.
Justin DeFreitas
The Campaign Against the Daily Planet A few East Bay individuals are threatening to bankrupt the Berkeley Daily Planet unless it stops publishing criticisms of Israel’s policies and actions.
	To gauge the relative emphasis given Israel by the newspaper’s readers, letters to the editor columns and commentaries for 36 issues were examined for the first issue of each month between June 2,2006, and May 7, 2009.
              	The paper published a total of 652 letters and 217 commentaries.
              	Of 869 submissions included in the issues, the lion’s share, 500, focused on local political issues, matters that could be decided by East Bay voters or their local city or county government agencies.
              	The second most-dominant theme was national politics, with most of the letters critical of the George W. Bush administration and its policies—including the war in Iraq—accounting for 147 submissions.
              	The next largest category, “other,” included 102 contributions on non-political issues, ranging from comments on civility to critiques of the paper itself.
              	Letters and commentaries about state government and state-level ballot measures accounted for 51 pieces.
              	Israel came next with 49 reader writings, 34 offering criticism and 15 praising the Israeli government—a ratio of two to one.
              	Finally, foreign issues other than Israel accounted for 23 contributions.
To gauge the relative emphasis given Israel by the newspaper’s readers, letters to the editor columns and commentaries for 36 issues were examined for the first issue of each month between June 2,2006, and May 7, 2009. The paper published a total of 652 letters and 217 commentaries. Of 869 submissions included in the issues, the lion’s share, 500, focused on local political issues, matters that could be decided by East Bay voters or their local city or county government agencies. The second most-dominant theme was national politics, with most of the letters critical of the George W. Bush administration and its policies—including the war in Iraq—accounting for 147 submissions. The next largest category, “other,” included 102 contributions on non-political issues, ranging from comments on civility to critiques of the paper itself. Letters and commentaries about state government and state-level ballot measures accounted for 51 pieces. Israel came next with 49 reader writings, 34 offering criticism and 15 praising the Israeli government—a ratio of two to one. Finally, foreign issues other than Israel accounted for 23 contributions.

A few East Bay individuals are threatening to bankrupt the Berkeley Daily Planet unless it stops publishing criticisms of Israel’s policies and actions—opinions and ideas they brand “anti-Semitic.” 

Some of them have been contacting the paper’s advertisers, urging them to cancel their contracts. One has created a website dedicated to attacks on the paper. 

The expressed goal, in the words of an April 21 e-mail from one of them to the Planet’s executive editor, is to make the Daily Planet “reform, or close, or bleed money until you are forced out of business or die broke.” 

In today’s economic climate, small businesses have enough trouble surviving and promoting their wares without threats from political partisans. And with the media climate every bit as dire, attempts to intimidate advertisers can seriously imperil an independent community newspaper’s existence.  

Some Daily Planet advertisers, incensed at the threats, have renewed their contracts. Others have fled, at least one prompted by the loss of paying clients. 

These partisans even tar fellow Jews with the same broad brush of anti-Semitism if they criticize Israel’s policies, or more specifically, the goals of the kind of hard-line Israeli militants frequently identified with the Likud party. 

One of these individuals, Jim Sinkinson, has been waging a sophisticated war of letters targeting Daily Planet advertisers, complete with a form to be sent to the paper to cancel ads. He’s a professional publicist, and also a director of a well-financed pro-Israel advocacy group, Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME). 

The backer of the anti-Planet website—and the only one who agreed to be interviewed for this story—is John Gertz, an affable and prominent member of the Berkeley Jewish community who makes his living selling all things Zorro, an inherited brand created by a long-dead writer. He describes himself as “a left-wing Zionist.” 

A third figure, Dan Spitzer, is more elusive. Planet advertisers report that he has been calling and visiting their businesses, urging them to drop their contracts with the newspaper. He describes himself as a journalist, yet his recent output seems to consist almost entirely of letters to the editors of newspapers, written in support of Israel and condemning those who criticize it.  

What links them all is support for the hard-line policies of conservative Israeli politicians towards Palestinians and other Islamic peoples. They might be dubbed Zio-Cons, since they often connect militant ultra-Zionism with the neoconservatives who drove foreign policy during the George W. Bush administration. 

(Traditionally Zionism has been a much more inclusive term and embraced a wider range of beliefs.) 

Business owners who maintain their ads have reported intimidating visits and abusive calls, but the campaign has gone beyond targeting the newspaper’s revenue. 

The attacks focus primarily on reader submissions and one paid columnist. 

One elderly reader who wrote a commentary for the Planet’s opinion pages critical of Israel made a police report about a threatening message delivered to her home after the op-ed was published. The writer, still troubled about the incident, declined an interview for this article, but expressed the belief that the incident resulted from the printed submission. 


Opinion policy 

The Daily Planet publishes reader contributions in two formats, placed according to length. Shorter pieces run in the letters-to-the-editor column, which begins on the editorial page, while more detailed expositions appear as commentaries, which begin opposite the editorial page, where newspapers have traditionally run opinion pieces, said Becky O’Malley, the paper’s executive editor and co-proprietor with her spouse, publisher Michael O’Malley. 

The Daily Planet runs most submissions it receives, said the executive editor. The paper avoids printing so-called astroturf submissions, a name given by journalists to form-letters designed by organized campaigns to be submitted under local signatures. 

“We look to local origin, or for submissions on subjects of local interest. Sometimes we’ve declared a moratorium when a subject gets played out or when the discussions boil down to reiterations sent by two small groups who’ve already said everything they had to say,” Becky O’Malley said. 

One moratorium temporarily terminated a repetitious debate over AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit system, while another, imposed at least twice, involved Israel, she said.  

The Daily Planet prints a far larger share than most papers of the letters and extended commentaries readers submit, and the paper’s page count is often expanded to accommodate them. Reader opinions are not censored for content, except that personal attacks on private individuals are not published in order to avoid libel suits. Local writers are prioritized when space is tight. 

The most frequent topics for discussion in the letters and commentary pages are local issues—city government, schools, transportation, development, etc.—but the paper publishes readers’ views on national and international topics as well.  

However, Israel-Palestine is the most frequent international topic, not counting the Iraq war. Most letters and commentaries about Israel-Palestine received from Berkeley readers are critical of Israeli policies towards Palestinians, according to Justin DeFreitas, the paper’s managing editor. (See chart at left.) 

The paper itself does not take a stance on Israel-Palestine, and O’Malley, in her signed editorials, has rarely mentioned the subject. 


The campaign 

To date, Jim Sinkinson has mailed at least two signed letters to most of the Daily Planet’s advertisers, warning that customers and clients might object to their support of a paper, “one of whose main purposes seems to be the defamation of Jews and the State of Israel.” 

His first letter, sent March 7, begins, “I recently became aware of a shocking pattern of anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing in the Berkeley Daily Planet that you might not be aware of.” 

Jews, he claimed in his letter to advertisers, account for 20 percent of the city’s population and 40 percent of the residents of North Berkeley. They and other customers who know the Daily Planet, Sinkinson said, “are logically justified in believing that you support its hateful views.” 

Sinkinson compared the newspaper to a publication that “dwells on the perceived shortcomings of African-Americans ... or a publication that praises the Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan ideology.” 

He conveniently included in his March 7 missive a “NOTICE OF CANCELLATION” form, personally addressed to Daily Planet Executive Editor Becky O’Malley, and directing her to immediately cancel all the signer’s ads. 

A second letter, sent March 31, warned advertisers that “many members—likely the vast majority—of the Jewish community find the Daily Planet offensive.” 

While acknowledging that the paper publishes many Jewish writers, he cited Israeli politician and former Soviet dissident Nathan Sharansky’s definition of anti-Semitism to buttress Sinkinson’s allegation that the newspaper was guilty of that moral crime. 

“It’s anti-Semitic, he said, if it a) Demonizes Israel, b) Delegitimizes Israel, or c) applies Double standards to Israel,” Sinkinson wrote. 

One advertiser, who, like several others, asked not to be identified in print, said that she was initially frightened when a man who refused to give his name walked into her business, handed her a sheet of paper and declared, “I think it’s best that you don’t advertise in the Daily Planet.” 

Later, she said, “I thought about it, and I decided their purpose was to get us to call [the Daily Planet.] Now I think it’s best just to ignore them.” 

Houishi Ghaderi, owner of the Vault Café in South Berkeley, said he was approached at his restaurant by an angry man calling himself “Dan Patterson,” who thrust a piece of paper at Ghaderi and waved it in his face. 

Apparently an unsigned section of an e-mail printout, it read in part (including grammatical errors):  

Dear Berkeley Daily Planet advertisers: 

You have been requested to cease advertising in this publication whose owner/editor is obsessed with demonizing Israel. Because your ads continue to appear in the paper, you are likely to lose business as about 20% of Berkeley/Rockridge residents are Jewish and most are putoff [sic] by the Daily Planet’s continually [sic] attacks upon Israel. 

The newsletter listed below is e-mailed to much of the East Bay’s Jewish community and it will keep notifying its readers of businesses which continue to advertise in the Daily Planet.  

(See sidebar, “Sanne DeWitt and the Israel Action Committee of the East Bay.”)  

The visitor told Ghaderi to stop advertising in the paper. “If I didn’t,” Ghaderi said, “he told me I’d be put on a blacklist. He told me, ‘You’ve been warned.’” 

Ghaderi said he’d been receiving similar phone calls for more than a year, demanding he stop his ads with the paper: 

“They go after your family and your livelihood and make intimidating phone calls. Just because you have a First Amendment right to speak doesn’t give you the right to threaten people.” 

A native of Tehran, Ghaderi came to Berkeley in his teens to attend the university, and after working in another restaurant for several years, opened a cafe on Shattuck Avenue before moving to his current location. 

“I went to Jewish school in Tehran,” he said, though he isn’t Jewish himself. “Many of my customers are Jewish.” 

Another advertiser who has been questioned by potential customers is Matt Cantor, a home-improvement columnist for the Daily Planet and owner of Cantor Inspections, a home inspection service. 

“Any claim that Becky O’Malley is anti-Semitic is ridiculous,” said Cantor. “Becky may be many things, but anti-Semitic isn’t one of them. And I think I can say that because I’m Jewish.” 

Matt Cantor cited just one submission three years ago that he himself considered clearly anti-Semitic, an Aug. 8, 2006, reader-submitted commentary that has been repeatedly cited by the paper’s three critics in their attacks. 

Written by an Iranian student, Kurosh Arianpour, a former East Bay resident then living in India, the essay blamed anti-Semitism on the Jews and “their racist attitude that they are the ‘Chosen People.’” 

“Becky published it because she believes in free speech,” Cantor said. 

(For more information, see sidebar, “The Arianpour Affiar, and Other Controversies.”

Bruce Caplan, a former partner in Looking Glass Photo on Telegraph Avenue, said he was contacted shortly after the publication of the Arianpour commentary, by someone who said he was Dan Spitzer, who “told me I should boycott the Planet because it was anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.” 

In addition to Spitzer, Caplan said he was also “put in contact with Hal Feiger,” a real estate broker with Realty Advocates of Oakland, who tried to convince many of his professional colleagues to cancel their ads in the paper. 

“They appealed to me, I think, partly because I have a Jewish-sounding name. But I thought that even if the paper has a political bias, that didn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that it offered an opportunity for a vigorous political discussion,” Caplan, who describes himself as Jewish, said. 

“I am in favor of the State of Israel and its way of life,” he said. “But just as there are things going on here that I might not like, so there are things happening there I might not like.”  

“How many community papers are there where we can have discussions like this? That’s more important than any single issue.  

“What bothers me is that this is censorship. You’re not going to get a vigorous discussion of Berkeley and East Bay issues in the [San Francisco] Chronicle or elsewhere. If people are really concerned about what they’re reading, they can write their own letters. It’s an open community forum. Sometimes the opinions can be pretty obnoxious, but it’s a forum, and that’s what’s important.” 

The Daily Planet responded to the threats to advertisers in a March 19 editorial. 


Jim Sinkinson 

Jim Sinkinson makes a comfortable living running Oakland-based Infocom Group, a PR company that uses newsletters, recordings and seminars to advise corporations and interest groups how to influence the media to convey their messages. 

His connections with the media run deep, as is reflected in the list of speakers for his “Media Relations Summit 2009,” a May 17-19 New York conference for the public relations industry sponsored by Infocom Group’s newsletter, the Bulldog Reporter. 

Among the speakers listed on the agenda for the annual event were former CBS news anchor Dan Rather, NBC News legal affairs editor Dan Abrams, two editors from the New York Times and editors from the Associated Press, Dow Jones News Service, the Wall Street Journal, Newsday, Time magazine, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Family Circle, Self, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, O (the Oprah magazine), Playboy, Forbes, Fortune, Men’s Journal, Men’s Vogue, Details, Popular Mechanics, Crain’s New York Business and Seventeen magazines, the New York Daily News, Village Voice, MarketWatch, CBS Radio, WOR-AM Radio and and WCBS-AM. 

But as an advocate for militant ultra- Zionism, Sinkinson also serves as the director of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), a well-funded nonprofit that courts Christian fundamentalists and advertises extensively in both liberal and conservative media. 

Sinkinson runs FLAME’s website from his corporate offices in West Oakland. 

While Sinkinson blasts the Daily Planet for having allowed an intemperate reader’s opinion about Judaism to be published in the newspaper, FLAME’s own website carries many extremely disparaging comments about Islam and its followers, which the organization does not disclaim.  

Outrageous as it was, the Arianpour commentary had much in common with—and was, in some ways milder than—comments by FLAME’s favorite fundamentalist, John Hagee, a Texas minister initially courted by John McCain in his 2008 presidential run, then spurned after bloggers revealed some of the clergyman’s controversial views about Jews. 

In his book Jerusalem Countdown, the Texas reverend, like Arianpour, blamed the Jews for creating anti-Semitism, according to Hagee because of their failure “to serve only the one true God, Jehovah.” Their rebellion, he said, “birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come.” 

The same book contained Hagee’s description of Hitler as a divinely dispatched “hunter” sent to drive Europe’s Jews to Israel in preparation for the apocalypse and the Second Coming of Jesus. (For more on Hagee and FLAME, see sidebar, “Strange Bedfellows.” 

Sinkinson himself, in a March 17 e-mail to FLAME’s supporters, claimed credit for blocking Charles Freeman’s appointment by President Barack Obama to be head of the National Intelligence Council.  

“Yes!” read the headline on the e-mail. “We were successful in ousting him!” Sinkinson told FLAME supporters. The same e-mail alerted FLAME members to “another enemy of Israel,” Amnesty International.  

While Sinkinson is listed as FLAME’s director on the organization’s website and in its e-mails, the director identified on the group’s federal tax returns is Daniel Pipes. Though nothing on his own website (www.danielpipes.org) identifies his connection with FLAME, Pipes is internationally known as a harsh foe of academics critical of Israel. 

In September 2003, Pipes and Martin Kramer created Campus Watch, an organization which posts online dossiers on faculty deemed hostile to U.S. and Israeli policies. 

While it is Sinkinson who has taken the lead role as the public face of FLAME, it is Pipes who has been a lightning rod of criticism in Berkeley. His appearance at the UC Berkeley campus in 2004 provoked a heated national-headline-grabbing confrontation between his supporters and members of the school’s Muslim Student Alliance. Sinkinson, Gertz and Spitzer quickly fired off letters attacking the protesters. 

When Pipes returned to the campus last October, the event drew a smaller turnout and no protests. 

In his campaign against the Daily Planet, Sinkinson employs a classic corporate PR strategy, claiming he writes as a representative of a previously unknown group, “East Bay Citizens for Journalistic Responsibility.” He makes no mention of other members, nor his profession, describing himself only as a “businessman.” 

Sinkinson makes no mention of FLAME in his letter, but directs its recipients to a website, dpwatchdog.com. 


John Gertz 

The publisher of dpwatchdog.com is John Gertz, owner of Zorro Productions, named for the brand he owns. Zorro, an iconic figure of American fiction, is a Spanish Californio don whom Gertz insists is really a closeted Jew, a Marrano whose ancestors had faked conversion to Catholicism to avoid the Inquisition.  

His anti-Planet website is run by a separate corporate entity owned by yet another company, John Gertz Productions, Gertz said in an interview. The operations share the same staff with his Zorro firm, which operates from offices on University Avenue in the Berkeley Marina. 

Gertz has taken the most public position of the Daily Planet’s critics, launching his website Feb. 23. 

His goal, as expressed in an e-mail to Becky O’Malley, is that she and the paper “reform, or close, or bleed money until you are forced out of business or die broke.” 

While Sinkinson targets Daily Planet advertisers through the mail, Gertz uses his website, posting a list of all the paper’s advertisers along with their addresses and telephone number. 

He calls on supporters to contact the advertisers and offers three reasons for canceling their ads: 

• The paper’s “core demographic, aging radicals, is of minimal interest to potential advertisers.”  

• Advertisers “may not wish to be associated with a newspaper that publishes anti-Semitic canards and rabid anti-Israelism.” 

• Advertisers “do not wish to be associated with a newspaper whose views are so clearly harmful to business in Berkeley.” 

His site equates any columns and reader-submitted commentaries critical of Israel’s policies with anti-Semitism. 

(For more information, see sidebar, “Red Scare: Conn Hallinan.”)  

Gertz said he may have met Sinkinson socially and had run across FLAME ads. But now, he said, setting up a meeting with the public relations guru “is on my list.” 

The most civically engaged of the paper’s critics, Gertz has served on many nonprofit boards, is a past president of the Berkeley East Bay Jewish Community Center, vice chair of the board of the SETI Institute, an international organization devoted to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and has contributed to the political campaigns of Israel supporters in both the Democratic and Republican parties. 

His biography on the SETI website says he received a bachelor’s degree in comparative mythology and religion from UCLA and Prescott College and an M.A. in psychophysiology from Haifa University in Israel. 

Gertz inherited Zorro from his father, Mitchell Gertz, a Hollywood talent agent who had purchased the rights to the character first created in 1919 by pulp fiction scribe and former Police Gazette reporter Johnston McCulley. 

The caped masked-man caught the fancy of the public from the start, and McCulley penned a series of novels, big-screen serials (including one starring Clayton Moore, later television’s legendary Lone Ranger) and feature films starring Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power. 

McCulley sold his rights to the character to Mitchell Gertz in 1950. Five years after Gertz licensed the character to Walt Disney in 1952, the character became the subject of a popular children’s series that ran for two years on ABC. 

The elder Gertz died in 1961. 

His son now runs Zorro Productions, Inc., from a Berkeley office at 125 University Ave., on the Berkeley Marina, overseeing an entertainment empire that includes novels (including a Zorro prequel by Isabel Allende), films, comic books, a comic strip, plays, a video game, swords and more films—including features starring Alain Delon, Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins. 

A lavish Zorro stage musical produced with Allende recently closed in London and is scheduled for an October opening in Paris at the Folies Bergère. 

In addition to his role as proprietor of the Zorro empire, Gertz is one of the East Bay’s most militant Zionists and, like Spitzer, a frequent writer of letters and placer of phone calls to local newspapers whenever he perceives coverage he construes as inimical to Israel. 

Gertz’s passion even carries over into his perception of the character he inherited from his father. During the July 5, 1999, Oakland premier of the feature film The Mask of Zorro, he told an intern for J, the Jewish news weekly, that the fictional Spaniard created by a writer with a distinctively Scots-Irish name was in fact secretly not a Catholic. 

“It’s quite obvious Zorro is very Jewish,” Gertz told Joshua Schuster. 

“His family has escaped to the far reaches of the Spanish empire in California. He is interested in matters of justice. He has a hidden identity. He is clearly a Marrano. He is definitely Jewish and ready to come out of the closet at our premiere.” 

Marranos were Jews who had ostensibly converted to Christianity to save themselves from persecution. 

And just as Gertz is able to find hidden Jews in a pulp fiction work by a Canadian-born writer, he’s also able to find anti-Semitism in an equally peculiar place, the writings of Jews who send their commentaries and letters to the Berkeley Daily Planet. 

He contends that only religiously observant Jews should have any say about Israel. 

In an interview at his office, Gertz said he would like to see a crucial change in the law that grants automatic Israeli citizenship to seculars with Jewish mothers. 

Gertz described the Planet as “a font of anti-Semitism,” with criticism of Israel serving as a stand-in for the more traditional forms of anti-Jewish prejudice. Once he realized that, he said, “I began to realize the Daily Planet has serious other deficiencies and malfeasances.” 

Gertz, who said he has never read a book about the Nazi Holocaust, said he hadn’t even considered that anti-Semitism existed in California until he read the Daily Planet. Soon the paper had become one of “the three pillars of sin in Berkeley,” Gertz said, along with the city’s Peace and Justice Commission and KPFA radio.  

During the interview, Gertz repeatedly accused Becky O’Malley of publishing “hate speech,” all of it directed, until recently, at Israel. 

“Until recently, hate speech was only applied to Jews and Israel,” but not “gays, blacks and Muslims. Only recently has it been directed against another group, against police officers.”  

Two advertisers said anonymous callers also told them that the newspaper “advocates the murder of Oakland police officers.” 

A search of the paper’s archives finds no call for killing police in Oakland or anywhere else, though one recent reader submission did express the opinion that many black and brown residents didn’t mourn the killing of four Oakland officers because of their long, troubled relationship with the police. (For more information, see sidebar, “‘Kill the Cops, Kill the Jews,’ and Other Fabricated Quotes.”

Gertz said he has been working with Dan Spitzer, whom he called “a fantastic source of information on the radical left. He used to move in that crowd until he went from the radical left to the reasonable far left. He’s my go-to guy when it comes to figuring out who someone is. I really don’t believe he would lie to me. I’ve never found him to be dishonest.” 

But Spitzer is, he concedes, “an angry guy.” 

In an e-mail sent to Becky O’Malley before launching his website, Gertz asked O’Malley to review his material (she declined) “before we launch our PR and marketing campaign, which we believe will largely increase our readership.” 

Gertz said that while he hopes the Daily Planet reforms, it’s something he sees as only a remote chance as long as Becky O’Malley heads the paper.  

But there’s another possibility on the horizon, he said. A wealthy member of Berkeley’s Jewish community is talking about starting an online-only news source. Just who, Gertz wouldn’t say. 


Dan Spitzer 

Dan Spitzer (or as he also signs his letters to editors, “Daniel Spitzer,” “Daniel C. Spitzer,” and “Daniel C. Spitzer, Ph.D.”) is the most enigmatic of the Daily Planet’s critics. 

Though he describes himself as a journalist, the only works that show up under his name on Internet searches are a series of travel books, none of recent vintage—though many articles published in magazines and newspapers before the launch of the Internet are not listed in online databases. 

Spitzer’s recent output seems to consist almost entirely of letters to the editors of newspapers written in support of Israel and condemning those who criticize it.  

(To be fair, Spitzer also wrote other letters —at least one critical of a baseball player and another urging that the government give mandatory contraceptive shots to all teenage schoolgirls to “relieve taxpayers from the expense of supporting their children.” Both were published in the San Francisco Chronicle.)  

A search of the Amazon.com and Alibris websites reveals that he has written travel books, but none recently and the earliest in the 1970s. Most appear to be out of print. 

Spitzer has also written that he had taught journalism at two Bay Area community colleges.  

In answer to an East Bay Express reader’s challenge to his journalism credentials, Spitzer replied by saying “it’s been a while since I’ve written pieces.” He said that “in my later years” he has written or coauthored nine travel books, explaining his e-mail handle “danguide.” 

But like Sinkinson and Gertz, Spitzer is quick to pounce on anything appearing in print that criticizes Israeli policies, especially those submissions concerning violence towards Palestinians and other Middle Eastern nations. 

Spitzer’s letters are frequently sharp ad hominem attacks, often scurrilous, O’Malley said, leading her to ban him from the editorial pages. 

In one missive to the Daily Planet’s executive editor, he called the publication “a very bad joke ... a tiring succession of anti-development and anti-Semitic editorials, op-eds and letters from your Stalinist, Jewish hating pals.” O’Malley herself, he wrote, “is as dumb as the proverbial post.” 

His attacks go further, much further than his claim that she is “an anti-Semitic bigot.” 

Consider the following, contained in an e-mail of May 18, 2007, which begins with the salutation “Becky Bumpkin.” From there it rapidly descends into a final crescendo of vituperation: 

“Having seen you, I won’t say ‘fat’ does your corpulence justice. If you ever ran a centerfold spread of yourself in the BDP (now that’s truly a disgusting thought) it would surely spread over the paper’s pages. 

“BTW, I saw you swimming in the Delta the other day. It will surprise no one that you are, par usual, ‘lost.’ And I must say that your spout is truly prodigious.” 

That reference was one of several where insults to her person are intermixed with his references to the Daily Planet, which he described in another missive sent last month as “such a bigoted, moronically biased piece of ass-wipe paper.” 

Not content with writing, Spitzer has called O’Malley repeatedly, leaving mocking messages which she has played back for the paper’s staff. 

Spitzer refused to be interviewed for this story. (See sidebar, “Two Refusals.”

Spitzer has taken a leading role in calling the newspaper’s advertisers, one of whom said she had been “terrified by the call,” though she eventually decided to continue placing her organization’s advertisements in the paper. 

Spitzer has left little by way of a recent paper trail in the public record, save for a 2004 Chapter 7 bankruptcy action filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. 

Berkeley activist Art Goldberg said he knew Spitzer for several years, ending about nine years ago. 

“He seemed like a guy who didn’t have much to do,” Goldberg said. “We used to go to ball games together, and he’d get very worked up about whatever it was that he was talking about.” 

Goldberg, who grew up in New York in a Jewish family, said he had little sympathy for the critics. “To me, it’s a free speech issue, intimidation by people who put a foreign government’s line ahead of what’s best for the U.S.,” he said. 

The irony, he said, is that “you’ll find articles in Haaretz , an Israeli paper, that if you published them in the Daily Planet, these guys would go through the roof.” 


No end in sight 

The O’Malleys’ goal for the Daily Planet has always been to merely break even. They haven’t yet, and the economy isn’t helping; many other newspapers are suffering these days. And though the current advertising boycott isn’t much help either, the O’Malleys say it hasn’t had much effect, if any. In fact, revenue has increased slightly since the campaign against the paper began.  

One of the paper’s most faithful advertisers, real estate broker Gloria Polanski, said she will continue to support the publication. 

Polanski said she had met only one of the paper’s critics, John Gertz, when he screened a 1998 premiere of his first Zorro film at a Jack London Square benefit for Jewish charities, including Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay. “I served on the committee,” Polanski said, and in that capacity met Gertz and his wife. 

“They seemed very nice,” she said. 

She hasn’t met Spitzer or Sinkinson, though she did receive Sinkinson’s letters. 

Polanski said she will continue to support the newspaper, “because we need it for the local news. It’s so useful to the community. There is no one else who is covering the City Council, the Planning Commission and other civic bodies. 

“We need it for its investigations of local developers, local ordinances and other institutions. It’s an important watchdog for local politics, and an important public service. That’s why I support it,” she said. 

That said, however, Polanski added, “While there should be an open forum for free speech, maybe it’s time for a moratorium on the Middle East.” 



The Arianpour Affair and Other Controversies 

Strange Bedfellows 

Red Scare: Conn Hallinan 

Sidebar: Red Scare: Conn Hallinan

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:15:00 AM

John Gertz has singled out Daily Planet columnist Conn Hallinan for an extra measure of rancor, resorting to red-baiting when all else fails. 

Hallinan, a veteran journalist and columnist for both the Daily Planet and Foreign Policy in Focus, makes no secret of his red past. 

“Yes, I was a communist,” says Hallinan, scion of one of the Bay Area’s legendarily progressive families. “But I haven’t been in years.” 

Hallinan’s wife and children are Jewish and he attends synagogue with them. He identifies himself as a supporter of Israel. 

Gertz said that while he doesn’t have a problem with the paper running columns “by a communist, at least he should be identified as what he is.” 

On his website, the producer-turned-media critic declares, “we will tell you now and in bold print: HALLINAN IS A LIFE LONG COMMUNIST .”  

And while Gertz insists that “Hallinan is obsessed with Israel,” Hallinan himself said , “As of May 18, I have written 87 columns. Just short of 11 of them concerned Israel, three this year.”  

Dpwatchdog makes one readily disproven claim, alleging that “Hallinan continues to write for” the “People’s [sic] Weekly World,” the Communist Party’s newspaper. 

A search of the paper’s website does reveal articles by Hallinan, but at the bottom of each of those that appear in the online index is the notation: “Conn Hallinan is a Foreign Policy in Focus columnist. This article is reprinted from www.fpif.org with permission of the author.” 

Gertz hasn’t restricted his criticism about Hallinan’s Daily Planet columns to the website. He also published a letter on the J Weekly website on March 26, which declared, “The Daily Planet’s foreign affairs analyst, Communist Party member, Conn Hallinan, devotes about 75% of his columns to anti-Israel commentary.” 

But Hallinan notes that the website, at his insistence, pulled Gertz’s letter at [which is still posted at dpwatchdog.com] and replaced it with one of Hallinan’s which refuted Gertz’s contentions.  

Back at dpwatchdog, Gertz continues to assert that “Hallinan may no longer be a ‘card-carrying’ communist, but he appears to be a communist who no longer carries a card.” 

Sidebar: ‘Kill the Cops, Kill the Jews,’ and Other Fabricated Quotes

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:11:00 AM

“Kill the cops, Kill the Jews,” screams the dpwatchdog headline, adding “The First Amendment as the Last Refuge of Scoundrels.”  

The target of John Gertz’s attack, prompted by a reader commentary appearing in the Daily Planet on April 11, 2009, is Joseph Anderson, an outspoken African-American activist who says Gertz has relied on a misinterpretation of his essay and a fabricated quote. 

Anderson’s commentary, “The ‘Karmic Justice’ of Lovelle Mixon’s Act,” has sparked anonymous call to advertisers falsely alleging that the Daily Planet advocates murdering police. 

Harshly critical of the Oakland Police Department, Annderson’s op-ed contends that many among Oakland’s black and brown population saw the March 21 killings of four Oakland police officers following the traffic stop of wanted felon Mixon as a form of karmic payback for past police abuses of people of color. 

While the essay angered some letter writers, it did not advocate killing police officers, whether to obtain good karma—as the headline of one of Gertz’s two entries on the column implies (”an article filled with pure hate”)—or otherwise. 

Gertz declares that author Joseph Anderson is an anti-Semite. The entry is a submission from Dan Spitzer, who bases the anti-Semitism claim on an alleged website comment that Spitzer claims Anderson posted on March 1, 2005, appended to an article on the Indybay website. 

Asked if had seen the comment himself, Gertz said, “No, but [Spitzer] has assured me he has a paper copy.” 

A search of the Internet for the comment yielded only two hits, one on Gertz’s website and the other on www.targetsofopportunity.com, a site which is “devoted to fighting terrorism and the forced integration of Marxism/Socialism/Communism into the American mainstream.”  

Visitors to the site find a call to action, telling them, “These anti-American liberals are dangerous people that can no longer be ignored! One person can make a difference! There are those who read about history. There are those who want to make history. Which one do you want to be? It is time to get involved. These people are Enemies of Freedom, the American people, and the American way of life!!! Each and every one should be considered a ‘Target of Opportunity.’” 

Despite the American flags prominently displayed on its pages, the website is hosted on an anonymous Canadian server, outside the reach of subpoenas from state and local courts south of the Canadian border. 

While Anderson’s alleged Indymedia comment is listed under “Quotations from Famous People,” the Targets of Opportunity site also carries “The Hit List” of individuals and organizations alleged to “actively and openly support those that are trying to cause the destruction of the United States from within.” 

Two local entries found on this much shorter list are “Berkeley City Council” and local forest preservation activist Karen Pickett. 

The alleged Anderson comment begins, “Personally I *EXULT* everytime I see an Israeli Jew bite the dust,” and declares every Jew worldwide “a just an appropriate target for anti-colonialist liberation.” 

The comments ends with “’BOUT TO MEET YO MAKER, JEWBOY? HA, HA HA!!!!!!!!” 

But Anderson said there’s one problem with the comment. He didn’t write it. 

“As you know, at most Indymedia websites there is absolutely no verification (or attempted verification) of a comment poster’s identity,” Anderson said, charging that “some hardcore Zionists have often liked to use that fact to try to smear by impersonating others, in particular, anti-racists and thus overtly anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian activists, like myself.” 

“If anyone of importance to me and in the Bay Area progressive activist community ever believed that I made that quote, then I would have expected all of my Jewish friends—including writers, book authors, human rights organization leaders, etc., all of them anti-Zionist activists, as well as their being, among others, progressive activists in general —to have abandoned me.” 

They haven’t, he said. 

Anderson said neither Gertz nor Spitzer contacted him to verify the quotation. 

Indymedia sites for other cities, including Los Angeles and Cleveland, have carried anti-Daily Planet posts that have been copied and pasted from John Gertz’s website. 


Sidebar: Strange Bedfellows

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:16:00 AM

FLAME’s founder and president is octogenarian Holocaust survivor Gerardo Joffe. In 1967, Joffe founded Haverhill’s, a mail order firm that has advertised heavily in both liberal magazines—including The Nation—as well as conservative magazines such as National Review. 

Joffe later sold Haverhill’s and started a virtually identical operation, Jomira, which advertises in the same publications and sells some of the same—albeit rebranded—products. 

According to a Feb. 27, 2001, Village Voice article by Cynthia Cotts, New York Times columnist “Anthony Lewis denounced a FLAME ad as a ‘sorry evasion of reality,’ and in 1998, FLAME ran an ad calling the Islamic religion ‘virulent’ and blaming Islam for promoting violence against the United States and Israel. When a reporter pointed out the overt bigotry ... Joffe said, ‘All Arab Muslims may not be a bunch of fanatics, but I've never met one who isn’t.’”  

FLAME’s ads in The Nation have drawn heated criticism, leading that cash-strapped icon of the left to impose a higher fee on the organization’s ads in 2005, according to a letter of complaint Joffe sent to Victor Navasky, the magazine’s Jewish publisher. This letter is now posted on the FLAME website under the heading, “Why does the left oppose Israel?” 

After alleging that FLAME was being charged twice the rate as Jomira for its ads, Joffe said “all magazines, other than The Nation, especially those of a ‘rightist’ persuasion (National Review, Human Events, Spectator) love our advertising and have run it for many years at a favorable rate.”  

After another FLAME ad in The Nation’s Jan. 9-16, 2006, issue sparked what an unsigned editorial described as “a flurry of ‘How could you’ (or worse) e-mails from our readers,” the editors said the publication’s policy was to accept FLAME’s advertisement as part of “our editorial commitment to free speech.” 

But while The Nation endorsed the medium, it didn’t back FLAME’s message, declaring, “And let’s be clear: The editors find the views of FLAME quite repugnant.”  


John Hagee 

FLAME has courted Christian fundamentalists, including John Hagee, a San Antonio minister and militant Christian Zionist. 

As founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), Hagee is a strong supporter of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, perhaps the country’s leading Zio-Con lobby. 

In an article circulated by FLAME, Hagee recounted seven biblical reasons Christians should support Israel, the last reading: “We support Israel because all other nations were created by an act of men, but Israel was created by an act of God! The Royal Land Grant that was given to Abraham and his seed through Isaac and Jacob with an everlasting and unconditional covenant.” 

