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JC Orton founded the nonprofit Night on the Streets program to provide services to the homeless.
Riya Bhattacharjee
JC Orton founded the nonprofit Night on the Streets program to provide services to the homeless.


Firefighters Battle Fire Near Fish Ranch Exit Off Highway 24

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday September 29, 2009 - 05:43:00 PM

Firefighters from the East Bay Regional Park District and four other state and local agencies battled a fire near the Fish Ranch Road exit off Highway 24 Tuesday afternoon, according to park district officials. 

A spokesperson for the park district fire department said that the fire had been completely contained by 5:36 p.m. He said that there had been no damage to any property except for some grass and bush. Park district officials are investigating the cause of the fire. 

East Bay Regional Park District spokesperson Shelly Lewis said the park district received a call from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection at 3:09 p.m. which reported that “there was a fire at Fish Ranch Road outside Sibley Park that burned into Sibley.” 

Shelly said that the fire had spread to 30 acres. Sibley Park was evacuated, but residences were not evacuated, she said. 

Shelly said a total of five agencies—the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Moraga-Orinda Fire Department, Contra Costa Fire Department, Oakland Fire Department and the East Bay Regional Park District—had helped to douse the flames. About 30 to 50 firefighters were present at the scene. 

Berkeley Fire Department Chief Gil Dong told the Planet that Berkeley firefighters had not been involved in efforts to control the fire because it had taken place outside their jurisdiction. 

Dong said the fire had started in Moraga-Orinda. Eyewitnesses reported around 4 p.m. that Tunnel Road near Claremont was closed immediately after turning onto Alvarado, a route used by many UC Berkeley employees on their way back home. 

Some afternoon commuters said traffic was a mess on upper Ashby Avenue because of the fire and reported seeing helicopters flying over the Oakland-Berkeley hills. 


Berkeley High Selected for Green Energy Small Schools Grant

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday September 29, 2009 - 06:40:00 PM

State schools chief Jack O’Connell will be in Berkeley Wednesday to announce the names of five California public high schools, including Berkeley High, which were selected for a new “green energy” partnership academy pilot program. 

O’Connell is expected to make the announcement at the Berkeley High School Library at 10:30 a.m. along with California Public Utilities Commission President Michael R. Peevey, PG&E Vice President Ophelia Basgal, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Senator Loni Hancock. 

A partnership between the California Department of Education and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the three-year program seeks to effectively prepare students for job opportunities in the rapidly expanding energy sector as well as provide them with an academically rigorous learning experience that has a “real-world” focus. 

A statement from PG&E said that the academy aimed to “provide energy career education for students who might otherwise not have the opportunity.” 

The green energy academy will be Berkeley High’s seventh small school. Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan told the Planet that although the School for Social Justice and Ecology at Berkeley High currently offers a curriculum which includes green energy issues, the proposed small school would be teaching students specifically about green technology. 

Coplan said that district Superintendent Bill Huyett had described the proposed small school as a “pre-engineering academy.” 

The Berkeley Board of Education have approved the planning grant for the green energy academy and will vote on whether to approve the curriculum and concept at a future date, Coplan said. PG&E will help to craft the curriculum, but Berkeley High will ultimately be responsible for its governance. 

The new academy is scheduled to open next fall. 




AC Transit to Request Use of BRT Funds to Hold Off Service Cuts

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Monday September 28, 2009 - 07:32:00 PM

The AC Transit Board of Directors took a step back from its signature Bus Rapid Transit project last week. But just how big a step back is yet to be determined.  

At an unusual and hastily scheduled Friday night meeting, the board unanimously approved General Manager Rick Fernandez’s proposal to request a shift of funds from the BRT project to AC Transit's operating budget.  

The funds—already authorized for BRT by the Metropolitan Transit Commission—would be used to stave off a portion of AC Transit's pending personnel layoffs and major service cuts.  

In the best-case scenario, the proposed fund-swap would allow the district to reduce its impending 15 percent bus service cuts by half, prevent any immediate layoffs, and postpone the start of BRT construction for just one year. At worst, it could cause either a longer delay in BRT implementation, reduction of the scope of the project, or even a possible abandonment of BRT altogether.  

The proposed service cuts and layoffs were initiated after AC Transit declared a fiscal emergency earlier this year, and last June projected a $57 million operating deficit. Since that time, district staff members say the transit agency is anticipating even further reductions in sales and property tax income this year. 

Fernandez and AC Transit Board members denied last week’s sudden fund-swap proposal signaled the beginning of the end of BRT. 

“We’re hopeful that we can still keep the BRT project alive,” Fernandez told board members in presenting his proposal at the Sept. 25 meeting. 

South Alameda County board member Jeff Davis, who made the motion to approve the fund-swap proposal, said “many people think this means the death knell of BRT. It does not. This is no reflection of my support for BRT.”  

But in remarking on the rapidity with which the proposal first came to light and then came before the AC Transit board—rumors of the Fernandez proposal only began circulating a week ago, during a time when AC Transit was still promoting BRT at community meetings—Davis acknowledged that the proposal could put the BRT project in danger, saying that “for a project that has such a long history, to think that it could be jeopardized in such a quick time is so wrenching to those who have committed themselves to this project.” 

With member Joel Young absent and Joe Wallace participating by telephone, board members voted 6-0 to authorize Fernandez to pursue the transfer of funds. 

Under the proposal, which Fernandez says has garnered a favorable preliminary reception by Metropolitan Transit Commission Executive Steve Heminger, the 19-member commission requested to take $35 million in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) capital project-only funds already committed to the BRT project and apply it to another capital transit project under MTC’s nine-county jurisdiction. In return, MTC will be asked to identify $35 million in unrestricted CMAQ money for AC Transit to use in its operation budget. 

Distribution of the CMAQ money among local transit agencies is controlled by the MTC board. 

Fernandez had also proposed a similar swap for $45.6 million in MTC-controlled Regional Measure 2 (RM2), saying he did not believe Heminger would recommend to the board the CMAQ swap only. But on a motion by At-Large AC Transit Director Chris Peeples, Fernandez will feel out Heminger to find out if the CMAQ swap can go through on its own, with AC Transit holding onto the RM2 funds for the BRT project while it seeks out other funding sources to relieve its remaining budget problems. 

The proposed transaction is complicated by the fact that even if Heminger and the MTC board approve the proposed swap, there is no guarantee that MTC will be able to find enough unrestricted CMAQ or RM2 money within its control to swap with the BRT-designated capital funds. In that event, Fernandez said, both the BRT project and the district’s proposed January service cuts and layoffs would move forward as planned. 

AC Transit must move fast on the proposed swap because the longer the district holds off on the service cuts and layoffs, the deeper its financial hole will be. 

AC Transit is in the last stages of the development process of BRT, an ambitious proposal to run fast, light-rail-like bus service between downtown Berkeley, downtown Oakland, and downtown San Leandro along the Telegraph Avenue/International Boulevard/East 14th Street route currently used by the district’s 1 and 1R bus lines. 

That process was moving forward on its original schedule even as the AC Transit board contemplated slowing it down. 

The night before the emergency Friday AC Transit board meeting, Berkeley’s Willard Neighborhood Association—in conjunction with the LeConte, Halcyon, Claremont-Elmwood, and Bateman associations—held a community meeting at Willard Middle School to give staff members from the City of Berkeley the chance to present the city's BRT Locally Preferred Alternative to the public and answer questions. 

Berkeley is proposing slight modifications to AC Transit’s plans to generally run dedicated, bus-only lanes for BRT along Telegraph Avenue between the UC Berkeley campus entrance and the Berkeley-Oakland border. Similar to the 1 and 1R lines, BRT would connect with downtown Berkeley in a loop to run along Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue. 

Community sentiment was high at the Willard meeting in opposition to any transfer of lanes along Telegraph from auto use to exclusive bus use. The only speakers at the meeting who won applause were those who opposed the dedicated-lane proposal, and when one speaker asked for opponents of BRT in the audience to stand up, nearly two thirds of the participants stood up. 

The City of Berkeley will be holding its own community meeting on the proposed BRT project from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, in the third floor Community Meeting Room at the Berkeley Central Library. 

District Attorney Drops Charges Against John Yoo Protesters

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday September 28, 2009 - 02:28:00 PM

The Alameda County district attorney’s office announced Wednesday, Sept. 23, that it would not press criminal charges against four protesters cited for misdemeanors during a rally at UC Berkeley’s School of Law. 

The Aug. 17 rally called for UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo to be fired, disbarred and prosecuted for war crimes for his role in crafting the Bush administration’s torture policies. 

UC Police Department officers cited and then released Stephanie Tang, George Cammarota, Elliot Cohen and Donna Norton for trespassing and disturbing the peace on campus when they refused to comply with an order to leave the law school building after exhibiting loud and disruptive behavior. 

Tang and Cammarota are members of World Can’t Wait, an activist group that organized the protest in collaboration with Code Pink and the National Lawyers Guild on the day Yoo returned to the Berkeley campus after a semester at Chapman University in Orange County.  

Cohen is a former member of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission and Norton lives in Petaluma. 

All four joined the protest on the steps of the law school formerly known as Boalt Hall, and then entered the building, where they talked to students and waited for Yoo, a tenured professor, to show up for class. 

The group of 60 or so activists, community members, current and former law school students voiced their desire for a comprehensive criminal investigation into Yoo’s role in the writing of interrogation memos while he was serving as legal counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice from 2001 to 2003. 

The Obama administration on Aug. 24 released partially declassified CIA documents which criticized the agency’s interrogation program in 2002 and 2003 as poor, resulting in the use of “unauthorized, improvised, inhumane and undocumented” techniques. 

Tang was one of the protesters who spoke with students inside Yoo’s classroom. 

“I told them about the problems of having a war criminal on the faculty and the implications of being educated at a law school where you have a professor who is in a position of responsibility in the Justice Department who counseled President Bush on how to break the law,” Tang said. “When I saw Yoo I told him he was a war criminal. He turned away and kept walking.” 

Emails to Yoo for comment were not returned by press time. 

Tang said UCPD officers banned the four protesters from entering the campus for seven days.  

Tang said she had gone back to the campus after the ban expired to join in the weekly protests at Sproul Plaza devised to draw attention to Yoo’s actions. 

“It’s kind of amazing how many people on campus have not heard the name John Yoo,” Tang said. “Then there are those who sympathize with our message but are not sure what they can do. We think there is something the whole UC could do—that is, launch a full investigative process before the Academic Senate. The world is waiting for some accountability.” 

Seth Chazin, the lawyer representing Tang, Cammarota, Cohen and Norton, said the DA’s office had decided to drop the charges because they did not view his clients’ actions worthy for prosecution. 

Calls to the DA’s office for comment were not returned. 

Opinions about Yoo’s involvement in the Bush torture memos have been divided in both the legal and academic world, with some justifying his actions at the Justice Department as academic freedom. 

Responding to the public outcry on Yoo’s first day of fall classes, law school Dean Christopher Edley sent an e-mail to students and faculty outlining why disagreeing with “substantial portions of Professor Yoo’s analyses”—which he said was how most, though not all, of his colleagues at Berkeley felt—was not enough “to fire or sanction someone.” 

If it was, he continued, “then academic freedom would be meaningless.” 

“Assuming one believes as I do that Professor Yoo offered bad ideas and even worse advice during his government service, that judgment alone would not warrant dismissal or even a potentially chilling inquiry,” Edley’s letter said, referring to the General University Policy Regarding Academic Appointees adopted for the 10-campus University of California by both the system-wide Academic Senate and the Board of Regents. 

Types of unacceptable conduct stated in the policy include “ … Commission of a criminal act which has led to conviction in a court of law and which clearly demonstrates unfitness to continue as a member of the faculty.” 

“This very restrictive standard is binding on me as dean, and in any case disciplinary authority over faculty is lodged not with deans but with the Provost, Chancellor and Academic Senate,” Edley said. “But I will put aside that shield and state my independent and personal view of the matter: I believe the crucial questions in view of our university mission are these: Was there clear professional misconduct—that is, some breach of the professional ethics applicable to a government attorney—material to Professor Yoo’s academic performance now? Did writing the memoranda, and any related acts, violate a criminal or comparable statute? Absent very substantial evidence on these questions, no university worthy of distinction should even contemplate dismissing a faculty member. That standard has not been met.” 

Edley went on to say that when the attorney general released the results of the Department of Justice’s internal ethics investigation, he along with others would review it carefully and consider its implications for the campus. 

“In all candor, I doubt that there will be,” he said. 

Stephen Rosenbaum, a lecturer at the UC Berkeley law school, told the Planet that although disrupting classes and shouting slogans may not be the most productive way to debate the issue, it is “clear that law students are eager to discuss the ethical consequences of giving a classroom podium to a professor who has notoriously used his legal skills to justify a public policy that runs counter to all reasonable interpretations of constitutional and international law.” 

Tang said it was ironic that Colombian artist Fernando Botero’s paintings and drawings about abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was being exhibited at the Berkeley Art Museum on Bancroft Avenue when Yoo was teaching across the street. 

Botero’s art exhibit opened on Sept. 23 and will be on display at the museum until Feb. 7, 2010. 

Botero’s work was inspired by Seymour Hersh’s article in the New Yorker about the abuses on Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers. 

The Berkeley Art Museum first unveiled the paintings to the public in 2007. 

More information on Botero’s exhibit can be found here

Thousands Pack Sproul Plaza to Protest UC Layoffs, Fee Increases

By Richard Brenneman
Friday September 25, 2009 - 04:58:00 PM
Five thousand protesters filled Sproul Plaza Thursday to demand reform of the state's education system.
Richard Brenneman
Five thousand protesters filled Sproul Plaza Thursday to demand reform of the state's education system.
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich headlined Wednesday night's teach-in at Wheeler Auditorium.
Richard Brenneman
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich headlined Wednesday night's teach-in at Wheeler Auditorium.
Protesters raise their fists in solidarity.
Richard Brenneman
Protesters raise their fists in solidarity.
Protesters gathered again Thursday night to discuss a plan of action for the coming weeks.
Richard Brenneman
Protesters gathered again Thursday night to discuss a plan of action for the coming weeks.

For the first time in decades, thousands of protesters thronged UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza Thursday, united in a common cause and demanding political action.  

At least 5,000 students, faculty and workers gathered in Sproul Plaza at noon to protest fee increases, layoffs and furloughs at California’s leading public university.  

They came to challenge UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, UC President Mark Yudof, the Board of Regents, state legislators, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the public to unite in a battle to save public education in California. 

Students, faculty, blue-collar workers and their allies came to the heart of campus, many carrying signs and wearing red armbands. Speakers included faculty, students and members of the Union of Professional and Technical Employees, including a laid-off custodian, each of them calling for reform.  

Similar protests were held Thursday at campuses throughout the UC system.  

Protesters filled all of Sproul Plaza, shoulder to shoulder with little daylight between, and carried an array of signs and banners, reading “Stop Yudof’s Cuts to Education and Research,” “Stop the Cuts,” “Chop From the Top,” and at one point uniting to chant “Layoff Yudof! Layoff Yudof!” One Free Speech Movement veteran held a sign saluting her modern-day counterparts.  

Campus police were present but not in large numbers.  

Asked if he was surprised by the peacefulness of the gathering, UC Berkeley Police Chief Mitchell Celaya smiled and said, “It’s not like the old days.” 

Only one helicopter was present during the rally and it was carrying a news crew, not tear gas. 

Michael Delacour, one of the founders of People’s Park, said the rally was the largest he’d seen in recent decades, larger than any of those held when faculty and students organized in the 1980s to force the university to divest from South Africa in protest of that nation’s apartheid policies. 

Thursday’s events came on the heels of a Wednesday night teach-in at Wheeler Hall which overflowed the 600-seat auditorium and spilled hundreds more onto the pavement outside.  

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich headlined the teach-in, but some of the most powerful language came from lesser-known faculty.  

In a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said he supported the abolition of Propostion 13, considered by many as one of the primary factors in the state’s budget mess.  

Birgeneau acknowledged that students had the right to feel upset and express their opinion about the tuition hike, and urged them to visit Sacramento to lobby legislators to support public education. 

When the rally at Sproul ended, the protesters marched from the heart of campus to the city center, shutting down traffic along a two-block stretch of Shattuck while carrying signs and chanting “Whose university? Our university!” The throng then headed up Bancroft Avenue to Telegraph for a brief sit-in before the crowd dissipated.  

Then, hours later, hundreds gathered at at Wheeler Hall to begin the arduous task of working out the concrete means for reaching their ambitious goal.  

By the time the meeting ended, activists had issued a call for a statewide education conference in Berkeley on Oct. 24 to organize a campaign for public support of education at all levels, and voted to hold a second assembly Wednesday, Sept. 30 to decide on local actions to follow in the wake of Thursday’s protest.  