Sinkinson wrote glowingly of Hagee in an April 11, 2007, “FLAME Hotline” e-mail to supporters, declaring that “Evangelicals are important to the pro-Israel movement because they number over 50 million in the U.S. alone, compared with five million U.S. Jews, many of whose support for Israel is tentative at best.”  

Many FLAME contributions come from Christians, Sinkinson wrote, “and we have always heartily welcomed their blessings.” 

The FLAME message said Hagee’s support for Israel drew “numerous standing ovations” when he addressed an AIPAC convention. 

Sinkinson’s message was widely reprinted on fundamentalist Christian blogs. 

Sen. Joseph Lieberman has also spoken glowingly of Hagee, describing him as Moses-like at a CUFI conclave. 

The former vice presidential candidate told the CUFI gathering on July 18, 2007 , “I want to take the liberty of describing Paster Hagee in the words that the Torah uses to describe Moses. He is an Ish Elohim, a man of God.” 

Republican presidential candidate John McCain courted Hagee’s endorsement last year, and when he won it, held a highly publicized Feb. 27, 2008, press conference to tout his newest ecclesiastic imprimatur. 

And then it began to crumble, due to the efforts of bloggers at talk2action.org, a website that covers the world of the Christian Right. The day after the endorsement, blogger Bruce Wilson laid out the details of Hagee’s peculiar theology .  

Quoting Hagee’s book, Jerusalem Countdown, Wilson cited the pastor’s claim that “Hitler’ and the Nazis were sent by God, agents of ‘God’s boundless love ... for the Jewish people.’ ” 

After God sent the “fishermen to Israel ... the Zionists, men like Theodore Herzl, who called the Jews of Europe and the World to come to Palestine to establish the Jewish state,” he then “sent the hunters... the force and fear of Hitler’s Nazis drove the Jewish people back to the only home God had ever intended for the Jews to have—Israel. 

“I am stricken with awe and wonder at His boundless love for Israel and the Jewish people,” Hagee wrote. 

As Wilson noted, “The implication of Hagee’s writing is that the Jews have no legitimate right to live anywhere else but in Israel, where per Hagee’s beliefs they will soon all but be destroyed, reduced to a ‘remnant’ and converted to Christianity.” 

More revelations surfaced, including the oldest of anti-Semitic canards, with Hagee blaming the world’s plight on “a group of people ... who call themselves the Illuminati,” which he described as “a super secret organization of international power brokers in Europe, who had as their goal a worldwide economic power, and they would rule the world through economic wealth.” 

Their descendants today include, Hagee told his congregation on March 23, 2003, Alan Greenspan, “the Rothschilds of Europe and the David Rockefellers of America,” Wilson reported , citing a hauntingly similar quote from the Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew. 

On the same day that Wilson fired his initial volley, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights President Bill Donohue fired a second fusillade, demanding McCain repudiate Hagee’s endorsement just days after Barack Obama had spurned an unsolicited endorsement from Louis Farrakhan. 

Glen Greenwald reported his conversation with Donohue in a Feb. 28, 2008 post at Salon.com. 

Donohue told Greenwald, “Hagee is far more powerful than Farrakhan is today ... If someone said to me, who is the biggest anti-Catholic bigot in the evangelical community, I would say: Hands down, John Hagee.” 

Even with the controversy, it took McCain until May 22 to issue a statement renouncing the endorsement , which he said was sparked in large part by Hagee’s belief in a divinely inspired Shoah. 

“Obviously, I find these remarks and others offensive and indefensible. I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well,” McCain said.  

But none of this appears on FLAME’s website, only Sinkinson’s praise of Hagee and the contrafactual declaration that the reasons for Evangelical support of Israel “have nothing to do with hastening the Apocalypse, a myth often repeated in Jewish circles, but which has no part in the thinking of most Evangelicals.” 

A search of FLAME’s website on May 1 for “Hagee” yielded only two hits, Sinkinson’s original and a printer-ready version of the FLAME director’s paen to the pastor’s “eye-opening and useful” scriptural exegesis. 

Sinkinson, though a visceral critic of the Berkeley Daily Planet, hasn’t one harsh word for a powerful minister who rehashes some of the founding myths of racist anti-Semitism . 


Daniel Pipes 

Tax returns for FLAME list three names under the heading “Current Officers, Directors, Trustees, and Key Employees”: Gerardo Joffe as president, Priscilla Joffee as vice president and Daniel Pipes—not Sinkinson—as director. 

The son of a conservative Harvard historian, Pipes has emerged as one of the nation’s most visible Zio-Cons. He runs the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, and after the 9/11 attacks called for taking the “war on terror” into Iran, Iraq and the Sudan. 

Pipes was a relentless opponent of Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency, writing in the Oct. 23, 2008, edition of Jewish World Review about “new information confirming Obama’s Muslim childhood” and “Obama’s connections and even indebtedness, throughout his career, to extremist Islam.” 

The headline on the article read “Obama Would Fail Security Clearance.” 

Pipes, one of the most ardent proponents of the invasion of Iraq, told an Australian television reporter in 2006 that while he hoped that nation wouldn’t erupt into civil war, if it did happen, “it doesn’t very much affect those of us who don’t live in Iraq. It’s not really our problem.”  


Other links 

During the last three years for which IRS returns are available, FLAME reported taking in gross receipts of $2,997,654, of which direct public support accounted for $2,330,032. 

During the same three-year period, FLAME spent $1,352,696 on mass media ads, $133,850 on direct mail fundraising and an additional $200,772 on “educational” mailings. 

The forms report $70,552 in costs to maintain the group’s Internet site, and while the tax documents don’t list the payee, separate “Statements of Condition” found on the organizational website reveal that the recipient is Sinkinson’s Infocom Group. 

Jomira, FLAME founder Gerardo Joffe’s mail-order business, also takes $77,311 to cover office expenses. 

The organization has no paid executive or managerial staff and prepares its own ads and mailings.  

While FLAME’s tax returns list the organization’s annual income and expenditures, they offer no details on the source of the money that FLAME uses to lobby on behalf of a small nation half a world away. 

One small source of revenue with potentially far-reaching impacts listed on the group’s IRS Form 990 is “mailing list royalty,” revenues the group claims are justified as tax-exempt because they are “sold to other 501 (c) 3 organizations in order to gain access to other nonprofit organization’s mailing list.” (501 (c) 3 refers to the tax code section which defines nonprofits.) 

One Israeli firm engaged in marketing FLAME’s mailing list, Negev Direct Marketing, cites a list of just such organizations which have used the 29,701 addresses on FLAME’s list. Some of the organizations sharing’s FLAME’s addresses are: 

• AIPAC, which bills itself as “America’s Pro Israel Lobby.” 

• American Friends of Magen David Adom, created in 1940, and which describes itself as “the first and only disaster relief organization which operates according to the principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.” First among its legal responsibilities is “providing auxiliary service to Israel’s Army Medical Corps in wartime,” treating the wounded and caring for refugees. 

• Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, which has the motto, “Their job is to look after Israel. Our job is to look after them.” 

• Gesher, an educational foundation “committed to strengthening the fabric of Israeli Society through the appreciation of our shared Jewish heritage and common destiny.” One of the group’s primary functions, at the request of the IDF, is operation of “the Gesher-IDF Officer Jewish Identity Program to help counter the deep divisions in Israeli society that are reflected in the IDF.” 

• JINSA, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which has the dual role of promoting the U.S. military within the United States and “to inform the American defense and foreign affairs community about the important role Israel can and does play in bolstering democratic interests in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.” 

• The Zionist Organization of America. 

For the three years for which tax returns are available online, income from mailing list sales accounted for less than one percent of FLAME’s total gross receipts, weighing in at $23,298. 


Sidebar: Will the Real Dan Spitzer Please Stand Up?

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:12:00 AM

Responding in December 2007 to a critic who had questioned his journalistic credentials in the East Bay Express letters column, Spitzer called the critic lazy , then cited “the Google index in which my name is referenced 1,340,000 times.” Note that Spitzer said “in which my name is referenced,” not “in which I am referenced.” 

A recent check with the Internet indexing service turned up far fewer references to any of the three variants he has used to sign his name. “Daniel Spitzer” came up with 15,400 Google hits, “Daniel C. Spitzer” scored 85 hits and “Dan Spitzer” was listed 2,450 times. 

But most of the “Dan” and Daniel” hits referred to a New York physician who is the brother of Elliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York. 



Sidebar: Two Refusals

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:10:00 AM

Both Jim Sinkinson and Dan Spitzer declined to be interviewed for this article. 

When a reporter reached Sinkinson at his office on May 7 and asked for an interview, the media relations adviser said, “Possibly. About what?” 

“About your campaign against the Daily Planet,” the reporter said. 

“That seems like a dangerous thing to do,” Sinkinson replied. 

“How come?” 

“I don’t trust your newspaper. I think from a journalism standpoint, I can’t trust you. Becky lies. Becky changed a letter I wrote and then lied about it.” 

After the call ended, the reporter asked Justin DeFreitas, the paper’s managing editor, to search for all submissions Sinkinson had sent the paper. Only one was located, and the only change made had been to spell out the abbreviation “E.U.” as “European Union, consistent with the paper’s style. 

Told of the results of the search in a second call later that afternoon, Sinkinson voiced another complaint. The URL for Gertz’ dpwatchdog.com had clearly been deleted from a commentary by Mary Lou Van Deventer , whose submission was supportive of the paper and sharply critical of Sinkinson’s effort to convince her company, UrbanOre, to withdraw its advertising. The piece “had been edited so badly that it was obvious” that the paper had omitted the web address, Sinkinson said. DeFreitas confirmed that the name of the site had been removed on deadline, as Executive Editor Becky O’Malley was not eager to give Gertz more publicity.  

Sinkinson said that while he had looked at some of the reporter’s stories, “which seem to be respectable,” he was still inclined not to give an interview, but to call the following day, Friday, May 8. 

During a follow-up call the next day, Sinkinson said, “I frankly don’t trust the Daily Planet to do a good article on this subject. I would be happy to write a commentary piece about anti-Semitism in the Daily Planet, but I don’t really feel that submitting to an interview would accomplish my objectives. I don’t feel it would contribute to an understanding.” 

“Don’t you think you might be prejudging the result?” the reporter asked. 

“It doesn’t have to do with you as a journalist, but with the people you work with,” Sinkinson said. 

He also e-mailed a letter he said had been sent to the paper about Van Deventer’s commentary, but the letter didn’t appear in the paper’s e-mail folders, DeFreitas said. According to DeFreitas, nothing in the letter would have precluded its publication. 

Though the paper has a fairly open policy regarding the letters to the editor, Executive Editor Becky O’Malley stopped running Gertz’s submissions after he threatened to sue the paper over letters that criticized his attacks on the paper and its readers. The paper has stopped running Spitzer’s letters too, due to his proclivity for scurrilous ad hominem attacks on individuals.  

In explaining his own reasons for declining an interview, Spitzer was more succinct than Sinkinson. 

When a reporter e-mailed an interview request May 7, Spitzer replied, “Given the dubious journalistic practices of the Daily Planet, I cannot imagine that its owner/editor would publish verbatim the truthful responses I would make to your questions. Thus I will decline. 

“I do have a question for you. Although I realize these are hard times in the newspaper business, how can you justify continuing to report for a newspaper so given to such manifest biases and falsehoods. Once the paper folds—and it surely will—editors elsewhere who are conversant with the Planet might be less than enthusiastic to hire anyone who toiled for it. 

“PS: In leaving the Planet, Judith Scheer [sic] demonstrated the sort of integrity ethical editors elsewhere understand.” (Scherr is a former Daily Planet reporter who announced her departure in a widely circulated e-mail.) 

A follow-up e-mail to Spitzer, offering to post a full recording of the proposed interview on the newspaper’s website, was also rebuffed.  

Spitzer’s enthusiasm for Scherr contradicts his previous opinion about the value of her journalism. In a Nov.17, 2006 e-mail to the Daily Planet, Spitzer wrote: ‘[I]n the guise of a traditional newspaper, O’Malley is providing our community with little more than a sounding board for her own ill-informed biases. You can see this in every bit of allegedly unbiased reportage by old lefty Judith Scherr or the rantings of Conn Hallinan, former editor of the Communist Party’s Peoples Daily World.” 

John Gertz has also referred to Scherr’s departure from the paper, listing her as a heroine on his website.  

Scherr now reports for KPFA, the station identified by both men as belonging to Berkeley’s pantheon of media infamy. 

Spitzer’s most recent letter about the Daily Planet was published in the May 20 edition of the East Bay Express. The letter identifies the Daily Planet and KFPA as “twin ministries of hate” and lauds John Gertz for his “meticulous research” in compiling his anti-Planet website—with no mention of the fact that Spitzer is one of Gertz’s primary sources of information. 

Sidebar: The Arianpour Affair, and Other Controversies

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:16:00 AM

Though most reader submissions the Daily Planet has published on the Israel-Palestine conflict have been based on legal and moral arguments, the Aug. 8, 2006, reader-submitted commentary by Kurosh Arianpour crossed a critical threshold, perceived by many as extending beyond a criticism of Israel and its supporters to an attack on all Jews. 

“It was anti-Semitic, and the paper shouldn’t have run it,” said Gloria Polanski, one of the paper’s current advertisers.  

Criticism also came from inside the paper, where several members of the newsroom staff expressed their regrets that the commentary had run. 

The backlash was immediate and intense. 

Nine rabbis and 14 leaders of Jewish community groups signed a letter “to express our pain and disappointment at your use of your newspaper for promoting hatred against Jews” and calling Arianpour’s commentary “not only hurtful and hateful but dangerous.” 

A second letter , submitted by Rabbi Ferenc Raj of Berkeley’s Congregation Beth El, condemned the letter as an example of racism that “violates all that our city and region stands for” and calling on “Ms. O’Malley to apologize to the community.” 

Signatories included the then-mayors of Berkeley, Emeryville and Oakland, then-Assemblymember Loni Hanock and then-state Sen. Don Perata and four members of the Berkeley City Council.  

Other criticisms came in print, including pieces by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson and Will Harper of the East Bay Express.  

O’Malley wrote an editorial about the importance of free speech, and another explaining to Arianpour, who is not a native speaker of English, the serious implications of using the term “anti-Semitism” and rejecting a second submission from him. 

Calls by critics for a meeting with the editor foundered when O’Malley agreed to the meeting but called for it to occur in a public forum and, she said, none of the signers of the letters were willing to meet with her in public. 

The Arianpour commentary may have provided the Planet’s critics with its best ammunition, but the first push for an advertiser boycott came well before that controversy, after the April 16, 2004, publication of an editorial cartoon by Daily Planet editorial cartoonist and now Managing Editor Justin DeFreitas. 

His “State of Palestine” cartoon used the American, Israeli and Palestinian flags in an image protesting what the artist considered the Bush administration’s hypocrisy in posing as a mediator in the conflict while throwing its full support behind the policies of Israel’s Sharon administration.  

The paper printed letters from Jews and Gentiles of both support and condemnation, until readers complained and a moratorium on the topic was put in place. Critics cited the use of the Star of David—the central symbol from the Israeli flag—as blatant anti-Semitism. In addition to the letters to the editor, DeFreitas said he received about a dozen anonymous calls from angry readers, some threatening.  

DeFreitas followed a week later with a commentary in defense of his work, pointing out that the Star of David’s presence on the Israeli flag makes it a political symbol, indeed the national symbol. 

“If you can’t use a nation’s flag to symbolize that nation, what else is there?” DeFreitas said. 


Sidebar: Sanne DeWitt and the Israel Action Committee of the East Bay

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:11:00 AM

A man identifying himself as “Dan Patterson” walked into South Berkeley’s Vault Cafe recently and brandished a letter in the face of proprietor Houishi Ghaderi which threatened consequences for any business which continued to advertise in the Daily Planet,  

The paper contained no signature, but it did state that a newsletter “e-mailed to much of the East Bay’s Jewish community” will continually list the newspaper’s advertisers. 

The newsletter listed in the e-mail is the IACEB Activist Newsletter, published in electronic format by the Israel Action Committee of the East Bay, which is headed by Sanne DeWitt. The handout delivered to Ghaderi marked the group’s first open involvement in the Daily Planet boycott. 

DeWitt, herself a Holocaust survivor, was the sponsor of a controversial Jan. 16, 2005, exhibition of the ruins of a Jerusalem bus at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, adjacent to City Hall. 

That event was marked by heated encounters between Palestinians and their supporters and militant Jews and their supporters from Christians for Israel. The intervention of police in riot gear was required when the confrontation briefly turned to violence. 

The centerpiece was the hull of a bus destroyed by a suicide bomber on Jan. 29, 2004, who took the lives of 11 passengers. According to Front Page Magazine, DeWitt was inspired to bring the bus to Berkeley after she saw it on display at AIPAC’s annual meeting in Washington in 2004. 

IACEB’s newsletter was also center-stage in a second controversy that earned a denunciation from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in February 2008. 

According to a Cox News Service story of Feb. 16, the campaign denounced an e-mail which contained an article from an IACEB newsletter denouncing Obama’s advisers as “Israel haters.” 

According to Cox reporter Larry Lipman, “The article circulating in the e-mail claims that Obama is getting advice on Israel from advisers who oppose Israel and are sympathetic to the Palestinians and Iran.” 

The central focus was Harvard professor Samantha Power, a member of the faculty of the university’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. A former journalist, Power is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. 

Based on Power’s criticism of Israel’s 2007 invasion of Southern Lebanon, the IACEB article asked, “Does anyone think that if the time comes that Power has President Obama’s ear, she will advise him to do anything other than repudiate America’s greatest ally in the Middle East in favor of appeasing its greatest enemy?” 

Obama’s campaign called the article an outrageous smear, Lipman wrote, And Florida U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler told Lipman, “I think it’s fair to say that no one in Congress is more dedicated to Israel’s security than I am, and that’s why Sen. Obama includes me at this level” as an adviser on Israel policy. 

When Lipman called DeWitt, he reports , she told him that the article was compiled from a variety of sources, and “I don’t vouch for the accuracy of the information in any specific article.” 

Power later resigned from the Obama campaign in March after describing Obama rival Hillary Clinton as “a monster” in an interview with a reporter from The Scotsman. After the election, she joined the president-elect’s transition team, and after the inauguration was named director for multilateral affairs on the National Security Council. 

Another Daily Planet advertiser initially rebuffed the threat when she received a copy of the letter, which she characterized as “someone’s distorted views and vicious ways.” But she said that because several Jewish customers had announced they wouldn’t do business with the company anymore, she had decided to cancel the ads because she couldn’t afford “to get tangled in a political battle, right or wrong.” 

Sanne DeWitt, reached at her home May 15, declined to comment for this article but did say “I have never called for a boycott” of the paper. 

However, DeWitt did write a letter to the editor a few years ago, published in the April 23, 2004, edition of the Daily Planet, following the publication of an editorial cartoon which she characterized as anti-Semitic. “This cartoon reminds me of Nazi art which libeled the German Jews in the 1930s,” DeWitt wrote. “I will not patronize any of your advertisers and I will tell them so.” 

DeWitt is an assertive defender of Israel and told readers of J Weekly in November, “Jews have the responsibility to demand respect from other groups and they have the right to protect themselves when attacked. ‘Turning The Other Cheek’ is asking for trouble. Groveling and cringing are not proper responses from a proud people.”  

Police Still Looking for Last Suspect in West Berkeley Homicide

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday June 09, 2009 - 03:28:00 PM
Rafael Campbell.
Rafael Campbell.

Authorities are looking for the last suspect wanted in connection with the murder of Berkeley resident Charles Davis. 

The City of Berkeley is offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Rafael Campbell, 24. 

Davis, 25, was fatally shot and killed May 16 at 10th Street and Allston Way in West Berkeley. The shooters fled the scene, pursued by Berkeley police in a high-speed chase, ultimately leading to the death of two innocent bystanders near Children’s Hospital in Oakland. Police have arrested three of the suspects. 

Campbell is also wanted for the car crash, which took the lives of Todd Perea, 27, of Brentwood, and Floyd Ross, 41, of Berkeley. Berkeley police said Campbell should be considered armed and dangerous. 

Bay Area Crime Stoppers (BACS) is also offering a $2,000 reward. 

Detectives are asking for the community’s help with this investigation. Anyone with any information regarding this crime is urged to call the BPD Homicide Detail at 981-5741(office) or 981-5900 (non-emergency dispatch line). Callers who wish to remain anonymous can the BACS Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). 


First Swine Flu Death Reported in Alameda County

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday June 09, 2009 - 03:28:00 PM

Alameda County reported its first swine flu death Tuesday, a middle-aged man who tested positive for the H1N1 virus and had pre-existing chronic health conditions. 

He had been hospitalized for the flu, county health officials said. 

Sherri Willis, a spokesperson for the Alameda County Public Heath Department, said the county was not releasing any other information about the patient, except that he lived in Alameda County and had “local family members.” 

The man had no recent travel history to Mexico. 

“We are saddened to hear of this death,” Alameda County Public Health Department Director Dr. Tony Iton said in a statement. “Most H1N1 cases in Alameda County have been mild. This is a reminder to all our residents to take basic precautions.” 

To date Alameda County has 48 confirmed and 10 probable H1N1 cases. There are no current school closures or event cancellations due to H1N1. Willis said the county was asking residents to take the same precautions as first advised when news of the swine flu broke in April. 

“All schools will be happy when they close for summer on Thursday,” she said. “The dynamics of the flu has not changed. We are telling everyone to increase awareness of cold and flu-like symptoms and to stay at home if they have those symptoms. We are also asking people to wash their hands and cover their mouths when they cough.”  

Willis said the county was continuing to survey the situation and investigate those suspected of having the H1N1, including people they had been in close contact with. 

“Usually people who are testing positive for H1N1 are reporting vomiting and diarrhea in addition to flu and cold-like symptoms,” she said 

Willis said the county health department had received confirmation of the man’s death Monday, June 8. 

“He already had existing health conditions,” she said, but declined to elaborate on what they were. “We know that H1N1 was a contributing factor in his death. Whether or not it was the lead factor, only hospital staff can attest to that. Whether H1N1 will go on his death certificate, I don’t know.” 

Berkeley has so far reported a total of five swine flu cases, according to Dr. Janet Berreman, the city’s public health director. Berreman said she could not provide specifics about how many of those cases were confirmed and how many were suspected cases, or whether any of the cases were children. There have been no deaths or hospitalizations in Berkeley from swine flu, she said. 

“H1N1 is fairly widespread in the Bay Area, so I am assuming it has spread in Berkeley,” Dr. Berreman said. “Our testing targets people who are severely ill as well as those who have been hospitalized.” 

Berreman said Berkeley, which is one of the three cities in California to have its own health department, was learning about swine flu cases from lab tests and hospitals. 

Just like in the case of seasonal flu, Berreman said, people with chronic illnesses were more likely to die if they get infected with the H1N1 flu strain. 

“That’s why we are recommending people get seasonal flu shots,” she said, adding that the situation in Berkeley did not arise to the level of alarm. “When there is a vaccine available for H1H1, we will ask people to get it.” 

The city’s health department recently sent out a statement saying that most flu cases in Berkeley have been relatively mild. 

The Berkeley Unified School District worked with the city to close down Malcolm X Elementary School for two days when the parent of two students at the school was suspected of having swine flu, but reopened it under federal guidelines. Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan said no swine flu cases had been reported in the Berkeley public schools so far. 

Coplan stressed the need for parents to pay attention to influenza-like illnesses in children, and not send them to school if they were sick. 

City health officers said they were “concerned about the possible return of the virus in the fall, possibly causing more severe illness.” 

As of June 4, California has 1,014 swine flu cases—796 confirmed, 218 probable—reported in 38 of 61 local health jurisdictions. 

The death in Alameda County takes the total H1N1 death toll in California to four since the outbreak began two months ago. A child in Contra Costa County died recently after being infected by H1H1. 



Obata Studio Designated a Landmark

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday June 08, 2009 - 04:47:00 PM
The former studio of Japanese-American artist Chiura Obata was granted landmark status by Berkeley's Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The former studio of Japanese-American artist Chiura Obata was granted landmark status by Berkeley's Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 5-3 Thursday night to designate renowned artist Chiura Obata’s former studio on Telegraph Avenue a landmark.  

Though the commission didn’t feel that the structure itself was worthy of notice, the building’s cultural significance rendered it worthy of landmark status.  

Chiura Obata immigrated to the United States from Japan in 1903 and eventually moved to Berkeley. From 1939 to 1941—the peak of his career—he worked at the 1907 Spanish Revival Style studio on Telegraph but was forced to abandon it when he and thousands of other Japanese-Americans were forced into internment camps in the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. 

Although city planning staff warned the commission that the building itself did not appear to be “a structure of high integrity,” the majority of the commissioners supported the landmarking on the basis that the building evokes poignant memories of the time Obata spent there with his wife and children, serving as a reminder for succeeding generations about the Obatas’ invaluable contribution to Berkeley’s Japanese-American heritage. 

“Maybe architecturally it’s not the most interesting building in Berkeley, but the way it is connected to the Obatas is very important,” said commissioner Bob Johnson, who lived in Japan for 13 years. 

Commissioner Austene Hall remarked that landmarking the studio would keep the Obatas’ “humble story alive.” 

“As most of us in California know, the need for uncovering Japanese-American history—the reason it is hidden in our communities—is that the U.S. government made a heinous error in the anxious time at the onset of World War II,” said social historian Donna Graves, who nominated the Obata Studio for landmarking with help from local preservationists Anny Su, John English and Steven Finacom. “Federal policy dictated that people of Japanese descent, whether they were American citizens or not, were forced to leave their communities, homes and businesses in the spring of 1942 and incarcerated in remote concentration camps behind barbed wire and under armed guard. This act, which was not perpetrated on people of German or Italian descent, irreparably harmed communities that Japanese-Americans had built in cities like Berkeley and across California. This is a story we Americans must remember, and it is part of what inspired the landmark application.” 

Graves heads Preserving California’s Japantowns, a statewide survey of pre-World War II Japanese-American historic resources. Funded by the California State Libraries, the project has identified hundreds of locations in nearly 50 cities from San Diego to Marysville, sites once occupied by Nikkei, first generation Japanese-Americans. 

The Obata Studio is one of more than 60 Berkeley sites on the list that provide links to the city’s Japanese-American community, which grew to 1,300 people in 1942. 

The building’s association with Berkeley’s Japanese-American community started much earlier. Graves’ landmark application states that when the University of California moved from Oakland to Berkeley in 1873, it spurred development south of the campus, including commercial and mixed-use buildings near Telegraph and Dwight Way. 

The Berkeley Daily Gazette wrote in 1901 that “the heretofore quiet and unassuming neighborhood near Dwight Way and Telegraph has evolved into a busy and disquieting scene of commercial activity. The click of the hammer and the hum of the saw has given the old resident a dream of better days, and he fancies that the business center will be transferred from Berkeley Station to Dwight Way and Telegraph...” 

The building that would later house the Obata studio was constructed in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which sparked a boom in Berkeley’s population. Originally built as a two-story structure for the real estate firm W.G. Needham, the building was also used as Japanese barber shop, bathhouse and grocery store. 

Obata moved his family to Berkeley in 1930, where he taught art at the university from 1932 to 1942 and from 1945 to 1954, “interrupted only by forced relocation during World War II,” according to Graves. 

In 1938, Time magazine called Obata “one of the most accomplished artists in the West.” Known for defining the nihonga style of painting—a technique that blends Japanese traditional ink painting with Western methods—Obata influenced a generation of artists who were part of the California Watercolor Movement in the 1920s and ’30s. 

During their two years at the Telegraph Avenue studio, which was about three blocks from their home at 2609 Ellsworth St., the Obatas also organized art exhibitions and classes and sold imported Japanese art. Obata’s wife Haruko taught ikebana, traditional Japanese flower arrangement. His son, unable to find work at the time despite holding a master’s degree in art and design from UC Berkeley, managed the family business. 

“The boldness of the sign that Mr. Obata put up is remarkable, especially during that time,” said Landmarks Commission Chair Steve Winkle, referring to the name “Obata Art Studio,” which adorned the storefront during a period of racial prejudice toward Japanese-Americans. 

Obata’s daughter, Yuri Kodani, 82, told the Daily Planet in an earlier interview that protesters fired shots through the window of the studio and trashed its steps in the darkness of night in the days following the attack on Pearl Harbor.  

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 forced the Obatas, and thousands of other Japanese-Americans to abandon their homes and relocate to interment camps. The Obatas sold their belongings and evacuated to Tanforan, a camp on the San Francisco Peninsula, and later Topaz, a Utah camp where Obata continued to paint.  

With the help of Obata’s students and Robert Gordon Sproul, the family was able to retrieve his paintings when they returned to Berkeley in 1945. 

In 1954, Obata became an American citizen, a status previously denied to all Japanese immigrants. 

“The poignancy, the tragedy, the history of the Obata story—there are so many reasons to designate this as a historic structure,” said Dan Murphy, who has lived in one of the eight second-floor apartments of the Obata Studio since 1986. 

Patrick Hayashi, former director of UC Berkeley’s Asian American Studies Department, recounted how, as a child growing up in the internment camps of Topaz, he had heard stories about the “Death Man,” who was shot to death by guards when his feet got trapped in barbed wire while walking his dog. 

“Fifty years later I went to see an exhibit of art from the camps, and there he was, the Death Man—shot while he was being watched by his dog in a painting by Chiura Obata,” Hayashi said. “I started to cry. At that moment I experienced all the sorrow and the rage the Japanese-American community experienced. Obata used art to bring all kinds of people from all kinds of communities together. His studio will remain as a reminder of that, perhaps now even more than before.” 

The Obata studio was later occupied by several artists and authors, including photographer Grant Oliver. It later housed Half Price Books and the Blue Nile Ethiopian restaurant. 

It was scheduled to open as the Muse Art House and Cafe last year but, is currently sitting empty because owner Ali Aslami stopped renovation efforts midway. 

Aslami, who otherwise agrees with the historical importance of the building, told the commission that after he started the remodeling, “many deficiencies caused by years of neglect” began to surface. 

“When he opened up the wall, a nightmare befell him,” Aslami’s lawyer Rina Rickles said, explaining that in order for Aslami to get a bank loan to cover the extensive repairs to the roof, walls and foundation, he would have to expand the building. 

The new design would add two more floors and reconfigure the existing apartments to create nine units, but Rickles said parts of the landmarking would limit the work Aslami would have to do to make the place habitable. She said her client was considering filing an appeal. 

The alteration permit is scheduled to come before the landmarks commission at a future date. 


City Council Will Consider Telecommunications Master Plan, Downtown Plan

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Monday June 08, 2009 - 02:42:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council will consider creating a Wireless Telecommunications Master Plan Tuesday night. But with the budget stretched and planning staff busy with other major projects, this one may be put on the back burner. 

The council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Old City Hall on Martin Luther King Jr. Way in downtown Berkeley. 

The placement of cellphone towers has been a subject of major contention in Berkeley for several years now, and councilmembers and citizen groups have been asking for an overall plan that outlines where such facilities are located in the city, and a plan for where they be placed in the future. 

But with the Planning Department estimating as much as $300,000 in technical and outside legal assistance and up to $250,000 in city staff costs to put together such a plan, the council will have to bump this project ahead of other priorities if such a Telecommunications Master Plan project is to move forward in the near future. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council will take its third look at one of those other priorities, the Downtown Area Plan (DAP), which, when adopted, will set city development, environmental, and transit priorities in the downtown area for the foreseeable future. The council is considering two alternate plans—one created by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC), the second revised from the DAPAC plan by the Berkeley Planning Commission—with the likely outcome that the final adopted plan will contain some elements of both. The council is projecting final passage of the DAP on July 7. 

The council will also continue its ongoing hearings on the new city budget, to include updates on the possible effects of state cutbacks. The council must pass the new city budget by its June 23 meeting. 

This week’s meeting will be preceded by a 5:30 p.m. special work session during which the council will hear a quarterly report on crime in Berkeley.

Tiny Quake Strikes Beneath El Cerrito

By Richard Brenneman
Monday June 08, 2009 - 02:41:00 PM

A mild earthquake sent a seismic shudder across the East Bay Saturday afternoon, rating a modest 3.2 on U.S. Geological Survey seismometers. 

The quake, which hit at 3:30 p.m., was centered four miles beneath El Cerrito. 

The USGS website logged civilian reports of the quake from as far north as Santa Rosa, and as far east as Davis and Stockton, with reports also coming from as far south as La Honda. 

There were no reports of damage.

Flash: Two Girls Recovering after South Berkeley Shooting

By Bay City News, Special to the Planet
Sunday June 07, 2009 - 07:06:00 PM

Two girls are being treated at a hospital today after they were shot in a Berkeley home this morning, a police spokeswoman said. 

The Berkeley Police Department received calls at about 4:55 a.m.reporting possible gunshots in the 1500 block of Oregon Street. 

When patrol officers arrived in the area, they discovered a home had been struck several times by bullets. 

Shortly after the shooting, a staff member from a nearby hospital's emergency room called the Police Department to report they had just received two shooting victims - a 3-year-old girl and a 6-year-old girl. 

Their injuries are not considered to be life threatening.  

The shooting is not believed to be random, police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said. 

Police are asking for the community's help, and anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call (510) 981-5741. Those wishing to remain anonymous may call (800) 222-TIPS.

MediaNews' East Bay Papers Ratify Union Contract

By Richard Brenneman
Saturday June 06, 2009 - 08:17:00 AM

Media News Union Vote 

San Jose, East Bay Pacts 



750 words 



Pressed by repeated waves of downsizings, Bay Area journalists have been giving up pay, benefits and one of the hardest-won concessions of the labor movement: pay differentials based on years of experience. 

But there’s good news amongst the bad in the overwhelming affirmative vote given by members of the California Media Workers Guild for their first-ever contract with Bay Area News Group-East Bay (BANG-EB). 

BANG is the Bay Area wing of newspaper magnate Dean Singleton’s MediaNews empire, and includes the majority of newspaper circulation in the Bay Area, ranging from the Marin Independent-Journal in the north to the Monterey County Herald and Santa Cruz Sentinel in the south, and includes the San Jose Mercury News. 

The East Bay unit includes the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, Fremont Argus, Vacaville Reporter, Vallejo Times-Herald, Hayward Daily Review, Tri-Valley Herald and the San Joaquin Herald, as well a host of associated weekly papers and websites. 

Sara Steffens, who chairs the union's East Bay unit, hailed Tuesday’s 57-2 vote in favor of the contract as a significant victory. 

The Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News had both been owned by the Knight-Ridder chain, which was purchased by the Sacramento-based McClatchy Co. in March 2006. McClatchy held on to most of the Knight-Ridder papers it bought, but sold the Times and the Mercury News to Singleton, who had already purchased the Alameda News Group, which owned the Oakland Tribune and several other papers in the East Bay and greater Bay Area. 

Singleton created the East Bay division of BANG separately from the solidly unionized San Jose paper, and with the votes of workers at the non-union Contra Costa Times, he was able to unseat the guild from his other East Bay papers. 