Inside the auditorium, a number of activists called for the immediate occupation of the building, following word from Santa Cruz that students had occupied one UC campus building there—an announcement that brought sustained cheers.  

When action was delayed, some began to lock the outside door, until there was a tearful plea on behalf of international students and any undocumented workers who might face arrest and deportation if they took part in an occupation challenged by campus police.  

Police withdrew, and students and their allies marched back to Lower Sproul Plaza to hold a final group of caucuses to work out details of measures to be taken in the days ahead.  

Shattuck Hotel Officially Opens in Downtown Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 06:02:00 PM
Josh Buckelew, Hotel Shattuck Plaza’s welcome ambassador, greets guests outside the hotel Wednesday.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Josh Buckelew, Hotel Shattuck Plaza’s welcome ambassador, greets guests outside the hotel Wednesday.
Hotel Shattuck Plaza owner Perry Patel inside the hotel’s remodeled lobby and bar.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Hotel Shattuck Plaza owner Perry Patel inside the hotel’s remodeled lobby and bar.
The renovated interior of the Hotel Shattuck Plaza.
Riya Bhattacharjee
The renovated interior of the Hotel Shattuck Plaza.

The Shattuck Hotel has been born again. The 100-year-old six-story landmark, Berkeley’s oldest hotel, officially reopened Thursday, Sept. 24, with much fanfare after a two-year, multi-million-dollar remodeling effort.  

The block between Shattuck and Milvia on Allston Way was closed momentarily for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that was attended by Berkeley Councilmember Linda Maio, Berkeley Visitors and Convention Bureau President Barbara Hillman and community members and followed by a performance by the UC Berkeley a capella group Decadence. 

As the guests made their way into the revamped lobby, which opens up into a mirrored oval-shaped bar flanked by the bistro Five, they caught glimpses of the building’s bygone era, including the 100-year-old red and white crystal chandelier, high columns and ornate molding wrapped around the ceiling. 

Gone are the old carpets, creaky furniture and cracked paint. Everything from the white marble floors to the landscaped courtyard to the quaint iPod docks at the new Hotel Shattuck Plaza exudes modern chic. 

Owner and UC Berkeley alumni Perry Patel of BPR Properties, who bought the Shattuck Hotel from independent hotelier Sanjeev Kakkar in 2007, said he had wanted the new design to be “timeless.” 

“I wanted to preserve and honor the hotel’s history,” Patel said, standing next to his father and siblings in the hotel’s 2,800-square-foot Crystal Ballroom. “We have brought back the jewel in the downtown’s crown.” 

Patel said that when he took over the Shattuck Hotel, he envisioned it as a four-star boutique hotel, sleek, but not too modern, classy but not too stiff.  

Designers Thom Jess of Arris Architects, Ziv Davis and historical architect Mark Hulbert subtly pulled details from Berkeley’s history into the hotel’s interior, choosing a red and mauve 1960s flower-power pattern for the hallway carpets—without making it too psychedelic—and strategically placing framed pictures of Berkeley street life and the Campanile inside each of the hotel’s 199 rooms. 

But perhaps nothing gets more Berkeley at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza than the huge peace symbol emblazoned on the floor of its vaulted foyer, greeting guests as they make their way up an equally stylish ramp to the lobby. 

The architects also preserved the hotel’s exterior arches and tall glass windows, bringing back the building’s original cream tones that blend with the surrounding.  

The hotel’s rooms—some of which offer sweeping views of the bay—have been occupied since June, and Scott Howard, the chef at Five, has been treating patrons to his signature contemporary American cuisine served with a twist. 

“We are very proud and happy to be in Berkeley and look forward to investing in our staff and our community in order to provide an exciting experience and return,” said Euan Taylor, who hails from Scotland and was hired by Patel as the Shattuck Hotel’s general manager. “We’d like to make our hotel a destination. I think it’s a great asset we can give back to the community.” 

Taylor worked with the Four Seasons chain for a number of years before moving to the Bay Area. 

Most of the hotel’s clients are people visiting the university or Lawrence Berkeley National Lab on business, although Patel is offering attractive discounts on fall packages named Cal! and Touchdown Bears (which reduces the room rate by 2 percent for every touchdown the Bears score that weekend) ranging from $131 to $169 per night. And unlike in the past, every single room has a private bathroom—no more late-night trudges down the hallway.  

Heather Smith, a sales coordinator for the hotel, said a UC Berkeley graduate student recently rented out the Presidential Suite for his wedding reception. 

“Before it was more of a residential property—there were a lot of people living here,” she said. “It had classic furniture and it tried to look old. We hope our modern amenities will draw both Berkeley residents and students and their families.” 

Champagne, flowers and balloons dotted the lobby, and as the last of the invited guests left the hotel around noon, Patel finally sat down with his family for lunch. 

He admitted that the ride hadn’t always been easy. 

Although Patel received a green light on the project from both the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the going got rough when the building was red-tagged for a fire code violation during the renovation in 2007, following which he had to settle with several of Kakkar’s tenants for an undisclosed amount to get them to leave the building. 

“You have to take all those things in stride,” Patel said smiling. “This is a really powerful city, very dynamic, and as an alumni it’s just great to come back. I have great memories of the hotel, but for the last 20 years no one has mentioned it. We are here to take it back where it belongs.”

Tuesday September 29, 2009 - 05:44:00 PM

Berkeley Homeless Advocate Wins Jefferson Award for Public Service

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:13:00 AM
JC Orton founded the nonprofit Night on the Streets program to provide services to the homeless.
Riya Bhattacharjee
JC Orton founded the nonprofit Night on the Streets program to provide services to the homeless.

JC Orton doesn’t fit the stereotype of a homeless advocate.  

A burly man with a bushy white beard, clad in a black shirt, army-green vest, and a black fedora, with a wingnut hanging from a chain around his neck, he looks more like a street-smart Santa Claus who just rode into town on a Harley. 

But for the hundreds of homeless who sleep outside the storefronts on Shattuck Avenue or wander aimlessly on Telegraph, he is their savior. 

Orton recently received the Bay Area’s Jefferson Award for Public Service as a nod to his dedication to Berkeley’s poor, hungry and suffering, and although he has little more than a pin to show for it, he hopes the news will draw more people out on the streets to lend a hand to those in need. 

“The Bible is the most useless book in the world unless you put its words into action—cloth the naked, visit the sick, bury the dead,” he said, as he parked his trusty old Volkswagon van outside Trinity Church on Bancroft Way to help with the 8 a.m. breakfast prepared daily by Dorothy Day House for about 200 people. “Love thy neighbor? Sure. Do it? Not so much. Christ instructed his disciples to go out into the countryside and preach. I don’t think you can let it happen—you have to make it happen. It means you have to take personal responsibility get out there.” 

Although Orton works multiple jobs—he founded the Catholic Worker Night on the Streets program 12 years ago, runs an emergency storm shelter at St. Marks, ladles out soup during cold winter nights and acts as lawyer, banker, friend, philosopher and personal shrink to anyone who needs one—he hasn’t received a paycheck since 2003, except for a brief period when he worked for the city and the three months he spent in jail for crossing over a white line during a march for the School of the Americas in Columbia, Georgia. 

On Tuesday, when Orton’s blue van pulled over in front of Peet’s Coffee in downtown Berkeley, where he spends time every morning reading the paper over a cup of coffee, he was immediately surrounded by a swarm of people who asked him for money, mail, fruit juice or sleeping bags. 

Handing out a $20 bill to J, a slightly inebriated homeless man who has asked Orton to handle his Social Security funds, Orton issues some parting advice. 

“Spend it carefully,” he says, and then asks in a more serious tone, “Did you spend up all the money I gave you yesterday?” 

“I had to do laundry ... I didn’t want to come,” J replies sheepishly. 

“Of course you didn’t ... Of course you need money to do laundry,” Orton replied understandingly. 

Last year, when the state issued stimulus checks to everyone, Orton made sure that all his clients applied for them, even going as far as to write and mail in their applications. 

People seeking his help just tend to “find” him, he said smiling, as do various agencies and advocacy groups. 

“Unfortunately I don’t get paid by any of them,” he said. 

Orton doesn’t deny the fact that like a lot of the people he helps every day, he himself survives on social service. 

“Half of them take pity on me because I have no income,” he said. “The last six months people have been coming up to me saying ‘we really appreciate what you are doing and here’s a little something.’ The other day a guy walked up to me and pushed $20 into my hand.” 

He has a mortgage to pay, bills piling up, and a wife who isn’t always happy with her house doubling as storage for sleeping bags, but in spite of that, Orton soldiers on. 

“When I first got married I told my wife I didn’t want to be in a godless marriage. It was important I go beyond the four walls,” he said. 

A California native, Orton went to Catholic military school and later worked in a lumberyard in California, losing his job after his arrest in Georgia. 

When the Men’s Overnight Shelter on Center Street was unable to accommodate every homeless person waiting outside its doors for a Thanksgiving meal in 1997, Orton decided to feed them himself with leftovers. 

“There was only enough food for 50 people, but we were able to fee 20 more people,” he said. “It was like the miracle of two fishes and five loaves.” 

The idea of a soup kitchen was born with the support of Newman Hall on Dwight Way. The soup kitchen paved the way for starting Sunday breakfasts a year later in front of the Men’s Shelter and in People’s Park, which today attract more than 200 people  

Since the economy took a dive, the lines have gotten longer at the free breakfasts, Orton said, especially at the end of the month when people run out of Social Security money. 

Orton says that when people ask him how they can become a Catholic Worker, he tells them to simply “shake his hand.” 

“That’s how you become a Catholic worker—it’s that easy,” he said. However, because the program is not recognized by the Catholic Church it doesn’t receive any financial backing from it. 

“We are just a bunch of crazies running around doing what we want to,” Orton said. And doing a lot of good, if public testimony serves as proof of the program’s popularity. 

“JC Orton, with his nonprofit Night on the Streets, fills in where other services leave off, extending his supporting arms to those most desperate on the streets,” said Matt Werner, communications director for the Global Micro-Clinic Project. Werner has known Orton since he was a student at UC Berkeley. “Many homeless have told me that JC is the sole reason that they are still alive. He either took them into his own home on a cold night or stopped an altercation or helped them fill out a form to finally afford an apartment. Orton has given them dignity.” 

Freedom from the Catholic Church means that Orton doesn’t have to eliminate controversial services, such as condom distribution, from the list of things he does. 

“When the City of Berkeley told me they wanted my help to set up a table to hand out condoms, we were able to say yes,” Orton said. “If we were being funded by the church, it would probably have been a no-no.” 

Orton’s job has not always been rewarding—he’s had his windshield broken, found himself in the middle of a knife fight and ben punched on his way to pick up groceries for his pantry. 

“A number of people have problems with what we do,” he said. “You can’t please everyone all the time.”

Walkout, Rally Hailed as Rebirth of UC Activism

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:16:00 AM

Hundreds of University of California employees, including both faculty and hourly employees, have vowed a work stoppage today (Thursday) to protest low pay for campus workers and higher fees for students. 

And, on a deeper level, many of the activists say they’re fighting the privatization of the public university system and the corporate values which, they say, favor profits over people. 

The action, endorsed by the American Association of Univer-sity Professors, the University of California Student Association, UC Berkeley Graduate Assem-bly, the Associated Students of the University of California, CalSERVE and campus unions, is being heralded as the return of broad-based activism to the campus that gave birth to the Free Speech Movement. 

“I’ve been here since 1972, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said George Lakoff, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Linguistics at UCB. 

“I tell my students that you are here at the moment when a new educational movement is beginning, a Free Education Move-ment,” said Lyn Hejinian, the poet and English professor who chairs the Solidarity Alliance organizing events which began with a Wednesday night teach-in. 

“I’ve never seen such cohesion,” said Tanya Smith, president of Local 1 of the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) in Berkeley. “I’ve worked at Berkeley for 22 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.” 

The day’s action was scheduled to begin at 7:15 a.m., with members of UPTE and the Coalition of University Employees throwing up a picket line at the campus. 

Then, at noon, comes the main event, a rally in Sproul Plaza. Union pickets are promising to allow anyone to enter the campus who wants to attend the event. 

Similar actions are planned at other campuses in the University of California system and campuses of California State University. 

The target of much of the outrage is UC President Mark Yudof. 

“He’s a CEO, not an educator,” said Anthropology Professor Laura Nader. “The provost sent a message to us urging us to watch an address he made, promising it would be informative. It was anything but.” 

The UC Board of Regents granted Yudof emergency powers over the summer to take measures in response to the state budget crisis. Fee increases, staff furloughs, pay hikes for administrators and other measures followed. 

Under the proposal discussed by regents earlier this month during a meeting which featured the arrests of 14 protesters, UC undergraduate fees would rise to $10,300, 44 percent above the sums paid in 2008. 

Hejinian said that when she asked a class of 99 students how the increased fees would affect them, “about a third said they would probably not be able to continue.” 

For Ignacio Chapela, corporatization of the university has been a central issue. Chapela was denied tenure after he emerged as a strong critic of the since-discontinued 1998 funding agreement between the university’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and Novartis International AG, a Swiss agropharmaceutical conglomerate.  

“I am very excited and happy to see that the university community is finally waking up to what has been happening for the past two or three decades. This is not about money,” he said. “It’s about the privatization of the university.” 

Charlie Schwartz agrees. 

An emeritus UC Berkeley physics professor, Schwartz has been tracking university finances since his retirement in 1993, “just when we were starting to feel the impacts of budget cuts and fee increases. I started to come up with facts and figures to challenge some of the crap coming down from on top.” 

Schwartz, who tracks the money at his website, http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~schwrtz/, said the current crisis has enabled regents and administrators “the impetus to push in the direction they feel they want or have to go, in the direction of privatization.” 

Key components of the administrative agenda, he said, are a fast rise in fees, an increase of out-of-state students who pay higher fees, and the sacrifice of “all that’s good in the institution.” 

“This uprising is a great thing,” he said of the current burst of protests around the system. “It’s been a long time in coming.” 

Schwartz’s views find confirmation in the writings of Jennifer Washburn, who holds the Frederick Ewen Academic Freedom Fellowship at New York University and is the author of University Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education. 

Of the recent developments in California, Washburn said, “I wish I could say that I was surprised, but this part of a longer-term trend of growing privatization and commercialization of the nation’s public universities. 

“University priorities have shifted away from the traditional public mission of the advancement of knowledge through pure research and teaching,” she said. With legislatures and taxpayers less willing to fund education, more faculty members are holding adjunct positions, teaching larger classes for less money and receiving poor or non-existent benefits. 

“All this comes on the heels of a generation of students already saddled with massive student loan debt. Undoubtedly today’s students will have to incur even more debt of the kind no older generation would have tolerated.” 

University administrators have already conceded that the UC system will be taking in fewer poor and minority students from California, in part because of recent past and planned future reduction of in-state admissions and in part because of lack of funds. 

Yudof’s office, in an apparent move to counter the pro-walkout sentiment, e-mailed a Sacramento Bee op-ed from two UC Davis professors who oppose the walkout. 

Jonathan Eisen and Wider McConnell wrote that 65.7 percent of the members of the Davis Faculty Association who voted on the issue opposed the walkout, which the two faculty members called a disservice to their students. 

At Berkeley, Academic Senate Chair and law Professor Christopher Kutz wrote faculty members that “The Berkeley Senate Divisional Council shares the deep concern of all faculty, students, and staff about the terrible effects of the budget cuts imposed on the public teaching and research mission of the University. However, after discussion, the Divisional Council also recognizes the diversity of faculty opinion on the merits of a walkout. 

“We therefore neither endorse nor oppose a walkout, regarding participation in it as a matter of individual faculty conscience, and knowing that faculty will meet their obligations to their students.” 

Executive Vice Chancellor George W. Breslauer wrote students that classes would continue during the walkout “unless your instructor has informed you about an alternate arrangement.” 

Breslauer and Chancellor Robert Birgeneau have also stated that “University policy does not permit taking a furlough day on a teaching day,” and directed that “Any instructor who does not plan to teach during the scheduled time or location is urged to communicate with the chair in a timely manner and, as a courtesy, provide advance notice to the class of alternative arrangements.” 

Participating in teach-ins and public demonstrations apparently don’t qualify as educational experiences, through that’s not the opinion of Charlie Schwartz. 

“This fall marks the 45th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement,” he said. “That was my kindergarten into the world of reality.” 

The board of the Free Speech Movement Alumni Association, known as FSM-A.org, has endorsed the actions and urged any members near the campuses to take part. 

Today’s Berkeley rally participants will include students and staff from state and community colleges throughout the region, Hejinian said. “Several high school teachers have said they may bring their students, and one teacher is teaching about the walkout as a section of a class on poverty.” 

The noon rally is scheduled to feature speakers from the Graduate Student Organizing Committee, seven faculty members, union representatives and participants from other UC campuses as well as campus workers and lecturer.  


City Council Approves Berkeley’s First Enterprise Zone

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:17:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council’s decision Tuesday to expand Oakland’s Enterprise Zone into the city may have signaled a new era of tax incentives for companies in West Berkeley, but some city councilmembers remain cautiously optimistic. 

Berkeley’s Economic Develop-ment Manager Michael Caplan told the council in a report  

that the city had already held preliminary talks with Oakland  

city officials about possibly adding West Berkeley to Oakland’s Enterprise Zone in May, when they became aware that Bayer Healthcare might be relocating from their facility next to the Aquatic Park campus if they found a cheaper alternative for manufacturing a portion of their hemophilia drug Kogenate. 

Caplan said that while Bayer would have “almost certainly” kept research and other activities in Berkeley, up to 500 unionized jobs could have been at risk. 

Faced with the prospect of losing Berkeley’s largest private sector employer, Oakland and Berkeley rushed to approve the Enterprise Zone expansion into West Berkeley. Bayer announced Sept. 16 that it had decided to stay and invest $100 million in Berkeley because it would get $10 million in tax incentives from the Enterprise Zone for over two years, including a reduction in PG&E bills. 

Bayer will also be qualified to receive about $36,000 in tax credits for each new employee hired who fits certain categories, such as Native Americans, veterans and low income individuals. Cities issue a hiring tax credit voucher to businesses in its Enterprise Zones for each qualified employee they hire. 

But some councilmembers said that although they understood that Berkeley’s first Enterprise Zone had been created primarily to keep Bayer from leaving, there were still a number of unanswered questions about the program itself. 

Several studies have found that Enterprise Zones have done little to create new jobs—one of their goals—and some state legislators have questioned whether the zones are actually initiating economic development or are simply catering to corporate interests. 

Most recently, the first of a series of hearings titled “California Enterprise Zone: A Review and Analysis” was held in Sacramento by the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy, where representatives from low income and women’s advocacy groups called for tighter regulation of the zones so that they benefit low and middle income residents. 

“I haven’t found any way that the city can do what the state failed to do, that is, link tax benefits to actual social benefits,” said Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “The goal should not be to hire just anybody, it should be to help job creation and to revive the local economy. The way state law currently exists, you don’t have to do these things to get tax credits. Today, you can get as much tax credit for hiring a wealthy executive as you would for hiring four low income laborers. It doesn’t prioritize social equity issues.” 

The reports criticizing Enterprise Zones are also a matter of concern for another Councilmember—Jesse Arreguin, who said he wasn’t sure if the city could legally do something to mandate that companies hire low income workers to get incentives. 

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens at the state level,” he said. 

Worthington said that most labor groups would like the hiring credits to help workers who are disadvantaged or poverty-stricken—economic conditions that prompted the creation of the program. 

Councilmember Darryl Moore, in whose district the Bayer facility is located, called the new enterprise zone in Berkeley “a great asset for the city,” at the meeting. 

Councilmember Linda Maio stressed that although most people in the city were unaware of the weight of the council’s decision, the Enterprise Zone was important for the economic vitality of the city. 

Caplan said he was aware of the controversies surrounding Enterprise Zones. 

“There are some critics who have claimed that as a state policy Enterprise Zones aren't really worth their cost,” he said. “That is a matter of some debate—would the investment and hiring activity have happened anyway even without the Zone designation? One thing is clear though—for businesses located in an Enterprise Zone, particularly industrial businesses that intend to purchase new machinery and equipment, the zone can provide a huge cost reduction and incentive to stay and grow in the area.” 

Critics of Enterprise Zones have also complained about the lack of oversight in Enterprise Zones, which have often resulted in undesirable practises such as cross-vouchering, vouchers processed outside a firm’s Enterprise Zone district.  

“Those problems are less significant,” Worthington said. “They are not as important as the failure to address poverty. A lot of veterans are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and can’t find jobs. There’s a rise in unemployment. If we are going to use taxpayer money in tax credits, then it’s important to address these issues.” 

Oakland’s Redevelopment Area Manager Al Auletta told that Planet that the city had established an Enterprise Zone in 1993 because it seemed like a great opportunity to attract and retain businesses in low income areas. Oakland’s Enterprise Zone covers much if not most of its industrial land. 

There are currently 950 businesses in the Oakland zone with more than 10 employees and a total of 7000 additional businesses in the same zone which have between one and nine employees. 

Auletta said that the city regulated its program according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) guidelines. 

A 2006 report on Enterprise Zones from Nonprofit Management Solutions and Tax Technology Research issued to HCD states that “employment impact estimates by enterprise zones were understated for some enterprise zones due to unusual vouchering practices in one enterprise zone—Oakland.” 

According to the report, in 2003, Oakland processed 54,065 cross-vouchers—98 percent of all cross-vouchers for the state and nearly equal to the 57,471 non-cross-vouchers for the entire state in 2003—for firms located outside Oakland. 

The practice appeared to shift to the Richmond Enterprise Zone in 2004, which processed 7,028 cross-vouchers, 65 percent of all cross-vouchers for the State, and 9 percent as much as the non-cross-vouchers for the entire State. 

Describing cross-vouchering as “inefficient in terms of spreading workload and speeding of mail time,” the report recommended the establishment of a centralized data collection system which is used by every Enterprise Zone when vouchering employees. 

Auletta said that although the number of companies that had used the Enterprise Zone programs in Oakland had fluctuated over the years, it is currently on the rise because the city had made a more concerted effort to introduce the program to businesses through ongoing 

business development and assistance efforts. 

Last year Oakland served roughly 400 companies, and processed 3,682 vouchers. 

  “We are reaching out to small businesses, which stand to benefit most from Enterprise Zones and which tend to hire locally,” Auletta said. “Roughly 80 percent of all employees claimed for hiring tax credits in Oakland reside within our Enterprise Zone area which tells us that the program is an incentive for businesses to provide employment opportunities for residents from low-income communities. For a city that is experiencing a 16 percent unemployment rate due to the worst market downturn since the Depression, we need incentives to attract and retain businesses that hire locally. It’s about quality of life for Oakland residents.” 

Caplan told the Planet that once a zone is established, much of the work shifts to marketing and vouchering of qualified workers. 

“I do know that budget problems have made it hard for Oakland to provide adequate staffing to their zone,” he said. “This is one reason why expansion of the zone into Berkeley and Emeryville will assist them as both of these cities will provide some funds to support the overhead costs.” 

Once the Emeryville City Council votes on the expansion, a formal application to extend the zone will be submitted to the state. 

“The state is pushing on their end for a quick turnaround so we are hoping that the zone becomes active in the next few months,” Caplan said. 

As for regulating Berkeley’s part of the zone, Caplan said the city intended to develop and disseminate marketing materials about the zone and its tax and hiring benefits, working with Oakland to make sure that the worker vouchering function is maintained and that Berkeley workers are well served.  

“The interesting thing about Enterprise Zones is that individual businesses track their own tax benefits and receive them through filling out the appropriate forms when they pay their taxes,” said Caplan, who managed the Bay Area’s first Enterprise Zone in San Jose in the 1980s. “The city doesn't have to be involved in this —all the business needs is an address in the zone. Of course, the city will work to arrange a series of workshops for West Berkeley businesses to assist them in learning about the benefits and in seeking out qualified local workers.” 

Caplan said his experience in San Jose had shown that a number of industrial businesses had made location and expansion decisions just on the basis of the zone location. 

  “I think for a city like Berkeley, it’s a very nice incentive to have in our toolbox—at a very low cost,” he said.  

Worthington said Berkeley should focus its Enterprise Zones on disadvantaged and unemployed veterans. “We can’t change what the state incentives are. But we do have a power to prioritize what we do within our local incentives,” he said. 

Caplan said that hiring decisions were ultimately made by the businesses themselves and not the city. 

“But the good news is that the people who can be vouchered to provide their employers with tax credits can be targeted,” he said. “So one of the great things about Enterprise Zones is that businesses actually have an incentive to hire people who are low income.”

City Council Threatens to Take Over AC Transit Bus Lines

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:18:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council delivered a slightly veiled threat to AC Transit Tuesday night, offering to work with the embattled bus district to hold off planned service reductions, but if those cuts go on as planned, strongly indicating that the city would move to develop partnerships with other transit agencies or businesses to provide supplemental bus service in Berkeley. 

Looking to plug a $9.74 million shortfall in the 2009-10 fiscal year budget seeking to keep the bus district solvent over the next several years, AC Transit is proposing this December to drop 905 hours of bus service per day across the two-county district, 458 hours on weekends, for an estimated annual savings of $18 million. 

In Berkeley, AC Transit is proposing reducing the hours of operation and/or the frequency of buses on lines 51, 9, and 52L. In addition, the district is proposing breaking the 51 line into two separate lines at the Rockridge BART Station. 

  At Tuesday’s meeting, the Berkeley City Council approved on a 7-1 vote (Worthington voting no) a recommendation by Coun-cilmembers Laurie Capitelli, Darryl Moore, and Susan Wengraf to direct the Berkeley city manager to write a letter to the AC Transit Board “opposing cuts to bus transit service in Berkeley.” The council also agreed, at the suggestion of both Worthington and Wengraf, to include with the mailing a letter by Berkeley Transportation Commission Secretary Farid Javandel that provided detailed alternatives to the proposed AC Transit cuts, and the council also agreed to forward the two letters to key members of the state legislature and to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

But the council rejected, on a 2-5-2 vote (Arreguín and Worthington voting yes, Moore, Capitelli, Wengraf, Wozniak, and Bates voting no, Maio and Anderson abstaining) a motion by Worthington to soften what he called the “threatening language” in the original council-approved letter. 

  The language in the letter Worthington wanted to alter seemed innocent enough, saying that the Council “also urge[s] AC [Transit] to explore the feasibility of creating collaborative efforts with private transit systems (LBNL, U.C. Berkeley, Alta Bates, West Berkeley, EmeryGoRound) to more efficiently deliver expanded feeder services to our community. Given the limited resources it is imperative that the City of Berkeley explore all possible alternative structures to insure the highest level of service.” 

   But Worthington pointed to a letter sent by Councilmember Moore to the Berkeley City Transportation Commission saying that “if AC Transit cannot provide the necessary service to West Berkeley, and the city as a whole, then we should find other alternatives.” In his letter, Moore asked the city’s Transportation Commission to “suggest various operating arrangements that would reasonably result in service that would be attractive enough to be a viable option to Berkeley residents.” 

In a Sept. 21 memo to the Council in answer to Moore’s request, the Transportation Commission suggested working with AC Transit to develop “a new service model and reworking of neighborhood transit routes [in Berkeley] to better serve community destinations,” but added that “should AC Transit be uninterested in providing this, or similar, transit service that accomplishes the City’s goals of providing attractive local transit service, the Transportation Commission has begun to research the feasibility of severing the neighborhood services from the AC Transit network.” 

The “severing the neighborhood [bus] services from the AC Transit network” appeared to be the most ominous part of the Transportation Commission’s memo. 

And Mayor Tom Bates was more explicit at Tuesday’s council meeting, saying that “you can’t offer an effective transit system when you don’t provide some kind of connector service on a basis that’s regular enough that people can rely on it.” Bates said that if AC Transit “cannot afford” to provide that type of service, “we have to begin thinking about what are the other things [the City of Berkeley] might be able to do to provide that service.” Regarding the property tax AC Transit gets from Berkeley to provide bus service in the city, Bates suggested that “maybe we should figure out some way that [AC Transit] provide[s] service north and south, and [the City of Berkeley] gets the property tax money and we provide east and west connecting service.” Bates said “if we don’t think creatively, we’re just destined to see people stop riding the bus.” 

Several councilmembers denied that the council was threatening AC Transit, with Moore saying that it was “really unfair and unreasonable that parts of [the Council] letter [to AC Transit] have been characterized as threats to anyone.” 

But following the City Council meeting, AC Transit At-Large board member Chris Peeples, who attended, said that “of course, some of the language” in the various documents “was threatening.” Peeples said it would be an error for Berkeley to attempt to pull money away from AC Transit to provide supplemental bus service in the city, saying that AC Transit could provide such service “cheaper than any other agency,” and pulling money out of AC Transit “would only make the situation worse” for public transportation in Berkeley. 

In other action Tuesday night, the council unanimously approved a recommendation by the Zoning Adjustments Board to allow the Thai Temple to continue its highly popular Sunday food sales at its 1911 Russell St. location. ZAB approved a new permit after neighborhood complaints showed that the temple was in violation of a 1993 use permit that allowed food service only on special occasions three times per year. Temple officials agreed to several provisions proposed by ZAB to ease neighborhood concerns, including starting food preparation at 8 a.m. instead of 5 a.m. and moving the food consumption area on to the part of the temple lot away from residences. The city permit also limits participants in the food sales to 200 at any given time.

AC Transit Manager Proposes Using BRT Funds to Hold Off Service Cuts

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:19:00 AM

In an effort to hold off impending service reductions, the AC Transit Board of Directors has called an emergency meeting for Friday evening to consider a proposal by district General Manager Rick Fernandez to pull start-up money from the district’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit line to buttress AC Transit’s operating budget. 

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the AC Transit headquarters at 1600 Franklin St. in Oakland. 

In a memo sent this week to AC Transit Board members, Fernandez proposes moving $80.6 million in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality and Regional Measure 2 funds from the BRT project. 

BRT is AC Transit’s plan, now under consideration, to operate high-speed bus service—using light-rail-type stations and dedicated bus-only lanes in most of the route--between downtown Berkeley, downtown Oakland, and downtown San Leandro along the Telegraph Avenue/International Boulevard/E. 14th Street routes currently operated by the 1 and 1R lines. 

Moving the Measure 2 BRT funds to AC Transit's operating budget would require approval from the Metropolitan Transit Commission, while moving the congestion mitigation funds would require approval of both the MTC and the Federal Transportation Authority. 

In a September 17 letter to MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger explaining the proposal, Fernandez called it a "somewhat unconventional measure to address projected budget shortfalls over the next few years" and said that it would result in a "scaled-down version of the existing [BRT] project." 

Fernandez provided no final details on how the BRT proposal might be scaled down, but in his memo to board members said that if AC Transit pulled the $80 million start-up money from BRT, the project would not be able to hold to its current planned construction schedule, and AC Transit would also run the risk of losing other anticipated federal money needed to complete BRT.

Berkeley Unified School District Ends Financial Year on a Positive Note

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:20:00 AM

Despite ongoing budget challenges, the Berkeley Unified School District was able to end its 2008-09 financial year on a positive note. 

A report issued to the Berkeley Board of Education at their regular meeting last week by district Deputy Superintendent Javetta Cleveland shows that the district has enough money to begin the 2009–10 school year with the help of reserve funds. 

The report carried information about the district’s 2008–09 “Unaudited Actuals,” financial data on revenues and expenditures for the entire school year ending June 30 as reported by the school district to the state Department of Education prior to its annual audit. 

Berkeley Unified faced an $8 million deficit for fiscal years 2008–09 and 2009–10 in light of state budget cuts, leading district officials to believe they would have to borrow from local parcel taxes. 

Cleveland told board members that the district had been able to close its books without having to rely on parcel taxes. 

“It doesn’t mean we have a lot of money; it means we have a stable budget,” Cleveland told the Planet after the meeting. “But we have to keep monitoring the bud-get because of the continuing state budget cuts.” 

Cleveland said the district’s revenue had exceeded its expenses. 

“We have made all the cuts, and we have a solid budget,” said District Superintendent Bill Huyett. “It’s healthier than other districts, but it’s squeaky tight though.” 

Huyett later joked with board members that his motto this year is “If you are going to add something, what are you going to take away?” 

The district’s General Fund revenue was $110.4 million, of which 44 percent—the biggest chunk—came from student attendance, followed by the Measure A parcel tax at 20 percent. 

Huyett told the Planet that the district had succeeded in lowering expenses by reducing costs in transportation and food services and raising attendance in schools. 

Berkeley Unified’s Nutrition Services department become budget-neutral this year, spending only $28,000 from General Fund money instead of the estimated $300,000. 

The amount the district receives from the state for student attendance went down by a million dollars this year, and there was a decrease in state program funding by 14 percent because of a weak state budget, a fact school board member John Selawsky warned would “play for years to come.” 

The district’s total expenditure during the same period was $110.8 million, out of which salaries and benefits were $88 million, making up 79 percent of the budget. 

Cleveland pointed out that salaries and benefits increased by 4 percent last year because of salary increases due to the higher cost of living. 

The district spent $4 million on books and supplies, a decrease of 7.6 percent over the prior year because of reductions to the state budget. 