Tuesday’s vote marks the first successful contract drive with BANG-EB, and while the contract lacks a traditional pay scale and provides only for a base salary of $39,000, Steffens said the accord will be a boon for employees making less than the new minimum. 

The downside is that the contract allows the company to propose future wage cuts, which become mandatory if workers aren’t able to agree on a settlement within two weeks after the reductions are put forth by the company. 

While the contract also bars strikes and walkouts, Steffens said that the drawbacks are outweighed by union recognition, provisions for arbitrations, just-cause dismissals and guaranteed severance pay. 

“This is a first contact, and we’re really, really happy because a lot of people said we wouldn’t be able to get it. It’s a ground floor and a good starting point,” she said. 

Tuesday's vote on the East Bay contract followed by 24 hours a vote at the San Jose paper, when guild members voted 127-39 to approve a new contract that provided for an immediate 7 percent wage cut, with another two percent reduction Jan. 1. 

The San Jose contract also reduced vacation time for many workers, with a maximum of four weeks after nine years, and raised health insurance premiums. 

Sylvia Ulloa, local vice president and a member of the San Jose unit, said the Mercury News has been significantly downsized. 

“We had about 525 people in the newsroom at the newspaper’s peak,” she said. “When MediaNews bought us, we had about 350.” 

The number will drop to about 100 when another provision of the new contract kicks in. The pact allows MediaNews to consolidate all of its copyediting functions in Walnut Creek, meaning that editors from within the community may no longer have the final purview over stories written about their communities. 

Of 30 copy editors who may be laid off, 15 could be rehired in Walnut Creek, according to the blog Paper Cuts. 

Both contracts will run for 18 months. 

May brought another flood of bad tidings for the newspaper business.  

Platinum Equity, the Beverly Hills investment fund which bought the San Diego Union-Tribune at the first of the month followed three days later by a move to cut the paper’s staff by 192. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles police union, one of the fund’s major investors, demand a housecleaning of the editorial page staff because of editorials they considered hostile to police. 

The month also saw the end of publication for the Tucson Citizen, which had been published longer than any other Arizona paper, and the announcement that the Ann Arbor News in Michigan will stop publishing July 23. Both will live in trimmed-down online formats. 

On the brighter side, May also brought the close of Trump, The Donald’s glossy exemplar of self-promotion. Word of the magazine’s folding came May 19.

Planners to See Designs for Center Street Plaza

By Richard Brenneman
Saturday June 06, 2009 - 08:15:00 AM

Berkeley planning commissioners are scheduled for lots of talk and no action this week. 

The most unusual item on the agenda for the commission's Wednesday, June 10, meeting is a presentation by landscape architect Walter Hood, who will present his vision for a Center Street plaza. 

While members of the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee had called for a pedestrian plaza on Center Street between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street, the commission was less enthusiastic. 

City councilmembers will have the final say when they decide on the final shape of the new downtown plan in a vote scheduled for next month. 

Hood, a UC Berkeley faculty member and one of the nation’s better-known terrain-shapers, was commissioned by EcoCity Builders, a local nonprofit, to come up with his own vision for the proposed plaza, and that’s what commissioners will see Wednesday. 

The panel will also consider their deliberations about proposed zoning changes for West Berkeley, designed to ease the development process for multi-use projects on larger sites. 

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

West Berkeley Pedestrian Killed by Amtrak Train

By Richard Brenneman
Saturday June 06, 2009 - 08:04:00 AM

A pedestrian who apparently leapt in front of an Amtrak passenger train in West Berkeley Thursday morning was fatally injured, according to railroad spokesperson Vernae Graham. 

Graham said the accident occurred at 10:50 a.m., nearly four hours after Amtrak San Joaquin 711 had rolled out of Bakersfield on a run to Oakland. 

None of the 26 passengers or any of the crew members was injured, though passengers were delayed when the train ground to a halt after the incident, leaving the railroad to organize bus transit for passengers heading into Oakland and those headed to Bakersfield on the return run. 

Traffic came to a standstill on both active rail lines through the area as the Alameda County coroner conducted an investigation. Service on one line was restored about 1:20 p.m., and the second line was back in service by 3:30. 

Berkeley Police spokesperson Officer Andrew J. Frankel said the investigation was being handled by the Union Police Railroad Police, an independent force which exercises jurisdiction along the company’s rights-of-way. 

“Sometimes we handle the investigation because they have such a vast territory to cover,” Frankel said, “but they’re handling this one.” 

Graham declined to provide any information about the victim. “We never provide that information,” she said, referring a journalist to the coroner’s office. 

A spokesperson for the coroner said some information about the victim would be available later Thursday.

Two Assault Cases Cap Officers’ Busy Tuesday

By Richard Brenneman
Saturday June 06, 2009 - 08:09:00 AM

A pair of assaults kept Berkeley Police hopping in the hours after a massive manhunt in South Berkeley Tuesday. 

Police who had fanned out over the neighborhoods near the intersection of Shattuck and Ashby avenues in search of a gunman who had led officers on a chase after a drive-by shooting found plenty more to keep them busy afterwards. 

One call alerted them to a man who was seeking treatment at Summit Alta Bates Medical Center for injuries sustained in a beating 24 hours earlier during a bizarre electric broom beating at the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Carelton Street. 

According to Berkeley Police spokesperson Officer Andrew J. Frankel, the 42-year-old homeless man—who listed Peoples Park as his residence—said he had been walking across Carleton when he was bumped by a man toting a green electric broom. 

After a verbal altercation erupted, the man used the broom to beat the homeless man. 

The assailant remains at large, while the victim was treated for his wounds, albeit after a long delay. 

Police learned of the second attack after a bleeding man found his way to a house near the border of Live Oak Park in North Berkeley and begged for help from a good Samaritan. 

Police got the call at 9:34 p.m. and quickly arrived on the scene, where they found the 23-year-old victim bleeding from three stab wound in his lower back. 

The injured man told officers he’d been drinking with a friend outside the Berkeley Art Center in the park when an argument broke out, during which his erstwhile friend, 28-year-old Jeremy Hill, started beating him with his fist. 

“He said that he was afraid he’d be killed, so he pulled a knife and stabbed the suspect in the ear,” said Officer Frankel. 

But Hill ended up with the knife, and used it against his companion. 

Both men were taken to Highland Hospital for treatment of their injuries. Hill had sustained cuts to his left ear, left cheek and left arm. After treatment, he was taken into custody and booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.

Black Oak Books Moves Out

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 06:55:00 AM
The shelves are empty at Black Oak Books.
Riya Bhattacharjee
The shelves are empty at Black Oak Books.
Shattuck Avenue's Black Oak Books closed up shop Monday.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Shattuck Avenue's Black Oak Books closed up shop Monday.

Shattuck Avenue lost an icon Sunday.  

After more than two decades in North Berkeley, Black Oak Books, one of the city’s best-loved bookstores, is moving out. 

“The economy is bad, and Amazon is so powerful and discounts so heavily, and we cannot afford prime retail anymore,” explained owner Gary Cornell, who bought the Black Oak name and some of its assets from the store’s founders last summer. “It’s not that our landlord was raising the rent. But the only way bookstores can survive is if you own the building or if you pay subsidized rent.” 

Cornell tried to negotiate a lease with landlord Ruegg & Ellsworth for several months, but Carlo Battino, who works at the real estate firm, said the two sides had been unable to agree on something that would have been “mutually beneficial.” 

“We tried any and all considerations but couldn’t meet in the middle,” Battino said. “Gary Cornell was a philanthropist trying to save the store, but unfortunately he couldn’t make ends meet. We are saddened and disheartened to see the bookstore go—it’s a Berkeley landmark. But it was a business decision, and we wish him all the best.” 

Cornell, Battino said, had informed Ruegg & Ellsworth in December that he would be terminating the lease on May 31 because of poor sales, but that his company had continued to negotiate with the store to see if some kind of a deal could be reached to extend it. 

Rumors started circulating in mid-May that Black Oak was leaving its 1491 Shattuck Ave. storefront and moving to San Pablo Avenue and Dwight Way, where it has a warehouse. 

Ruegg and Ellsworth have been advertising the space for sale for at least three months by posting signs on the building and notices on the Internet. The company posted a May 13 advertisement for the single-story 5,666-square-foot space on Craigslist, listing it at $2.60 per square foot.  

Founded by Bob Baldock, Bob Brown and Don Pretari in 1983, Black Oak soon became a Berkeley institution, its labyrinthine aisles stocked with new and used books, first editions and rare collector’s items. Famous authors and poets from the Bay Area and beyond often appeared for free readings, and business boomed through the 1990s, until e-commerce websites made it easier for customers to buy books online rather than from bricks-and-mortar stores.  

In 2007, the owners put the store up for sale, blaming declining sales on sluggish foot traffic and loss of market share to Internet giants like Amazon.com. The store’s San Francisco branch closed in early 2008.  

A self-confessed “book nut,” Cornell said he moved back to Berkeley from the East Coast to try to save Black Oak. 

“It was the addict in me, the bibliomaniac,” he said. Cornell’s residence in El Cerrito is stuffed to the ceiling with books, and his cars are parked outside to make room in the garage for even more books. 

A former math professor and author who taught number theory at the University of Connecticut, Cornell also founded Apress, a Berkeley-based publishing company specializing mainly in computer software books. He sold the business before moving east. He remains involved in Apress as a senior strategic advisor. 

When the IRS was about to shut down Black Oak Books last year, Cornell formed a corporation with a couple of his friends and paid the tax debt. He bought 25,000 new books—more than the former Cody’s Books had during their brief existence on Shattuck—and spent thousands of dollars on energy efficiency, revamping the store into something more suitable for the 21st century. 

Embracing the Internet instead of trying to fight it, Cornell went on to sell an inventory of more than 100,000 used books from a warehouse at 1730 San Pablo Ave. via the Web.  

He retained most of the staff, including manager Stephanie Vela, and continued to involve Brown in the business. But as sales declined, Vela had to be let go, and Black Oak is now down to only three full-time employees. 

At the time Cornell took over the store, its lease was $16,000 per month.  

“I didn’t want to make any money, but I didn’t want to lose any money either,” he said. “I just wanted to break even. But we inherited quite a mass, including an immense amount of gift certificates and trade credit we were not obligated to honor, because we were a new business, but we quite stupidly decided to do so for three or four months.” 

That move, Cornell said, bled Black Oak for a while, and, after a “so-so Christmas,” when the economy took a tumble and sales took an even bigger fall, the store had no reserves left. 

“That was a wound from which we never recovered, tens of thousands of dollars,” he said, talking of the gift vouchers. “In 20/20 hindsight, we should have opened up under a new name.” 

Cornell said the final blow came when California decided not to tax Amazon sales. New York recently passed a law that taxes book sales on Amazon.com, and a similar bill was introduced in the California Legislature, but it failed. 

“That was the final kiss of death,” he said. “People would come in and browse. A lot of them were buying or not buying from us, but on Amazon books were heavily discounted, and it saved them another 10 percent in sales tax.” 

Sitting in a black swivel chair Monday in Black Oak’s cramped narrow back room, which doubles as his office, Cornell looks quite unfazed for someone who has to move tens of thousands of books out in the next couple of days, not to mention take care of bills, insurance and other sundry stuff that comes with packing. 

It’s easy to see that his heart lies somewhere else, quite possibly in the plans he is making for Black Oak’s future. 

Cornell and his friends plan to open a small retail store at their 2,800-square-foot West Berkeley warehouse in the coming weeks, while scouting for a larger space they could buy and turn into a bookstore. 

“Ultimately what a bookstore needs is a gross lease, where you pay a percentage of your sales, and when things get better you pay more,” he said. “But most people are not interested in charity. A landlord is not going to rent at below-market. I am hopeful that if we find a building we can own, I think Black Oak Books will survive. It will never make a lot of money, but hopefully it won’t lose any money either.” 

Cornell said that he had approached the landlords for the former Cody’s on Shattuck—which has been vacant for more a year—but they had not expressed any interest. 

“The future of the retail book business is really up in the air,” said Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, whose district includes Black Oak and who was involved in the various lease negotiations. “I want to ask how many people in Berkeley profess to love independent bookstores but go online to buy books.” 

Black Oak is the fourth Gourmet Ghetto storefront to go dark in recent months. Starbucks shuttered its north Shattuck outlet earlier this year, as did Cafe de la Paz, and Elephant Pharmacy closed in February.  

Walking through the Children’s Room one last time, Cornell stood under a poster that quoted from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV act away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf in the wall.” 

“I am disappointed,” he said, taking a really deep breath and looking around at the dismantled wicker rocking chairs, bookshelves and jigsaw puzzles that added a special touch to this corner. “We tried really hard, and it sucks basically. I don’t blame people who are buying from Amazon. Everyone’s been very supportive, but the thing is, magic wands are in very short supply outside of Harry Potter.” 

In the Rare and Antique Books Room, T’Hud Weber, who has been with Black Oak for the last two years, was packing a first edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s works. 

“It’s sad,” she said, handling the almost-century-old pages of the book delicately. “Shutting the life out of the store on Sunday was brutal. I can’t imagine what it will do to the people who have been coming here for the last 26 years. I will miss matching people up with the books and hearing their stories.” 

Cornell watched as she packed six volumes of Dryden’s dramatic works next to a book on Chinese painting dating back to the Yuan dynasty. 

“I think the used book business is OK,” he said. “But I can’t say the same for the new book business. Some people will buy out of loyalty, but it will never be the same lucrative business it used to be once upon a time because of Amazon. That is over.” 

Margot Schevill, who was passing by, stopped to read the “we are moving sign,” on Black Oak’s glass doors. 

“I will miss it so much,” said Schevill, whose late husband, the poet James Schevill, once held poetry readings at Black Oak. “I supported it in my little way. When the new owner took over, it changed a bit, but at least it was there.” 


EDITOR'S NOTE: This version of the story corrects an error in the print version concerning the names of the founders of Black Oak Books. 

Police Find Shooting Suspect in South Berkeley Dumpster

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 06:58:00 AM
The Berkeley Police Department SWAT team searches for an armed suspect near the corner of Shattuck and Ashby avenues.
Mikell Haynes
The Berkeley Police Department SWAT team searches for an armed suspect near the corner of Shattuck and Ashby avenues.

After a high-speed car chase and a lengthy search Tuesday afternoon, police found the man suspected of firing shots from a vehicle in West Berkeley earlier that day. 

Berkeley police found the shooter hiding in a dumpster in the backyard of an Ashby Avenue apartment building at 6:02 p.m., three hours after the incident that sparked the manhunt.  

Officers from the Berkeley Police Department cordoned off a two-block square perimeter—including Shattuck Avenue, Ashby Avenue, Russell and Fulton streets—around 3:30 p.m. to look for a suspect, who was seen firing a gun from a moving car by a Berkeley police patrol officer 15 minutes earlier.  

Police spokesperson Mary Kus-miss said the officer “saw and heard gunfire and an arm out of the window” of a white Infiniti sedan at Eighth Street and Bancroft Way. The officer pursued the suspect through west and central Berkeley and finally onto southbound Shattuck Ave-nue, heading toward Ashby Avenue. 

“It’s rare for an officer to witness someone shooting, at least in Berkeley,” she said.  

At least 10 police cars with sirens roaring could be seen chasing the suspect’s car down Shattuck Avenue, some of them coming to a halt in front of Roxie Deli at the corner of Shattuck and Ashby avenues.  

The suspect’s car was slowed by heavy traffic on southbound Shattuck as it approached Ashby, and it collided with a parked, unoccupied car in the 2900 block of Shattuck Avenue, Kusmiss said.  

At that point, the suspect leapt out of the car and ran southbound on Shattuck, then east on Ashby. Berkeley police closed Shattuck between Ashby and Russell and started diverting traffic and pedestrians. They were helped in their search by the Berkeley Police Department SWAT team, which was training nearby, and an Oakland Police Department canine unit.  

The police action caused a stir in the neighborhood; people came out of their apartments to watch the action, some taking pictures with cell phones. 

Kumiss said police had blocked off a larger area than required as a precaution. “We are just going through a systematic search,” she said. “The response was very quick because of the serious nature of the call. We were able to seal the block very quickly.”  

As the search went on, Kusmiss said there was a high possibility the suspect was still armed. She said the police were advising residents to stay inside their homes and notify police if they saw anyone resembling the suspect. Some neighbors received robo calls from police informing them of the situation. 

Kusmiss said officers had found a parked car at Eighth and Bancroft around 4 p.m., a green Mercury Tracer, with bullet holes on the back bumper and two flat tires, but had not located any victims. Calls to hospitals by Berkeley police did not lead to any information either.  

Two hours later, SWAT team members found the suspect hiding in a dumpster in the rear yard of an apartment on the 2100 block of Ashby. He did not have a gun on him and cooperated with the police after being discovered, Berkeley police spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said. Frankel said police were not releasing the suspect’s name or any other information about him at this point. 

Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan said that West Berkeley’s Rosa Parks Elementary School and South Berkeley’s LeConte Elementary were locked down at 3:15 because of the shooting. Rosa Parks was reopened around 4:30, and LeConte right after news of the arrest became public. 

Kusmiss discounted earlier reports of eyewitnesses who said the suspect had fired on police officers after crashing his car on Shattuck Avenue.  

The Berkeley Police Department is asking for the community’s help with this investigation. Anyone who may have information regarding the crime is urged to call the Berkeley Homicide Detail at 981-5741 (office) or 981-5900 (non-emergency dispatch line). Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

News Analysis: A Tale of Two Downtown Plans

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 10:08:00 AM

The two downtown plans before the City Council offer two conflicting visions, one defined by the dream of a “green,” human-scale city center, the other by the developers’ high-rise imperatives. 

The two documents reflect the concerns of their creators, respectively a panel of community activists and a development-dominated Planning Commission. 

Councilmembers aren’t bound by either document and can choose elements from both to produce their own revisions, just as the Planning Commission recrafted the work of the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC). 

But a hint of the council’s preference may have come from its vote to back the Planning Commission’s requests for a study of the economic viability of building heights called for in the DAPAC plan, a study commissioners used to call for taller buildings than the DAPAC majority had approved. 

Planning commissioners eagerly approved taller structures than DAPAC had sought, reduced DAPAC’s call for the Center Street pedestrian plaza to a recommendation to consider the notion and eliminated DAPAC’s mandatory green building requirements. 

The struggle between the contending visions was evident in DAPAC and in the appointees of Mayor Tom Bates. 

Travis, the mayoral appointment as chair, found himself on the losing side of several key votes, with environmentalist Juliet Lamont—the other Bates appointment—a leading voice on the winning side. 

But it was Travis’s vision that prevailed at the Planning Commission, and it is that version city councilmembers saw first when presented with a side-by-side comparison of the two drafts written by the city’s planning staff. 

Unlike typical presentations of original and revised documents, the commission’s rewrite is placed in the left-hand column—where originals are usually placed—while the DAPAC original is presented on the right, the typical placement of revisions.  

The covering memos also urge the council to give primary consideration to the Planning Commission rewrite, noting that “staff believes substantial reorganization and modifications” would be needed if the council started off deliberations using the DAPAC original. 

A key difference between the two plans is their respective visions of the future skyline of the city center. 

DAPAC members waged a protracted struggle over the issue, finally adopting a compromise that allowed more tall buildings than the majority had wanted in exchange for concessions ensuring they’d be built with “green” technology, consuming the least possible energy and generating a low carbon footprint—a victory for Lamont and her allies. 

But planning commissioners scrapped the green building requirements while boosting the skyline, handing the victory to Travis—who sat in as an interim planning commissioner during one session. Another member of the DAPAC minority, retired UC Berkeley development executive Dorothy Walker, also sat in as an interim commissioner, though she was blocked from one session because the necessary paperwork hadn’t been submitted on time. 

None of the DAPAC majority served interim terms. 

Four planning commissioners served on DAPAC, with architect James Samuels—chair during the early part of the commission’s downtown plan deliberations—representing the DAPAC minority and Patti Dacey and Gene Poschman the majority. Architect James Novosel, a swing vote, also served on the committee. 

Commissioners signaled their intent to raise the roofs early on, when they adopted a set of potential high-rises to be evaluated by the plan’s environmental impact report. 

While both DAPAC and the commission had called for a general height limit of 85 feet for private development and 100 feet for UC Berkeley buildings within the city center, with two hotels at 225 feet, DAPAC had called for four buildings at 100 feet and four more at 120 feet, while commissioners called for six at 120 feet and four more at 180 feet—the so-called point towers that staff had unsuccessfully urged DAPAC to adopt. 

Planning commissioners also extended the area where the tallest buildings would be allowed. 

While DAPAC had declared environmental sustainability the centerpiece of its plan, the commission focused on the presumed economic feasibility of construction, adopting a call for a study to determine just what building heights could be developed—a study commissioned before the full scale of the current economic crash had become evident. 

Commissioners then used the document to justify their raising of the height limits and abandoning DAPAC’s mandatory green building requirements, citing the study’s conclusion that only at heights of 180 feet did residential buildings approach economic feasibility—and then only if all green building requirements were abandoned—and halving proposed “in-lieu” fees for converting required low-income housing to market-rate units. 

DAPAC’s requirements were often reduced to “encourage” or “consider,” leaving the commission plan considerably less green. 

So at the very time the City Council will be adopting a climate action plan hailed as one of the country’s most stringent, it will be considering another plan that would strip the city’s largest new buildings of requirements to consume less energy and generate less carbon. 

Commissioners also replaced DAPAC’s call to “close Center Street between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford” Street to create a pedestrian plaza with a “consider pedestrian enhancements which could result in a narrowing of traffic lanes.” DAPAC had envisioned the area as a grand urban plaza in the European tradition, while commissioners heeded calls from merchants and developer Patrick Kennedy—who plans a housing project on the block—to keep traffic open. 

The commission’s draft is also considerably more car-friendly than DAPAC’s, another irony in light of the Climate Action Plan’s call to abandon private transit for bikes, buses and BART.

City Council Approves Climate Action Plan

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 06:59:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council moved forward on its two major policy initiatives Tuesday night, giving unanimous approval to a slightly amended version of the Climate Action Plan (CAP) and holding its first public hearing on the Downtown Area Plan (DAP) before giving suggestions to staff for possible changes. 

The Downtown Area Plan, which will set the direction and parameters for development in the city’s downtown area for years to come, will come back to the council again for review on June 9, with a final vote on adoption tentatively scheduled for July 7. 

Complicating the decision over the DAP is that there are actually two plans, the original version produced by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC), which was then modified into a second version by the Planning Commission. The council must reconcile the differences between the two plans, a task made even more complicated, as Mayor Tom Bates pointed out on Tuesday, in that both plans were drawn up by committees made up of members selected by the councilmembers themselves. 

Noting that both the DAPAC and the Planning Commission properly carried out their roles in producing the competing plans, Bates said, “I hate this dilemma that somehow we have to choose one plan over the other plan. I think that’s false process. I think it’s a mistake to fall into that trap. What we need to do is look at both plans and decide what is good in one plan, what is good in the other plan, and then meld them together and come up with a plan that will be the council’s plan, that will be the people’s plan.” 

At the City Council’s request, Planning and Development Director Dan Marks produced a 155-page report for Tuesday’s meeting with a side-by-side reprinting of the two DAP versions, complete with highlighted notes by city staff on the differences between the two. 

Some areas of a growing council consensus on emphasis began to emerge during Tuesday night’s debate. Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Linda Maio, Jesse Arreguín, Darryl Moore, and Max Anderson all said they wanted a strong affordable housing component to the downtown plan, with Maio saying that, while “the term ‘workforce housing’ was not prominent in either plan,” she wanted an emphasis on housing for people who are working in the downtown area “because we don’t want people in their cars driving from Walnut Creek or Pinole or whatever through our neighborhoods to get to their jobs.” 

And Worthington, Maio, Arreguín, Moore, and Bates all expressed support for turning a portion of Center Street into a car-free, pedestrian-only plaza—a feature of the DAPAC plan and a popular item with many citizens attending Tuesday’s meeting—with Worthington calling the plaza idea “enormously important” and Moore describing it as “exciting.” Bates went even farther, suggesting that open space areas might be set up on eastbound Shattuck Avenue near the Berkeley YMCA which he said could be “an extension of the plaza on Center Street; we could easily accommodate that,” expanding the downtown BART Plaza, and even opening up longer sections of Shattuck “to make it a garden-like way.” Bates said that the funding for such concentrated open space areas could be achieved by lifting requirements to have developers put in open space areas on their developed properties, which the mayor said would end up being too small to be useful, and instead having the developers contribute money to larger, common plazas. 

With both the council and the community divided over which version of the DAP is the better—DAPAC’s or the Planning Commission’s—the council still has a way to go before reconciling the differences and agreeing upon a compromise plan. With some citizens already threatening a citizen referendum to adopt their own downtown plan if the DAPAC version is not closely followed in the final version, Worthington asked the city attorney if such a referendum would be legally permissible and, when told that it was, said that “if we adopt the Planning Commission version of the plan, I’ll be the first in line to circulate a petition.” 

The Climate Action Plan sets detailed standards for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Berkeley. 

The council adopted the Climate Action Plan after including four out of five suggested minor amendments sponsored jointly by Councilmembers Susan Wengraf and Arreguín. One amendment encouraged neighboring transit-rich cities to reach their share of regional growth as Berkeley has; a second removed language that would have minimized lot size requirements for so-called accessory dwellings; a third put emphasis on preserving historic buildings as a climate action strategy; and a fourth noted that any zoning or General Plan changes called for in the Climate Action Plan would have to go through the normal separate council-approval process. A fifth amendment to remove a call for “corner stores” and small markets in neighborhoods that don’t currently have them was rejected on a 2-7 vote (Arreguín and Wengraf voting yes). While Wengraf said she was worried that such “corner stores” too often provide only liquor and junk food, other councilmembers said they did not want to discourage small grocery outlets from locating in underserved areas. The “corner store” provision was originally put in the Climate Action Plan to provide an alternative for residents forced to travel across the city by car to buy small grocery items. 

The council ignored a request by the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste that the effects of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the University of California and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory be included in the CAP. Worthington said that the failure to include the “largest sources of greenhouse gas” (including UC, the lab, and the 880 freeway) was “unfortunate,” but conceded the votes were not on the council to bring them in. “It’s just not going to happen,” Worthington said, and the issue was not formally considered by the council. 

The council did, however, approve Worthington’s amendment that the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets be increased from 2 percent to 3 percent for the first two years of the plan’s implementation. 

In approving the Climate Action Plan, the council also adopted a staff “negative declaration” finding under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that the CAP itself would have no adverse effects on the environment. By making that finding, the council avoided a full CEQA Environmental Impact Report on the CAP, a process that might have taken two years to complete. 

The Climate Action Plan passage did not include consideration of the costs to the city for implementation. At Worthington’s request, city staff members said they would provide an itemized breakdown of the cost in time for the council’s expected June 23 vote on the city’s next budget. 

Students Show Decline in SAT Scores, Gains In AP Scores

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:00:00 AM

Berkeley High School students showed a sharp decline in 2008 SAT math and verbal scores, but large gains in Advanced Placement tests, according to a report prepared by the Berkeley Unified School District. 

BUSD Director of Student Evaluation and Assessment Dr. Rebecca Cheung and Berkeley High science teacher Aaron Glimme presented an analysis of the school’s Preliminary SAT, SAT and AP scores before the Berkeley Board of Education Wednesday. 

A significantly larger number of sophomores at the high school were able to take the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) last year, Cheung said, because an anonymous donor paid the $13 fee for each of the school’s nearly 900 10th graders. 

All the school’s white 10th graders took the test; 87 percent of Latino students took the test; African-American students had the lowest participation rate at 68 percent. 

The PSAT is a voluntary test co-sponsored by the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Program to help students prepare for the SAT. 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett asked Berkeley High officials why so many African-American students had not taken the test even though the fee was covered. Berkeley High Vice Principal Amy Fry said many students had chosen to arrive at school during lunch, after the tests had been administered. 

“So we had a large number of African-American students not come to school just because they didn’t want to take the test,” Huyett responded. 

Cheung said the district will encourage more 10th graders to take the PSAT next year because the private donor had promised to continue the funding. 

Seventy-six percent of white 10th graders scored in the top 50 percent nationally. Both Cheung and the school board called this a remarkable achievement, praising the students on their success. 

Twenty percent of Latino students scored in the top 50 percent nationwide. Five percent of African-Americans scored in the top 50 percent nationally. 

Participation at Berkeley High’s six small schools varied, as did performance, with 49 percent of students at Berkeley International High School scoring in the top 50 percent nationally, followed by Academic Choice (48 percent), Arts and Humanities Academy (42 percent), School of Social Justice and Ecology (26 percent), Communication Arts and Sciences (22 percent) and Community Partnerships Academy (5 percent). 

Cheung said the 10th grade results came with a caveat because the students who might not otherwise have taken the tests in the absence of a scholarship were competing with a more elite group of students. 

“The distribution might have looked different if the anonymous donor didn’t give us the money for the tests,” she told the Planet. “We are pitting them against kids from all over the nation who are paying for it. These are typically high-achieving kids. So they are competing with other kids who choose to take the test. While that’s not a bad thing, we don’t want to over-penalize our students for low scores. What if there were English learners present?” 

SAT verbal scores for 2007-08 show a 28-point decline from 2003-04, when the average score for 11th graders at Berkeley High was 569. Last year the average score fell to 541, the lowest in five years. 

SAT math scores showed a significant downward trend since 2003-04, when the average score was 586. Last year the average SAT math score was 546, a drop of 40 points. 

Cheung noted that, although the school’s average SAT scores were better than the county and the state averages, they were declining over time, especially in math. 

Superintendent Bill Huyett said he was concerned by this negative trend. 

“A 40-point drop over three or four years is precipitous,” he said. “Looks like if it drops next year we will be below the county average.” 

Huyett said the news was surprising, given the various challenging courses students often take, such as calculus and pre-calculus. 

“It looks like kids are not that prepared in math,” he said, adding that he would like school and district officials to investigate the trend. 

Glimme said there could be a number of reasons for the downward trend in math and English, one of them being that perhaps more students were taking the ACT, a different college entrance test, leading to fewer taking the SAT. He added that, because the ACT had not reported Berkeley High School’s participation rate to the district for the last two years, there was no way to be sure. 

White 11th graders in every small school scored above the state average. Latino students scored at or below, and African-Americans scored below the state average. 

White and multi-ethnic 11th graders also had higher participation than their Latino and African-American classmates. 

Over 60 percent of the students who took the SAT last year scored over 1500, higher than the county and the state averages. 


Advanced Placement tests 

Administered by the College Board, the Advanced Placement program consists of college-level courses in 21 subject areas that are recognized by almost all public and private universities. 

Students at Berkeley High prepare for AP tests by enrolling in AP level courses. The tests are primarily taken by 10th through 12th graders, and the scores range from 1 to 5, with a score between 3 and 5 considered to be passing. 

The district’s analysis shows a very strong increase in the number of AP tests taken over the years, from 43 percent in 2003-04 to 68 percent in 2007-08. 

Cheung said the number of passing scores—a student can take any number of AP tests—is up from 273 five years ago to 714 last year for white students, and from 116 for black students to 451 in the same time frame. 

Huyett called the results “remarkable” and a start toward closing the achievement gap. 

Cheung said that changes in AP course offering—such as the inclusion of subjects like art and art history—had expanded the number of tests taken by students and also the number of students taking them. 

Passing scores were evenly distributed across multiple subject areas, she said. 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced Monday, June 1, that the Obama administration had given the state Department of Education $4.3 million in AP Test Fee Program grants to help low-income students take AP and International Baccalaureate tests. 

Statewide, the number of students enrolled in AP and IB courses grew 112.6 percent from 228,019 to 484,694 in the last decade. 

In 2007-08, schools reported that 96,174 low-income students were taking the AP and IB tests. The number is expected to grow 15 percent—to 110,599—in 2008–09. State education officials said the massive growth indicates the need for assistance by low-income students to offset the cost of higher education. 

AP and IB tests typically cost $86 to $88 per subject, which the state education office said may be difficult for some families to pay. 

The Advanced Placement Test Fee Program, which the state says has helped increase student participation and achievement in AP tests, allows schools to ask low-income students to pay only $5 for every subject they test in.

Fujimotos Bid Adieu to Monterey Market

Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:14:00 AM
Bill and Judy Fujimoto.
Richard Brenneman
Bill and Judy Fujimoto.
A sizable crowd showed up at Monterey Market to bid farewell to Bill and Judy Fujimoto.
Richard Brenneman
A sizable crowd showed up at Monterey Market to bid farewell to Bill and Judy Fujimoto.
Bill Fujimoto.
Richard Brenneman
Bill Fujimoto.

About 200 North Berkeley shoppers gathered along California Street across from Monterey Market Wednesday afternoon to bid a fond farewell to Bill and Judy Fujimoto, who are leaving the business his father built. The Fujimotos specialized in buying fruits and produce from growers they cultivated. And unlike another popular Berkeley grocer, Monterey Market under their leadership often invited its customers to taste before they bought—without the threat of lifetime banishment.

Christian Minister Fights for Gay Marriage

By Paul Gackle, Special to the Planet
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:12:00 AM
Rev. Mark Wilson.
Paul Gackle
Rev. Mark Wilson.

Rev. Mark Wilson’s eyes were misty and his lower lip was curled as he stood on the steps of the San Francisco Civic Center in front of hundreds of same-sex marriage supporters on Tuesday, May 26. Just a few hours earlier, the California Supreme Court had issued a 6–1 ruling upholding Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  

Wilson, director of the UC Berkeley Gospel Chorus and the openly gay, African-American pastor from Tapestry Ministries in Berkeley, ignited the rally by joyfully belting out an old civil rights–era song. A vibrant crowd clapped their hands as Wilson’s soulful moan crackled through the speakers: “I ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around, turn me around, turn me around.” 

In the wake of last week’s ruling, same-sex marriage advocates in California, like Wilson, have vowed to keep fighting. Efforts to put an initiative that would undo Prop. 8 onto the ballot in either 2010 or 2012 have already begun. But for the next vote to pass, the movement will need to take the battle to the church and win over hearts and minds in the trenches of Christian scripture scholarship where Wilson has fought his entire life.  

Initially, the black church was blamed for the passage of Prop. 8 by many on the left. Exit polls suggested that many of the same African-American voters who turned out to support Barack Obama also tipped the balance on Prop. 8.  

But a study conducted by Patrick Egan of New York University and Kenneth Sherrill of Hunter College revealed that the “Yes on Proposition 8” vote in California had less to do with race and was much more about religion. When Egan and Sherrill sliced up the pie, they discovered that roughly 70 percent of Californians who attend religious worship on a weekly basis supported Prop. 8, regardless of their race. And since African-Americans attend religious services on a more frequent basis than the average Californian, it is only to be expected that a majority of voters in the African-American community supported Prop. 8.  

Kenneth P. Miller, associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, recently published an article, “The Democratic Coalition’s Religious Divide: Why California Voters Supported Obama but Not Same-Sex Marriage,” that describes the electoral politics that drove the vote on Prop. 8. Miller said same-sex marriage proponents will need to make inroads with the Christian community in California if they are to produce a different outcome in 2010 or 2012. 

“They need to persuade those Christian voters that extending marriage rights to the gay community is consistent with their religious beliefs, not undermining them,” he said. “There are a lot of strong Christian arguments for and against gay marriage.” 

Rev. Wilson has spent a lifetime in this polarized Christian debate on homosexuality. From as far back as Wilson can remember, he’s known two things about himself: he has a natural gift for preaching the gospel, and he is gay.  

Wilson grew up in a devoted Christian family. He started directing the choir at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Oakland at age 12. By age 14 he was preaching from the pulpit. As a kid, he knew he was special, and he knew he was different, but he never thought his sexuality was a sin until he was 12 years old, when he heard his minister say, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”  

By high school, Wilson was tormented by the division between his sexuality and what he was being taught about it. He prayed for deliverance.  

“I would say, ‘God, take this away from me. I don’t want to be damned’,” he said.  

Preaching quickly became an avenue for Wilson to repress his burgeoning teenage hormones. 

“I thought, if I’m this way, you can’t damn me if I preach your gospel and I’m the most knowledgeable on your gospel. I felt I had to compensate to get into heaven,” he said. 

Wilson described himself as a sexist and a homophobe in college. He tried to form a ministers’ association on the campus of Howard University but was denied because he wouldn’t allow women. He said it was a sin for women to preach. Eventually, he was overburdened by the weight of his denial.  

He remembers sitting alone behind the dormitories for an entire weekend, fasting and reading scripture. He finally came out of the closet to a professor whom he considered a mentor. Wilson said his mentor simply told him that God loved him. Soon after, he started to reinterpret the scriptures, he said, finding love rather than sin. And he embraced the love he found. 

“That feeling of God’s love gave me freedom,” he said. 

For Wilson, winning the fight for self-acceptance was only the beginning of a larger confrontation with the fundamentalist elements of the Christian church. Questions about his sexuality quickly surfaced after he became the pastor of the McGee Avenue Baptist Church in South Berkeley in 1992. Wilson said the church was quietly divided over his leadership until he was publicly “outed” in a 1998 Oakland Tribune article. According to Wilson, a group of dissenters called for a vote of confidence against him in January 1999, citing administrative issues. But he prevailed, he said, through crafty politics and by winning the support of the church’s influential matriarchs.  

Rev. Theophous Reagans, who trained as a minister for six years under Wilson at McGee Baptist, said supporters eventually judged his mentor by his message and character, not his sexuality. 

“It was very tense. This is an issue that is very strongly contested,” he said. “It depends on one’s interpretation of the scriptures. Mark taught us that God is love and there are no differences in the eyes of God—no males, no females, no black, no white—just souls. He made it easy.” 

Wilson eventually left the church in 2004 to take a teaching position at the Pacific School of Religion just north of the UC Berkeley campus. Some in the community say he left under a cloud of animosity; Wilson insists he didn’t run away, it was just time to take on a new challenge. Last year, he established a new church, Tapestry Ministries, to create a venue of Christian worship centered on critical thinking, social justice, diversity of worship and hope.  

Wilson thinks that success against Proposition 8 in 2010 or 2012 will hinge on whether Christian voters can be persuaded that same-sex marriage is compatible with the scriptures, mirroring the conflict he’s had to resolve within himself and his former church. 

In the end, both sides will be using the Bible to frame a religious argument.  

Bishop Bob Jackson, pastor of the Acts Full Gospel Church of God and Christ in Oakland, an ardent supporter of Prop. 8, thinks it’s misleading to suggest that denouncing same-sex marriage inherently contradicts God’s message of love.  

“As Christians we love one another, there is no argument there. The design of marriage is about a man and a woman coming together for procreation” he said. “It’s a mistake to redefine marriage on what you think as opposed to what God says.”  

But to Wilson, marriage is more than just a word that is defined in the scriptures. It’s a matter of equality and dignity under God’s eyes. 

“It hit me when I was doing a marriage for a couple at the courthouse in Oakland,” he said. “I looked at all the gay men of different races and ethnicities and thought of all the places we’d been—clubs, bushes, bathhouses, private parties—they were always dark. Here we were standing in this place of legitimacy with light all around us. I just got tears in my eyes.”  

Counselors Hit Hard by School District Cuts

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:00:00 AM

Teachers, parents and students packed the City Council chambers Wednesday to ask the Berkeley Board of Education to save high school counseling positions threatened by budget cuts. 

The board unanimously approved district Superintendent Bill Huyett’s proposed budget reductions, which address the $4.9 million deficit Berkeley Unified School District is facing in 2009-10 in light of the state budget passed by the Legislature in February. Huyett based his recommendations on advice from his Budget Advisory Committee, which consists of educators and community members. 

The district hopes to save $2.9 million with staff and program cuts, including layoffs for 21 teachers and counselors, and with $1.1 million in cuts from categorical funds. 

The budget also uses the $800,000 the district received in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act stimulus funds to help close the deficit. 

The proposal does not take into consideration the additional $4 million gap created by Gov. Arnold Schwarz-enegger’s subsequent revision of the state budget following the failure of the May 19 special election ballot measures. Huyett told the Daily Planet after the meeting that he plans to present recommendations for a second round of reductions at the June 10 School Board meeting. 

“We are obligated to put out a budget that lines up with the one passed in February,” Huyett said of the current proposal. “The state Office of Education has not given us direction on what to do about the May revision. Those cuts have not been accounted for.” 

The superintendent said he was hopeful that the first allocation of $2.4 million in state stabilization federal stimulus money—which the district has yet to receive—will help the school district in these troubling times. 

“U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has expressed support for California,” Huyett said. “California is an important state for the Obama administration. Duncan has acknowledged that California has high standards.” 

Huyett said the district’s plan was to hold on to the stimulus money until it had a better picture of the final budget and then act accordingly. 

The board is scheduled to approve the final budget for the new school year on June 24. 

In addition to the layoffs, the district is implementing a freeze on new hires, travel, and purchase of any equipment valued above $500. At least 72 custodians, bus drivers and clerks are being laid off and nutrition services are being slashed as well. The district also hopes to save $250,000 once it builds a new shelter in West Berkeley to keep its fleet of school buses. The district currently pays AC Transit about $40,000 every month to park the vehicles at a rented space on Sixth Street when the vehicles are not in use. 

Categorical funds for some programs are being reduced or cut altogether, including the Arts and Music Block Grant, programs for gifted and talented students, and improvements and deferred maintenance for schools and libraries. 

At least four Berkeley High School counselors and one part-time counselor at Berkeley Technology Academy—the only counselor at the school—have received pink slips because of cuts to the district’s General Fund. 

Berkeley Federation of Teachers President Cathy Campbell said that in addition to the four on the list proposed by Huyett, one more Berkeley High counselor had been laid off, reducing the total number of counselors at the high school by half. 

At the meeting, Dwayne Byndloss, a counselor at Community Partnerships Academy, one of the small schools at Berkeley High, said that counselors, along with teachers, provide support to all students, especially those from low socioeconomic backgrounds. 

“Teachers and counselors function as a team,” he said. “If you cut counselors and teachers, there will be more referrals and suspensions.” 

Another counselor warned the School Board, that with homicide rates in Oakland and Richmond rising, and crime “pouring” into Berkeley, the role of counselors was becoming even more important by the day. 

“We have a lot more students facing obstacles in life in the small schools than at the big schools,” said Annie Johnston, a teacher at Community Partnerships Academy. “We’d like you to figure out some other places to make the cuts.” 

Ray Cagan, lead teacher for the Arts and Humanities Academy, a small school, said counselors are the heart of his school’s program. 

“I went to Berkeley High at a time when any one counselor had 900 students, and I never saw my counselor in the four years I was there,” he said. “I was able to deal with it and make it through Berkeley High because my family had resources. Counselors help students with their college plans and give them one-on-one time whether or not they have resources at home. They bring equity to schools.” 

B-Tech counselor Amber Lester and Berkeley High counselor Teri Goodman reminded the board of the many critical services counselors provide to students—ranging from writing hundreds of letters of recommendation to crisis- and peer-intervention to monitoring whether students are meeting college entrance requirements. Lester said that at B-tech, many students found her office to be a safe place where they could find respite from all “the crazy things going on in the world.” 

Goodman said that, at Berkeley High, counselors had helped to develop a college-going culture by taking 10th graders on a tour of Bay Area colleges. 

At B-Tech, Lester along with other educators at the school, helped create portfolios for a group of 11 students, helping at least five of them to get accepted at colleges during a tour of black colleges last month. 

Although Lester was laid off this month, Campbell said there was a chance the district might bring her back in the future, albeit with reduced hours.  

Huyett said he agreed with the comments made at the meeting, but that district officials had been forced to make reductions to balance the budget. 

“California is low on counselors,” he said. “[Saving counselors] came up as a high priority, and I am sure it will remain a high priority.” 

Board Director Shirley Issel urged the board to investigate other avenues where reductions could be made. 

“I can think of other places to cut,” said Issel, a mental health worker. “I would rather see a reduction in safety officers than counselors. Nobody wants to cut anything anyhow.” 

Board Vice President Karen Hemphill asked the district to bring back all the counselors if possible, saying that apart from instilling a college-bound culture, counselors also kept the suspension rate down at Berkeley High. 

“There were virtually zero expulsion hearings this year. That’s a first in my three years on the board,” she said, attributing the shift to prevention work by counselors. “There were a lot more expulsions in my first two years on the board, so it’s like ‘where are they?’” 

Board President Nancy Riddle said that although Berkeley Unified was in better shape than some other school districts, it had not yet been able to rescind all the pink slips sent out to teachers and classified employees earlier this year.

Willard Student Crime Sparks Community Meeting

By Rio Bauce, Special to the Planet
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:02:00 AM

Last Thursday, the LeConte Neighborhood Association held a meeting together with the Berkeley Police Department and Willard Middle School Safety Officer Andre Kellum to discuss the issue of after-school student vandalism.  

Neighbors estimate 10 to 15 incidents of vandalism in the streets surrounding Willard school over the past few months, including smashed windows, knocked-over trash cans and signs, damage to homes, and other behavior problems among students on their way home from school.  

However, Berkeley Police Department Community Services Local Area Coordinator Stephen Burcham says very few cases have been reported to police. 

“In response to the meeting, we have asked the beat officers to be there around the neighborhood after school to monitor the students,” said Burcham. 

Neighbor and Berkeley Planning Commissioner Patti Dacey said that officers and neighbors held a discussion about streets that students have been targeting. 

“People talked about how students first targeted Stuart,” said Dacey. “Now because the residents of Stuart started watching the students, they have been moving to Russell Street. Students are dancing on cars and denting them. So the police have told residents on Russell to keep an eye out and start taking pictures of kids so that vandalism will cease on that street as well.” 

Karl Reeh, president of the neighborhood association, said communication between the neighbors and the school has been helpful. 

“We have talked to the principal, the vice principal, and the safety officers,” said Reeh. “The safety officer has been helpful in identifying the kids who commit these crimes.” 

Attempts to contact Willard Safety Officer Kellum for this story were unsuccessful. 

“I think that everyone in the neighborhood has been affected by the crime of Willard students,” said Dacey. “I was threatened by a bunch of kids who I was watching, because I thought they were doing vandalism. So they came up to me and yelled at me. In addition, my neighbor was picking up her kids at Stuart and Telegraph one day. When she came back, her window was smashed, probably by Willard students.” 

Robert Itherburn, principal at the middle school, said that the actions of certain students in the neighborhood are unacceptable.  

“I think that it is appalling,” said Principal Itherburn. “We have been in contact with the neighbors and asked them to take pictures of the students when possible. When we can identify the students, that is great. We have a large number of students who walk home, so unless we have specific names, we can’t do much.” 

Kriss Worthington, who represents the Willard neighborhood on the Berkeley City Council, told the Daily Planet that the city is watching the discussion and wants to be part of the solution. 

“We want to pay attention to these issues and make sure that the city uses our resources effectively,” said Worthington. 

Reeh said the meeting was successful. 

“Our main goal is to encourage individuals to report crime and go outside around three o’clock to keep an eye on kids,” said Reeh. “The police have been cooperating by making rounds after school and monitoring students.” 



Daily Planet Wins Three East Bay Press Club Awards

Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:02:00 AM

Berkeley Daily Planet staffers won three prizes at the 2008 East Bay Press Club Journalism Awards dinner Friday, May 29.  

Staff Writer Riya Bhattacharjee won the second place award in the “Profile” category for a story on American Book Award– winning author and UC Berkeley alumni Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, who returned to the International House, where she stayed during her time as a graduate student, to receive the I-House Alumni of the Year Award last May. 

Bhattacharjee took third place in the “Cultural Affairs Reporting” category for a portfolio that covered clashes between the local Tibetan and Chinese communities when the Olympic torch passed through the Bay Area; employee complaints against downtown Berkeley’s McDonald’s franchise; and allegations of censorship at the Addison Street Windows Gallery. 

Justin DeFreitas took first place in the editorial cartooning category for his commentary on Proposition 8. The judges described his work as containing a “simple but powerful message that instantly speaks to the viewer. Timely and wonderfully drawn.” 

The East Bay Press Club awards are open to entries from individuals whose work has appeared in any publication that covers the East Bay. San Francisco Chronicle staffers—some of whom have left the paper in the recent wave of layoffs and buyouts—had the highest award count at 32, followed by those from MediaNews chain (the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times, the Hayward Daily Review, the Vacaville Reporter and the Fremont Argus, to name a few) at 28. The East Bay Express won five awards, Oakland Magazine won two, and SF Weekly and Mother Jones each won a single award. 

Former Daily Planet reporter and current freelancer John Geluardi won a second place award in the “Long Feature” category for an SF Weekly story examining the inaccuracies regarding Dan White as presented in the film Milk. Former Daily Planet reporter Matt Artz won “Best Mainstream Blogger” for his work for the Fremont Argus. The judges decribes Artz’s blog as “a lively chronicle of a local beat that takes the news seriously, but not itself.” 

UC Berkeley Scrambles to Find New Police Chief

By Rio Bauce, Special to the Planet
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:03:00 AM

Since UC Berkeley Police Chief Victoria Harrison announced in early March that she would be leaving the force on July 31 after 19 years of service, administrators have been scurrying to find her replacement. 

Harrison came under fire in July 2007 by the California state Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education for what a Contra Costa Times investigation called “improper perks” that she had received from the university. After she retired in June and received a $2.1 million compensation package in addition to a nearly $5,000 monthly salary for 10 years, Vice Chancellor Nathan Brostrom hired her back at a salary that with benefits was nearly $200,000 a year. The university maintained that it followed all procedures and that misinformation occurred as a result of the media’s sloppy reporting, while the media maintain that Harrison received an unfair compensation package. 

Among the top choices to replace her are UC Berkeley Assistant Police Chief Mitch Celaya and Oakland Deputy Police Chief Dave Kozicki. UC Spokesman Dan Mogulof said the university hopes the position will be filled before Harrison leaves. 

Both candidates face a good deal of public scrutiny. 

Oakland Police Department officials are conducting an internal investigation into Kozicki’s actions in the March 21 shooting of two Oakland police officers and two SWAT team members. 

While Celaya is not the subject of an internal investigation, he is receiving heat from one man. Former tree-sitter and autistic activist Nathan Pitts, who alleges that he was defamed by Celaya, is waging a one-man campaign against the assistant police chief through writing letters to the Daily Planet and elsewhere. 

“We’re looking for a consummate law enforcement professional who has the skills, experience and character traits required to successfully lead a public university police force,” said Mogulof, who said the university posted an advertisement for the position in early April. “We’re looking for someone to provide high-quality, professional crime prevention, protection, and law enforcement services to maintain and promote human safety and the security of property for the Berkeley campus and its associated locations; and thrive in an environment that values individual rights, diversity and tolerance.” 

Celaya, who has worked at the university since 1982, said he has enjoyed his time at UC Berkeley. 

“I have worked as a patrol officer, a patrol sergeant, a patrol captain. I served as a detective for many years. I actually took part in the first task force on drunkeness between the university and the city. In addition, I worked on police coordination for special events with student groups,” he said. 

Celaya says that robberies and other street crimes are his top priority. 

Kozicki enters his 29th year at  

the Oakland Police Department (OPD). Before assuming the title of deputy police chief, Kozicki worked as a patrol officer, an investigator in the homicide and sexual assault departments, a lieutenant officer, and a police captain. He now serves as deputy chief of the largest of the three bureaus for the field bureau operations department. 

“I think that the current chief has done a great job and has set out a clear mission for the department there,” said Kozicki. “All of the members of the department that I have met have been great. There are always opportunities to improve. My primary focus would be on robberies, since recent studies have shown that these incidents are on the rise around campus. I would concentrate on educating new students to not become victims of crime, improving environmental design with lighting and cameras, and through increased collaboration with the Berkeley Police Department.” 



Due to an alleged miscommunication about the location of gunman Lovelle Mixon, who had already shot two motorcycle officers, Oakland police entered a building where Mixon shot two SWAT team members. An ongoing investigation hinges on the truthfulness of the statements from Kozicki and other officers about communication regarding Mixon’s location. 

Kozicki and his lawyer, Michael Rains, were not available for comment by press time. 

In November 2007, during the tree-sitting protests at the university, Celaya made a statement to the press that Pitts had thrown an unidentified liquid at four police officers, which resulted in the hospitalization of the officers. Officers subsequently arrested Pitts on charges of battery, resisting arrest, and violating a court order. However, Pitts says that the charges against him were dropped, which he charges displays Celaya’s dishonesty. 

“Mitch Celaya should never be police chief,” said Pitts. “Mitch Celaya’s claims didn’t stand up in court, but my life has been torn apart by his lies. The UC would only be validating a calculated pattern of abuse towards a disabled person.” 

Celaya, who was serving as the UC Police Department’s press information officer at the time, said that he was simply responding to a press inquiry and had no other part in the case. 

“Mr. Pitts is referring to a press inquiry that I got where I shared what happened in the police report,” said Celaya. “He participated in a march at the grove, and officers were trying to apprehend some tree-sitters. Officers reported that Pitts was one of the individuals that were throwing liquids. He was arrested for that. I was not there. I was just sharing a press inquiry about the arrest.” 

Mogulof said that any person who would ever be considered for the position of police chief faces public criticism and scrutiny. 

“They are both exceptional law enforcement officers,” Mogulof said. “What is clear is that anyone who rises to a certain level of administration is under public scrutiny. Nobody is going to get to this stage without getting reviewed by the entire community.” 

In response to the criticism about compensation of Harrison and other UC officials, California state Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has introduced legislation to require greater transparency on compensation actions at the University of California system and the California State University system. 

“The Legislature and the governor have now sent a very clear message to the UC and CSU: it is time to end the culture of secrecy and arrogance,” said Yee, in a statement. “No longer should the students, faculty and staff—the backbone of our public universities—be left to bear the burden, while top execs live high on the hog.” Yee received his B.A. from UC Berkeley and his M.A. from San Francisco State University. 

In the end, Harrison hopes that her replacement shares her values of community service. 

“After all these years, I hope that the kind of person who works for the police department shares my values and my philosophy: that we are part of the university community, and that we are dedicated to public service,” said Harrison. “Being a police officer ought to be about wanting to make a difference.” 

School Board Raises Meal Prices

By Rio Bauce, Special to the Planet
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:04:00 AM

In response to state budget cuts, the Berkeley Board of Education voted unanimously at its May 27 meeting to increase the price of all school lunches by 25 cents effective July 1. The price increase would not affect students who receive free or reduced-price lunches. 

“We are in dire budgetary times,” said School Board Vice President Karen Hemphill. “Over the years, BUSD has subsidized the program in order to get quality food. While we think it is important to continue to support the program, we must offer a modest increase to sustain it.” 

Currently, the lunch rates are $3 for elementary schools, $3.50 for middle schools, and $4 at Berkeley High School. The new rates would be $3.25, $3.75, and $4.25 respectively. In 2005, the board also approved a 25-cent increase in rates for school lunches. 

In Oakland Unified School District, lunch prices are $2.25 for elementary schools and $3 for middle schools and high schools. 

Although district Director of Nutritional Services Ann Cooper said in April that the current program would be fully self-sustaining, new budget projections require a fee increase in order to avoid using money from the district’s General Fund. 

According to Cooper, who is leaving her post at the end of this month for the Boulder Unified School District in Colorado, the fee increase will reduce dependence on the General Fund. 

“The budget for the 2009-10 school year has no contribution from the General Fund,” said Cooper. “Even though a typical lunch costs us $4.75, every little bit helps. We didn’t make it more, because we are sensitive to the state of the economy and even the 25 cents seemed a lot to some families.” 

The board also voted to decrease the nutritional services budget by $234,290. Cooper says that the effects won’t damage the quality or quantity of the food. 

“We are responding to the cuts by being more efficient and controlling inventory,” said Cooper. “At our 16 sites, we are going to make sure that we do not waste any food and that we do not overproduce. We will also have to cut one full-time position and cut some hours. The quality of the food will remain the same. We also are trying to increase participation at the schools.” 

Marni Posey, manager of nutritional services, said the Chez Panisse foundation would continue helping the district. 

“While the foundation has never really provided funding for the program, they did provide funding for Ann’s position,” said Posey. “However, they will continue to help us with grant-writing for the program.” 

In order to be profitable, the district has increased its efforts to encourage student participation in the lunch program. Cooper anticipates a 7.8 percent increase in school lunch sales for the upcoming school year, which would bring a $35,000 net revenue increase. 

“We have done a lot of outreach and met with the parent-teacher associations,” said Cooper. “We already have next year’s free- and reduced-price-lunch applications ready and are planning to hand them out over the summer to increase participation in the state programs.” 

Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan said that the district has stepped up its marketing efforts to parents. 

“We have been placing banners at the schools, Ann Cooper has been sending letters home, and we have been handing out flyers,” said Coplan. 

While elementary schools have been showing modest increases in participation, according to Cooper, Berkeley High School has been slow to show progress. 

“It’s been very difficult to raise participation at the high school,” said Cooper. “I don’t think it’s necessarily about the food. It’s that students have the option to go off-campus, but we will continue to try.” 

With Cooper leaving the district, Nutrition Services Manager Marni Posey and Executive Chef Bonnie Christensen will take over the reins.  

“Ann has done a tremendous job,” said Posey. “She has mentored Bonnie and I to run the program without her in the past year. There should be no noticeable changes in the current program.” 

Cooper agrees that the nutritional services department can continue without her presence. 

“We have a really great team,” said Cooper. “The entire team will move this forward. The big obstacle is to raise participation. Every family should consider how having their child eat at school would benefit the program.” 

While Posey says that the focus of the past year has been on the $8 million construction of a dining hall at King Middle School, she says that the changes have been very positive. 

“It opened on the first day of school,” said Posey. “We moved the central cooking facility from Jefferson School to King. It was a complete change for the workers, but a great success.” 

Cooper made a plea to the community to support this program as much as possible. 

“What we really need is to have more kids eat, even if it is just once more a week,” said Cooper. “That would really help our numbers and our program.” 


Landmarks Commission Considers Pre-WWII Building From Berkeley’s Japantown

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:05:00 AM

A piece of pre-World War II history from Berkeley’s lost Japantown will come before the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission Thursday, June 4. 

Preservation efforts for the former Obata Studio and Art Store at 2525 Telegraph Ave. are being headed by cultural planner and social historian Donna Graves, who started the project, Preserving California’s Japantowns, a few years ago. 

Graves was recently named the 2009-10 Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design for her more than two-decades-long work on historic preservation and developing projects documenting California’s diverse history. 

A bill signed by former Governor Gray Davis in 2001 to help preserve California’s Japantowns and encouragement from the California Japanese American Community Leadership Council and the state Civil Liberties Public Education Program, resulted in Graves putting together pieces of lost Japanese history, including buildings in Berkeley occupied by Japanese families before they were sent to relocation camps during World War II. 

The two-story mixed-use 1907 Mission Revival style Obata or Needham building is one of the at least 60 locations in Berkeley Graves has identified to be part of that history. 

Used by UC Berkeley professor and famed painter Chiura Obata as a work studio from 1939-194, the building later served as the busy storefront for the Ethiopian restaurant Blue Nile. It was scheduled to open as the Muse Art House and Cafe last year but, according to reports from city planning staff, is currently sitting empty. The second floor has eight apartments, of which some are vacant. 

Obata’s daughter, Yuri Kodani, who is now 82, told the Daily Planet in an earlier interview that, after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, protesters fired shots through the window of the studio. Others trashed its steps in the darkness of night. 

Family members had to sell their belongings and evacuate to Tanforan when the war began, but, with the help of Obata’s students and Robert Gordon Sproul, they were able to save his paintings and got them back after they returned to Berkeley in 1945. 

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the project at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Heast Ave. 

Campaign Launched in Opposition To Elimination of Cal Grants

By Rio Bauce, Special to the Planet
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:07:00 AM

In response to the governor’s proposed elimination of the Cal Grant for incoming freshmen, Berkeley High School students and administrators are launching a campaign to convince state legislators otherwise. 

The Cal Grant provides full fees for public universities—$7,788 for schools in the University of California system, and $3,354 for the California State University system. Students who attend community colleges that qualify for the grant pay no fees and can receive up to $1,551 every year for living expenses, transportation, and books. Students who qualify and attend private schools in California receive up to $9,708 in tuition fees. 

“The counseling department is working to get a letter-writing campaign going, asking students and parents to write to the governor and legislators, and providing sample letters,” said BHS College Advisor Ilene Abrams. “We are also writing letters to the editor, and I am working on an op-ed piece.” 

According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the elimination of Cal Grants will keep 22,500 students from attending the state’s community colleges. 

“Freezing Cal Grants will affect the ability of low-income students to attend the college of their choice,” said Abrams, one of two college advisors at Berkeley High. “If these cuts are not replaced by additional aid from the colleges, which seems highly unlikely in these economic times, some students will have to change their college plans—either going to a two-year instead of a four-year college, going to a less- expensive college, or putting off enrollment for the time being.” 

“Because the Cal Grant cuts are new, and we are all hoping that they will not be finalized, no students that I know of have changed their plans,” said Abrams. “However, prior to May 1, some students chose to go to a lower-cost school rather than their first-choice school, due to financial considerations.” 

Andrew Lowe, a Berkeley High senior who will attend UC Berkeley in the fall, says that, while the elimination of the Cal Grant will not personally affect him, it affects many of his friends. 

“I am not very happy with the possible elimination of Cal Grants,” said Lowe. “They are very helpful for a lot of kids and families who rely on them so their child can go to college. I think without Cal Grants the selection process would be more competitive, in that colleges will base their decision on how much money they have to give in aid and whether they feel the student can just go somewhere else.” 

Lowe says that funding education should be the number one priority of the state. 

“I’m not too informed on what our state budget looks like, but I’m pretty sure there are other things the state can cut besides education,” said Lowe. “Education is important, and it needs to be taken care of.” 

Some local organizations that are trying to pick up the slack. The Berkeley Community Fund, a non-profit community organization, gave out 14 “High Hopes” scholarships to Berkeley High School students this year in hope that they can attend college. 

“The interest of the Berkeley Community Fund is to close the gap for students who want to attend college but can’t because of financial concerns,” said Laura Olivas, the organization’s fund administrator. “The Cal Grants really make the difference and their elimination is going to negatively impact the students here. We still need the Cal Grants, but our organization is trying to do everything it can to support students going to college with our scholarships.” 

Berkeley Public Education Foundation President Molly Fraker said that the news of possible elimination of the grant is very unfortunate. 

“It is extremely disappointing news,” said Fraker. “We are aware of the incredible impact that this measure would have on the Berkeley High School community.” 

Education analysts around the country are very puzzled by the governor’s proposal to eliminate the Cal Grant. 

“This is not happening everywhere,” said Tom Mortenson, senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. “Almost all other states protect need-based grant programs and expand them during recessions… they cut school budgets with the expectation they can raise tuition. This is why we were all so shocked that the governor was going to cut this first. Maybe he is making a political statement. He’s going to galvanize a lot of opposition.” 

“Cutting Cal Grants will hurt over 400,000 students who have worked hard,” said Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner. “Those who have qualified for our public education institutions will be denied access to that opportunity. It’s the wrong approach.” 

to his proposal to zero out CalGrants.  His plan would leave thousands of deserving students without the means or the opportunity to pursue their education..  The students will suffer, but so will the future well-being of California. 

  “Unfortunately, the state’s fiscal situation is so dire that everything is on the table since Republicans and the governor continue to refuse to consider new sources of revenue,” said state Sen. Loni Hancock. I urge everyone to make their voices heard in the State Capitol so that this essential program can be saved.” 

BART Fare Increase Takes Effect July 1

Bay City News
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:08:00 AM

BART directors voted today to adopt three fare hikes that will go into effect  

July 1. 

At the end of a lengthy discussion, BART directors voted to raise basic train fares by 6.1 percent and to add 25 cents to the minimum fare for short trips. They also voted to charge an extra $2 for trips to the San Francisco International Airport. 

The 25-cent increase in the minimum fare will increase the base fare from $1.50 to $1.75. 

BART directors also voted to begin charging a $1 parking fee at eight additional stations. Parking fees are already in place at some BART stations. 

BART had not been slated to increase its fares until Jan. 1, but directors voted to move up the fare increases by six months because of BART’s large budget deficit.

Campanile Undergoes Restoration

By Rio Bauce, Special to the Planet
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:09:00 AM

On May 26, UC Berkeley began restoration work on Sather Tower (also known as the Campanile) to repair and clean the marble spire, secure the beacon, and repair the roof. The project is expected to be complete by the beginning of the fall semester. 

“We’re trying to do the work at a time that would have the least impact on campus,” says Capital Projects Communications Manager Christine Shaff.  

While the Campanile will be open for most of the summer, for safety reasons there will be three closures when a construction crane will be on site. The first closure began May 26 and will continue until Tuesday, June 9. Two more closures will occur during the summer. The times will be posted at the Campanile as well as on the campus visitors website (http://visitors. berkeley.edu). 

According to a UC Berkeley press release about the construction, “Birge Hall’s western entrance will be blocked during the project; visitors can access the building through a temporary main entrance on the east side.” 



Fire Department Log

By Richard Brenneman By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:10:00 AM

Where there’s smoke—even the sweet-smelling kind—there’s sometimes fire, as the occupants of one Berkeley apartment discovered to their chagrin last week. 

Firefighters got a 911 call at 1:57 a.m. Wednesday, May 27, reporting heavy smoke coming from an apartment building in the 1500 block of Harmon Street. 

Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said the arriving emergency crew found smoke pouring from a second-floor apartment and quickly extinguished the blaze, confining the flames to the single unit. 

The deputy chief estimated the fire caused $10,000 in structural damage and another $5,000 in loss to the apartment’s contents. 

Cause of the early morning fire? “Unattended incense, which spread to nearby paper and from there to the bed.”

Remembering Claire Burch

By Lydia Gans, Special to the Planet
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:12:00 AM
Claire Burch, seen here interviewing a man at People’s Park, was rarely seen without a video camera in hand.
Lydia Gans
Claire Burch, seen here interviewing a man at People’s Park, was rarely seen without a video camera in hand.

Claire Burch died May 21 at the age of 84. A tiny woman with a video camera always in hand, she was a familiar figure in People’s Park and on Telegraph Avenue.  

Since coming to Berkeley from New York 30 years ago, she shot thousands of hours of footage and produced dozens of videos of well-known and ordinary people, showing their struggles and successes, joys and pains.  

She cared especially about people on the fringes, people who are homeless or mentally ill, young people living on the streets with only a dog for a steady companion. She would spend hours recording homeless people telling of their struggles to survive. She filmed homeless encampments and wacky rituals performed by street people on the Avenue or in People’s Park. People knew they could trust her to convey their stories with compassion. She once said to me, “If I’ve done anything in my life that has any value, I think it’s that maybe I have managed to give more of a voice to the people who I call street survivors.” She wrote several books about homeless people in Berkeley, adding her poetry and pictures to their own words.  

Claire was a prolific artist and composer, poet and filmmaker. Her creative drive appeared at an early age. She told me, “I remember my parents saying turn the light out. I was one of those little kids who they’d say ‘go out and play’ and I’d hang out in the hallway, reading my little book. My poor parents wanted me to be a lawyer. They wanted me to do something practical. Here I was scribbling away. Painting got added to the mix before I can even remember. ... And it escalated, it never went away. It got more and more intense.”  

It seemed that her parents accepted her choice. “When I was 12 I got a scholarship to a ‘life’ class. They had models. And they had a naked man which was very exciting. My folks didn’t realize. They knew on Saturdays I’d go to this drawing class, but I never told them what was so interesting about it. It was a great big chunk of my life.”  

She said later on in life, about writing and painting in bad times, “it keeps the demons away.” And there were demons: the death of child, the psychiatric illness of an adopted daughter, health problems and near blindness in her last years. 

She could be very funny and loved unconventional people and unconventional lifestyles. She was born in New York and lived there except for a period in the suburbs, which she hated. She once told me about it: “I felt like a fish out of water, I knew I didn’t belong. ... (in) Great Neck, Long Island, where people had wall-to-wall carpets all the way to the ceiling.” When her husband died she moved with her daughters into a housing complex in Manhattan that was home to many artists. “It was one of the best times in my life,” she told me.  

Thirty-six years ago she met Mark Weiman at a conference on Jung and Hesse in Switzerland. They have been together ever since. Mark says of himself, “I was her publisher and paramour.” Claire would have loved that! “Domestic partner” sounds so pedestrian! 

Claire was incredibly productive. She did thousands of drawings and paintings. Mark tries to define her style: “She was a contemporary artist working in a variety of realistic and abstract forms.” She particularly liked collage which she used a lot. Her work is widely collected and is held in many private collections and museums. 

Music, even more than art, was a big element in her life. She told of falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining brain injury, after which she began hearing music in her head. So she learned to write music and wrote hundreds of songs. She produced a musical play which had a successful off-Broadway run. Jose Quintero, the well known interpreter of Eugene O’Neill, was engaged to direct another of her optioned plays. 

She and Mark moved to Berkeley in 1978, where she continued painting and drawing. She had started some filming in New York, even made a little feature film, but here she got into video in earnest. And as methods and technology improved, she eagerly took up each new format. Mark describes how she started with the big, clumsy cameras, then Hi-8 and more and more compact and versatile video equipment, always keeping up with state-of-the-art technology. Mark says, “She always was recording, every single day of her life ... in some form, an hour or two of reality. A writer would make notes in their mind and then write it down—she embraced the technology. It was there to use.”  

From time to time she had showings of her films in the Bay Area. Recently she showed People’s Park, Then and Now at a benefit for Food Not Bombs. She showed a film about James Baldwin—who was a friend from her early years in New York—at a Berkeley film festival. Two years ago the Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship sponsored an evening of her films. 

She also wrote numerous books on serious subjects such as homelessness and mental illness, and a wonderful book of poetry, Where Never is Forever, that Mark recently published. In a hilarious book, Charles Darwin in Cyberspace, Emma Wedgewood has a wacky exchange of letters with her husband Charles Darwin, wildly hallucinating while tripping on some moldy bread pudding. She flips back and forth between 19th century England, where she is demanding child support for a very odd child and accusing her husband of having an affair, and 20th century America, where she is trying to get on welfare and thoroughly confusing the social worker. But even with all the silliness, Claire conveyed an understanding of critical issues of mental illness and dealing with the welfare system—and even a bit of Charles Darwin’s scientific work. 