Services and operating expenses for the district increased by $1.6 million over 2007–08, of which at least $800,000 went towards special education costs, including lawsuit settlements and placements at external agencies. 

Huyett said that if the district decided to make additional cuts to the budget, it would bring recommendations to the board before January. He said he would reconvene his Budget Advisory Committee, which in prior years has advised him on how to close the budget hole. 

“It doesn’t look we are coming out of the recession very robustly,” he said. “But we have to move forward, educate our kids.” 

Police Dept. Names Interim Chief

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:21:00 AM

Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz announced Wednesday that the city had named Captain Eric Gustafson as interim police chief of the Berkeley Police Department. 

Gustafson will replace Chief Doug Hambleton who is retiring today (Thursday) after serving the City of Berkeley for 34 years. 

Kamlarz described Gustafson as a 28-year veteran of the Berkeley Police Department who worked his way up through the ranks in a number of different assignments over the years, including serving as one of the department’s first area coordinators. 

“He has strong working relationships with the city’s department directors and within the community at large,” Kamlarz said in an e-mail to city officials. “I am confident that as interim chief, Eric will provide calm and steady leadership to the department during this time of transition; I look forward to continuing to work closely with him in this new capacity.” 

  Kamlarz praised Hambleton’s tenure in the letter, saying “we deeply appreciate Doug’s commitment to our community. We will miss him and we wish him all the best in his retirement.” 

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates issued a proclamation to Hambleton at the City Council meeting Tuesday, which highlights the span of his career with the city, starting from his first job as a patrol officer in 1976, taking on different responsibilities within the department—including the Hostage Negotiations Team and the Budget Unit—and finally becoming chief of police in March 2005. 

“He has worked nights, weekends and holidays,” said Bates, reading from his list of accomplishments, which included overseeing the construction of the Public Safety Building right across from Civic Center Park. 

“Many people know I came to Berkeley as a confused 17-year-old student at UC Berkeley,” said Hambleton, speaking at the council meeting. “I told one of my friends in high school that my career goal was to become Chief of Police of the Berkeley Police Department. Very few people have been able to reach their career goals, I am fortunate enough to be one of them.” 

Hambleton said that the Berkeley Police Department had achieved “many good things” during his time there. 

“There’s still some work to be done in violent crime—the next chief needs to do some work there—but overall, crime is down 25 percent since the year I became chief,” he said. “I would really like to thank all my staff for it.” 

The nine-member City Council also praised Hambleton, with Councilmember Max Anderson saying that Hambleton’s “calm steady hand,” had been an added advantage. 

“These are big shoes to fill, whoever comes in next,” said Councilmember Linda Maio. 

Hambleton said after retiring he planned to travel with his wife—starting with a trip to the Mediterranean and Spain—and then become involved in consulting, maybe even public service. 

The city is scheduled to hold a goodbye party for Hambleton in the City Council Chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr, way on Sept. 24, Thursday at 4 p.m.

Candidates Fight for Spot on KPFA Local Station Board

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:21:00 AM

One of the more difficult tasks in the Bay Area is making sense out of the elections at KPFA radio. 

While these can be some of the most fiercely fought and emotional battles over board elections—easily surpassing, for example, contests for the board of directors of BART, AC Transit or the East Bay Regional Parks District—outsiders often have trouble figuring out what all the fuss is about and what actual power is gained or lost in these struggles. 

Candidates in this year’s KPFA elections will hold a candidates’ forum (along with an open mic talent competition) today (Thursday, Sept. 24) from 6–10 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. 

A final candidate forum will be held in Richmond on Wednesday, Sept. 30, from 6:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m. at 325 Civic Center Plaza at Macdonald Avenue. 

The fight is for members of the station’s Local Station Board, established under bylaws set up for the Pacifica Foundation, the overall nonprofit organization that runs KPFA and its sister radio stations (KPFK, Los Angeles; KPFT, Houston; WBAI, New York; and WPFW, Washington, D.C.). KPFA’s Local Station Board consists of 24 delegates, 18 elected by listener members of the station, six elected by station staff. 

Nine Local Station Board listener members are chosen in any given election. 

Only listener members of the station are eligible to vote for the listener-member delegates to the Local Station Board, and the deadline for becoming eligible for voting in this year’s election is past. 

Election ballots are sent out to station members and must be returned to the station by Oct. 14. Station members who have not received ballots are urged to contact the station. 

(KPFA membership is easy to obtain, with yearly requirements consisting of a minimum $25 donation to the station or three hours of station volunteer work.) 

Although the influence the position may hold appears obscure to non-KPFA listener members, the Local Station Board holds considerable power over the station, approving the budget, selecting the station manager, screening candidates for the station’s program director, and helping set KPFA’s programming policy. That, in turn, can affect what types of programs and program hosts will be available—or not available—to KPFA. That, in turn, can be an important position in helping to set the political agenda for the progressive movement in the Bay Area. 

Candidates who want to be elected to the nine available KPFA Local Station Board (LSB) positions generally coalesce into “slates,” and this year is no exception. Ten candidates are running on the Concerned Listeners for KPFA slate, the loose coalition that has a majority of the current members of the board. An opposing slate, Independents for Community Radio, is fielding 11 candidates. Four candidates are running on the Peoples Radio slate, two on the Voices for Justice Radio slate. Two candidates for the board are running unaffiliated. 

A list of the candidates, their website links, and their slate affiliations is below, along with links to the platforms of the various slates. 

In addition, archived audiotapes of candidate presentations are available on the KPFA LSB Election 2009 blog at http://kpfaelection2009.blogspot.com. 

Concerned Listeners for KPFA (CL) slate 

KPFA Board chair and Planet columnist Conn Hallinan, former Pacifica Radio general counsel Dan Siegel, board member Andréa J. Turner, antiwar and labor activist professor Jack Kurzweil, union organizer Virginia Rodriguez, community activist Pamela Drake, community psychiatrist and documentary filmmaker Donald Goldmacher, labor organizer and anti-war veteran Mike Smith, media professional Mark Hernandez, and arts and labor activist John Van Eyck. 

A full list and biographies of the Concerned Listeners for KPFA candidates, along with the slate platform, are available at http://concernedlisteners.org. 


Independents for Community Radio (ICR) slate 

Western Regional Director of Amnesty International USA Banafsheh Akhlaghi, Stanford student Shara Esbenshade, journalist and incumbent board member Sasha Futran, former board member Annie Hallat, Stanford University student Adam Hudson, San Francisco State University student and Palestinian-American Lara Kiswani, Hip Hop Congress founding board member Rahman Jamaal McCreadie, board incumbent Henry Norr, Berkeley Copwatch founder Andrea Prichett, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy and Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition organizer Evelyn Sanchez, and Green Party activist Akio Tanaka. 

A full list and biographies of the Independents for Community Radio candidates, along with the slate platform, are available at www.indyradio2009.org. 


Peoples Radio slate 

Board member and union activist Gerald Sanders, former board member Richard Phelps, former board member and union activist Stan Woods, peace and justice activist Jim Curtis. 

A full list and biographies of the Peoples Radio candidates, along with the slate platform, are available at www. peoplesradio.net/election2009.htm. 


Voices for Justice Radio slate 

Labor journalist Steve Zeltzer and Latino community activist Jaime Cader. 

A full list and biographies of the Voices for Justice Radio slate, along with the slate platform, are available at www. voicesforjusticeradio.org/index.htm. 


Unaffiliated candidates 

“Freelance nonviolent social critic” Judith Gips (http://pacificafoundation.org/cand_page.php?id=102) and educator Jim Weber (http://pacificafoundation.org/cand_page.php?id=141).

Teece Ousted from LECG

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:22:00 AM

While a recent New Zealand estimate puts his wealth at $170 million—up $20 million from the year before—it’s been a tough year for UC Berkeley business professor David Teece. 

The latest blow came last month when he was fired by the Emeryville business and institutional consulting company he co-founded, LECG—short for Law and Economic Consulting Group. 

That move followed the bankruptcy of his New Zealand–based clothing company and a settlement reached earlier this year with the IRS, which leaves him owing $1.825 million in back taxes. 

Teece may be better known to Berkeley residents as the backer of local real-estate developers, including Patrick Kennedy and the apartment buildings they built in downtown Berkeley. The developer and his silent partner sold their seven projects to Chicago developer Sam Zell for $147,397,171 in 2007. 

LECG announced that “on Aug. 12, 2009, LECG Corporation provided notice to Dr. David Teece that his employment with the Company has been terminated.” 

“Dr. Teece remains a member of the Board of Directors of the Company, until his term expires at the next Annual Meeting of Stockholders, or his earlier resignation,” said the announcement, which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Aug. 13. 

Eight days later LECG notified the SEC that it had reached a merger agreement with another consulting firm, Smart Business Advisory and Consulting, LLC, through its parent, Smart Holdings. The combined firms will do business under the LECG banner, though headed by Smart CEO Steve Samek, the announcement stated. 

According to their corporate websites, both firms were founded in 1988, with the Devon, Pa.–based Smart founded by James J. Smart and LECG created by a group of UC Berkeley professors with Teece in a leading role. 

Teece’s dismissal followed Smart’s ouster as CEO of his company by almost exactly a year. When Samek was named CEO last December, Smart severed all connections with the company he had founded, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal. 

The business paper reported that Smart’s ouster was forced by private equity firm Great Hill Partners, which had bought a controlling interest in the company in May 2007. 

According to LECG’s announcement of the merger, Great Hill is providing $25 million in capital to bankroll the union of the two firms in exchange for 6.3 million shares of newly issued LECG preferred stock. LECG will also issue 10.9 million shares of common stock in exchange for all of Smart’s outstanding shares. 

In announcing the merger, current LECG CEO Michael Jeffrey said, “We believe this will be a transformational event for LECG and potentially the professional services industry.” 

Weeks before the merger announcement, Jeffrey had announced he would be stepping down from the helm of the Emeryville company.  

In the same announcement, LECG Board Chair Garett Bouton said Great Hill’s investment was the first major cash infusion in the professional consulting services sector in more than a year. 

The Boston-based private equity company “manages over $2.5 billion in capital,” according to the announcement.  

The consolidated firm’s board will feature four directors picked by LECG’s board, two from Great Hill and Samek, the new CEO. 

Both firms have an international reach, though LECG boasts the great number of overseas offices, according to their respective web sites. 

Teece’s dismissal follows by less than two years his signing of a retention agreement that gave him a $10 million payment in exchange for his promise to remain with the company for the next 10 years “in recognition of the substantial practice that Teece has created at LECG” and to keep him with the company. 

According to agreement, Teece can keep the money if he was terminated without cause, but must repay a prorated portion if dismissed for cause. 

In addition to his bonus, Teece received another $4,471,000 for his services in 2008—the same year the company reported an $86.9 million loss, down from an $11.4 million profit the year before.  

The company’s stock has also been hard hit, with prices falling significantly over the past decade. Shares that were selling for as much as $25.75 in January 2004, closed at $3.51 Tuesday on the NASDAQ exchange, up from a low of $1.50 on March 9. 

Teece, who lives in the Berkeley Hills, is a New Zealander by birth and an international capitalist in his own right. The one cloud on his horizon earlier this year was the IRS claim that he and his wife owed $12 million in back taxes. 

The Berkeley professor fought the assessment, settling for the far smaller account, blaming the problem on errors by an accounting firm. Through his San Francisco attorney, Teece informed the Daily Planet that he was a passive participant in the investment that led to his tax troubles. 

But when Forbes Magazine reported on the tax problem, writer Janet Novack wrote, “An adverse outcome in the case could hurt Teece’s credibility as a highly paid witness and provide fodder for hostile cross-examiners.”  

Shortly after that article appeared, LECG CEO Jeffrey announced that the firms’ board had “concluded its review of the actions filed by Dr. David Teece in U.S. Tax Court. The actions are private, civil matters, and in our board’s view they have no bearing on his professional obligations or opportunities with LECG. We look forward to his ongoing commitment to the firm, its clients, and its long-term corporate development.” 

Adding to Teece’s woes is the fate of another of his holdings, Canterbury of New Zealand, which makes sports clothing. While he remains part-owner, according to a May 25 article by Karyn Scherer in the New Zealand Herald, after a series of losses, control was taken by a Kuwaiti private equity fund controlled by a bank in Bahrain. 

Then in July, the European branch of the company was taken into receivership and later sold to a British JD Sports, who paid Kuwait Finance House 6.5 million British pounds for “the worldwide Canterbury brand, goodwill and certain fixed assets,” according to the Aug. 5 edition of Accountancy Age. Australian and New Zealand rights were later sold by the new owner.

Pair Saved in Dramatic Grizzly Peak Rescue

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:23:00 AM

A multijurisdictional team of firefighters and police scoured a dark stretch of Grizzly Peak Boulevard during the darkest hours of Saturday morning as a driver waited, clinging to his phone and trapped in his car on a steep stretch of the hillside 100 feet below the roadway. 

The dramatic rescue occurred when a California Highway Patrol 911 dispatcher called Berkeley to report that a caller was on the line and pleading for help, reports Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong. 

All the caller could say was that he’d had an accident on Grizzly Peak near the Berkeley-Oakland border. 

Berkeley promptly sent engines, a truck and an ambulance toward the scene, while alerting the Oakland Fire Department as well as Berkeley, Oakland and East Bay Regional Parks District police, who also responded—along with a California Highway Patrol helicopter. 

“We had to work the whole stretch of Grizzly Peak, with the communications dispatcher who kept the driver on the line,” said the deputy chief. 

“We sent a fire engine along the road, sounding the siren and the air horn so he could tell us when it came near. Finally he sad he could hear both the engine and the helicopter,” said Deputy Chief Dong.  

The engine crew searched the roadway, finally discovering tire tracks and a fresh wound on a tree trunk and half-mile south of Centennial Drive, “which put it technically in Oakland’s jurisdiction,” said Deputy Chief Dong. 

Berkeley firefighters descended the steep hillside with the help of a rope line, and only then did they discover two victims, both conscious and inside the upside-down car. 

“The people on top sent down a Stokes basket with a haul line, and the injured men were placed, one by one in the rigid, metal-framed rescue stretcher and hauled up the hillside. Both men were examined and found to be without any apparent major injuries, then taken to Highland Hospital, one in the Berkeley ambulance, one in a private ambulance. 

“We came, we saw, and we hauled them up,” said the deputy chief. “Last I heard they were both doing OK.”

Fremont Man Charged in Berkeley Rape Attempts

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:23:00 AM

A 21-year-old Fremont man faces charges of burglary and attempted rape stemming from two July 16 break-in assaults in Berkeley, police announced Wednesday. 

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel announced the arrest in a press release issued nearly six weeks after the Aug. 4 arrest of Ferhat Djoumi. 

The first attack took place at 1:15 a.m. in the 2100 block of Cedar Street, where a woman awoke in bed to find a man lifting her skirt. 

“The victim’s mother (who was asleep in the same bed) woke and fought off the suspect until he fled the residence,” according to the statement. 

The next attack was reported at 7:24 a.m. in the 2600 block of Hillegass, where a college-age woman awoke to find a man on top of her. When she resisted, the man fled. 

Evidence discovered by a police crime scene technician led to Djoumi’s arrest by Berkeley detectives in Fremont. 

Two days later the Alameda County District Attorney’s office filed charges—two counts each, one for each incident—of attempted rape, sexual battery, burglary and false imprisonment. 

Frankel said the police released the information only after the final witness interview and the completion of the investigation.

Council Holds Rare Back-to-Back Session With Light Schedule Planned

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:24:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council holds rare week-to-week meetings this month, but not because of a rush to get work done coming out of the summer break. 

The council originally scheduled a meeting for September 15 but moved it to Sept. 22 to give councilmembers another week of vacation. 

Next week’s meeting, to be held on Tuesday, September 29, has a light schedule. 

With the city still seeking sources of revenue to keep its budget in the black, City Manager Phil Kamlarz has placed an item on next Tuesday’s agenda to increase parking meter rates by 25 cents to $1.50 per hour and to expand the locations of meters to more areas of the city. 

Kamlarz has also proposed extending the starting hours of parking meter operations at certain locations from the current 9 a.m. to 8 a.m. Because of the difference between morning and evening parking habits, the Berkeley proposal is not expected to cause nearly the same uproar as happened last summer in Oakland, when that city’s council extended the evening hour parking meter times from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

At next Tuesday’s meeting, the council has also scheduled a discussion of public transportation suggestions proposed to the city by the AC Transit bus district. Among the suggestions are the creation of a downtown transit center and an increase in cooperation with the city’s transportation department and AC Transit, including a collaborative effort to “obtain funds to improve [bus] services to poorly served [Berkeley] neighborhoods.” 