Claire’s life was an inspiration. She was deeply committed to the people and causes she cared about. All who knew her appreciate not only what she did but the human being that she was. 

In addition to Mark, Claire leaves behind her two daughters (who were her best friends), her grandchildren, her sister and brothers, sons-in-law, and many other family members and friends who adored her.

Planners Approve Easing of Downtown Business Permits

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:15:00 AM

Berkeley planning commissioners finished their adjustments to downtown zoning rules Wednesday night, May 27, easing requirements for entrepreneurs setting up shop in the vacancy-plagued city center. 

Commissioners also gave city staff directions on preparing a new General Plan housing element that will meet the requirements of the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), whose certification is required before the city can receive some of the outside funds allocated by the regional government agency.  

The new zoning rules simplify the application for city permits to open new businesses or change the use of existing businesses in a dozen categories, ranging from department stores to radio, recording and television studios. 

The changes followed a March 10 mandate from the Berkeley City Council directing the commission to find ways to accommodate businesses that will generate more revenue for the city. 

The council had suggested eight business categories. The Planning Commission eliminated one and added five others during its April 29 meeting, the same list the commission approved Wednesday night. 

“Our effort was to see what can happen with minimal staff input,” said Land Use Planning Manager Debra Sanderson. 

“I like anything that’s going to save time,” said commissioner and architect Jim Novosel. 

“Wherever we can do this so that applicants don’t have to go through a long approval process is a good idea. I would like to see it happen in other places than just downtown,” said Commissioner Teresa Clarke, a nonprofit housing  


Gene Poschman, a retired professor and the only commissioner not to vote in favor of the package (he abstained), said he was concerned that “there is a kind of pandering factor here. The council may think they’re doing something positive, but there may be unintended consequences.” 

Sanderson said easing the permit process would help a staff that had been reduced by 38 percent, while workloads for each of the remaining city planning staffers had soared by as much as 50 percent in some cases. 

The new zoning code sections will reduce requirements for eight business categories from mandatory use permits with a public hearing before the Zoning Adjustments Board to either administrative use permits (AUPs) or the simpler zoning certificate. The requirements for four business categories were reduced from AUPs to certificates. 

AUPs require a staff level review by the Planning Department, while certificates are by-right permits, handled as over-the-counter transactions. 

Going the full public hearing route can take over a year, a process that has generated complaints from would-be business owners, Sanderson said. 

Businesses that had requirements reduced from hearings to the AUP level included department stores; quick-service restaurants within 200 feet of residential districts; full-service restaurants with a beer or wine license more than 200 feet from residential districts; non-alcohol-serving full-service restaurants within 200 feet of residential districts; gyms and health clubs; theaters; childcare centers; and radio/television/recording studios. 

Businesses that had requirements reduced from AUPs to certificates included video and DVD rental outlets; quick-service restaurants more than 200 feet from residential districts; full-service restaurants with no alcohol service more than 200 feet from residential zones; and group class instruction businesses. 

Applicants who want to accelerate the process can do so—at a cost—by hiring city-approved consultants to process their applications. The consultant fees are in addition to the city application fees, but enable the applicant to win faster approval than by relying on the hard-pressed staff, Sanderson told the commission. 


Housing quota  

ABAG is a regional agency comprising nine Bay Area counties and serves as an intermediary for regional planning and doling out some state funding to county and city governments. 

The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) is ABAG’s allocation of projected growth assigned to individual cities and counties, which must show their capacity to issue building permits up to the level mandated by ABAG. 

Governments aren’t required to actually build the housing—a process dictated by the market—but they must be willing to issue the permits if developers want to build and meet local code requirements. 

Of the 2,431 units ABAG said the city must be willing to permit by 2014, Berkeley has already built or issued permits for 737 since the current seven-year RHNA term began in 2007, said Associate Planner Jordan Harrison. 

ABAG divides the quota into affordability levels, and of the units also approved, most fall into the “above moderate-income” category, while 34 percent of the extremely and very low-income units have been approved, 18 percent of the low-income units and less than 1 percent of the moderate-income units. 

The categories are computed on the basis of an area median income (AMI) in Alameda County of $89,300 for a family of four, with extremely low-income classified as up to 30 percent of the AMI; very low-income from 31 to 50 percent of AMI; low-income 51 to 80 percent; and moderate-income, 81 to 120 percent. 

Harrison said the city staff has projected between 500 and 800 units for the downtown and south-of-campus neighborhoods, with the remainder of the new housing to be built along the city’s commercial corridors—University, Shattuck, San Pablo and Telegraph avenues and along Adeline Street. 

Neighborhood activist Steve Wollmer asked commissioners why the allocation didn’t include the so-called accessory dwelling units (also known as mother-in-law apartments) called for in the city’s pending Climate Action Plan. 

“Where is Solano Avenue?” he asked.  

Commissioners also asked the staff to include potential development sites in existing residential neighborhoods.

Port Commissioners Postpone Vote on BART Airport Connector

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:13:00 AM

The president of the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners abruptly removed an agenda item proposing port funding for BART’s Oakland Airport Connector this week, only hours before commissioners were due to consider it, but a spokesperson for the port said that the action was no indication that there was any problem with commission approval of the item. 

“The item was pulled [by Commission President Victor Uno] because we have a very busy schedule tonight,” port media and public relations specialist Marilyn Sandifur said by e-mail in response to a written query by the Daily Planet. “The Airport Connector will be on the agenda for the [June 16] board meeting. There is no negative impact on the project due to rescheduling.” 

BART is proposing a long-planned 3.5-mile $529 million rail line connecting the Coliseum BART station with the Oakland Airport, and is requesting that the Port of Oakland, which runs the airport, contribute $44 million to complete the funding package for the project. Because some $70 million of the money is in federal stimulus funds that will be withdrawn from the project if BART does not have a construction contract signed by December, the transit agency is urging the port commission to give quick approval to the funding request. 

While the port’s requested share is $44 million, interest rate costs of $26 million will push the total cost to the port for the airport connector project to $70 million. If the commission approves, port officials plan to apply for federal funds for the port’s portion of the project cost. Port officials say that, if the commission does not approve port funding of the airport connector project, those federal funds would be used for other Port of Oakland projects. 

TransForm, a local transportation advocacy and planning organization, has proposed a bus rapid transit alternative to the airport connector to run along Hegenberger Road. TransForm’s RapidBART is projected to cost $45 million. 

The Port of Oakland’s airport committee listened to several hours of testimony on the competing plans this week from representatives of BART, TransForm, public officials and members of the public. 

AC Transit Takes First Step Toward Bus Line Cuts

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:16:00 AM

Officials of the AC Transit bus agency took the first step this week that they project will end with the elimination or reduction of bus lines within the two-county district sometime later this year. 

While there has been widespread speculation about what lines may be cut, district staff has not yet produced a recommended list of such cuts. 

On Wednesday, members of the AC Transit Board of Directors held a brief public hearing on the district’s “Intent to Declare a Fiscal Emergency for the 2009-2010 Fiscal Year.” Consideration of the fiscal emergency declaration, which the board has scheduled for its June 24 regular meeting, is necessary for the district to implement service cuts without the need of either a full environmental review or a declaration of negative environmental impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

In support of the proposed declaration of a fiscal emergency, AC Transit General Counsel Ken Scheidig prepared a memo for Wednesday’s public hearing that included a one-page, 10-figure attachment projecting that the district would have a negative balance of $9.7 million in working capital as of June 30, 2010. 

Only three members of the public spoke at Wednesday’s hearing. None of them challenged AC Transit’s fiscal situation, but instead they complained that the district had not given sufficient public notice for the hearing. Oakland transportation advocate Joyce Roy, a frequent AC Transit critic, said that she “consider[ed] it a secret public hearing.” District officials said that the hearing had been properly noticed, and Board Member Chris Peeples said that “instead of procedural issues we need to focus on the substantive issues,” which Peeples said included “what service cuts are going to be made.”



Editorial: ‘Part of Being a Good Friend Is Being Honest’

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:04:00 AM

Why did the Planet devote so much space this week to chronicling the misbegotten crusade of a few unpleasant twerps to destroy this paper? Many friends and family members have counseled us just to ignore them, in the hope that they’d eventually slink off into the shadows whence they came.  

That’s the strategy we’ve been following for about three years now, ever since local religious and political officials declined our invitation to meet openly to discuss their denunciation of the paper for running a letter from an Iranian student which they characterized as anti-Semitic. It hasn’t worked. 

A tiny but vigorous minority of what can only be described as zealots has continued to attack the paper every time a reader contributing to our opinion section or one of our freelance columnists writes something that could be interpreted as critical of Israel or its current government. We’re more than happy to host vigorous civil discourse about important topics, including the Israel-Palestine conflict. We’ve published many, many column inches of opinions from the zealots profiled in this issue of the paper, and that’s fine. But when the tactics of those who disagree turn to trying to destroy the forum itself, they’ve gone too far. 

When our advertising sales staff reports that a customer, a woman who owns a struggling small business, has called in tears because she’s received threats, the zealots have gone too far. When the author of a commentary reports that menacing words have been chalked on the sidewalk outside her house, they’ve gone too far. When one of the zealots creates a website stocked with lunatic lies worthy of a Goebbels, and then copies its dishonest content onto Indymedia web sites in several cities and into the comments section of a respected Jewish weekly, they’ve gone too far. 

We’re lucky or unlucky enough to have as the paper’s lawyer a veteran of the Free Speech Movement. Every time someone tells us that “you should sue those jerks—they’ve libeled you” we call Paul to inquire, and every time he tells us to pull up our socks. “The First Amendment protects their right to lie,” he says.  

Well, yes, the publisher and I do believe, along with Justice Brandeis, that for speech that you don’t like “the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” So we haven’t filed a libel suit, even though we could probably win.  

The paper itself is not suffering too much from the campaign against our advertisers per se. Given the general economic climate, having a couple of terrified retailers drop out because they’ve been harassed is in the noise. But we do feel for our customers. 

Small businesses need to advertise in local papers if they’re to survive—they can’t pay the prices at the big metros and they want to direct their message to local readers. We’re proud of those who have chosen to speak out and fight back, but everyone can’t do that. It’s unconscionable that a few bullies are trying to take away their right to advertise where they choose.  

And just as important is the classic question, “Is it good for the Jews?” These individuals claim to speak for the Jewish citizens of Berkeley, whom they say constitute a sizeable percentage of the population, but they have little in common with the tolerant and thoughtful Jewish people I’ve known in the 35 years I’ve lived here. Many of our small business customers are hard-working immigrants whose contact with people they identify as Jewish is limited. It would be a real shame if they took these bullies as representing the majority of Jews in Berkeley or even in the United States, which they don’t. 

It’s a serious mistake, as I’ve said in this space before, to equate criticism of the actions of one faction in Israel with anti-Semitism, described by a writer in the latest London Review of Books as “a wholly dishonorable charge that no power on earth, it seems, is capable of preventing being brought whenever the actions of the state of Israel are criticized.” Branding criticism as anti-Semitism has fueled shut-it-down efforts like those directed at the Planet all over the world in recent years, aimed at all kinds of publications from the London Review and The Nation all the way down to the little Coastal Post in West Marin. Ironically, the Israeli press still publishes all kinds of opinions about its government, though there are shut-down proponents there too. 

A Daily Kos review describes a new book on this kind of politics by Dave Neiwert, The Eliminationists. His definition: “Eliminationism: a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination.” From the review (I haven’t read the book) it seems that Neiwert covers mostly the right wing nuts in the Rush Limbaugh orbit, so it’s interesting that one of these local bullies, while claiming to unearth anti-Semitism, has been mixed up with the lunatic Christian right fringe. He seems to have acquired some of their bad habits. 

One advertiser who saw the Islamic version of the same sort of people in his native Iran told us that he thinks there’s 1 or 2 percent of extremists like these in any population. It’s not about Judaism, it’s about fanaticism, which looks the same everywhere, he points out, and he believes that it’s crucial to stand up to the fanatics, all of them, anywhere. 

A young San Jose city councilmember, the first Vietnamese-American to be elected there, was featured on last week’s This American Life radio program. She’s been subjected to endless vituperation within her own community, including a recall battle which she survived, just because she happened to endorse the name “Saigon Business District” instead of “Little Saigon” for the local Vietnamese commercial district. She’s gotten red-baiting like that directed at the Planet’s Conn Hallinan, and worse, from the “eliminationist” minority in her own Vietnamese-American community, people who want to turn the clash of opinions into a war to the death. 

Despite all of this tsooris (a Yiddish word meaning anything from grief to aggravation), voices of reason, both Jewish and non-Jewish, are increasingly making themselves heard. It used to be rare to see anything in print critical of any action of the government of Israel, but times have changed. In the last couple of weeks, there have been pointed letters about the Gaza situation in both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Berkeley Voice, the local outlet for the Media News chain, and we haven’t heard threats of boycotts against either publication. 

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton fell all over each other in the recent primary campaign to claim that they were friends of Israel, but now they’re both interpreting friendship in a new way. 

“Part of being a good friend is being honest,” President Obama said on Monday. “And I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests. And that’s part of a new dialogue that I’d like to see encouraged in the region.” 

It’s also a dialogue that we’d like to continue to encourage in this paper. We hope that the genuine leaders of the East Bay Jewish community will have the courage to speak up against the “eliminationists” in their midst, and to point out that reasonable people can disagree, but it’s important not to destroy the forum. 

We continue to believe that our principal reason for being in business is to host free and frank public discussion of important issues (even though we sympathize with some readers who say they never want to hear another word about Israel.) It’s not just a few ultra-partisan supporters of Israel, by the way, who are mad at us for allowing free speech to continue in Berkeley.  

We learned last week that the online Daily Planet has been blocked in China, possibly because we covered the Dalai Lama’s visit to Berkeley. Now that’s an achievement we’re proud of.


Harrassing Advertisers

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 10:28:00 AM

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:06:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

We are writing as members of the East Bay Labor and Community Coalition, whose participants are clergy, current and retired workers, including professionals, public employees, and others who represent the rich mix of residents in the East Bay. What brings this diverse group together is our common belief that working people, like the business community, have a right to form their own associations to represent and protect their interests. 

We therefore would like to congratulate Berkeley Bowl on its progressive decision to allow its employees, without any interference from management, to make a free choice on whether they want to form a union when the West Berkeley store opens. From a business perspective, promoting a democratic environment assures high employee morale, which in turn promotes productivity and a pleasant shopping environment. Everybody wins; business, workers, and customers. 

Our experience tells us that most area residents prefer to shop in a unionized establishment. This is why, for example, Berkeley Honda has hung a large fluorescent green sign in its front window saying “Union Shop.” It is among our responsibilities to encourage consumers to shop in establishments where unions represent workers. 

Again, we applaud Berkeley Bowl’s decision to allow workers free choice. 

Harry Brill for 

The East Bay Labor &  

Community Coalition  

(formerly Berkeley Honda Coalition) 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s May 28 column raises many questions that, as a veteran of the Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968, came immediately to my mind as I read about the OPD-Lovelle Mixon debacle in East Oakland. 

From my perspective no one in their right mind, with any experience in urban warfare, would enter an unsurveilled building without making their presence known from the outside. If you don’t take measures to evacuate the building first, then logically when you enter anyone inside is subject to die. It’s not due to the alleged professionalism and alleged careful planning of OPD’s SWAT squad that others, beyond the two officers and Lovelle Mixon, didn’t die that day inside the apartment building. 

Indeed, where was the OPD leadership? 

Another unasked question: Is the Berkeley police officer going to get a complete pass for initiating and sustaining the high-speed chase through Berkeley and Oakland residential neighborhoods that resulted in the deaths of two innocent bystanders? Is this standard operating procedure in Berkeley and Oakland? 

It would seem, given the high level of communications technology available to law enforcement agencies, some other procedure may be put in place that is safer for everyone. Granted with budget constraints and all, it’s not a perfect world. In the end, however, three people rather one are dead. 

In my mind the Berkeley situation is not that different from the one in Oakland. Due to implementation of police policy the number of victims multiplied. 

Who will draw the lines that divide responsible from irresponsible police reaction? 

Jean Damu 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recently, dueling commentaries regarding the widely-publicized difficulties at Pacifica’s New York station WBAI appeared in the Berkeley Daily Planet. One was authored by the former board chair Richard Phelps, the other by part-time reporter and board treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert. They traded charges about “who’s responsible” for the troubles. This is less important than the fact that the foundation, which is now led by people more akin to Phelp’s side of the fence, is finally—after many years of paralysis—taking assertive actions to address the financial bleeding in New York. 

Why did it take so long? That’s a good question. The answer is, despite Edward-Tiekert’s protestations, under the leadership of the former board majority he is speaking for, which goes by “Concerned Listeners” in Berkeley and the “Justice and Unity Coalition” in New York, things got pretty bad and nothing was done. The record is clear.  

Unfortunately—as Edwards-Tiekert reported in his capacity as treasurer at the last board meeting—KPFA, whose board and management team remain dominated by the “Concerned Listeners,” accrued a $300,000 deficit in the first six months of the 2008-2009 fiscal year, partially caused by mandated spending cuts in the approved budget which have not yet been carried out. 

These are tough times for everyone, but it’s not a glowing record of financial responsibility for the Concerned Listeners and their New York allies, the JUC. 

When you add in a year and a half of unpaid staffer union-busting, a police beating on the premises, and the Women’s Magazine, the only weekly women-produced news collective in the Bay Area, going on and off the air like a yo-yo the past few months, you have to wonder. 

“Concerned Listeners” has done an excellent job of supporting management teams, here in Berkeley and also in New York before recent changes. When they’ve done a good job and when they haven’t. What they haven’t done is oversee them when they screw up. And that’s part of the job of a nonprofit foundation board. Board leadership isn’t possible when a board “slate” partners with management teams. 

I understand why Edwards-Tiekert happily endorses the “Concerned Listeners.” I’m just not sure it’s the best thing. 

Support independent candidates for the KPFA board. That will make these “who’s responsible” arguments a thing of the past. 

Tracy Rosenberg 

Executive Director, Media Alliance 

KPFA board member 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for your ongoing coverage of the never-ending changes occurring at Berkeley High School. Unfortunately, many cruel changes may be forced by state budget cuts. Thus, the district may be wise to slow down the proposed schedule changes to create advisory periods, which will cut instructional time, at a time when the governor’s gutless budget proposes reducing the school year. Our students need class time to learn. 

Also, I take exception to repeated statements that the achievement gap is larger in Berkeley than in any other district as a pejorative description of Berkeley schools. The large gap in Berkeley may not be attributable to the failure of our schools, as implied, but because so many affluent and well educated families—whose children typically do well on standardized tests—choose to attend Berkeley’s schools. I dare anyone to identify another school district in the state with such a diverse student body as Berkeley is doing any better. While we must strive to do better, we should not forget that families from all backgrounds are working hard together to support our amazing teachers to continue to make the Berkeley schools a wonderful American experiment. 

Paul Lecky  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Joanna Graham’s May 28 letter to the editor asking us to “do the math” on the size of Berkeley’s Jewish population and to deduce its attitudes toward the Planet’s position on Israel shows several errors. Let me hasten to state I have no idea how many Jews live in Berkeley, but imputing to Berkeley, or any other place, the same percentage of Jews in the national average misrepresents both culture and demography. Jews, like a number of other ethnic groups, tend to cluster in certain areas and not in others. Although Jews comprise about 3 percent of the national population, no one, except perhaps Graham, would ever deduce that the Jewish population of New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles is 3 percent. And while it is eminently true, that the Jewish community is not a monolith of opinion on any topic, including Israel; it is also true that the Jewish community, with the exception of a small but vocal minority, overwhelmingly supports Israel’s right to exist in peace and with secure borders. Whether we are secular or orthodox, we are offended when criticism of Israel crosses the line into demonization of Jews—as we perceive the Planet to have done. We would experience the same outrage if the Planet described the barbarism in Rwanda in terms of race. 

Abraham H. Miller 

Walnut Creek  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Where are the petitions to put a proposition on the ballot removing the requirement for two-thirds approval by the Legislature for a state budget? The two-thirds law is wreaking mayhem by enabling a handful of Republicans to block raising taxes on the rich to pay for the benefits that have made California prosperous. I’ll sign for a 55 percent proposition. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

While I am no fan or advocate of fast food or corporate presence in Berkeley, I was struck by the image of protesters outside of the downtown Berkeley McDonald’s. I was reminded of a poem I read in a recent issue of Street Spirit. I cannot remember the exact words the author used (it was likely in an edition in the past two or three months), the general message was this: The downtown Berkeley McDonald’s is the only place where a street person, a poor person, a mentally ill person, an unclean person, a mentally retarded person can go and be treated as an equal. Nobody minds the random change they pay with. Nobody asks them to leave. It is warm and clean. They can eat a hot meal without shame. They are no harassed or followed. They are not stared at by other patrons. 

I remember well working at a Berkeley restaurant (of notable stature) and the discussion that was had of what to do with the homeless who begged outside the doors. The police were often called, the manager often demanded they leave ... and thinking about both of these situations caused me to feel a bit differently about the McDonald’s in Berkeley. Berkeley has successfully kept fast-food presence to a minimum—especially in-light of the fact that we are a university town. We have successfully promoted healthy, local and organic eating. But we are still hostile and unwelcoming to our population that has nothing. Even at places like the Cheeseboard—where the owners are sympathetic towards the homeless—the patrons are not. I, for one, have no issue with a public space—be it corporate, fast food, whatever—where a homeless person can go and not feel alienated. Until Berkeley is willing to deal with the hostility towards the homeless, I suggest we put our efforts into more positive and uplifting endeavors. 

Britt Alamo 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a regular Berkeley Bowl shopper who lives just west of the store, I would like to express my sincerest appreciation to the city for the timing of the stoplight at the corner of Oregon and Adeline. The walk cycle on this stoplight is so short that to get across the street in the time allotted—starting just when it turns to WALK and finishing by the end of the red flashing countdown—requires a brisk jog; I appreciate the weekly exercise forced upon me. 

Moreover, I enjoy the sense of superiority I feel every week: I know to start running as soon as the light turns, lest I be stuck in the middle, and I get to privately gloat over those less fit than I, and those stuck in wheelchairs, who must wait two full cycles to get across. Occasionally, when the oncoming cars are far enough away, I head into the street early, before the light turns; I love the excitement of required jaywalking. Sometimes I don’t make it, and the light changes while I am still in the intersection. On these occasions, the angry looks from drivers for whom the light says “go” but there is a pedestrian in the intersection—those looks provide the humility I need, and stay with me all the way home as I berate myself for failing to get across in time. 

In short, the only things better about Berkeley Bowl than the stoplight outside are the crowded aisles and rude customers. The store’s selection, and particularly the always friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable staff—them I could do without. 

Theo Johnson-Freyd 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Congratulations to the San Francisco Chronicle and writer Victoria Colliver for the front page article (Saturday, May 30) entitled “Health Care Reform—Anger grows over single payer snub.” It’s an important milestone for the Chron and the public; and an excellent piece of work as well. In response to a comment in the article from Laurence Baker, associate professor of health research and policy at Stanford this brief rejoinder: Baker claims that some polls show a distrust of government’s ability to take over health care. My observation differs. People aren’t worried about government as an abstract concept, but about today’s corrupt politicians, the corrupt people politicians appoint, and the lobbyists who pay for their decisions. The public knows this corruption stymies effective governance. Two of three Americans want an efficient Medicare program for all without any insurance company interference, profit taking, exclusions and redlining. Obviously, the resistance to single-payer is coming from Wall Street and the political hacks everywhere who they fund—like Senator Baucus—and not mainly from the public.  

Marc Sapir 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

No one disagrees that we are in a severe recession. But I fear that in the stampede to balance the budget, California will eliminate or reduce many of the public assistance programs serving as social safety nets for children, the poor, and the sick and the elderly. Such programs include public housing, hunger and nutrition programs, childcare and child support, etc. Safety nets are designed to keep the down-and-out afloat during an economic slump. Families, local communities, and charities will be insufficient to take up the slack for lost or reduced publicly-funded programs. And a long-term recession could create a lost generation of people stuck in unemployment lines for so long that they become unemployable. Look what happened to Japan’s “lost” or “suffering” generation. 

For over 100 years America’s social safety net has expanded dramatically. At the turn of the last century, Americans still viewed themselves as “rugged individualists.” The family, the community, and charities formed the basis of the social safety net at that time. This all changed in response to the Great Depression of the 1930s. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal began by establishing Social Security in 1935 and a modern day federal welfare program began with a small program called Aid to Dependent Children. During the Johnson administration in the 1960s, Medicare, Medicaid, public housing, and other programs were established. 

Much of America’s welfare programs remained largely unchanged until 1996, when a Republican Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, a sweeping welfare reform law that is still the subject of much controversy in public policy circles.  

The latest data (2005) shows that the top 300,000 Americans collectively had as much income as the bottom 150 million. Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person earned in the bottom half. With the rapidly growing unemployment, I suspect the 2010 census will show that this gap has widened even further. But these are just numbers. We’ve heard the reports of executives of failed corporations receiving millions of dollars in compensation juxtaposed with daily articles about people facing home foreclosures, loss of benefits, pay reductions, and layoffs. And I bet each of you know friends or acquaintances who are in a precarious financial situation.  

Clearly, budget cuts are necessary. But tax increases should be seriously considered to ensure a continuation of a social safety net. It is time for our politicians and the public to step back and carefully consider the short and long term consequences of the proposed budget cuts.  

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In regard to Rich Walkling’s letter, this will be my last about the meadow. It was futile for me to write all the others and I give up all hope of ever seeing it open to the public again. Mr. Walkling and his gang—Joe Eaton and Toni Mester and Carol Denny and the CESP and the EBRPD and all the others of their special interest project—have gotten their way and there’s nothing I can do about it. 

I had hoped more people would join me with their own letters in our concern for the general public, but aside from two others I’ve remained alone, either because they don’t read your paper or they already know how futile it is to go up against those in power. 

Regardless of whether or not the meadow turns out as Mr. Walkling says, it will be viewed only from outside the fence like any other private property. For him to call it a public park is a travesty, but he obviously doesn’t care. As he says, he’s part of the Audubon Society and he’s a so-called “restoration planner” with his own special interests at stake, not the general public’s. There is nothing in civilization uglier than a chain-link fence with signs that say, “Keep Out,” and whatever Mr. Walking and his gang plants in the grave of the Naked Ladies who once thrived there, it will remain because of the fence an abomination of landscape design. 

And so the fence will remain and after I’m dead and gone the next generation will not know that what he calls his “project” was once a free and open wilderness that humans enjoyed as well as wildlife. Nor will there be any more wildlife than before the fence, only the kind which he and his gang have chosen, which will not really be “wild.” What is public land has now in effect become their private nursery. 

Pete Najarian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

This has been a difficult and emotional time for those of us who knew Archie Green, Him Mark Lai, and Ron Takaki, all passing away these past few weeks. They are three giants who brought light into the human, neglected histories of our vital American heritage. 

In the 1980s, when I was director of the Maritime Humanities Center of the San Francisco Bay Area, Archie Green became a member of the board of directors. His had pioneered the study of Laborlore that probed the folk lives of men and women who sustain the lifeblood of our industries. The center celebrated the life and labor at sea and shore. Through Festivals of the Sea, public forums, lectures, and films, Archie contributed his insight and expertise. His insightful studies of coal miners, longshoremen, pile drivers, and seafarers made him a natural supporter of the center. He was the major force behind the establishment of the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress. The Maritime Humanities Center is honored to have tape recordings of his interactions with longshoremen and seafarers at its Public Forums. Our holdings will be taken over by the library at Chapel Hill sometime in the future. 

Him Mark Lai, who I met when I was a board member of the Chinese Historical Society of America in the 1980s, was an indefatigable researcher into the lives of Chinese-Americans. He was the co-editor of seminal studies, two syllabi on Chinese in California, the other, in America, 1969 and 1971. Other editors are/were alike superb scholars, Philip P. Choy, who is still writing, and Thomas Chinn, who passed away. Mark and Phil taught those courses at San Francisco State, the first time anywhere. Mark’s optimism influenced many a young researcher. I always believed the word “impossible” was not in his vocabulary, and his numerous studies on the hidden history of our American ethos are legacies to that end. 

Ron Takaki’s writings give incredible insight into the dynamics of ethnicity in American society. When I taught at Laney College in the 1990s, I attended his seminars on American Cultures at UCB. The seminars gave birth to innumerable courses, attended by instructors from campuses throughout California. His numerous writings helped to spur other budding scholars into the field. Although not always mentioned in listings of his works, I will always prize my copy of the lovely, powerful study: Pau Hana: Plantation Life and Labor in Hawaii. Ron revolutionized the way higher education embraced ethnic cultures. 

All were dear, extraordinary people. Their demise is a painful loss to our country, especially the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Robert J. Schwendinger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Several weeks ago, I wrote a letter to the Daily Planet calling on Berkeley Unified to hire a director of special education to properly serve students with special needs. I am very happy to report that not only was Superintendent Bill Huyett listening, he asked me (and two other parents) to join the committee of individuals interviewing for the new position.  

We outspoken parents on that committee were very pleased with the selection of Kay Altizer, current special education director of Vallejo Public Schools, as the new director. Ms. Alitizer has a daunting task ahead of her, to make sure that the 10 percent of students with special needs in the district receive an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment, to eliminate spending waste and to fully optimize state, federal and private insurance funding opportunities. However, I believe she is the right woman for the job. 

Thank you, Superintendent Huyett and Berkeley Unified School Board members, for your leadership in and commitment to providing appropriate educational service to ALL of Berkeley’s children. Our community will be a better one in the long-run because of your actions. 

Mark Chekal-Bain 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On May 28, letter writer Dick Bagwell contends that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not about land, but about hatred. Examining the situation more carefully, and with an open mind, one can see that this is not the case, as is naively believed by some. The conflict is much more complex, and is not just about land, but about a disenfranchised people’s right to self-determination and their undying will to control their own destiny. 

Robert Kanter 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Employee Free Choice Act, currently being debated in the U.S. Senate, will make it harder for companies to illegally fire or retaliate against workers attempting to unionize. It has bipartisan support in Congress, and is co-sponsored by every California Democrat save one— Sen. Dianne Feinstein. She was a past sponsor of the act but has withdrawn her support, allegedly due to economic concerns in this recession.  

This logic is hopelessly flawed. This recession creates more urgency for strong labor reform than ever before. Obama’s stimulus package calls for 3 million new jobs, many of which will be “green-collar” jobs for the new clean energy economy. The Employee Free Choice Act would ensure that all these new green workers have a fair opportunity to unionize. 

If our transition to a sustainable society is to succeed, jobs like solar installer and energy efficiency electrician must be attractive positions with family-sustaining wages and benefits. Sen. Feinstein must not stand in the way of a green-collar middle class. 

Tracy Shepard 

San Francisco 

Is the Berkeley Ferry Cost-Effective?

By Paul Kamen
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:07:00 AM

Is the Berkeley ferry cost-effective? Of course not, as a recent letter to the editor by David Fielder demonstrates. Without even considering operating costs, just the capitalization of the boats, terminal and parking structure amount to about $8 per ride. Ferries are never cost-effective when there’s already a bridge and a tunnel spanning the same body of water. 

There is really only one good argument for the ferry: People like ferries. The Berkeley ferry will never be part of a sensible transportation plan. But it can become a valued public amenity, and this alone might be enough reason to go ahead with some form of the Berkeley ferry. 

But let’s do it right, and do it on an appropriate scale. 

There is no need for the grandiose $31 million terminal structure shown in the WETA proposal. We don’t need to home-port two boats at the facility, and we don’t need to build breakwaters that will guarantee operation every day of the year through the worst winter storms. 

Most important of all, we don’t need to turn every parking space on the south side of the marina into ferry parking, or spend another $20 million on a 650-space multi-level parking structure right along the shoreline. 

We can have our terminal at the selected site with a simple ticket kiosk, an ordinary pier and a boarding float. We don’t need an elaborate all-weather breakwater; a floating wave attenuator will be ample protection from the prevailing sea breeze chop 98% of the time. Sure, there will be a few days a year when the water is too rough. But service interruptions due to storm conditions are part and parcel of travel by sea. Is it worth another $15 million or more to ensure continuous operation of what really amounts to a boutique service? 

Historically, ferries have operated from essentially the same site with no breakwater protection at all.  

But the main reason to go light on this project is the limited capacity of the marina’s infrastructure. We can probably handle 500 round-trips per day. We can’t handle 1,700 without serious negative impacts on a long list of activities, organizations, access points and businesses. 

Our basic tool to control ridership level is price. The city needs to take the position that we cannot afford to turn over our parking resource to the ferry operator and its passengers for free. There is no reason not to expect ferry passengers to pay market price, to the City, for parking on city land. 

How do we define market price? It’s the price at which the demand matches the supply. So if, for example, a peak-season parking analysis determines that there are 300 available parking spaces near the terminal, then the ferry ticket price needs to include a parking fee that naturally limits the additional parking load to 300 cars. 

Note that you can’t charge for parking separately, as there is no practical way to keep ferry passengers from parking in other adjacent marina lots needed for other waterfront functions. The fee has to be rolled into the ticket price. (Passengers arriving by bus or bike get deep discounts.) 

We would probably end up with one small ferry every hour instead of a big boat every 30 minutes. The ticket price might be $15 instead of $5, the city would collect about $400,000 per year in parking fees instead of having to subsidize the service, and the parking thrash would be avoided. 

It could be a win for everyone, and the only obstacle to going this route is that the Water Emergency Transportation Authority has too much money to spend and not enough adult supervision to insure that it is spent it wisely. 


Berkeley resident Paul Kamen is a naval architect.

Why Local Newspapers Matter

By Glenn Scherer
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:07:00 AM

This February, Denver’s Rocky Mountain News died. In March, The Tucson Citizen followed. Meanwhile hundreds of other American newspapers reduced staff and declared themselves in significant economic trouble. 

Many commentators have lamented the passing of local newspapers; others foretell a not-yet-arrived golden age of electronic news reportage. But few have mentioned one of the biggest potential losers in the demise of print publishing: our local environment—the clean air, water, land, forests, beaches, wetlands and wildlife that enrich our communities. 

Since the days of muckraking reporter Upton Sinclair and his establishment-shaking revelations about a corrupt Chicago meat packing industry, responsible local investigative journalists have shone a withering light on corporate polluters, unscrupulous developers, dishonest officials, and incompetent environmental regulators—thereby making our hometowns better, safer, more enjoyable places to live. 

Likewise, local activists have relied on community newspapers for accurate unbiased reporting. With little or no money to buy publicity, environmental activists, like Love Canal’s Lois Gibbs, scribbled outraged but informed Letters to the Editor, or sponsored public meetings and protests that were sure to attract a reporter from the local paper. That’s one way activists marshal grassroots troops against environmental injustice. 

In Anniston, Alabama, for example, it was a neighborhood group called the Community Against Pollution (CAP) that in the late 1990s spoke up for West Anniston, “a part of town that is largely poor, largely black, largely forgotten, and largely polluted,” according to John Fleming, then The Anniston Star’s editorial page editor. CAP led the charge against a grossly negligent Monsanto Corporation that let toxic PCBs leach into soils, and an equally negligent Alabama Department of Environmental Management, “more of a permit facilitator for industry than a protector of the environment,” said Fleming. 

But it was the Anniston Star’s reporting about CAP, including the filing of a lawsuit, that helped bring the issue to the attention of the rest of the city and the state, and moved the US Environmental Protection Agency to act. The paper’s reputation for integrity and truth-telling helped shine a light on West Anniston’s plight. And corruption—whether in the form of toxic waste or government malfeasance—can’t stand much light. 

You’ll find thousands of “light bringing” stories like that of West Anniston in big-city editions, mid-size dailies and small town weeklies. One of the most instructive recent examples I can think of is that of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which reported the likelihood of Mississippi River levee failures a year before Hurricane Katrina, along with an obvious reason for those failings: the diversion of federal funds away from levee construction to the Iraq War by the Bush administration. 

But every example isn’t a matter of life or death. Without the small newspaper in my hometown of Vernon, New Jersey, activists couldn’t have defeated a cell phone tower slated for construction within eyeshot of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, or the illegal trading of a state wildlife management area for a proposed 165-unit condo complex; or the demolition of a Revolutionary War-era tavern for a Burger King. Those battles played out on the pages of The Vernon News, with both sides vying for the people’s hearts and minds. This is democracy at work, even if it is democracy writ small, not large. 

So if you are looking for the next big, breaking, nationally important environmental story, don’t go first to CNN or Google News. Rather look for those stories percolating upwards from the pages of your community newspaper. 

Or at least that is the way things were. In a 2008 editorial, John Fleming of the Anniston Star summed up the greatest worry of many involved in community journalism: “If local media no longer is local, how does it fulfill one of its most essential roles: informing the community in times of peril?” 

Fleming was asking this question about a local radio station that had recently been mechanized and so failed to report an oncoming tornado. He might however just as readily have asked what would have happened if there had been no local paper to trumpet the peril posed by PCBs to the people of West Anniston? 

As our economy implodes, and deregulated corporate shenanigans reach unbelievable heights, it would be foolish for us to imagine that no company out there is quietly trying to dispose of toxic waste in somebody’s backyard, or that state or federal regulators might not be asleep at the switch as that waste gets dumped. 

The best thing you can do to defend against such possibilities in your community? Support your local newspaper. Buy a subscription. Read every edition. 


Glenn Scherer is co-editor of Blue Ridge Press, where this commentary first appeared. 

Berkeley Low-Income Rental Housing Not Necessarily Affordable

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:07:00 AM

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments Program was established in 1974. It provides project-based and tenant-based housing assistance to low-income persons who rent. It has been one of the best possible uses of federal funds, because it countermands need for costly welfare-type expenditures. For example, sheltering seniors and persons with “certain disabilities” with low incomes who are willing, able, and eager to live independently. (Most low-income seniors are not frail and do not need costly “assisted living.”) When you and your landlord qualify under Section 8 for tenant-based housing assistance, you pay one third of your income for rent, and the balance subsidized. 

Make no mistake: “affordable housing” is not “low-income” housing. When conservatives’ attempted to eliminate HUD failed, they focused on Section 8. 

In theory, it is also possible for a low-income person or family to obtain a Section 8 voucher from the local housing authority—the Berkeley Housing Authority (now sometimes referred to as the Reconstituted BHA)—and then find a vacant apartment on the open market owned by a landlord who will accept subsidized rent, all within the brief period allocated by the BHA. A voucher issued by the local housing authority says that HUD will pay part of the rent if the person seeking housing is lucky enough to find a vacancy independently and the landlord will accept a voucher. 

For 20 years the BHA was neglected by the Berkeley City Council—it had become the dumping ground for troublesome city employees. BHA meetings were allocated a few minutes before City Council meetings. Established on Dec. 20, 1966, the Berkeley Housing Authority administers approximately 1,939 subsidized rental-housing units through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and the Moderate Rehabilitation SRO program. The Berkeley Housing Authority also owns and manages 61 units of public housing. 

In 2000 the city attorney advised the Housing Department Director that the governing board of a Housing Authority within a city may be constituted in only one of three ways under state law. The city chose the second option, which “consisted of the mayor appointing five commissioners whose appointment must be confirmed by the City Council and two tenant commissioners, one of whom must be over the age of 62.” 

The city website declares that “The Berkeley Housing Authority is not part of the City of Berkeley.” Since 2006, when the City Council reconstituted the BHA as a mostly-separate agency, it has had some success in resolving some of its chronic problems. But it was set it up to fail economically because its employees must be paid expensive City of Berkeley salaries. The BHA’s financial situation has been further compromised by HUD’s cutting funding for Public Housing (administered in Berkeley by the BHA). 

Landlords prefer not to accept vouchered tenants and are not renewing their Section 8 contracts with HUD because they can get larger rents and what they consider “desirable tenants” on the “open market” where the demand greatly exceeds the supply. Market-rate rents are highest in Bay Area California. If the BHA cuts back staff next year, customer service will be so poor that landlords will likely opt out of the Section 8 program—as they have done in the past because it was a hassle. Section 8 tenants—many of whom are disabled and or aged—may have to pay more than one third of their income for rent because the BHA will not be able to keep the payment standard (the amount the landlord receives for rent) competitive with Berkeley rents. 

If the City Council does not provide an ongoing financial subsidy to the BHA and the BHA goes out of existence, the BHA’s Section 8 rental vouchers will likely be turned over to the Alameda County Housing Authority, whose payment standards (the maximum rent paid to landlords) have historically tended to be less than those of the BHA. The result will be that low-income, elderly and disabled tenants will no longer be able to afford to live in Berkeley and the vouchers will be dispersed into other communities and unincorporated areas of the county. Section 8 individuals and families who choose to remain living in Berkeley will be paying well over one third of their income toward rent. 

By the time the Ed Roberts Campus independent living center (which does not provide housing per se) opens next year, disabled tenants will no longer be able to afford to live in Berkeley if the BHA does not receive such a subsidy. The BHA brings in annual revenue to the City of Berkeley through its housing programs. Keeping the reconstituted housing authority in Berkeley makes economic sense and helps preserve the fabric of the community. But low-income individuals and families are going to have to fight to keep Berkeley’s Payment Standard competitive with rents in a college town. 

The problem is mainly a staffing one. Lacking a sufficient City of Berkeley subsidy, the BHA will be forced next year to cut back case managers and clerical support staff who provide direct services. The main reason a subsidy is needed to sustain the BHA at this time is salaries—union salaries and benefits comparable to those paid by the City of Berkeley, stipulated by the City two years ago when the BHA became a mostly-separate agency. Any recent improvements in BHA customer service for Section 8 tenants and landlords will be lost. Landlords will no longer participate in the program if phone calls are not returned and their rental leases, housing inspection documents, and subsidy checks are not processed in timely fashion. 

The best way to retain the BHA staff is to provide public comment supporting a subsidy. This should be done at meetings of the City Council and to inform your Councilmember. If low-income tenants do not attend and show themselves, real estate developers and landlords who oppose “affordable housing” in Berkeley will be the only people present when the City Council votes on low-income housing issues. 

The potential for the BHA to become a self-supporting agency exists, if it can emerge from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Troubled Status in January 2010. Its HUD administrative reporting requirements would be substantially less, and it would receive more funding for its programs. 

Section 8 tenants live in constant fear of their landlord opting out of their Section 8 contract—they can, and they have! Note: There is no “Just Cause” eviction for Section 8 tenants in Berkeley. In practical terms, opting out is an eviction. Tenants fear that if they complain, the landlord will opt out. Section 8 tenants frequently don’t have : Thousands of collers up-front cash that would enable them to move; money for first month’s rent, last month’s rent, deposit, moving costs; good credit; transportation to see the few apartments that accept Section 8; time in which one can apartment-hunt, because the Housing Authority limits the amount of time one can search for an apartment before you lose your voucher. 

Adequate funding of a subsidy for the BHA is consistent with the City of Berkeley’s long standing commitment to “affordable housing.” In order to function, the BHA needs a subsidy from the City of Berkeley adequate to sustain itself. 


Helen Rippier Wheeler is a former BHA board member and founding member of Save Section 8. 

Two Torture Tentacles

By Marvin Chachere
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:08:00 AM

In 2004 a senior advisor in the Bush White House made this incredible remark to Ron Suskind: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality” (New York Times, “Without Doubt,” Oct. 17), thereby updating Nixon’s famous remark to David Frost, “When the President does it that means it is not illegal” (1977). 

Following 9/11, the Bush administration did a lot that was illegal and engaged frequently in distortions of reality. At first by declaring war on terror, it invented a new kind of war, created from a practice of violence as old as history. Bush decided that the new enemy did not have the same rights as ordinary soldiers; they were terrorists, without uniforms and without a nation. He deemed them enemy combatants and thus he created a new kind of foe to match his new kind of war. 

Terror being a barbarous practice, Bush’s declaration of war, with Congress’s spineless and mindless approbation, meant forever war, because whereas ordinary wars end—one side defeats the other or surrenders to it—no one could ever be sure that a particular act of terror would be the last.  

Aided by the dominant media and acting preemptively the Bush White House hoisted fear-colored signals that resonated in a nationwide chant: Strike them on their own soil before they strike us on ours!  

Accordingly, along with common sense, justice and the rule of law were jettisoned. Our collective moral judgment was blurred; fiction replaced fact, lies passed as truth. And today with a new White House team the time of reckoning has arrived.  

A demand is mounting that crimes of the Bush administration be thoroughly and openly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. Foremost among those crimes is the torture of prisoners. 

Precisely as Alexis de Tocqueville observed almost two hundred years ago, the way we treat prisoners speaks volumes about our kind of government. A lot has changed since 1834 but the even-handed application of due process in dealing with crimes survives as a measure of national virtue.  

It is a disheartening fact that in our bipartisan style of governing not a single proposal for change goes unchallenged; whatever one party wants the other opposes.  

A relatively small but powerful group of current and former leaders in and out of government is resisting the demand for accountability. President Obama seems to agree, saying he wants to focus his energy on current and future problems—the ailing economy, universal medical care, environmental cleanup, immigration reform, foreign relations, etc.—rather than on the past.  

But the president is sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution which implies executing laws. To deliberately turn away from tracking down wrongdoers is itself a crime that is more grievous in my view than the one Obama seems reluctant to pursue.  

What concerns me more, however, is the attempt to stall prosecutorial action by equating the tentacles sprouting from torture with blood-curdling torture itself, using the shadow to distract attention from the substance. I have in mind a pair of news stories, one originating with the party in power and the other with the party just ousted, stories that at the very least divert attention from dealing with past crimes, especially dehumanizing acts of inflicting life-threatening torment on prisoners.  

Justice is an ideal, a goal that laws are designed to pursue. And justice for us evolves from the philosophers of ancient Greece who generally conceived it as balance: crime disturbs social order, punishment restores it; wrongdoing is corrected by reparation. Sins must be atoned for. The prevailing image of justice is a blind-folded woman holding aloft for all to see a balance scale on which one tray is weighted with crime and the other with its corresponding punishment. Punishment must fit the crime.  

It follows from this that when crimes go unpunished a toxic rot begins to infect society, civic order is threatened, social harmony dis-chorded. 

Justice is mocked by euphemizing. Authorities may qualify techniques of tortures used in interrogating prisoners as “enhanced” but torture resides in a place outside the meaning of enhancement. How does one enhance a crime like say theft, murder, rape? If CIA interrogators actually sought to enhance their work they might, for example, put their prisoner on a pedestal, make him wear silk pajamas, entertain him with a song, and enquire about his family—to enhance usually means to improve in some way.  

But I digress. Let’s get back to my subject: the two tentacles of torture. 

In recent weeks the dominant media carried unflattering news and comments about Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Her Republican colleagues reportedly said she could and ought to have opposed enhanced interrogation techniques in 2002 when, as Ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Committee on Intelligence, the CIA briefed her about them. Her stuttering retorts finally settled on accusing the CIA of deceit.  

This hubbub is politically volatile, of course, but in relation to the crime of torturing prisoners it is a distraction, a fringe issue, a shadow, a tentacle of a heinous crime. Pelosi may be guilty of a dereliction of duty, laziness even, but not of a crime. 

Meanwhile, the formerly silent former VP, Dick Cheney, mouths off on the small screen to selected audiences about the necessity of torture and swears to its efficacy. In so declaiming he represents another tentacle of torture. 

According to Dick, the techniques used by interrogators were not at all torture because they were used on our own soldiers to train them for certain dangerous situations. We are left to conclude that if we do these things to our own men in uniform, then it is not illegal and therefore not torture (shades of Nixon). Cheney was referring to SERE training. SERE stands for survival, evasion resistance and escape.  

What Dick does not say is that techniques incorporated in SERE’s training were assembled and improved upon from methods used in the Soviet Union under Stalin and in China under the Kuomintang. These brutal practices were not used to extract information but to discipline, to punish and to intimidate. Everyone except Cheney knows that severe pain will induce anyone to say anything.  

It surpasses any normal sense of shame that a former VP would not only condone but enthusiastically embrace practices reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition. One could understand why an extremist might consider Dick Cheney to be a modern-day disciple of the infamous 15th century Dominican cleric Tomas de Torquemada  

Both Dick on the right and Nancy on the left, spurred on by the dominant media, represent strangely matching tentacles of torture. 

It is possible that constantly attending to them—Mars and Venus—will succeed in diverting us from the job we must do, namely investigate and punish. If that happens we will find our cherished commitment to justice further and perhaps irreparably degraded. 


Marvin Chachere is a San Pablo resident.

New Leadership in Pacifica Radio

By Daniel Borgström
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:08:00 AM

After years of stumbling leadership, Pacifica radio has new people in key positions: LaVarn Williams, formerly a local board member here at KPFA, is now the interim chief financial officer (CFO); Ricardo de Anda is the interim general counsel; and Grace Aaron, now the interim executive director (ED), oversees the five-station network. 

The largely new national board (PNB) made these long overdue changes in January. The departed persons—which included attorney Dan Siegel, a former interior executive director—were members of the Pacifica status quo, which is responsible for the network’s grave financial crisis. During the decade since 1999, Pacifica remained in the hands of several mutually back-scratching groups—who pushed their own agendas to the point where the survival of the five-station Pacifica network is now in question. When any member station of the network is in trouble, it draws resources from others in the network. 

The former Pacifica board chair and ex officio interim ED, Sherry Gendelman, has been another key member of the status quo; Gendelman remains on the board, but no longer as chair. Grace Aaron was chosen as the new chair, and since Pacifica still didn’t have a permanent executive, this chair also assumed that position. 

Prior to assuming the helm of Pacifica, Aaron sat on KPFK’s local station board (LSB) in Los Angeles. She is a long-time peace activist and produced a cable TV program covering issues such as campus military recruitment, nuclear weapons, global warming, Israel/Palestine and Haiti. 

While we in Northern California learned what we could about the new executive, the long-building crisis at WBAI, Pacifica’s New York station, whose financial insolvency was threatening the entire network, came crashing into prominence. WBAI was behind in both station and tower rent. For years, the New York station was grossly mismanaged by the Justice & Unity faction, a local group composed of key staff, management, and a majority of the LSB. They were part of the back-scratching alliance in Pacifica. When the landlord gave a 3-day notice, Grace Aaron and LaVarn Williams discovered it. They assembled a team, flew to New York, and took immediate action. 

WBAI’s newly elected LSB, which was instrumental in installing Aaron as executive, supported her actions. Across the five-station network, many of us who followed these events were favorably impressed. But not everyone was pleased. Angriest of all was Justice & Unity, the New York group running WBAI into the ground. Improperly using the air waves for their own purposes, they denounced Grace Aaron on the air, calling her a “racist” and a “CIA agent,” and broadcast a call for a mass demonstration to oppose this “intrusion” by the national office. To those of us far from the fray, their words conjured up the specter of hundreds, maybe thousands, rallying to the J&U faction. Thirty people showed up for their rally. 

Had Justice & Unity won that round, rallying thousands to their cause, and taking the station, their triumph would have been brief. WBAI, and possibly the entire Pacifica network, could have been forced into bankruptcy, the assets taken over by some other entity. WBAI’s assets are estimated at $40 million. Where there’s a carcass there’s a vulture—often a large flock. 

What the status quo people, here in California as well as in New York, thought of this peril is anybody’s guess. Instead of supporting Grace Aaron in her actions to save the network, they have been fighting her and LaVarn Williams every step of the way. 

LaVarn Williams, the new interim CFO, is known as a financial expert and courageous defender of responsible Pacifica management. While a member of the local board at KPFA, Williams fought for transparency, and during a mandated but much resisted review of financial records she recovered $65,000 worth of computers, missing from Pacifica, among other financial irregularities. That was in 2005; the computers were returned and the matter was dropped. Now Gendelman and Co. are calling Williams “unqualified” for the position of CFO, despite her having a masters degree in finance and 20 years experience as a corporate financial manager with Xerox and Applied Materials. But Gendelman’s people did not object to the incompetence of their staunch allies. 

Near the end of April the PNB held a meeting in Berkeley, where local activists finally got to see and later talk with the much-discussed Grace Aaron and the new board members who were backing her. When I arrived at the meeting hall on the first evening of the event, they were in the middle of public comment, and several angry Justice & Unity people who had flown out from New York had the floor. “You have a lot to answer for!” they were saying, waving their fingers at Grace Aaron. Then KPFA listeners had a turn at the mike, “It’s about time somebody did something,” was one representative comment. “Thank you for taking action after all these years!” 

There was a report on WBAI, given by Aaron, Williams, and Tony Bates, three of the five-member team. Since three of these are non-white and one is of Arab descent, it’s ironic that they were accused of being a “white takeover” of WBAI. The report (online at KPFTX Archives of April 24, part 4) found the station in disarray: many phones didn’t work; there was no volunteer coordinator and often no one to answer phones during fundraising; premiums were not sent for years, etc. 

Most of the audience, KPFA activists from here in the Bay Area, applauded the team for their work in saving WBAI, and so did the majority of this board. But former chair Sherry Gendelman and four others sat in subdued silence—“the sad-looking five,” a person from KPFT in Houston observed. The Justice & Unity group from WBAI receded into the background. I could almost feel sympathy for them, if only they hadn’t done so much damage over the years. 

A major item that came out of this three-day conference was a motion on LSB election policy which has measures to ensure a more level playing field for the candidates in the upcoming election for new station-board members, as well as on-air announcements to inform listeners about the election process. The aim is to make Pacifica’s listener democracy work. Corrupt practices in recent elections, notably at KPFA and WBAI, have illustrated the need for these measures. Gendelman and her faction at KPFA, the so-called “Concerned Listeners,” are already announcing their defiance of the motion. 

Following the event, Aaron remained in the Bay Area for several days, meeting and talking with many KPFA listeners, expressing her vision for Pacifica and hearing what the listeners had to say. 


Mara Rivera, Steve Gilmartin and Virginia Browning contributed to this commentary. They, and Daniel Borgström, are KPFA listener and activists. 

Underground Berkeley Utility Wires for a Safer City

By Pamela Doolan
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:08:00 AM

Since the installation of overhead wires for technology and cable television, the old telephone poles of Berkeley are heavily overloaded causing a public safety hazard and visible blight. The city of Berkeley needs to join the 21st century and countless other California communities up and down the state by putting utility wires throughout the entire city underground. 

The drought of recent years has resulted in wildfires earlier in the year. It is only May and Santa Barbara’s recent wildfires are of major concern to anyone living near open space and vegetation. Berkeley is particularly vulnerable given its proximity to Tilden Regional Park. Those living in the hills of Berkeley are well aware of the history of firestorms in Berkeley that have taken life and property. Berkeley’s city government needs to be proactive in improving the safety of our city by correcting conditions that contribute to wildfires. Overhead wires and old, brittle, learning poles overgrown with ivy, can cause fires and destruction. 

Since the city of Berkeley needs to decide on the use of future PG&E 20A public monies for underground wiring, this is a good time to develop a plan that improves on past practices. Moving away from a street by street petition process and moving to a thought out plan based on safety, access and evacuation, better serves all of Berkeley. 

The next plan for undergrounding should prioritize emergency access and evacuation routes rather than arterial routes (as recommended by a subcommittee of the Public Works Commission). All arterial routes may be evacuation routes but not all emergency evacuation routes are arterial routes. 

Focusing on emergency access and evacuation routes allows for a more equitable use of underground funds and recognizes that these streets will become high traffic exit routes in a disaster. Furthermore, arterial routes tend to be closer to the downtown area. Should a major arterial route, such as University Avenue, be closed, parallel streets can be used to divert traffic. This is not the case in other parts of Berkeley where emergency vehicles are dependent often on a single road to access many other areas. For example, fire engines use Euclid Avenue to reach smaller, curved roads east and west of it. Should Euclid Avenue be blocked by a fallen telephone pole, there are no paralleling roads to quickly access the side streets. Euclid Avenue forms a wedge with Grizzly Peak to reach all streets interior and those streets to the west of it. Spruce is too far downhill to reach streets east of Euclid Avenue. Spruce is parallel to Arlington Avenue with many interior streets needing access, as well. Emergency access routes throughout Berkeley must be clear of downed poles and be available for access and evacuation in a disaster. It is not enough to protect the core of the city; the neighborhoods must also be included in planning for future public funding (PG&E 20A). Focus on access and evacuation and a plan will evolve that protects the entire city. 

Policy makers need to drive around the neighborhoods to see the condition of wires and poles. They are a visual blight and a danger to us all. Walk across the university and note that it has undergrounding throughout the campus. It is more beautiful to look up at an unobstructed sky and it is also safer. The residents of Berkeley deserve and would welcome underground wiring that is inclusive of the entire city. 

Funding is a separate issue. (a) Berkeley should work with PG&E to increase its allocation for undergrounding (PG&E 20A). The utilities have a duty and responsibility to provide upkeep and maintenance to its delivery system. (b) All utilities need to contribute. (c) The Cal campus has underground wiring. The university can now contribute to all streets that serve dorms, streets surrounding the campus and any streets near other UC buildings. (d) Cal Train, (e) FEMA (for access to wildfire prone areas), (f) stimulus funds, (g) Berkeley Transfer Tax funds, (h) grant money can all be pooled to move this process along. 

The city of Berkeley needs to have the will to improve safety by decreasing the risk of fires caused by arching wires and fallen poles. Overhead wires are also a danger in the event of earthquakes and landslides. A line item on the city budget needs to be set in stone to gather the resources and move with all due speed to underground the utility wires in the entire city. 

Cities all up and down California are far ahead of Berkeley on undergrounding wires. It is time for the city of Berkeley to further protect its neighborhoods by focusing future funding for underground wiring on roads that serve as emergency access and evacuation routes until all utility wires throughout the city are underground. 


Pamela Doolan is a Berkeley resident.


Dispatches From The Edge: Shadow Wars

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:10:00 AM

Sudan: The two F-16s caught the trucks deep in the northen desert. Within minutes the column was a string of shattered wrecks burning fiercely in the January sun. Surveillance drones spotted a few vehicles that had survived the storm of bombs and cannon shells, and the fighter-bombers returned to finish the job. 

Syria: Four Blackhawk helicopters skimmed across the Iraqi border, landing at a small farmhouse near the town of al-Sukkariyeh. Black-clad soldiers poured from the choppers, laying down a withering hail of automatic weapons fire. When the shooting stopped, eight Syrians lay dead on the ground. Four others, cuffed and blindfolded, were dragged to the helicopters, which vanished back into Iraq. 

Pakistan: A group of villagers were sipping tea in a courtyard when the world exploded. The Hellfire missiles seemed to come out of nowhere, scattering pieces of their victims across the village and demolishing several houses. Between Jan. 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, 60 such attacks took place, killing 14 wanted al Qaeda members along with 687 civilians. 

In each of the above incidents, no country took responsibility or claimed credit. There were no sharp exchanges of diplomatic notes before the attacks, just sudden death and mayhem. 


War without declaration  

The F-16s were Israeli, their target an alleged shipment of arms headed for the Gaza Strip. The Blackhawk soldiers were likely from Task Force 88, an ultra-secret U.S. Special Forces group. The Pakistanis were victims of a Predator drone directed from an airbase in southern Nevada. Each attack was an act of war and a violation of the United Nations Charter. Each attack drew angry responses from the country whose sovereignty was violated, but since neither the Israelis nor the United States admitted carrying them out, the diplomatic protests had no place to go. 

The “privatization” of war, with its use of armed mercenaries, has come under heavy scrutiny, especially since a 2007 incident in Baghdad in which guards from Blackwater USA (now “Xe”) went on a shooting spree, killing 17 Iraqis and wounding scores of others.  

But the “covertization” of war has remained largely in the shadows. The attackers in the Sudan, Syria and Pakistan were not private contractors, but U.S. and Israeli soldiers presumably acting under orders from their respective military command. 

In his book The War Within: Secret White House History 2006-2008, the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward disclosed that the U.S. military has developed “secret operational capabilities” to “locate, target, and kill key individuals in extremist groups.” 

In a recent interview during a “Great Conversations” event at the University of Minnesota, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed a U.S. military “executive assassination ring,” part of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). 

“It’s a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to Cheney’s office,” he said, bypassing the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. 

Hersh says “Congress has no oversight” over the program, and that under the Bush administration, “they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on the list and executing them and leaving.” 

According to a 2004 classified document uncovered by the New York Times, the United States has the right to attack “terrorists” in some 15 to 20 nations, including Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and Iran. 

The Israeli military has long used “targeted assassinations” to eliminate Tel Aviv’s enemies. Hizbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh was killed last year by an Israeli car bomb in Damascus, and a number of Hamas leaders have been assassinated in Gaza. 

U.S. and NATO “assassination teams” have emerged in Iraq and Afghanistan, where, according to the United Nations, they have killed scores of people. Philip Alston of the UN Human Rights Council charges that secret “international intelligence services” allied with local militias are killing Afghan civilians and then hiding behind an “impenetrable” wall of bureaucracy. 

When Alston protested the killing of two brothers in Kandahar, “not only was I unable to get any international military commander to provide their version of what took place, but I was unable to get any military commander to even admit that their soldiers were involved,” he told the Financial Times. 

Alston says these “shadow” units work out of two U.S. bases in Afghanistan, one in Kandahar and other in Nangarhar. 

In Iraq, such special operations forces have carried out a number of killings, including a raid that killed the son and a nephew of the governor of Salahuddin Province north of Baghdad. The Special Operations Forces (SOF) stormed the house at 3 a.m. and shot the governor’s 17-year-old son dead in his bed. When a cousin tried to enter the room, he was also gunned down. SOFs recently killed two men during an early morning raid in Kut, a city southeast of Baghdad. 

Such “night raids” by SOFs have drawn widespread protests in Afghanistan. According to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, night raids involve “abusive behavior and violent breaking and entry,” and only serve to turn Afghans against the occupation. Iraqi Prime Minster Nuri Kamal al-Maliki charged that the March 26 Kut raid violated the new security agreement between the United States and Iraq. 

The Predator strikes have deeply angered most Pakistanis. Owais Ahmed Ghani, governor of the Northwest Frontier Province, calls the drone strikes “counterproductive,” and says they do little more than “attract more jihadis.” While everyone knows Americans direct the drones from bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nevada, the U.S. government does not officially take credit for the attacks.  

The United States also sent SOFs across the Pakistani border to attack a village on Sept. 3, 2008, killing as many as 20 people. 

If Congress agrees to Gates’ proposed Defense Department budget, it is likely that attacks by SOF and armed robots will increase. While most the media focused on the parts of the budget that step back from the big ticket weapons systems of the Cold War, the proposal actually resurrects a key Cold War priority of the 1960s. 

“The similarities between Gates’ proposals and the strategy adopted by the Kennedy administration are too great to ignore,” notes Nation defense correspondent Michael Klare, including “a shift in focus toward unconventional conflict in the Third World.” 

Gates’ budget would increase the number of SOFs by 2,800, build more drones like the Predator and its bigger, more lethal cousin, the Reaper, and enhance the rapid movement of troops and equipment. All of this is part of General David Petraeus’s “counter insurgency” doctrine. 

The concept is hardly new. The units are different than they were 50 years ago—Navy SEALS and Delta Force have replaced Green Berets—but the philosophy is the same. And while the public face of counter insurgency is winning “hearts and minds” by building schools and digging wells, its core is 3 a.m. raids and Hellfire missiles.  

The “decapitations” of insurgent leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is little different—albeit at a lower level—than Operation Phoenix, which killed upwards of 40,000 “insurgent” leaders in South Vietnam during the war in Southeast Asia. The massacre of helpless Vietnamese peasants at My Lai was part of the Phoenix program.  

In the past, war was an extension of a nation’s politics, “too important,” as World War I French Premier Georges Clemenceau commented, “to be left to the generals.”  

But increasingly, the control of war is slipping away from the civilians in whose name and interests it is supposedly waged. While the “privatization” of war has frustrated the process of congressional oversight, its “covertization” has hidden war behind a wall of silence or denial. 

“Congress has been very passive in relation to its own authority with regard to warmaking,” says Princeton international law scholar Richard Falk. “Congress hasn’t been willing to insist that the government adhere to international law and the U.S. Constitution.” 

The SFOs may be hidden, but there are eight dead people in Syria, four of them reportedly children. There are at least 39 dead in northern Sudan, and dead men in northern and eastern Iraq, and southern Afghanistan. The number of dead in Pakistan runs into the hundreds. 

The new defense budget goes a long ways toward retooling the U.S. military into a quick reaction/intervention force with an emphasis on counterinsurgency and covert war. The question is: Where will the shadow warriors strike next?

UnderCurrents: Old Conservative Political Correctness Extends to Sotomayor Debate

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:09:00 AM

You have to admire the ability of our conservative friends—don’t you?—to continually create these rice-calling-cotton-pale moments in order to deflect attention from their own transgressions and, thus, to avoid criticism. 

It is always fascinating how conservatives have tagged liberalism with the smear of “political correctness,” that doctrine of pushing a certain party-line way of thinking, to the active denigration and exclusion—by any means necessary—of all others. Liberalism, after all—as opposed to progressivism—tends almost always to look inward first for internal flaws in its thinking, taking criticism to heart and conceding that the other guy might, after all, have a point that needs listening to before rejecting. It is conservatism that believes it holds doctrines writ by the hands of God and Mr. Jefferson, and in our collective lifetime, the most glaring misuse of “political correctness” was the McCarthyist and House Unamerican Activities Committee anti-Communism witchhunts and purges, for which the nation’s conservative right-wing was the driving force. 

And, of course, it must be noted that political correctness, like violence, is as American as apple pie, sometimes working interchangeably. Much of the violence of the American Revolution came not between blue-coat and red-coat armies, but by American patriots burning out, tarring-and-feathering, and lynching their neighbors who professed loyalty to the English king. Lynching is most commonly associated with white terrorist mob murders of Southern African-Americans in the 19th century, but the term goes back a hundred years before, and is most often attributed to the practices of either one or another Virginian named Lynch. The April 12, 1874 edition of the Lynchburg News pegged Colonel Charles Lynch of Staunton, in the Shenandoah Valley, as the American originator of “lynching”, writing that: 

“Col. Charles Lynch was an officer in the army of the American Revolution. … During the Revolutionary War, the country on James River and on the Roanoke about the Blue Ridge and mountain passes was harassed by a lawless band of Tories and desperadoes, and their depredations at one time extended into the region round about Lynchburg. The case required a species of operation adapted to cure the evil. Col. Lynch … organized and took the lead of a strong body of determined patriots—men of moral character and commanding infection and scoured the country night and day. They took many of the desperadoes, gave them a summary trial, at which Col. Lynch sat as judge; impaneled a jury, and, on conviction, executed the punishment in a proper manner.”  

While the tree of liberty needs to be watered from time to time by the blood of tyrants, as Mr. Jefferson famously wrote, America’s tree of freedom of thought was watered in its infancy in part by the blood of colonial neighbors who dared to think another way than liberty’s defenders. Thus was American political correctness born. 

Still, even though there is a tired and threadbare quality to this old conservative call for orthodoxy, there are some aspects of the recent right-wing attacks on Federal Appeals Court Judge Sotomayor that deserve some special comment, just to remind ourselves what is really going on here. 

Ms. Sotomayor, who is of Puerto Rican-American ancestry and is President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat of retiring Justice David Souter, has come under fire by some conservative commentators for views Ms. Sotomayor expressed during a 2001 “Raising The Bar” symposium at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. In her speech, Ms. Sotomayor suggested at one point that a Latina woman might make a better judge than a white male. 

That brought out immediate howls from the loud guns of the right. 

“So here you have a racist,” conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said on his radio program. “You might want to soften that and you might want to say a reverse racist. And the libs of course say that minorities cannot be racists because they don’t have the power to implement their racism. Well, those days are gone because reverse racists certainly do have the power to implement their power. Obama is the greatest living example of a reverse racist, and now he’s appointed one … Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court.” 

“Imagine a judicial nominee said ‘my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman’ new racism is no better than old racism,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote on Twitter. “White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.” 

On FoxNews Sunday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham declined to characterize Ms. Sotomayor’s statements as racist, but just wrong. 

“She said was that based on her life experiences, that she thought a Latina woman—somebody with her background—would be a better judge than a guy like me: a white guy from South Carolina,” Mr. Graham said. “And it is troubling, and it’s inappropriate. I hope she will apologize. And if I had said something like that—or someone with my background and profile—we wouldn’t be talking about this nomination going forward. … I do know this: that statement is not about talking about her life experiences, it’s getting from her life experiences a superiority based on those experiences versus somebody else in society. And I don’t want that kind of person being a judge in my case, but I don’t think she’s a racist. I think she should be proud of what she’s accomplished in life. But to lead to the conclusion that all the hardships she has gone through makes her better than me is inappropriate.” 

Given the charges, it seems appropriate to quote exactly what Ms. Sotomayor actually said in the offending 2001 passage. 

In a long speech to a law school symposium pointedly entitled “Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation,” Ms. Sotomayor said that “(It has been) pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women.” Ms. Sotomayor went on to say that “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, … our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice (Sandra Day) O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. … I am … not so sure that I agree with the statement. … I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”  

The entire Sotomayor UC Berkeley speech is archived under media releases at http://berkeley.edu and should be read in its entirety to understand the context and the caveats. But it is clear from the remarks cherrypicked from her long speech that the judge was saying that contrary to Ms. O’Connor’s statement that gender plays no factor in judgment, the victims of discrimination stand a somewhat better chance of understanding and coming to a decision that overcomes the effects of that discrimination. 

Is that true? 

Myself, I tend to think that it is, but I won’t argue that here and, in any event, that is not the point. The point, I believe, is that this is an arguable assertion—that discrimination victims have a somewhat clearer view of the nature of discrimination—and at the very least deserves to be a legitimate part of our national political discussion. It is not in part because women and members of such national minorities as African-Americans and Latinos are pointedly reminded, every step along the way, that if they want to advance to the highest levels of national service, certain views are off limits. 