The council is expected to refer the suggestions to the city’s Transportation Commission for review before bringing them back for full deliberation. 

Tuesday’s meeting will begin at the regular 7 p.m. starting time and will be held in the council chambers on the second floor of the Old City Hall building on Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

First Person: On The Road With Mad as Hell Docs for Single-Payer: Part II

By Marc Sapir, Special to the Planet
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:25:00 AM



MADISON, WIS.—What a day. The intensity grows on this tour of the Mad as Hell doctors Care-a-Van for Single Payer Health Care. Local media is covering the tour beyond expectations—radio, print, and TV, including local, regional and national outlets.  

Early this morning we left our overnight home at another Super 8 motel, this one in northern Wisconsin and headed south to Madison, where we’ve just had three separate events, the most impressive being a rousing rally of 400 people on the steps of the state capitol.  

We were preceded and supported by John Nichols of the Nation Magazine, as well as the leaders of Wisconsin’s single payer organizations. There was good corporate media attendance, though I don’t know yet what was put on the air. Earlier in the day, I was interviewed by the Pacifica affiliate WORT and by the Capitol Times newspaper. Each of the docs have had similar opportunities with other media.  

The leader in today’s event was Dr. Gene Uphof, a native of Wisconsin and one of the Oregon Mad as Hell Docs. He was interviewed extensively by Chanel 27 (I think that’s an ABC affiliate) and another major TV station. Yesterday, Dr. Barbara Blaylock of Maryland and I were interviewed by a CBS affiliate in Minnesota.  

Paul Hochfeld, one of the lead physicians in the group who has numerous interviews, stayed behind in Minnesota today and taped three 30-minute interviews for radio.  

Our reception in Madison was the most exuberant yet, but from what we hear the chances of getting a state single payer through the legislature may be greater next door in Minnesota where we held two events yesterday.  

The second Minnesota event was staged inside the Capitol building’s Rotunda in Minneapolis/St. Paul, a beautiful structure. Comparing it with California’s Capitol building was interesting for me. No security barriers, no cops, no X-ray machines and the public is allowed to hold meetings inside the building’s rotunda, by making a reservation. 

If you’ve been through the screening in Sacramento, you may be as surprised as I was. Minnesota may have a Republican governor but the state seems to realize that all the fear mongering about terrorists is mainly a way to frighten the public into accepting government intrusions into our privacy and other rights. 

That St. Paul rally was attended by no less than seven state legislators who are strong backers of single payer, one of whom is running for governor and gave a rousing brief talk.  

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich called in to the rally which gave us an opportunity to highlight his vital amendment to the HR 3200 health reform bill. The Kucinich amendment, which will knock down current legal obstacles to states implementing single payer all-inclusive health programs if they choose to do so, needs to be kept in any bill that may pass and the public needs to keep the pressure on this at the same time as we oppose the unworkable bills that are currently in Congress and push for Single Payer (HR 676—John Conyers bill). Of course, most readers will be aware that Senator Max Baucus has now unveiled a Senate bill that doesn’t even include a “public option.”  

Mad as Hell Docs, like our parent organization, Physicians for a National Health Program, is unanimous in believing that even a bill with a public option can not achieve fair and equal universal medical access for the uninsured. In contrast to HR 676, HR 3200 will leave out at least 10 million people, perhaps more.  

Moreover, by stating that he wants a public option that will only be for people who do not have and are not eligible for private insurance, President Obama has doomed any public option because the insurance industry will continue to use its power to screen and cream the healthier patients leaving the sickest and most difficult patients and their problems to the public program, which will go bankrupt in a very short time.  

This is especially true because continuing price inflation in the private sector will allow the health insurance industry to increase payments to providers (actually a form of bribe as with the politicians) while the Public Option will not have the resources to do that. 

Possibly as soon as the next presidential election, should this type of a bill pass, the right will be able to point to its failure, suggesting it as another example of government’s inability to do anything good. So Mad as Hell docs is adamant in saying that only HR 676 or another single payer bill should be supported.  

We haven’t heard again from the White House since they called to ask us to stop having people send e-mails telling the president to meet with us. Don’t forget to keep on sending those e-mails (which White House staff earlier tried to block) and please keep up with the tour at www.madashelldoctors.com. Videos of each days events are posted onto the website within a day or three.  

Lastly, despite the heavy discussion of legislative activities in this update on the Care-a-Van, the Mad as Hell docs mantra at events is that we need to, are advocating for, and hope to participate with you all in a revitalization of the civil rights movement. As Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently stated: “of all the injustices we face, inequality in health care is the most shocking.” 

Health is a basic human right, as declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Almost every capitalist “democracy” on earth has one or another form of public government single payer health care that meets the demand for that right—with a glaring exception, the United States of America. As a result the U.S. ranks 37th in the World Health Organization’s composite of health care outcomes.  

We get to pay more in public tax dollars than any other nation and twice as much in overall per capita health costs ($7,000) as any nation on earth in order to rank 37th in our health. What a disgrace that this non-system operates solely on the basis of providing outrageous profits for Wall street (16 percent) at the enforced cost of the people’s health and well being.  

But rebuilding a civil rights movement can not be achieved through a primarily legislative agenda, nor by relying upon the political class—regardless of party—to respond to limited public pressure such as calls, e-mails and letters. An independent political movement, a civil rights movement based in the working class—which means the African American, Latino, White, Asian and Native American/Indian workers, employed and unemployed—can be reconstructed if we set our minds, hearts, time and bodies to addressing this need.  

Just a day or two ago the AFL-CIO acting in convention signaled its willingness to participate in this process by unanimously passing support for single payer.  

Stay tuned in, spread the word, and invite the East Coast to join our Caravan from Gettysburg into DC and at Lafayette Park on Sept. 30.  

On the road.  




Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:21:00 AM

University of California President Mark Yudof’s first name was stated incorrectly in a Sept. 17 article.  




Hate Speech, Harassment, Humor and Just Plain Lies

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:28:00 AM

When I was growing up in St. Louis I heard an epithet for people who behaved like Congressman Wilson of South Carolina, one too derogatory to repeat in the pages of a family newspaper in the 21st century, but its initials are PWT. It was used, sub rosa, by people of all races who put a premium on polite behavior and did not respect those who were not able to comport themselves in a civil manner.  

St. Louis in those days was a very southern city, more like New Orleans down the river than like Kansas City in the same state. Racism was alive and well, of course: segregated restaurants, movies, even schools until the early ’50s. But “the better class of people,” black and white, generally treated one another with as much courtesy as possible under the circumstances. The other derogatory term of that era, the one that applied to people of African descent, was never even uttered in my presence by anyone of any race. 

It’s hard, therefore, for me to untangle the motivations that might have led Wilson to yell at the president of the United States during a joint session of Congress. Is he racist, or just tacky, as we used to say in my youth, or both? Does it matter? 

A Daily Planet reader and occasional correspondent who lives in India was kind enough to send me an excellent book by Amartya Sen, Identity and Violence: the Illusion of Destiny. The author, a Nobel Prize winning economist raised in India and now at Harvard, explores the many threads from which humans construct their personal identity, and the way overemphasis on one of them can lead to conflict. He argues that “a fostered sense of identity with one group of people can be made into a powerful weapon to brutalize another.” 

Sen says in his preface that “many of the conflicts and barbarities in the world are sustained through the illusion of a unique and choiceless identity. The art of constructing hatred takes the form of invoking the magical power of some allegedly predominant identity that drowns other affiliations, and in a conveniently bellicose form can also overpower any human sympathy or natural kindness that we may normally have. The result can be homespun elemental violence, or globally artful violence and terrorism.” He goes on to note that “a major source of potential conflict in the contemporary world is the presumption that people can be uniquely categorized based on religion.” 

He draws on his own childhood experiences in an India split between Muslim and Hindu, and compares them to current tensions in Israel/Palestine, ex-Yugoslavia and Rwanda, among others, all of which are sparked by people choosing unique identities to the exclusion of their common humanity.  

Those who have been disrupting meetings of all kinds all over the country have all sorts of reasons for hating President Obama besides his race. He’s well-educated, well-spoken and a professional and political success. White presidents before him have been hated for similar reasons. Many disliked John Kennedy because he was an Irish Catholic. Others hated Franklin Roosevelt either because of his class background or as a traitor to his class. Such characterizations resulted from selecting single facets from the background of complex men and focusing on them.  

Karl Rove perfected the art of constructing hatred, and amplified its power by never hesitating to lie as needed in order to reinforce his invented myths. The Swiftboaters attacked Sen. John Kerry and their allies lied about Max Clelland, both veterans who actually had heroic war records. These brave men were advised to ignore the untrue accusations against them and didn’t fight back, which turned out to have bad consequences. 

And when hate and lies make common cause with lunacy, it’s even harder to know how to respond. Today’s “birthers” are spreading the myth that President Obama was not born in the U.S.A. What’s he supposed to say to that, once he’s produced his birth certificate? 

It’s puzzling for us here at the Planet to know how to respond to the wackadoodle accusations against the paper and against us personally. Friends and family say to ignore them, but that’s the advice Kerry got, and it backfired on him. 

Yes, yes, we do believe that the best remedy for speech you don’t like is more speech, but how do you deal with nutcases like the Birthers or with John Gertz’s crazy anti-Planet website?  

Here’s just a small but deeply screwy sample from a recent addition to the site: 

“Here is what we think happened. We are speculating, but believe we are on to something real. Because Elisabeth Warren Peters was a second rate intellect she was not able to attend any of the best Ivy League schools. Unfortunately for her, the system had changed in the era between her father’s admission to Princeton in 1930 and her admission to college in 1957. Slots in the best Ivy League schools that had been assumed would go to good girls from good families were now being granted on the basis of merit to upstart and swarthy Jews from unwashed immigrant families. She did manage to get into Smith, one of the lesser of the high society Seven Sisters schools, with a dark past, including many connections with Nazis in the pre war era, and with a very strict limit on Jewish admission. However, this also may have been too difficult for the ungifted Elisabeth Warren Peters, because she ended up at a public university in Berkeley, which at the time was rather easy to get into. Making matters worse, when she graduated from UCB, showing no intellectual promise, she was not able to get into a top law school (she graduated from Golden State law school but never practiced law, as far as we know). Once again, places assumed to be the birthright of Peters’ gentle class were now usurped by uppity Jews. 

“In the meantime, Peters radicalized in her new home of Berkeley, and assumed the name, Becky O’Malley, a good faux working class name. But the toxin of anti-Semitism was irreversibly flowing through her veins.” 

We’d have to devote way much too much space on these pages to respond to all the foolishness in just these two paragraphs alone. A couple of obvious points: when I started college in 1957, “the best Ivy League schools” like Princeton admitted many Jews, true, but no women, which is why I didn’t apply to them. I didn’t change my name to O’Malley in order to hide out in the working class—when I got married in 1960, most women assumed their husbands’ names, and I did use my birth name during our many years in our mom-and-pop software business. I’ll leave it to my fellow alums of Smith, Cal Berkeley and Golden Gate School of Law to answer the slanders against our schools. But the false accusations of anti-Semitism are serious and hurtful, to me and to the paper. 

One solution, of course, is just to laugh. Poor Gertz devotes thousands of words on his wingnut website to similar ludicrous fabrications, and it makes for comic reading. On the other hand, some readers, including some advertisers, seem to believe him. 

Last week Gertz took a full-page signature ad in the East Bay Express (using the name of a front committee) to publicize the URL of his site. It’s reassuring, at least, to see that a very few of his purported 500 listed endorsers were local—perhaps 10 at most. It’s gratifying that of the many local officials who were asked to sign on, all but one seem to have refused, even those on record elsewhere as regretting the existence of “too much democracy“ or the fact that “we have a free press in this country”.  

It’s discouraging, however, to note that among the signers who implicitly endorsed the website’s content was my own Berkeley District Eight Councilmember, Gordon Wozniak. I really didn’t think he was that dumb. Perhaps some of my fellow alums, many of whom live in his district, could discuss this decision with him.  

President Obama probably called it right when he minimized the role of racism in Congressman Wilson’s bad behavior, especially because, as he told David Letterman, he’s been black all his life and knows racism intimately. Perhaps it’s a sign of progress that impolite harassment is no longer directly exclusively at African-Americans.  

Even in Berkeley, we’ve seen our share of harassment lately, orchestrated by officials who didn’t want the public to be able to vote on their plans for downtown. It’s rumored that a few petition circulators bristled back at aggressive hecklers who were trying to prevent the referendum on the downtown plan from qualifying for the ballot, but in the main signature gatherers behaved with admirable restraint. But at Tuesday’s City Council meeting four of them complained bitterly about the way they had been treated, especially about physical confrontations by opponents, including the mayor. 

We don’t need that kind of behavior, in Berkeley, at regional town hall meetings on health care, or in Congress. Nor do we want the kind of bold-faced lies that seem to have become part and parcel of every controversy, national or local. But what we can do about it remains to be seen. 


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:52:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Tonight, Thurs., Sept. 24, the Willard Neighborhood Association is coordinating a meeting at 7 p.m. along with the Le Conte, Claremont-Elmwood, Halcyon and Bateman neighborhoods at the Willard Middle School Cafetorium to discuss the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal. 

The LPA is the City of Berkeley’s preliminary recommendation for the BRT route. The basic idea behind the BRT is to improve bus service by providing dedicated bus lanes on a route stretching from San Leandro to Berkeley. In the Southside neighborhoods, this will entail, among other things, replacing two auto lanes on Telegraph Avenue with bus-only lanes. 

The city wants input as to the bus route, where the stops are, and to hear neighborhood concerns and suggestions for implementation of the BRT. At the end of this process, the city may decide not to implement the BRT at all. This meeting, however, is designed to answer the question—“if this BRT is to be implemented, what do you think of this plan to do it?” We will also discuss alternatives to the BRT, including the No Build option—doing nothing at all.  

This is an important meeting about a controversial topic. Please come and participate. For our part, we’ll try hard to make sure every voice gets heard. If you have questions, please send me an e-mail at georgebeier@hotmail.com.  

George Beier 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

  I believe that today’s walkout and strike at UCs throughout the state is an essential wakeup call for our state. Our state has been far too silent about the devestating cuts to services to our communities, while prisons go for the most part untouched and due to Proposition 13 the wealthy and corporations do nothing to pay their share.  

As a newlywed considering beginning a family, I am certain that I would not want to raise my children in a state who’s social services and environmental programs are so weakened. As a citizen and an organizer, I am aware that power concedes nothing without demand and that the cuts to our state’s programs have only been allowed to the extent that they have been done because of our relative silence. 

We cannot accept that our children’s future, programs for elderly, the minimal services unemployed receive, domestic violence programs, our state parks and environmental programs, our state workers, the basic net that maintains our society is an expendable thing, based upon the ebb and flow of capitalism. We cannot allow our state to balence its budget on the backs of the powerless and stand silent, for if it not our backs today, it surely will be our backs tomorrow. We cannot allow our state which, prior to Proposition 13, was the best in the country in education will continue to fall further and futher behind, as we build more prisons.  

The walkout and strike is an event significant in itself and one we must support.  Beyond that it must serve as a wakeup call for all of us who have been far too silent in the devestating actions of our state to stand up and take action.  

  “There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”  Mario Savio’s speech before the Free Speech Movement sit-in.  

Jonah Minkoff-Zern 



Editors, Daily Planet:   

The public option is not a step forward in the campaign for single-payer healthcare for all Americans; it is a diversion from it. Moreover, even with some kind of public option, healthcare in the United States would be no better and as expensive as ever for most people. To understand this, read Paul Street’s “Corporate-Managed Democracy: Healthreform in the age of Obama” in Z Magazine, September, 2009. 

Richard Wiebe 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“We have first-hand experience with that problem, since the entry for the Berkeley Daily Planet is being stalked by one ‘Dr. Mike’ Harris of Sausalito, a card-carrying member of the lunatic fringe of supporters of right-wing Israeli politics. Every time someone corrects the misinformation he’s inserted into the entry, he changes it back.” 

Really now. 

Had you bothered to check the “history” page in the Wikipedia entry about the BDP, it shows that I edited the Wikipedia entry of the BDP on several occasions on one date only: March 29, 2009. I pointed out that one of the anti-Semitic letters that you published was from an Iranian student living in India, to let readers draw their own conclusions about your editorial policy regarding preferring local opinions; an exception obviously was made in this case, so let the Wikipedia reader decide why that would be. I also removed your statement about a “free-speech” policy since you clearly do not apply that to supporters of Israel—to the extent that I don’t expect this letter to be published. I also cleaned up some poorly formatted references. Nobody else made any edits that day so I haven’t changed anything “back” if another editor subsequently removed my edits. 

Since you are obviously unfamiliar with the fact that everything is visible on Wikipedia, I have copied the screen shot of the “history” page and attached it. Your readers can check it out for themselves at http://en.wikipedia.org/w/ 

index.php?title=Berkeley_Daily_Planet&action=history so anyone can see the changes that I made. 

Maybe next time you can do a modicum of research before making unfounded allegations. I don’t even live in Sausalito. 

Mike Harris,  


San Francisco Voice for Israel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The changes in this latest AC Transit proposal will have more busses laying over in downtown Berkeley. This area is being turned into a transit hub, as has already happened with the splitting off of the 79 from the 15. Does Shattuck and Center have room for more busses to be hanging around between runs? I don’t think so. 

Charles Stevenson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am so upset that I may be inarticulate. But I had read of the cuts AC Transit is planning. It took me some time to realize that two important bus lines appear to be being axed, the 18 and the 51. The 18 is being cut in Oakland, and eliminated in Berkeley. How are people supposed to go down Shattuck?  

The other line being cut is the 51 going down University in Berkeley. Many many people aside from myself take these buses. Both the 51 and the 18 are often full.  

Nevertheless, it is understandable with cutbacks in funding that these lines could be cut back, but instead they are eliminated in Berkeley. I hope that I am wrong about this. 

Ardys DeLu 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

AC Transit has identified Bus Line 98 that serves Oakland Hills (Grass Valley) as one of the lines to be discontinued.  

I am worried that AC Transit plans to cease servicing a whole community that is isolated from the rest of the city by a two-mile stretch of treacherous woods. I am not talking about service reductions. There are quite a few residents of Oakland Hills like me who have no vehicles and depend upon the public transportation system to go to work, school and grocery. I really do think that it is unfair to exclude a whole community from essential services.  

The community has not been well represented at the public hearings because there is no transportation back to the hills after the  hearings are over. The current bus service is strictly for commute hours which in this case ends at 7 p.m. There is no service on weekends and now AC Transit is proposing to cut the line completely. I sense a measure of injustice with this proposal.  

Could you please use your widely read newspaper to draw attention to this potential hardship to a tax-paying community. Thanks. 

Rudy Uba 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for printing Conn Hallinan’s “Afghanistan…” an extraordinarily lucid and well informed essay that should be required reading by all members of the Obama administration. 

Bernard Rosenthal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If anyone still needs a good example of why the United States needs dramatic health care insurance reform, you need look no farther than the Bayer campus here in Berkeley. Last week, Bayer, which is already Berkeley’s largest private employer, announced that they are going to spend $100 million to expand their Berkeley facility. Why? Mainly to make Kogenate, a biotech drug used to treat hemophilia. Daily doses of Kogenate can cost a patient $150,000 a year. Yes, you read that right. $150,000 a year for a single medication for a single patient, and for the rest of his life.  

Hemophilia is not like acne. If a teenager stops taking his acne medication, in most cases, he will just have more zits on his face, but if a hemophiliac stops taking his meds, his life will likely be short and painful. This letter is not meant to be a criticism of Bayer, but of the way our society prices and allocates health care. We need universal health insurance now! 

Mark Tarses 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Wed., Sept. 16, in the East Bay Express there appeared a lengthy list of persons describing themselves as “Jews and Non Jews” in battle with the list of their brethren’s list that appeared a week ago in the Daily Planet who are up in arms about the appearance in the one or the other publications that dare to discuss Israel and the problems of the Middle East. 

Not to mention how crazy all this enmity appears to those of us who do not give as much of a damn, it is really amazing that these parochial combatants would pick as their their battle ground a freebee newspaper that publishes letters from nearly any crank. 

It would seem that our community needs a few seminars and other venues concerning the first amendment. 

Within legal limits it is ok to batter and slander each other in whatever media we can find. But words do have consequences. And they do provoke violence and disharmony. 

Marilyn Talcott 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Sunday I read the East Bay Express. On page 19 I saw a full-page advertisment paid for by the Israeli Action Committee of the East Bay. The ad attacked the Berkeley Daily Planet as anti-Semitic and was endorsed with 461 names. These names are organized into six columns of 66 and one of 65. 

On Saturday I observed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on a Christian cable TV channel. Netanyahu implored the audience to send money to Israel because American Christians and the Jewish people were allies in the battle against satanic evil. 

On Friday, I read Margaret Foudas’ letter to the editor in the West County Times. She wrote that from Sept. 29, 2000 to the present, 123 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians. In the same period, Fouda said, 1,487 Palestinian children have been killed by the state of Israel. 

Mark Wetzel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s fair enough after all those years for Jane Stillwater to mix up a few lead singers and bands: Pat Enright wasn’t “the main singer for High Country” but rather the Phantoms Of the Opry, a superlative local bluegrass band of the era she writes of. More troubling to me than Jane not being recognized at the fancy new Freight was her story about not being allowed to photograph her granddaughter next to a snack table. Not on a snack table, but next to it. What possible liability insurance problem would that pose? 

Sandy Rothman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Once again Richard Brenneman is being accused of “cheeky” and “insensitive” reporting of crime stories, while his fans are branded with equal disdain. 

Mr. Brenneman’s reporting would, by any reasonable analysis, meet the criteria of conciseness, easy word flow, and—in the absence of contrary evidence—accuracy. 

If only his detractors would wage serious tirades against the real merchants of journalistic baloney: Larry King on CNN; the GOP stooges on Fox News; and the reinstated Jan Wahl on KRON 4. 

Ross Norton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Free Speech Radio News is in real danger of going away forever. If you listen to news on KPFA, some other Pacifica station, or on any of over a hundred other community stations, you know how valuable it is. On a very small budget, FSRN brings you news from reporters on the ground all over the world.  

The problem is cash flow and belt tightening that can’t get any tighter. 

  Pacifica provides a big chunk of FSRN’s revenue. Last year when Pacifica cut FSRN’s payments by a third (down to $34,000 per month), the reporters and staff took pay cuts, and everyone worked even harder to develop more diverse income sources. Of course, Pacifica has their own very serious financial problems. They are currently about a month and half behind on their payments to FSRN. 

The lastest cost saving measure taken at FSRN was to layoff the fundraiser. This was a necessary drastic step. There is simply no money for anything besides getting the news out. 

I believe that this is just a rough patch. With luck FSRN will be back on a more solid footing soon. Can you help us through this hard time?  

Any amount will help and may be just what we need to continue to bring you the news that you won’t get anywhere else. To donate, or to just read the news of the day, go to www.fsrn.org 

For those of you with more means than most, you might want to sponsor one day of FSRN news, which costs approximately $2600. And if you are really blessed with lots of money, $30,000 would fill our current gap and get us safely to Oct. 15, when we are expecting another payment from Pacifica. 

Susan da Silva 

FSRN Board Member 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks to Richard Brenneman and the Planet for covering the endless “reconstruction” torment of long-time residents in the old Obata building (”Fate of Historic Building,” Sept. 17). The attention of elected officials, neighborhood activists, and community press is of vital importance in the assymetrical landlord-tenant legal arena. 

For the sake of tens of thousands who began renting their homes in this century, it is important to correct the statement that “the state legislature abolished rent control” in 1999. If memory serves, rent limitations were gradually moved from the rental unit to the unit renter by the 1995 legislation by Rep. Costa (D-Fresno); in other words, an initial rent may be set by the landlord for each new tenant, but then rent, and often more importantly, eviction, protections are fully in effect. 

Jeff Jordan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

True, I am not an economist. I am curious though. Afghanistan has not been conquered since Alexander the Great. We are now engaged monetarily, militarily in what looks like a no win. 

Narcotic crops support the Taliban. Growth of poppies are definitely not in our interest. Suppose we offer to pay poppy farmers the same as they get for growing poppies, to not grow poppies. They don’t lose income. It costs us much less than the cost of military presence,and the lives of our young soldiers. 

The Afghan farmers then would be free to grow food crops, which would bring added income to them. 

We save lives, money, and improve the Afghan standard of living. 

Harry Gans 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why you should wear a bike helmet: here you are, slowly riding your bike on a quiet street, in the bike lane. A car suddenly turns right, in front of you, not noticing you, and you are whacked to the ground. Your head hits the curb. You are injured; you may have a concussion. If your spine is damaged, you may be paralyzed. A skull fracture may mean you are dead. Of course it is the distracted driver’s fault, but you are the one injured! That’s why bike riders should wear helmets!  

Colleen Houlihan  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At least George Rose has clarified what at least one helmet-free rider wants on his tombstone: “I love to feel the wind in my hair.” 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Strange things are happening in Radiation Safety at LBNL. One would think that at this level laboratory topnotch people are handling radiation safety. Apparently there is not the case. There is no Certified Health Physicist in LBNL Radiation Protection Group and there is no one on staff with appropriate education and experience.   

Radiation Safety Technologists are filling the role of Health Physicists and Radiation Safety Manager (RSO) has no Health Physics degree and only few years of experience. The RSO position was currently advertised. The requirements specified for this position were M.S. degree and three years of experience. This was in a strong contrast with the other posted positions. For example the requirements stated for Health Physicist who reports to RSM are: Advanced degree in Health Physics or related field and 7–10 years of applicable experience; a BS and 15 years experience; or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Actually the requirements for the top position in Radiation Protection at LBNL did match the requirements for a junior Industrial Hygienist in the same Environment, Health and Safety Division. In times when governments are strapped for money it seems strange that LBNL is willing to pay managerial salary to someone with three years of experience. 

I wonder what comments LBNL management might have on this issue. 

Krzysztof Szornel 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I consider myself blessed to have attended hundreds of concerts in my lifetime and to have heard world famous musicians perform in magnificent concert halls—San Francisco, New York, London, Vienna and Rome. If I appear to be boasting, I mention all of the above for a  reason. I’m contrasting these concerts with the one I attended this past Sunday evening in the modest, unpretentious Berkeley Fellowship Church at Cedar and Bonita Street.  This program was unlike any I've ever attended. 

Called “The Seventh Annual Family and Friends Concert,” the concert was organized by Debbie Carton and her mother, Joy Kawaguchi, both accomplished musicians. Debbie is an Art & Music Librarian at the Berkeley Public Library, where she plans and presents concerts.  Her mother, Joy, has played with  several community orchestras. Debbie’s adorable 10 year-old son, Tom Ronningen, plays the flute; her lovely daughter, Audrey, a junior at Albany High School, is a violinist.  She also has a brother, a flutist, who could not attend. 

Another family performing that evening was the Yamamoto family—Satoko Yamamoto and her sons, Albert, a 12-year-old violinist/pianist and Nathan, viola virtuoso, a senior at Marin Academy in San Rafael. 

Mother and sons added much to the program. 

I think you understand now why the program was described as a “Family and Friends Concert.” Here we have musicians who have played together since childhood for the sheer pleasure of sharing their passion for music. Debbie modestly claims to be an amateur musician, but those hearing her play a Handel Sonata and Bach's Prelude in F minor think differently.  And the Yamamotos’ dual rendition of  Fritz  Kreisler’s “Tambourin Chinois” and a Handel Viola Concerto was nothing short of brilliant. 

To sum up that unique and intimate performance Sunday evening, played to an overflow audience—it was clearly the joy of playing together as families that gave such meaning to the evening’s program. I look forward to “The 8th Annual Family and Friends Concert.” 

I should mention that Debbie’s passion for music is equalled by her love of theatre, as evidenced by her class, “Playreading for Adults,” held every Wednesday in the Fourth Floor Story Room at the Berkeley Public Library from noon to 1 p.m. The play currently being read and discussed is “Madwoman of Chaillot.”  I ask you, could there be a better way to spend one’s lunch hour? 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I hope you will agree that the right’s gleeful attack on ACORN is really an attack on anyone who dares to stand up for the victims of this economy, especially if they are black. Now is the time to stand with ACORN, and to shame the right! They are also asking for donations to offset the loss of federal funds. It seems to me that it is a mark of ACORN’s importance that they have been subjected to this sort of scrutiny and attack. 

Jane Eisley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why were five Berkeley Police Officers sitting in traffic court for two hours? 

Or better yet, why were we, the citizens of Berkeley, paying for five Berkeley Police Officers to sit in traffic court for two hours this morning? 

This past spring finally the city wisely ended their policy of paying five or six police officers to stand guard in front of MRS (marine recruiting station) doors protecting military recruiters—who are getting highly paid (by us) to ensnare our youth into the violent web of cannon fodder for our empire—from a handful of CodePINK women protesting their violent presence in our peace-loving city. 

Yet today, five of those same police officers appeared in traffic court with the main honcho of the MRS, the captain, and sat for two hours waiting for what they thought was an infraction case to be heard. 

An infraction. Traffic court. 

In case we have forgotten as some seem to have forgotten, an infraction is a minor violation of the law which carries no jail time or hefty fine but merely a ticket and/or fine if found guilty. 

This is a priority for our police in this day of budget crisis and dwindling funds? 

And why were the police sitting cozily with the military? The very same military that has not stopped training our youth to become killers as we keep our troops in Iraq, escalate troops in Afghanistan, and increase killing in Pakistan? 

Why were the police not sitting on the other side, with the citizens of Berkeley? 

Maybe these upside down, inside out priorities are but a poor reflection of our larger society, but I would expect and hold Berkeley to higher standards and priorities that reflect our long-standing, elevated core values of peace, sanctuary, equity, love, anti-war we mostly all hold so dear here. 

Xan (Zanne) Sam Joi 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I see that Chevron was the No. 2 greenhouse gas emitter in the Bay Area in 2009. Maybe a little background on Chevron is in order.  

Chevron is the fifth largest corporation in the world with $263 billion in 2008 revenues. In 2008, Chevron’s affected communities came together to create “The True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report,” released by Global Exchange at Chevron's 2009 annual shareholder meeting. It reveals a corporation with a consistent pattern of using its vast financial and political weight to operate with blatant disrespect for the health, security, economic livelihood, safety, and environment of far too many communities within which it operates.  

The report details gross human rights abuses by the company in Burma and Nigeria; environmental and public health devastation in California, Alaska, Mississippi, New York, New Jersey, Angola, Canada, Chad, Cameroon, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, and the Philippines; participation in a war for oil in Iraq; and great political and consumer price manipulation throughout the U.S. and globally. 

I for one do not patronize Texaco/Chevron. Texaco was an independent company until it merged into Chevron Corp. in 2001. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some young men claiming to be students from San Francisco State University Communications Department were raising money in the following way, going door to door. 

This is the scam: If contributors buy subscriptions to magazines, they will be sent to hospitals or to soldiers overseas. You can choose who gets the magazine, maybe children in hospitals. This donation is tax deductible. The students get credits towards going on a trip to London. 

It turns out that none of this is true.  

The students are not in that department. The money is a standard magazine subscription, perhaps, but it is not tax deductible. There is no sense in which it is a donation. 

The magazine company prints a form that says that these are not their agents, and that this is not a charitable donation. It isn’t clear how they make money since the checks are made out to the magazine supplier in Georgia. 

The important thing to do if they come to your door is to read the fine print and call the police in such a way that the police come before they leave. 

Arianna Doxis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Racism has not moved into the past. It is only harder to spot now, as people are more careful in what they say and think; one senses it lurking around every corner. Conservatives and Republicans insist “racism is over.” Tell that to the legion of Rep. Joe Wilson followers and think-alikes. 

Americans are deluding themselves, in denial, if they think racial prejudice is a thing of the past! Look at the volumn and viciousness of the attacks being leveled against our president of color under the guise of health care debate. 

Racism is far from dead. Racist behavior has declined but racist attitudes have not. And racial hatred is no longer just a product of the South; It exists and infects every city and town in America. 

White supremacy and power is deeply ingrained in a portion of the American psyche. Bigots and conservative white folk are not happy about giving up the power they’ve held for so long. 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am urging the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District to pressure both the state and federal government for more money so they can lower the price of the bus pass for both the seniors and disabled. Twenty dollars is just too much for both of them to handle because they had to make a choice of either a bus pass or buying food. That is not right. The majority of both the seniors and disabled are loyal bus passengers. 

They use the bus as their only transportation. As a result, they are fighting global warming. So in conclusion, I am urging the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District to demand more money from both the state and federal government so they can lower the price of the bus pass for both seniors and disabled. 

Billy Trice, Jr. 






Commentary: BRT Alert: Look (to Cleveland) Before You Leap

By Gale Garcia
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:29:00 AM

Several months ago, I heard that the only Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in the United States that took two lanes from a four-lane road for dedicated bus lanes was in Cleveland, Ohio. This is exactly what AC Transit is planning for Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro, so I began to investigate Cleveland’s BRT through newspaper articles, blogs, newsletters and any other source I could find. 