During last year’s Democratic primary campaign, for example, then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, told a Milwaukee rally that “People in this country are ready for change and hungry for a different kind of politics and … for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” Few African-Americans I know of took issue with this statement, it being such a widespread sentiment in the African-American community that whatever pride one has in America is tempered, always, both by the knowledge of America’s anti-Black history and the residue of anti-Black racism still present. It recalls the famous W.E.B. DuBois line from “The Souls Of Black Folk” about this African-American divided duality, that “One ever feels his twoness—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” 

Rather than being seen as a rather commonplace statement of African-American feelings, Ms. Obama’s statement was widely criticized in newspaper columns and blog comments—how dare she say that she was not proud of America before her husband ran for President!—and the candidate’s wife was relegated to the background for a while, until the storm blew over. 

The same was true for the firestorm over the speeches of Mr. Obama’s onetime mentor and pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who famously said that “The government gives [citizens of African descent] the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strike law and then wants us to sing God Bless America. Naw, naw, naw. Not God Bless America. God Damn America! That’s in the Bible. For killing innocent people. God Damn America for treating us citizens as less than human. God Damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is Supreme.” Again, it was a sentiment you could hear in many pews and from many pulpits in African-American churches across the country. But for that, Mr. Obama was forced to disavow both the Wright speech and Mr. Wright himself, eventually quit the church where he and his family had been longtime members, and where Mr. Wright had served as pastor. 

For most of the years that America has been in existence, the doors to power have been closed to women and to many national minorities. Those doors are now opening—forced open, one might say—but with the requirement that these previously-unrepresented groups leave the essence of themselves—the thoughts and views and feelings of the groups from whence they come—outside. It’s a form of political correctness that would make the end of halls-of-power discrimination no victory at all, since the ones finally allowed to come in would end up being no different than the ones who have been inside all along. And that, of course, is the point of it.

Wild Neighbors: The Baptista Tapes: Why Sparrows Change Their Tunes

By Joe Eaton
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 06:56:00 AM
White-crowned sparrow songs track changes in habitat.
Mike Baird
White-crowned sparrow songs track changes in habitat.

Here’s a story that should gladden the hearts of all packrats and stringsavers. Sometimes there are good reasons not to throw stuff out. 

In the early 1960s, a graduate student from Macao named Luis Baptista heard his first white-crowned sparrow on the UC Berkeley campus. That common songbird became the focus of his research on how birds acquire their songs, and the subject of 60 or so of his 120 scientific papers. 

Baptista, who became curator of birds at the California Academy of Sciences, field-recorded white-crowned sparrow vocalizations from California to British Columbia in 1970. He loaded an old Mercedes with acoustic gear and drove up and down the West Coast, screeching to a halt whenever he heard an unfamiliar song. In the process, he documented and mapped local dialects. At Point Reyes, for example, Baptista found distinct song patterns for Drake’s Bay, Limantour Estero, and Palomarin. 

This was at a time when bird song was thought to be a stereotyped, hardwired phenomenon. Baptista was one of the first to show that young male songbirds acquired their vocal repertoire from their fathers and neighbors, and that females preferred singers with the “correct” dialect as mates. 

A colleague once wrote that Baptista could hear a sparrow song in the middle of Golden Gate Park and declare that the bird had “half an Alberta accent and half a Monterey accent,” and that its parents had probably met at Tioga Pass in Yosemite. 

Baptista moved on to study chaffinches, doves, hummingbirds, and other species. At his untimely death in 2000, his white-crowned sparrow tapes were stashed away somewhere in the academy’s labyrinthine files. 

Enter, a few years later, Elizabeth Derryberry, a Duke University graduate student and researcher at the Lousiana State University Museum of Natural Science in Baton Rouge. She was trying to determine how the songs of birds varied over time, and how those changes might reflect altered environments. Derryberry really wanted to hear Baptista’s tapes, but no one at the academy could lay hands on them. She was persistent, though, and the tapes were eventually unearthed in Baptista’s old office in 2003. 

So Derryberry embarked on her own road trip in 2005, revisiting 15 of Baptista’s field locations and recording a new generation of white-crowned sparrows. It’s not clear from what I’ve read where all the sites still had resident sparrows, but she seems to have found enough for a detailed comparison with the tapes from the 1970s. 

What she found was that the trill with which the sparrows ended their songs had become lower in pitch and slower, with a rate of 10.3 trills per second instead of the historical 11.8. That was enough of a change to make a difference in the response of both males and females to the historic tapes. Males behaved more aggressively when contemporary songs were played to them, and females got more excited. 

The change in the song ending seemed to correlate with changes in the singers’ habitats, as shown in archival aerial photographs. In the ’70s, the white-crowns’ territories were predominantly grassland, with only 11 percent coastal scrub cover. Thirty-five years later, coastal scrub made up 26 percent of the territories. The lands were no longer being grazed, and the shrubs that the cattle had kept in check were taking over. In the one site where the scrub component had not increased, the sparrows still sang the old way. 

It seems to be a matter of acoustics. The lower, slower songs reverberate less in dense foliage and are more likely to be copied accurately by young birds who are learning the local song variant. 

“This is the first time that anyone has shown that bird songs can shift with rapid changes in habitat,” Derryberry said in a Duke press release. “Given how much the world’s habitats are changing, this is sort of an unexpected but useful factor to monitor.” She’s now studying how deforestation and other ecological changes are influencing song evolution in South America.  

Her timing with the sparrow research could not have been better. I shudder to think what might have happened to the Baptista tapes in the move to the academy’s new quarters.

About the House: Hydrostatic Pressure And Why Your Basement Leaks

By Matt Cantor
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 06:58:00 AM

It might appear to be over-reaching to attempt a discussion of something that sounds as high-handed as hydrostatic pressure in a lay essay, but if you’ll bear with me, you’ll quickly see how this is both relevant and conceptually accessible to just about everyone. 

If you rent, it might have a substantial effect on your life, but if you own a home, hydrostatic pressure could turn out to be of vital interest, as it can and may affect your pocketbook, your health and the livability and value of your home. 

Why are some basements dry and some sopping damp every winter? Why do some homes gradually split or distort until they demand new foundations at great expense? Hydrostatic pressure may not be the only answer to these questions, but it’s a big part and often the central answer. 

Let’s start with a basement on a hillside, something we see a lot of around here. Many of our hillside houses began with the stair-stepping of the hillside. By hacking away a wall and flattening a bit of hillside, one creates a little more space in the boxy world of houses. As soon as we start doing that, we invite nature to mess with us. In a funny sort of way, you’ve cut into a pipe, a conduit in which water flows through the layered plates of clay or the interstices of a rocky matrix that make up the ground below your feet. Since water naturally flows through this agglomeration, it’s normal for it to start flowing right into the space you’ve carved out for yourself.  

If you then pour a concrete wall and floor in this area, you invite this water to push up against your new barrier and to try, at the very least, to get into your new bedroom, office or garage. Water hitting a barrier like this can back up and rise as it fills the cavity, either in the soil or in the void behind the wall, until there is considerable volume behind this wall. Water fills the soil or rock much as it fills the space behind a dam, adding weight and generating thrust behind the wall. The taller the body of wet material, the greater the force, especially at the bottom of the volume. This is hydro (water) static (standing) pressure, the force of water standing behind something. Hydrostatic pressure destroys dams, moves earth and rock and drives many of the processes that give us the natural world around us. If it could laugh at our silly little houses, it would. 

Hydrostatic pressure can move your foundation or buckle a retaining wall until there is nothing to do but accept the line of credit you keep resisting. But it does something equally annoying and far more pervasive. It pushes water right through solids. Concrete, like all matter, isn’t really solid. It’s a weave of molecules chosen for its strength and the simplicity of its manufacture.  

Low-strength concretes, like those that support most of our older housing stock, are highly porous. Given a sufficient “head” or load of water behind them, they will weep until the opposing side is damp. Add some fungi and they can be slimy, smelly and unsuitable for habitation. This all varies quite a bit and depends on the recipe used in cooking the concrete.  

High-strength concretes can physically resist a high load (especially when properly reinforced) but also retard water intrusion. The “weave” of the concrete molecular fabric changes as we modify the recipe, and we now know a lot more about how to get concrete to catch and hold water. But the take-home message is that your concrete in your old house doesn’t know this trick, though its talent may still be sufficient, as you will soon see. 

Since increased hydrostatic pressure allows water to weep through concrete that would otherwise resisted dampness, we have a clue as to how we can keep the basement dry. Eliminate the pressure. Most basements, even those with lower strength (read high porosity) concrete can stay relatively dry if we can prevent water from welling up behind the surface. This is what drainage is really good at.  

A drainage system (some of these are called French Drains, though the term is more colloquial than scientific) is not designed to keep the back side of your foundation or retaining wall dry, it’s designed to prevent water from pushing against these surfaces by directing the lion’s share away to a more suitable locale. 

By trenching behind (this is usually uphill of the structure or basement) the problem area, you can allow water to find its way out and down to a place that it will do no harm (at least to you). By the way, sump pumps don’t usually do this adequately. They may serve well as a mechanism of discharge when you can’t get water to flow downhill to an allowable location, but a sump is usually not going to catch the mass of water that is flowing through the soil or rock to assail your building.  

For this you need a trench, which is, ultimately, a broad, three-dimensional thing. It has length, breadth and height (unlike a sump, which is at a confined location in space) so, if adequately sized and placed, it can really do the job of reducing that hydrostatic pressure to something like zero. Then the job of keeping the inside dry is a much smaller one and it is much more likely (note the language…more likely) that you can achieve your goals with simple methods such as sealants. 

If you are undertaking such a project, keep in mind that there is an array of other tools to help you meet your goals and that drainage, alone, is not usually adequate unless your only goal is to diminish movement.  

For the drainage system, these tools can include:  

• Sheet drainage material (such as Amerdrain): Like it sounds, a sheet of material that carries water down along a surface to a place where it can join other drainage. 

• Moisture retarders/Moisture barriers (depending on your confidence level): These mount on the exteriors of foundation, basement or retaining walls to prevent water from getting to the porous concrete surface. Proper installation is critical. 

• Field drains: These small, usually round, drainage entry points are often placed so that surface waters will not find them. They only work if they’re right where the water goes. 

• Channel Drains: A very nice choice for the bottom of a driveway but other locations can also benefit from this clever, age-old method, in which a length of grill-covered drainage material is recessed into the ground surface material (e.g. concrete) where it can capture a sheet of flowing water. 

If you’ve managed to control hydrostatic pressure and divert water effectively, you can often finish the job by sealing concrete on the inside of a basement or other below ground surface. A range of sealants exist, including Drylok, Thoroseal, Aquafin and others.  

Surface preparation is what really matters when doing this and following the instructions carefully (RTFM, right?). Old concrete with lots of cracks may be an uphill fight and some below ground spaces are never going to be suitable for living without huge structural upgrades. But you always make things better if you take your time, get good advice and respect the power of that most formidable of opponents. 



Got a question about home repairs and inspections? Send them to Matt Cantor at mgcantor@pacbell.net.

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:18:00 AM



“We Are Burma” Paintings and drawings by Burmese artists. Opening reception at 5 p.m. at Café Leila, 1724 San Pablo Ave. pamelablotner@gmail.com 


Artist Talk in Conjunction with “Co-Motion” An installation about movement by Cheryl Calleri and Thekla Hammond at 5:30 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. RSVP to 644-6893. info@berkeleyartcenter.org  

Edith Gelles reads from “Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriage” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School Jazz Band Fundraiser Concert at 8 p.m. in the Auditorium at 1781 Rose St., Berkeley. Free, but all donations will go towards helping the jazz band program. 658-3100. 

Go Van Gogh, California Klezmer, at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $TBA. 525-5054.  

BabShad Jazzz at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ.  

Diana Jones at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Five Cent Coffee at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. 

Bud Light, Nathan Moore at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 



Altarena Playhouse “A Streetcar Named Desire” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through June 7. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Berkeley Rep “You, Nero” at 2025 Addison St., through June 28. Tickets are $13.50-$71. www.berkeleyrep.org 

Central Works “Misanthrope” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through June 21. Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. centralworks.org 

Impact Theatre “Impact Briefs: Puberty” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through June 6. Tickets are $10-$17. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Lady Windermere’s Fan” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through July 4. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Michael Gene Sullivan & headRush, political satire and premiere of the play “AlieNation” at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $7-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Shotgun Players “Faust, Part 1” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. through June 28. Tickets are $18-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 


Kensington First Friday Art Walk from 6 to 9 p.m. with street musicians, free refreshments at participating businesses on Colusa Circle, as well as talented, local artisans. 525-6155.  

“Art Roots Here” A recession remedy art exhibit by the students from the Laney College EcoArt Matters class. Reception at 4 p.m. at Big Daddy’s Community Garden, 3601 Peralta St., Emeryville.  

“Flip Side” sculptures, drawings, and photography of Chad Anderson, Brian Caraway, and Paz de la Calzada. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary, 25 Grand Ave., upper level, Oakland. Exhibit runs to Aug. 1. 415-577-7537. www.chandracerrito.com 

Art in a Box Launch Party at 7 p.m. at The Compound Gallery, 6604 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. 655-9019.  

“Landscapes of Our Souls” Sculptors Susan Almazol and Lorraine Bonner explore an array of raw emotions. Opening reception at 5:30 p.m.at Joyce Gordon Gallery, Lower Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. 465-8928.  

“Altars, Icons and Drawings” by Stanley C. Wilson. Opening reception at 5:30 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, Main Floor, 406 14th St., Oakland. 465-8928. www.joycegordongallery.com 

“Northwestern Hash Tags” new and previous paintings by artist Terri Saul, through June 28 at Meal Ticket, 1235 San Pablo Ave. 526-6325. 

Aaron Geman “Five to Nine Thoughts and Some Shit that Sells” and David Seiler “NeWork/Muwekma” Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Mercury 20 Gallery, 25 Grand Ave., Oakland. 701-4620. www.mercurytwenty.com 


Disability Film Festival Superfest Kids Classics, films geared for teenagers, from noon to 4 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 3rd Fl. Community Rm. 2090 Kittredge St. Free. 845-5576. www.culturedisabilitytalent.org/superfest 

“Croatian Stories” a documentary on Croatian heritage in california at 8 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. Admission is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 


“Confound, Confront and Connect” A discussion and slide show of the work of photographer Tony Gleaton at 2 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. 238-2200. Admission is $5-$8. www.museumca.org 

Squeak Carnwath: Painting Is No Ordinary Object, gallery tour with curator at 7 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. Admission is $5-$8. 238-2200.  

“Narratives of the Unforeseen” Bay Area Writers Launch features new works of local writers, poets and actors in the neighborhood, Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at East Bay Dance Center, 1318 Glenfield Ave., Oakland. Donations accepted. bayareawriterslaunch@gmail.com 

Deborah Madison reads from “What We Eat When We Eat Alone: Stories and 100 Recipes” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


First Fridays After Five with music and exhibition tours from 5 to 9 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. Admission is $5-$8. 238-2200.  

Ustad Aashish Khan and Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, sarod and tabla at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $15-$33. www.butahproductions.com 

Gail Brand solo, duos, trios, quartets, quintets and sextets with Gino Robair, Morgan Guberman, John Shiurba, Tim Perkis and Tom Djll at 8 p.m. at Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Tickets are $15. www.hillsideclub.org 

Eric and Suzy Thompson at Utunes Coffe House at 8 p.m. at First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St., Oakland. Tickets are $10-$18. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Rhonda Benin & Soulful Strut at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Jeannine Bonstelle “Search for Peace” at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Rupa & the April Fishes, Ginger Ninjas at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $13, $8 with bicycle. 525-5054.  

Lost Weekend at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Nine Wives at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Las Rakas at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5. 548-1159.  

Sister Grizzly, Grand Lake, Noboody Beats at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. 

Steven Emerson Band at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Jose-Luis Orozco, in a bilingual children’s concert benefiting Centro VIDA Children’s Center, a non-profit bilingual preschool in Berkeley at 10 and 11:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

John Weaver, storyteller, Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $7. 452-2259. www.fairyland.org 


Stone Soup Improv Comedy at 8 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St. at Telegraph, Oakland. Cost is $7-$10. www.stonesoupimprov.com 


Lowell Darling’s “Secret” Sat. and Sun. from 1 to 5 p.m. at Garage Gallery, 3110 Wheeler St. www.berkeleyoutlet.com 

CCA Design for Disability: Alternative Ways of Making” Reception at 2 p.m. at NIAD, 551 23rd St. 620-0290. www.niadart.org 

Flying Kite Man Group Art Show Opening reception with Japanese dance performer, Kouichi & Hiroko Tamano at 7 p.m. at Subterranean Arthouse, 2179 Bancroft Way. subterraneanarthouse@gmail.com 

“Moments of Inspiration: Wild World Animals & Human Dreams” mixed media drawings and collage. Artists’ reception from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at A Different Day Gallery, 1233 Solano Ave., Albany. 868-4904. 


Disability Film Festival Adult Classics (all still PG) from noon to 4 p.m., repeated 5 to 9 p.m. at Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $5-$20 sliding scale at the door. 845-5576. www.culturedisabilitytalent.org/superfest 


Berkeley Poetry Festival with featured readers and open mic from 1 to 4 p.m. in front of the former Cody’s Books, Telegraph at Haste. www.mothershen.com  

Bay Area Poets Coalition open reading from 3 to 5 pm. at Strawberry Creek Lodge, 1320 Addison St. Park on the street. 527-9905. 

“Narratives of the Unforeseen” Bay Area Writers Launch (BAWL) features new works of local writers, poets and actors in the neighborhood, at 8 p.m. at East Bay Dance Center, 1318 Glenfield Ave., Oakland. Donations accepted. bayareawriterslaunch@gmail.com 


Free 6th Annual Berkeley World Music Festival offers continuous music from noon to 9 p.m. in Telegraph Ave. cafes and shops, near UC campus, plus concert in People’s Park. For performance schedules and artist information, visit www.berkeleyworldmusic.org 

Anna de Leon and others in a fundraiser for Bay Area Children First, a children’s mental health agency at 4 p.m. at Anna's Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $25 and up. 883-9312. 

San Francisco Chamber Orchestra “Dance to the Music” performances at 11:00 a.m. and noon at Crowden Music Center, 1475 Rose St. Free. 559-2941. concerts@crowden.org 

Chinese Arts Gala folk dances and live music performances at 2 p.m. at The Julia Morgan 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $12-$15. chineseartsprogram@yahoo.com 

Jerry Kuderna, piano, performs music of Nin-Culmell, Mompou, Villa-Lobos, Chopin, and others at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864. www. 


Kensington Symphony with Daniel Glover, piano soloist, performing Khachaturian, Rossini, Beethoven at 8 p.m. at Unitarian-Universalist Church, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Suggested donation $12-$15, children free. 524-9912. Kensingtonsymphonyorchestra.org 

“Applause for the Cause” Charity concert featuring Dionne Warwick and Sinbad at 7:30 p.m. at The Oakland Convention Center, 463 11th St., Oakland. Tickets are $65 and up. www.tix.com 

Kenny Washington & His Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Marty Dread with Reggae Angels at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Andrea Claburn “Keys to Life” at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

The Bobs at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Guns for San Sebastian at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Caldecott, AlexAlexAlex, ManCub, Prose in Rosette at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 

Supertaster at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



“Altars, Icons and Drawings” by Stanley C. Wilson. Artist talk and slide presentation at 3 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, Main Floor, 406 14th St., Oakland. 465-8928. www.joycegordongallery.com 

Squeak Carnwath: Painting is no Ordinary Object Docent tour at 2 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. Admission is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 


Masquers Playhouse “All Is Above Grace” Staged reading at 7 p.m. at Masquers Playhouse, 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. Cost is $5. 232-4031. masquers.org  

“Getting Our Hands Dirty: What we do best at Paulson Press” on printmaking and working with artists at 7:30 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. Admission is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Randy Rucker reads from his works of science fiction at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Poetry Flash reading for “Lyric Modernisms: An Anthology of Contemporary Innovative Poetries” at 3 p.m. at Diesel, 5433 College Ave. Oakland. 525-5476. 

Wendy Markel will show images and talk about her new book on Berkeley postcards at 7:30 p.m. at 4 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


Pocket Opera “The Barber of Seville” at 2 p.m. at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $20-$37. 415-346-7805. www.pocketopera.org 

St. John’s Presbyterian Church Organ Recital David Hunsberger performs works by Bull, Bach and Mendelssohn at 4 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$20 . 684-7563. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Mozart in the Garden Fundraiser The Midsummer Mozart Orchestra previews selections from the 2009 season, with food and live and silent auctions, from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at the El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane, El Cerrito. Tickets are $75. 1-800-838-3006. www.midsummermozart.org 

YPSO Pops Concert at 2 p.m. at Greek Orthodox Church, 4700 Lincoln Ave. Tickets are $12-$15. 849-9776. www.ypsomusic.net 

Americana Unplugged: The Dark Hollow Band at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Dada Nabhaniilananda and Steve Taylor-Ramirez at 7 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $14-$16. 849-2568.  

Benny Watson Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Bandworks at 1 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $5. 525-5054.  

Samora and Elena Pinderhughes at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373.  

The Rose Tattoo at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Soul Jazz Sundays with the Howard Wiley Organ Trio at 5 p.m. at The Aqua Lounge, 311 Broadway, Oakland. Donation $5. 625-9601. 

Rough Waters at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  



“80 Years Later: If Julia Morgan Could See the Berkeley City Club Now” with John Maillard, concrete specialist, on the materials and construction of the landmark, at 7 p.m. in the Berkeley City Club Drawing Room, 2315 Durant Ave. 848-7800, 883-9710. 

Subterranean Shakespeare Theater Company “Troilus and Cressida” Staged reading at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. Cost is $8. 276-3871. 

El Cerrito Art Association with Sarah Schmerl, guest demonstrator in painting at 7:30 p.m. in the Garden Room, El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane, El Cerrito. ecartassociation@gmail.com 

China Mieville reads from his new book “The City & The City” at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Poetry Express with Jeanne Lupton at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 


Rafael Manriquez, music of Latin America, at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. Free. 524-3043. 

Blues Burners at 5:30 p.m. at Palm Tree Plaza, Jack London Square. 645-9292. www.jacklondonsquare.com 



Andrew Demcak and Garrett Lambrav, poets, read at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 


Bandworks at 7:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $5. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Singers’ Open Mic with Kelly Park at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 



Oasis High School Student Poetry Anthology Readings at 6 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 


Orquesta Sensual, salsa at noon at Oakland City Center, 12th and Broadway. 

Erik Jekabson Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Emam & Friends at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Rumbache, salsa, at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Planet Loop at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Celu and Friends at 7 p.m. at Chester's Bayview Cafe, 1508 B Walnut Square. 849-9995. 

Nada Lewis & Jon Schreiber, accordion and violin, at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. www.lebateauivre.net 






Free Outdoor Movies at Jack London Square “Jaws” Come at 7:30 p.m., movies begin at sundown. Bring blankets and stadium seat. 645-9292. www.jacklondonsquare.com 


Mary Pols reads from her memoir “Acidentally on Purpose: The True Tale of a Happy Single Mother” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Luis Alberto Urrea on “Into the Beautiful North” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley. Cost is $5-$10. berkelyarts.org 

Philip Dreyfus discusses his book “Our Better Nature: Environment and the Making of San Francisco” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books, 1855 Solano Ave. 525-6888. 


Singing Bear and Sean Hodge at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Missy Raines and the New Hip at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Bryan Girard Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Echo Falls, The Nasty Chefs, The Muffin Tops at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

“Standard Deviations: The Deep Grown & Sexy Show” at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Country Joe McDonald’s Open Mic at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar St, at Bonita. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org 

Mojo Stew at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 



Berkeley Rep “You, Nero” at 2025 Addison St., through June 28. Tickets are $13.50-$71. www.berkeleyrep.org 

Central Works “Misanthrope” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through June 21. Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. centralworks.org 

Hurlyburly Carnival: Birth of a Company with Mikka Bonel, Allison Combs, Lindsey Cookson, Dan Korth and others at 8 p.m. at Periscope Cellars, 410 62nd St., Emeryville. Donation $10. jointhehurlyburly.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Lady Windermere’s Fan” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through July 4. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Pinole Community Players “Pump Boys & the Dinettes” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Community Playhouse, 601 Tennet Ave., Pinole, through July 11. Tickets are $17-$20. www.pinoleplayers.org 

Shotgun Players “Faust, Part 1” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. through June 28. Tickets are $18-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 


ACCI’s Annual Printmaking Exhibition Opening reception at 6 p.m. at ACCI Gallery, 1652 Shattuck Ave. Exhibition runs to July 5. www.accigallery.com 


Eduardo Galeano on “Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley. Cost is $8-$15. berkelyarts.org 

Tobey Kaplan, Catherine Freeling will read their poetry at 7 p.m. at Nefeli Caffe, 1854 Euclid Ave. as part of the Last Word Reading Series. There is also an open reading. 841-6374.  


Burke Schuchmann and Brian Ganz, cello and piano at 8 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, 2407 Dana. Tickets are $18-$25. 234-4502. 

Point Richmond Summer Concert with The New Iberians Blues and Zydeco Band at 5:30 p.m. and Freesound at 6:45 p.m. at Park Place at Washington Ave. in downtown Point Richmond. www.pointrichmond.com 

Las Bomberas de La Bahía at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$14. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Denise Perrier & Swing Fever at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Tribute to Vern and Ray with Laurie Lewis, Kathy Kallick, Tom Rozum, Patrick Sauber, and Dan Booth at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Skerik, Scott Amendola, Wil Blades, and Will Bernard at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Rhythm Doctors at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

East Bay Soul and Funk Revue with The Grease Traps and Monophonics at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  



Buki the Clown Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $7. 452-2259. www.fairyland.org 


“Kids Are Us” Group art show. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. 644-4930. www.expressionsgallery.org 

Lowell Darling’s “Secret” Sat. and Sun. from 1 to 5 p.m. at Garage Gallery, 3110 Wheeler St. www.berkeleyoutlet.com 

New Works by Joanna Crawshaw Artist reception at 7 p.m. at SaHaira Salon, 5510 College Ave., Oakland. 


Chelsea Martin, Bradon Scott Gorrell and Mike Young read at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320.  


Gateswingers Jazz Band at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions Record Store and Cafe, 10086 San Pablo Ave. at Central, El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

La Peña’s 34th Anniversary Celebration with performances, oral history art installation and exhibition of objects from ex-political prisoners from Chile, at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$14. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Mal Sharpe’s Big Money in Jazz at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Sambo Ngo at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $11-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Rick Gordon at 5 p.m. and Dick Conte Quartet at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12-$15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Art House Opening “Visionary Surrealism, Fantasy and Psychedelic Art” with group art show, music and poetry from noon to 10 p.m. at 2905 Shattuck Ave. Suggested donation $5-$10, and pot luck. 472-3170. 

Freight and Salvage Anniversary Show at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $15.50-$16.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

The Luke Thomas Trio at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Moment’s Notice A performance series of improvised music, dance and theater at 8 p.m. at Western Sky Studio, 2525 8th St. Tickets are $8-$15. 992-6295. 

Elliot Randall, Cyndi Harvell at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

CV Dub at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Colibri at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


“The African Presence in Mexico” Docent tour at 2 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. Admission is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Tour of the Oakland Museum of California Building and Gardens at 1 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. Admission is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 


2nd Annual Radical Storytelling Hour Readings by Local Author Parents on the Pleasures, Pains, and Politics of Parenting at 5 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 


“Islands in the Park” Celebrating the Cultural Heritage of the Caribbean with music by Third World, The Mighty Sparrow, Collie Budz, Shiela Hiltojn and the New Kingston Band at 7 p.m. at Woodminster Amphitheatre, Joaquin Miller Park, Oakland. Tickets are $25-$45. 832-5400. 

Chamber Music Sundaes with Trio Navarro and guest Nancy Ellis, viola, at 3 p.m. at St John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets at the door $20-$25. 415-753-2792. www.chambermusicsundaes.org  

Americana Unplugged: Homespun Rowdy at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Grupo TerroRitmo, salsa, cumbia, hip-hop at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $7-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Mike Slack’s New Orleans Jazz Band at 7 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Safire: The Uppity Blues Woman at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Soul Jazz Sundays with the Howard Wiley Organ Trio at 5 p.m. at The Aqua Lounge, 311 Broadway, Oakland. Donation $5. 625-9601. 


Howard Wiley, ‘Bringing Jazz Back to Oakland’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 06:59:00 AM

Upstairs from Clancy’s Cantina, at 311 Broadway, near Jack London Square, is the Aqua Lounge, a refugee from the post-Moderne, Scandinavian design period of cocktail joints. A no-nonsense, but easygoing, comfortable kind of place, with no pretensions. 

“It’s retro-’60s!” says drummer Sly Randolph, as he lugs his kit upstairs to set up for the Howard Wiley Organ Trio gig that’s happening every Sunday evening at 6 p.m. The Aqua Lounge is something of a refuge, too, for the kind of music Howard and Co. play at these Soul Jazz Sundays—jazz that comes out of the blues, with a lot of swing.  

“There’s not much jazz at all in Oakland,” Howard said. “Where do you go to hear it? It’s pretty rough.” 

Coltrane playing “Lush Life” is on the sound system, from back in what looks like an old coat-check. Sly gives a couple of drumrolls, Mike Aaberg sounds a few chords on keyboards. The recorded music goes off. Mike, like Howard, is a Berkeley High Jazz Band alum.  

“But I didn’t meet Mike till I was in my 20s,” Howard said. “Not until he moved in to be roommates with my buddy, who told me, ‘He likes to play fast like you!’ Then we started playing, hanging out ... It’s all been downhill since!” 

John Ivey of Clancy’s is behind the bar, boisterous and in love with the music, shouting encouragement once it gets going—and they’re really laying it down right from the start, no warm-ups. “You watch out,” cries Ivey in approval, as Mike’s fingers race up and down the keyboard, and Howard picks it up from there, takes a few choruses, then a few more. 

“All we try to do here on Sunday,” Howard explains later, “is to get down to something simple, get back ... Even if you don’t like jazz, there’s something in there you’ll like. We’re all still singing these songs. Nobody’s playing any disco, no Hall & Oates anymore—and Smooth Jazz just officially died.” 

Hard to imagine Hall & Oates playing in the Aqua Lounge. Not now, with the trio’s soulful sound you can taste in your mouth and savor. Sly turns it over, and Howard goes inside a little, then out. A mellow sound, but it’s an irresistable force—and not an immovable object in sight. 

Next number, John’s face lights up: “Sugar, sugar! Stanley T!” as the band swings into it. “He’s playing Stanley Turrentine like Dexter Gordon!”  

Howard’s blowing with increasing drive, yet still taking his time. A little vibrato, then he makes it wail. Ivey laughs and claps his hands as Howard continues to take it up, squealing, almost like falsetto.  

Sly hits a quick series, bringing Howard down, but out—and faster. Soon, Howard is wailing again. Drums, sax, organ get together furiously, spiraling up together, then dropping down again. Mike strides a bit, shooting from the hip, gunning ‘em down. 

Soul Jazz Sundays has a $5 cover, but the cover is waived if you’re having dinner. Lady Dee’s Southern Cafe is downstairs, in Clancy’s, with daily specials: on Saturday and Sunday, short ribs, or oxtail, or fried or smothered chicken, with sides like yams, collard greens, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, macaroni & cheese, for under $20. (Friday is Mardi Gras night, with jambalaya.) Drink prices are very reasonable. And there is the music. 

Howard is from Oakland. “I grew up in a Baptist church between the drums and the organ.” He started out with a blues band, Carl “Good Rockin’” Robinson, one of the veterans of the once-famous East Bay Sound, nuances telling the listener if the players were from Oakland or Richmond. 

Howard remembers meeting Jules Broussard, playing with Faye Carol, “totally getting my act together playing honky-tonk, not learning ‘Giant Steps’ in every key, every permutation in ‘Countdown.’”  

Howard also recalled John Turk stopping the band rehearsing for a gig, “telling me he was tired of me developing my solo. All these guys used walk the bar, playing blues gigs, rhythm & blues gigs. It’s part of the music, coming straight off the streets. It has the pulse to it. What made jazz great was the swing and groove, how it merged with storytelling through blues. That’s the one common thread running through jazz music. Take it out, you have nothing. All the substance is gone. And when it’s gone, the music becomes boring. I’m tired of going out and being bored to death.” 

Another side of what he’s been trying to do is expressed by his Angola Project, with one CD out and another to be released in the fall. “It’s very adventurous. We interpret spirituals with complex harmonics, the group has singers, two violins ...”  

Commissioned to create a 12-movement suite by Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco, awarded a grant by the Aaron Copland Foundation, the project comes out of trips with his old schoolmate Daniel Atkinson to Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana, a working prison farm, like the more famous Parchman Farm in Mississippi, where prisoners are encouraged to sing while working. Howard describes a trip when prisoners convinced a man who hadn’t sang for six years to sing again.  

“My jaw dropped,” Howard said. “And later, when Faye Carol heard the song, she almost cried; Sly did. Hearing this music I’d never heard before reminded me of what my grandmother from Louisiana told me those old deacons used to do in church.” 

Mike’s skirling out arabesques up and down the keys. Sly’s been hitting hard; Howard mellows it out after the frantic runs—and now Sly’s dancing with the brushes on the skins. “Max Roach!” John Ivey exclaims. The pulse can be felt all the way downstairs, heard out in the street. 

“My grandfather used to tell me, ‘You start out like a horse at the races, find your speed level right off. You’ve got to get into it,’” Howard said. “He used to play sax a little, had a short stint with Count Basie.” 

Once at a gig with Marcus Shelby, a writer came up to the stage and asked Howard, ‘Are you related to Sam Wiley?’  

“I tell him that was my grandfather,” Howard said. “He says, ‘Now you’re making me feel old!’” 

The writer was Phil Elwood, the late popular music critic for the San Francisco Examiner. 



6 p.m. Sundays at the Aqua Lounge, 311 Broadway, Oakland.  



‘You, Nero’ at Berkeley Rep

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:02:00 AM

Nero fiddled while Rome burned.” An anachronistic line everybody’s heard; there’s no graceful way to say that he “lyred.” Amy Freed picks up on both the imperial aestheticism and the anachronistic sentiment in her play, You, Nero, now onstage at Berkeley Rep. 

The title is, of course, another anachronism, chiming (or jangling) on Robert Graves’ popular ’30s novel, I, Claudius, about Nero’s predecessor, and the celebrated Von Sternberg “project” (the uncompleted film, that is) with Charles Laughton as the languorous Roman. (A documentary, included with the ’70s BBC TV series, preserves about a half-hour of the film’s footage.) 

Laughton’s inspired histrionics were based, so he said, on Edward VIII’s abdication speech. Danny Scheie, playing Claudius’ adopted heir, takes thespian afflatus a step further to what one reviewer described as “impishly” bitchy. From the expressionistic Laughtonian tone, he’s added a touch of decay—in the musical sense—and as counterpoint to things falling apart. 

The twinkle in Nero’s eye, like that in Stalin’s, could either mean a practical joke or tortuous death.  