The Cleveland Greater Regional Transit Authority (RTA) built a BRT on a 6.7-mile stretch of the Euclid Avenue corridor, from Public Square in the downtown to Stokes Windermere in East Cleveland. More than half of the route has dedicated bus lanes and stations in the middle of the road, just as AC Transit is planning for Telegraph Avenue here. The project opened in October 2008 and was named the Healthline. 

Unlike our Telegraph Avenue, Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue is not the only arterial street available in the immediate area. The closest parallel streets on either side of Euclid Ave. are also arterials—each appears to be a four-lane or six-lane street, providing ample space for the traffic overflow from Euclid Avenue When the Healthline route reaches a point where the parallel arterials end, the buses no longer have dedicated lanes. RTA Media Relations Manager Jerry Masek explained on a forum at www.Urbanohio.com: “East of East 107th Street, we need more road capacity to carry the traffic, because we no longer have the parallel streets of Chester and Carnegie. There is no room for a bus-only lane.” (How sensible!) 

Telegraph Avenue has no similar parallel arterials to absorb the displaced traffic. Shattuck and College Aves. are 3-4 blocks away, and are themselves extremely congested. It’s hard to imagine that AC Transit officials really believe this will work. 

The Cleveland project is more resident-friendly than the proposal threatening us in another manner—the RTA retained local bus service on Euclid Avenue. On July 29, the AC Transit Board voted to eliminate local bus service on Telegraph Avenie if it is allowed to implement BRT, casually dismissing the concerns of riders who will lose their closest stop. 

One major concern Berkeley and Oakland residents have about the local plan is potential negative impacts to the Telegraph Avenue merchants. This concern is very well-founded. In Cleveland, great detriments occurred to small businesses along the route during construction of the Healthline. 

There were many articles in Cleveland newspapers about the protracted construction havoc. My favorite was a December 12, 2007 piece in the Plain Dealer entitled, “Euclid Corridor project becomes a route to lost business for many on the avenue.” It reported about city sponsored loans to assist the distressed businesses. One merchant responded to the loan offer with, “I’m not looking to get further in debt. I’m looking for people to buy stuff.” A restaurant owner complained, “Breakfast is dead. Dinner is dead. People can't cross the street.” 

Perhaps a couple of years of construction hell and the loss of many businesses would be acceptable to vastly improve the lives of the bus riding public. But I find no evidence that this has occurred in Cleveland. After several months of reading every single comment I could find in blogs, newsletters and on-line responses to newspaper articles, Clevelanders seem split about 50-50 on whether the project is even an improvement over the #6 bus that it replaced. 

The terms “scam,” “hype” and “boondoggle” come up frequently among those who are unimpressed with the Healthline. One commenter who was initially excited about the new buses decided the project was a waste of money after riding it, and wanted the #6 bus back. Another commenter suggested that “This whole project could be a feature story in Reader’s Digest monthly feature, ‘That’s Outrageous’ which details government and public funding waste.” 

Bus bunching is an enormous problem on the Healthline. In June, one contributor to www.Urbanohio.com reported seeing four buses in a row, while another countered that he/she had seen six buses queued up at the East 14th stop. The first writer later stated: “The bigger problem with the bunching of multiple buses (i.e. more than two) is that there's always a huge gap either before or after the bunch. Wait times for buses that come every five minutes can near twenty minutes.” Even when bunching does not occur, the Healthline appears to be completely unreliable. In January, a writer complained, “it needs to be faster. To my horror, I watched a trolley beat the BRT I was on from Public Square to E.22 the other day.” In June, a writer complained of a mid-day Healthline ride, “there was no bunching, but the trip took 33 minutes for what should be a 20 to 22 minute ride—we sat at nearly every light along the corridor.” 

Based upon years of studying AC Transit’s proposal and months of studying its prototype in Cleveland, I think AC Transit’s BRT proposal has exactly zero chance of being a success. I believe several of the agency’s board members are aware of this. But they don’t care. They cannot care. They’ve squandered money on the VanHool bus deals, and are desperate for the federal funds that are available if our city councils are willing to give away lanes of our streets. 

Berkeley and Oakland will soon hold public meetings about BRT. Now is the time to let your council members know that you don’t want your city sacrificed for AC Transit. Please do not wait for the bulldozers to show up, because if you wait, the bulldozers definitely will show up, and your city will be altered forever. 



Gale Garcia is a Berkeley resident.

Commentary: The Berkeley Solidarity Alliance

By Lyn Hejinian
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:30:00 AM

By now we know that the current economic crisis in the state of California is without precedent. The very fabric of everyday life in California, from our parks to our cities, our schools to our air and water, even the promise of the California dream itself, is imperiled by this perfect storm of capitalist crisis and political paralysis. For public education, the damage caused by greed and political fecklessness has reaped an unaccountable toll: classroom sizes swell while teachers make poverty wages and college tuition costs ever more. Gov. Schwarzenegger, like the current University of California president Mark Yudof, the corporate leaders appointed to the Board of Regents, and much of the rest of the California political establishment, want to tell us that the economy is collapsing, everybody is hurting, and so we must slash public services to the poor, close battered women’s shelters, furlough underpaid workers, and bust the greedy unions of janitors, teachers, secretaries and nurses. All while refusing to tax oil extraction, Hollywood mansions, yachts, and profit-rich corporations, and billionaires. There is no alternative, we are told. 

But if this political crisis is unprecedented, then so is the rising opposition that is responding to it. In but one vital corner of this big problem, an alternative is emerging that is uniting diverse people in a movement in defense of public schools in California from kindergarten through Cal. On Sept. 24 this new movement, a Solidarity Alliance of faculty, workers, and students will lead a walkout at UC Berkeley. The walkout has gained support from throughout the UC system and into the CSU’s, the CC’s and even into other states. We have built new organizations of faculty, graduate students, student and worker action groups, and together with all the campus unions, the Sept. 24 walkout will be the start of a major new social movement determined to remake California in its own democratic image. 

Solidarity between students, faculty and staff does not always come naturally on college campuses. Each of the elements in this alliance is fighting for their own self interest. The students, especially those from working class families, students of color and transfer students, can no longer afford the jacking up of student fees while the number of classes and student services are being cut. Professors cannot allow UCOP to seize emergency powers, overthrowing the democratic processes of governance that make UC unique while forcing furloughs on an already overworked faculty. And the unions are in a fight for the very survival of the workers and staff, as staff in every building are being fired and some of the lowest paid workers in the state are being forced to take pay cuts in the name of shared sacrifice (while UC administrators give themselves handsome bonuses and pat themselves on the back). UC administrators have long understood that they can pit these different constituencies against one another: if workers take pay cuts and layoffs, then there is no need to raise student fees; or if student fees go up ($10,000 a year is still a bargain says Yudof) then we can end these unseemly faculty furloughs in one year. Get with the program, the Regents tells us, there is no alternative but to stab each other in the back and proceed with the privatization of what was once the finest public university in the world.  

Obviously, the Solidarity Alliance rejects this necessity. Solidarity began organizing only a few months ago. In an act of unrivaled cowardice, hiding under the cover of summertime, while faculty work hard on their research projects and students vacation and search for low paying jobs, Yudof and the Regents planned to grant themselves “Emergency Powers.” Not only did they plan on throwing over the century old history of democratic governance in the UC system, but the Regents also planned to impose a structure of furloughs, cuts, lay-offs and fee increases seemingly determined to permanently damage the core mission of the University of California. To oppose these drastic changes, while the unions passionately protested Regents in the streets, faculty  




Lyn Hejinian is a professor of English at UC Berkeley. 

began to mobilize, gathering signatures of petition, recruiting speakers to make public comments, writing editorials and educating themselves and the public. Out of this initial drive (Yudof got his emergency powers), SAVE the University was born. SAVE is an unprecedented faculty organization dedicated to exploring any and all means to resist the privatization of the UC. One of these paths was the formation of the Solidarity Committee of SAVE, chaired by English Professor and poet Lyn Hejinian. It was Lyn’s idea to take a branch of a faculty organization and open it up to non-ladder faculty, graduate students, undergraduates and all of the campus unions in order to find a way to work together. 

Within two weeks of furious organizing and coalition building, with the ready cooperation of all parties, the UC-Berkeley Solidarity Alliance had grown to include the heads of all the major unions on campus (UPTE, AFSCME, CUE, UC-AFT), the leaders of GSOC (the graduate student organizing committee), a committed and brilliant group of undergraduate leaders (mostly drawn from CalSERVE, the ASUC, and UCSA), and the organizers of SWAT (the Student Worker Action Team, a growing democratic organization of students and rank and file staff members). Together we christened ourselves the Solidarity Alliance, and in another week’s time we had issued the first call for a system wide walkout faculty and student walkout in solidarity with a planned strike by UPTE on Sept. 24. We have issued a clear and compelling list of demands that call for no new student fees, an end to the layoffs, cuts, and furloughs, especially for those making less than a living wage, and a restoration of democratic governance at the UC. Today, our members are planning all the events of this week of education and action, including a major Teach in on the evening of Sept. 23 (at 7 p.m., Wheeler Auditorium), events all day on Thursday the 24th and the big Solidarity Rally that will take place on Sproul Plaza at noon. 

In so doing, the Solidarity Alliance has become a model for organizing faculty, workers, and students towards a common set of demands, a model that is quickly being adopted on most UC campuses as well on various CSU and CC campuses and even in other states. The causes for this sudden and rapid growth of a Solidarity movement are equally ethical and strategic: only an alliance of faculty, workers, staff, and students can have any chance of achieving their goal of defending public education in California. With the unions’ organizational infrastructure and legal standing and their long history of defending human rights, with the students’ numbers and energy and capacity for new and audacious ideas, and with the faculty’s prestige and internal institutional knowledge, we present a real threat to Yudof and the Regents as they attempt to impose corporate priorities on the free flow of learning, discovery, originality, and exchanging of speculative as well as practical ideas. The Solidarity Alliance is not just about standing up for the ongoing excellence of UC Berkeley. Our commitment to a top-notch public university, accessible to all Californians who want and are able to enjoy and benefit from it, implies a commitment to excellent public education at all levels in California. We are rallying together in solidarity with staff, teachers, pupils, and parents all over the state, who are enduring disgraceful conditions in their schools. This is a political crisis, and it is through political means that it must be addressed. The cause of public education is ours! The walkout on Sept. 24 is only a beginning. 



Lyn Hejinian is a professor of English at UC Berkeley.

Commentary: A Response to Capitelli on the Downtown Plan

By Tree Fitzpatrick
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:31:00 AM

Councilmember Capitelli seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding about the role the City Council plays in this city. It is his job to do what is best for the citizens, not what is best for real estate developers. He has an obligation to discern what the citizens want and then to do whatever he can to make that happen. He is not supposed to infantilize the citizenry and make decisions that the majority of citizens do not approve of. He is not supposed to think he knows better than the people know what is good for them. In his commentary, it makes it sound like all the folks who signed that petition are mindless children who don’t know what’s good for themselves. 

Capitelli reveals his contempt for citizen advisory groups, failing, apparently, to grasp that he is beholden to citizens. He makes it sound like the City Council can ignore citizen advisory groups and citizens. Mr. Capitelli, it is your job to both listen to citizen advisory groups and citizens, and to serve those groups. You are not supposed to serve real estate developers. You are supposed to help the City of Berkeley develop a downtown that its citizens want. If you see obstacles to what the citizens want, it is your job to help overcome those obstacles. It is not your job to give away our city, to kow-tow to greedy for-profit developers who donate to your election campaigns, who flatter you at cocktail parties and dinners and, for all we know, give jobs to your family and friends. You work for the citizens of Berkeley. 

Fortunately, here in Berkeley, we have caring activists who will not allow this City Council to ramrod a pro-development plan that does not provide enough affordable housing, does not protect labor, and does not protect the downtown environment. I hope the City Council is now on notice that they are going to have to start doing much better listening to citizen advisory groups, or we citizens can form another petition, get another 9,000-plus signatures and stop the next bad, pro-developer plan. Capitelli should now understand that citizen advice is something he needs to listen to, instead of deriding citizen advisories in the newspaper. 

If Mr. Capitelli is unable to do his job and help downtown Berkeley become the downtown its citizens want to see, then he should leave the City Council and make room for leaders who are dedicated to bringing the citizens’ dreams for our city into reality. The old saying ‘where there is a will there is a way’ is a universal truth. If our elected leaders were committed to creating the downtown that our citizens, not his developer buddies, want, then the City Council would find a way. 

I especially resent how Capitelli misrepresents the thousands of citizens who signed the petition to overturn the awful downtown plan Mr. Capitelli and his real-estate-developer-loving cohorts on the City Council passed. Capitelli insults the citizens. He suggests that thousands of us signed that petition without understanding the facts. 

The fact that Berkeley has such an engaged citizenry should be celebrated by its councilmembers. Rejoice, Mr. Capitelli, that so many people care passionately about Berkeley’s wellbeing! 

I don’t think there were paid signature gatherers. Since Capitelli makes so many distortions in his commentary, I question this fact. I talked to a lot of signature gatherers and all the ones I talked to were volunteers who care passionately about Berkeley and democracy. I did wonder, I admit, if some of the people who harassed this act of democracy—a citizen petition is democracy in action, Mr. Capitelli—I wonder if those horrifically behaved protestors who tried to suppress democracy by keeping people from signing their names, I wondered if any of them were paid to suppress the democratic process. It is a little scary to me to read one of our elected servants (servants, not dictators) complain about citizen activism.  

Capitelli makes it sound like most of the people who signed that petition did not understand what the petition or the competing downtown plans were about. I wonder if Capitelli realizes how insultingly he speaks of his constituents. He comes right out and insists that many signatories were misinformed and manipulated by a distortion of the facts. Speaking for myself, I sought out an opportunity to sign the petition. And I will tell you my greatest objection to the too-developer-friendly plan that Capitelli trills so happily about: the actual content of either plan did not upset me nearly as much as the arrogant dismissal of the City Council for the views of ordinary citizens. I was disgusted by the way the council pretended, for years, to value the work of the Downtown Area Plan Citizen Advisory and then, at the last minute, the council and city planning staff engaged in a lot of backdoor politicking, listening to aggressive lobbying from greedy developers who are always going to whine and complain. I signed that petition because I want my council to listen to the citizens over the developers. I signed that petition because I was sickened by the way the council and city planning staff behaved, deceiving the public and giving preference to developers’ views. 

And another thing. I am so angry about the way this council and the mayor steadily ignores the will of its constituents and blindly favors developers. Does anyone, including Capitelli and the other council members who voted for the plan that the petition drive has hopefully stopped, seriously believe that if Berkeley prohibits 20-story buildings and if Berkeley insists on more affordable housing and if Berkeley insists that developers pay for more green space as a concession for winning the right to build in Berkeley—does anyone seriously believe that no real estate developers will want to build in downtown Berkeley? 

If the city of Berkeley puts out the word that they would like to see new residential buildings downtown, with X percentage of affordable housing, and X labor guarantees and X green space, I guarantee Mr. Capitelli that builders will come. Maybe your real estate buddies won’t build here but I guarantee you that other developers will see that Berkeley is a fantastic market and they can make money building six-story, four-story buildings. 

It is nonsense to cry that no one will build in downtown Berkeley unless you make all those ridiculous concessions to the developers. 

If the city of Berkeley creates a wise development plan, outlining the criteria that all developers are legally bound to honor if they want to build in Berkeley, I guarantee you that builders will come. Builders will always want to take advantage of the economic opportunity that is downtown Berkeley. We don’t have to make endless concessions to the realtors sucking up to our City Council. There are other developers in the wings. I guarantee it. 

And if I am wrong, it this city limits downtown construction with tightly regulated affordable housing requirements, tight height requirements designed to preserve the small Paris-like atmosphere of our fair city, provide lots of green space in exchange for the substantial privilege of building in our city—we hold the cards. We don’t have to give them to the developers. If we pass a citizens’ approved downtown plan and absolutely no real estate developers want to build under the limitations of that plan, maybe it means that it isn’t supposed to happen. If the only way these ‘developers’ can make a buck in Berkeley is by destroying the quality of life for most citizens, gee, maybe we shouldn’t let that happen anyway. 

Do what is right, Mr. Capitelli. The City Council should set truly green, progressive* and livable plan for downtown Berkeley. Pass a plan that pleases the citizens. Put any plan to a vote. Let the people decide. And then, if no builders come, well, time will pass and we’ll figure something else out. But in the meantime, we don’t have to give extremely valuable building rights to builders who don’t seem to give a crap about Berkeley. All they care about is making a buck. And more power to them. This is America. but here in America, all citizens have a voice in their shared destiny. And if Mr. Capitelli, who speaks, in his commentary, so derisively about citizen advisory groups, doesn’t understand that all citizens have a voice in their shared destiny, then he should leave public office. I bet he could get a sweet job working for one of the developers he seems to care so much about. 