Freed re-creates the familiar Rome of bread and circuses, in which Nero entices—or shanghaies—a hack playwright, Scribonius (Jeff McCarthy, playing it straight, or at least deadpan), to personalize the emperor and make him lovable to the mob. Half narrating and otherwise acting out his enmeshment in the messy politics and personalities of Nero’s court (in particular, Susannah Schulman’s Poppaea, the emperor’s ex-mistress, a ravening Diana of sexual conquest), Scribonius witnesses Nero portraying his own angst at the Colosseum, American Idol style. Finally, the discarded author writes a message in a bottle to float on the waves of time, telling these unspeakable things to future ages. 

Besides I, Claudius, the period in question is covered not only by Latin historians Suetonius and Tacitus (either more than just a good read) but also in the drama of the period and since. Racine’s 17th century tragedy Britannicus digs into the nuance of intrigue, Nero’s manipulative mother Agrippina (now on the outs and in a power struggle with her boy) saying: “Rome is too prejudiced in my favor” and adding of her son, “If he did not fear me, I should fear him.”  

Nero’s tutor, the philosopher Seneca, is credited (undoubtedly erroneously) with a tragedy, Octavia, about Nero divorcing Claudius’ daughter to consort with Poppaea. Possibly Seneca’s, a farce, called something like ‘Claudius, Pumpkinified,’ about the late emperor’s afterlife, was reported to have Nero’s court “laughing helplessly.” Certainly the philosopher and rhetorician penned a mock panegyric on Claudius, meant to make his successor smile. 

Lots of eminent precedent in staging these events, whether as tragedy or comedy. 

While admittedly comic, Freed’s production (under the directing of Sharon Ott) tries for a little tragedy as well. (In Freed’s account, “On What’s Funny and How to Get There,” she confesses, “I never set out to write comic plays. My themes as a writer are usually serious, even though the delivery’s not.”)  

And the cast is pretty funny all by themselves, with such accomplished farceurs as Mike McShane and Richard Doyle in multiple roles from Seneca to court eunuch—and the exceptional Lori Larson as a Crawford-esque Mommy dearest of an Agrippina, joined by Kasey Mahaffy, Donnell Hill, Maggie Mason and Sarah Moser. Erik Flatmo’s sets, which some called “Las Vegas,” catch the overblown lavishness of Nero’s (or our) era in a very theatrical way (an enormous sculpted head of the emperor, dominating the stage when the lights go up, is quickly wheeled off, never to be seen again). Paloma Young’s costumes and Peter Maradudin’s lighting follow suit. 

But YOU, NERO never catches the tone or the real drift of the material, though Ott’s direction seems to aim at the breathlessly comic, in a desultory fashion. A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM it ain’t, nor is it Mel Brooks. Schtick and sketch-iness alternate with half-reflective moments; the intent is there, but not much develops, except in the way, say, a mini-series develops—but the stage makes for a different dynamic. 

“What an artist Rome loses in me!” Nero’s supposed to have gasped out at his suicide. A life of self-expression, against a social backdrop of poverty and disaster, is a good thing to reflect on in times like these, imaged in antiquity. But beware of a reflection aesthetic in itself—“imitations of art,” as Meyerhold put it—or of just staring into the mirror. 



8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays; 2 p.m. Sundays and every other Wednesday through June 28 at Berkeley Rep’s Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison. $13.50-$71. 647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org. 

Amy Freed will be interviewed by artistic director Tony Taccone at 7 p.m. Monday, June 15. Free admission.

Berkeley’s World Music Festival Begins Saturday

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:02:00 AM

The Free Sixth Annual Berkeley World Music Festival, with performance venues stretching along and just off Telegraph Ave., in People’s Park and in cafes and shops from Bancroft Way, almost to Parker, will celebrate music, song and dance of a wealth of cultures, from noon to 9 p.m. this Saturday. 

The Berkeley Poetry Festival at Telegraph and Haste will be held 1-4 p.m., and a Craft Bazaar in People’s Park, including ethnic musical instruments for sale, from noon to 5:30 p.m. Music performances in the park are scheduled from 1-5:30 p.m. All performances are free. 

A pre-party at Blake’s on Telegraph, with Two Too Desmond [“Scubacat”] and the Graham Pantzer Band, will begin at 9 p.m. Friday, $10. The afterparty, at Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo at Gilman Street, features Hawaiian reggae, with Marty Dread and Reggae Angels, 9:30 p.m. Saturday, $18.) 

Headlining the festival—the only band from outside the Bay Area, and a world-renowned one—will be Zimbabwe’s Thomas Mapfumo & The Blacks Unlimited, playing Chimurenga and Afro-Pop for listening and dancing, on the People’s Park Stage, 4:30-5:30 p.m. Past Festival favorite Julia Chigamba and the Chinyakare Ensemble, also of Zimbabwe, will perform their traditional music and dance on the People’s Park Stage,  

1-1:45 p.m. 

“I’ve tried for awhile to get Thomas Mapfumo for the festival, but he was in Zimbabwe,” said Gianna Ranuzzi, Festival director. “Now he’s back living in Oregon. We’re a community event; I ask audiences, as well as musicians and people in the music business, who would you like to hear, who should we have headline—and they all repeatedly said ‘Thomas Mapfumo.’ He took Zimbabwe’s traditional Shona music and gave it electric instrumentation. His lyrics were social, political commentary [chimurenga means struggle]. It was crossover music that caught on like wildfire in Zimbabwe. In it, you get to see both the roots and the evolution of the music.” 

Of Julia Chigamba, Ranuzzi said, “She comes from the same village as Thomas Mapfumo; her family has always played music. She’ll host dance lessons; she teaches dance to youth. Last year, she demonstrated the water tradition, with the bowl on her head. It gives a spiritual aspect, how it’s connected to the people. It’s quite joyful. She’s sharing her traditions with the world.” 

Also at People’s Park, where popular didjeridu player Stephen Kent will m.c., will be Freddy Clarke’s Wobbly World, 2-3 p.m., whose world fusion sound includes “Grammy-winner Mads Tolling [Turtle Island and Stanley Clarke Bands] on violin; congas and goatskin bagpipes, oud, and singing in Arabic and French,” according to Ranuzzi. Markus James and the Wassonrai play 3:15-4:15 p.m., which Ranuzzi describes as “Mali meets the Delta blues.” 

Last year’s headliner, Sukhawat Ali Khan (“Classical Indian music and Qawwali Sufi singing you can dance to”) will be in “a more intimate setting” at Cafe Milano, 2522 Bancroft, just east of Telegraph.  

At Mario’s La Fiesta (at Mario’s new location, the former banquet hall at 2506 Haste, behind Amoeba Records), Dr. Loco will be playing Tex-Mex music, 2-3:30 p.m. Amoeba on Telegraph will host a celebration of Amazigh Berber musician and bandleader Mo Alileche’s new CD, “In Memory of a Hero.” 

The Berkeley Poetry Festival will give Joyce Jenkins of Poetry Flash a lifetime achievement award, and feature readers like Julia Vinograd, Jack and Adele Foley, and Richard Silberg, as well as an open mic, from 1-4 p.m. in front of the former Cody’s Books, at Telegraph and Haste. 

In other locations on the Ave.: 

• Trio Amore will play and sing operatic arias and Italian love songs (“They have a lot of fun—a Ukrainian soprano, British tenor, San Francisco Italian accordionist—and and it’s fine music”) at Caffe Med, noon-2 p.m.;  

• Tom Chandler Trio, playing Bossa Nova innovations (“He calls it revisionism!”) 4:30-6:30 at Rasputin Records;  

• Helene Attia Quartette, Mediterranean world-jazz (”Of Italian heritage from North Africa, she writes songs, and sings in French, Italian and English, as well as Spanish and Portuguese”), 6-8 p.m. at Manny’s Tap Room (formerly Raleigh’s Pub);  

• Lisa Sangita Moskow, Indian sarode and vocals, 7-8 p.m., at Moe’s Books. 

• Michael Masley, well-known street musician, will play bowhammer cymbalom all day at Telegraph and Channing. 

• and, “Our festival finale features another special group,” Ranuzzi said, “Black Olive Babes, Southern Balkan and Middle Eastern, as well as original, music, whose members include the co-director of Kitka, the director of Brass Menazeri, and their bassist, who’s played with Rickie Lee Jones, Madonna, Art Garfunkle and Linda Ronstadt,” 7-9 p.m. at The Village, 2556 Telegraph. 

“The festival celebrates our Bay Area eclectic roots,” Ranuzzi said. “It’s the grassroots Telegraph community at its finest. We’re proud of it. It’s gone on for six years; I guess it’s here to stay.” 


Festival schedules with venue map are available at the event information table at Telegraph and Haste, at indoor venues during performances and printable online at: www.berkeleyworldmusic.org.

Kenny Washington at Anna’s

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:03:00 AM

Kenny [Washington] is the most thrilling singers’ singer I have heard in recent years,” said Anna De Leon of her headliner this Saturday night at Anna’s Jazz Island in downtown Berkeley. “He combines the joyful and effortless musicality of Ella and Sarah with a voice that is comfortable in a more-than-four-octave range. He can sing all across the American spectrum—jazz, show tunes, rhythm and blues, Motown ... all with great passion and great skill.” 

Coming from a recorded vocalist, praised by Nat Hentoff, as Anna is herself, that’s high—and enthusiastic—praise. But Kenny Washington has been garnering such kudos for awhile now, from audiences, critics and musicians alike. 

“The great New Orleans saxophone player and Bay Area favorite for over three decades, Jules Broussard, once described Kenny to me as ‘the greatest singer in the world!’” Anna said. 

Now an Oakland resident, Washington was born in New Orleans and grew up singing gospel in church, later playing saxophone with the school band. He studied music at Xavier University, then played with the honorary U. S. Navy Band from 1986 for nine years, throughout the U.S., Russia, Asia and Australia, before moving to the Bay Area.  

For eight years, Washington was the featured vocalist at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco’s Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill. He appeared in Roy Nathanson’s Off-Broadway production of Fire at Keaton’s Bar & Grill with Elvis Costello and Deborah Harry, playing London as well as New York. He toured Norway in 2006 and Chile last year with members of the SFNY Quartet.  

In February, Washington appeared at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center, New York, with Joe Locke and George Mraz. He’s appeared as featured vocalist on Michael O’Neill’s “The Long and the Short of It” and “Still Dancin’” (with Joe Locke) CDs, as well as Keith Terry’s “The Slammin’ All Body Band.” 

Washington’s new album is from a show last year: “Kenny Washington: LIVE at Anna’s Jazz Island.” There are several tracks available online at kennywashingtonvocalist.com. The SFNY Quartet MySpace site features live tracks and video. A benefit performance for the Oakland School of the Arts, with John Handy, Glen Pearson, Richard Howell, Babatunde Lea, Danny Armstrong and Khalil Shaheed can be seen on YouTube. 

Critic Andrew Gilbert wrote of Washington: “Standing not quite five-foot-two, he is an oversize talent who can scat with the harmonic daring and rhythmic command of a bebop saxophonist, croon with the simmering soul of Donny Hathaway, and interpret standards with such intelligence and emotional commitment it’s like Rodgers & Hart wrote ‘I Didn’t Know What Time It Was’ with him in mind.” 


Kenny Washington & His Trio 

8 p. m. Saturday at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way (near Shattuck). $14. 841-JAZZ www.AnnasJazzIsland.com

Pops Concert Closes Young People’s Symphony Orchestra Season

Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:03:00 AM

Young People’s Symphony Orchestra, founded in Berkeley in 1935, the oldest youth orchestra in California and second-oldest in the nation, will present its last show of the season (conductor David Ramadanoff’s 20th) this Sunday at 7 p. m. with a Pops Concert, music by Berlioz, Hindemith/von Weber, Prokofiev, Gershwin, John Williams, LeRoy Anderson and John Philip Sousa.  

The orchestra will say goodbye to 33 graduating high school seniors from around the Bay Area, including, from Berkeley: Scott Johnson (cello), Emily Lim (Violin), Dylan Mattingly (cello), Jasin Purat (violin), Eli Wirtschafter (violin); Albany: Elizabeth Pickrel (viola); El Cerrito: Gabriella Smith (violin); Richmond: Alexander Bailey (flute); San Pablo: Mayumi Pierce (violin); Piedmont: Joyce Park (cello); Oakland: Brenda Cheatham (viola), Abby Green (flute), Kin Lam (violin), Kathryn Lesko (French horn), Cara Spangler (violin), Eve Tyler (clarinet); Alameda: Michael McAlister (cello).  

Greek Orthodox Church of the Ascension, 4700 Lincoln Ave. Oakland. Tickets: $12-15. 849-9776; www.ypsomusic.net.

Around the East Bay: Wilde's 'Lady Windemere's Fan'

Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:00:00 AM

Oscar Wilde’s wry predecessor to Earnest-ness, Lady Windemere’s Fan, is onstage now at the Masquers Playhouse, updated by director Patricia Inabnet to the status-seeking 1950s. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays. 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org.

Around the East Bay: 'A Streetcar Named Desire'

Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:01:00 AM

An unusually good production of A Streetcar Named Desire goes into its final performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday, at Altarena Playhouse. Director Sue Trigg and her cast stage Tennessee Williams’ masterwork in the round, and do it justice by making every detail build on the last. The final scenes are indelible. 1409 High St., Alameda. $17-20. 764-9718. www.altarena.org. 

About the House: Hydrostatic Pressure And Why Your Basement Leaks

By Matt Cantor
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 06:58:00 AM

It might appear to be over-reaching to attempt a discussion of something that sounds as high-handed as hydrostatic pressure in a lay essay, but if you’ll bear with me, you’ll quickly see how this is both relevant and conceptually accessible to just about everyone. 

If you rent, it might have a substantial effect on your life, but if you own a home, hydrostatic pressure could turn out to be of vital interest, as it can and may affect your pocketbook, your health and the livability and value of your home. 

Why are some basements dry and some sopping damp every winter? Why do some homes gradually split or distort until they demand new foundations at great expense? Hydrostatic pressure may not be the only answer to these questions, but it’s a big part and often the central answer. 

Let’s start with a basement on a hillside, something we see a lot of around here. Many of our hillside houses began with the stair-stepping of the hillside. By hacking away a wall and flattening a bit of hillside, one creates a little more space in the boxy world of houses. As soon as we start doing that, we invite nature to mess with us. In a funny sort of way, you’ve cut into a pipe, a conduit in which water flows through the layered plates of clay or the interstices of a rocky matrix that make up the ground below your feet. Since water naturally flows through this agglomeration, it’s normal for it to start flowing right into the space you’ve carved out for yourself.  

If you then pour a concrete wall and floor in this area, you invite this water to push up against your new barrier and to try, at the very least, to get into your new bedroom, office or garage. Water hitting a barrier like this can back up and rise as it fills the cavity, either in the soil or in the void behind the wall, until there is considerable volume behind this wall. Water fills the soil or rock much as it fills the space behind a dam, adding weight and generating thrust behind the wall. The taller the body of wet material, the greater the force, especially at the bottom of the volume. This is hydro (water) static (standing) pressure, the force of water standing behind something. Hydrostatic pressure destroys dams, moves earth and rock and drives many of the processes that give us the natural world around us. If it could laugh at our silly little houses, it would. 

Hydrostatic pressure can move your foundation or buckle a retaining wall until there is nothing to do but accept the line of credit you keep resisting. But it does something equally annoying and far more pervasive. It pushes water right through solids. Concrete, like all matter, isn’t really solid. It’s a weave of molecules chosen for its strength and the simplicity of its manufacture.  

Low-strength concretes, like those that support most of our older housing stock, are highly porous. Given a sufficient “head” or load of water behind them, they will weep until the opposing side is damp. Add some fungi and they can be slimy, smelly and unsuitable for habitation. This all varies quite a bit and depends on the recipe used in cooking the concrete.  

High-strength concretes can physically resist a high load (especially when properly reinforced) but also retard water intrusion. The “weave” of the concrete molecular fabric changes as we modify the recipe, and we now know a lot more about how to get concrete to catch and hold water. But the take-home message is that your concrete in your old house doesn’t know this trick, though its talent may still be sufficient, as you will soon see. 

Since increased hydrostatic pressure allows water to weep through concrete that would otherwise resisted dampness, we have a clue as to how we can keep the basement dry. Eliminate the pressure. Most basements, even those with lower strength (read high porosity) concrete can stay relatively dry if we can prevent water from welling up behind the surface. This is what drainage is really good at.  

A drainage system (some of these are called French Drains, though the term is more colloquial than scientific) is not designed to keep the back side of your foundation or retaining wall dry, it’s designed to prevent water from pushing against these surfaces by directing the lion’s share away to a more suitable locale. 

By trenching behind (this is usually uphill of the structure or basement) the problem area, you can allow water to find its way out and down to a place that it will do no harm (at least to you). By the way, sump pumps don’t usually do this adequately. They may serve well as a mechanism of discharge when you can’t get water to flow downhill to an allowable location, but a sump is usually not going to catch the mass of water that is flowing through the soil or rock to assail your building.  

For this you need a trench, which is, ultimately, a broad, three-dimensional thing. It has length, breadth and height (unlike a sump, which is at a confined location in space) so, if adequately sized and placed, it can really do the job of reducing that hydrostatic pressure to something like zero. Then the job of keeping the inside dry is a much smaller one and it is much more likely (note the language…more likely) that you can achieve your goals with simple methods such as sealants. 

If you are undertaking such a project, keep in mind that there is an array of other tools to help you meet your goals and that drainage, alone, is not usually adequate unless your only goal is to diminish movement.  

For the drainage system, these tools can include:  

• Sheet drainage material (such as Amerdrain): Like it sounds, a sheet of material that carries water down along a surface to a place where it can join other drainage. 

• Moisture retarders/Moisture barriers (depending on your confidence level): These mount on the exteriors of foundation, basement or retaining walls to prevent water from getting to the porous concrete surface. Proper installation is critical. 

• Field drains: These small, usually round, drainage entry points are often placed so that surface waters will not find them. They only work if they’re right where the water goes. 

• Channel Drains: A very nice choice for the bottom of a driveway but other locations can also benefit from this clever, age-old method, in which a length of grill-covered drainage material is recessed into the ground surface material (e.g. concrete) where it can capture a sheet of flowing water. 

If you’ve managed to control hydrostatic pressure and divert water effectively, you can often finish the job by sealing concrete on the inside of a basement or other below ground surface. A range of sealants exist, including Drylok, Thoroseal, Aquafin and others.  

Surface preparation is what really matters when doing this and following the instructions carefully (RTFM, right?). Old concrete with lots of cracks may be an uphill fight and some below ground spaces are never going to be suitable for living without huge structural upgrades. But you always make things better if you take your time, get good advice and respect the power of that most formidable of opponents. 



Got a question about home repairs and inspections? Send them to Matt Cantor at mgcantor@pacbell.net.

Community Calendar

Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:16:00 AM


Berkeley School Volunteers New volunteer orientation from 2 to 3 p.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Volunteer opportunities in the summer or during the regular school year. 644-8833. bsv@berkeley.k12.ca.us 

“Globalization and the New Possibilities for Social Justice” with Andrew Barlow, Professor of Sociology, U.C. Berkeley at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. Donation $5. 841-4824. 

Children’s Fairyland Fundraising Gala “One Enchanted Evening” with food, performances and silent auction, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave. Tickets are $75-$125. 452-2259. 

In Defense of Nadra Foster An evening of celebration to raise legal defense funds with I GO! Poetry leadership and performance by Oakland students, Shaverik of East Bay Politics, Andrea Prichett, of Rebecca Riots, Tiny Grey-Garcia of Poor Magazine and more at 7 p.m. at La Peña, 3105 Shattuck Ave. 

Babies & Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Metro PCS Inc. Conference Room, 1080 Marina Village Pkwy., Alameda. To make an appointment call 800-448-3543. www.beadonor.com 

Circle of Concern Vigil meets on West Lawn of UC campus across from Addison and Oxford, Thurs. at noon and Sun. at 1 p.m. to oppose UC weapons labs contracts. 848-8055. 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Dr. Kenneth Lajoie, USGS, retired on “The Origin of San Francisco Bay: The Natural and Unnatural History of an Urban Estuary” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $15, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 527-2173. www.citycommonsclub.org 

Disability Film Festival Superfest Kids Classics, films geared for teenagers, from noon to 4 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 3rd Fl. Community Rm. 2090 Kittredge St. Free. 845-5576. www.culturedisabilitytalent.org/superfest 

“The Living Universe: Where Are We? Where Are We Going?” with author Duane Elgin at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org 

“Croatian Stories” a documentary on Croatian heritage in California at 8 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. Admission is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 


Free 6th Annual Berkeley World Music Festival offers continuous music from noon to 9 p.m. in Telegraph Ave. cafes and shops, near UC campus, plus concert in People’s Park. For performance schedules and artist information, visit www.berkeleyworldmusic.org 

WriterCoach Connection Read-and-Write-a-thon Non-stop peotry, prose, drama and fiction from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Longfellow Middle School Library, 1500 Derby St. Staged reading of “A Raisin in the Sun” by students at 1 p.m.All welcome. For more information and to donate see www.firstgiving/writercoachconnection 

Project Peace East Bay’s Day of Peace Choose between two East Bay community-service opportunities: Help beautify Claremont Middle School, 5750 College Ave., Oakland, or help remove invasive plant species from the shoreline of Berkeley Aquatic Park, 80 Bolivar Dr., from 9 a.m. to noon. RSVP at www.projectpeaceeastbay.org 

Family Fun Festival with performances, hands-on activities and information booths from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Civic Center Park. 548-2220, ext. 227. 

Walking Tour of Old Oakland around Preservation Park to see Victorian architecture. Meet at 10 a.m. in front of Preservation Park at 13th St. and MLK, Jr. Way. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

East Bay Open Studios Sat. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For details see www.proartsgallery.org 

“Summer Splash” A free community event with kayaking, rowing, and dragon boating from noon to 4 p.m. at Jack London Aquatic Center, 115 Embarcadero, in Estuary Park, on the Embarcadero, between Oak St. and 5th Ave. 208-6060. www.jlac.org 

“Running for Office 101” For potential candidates about the realities of running for an elected office, and help them create a work plan for their own campaign, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., check in at 8:30 a.m. at Peralta Community College District Boardroom, 333 East 8th, across from Laney College Football Field., Oakland. Sponsored by Training Institute for Leadership Enrichment. Cost is $45-$75. 763-9523. staff@bwopa.org 

Bob Schildgen, author of “Hey Mr. Green” a collection of popular environmental advice columns originally written for Sierra Magazine, will talk about his book at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge at Shattuck, in the 3rd floor Community Meeting Room. 981-6233. 

Disability Film Festival Adult Classics (all still PG) from noon to 4 p.m., repeated 5 to 9 p.m. at Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $5-$20 sliding scale at the door. 845-5576. www.culturedisabilitytalent.org/superfest 

E-waste Collection Event Recycle Your Electronics! E-waste accepted: computer monitors, computers/computer components, televisions, VCR & DVD players, toner cartridges, printers, fax machines, copiers, telephone equipment, cell phones, MP3 players. NO appliances, batteries, microwaves, paints, pesticides, etc. Sat. and Sun. from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at El Cerrito DMV, 6400 Manila Ave., El Cerrito. For more details, visit www.unwaste.com or call 1-888-832-9839. 

“34 Years in Murals” Open house at La Peña from 3 to 5 p.m. with muralists and artists Ray Patlan, Susie Lundy, Tirso Gonzalez and Juana, Alicia Montoya, performances at 6 p.m. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Friends of the Bay Trail in Richmond Celebrating both the 20th anniversary of the San Francisco Bay Trail and the 10th anniversary of TRAC, the Trails for Richmond Action Committee with guided walks and bicycling trips along Richmond’s shoreline. Details at www.pointrichmond.com/baytrail/calendar.htm.  

Master Gardeners at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market Get advice on watering, plant selection and pest management from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Center St., between MLK and Milvia. 639-1275.  

Workshop: Replace Timing Chain Mercedes Diesel with Billy Jacobs, Biodiesel collective member from noon to 6 p.m. at 4th St. at Dwight Way. Cost is $40-$80. 653-9450. dieselworkshops@gmail.com 

Pinball Weekend at Playland Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Cost is $10-$15. 232-4264 ext. 25. www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org 

“US Labor in the Global Economy” A discussion led by Scott Marshall, Chair, Labor Commission of CPUSA at 10 a.m at the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., between Alcatraz & 66th. Hard copies of suggested readings available at the Library. 595-7417. www.marxistlibr.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Lawn Bowling on the green at the corner of Acton St. and Bancroft Way every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. for ages 12 and up. Wear flat soled shoes, no heels. Free lessons. 841-2174.  

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. 


Rosa Parks Elementary Kids’ Carnival with entertainment, activities and food, from noon to 4 p.m. at 920 Allston Way. Free. 644-8812. 

Sequoias Family Day A family exploration day with interactive exhibits, science and art activities from 1 to 4 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. Admission is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Temescal Street Fair from noon to 6 p.m. from 45th-51st Telegraph Ave., North Oakland, with food and drink from local businesses, live music and activities for children, arts, crafts and community booths. Sponsored by the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District. 830-7327. www.temescaldistrict.org 

Localize! Environmental Action at the Grassroots with examples of worm composting, greywater systems, recycled art, bike repair, and more from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at BAM/PFA Sculpture Garden. bampfa.berkeley.edu/community_day 

MarketPlace Dinner Prepare and share a gourmet vegan dinner with chef Barry Schenker, from 4 to 9 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $25-$30. Reservations required. www.marketplacedinners.org 

Berkeley Rep Family Series “Summer Fun” from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Nevo Education Center, 2071 Addison St. Recommended for age four and up. Free, but bring a book to donate to a school library. 647-2973. 

Social Action Forum with Prof. Chris O’Sullivan talking about the Middle East at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Free Sailboat Rides from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Cal Sailing Club, Berkeley Marina. Wear warm, waterproof clothing and bring a change of clothes in case you get wet. Children 5 and over welcome with parent or guardian. www.cal-sailing.org 

Memorial for John Havard, 1949-2009, of the Saturday Night Band from 3 to 6 p.m. at Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Ave. 

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 

Tibetan Buddhism with Sylvia Gretchen on “The Light of Asia in the World Today” 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 2 to 6 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Also on Thurs. from 2 to 6 p.m. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 


Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association Membership Meeting at 7 p.m. in the Fireside Room at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 27727 College Ave. www.claremonttelmwood.org 

Climate Change Action Group Four weekly sessions on reducing your carbon footprint from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2350 San Pablo Ave. Free. Workbook is $10. Registration required. 548-2220, ext. 240. 

Summer Reading Program at Contra Costa Libraries begins with programs, inspiration and prizes for students in 2nd through 5th grades. For information seee ccclib.org 

Blood Donor Week with blood drives throughout the Bay Area. For details call the American Red Cross at 800-448-3543 or see www.beadonor.com 

Community Yoga Class Mon. and Thurs. at 10 a.m. at James Kenney Parks and Rec. Center at Virginia and 8th. Seniors and beginners welcome. Cost is $6. 207-4501. 

Small-Business Counseling Free one-hour one-on-one counseling to help you start and run your small business with a volunteer from Service Core of Retired Executives, Mon. evenings by appointment at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. For appointment call 981-6148. www.eastbayscore.org 

World Affairs/Politics Discussion Group, for people 60 years and over, meets at 9:45 a.m. at Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave, Albany. Cost is $3.  

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Join us to work on current issues around police misconduct. Volunteers needed. For information call 548-0425.  


Climate Change Action Group Four weekly sessions on reducing your carbon footprint from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2350 San Pablo Ave. Free. Workbook is $10. Registration required. 548-2220, ext. 240. 

East Bay Macintosh Users Group Meeting with Bert Monroy, artist in digital Photo-Realism, at 7 p.m. at Expression College for Digital Arts, 6601 Shellmound St., Emeryville http://ebmug.org 

Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 6 to 8 p.m. at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Registration required. 594-5165. 

Berkeley School Volunteers New volunteer orientation from noon to 1 p.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Volunteer opportunities in the summer or during the regular school year. 644-8833. bsv@berkeley.k12.ca.us 

Family Storytime for preschoolers and up at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Great Yosemite Day Hikes and Weekend Backpacking Trips at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

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., Sat. and Sun. from 2 to 6 p.m. at at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.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. 

Ceramics Class Learn hand building techniques to make decorative and functional items, Tues. at 9:30 a.m. at St. John's Senior Center, 2727 College Ave. Free, materials and firing charges only. 525-5497. 

Bridge for beginners from 12:30 to 2:15 p.m., all others 12:30 to 4 p.m. Sing-A-Long at 2:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5190. 

Qi Gong Meditation 7:30 p.m. at 830 Bancroft Way, Lotus Room 114. Cost is $5-$10. 883-1920. tgif@tiangong.org 

Wheelchair Yoga at 4:30 p.m., Family Yoga on Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at Niroga Center for Healing, 1808 University Ave. between MLK Way and Grant St. All classes by donation. 704-1330. www.niroga.org 


Walking Tour of Jack London Waterfront Meet at 10 a.m. at the corner of Broadway and Embarcadero. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

“Thirst” A film about access to safe water around the world, at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

“Eat Your Way Around the World” a virtual tour of markets, menus and manners with librarians Barbara Bibel and Dorothy Lazard at 6 p.m. at West Auditorium, Oakland Main Library, 125 14th St. at Oak. 238-3136. 

“A Drug-Free Approach to Treating Learning Disorders” at 6:30 p.m. at Claremont Branch, Berkeley Public Library, 2940 Benvenue, corner of Benvenue and Ashby Ave. 849-1176.  

Red Cross Blood Drive from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave., Albany. To make an appointment call 800-448-3543.  

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes and a warm hat. 548-9840. 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Berkeley CopWatch Drop-in office hours from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. 548-0425. 


“Pacific Pinot Noir” A discussion of the history and evolution with John Haeger at 6:30 p.m. at Vintage Berkeley, 2949 College Ave. www.vintageberkeley.com 

Improv Acting Classes Play fun improv games that unleash your imagination, spontaneity, laughter, and confidence. Class meets Thurs. at 8:15 p.m. at Berkeley YWCA, 2600 Bancroft Way. Cost is $12. www.berkeleyimprov.com  

Babies & Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Kaiser Center Lobby, 300 Lakeside Dr., Oakland. To schedule an appointment call 800-448-3543. www.beadonor.com 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Kevin Ambrogi, musician, on “Music in the Lives of Famous People: From Nero to Einstein” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $15, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. 527-2173. www.citycommonsclub.org 

“The Sharing Solution: How to save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community” with Janelle Orsi and Emily Doskow at 7 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2350 San Pablo Ave. 548-3402. 

“Soulful” A Benefit for ArtsChange, a community-based arts program for at-risk youth in Richmond, with music and tapas at 7 p.m. at Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $25. 275-4787. www.artschange.org 








Womansong Circle An evening of participatory singing for women at 7:15 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, Small Assembly Room, 2345 Channing Way, at Dana. Suggested donation $15-20. betsy@betsyrosemusic.org 

“All in Your Mind” with Mentalist Peter Kim at 6 p.m. at Playland, 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Cost is $20-$25. 232-4264 ext. 25. www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 

Three Beats for Nothing Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Fri. at 10 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, Hearst at MLK. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Fri. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 


Berkeley Juneteenth Festival with arts, crafts, music, cultural events and ethnic foods, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Adeline between Ashby and Alcatraz. 655-8008. www.berkeleyjunteenth.org 

39th Annual Live Oak Park Fair from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck Ave. www.liveoakparkfair.com 

Berkeley High School Class of 1959 50th Reunion at 5:30 p.m. at Doubletree Hotel. Cost is $75. RSVP by June 8. 415-897-1320. brklyv@aol.com 

East Bay Open Studios Sat. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For details see www.proartsgallery.org 

Chickens in the Home Garden A class covering the basics of starting and tending a backyard flock, from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact kyle@chezpanissefoundation.org 

Walking Tour of Old Oakland Uptown to the Lake to discover Art Deco landmarks. Meet at 10 a.m. in front of the Paramount Theater at 2025 Broadway. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. 

“The Elusive Peace in Israel/ Palestine: What is Going On? Where Do We Go from Here?” with Dr. Hasan Fouda at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. 841-4824. 

Master Gardeners at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market Get advice on watering, plant selection and pest management from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Center St., between MLK and Milvia. 639-1275. http://amcg.ucdavis.edu 

Rabbit Adoption Day from 2 to 4 p.m. at Rabbit Ears, 377 Colusa Ave., Kensington. 525-6155. 

The East Bay Chapter of The Great War Society meets to discuss The Battle of the Coronel Sea & Falkland Islands with Martin Weisberger at 10:30 a.m. at the Albany Veterans Bldg. 1325 Portland Ave. Albany. 526-4423. 

Happiest Place on Earth at Playland Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Cost is $10-$15.  

Mercedes Diesel Maintenance Lecture and workshop with Billy Jacobs, Biodiesel collective member from noon to 6 p.m. at 4th St. at Dwight Way. Cost is $30 for lecture, $140 for lecture and workshop. 653-9450. dieselworkshops@gmail.com  

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 

Lawn Bowling on the green at the corner of Acton St. and Bancroft Way every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. for ages 12 and up. Wear flat soled shoes, no heels. Free lessons. 841-2174.  

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. 


39th Annual Live Oak Park Fair from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck Ave. www.liveoakparkfair.com 

Greywater Primer Learn about options for disengaging from the water grid including rainwater, graywater reuse and composting toilets. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Location given upon registration. Sponsored by Institute of Urban Homesteading. Cost is $30-$50. 927-3252. 

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to repair a flat, from 10 to 11 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

Old Time Radio East Bay Collectors and listeners get together to enjoy shows together at 4 p.m. at a private home in Richmond. For more information email DavidinBerkeley [at] Yahoo.com. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hilton Garden Inn, 1800 Powell St., Emeryville. To make an appointment call 800-448-3543.  

“Practicing Theology in the Aftermath of Trauma: How Religious Communities Can Participate in Trauma Healing” with Boston University School of Theology Prof. Shelly Rambo at 11:30 a.m. at Epworth UMC, 1953 Hopkins St. RSVP to 353-8972. mkeelan@bu.edu.  

Social Action Forum with Dr. Loal Vollen on “The Exoneration Project” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Tibetan Buddhism with Jack van der Meulen on “Tibetan Yoga for Stress Reduction” 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 2 to 6 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Also on Thurs. from 2 to 6 p.m. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 


Community Environmental Advisory Commission meets Thurs., June 4, at 7 p.m., at 2118 Milvia St. Nabil Al-Hadithy, 981-7460.  

Landmarks Preservation Commission meets Thurs., June 4, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7429. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/landmarks 

West Berkeley Project Area Commission meets Thurs., June 4, at 7 p.m. at the James Kenney Recreation Center, 8th & Virginia. 981-7418.  

City Council meets Tues., June 9, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci. 


Planning Commission meets Wed., June 10, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7416. www.ci.berkeley. ca.us/commissions/planning 

Police Review Commission meets Wed., June 10, at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 981-4950.  

Waterfront Commission meets Wed., June 10, at 7 p.m., at 201 University Ave. 981-6737. 

Community Health Commission meets Thurs., June 11, at 6:45 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5356.  

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., June 11, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7430.