One more question for Mr. Capitelli. Why are you afraid, seemingly, to put the plan that you voted for, on the ballot? This is a democracy. The City Council is not in charge of this city. Its citizens are. Sometimes we citizens forget this. We allow the cumbersome public process to overwhelm us and make us feel that we can’t have a meaningful voice in our shared destiny. It confuses me why Mr. Capitelli wants to serve Berkeley’s citizens whilst disregarding input from its citizens and their advisory committees. If you think that a better informed citizenry would actually vote for the plan you and your cohorts ramrodded through, put it on the ballot and we’ll find out what the people prefer. 


*The affordable housing detail is the one most important to me. I don’t want any city to be an enclave for people who can afford million dollar condos. Te working class has rights. It isn’t right that only people with money can feel a sense of ownership in a city, and workers shouldn’t have to commute to their low-paying jobs. 


Tree Fitzpatrick is a registered voter in Berkeley.

Commentary: On Architecture and Building Heights in Berkeley

By Gerry Tierney
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:31:00 AM

Two recent articles in the Daily Planet, Steve Finacom’s regarding Parker Place in your Sept. 3 edition and Fred Dodsworth’s commentary regarding the Downtown Plan in your Sept. 17 edition, provide an interesting insight into how certain segments of the Berkeley population regard development and the built environment. As both a resident of Berkeley and a practicing architect—who has been very fortunate to work not only in Berkeley but also throughout North America and around the globe—I would like to make the following observations: In Finacom’s Parker Place article he acknowledges “… that there are substantial elements of the project to praise” and enumerates several programmatic benefits, going on to suggest the transformation of the Shattuck Avenue median into a linear park —a great idea that should be pursued further. However the rest of the article makes for depressing reading. Whereas comments regarding “the atrocious skin” are subjective and therefore open to debate, what I found troublesome and symptomatic of so much that is pushing Berkeley further into the margins of cultural irrelevancy was the quote—and following comment—from a letter by Design Review Committee member Bob Allen. In his opinion, Mr. Allen feels that the street facing character of the project resembled a “morose new neighborhood in Emeryville.” This, along with the comment by Mr. Finacom that he had “hit the nail on the head” as most people “hated the way the structure is wrapped in an Emeryville/San Francisco SOMA aesthetic” is in my mind a depressing realization that indeed Berkeley is now a culturally irrelevant dormitory suburb where, to quote John Kaliski, AIA, in his review of Thom Mayne’s UCLA “L.A. Now” studio, there exists a “normative city planning and urban design…that looks to a singularly defined and supposedly golden past … and (an) architecture or urbanism that turns its back on the present.” Now, I understand that what people like John Kaliski or Thom Mayne think is of no consequence to the majority of people in Berkeley, I think it does matter if Berkeley considers itself as something other than a typical culturally isolated suburb—it certainly has pretensions of something other than an El Cerrito or Walnut Creek. 

With regards to Mr. Dodsworth’s commentary regarding the Downtown Plan he makes some valid observations, such as the impact of commercial rent increases on downtown business—the three year vacancy of the former Radston Office Supply space being a good example—and the success of the “Arts District.” However, the Arts District two- and three-story buildings otwithstanding, I feel he misrepresents some crucial points of the Downtown Plan. Commercial rent and density do impact the viability of a retail district and that density needs to be reflected in foot traffic spread out across the day and evening, seven days a week. This is especially true for local businesses without access to national marketing or purchasing and is best achieved by residential development located close by. The economic viability “sweet spot” of a building relative to its height is impacted by several factors, which include construction type, fire and life safety requirements and lateral force design. However this is not a linear progression, but is more like a series of stair steps or development plateaus. A “4-over-1” (five-story) development steps up to an eight-story (uppermost floor less than 75 feet) development, which then steps up to the 18- to 22-story range. Beyond that, there is a large step to 40 stories, due to service core and lateral design considerations. Thus, the notion that developers would seek to build 30-stories instead of 20, as stated in his commentary, is not borne out by the realities of the construction or development market today or in the foreseeable future. 

Density is not synonymous with an “uglier…less livable downtown.” Mr. Dodsworth’s commentary concludes with the admonition to let San Francisco and Oakland be Manhattan and let Berkeley be Paris—if only. With regard to his apparent disdain for Manhattan, it is worth pointing out to those who feel the Downtown Plan as currently proposed is not “green” enough, that the resident’s of Manhattan have the lowest carbon footprint of anyone living in North America—it turns out that denser is greener and more sustainable. With regard to the desire to let Berkeley be like Paris—and who wouldn’t!—I don’t know which arrondissement Mr. Dodsworth had in mind when he calls for all of downtown Berkeley to be down zoned to four stories. Whether you are in the 5e or 6e arrondissement of St. Germaine, home to the Sorbonne, or across the river in the 3e or 4e arrondissement of the Marais, home to Alan Ducasse’s Bistrot Benoit on Rue Saint-Martin, you will be surrounded by six- to eight-story buildings throughout. Any Berkeley resident who takes objection to either the intimate quality of the Rue Saint-Martin (six-stories) or the graciousness of the Boulevard Saint-Germain (eight-stories) probably shouldn’t be living in a city. 

On the matter of high-rise towers, one can find attractive precedents in Vancouver, considered by many to be North America’s most livable city. Located on the edge of False Creek at Marinaside Crescent, east of Davie Street, the composition of the six 12- and 22-story residential towers located there are sleek sophisticated examples that would be a welcome addition to any city. By no stretch of the imagination is False Creek and its environs an unlivable neighborhood. 

One upon a time Berkeley had a reputation of being a center for innovative thinking. It prided itself in being at the forefront of ways to improve our world. That was then—this is now. Increasingly when I get back to Berkeley from being in various vibrant cities around the world, I’m overwhelmed by the dead hands of hubris and mediocrity. Hubris in the provincial nature of Berkeley’s discussion about the built environment—some of these folks really need to get out more—mediocrity in the “architecture and urbanism that turns its back on the present” to quote John Kaliski above. We have many fine talented architects and designers in this town—if Mr. Dodsworth and his cohorts really want to “let Berkeley be Paris” they should stand aside and let them get on with their job. 


Gerry Tierney, AIA LEED AP, is a Berkeley resident.

Commentary: KPFA’s Unpaid Staff and the Elections

By Marcia Rautenstrauch
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:32:00 AM

As a longstanding member of the KPFA unpaid staff, I am quite a bit puzzled and more than a bit annoyed by how the unpaid staff are being used as an issue in the current KPFA Local Station Board elections. In fact, I’m down right aggravated to see how one slate, the Independents for Community Radio, is speaking in the name of us unpaid staff at the station. Well, let me tell you, they don’t speak for me. 

The Independents for Community Radio keep writing in the pages of the Planet about the needs of the KPFA unpaid staff, yet almost no staff has endorsed them. That’s probably because we all know better. I’d like to tell you a little something about UPSO, the Unpaid Staff Organization, which the ICR keep spinning tall tales about to appear as the heroes of the KPFA unpaid staff—including that UPSO has existed at the station for 30 years; now that’s a good one. UPSO does not represent me or most of the staff at the station. During my years at the station, they’ve never reached out to me at my place of work, never come to talk to me about my issues, and never signed me up as a member. Several years ago UPSO held an election in which just over 40 staff members (out of 250 or so) voted, and those who were elected now claim to represent us all. There haven’t been any minutes distributed from UPSO meetings for several years, so other than the very small number of people who seem to attend, no staff know what’s going on. They call meetings at KPFA, but they only give one or two days advance notice—and this they do for every meeting—which makes me think they don’t really want to hear from us.  

Several years back the station management derecognized UPSO after a small group within the station tried to take UPSO over and screamed and yelled abuse at anyone who would oppose them in meetings to the point that the organization fell apart. Earlier this year the station was instructed by the national board to recognize UPSO. But since then UPSO still hasn’t held an election (they haven't held one since April 2007) or reached out to unpaid staff like myself.  

In fact, the only thing concrete that I know that UPSO has done has been to try to keep certain unpaid staff like me and Denny Smithson off the voting rolls for the KPFA Local Station Board. I’m presuming this is because they didn’t know we worked at the station, but even that takes a stretch of the imagination—Denny Smithson has worked at KPFA for decades as any listener knows and is on the air every Monday on Cover to Cover. I’m also a bit puzzled why UPSO Council Member Anthony Fest, who is a candidate to the Local Station Board, seems to be involved in figuring out who  


Marcia Rautenstrauch is a member of KPFA’s unpaid staff. 



meets the criteria for being a voting staffer in the board elections. It all  

seems pretty fishy.  

I’m all for the unpaid staff at KPFA being represented by an organization that can speak for us, that has talked to us, organized us, called meetings with enough lead time so that interested people can attend, and held regular elections so that they stay accountable. That would be a good thing. But UPSO is not it and the Independents for Community Radio need to stop crudely using UPSO and the issues of the unpaid staff in this election. It’s just ugly politicking and KPFA doesn’t need any more of that. 



Marcia Rautenstrauch is a member of KPFA’s unpaid staff.

Commentary: BUSD: Union Busting 101

By Tim Donnelly  
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:33:00 AM

We are the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees, representing 450 employees of the Berkeley Unified School District, the Office/Technical and Instructional Assistant/Paraprofessional Units. This essay is, by necessity, a little thick with initials. But our plight is simple enough to understand. We are being battered by an anti-worker administration. Our three main grievances are these; long-term employees kept in substitute status illegally, the illegal denial of information we need to enforce our contract, and a recent reorganization of Special Education that increases our workload threefold. 

The California Merit System is designed to eliminate cronyism, racism, sexism, ageism, and other unfair practices from the hiring of Classified staff (those positions that don’t require a teaching credential.) How is this working out in Berkeley Unified, a merit system district? Not so well. 

The intent of the merit system is to govern the hiring, retention and training of Classifieds. These rules are ignored throughout the district. Classified openings are everywhere filled by “substitutes”, volunteers, student workers, and private contractors. This is in blatant violation of our merit rules and our collective bargaining agreement. The high schools, preschools, and Special Education department are particularly egregious violators. 

Our merit rules permit only three ways to fill an open position: by transfer, permanent probationary or limited term assignments. 

When the schools keep “substitutes” in open positions, they create a second tier of the lowest paid employees in the District. These are overwhelmingly women of color working without benefits, paid sick time or vacation accrual. When contractors fill our positions, they are paid at two and three times our total compensation rate, squandering taxpayer resources. 

We have an astounding 13 pending grievances and four Unfair Labor Practice charges against the school district. Approximately a third of these entail the District refusing to provide us the information we need to represent our 450 members. This is in violation of our contract and all applicable laws. Put another way, they are breaking our contract to hide from us how much they are breaking our contract. 

Our contract language is very broad (as is the Labor Code.) Section 4.1.3 of the contract states, in its entirety: “The BCCE has the right to material that will enable it to fulfill its role as the sole bargaining agent.” 

Standard information requests that have been ignored, refused or indefinitely delayed include interim placement data for the winter, spring and summer breaks. We know that some substitutes have been placed and permanent employees denied these crucial temporary positions, but without knowing how many members applied, BCCE cannot know the extent of the contract violations. Our Unfair Labor Practice Charges pile up at the Public Employee Relations Board, the Board takes a month or two to even schedule a hearing, and the abuse continues. 

In years past, trainings taking place in August and September have been considered orientations, and BCCE was given time at these meetings to address our members. This is in keeping with contract section 4.1.14, which states in part that “...the Union will be allowed time at any orientation meetings to address the new members.” This year the union has been unilaterally disallowed, from addressing our members during the scheduled portion of these back-to-school trainings. The district says these aren’t orientations because they’re for longtime employees as well as new hires. They say the union may address members at the breaks. 

And what about this shell game called Universal Learning? Special Education Instructional Assistants are assigned in a way that mutes our voice in the workplace and erodes our contractual attendant differentials. An attendant differential is the extra five or ten percent of salary that an IA gets for toileting/hygene and health attendant duties. BCCE also believes universal learning cheats diagnosed special needs students of the consistency all learners deserve. Instructional Assistants are rotated in a random and disrespectful way; Administration calls this “cross-training” though no actual training takes place. 

The Universal Learning Support System was negotiated with the teachers’ union as a way of spreading special education resources to help students who are struggling but have no diagnosis. This looks good on paper, but the special education resources being stretched to the breaking point are the Instructional Assistants. We maintain that ULSS is extralegal until it is negotiated with the union that represents the instructional assistants. It may be extralegal on other grounds as well: parents of students with special needs have complained that their children aren’t getting the support to which their individual education plans entitles them. 

We encourage the people of Berkeley to investigate the Universal Learning Support System as it is practised. We warn the people of Berkeley that privatization of public services, such as charter schools, decreases accountability. And we implore the community of Berkeley to tell this Board of Education and this Superintendent that they must honor their legally negotiated contracts. They may not balance the budget on the backs of their lowest-paid employees. 

The 2009-2010 school year will not be an easy one. Our public service budgets are slashed to the bone. For many of us, our family budgets are also grim. BCCE sees the contract violations listed here, and others not listed, as a strike against our very right to exist. And we want the community of Berkeley to understand this when and if we are forced to strike back.   

Commentary: Not In My Backyard

By Joanne Kowalski
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:36:00 AM

Last month when I stopped to sign the petition for a referendum on the Downtown Berkeley plan, I was accosted by a woman from the build-Berkeley-bigger faction who attempted to get me not to sign. Her argument seemed to be that infill, in the form of tall buildings downtown, was the only way to combat the non-sustainable urban sprawl that was eating up more and more of our farmland and contributed so greatly to our planet’s ills. To oppose this plan, she implied, was NIMBYism on the part of those who had theirs and who were unwilling to work on saving the environment for those to come. 

Now, I live only four short blocks from City Hall. Downtown is my backyard. I am committed to saving the planet in general and in particular to reducing urban sprawl. However I do not believe that building bigger building will solve any of our problems. If anything, Manhattenizing Berkeley will only make the situation worse.  

For over 60 years, building bigger, taller buildings has been our country’s standard solution to almost any urban ill. After World War II, Urban Renewal was touted as the way to revitalize aging and decaying neighborhoods near the city’s central core. For twenty years, federal and state programs throughout the country were responsible for the massive demolition of smaller, older structures and the building of high rises (via perks to corporations) in their place. In this process, thousands of communities were decimated and millions of individuals, families and small local businesses were displaced. (For instance, between 1948 and 1963 in Chicago alone over 200,000 people were displaced by this process.)  

While sometimes referred to as ‘negro removal’ programs, urban renewal projects targeted older, established white ethnic as well as African-American communities. While racially or ethnically homogeneous, these communities usually had a diversity with regard to age, income and education along with many locally owned businesses and strong family and friendship ties. As new construction favored institutional expansion, high rise commercial buildings and upscale apartments, all but a few of the former residents had no choice but to move out. The white ethnic families who could afford it scattered to the newly developed suburbs while their African-American counterparts made inroads into adjacent previously all white neighborhoods. The elderly were funneled to retirement communities and nursing homes while 20 story prison like projects were built to warehouse those too  poor to move. This mini diaspora fueled the massive suburban development that has contributed so much to global warming and is responsible for our present day urban sprawl. 

This movement to the suburbs, often called ‘white flight’, is usually attributed to racism. But while racism certainly contributed to ‘white flight’, it was not the only cause. As those pushed out of their communities crowded into other well-established older communities density and traffic increased. So did crime. Racial tensions got played out in everyday life. Turf wars happened. Increased anonymity, real estate practices like redlining and blockbusting, failing schools, traffic congestion and the closure of services like post offices and Y’s all contributed to the decision on the part of those who could afford it, particularly young families, to move out. 

As a result, more and more farmers’ fields were leveled to build cheap boxes called homes. Freeways were built to accommodate the movement of the worker from the new suburbs to his downtown job. (Cars were made affordable for almost all.) The building of these roadways caused even greater displacement as they cut their way willy-nilly through other well-established communities often separating residents from their previously walkable schools and stores.  

This outward movement left in its wake wide swatches of inner city blight and decay which was often exacerbated by the decline of industry with its abandoned factories and loss of jobs. Since then the response of most cities to their burgeoning urban problems and failing economies has been (and continues to be) to build even  


Joanne Kowalski is a central Berkeley resident. 


bigger, taller buildings. Downtown. 

In the 1970’s Detroit, which leads the nation in bad planning, embarked on a big building frenzy even as the auto industry crumbled and manufacturing went into a major decline. They razed the Downtown along the Detroit River in order to construct a 79 story hotel surrounded by 39 story office towers (courtesy of GM) along with a host of smaller (20+ story) offices, government buildings and condos, a convention center, casinos, coliseum, riverfront park and spiffy central city light rail in a vain effort to revitalize a dying town. Today, on the other side of the parking lots that surround these megabuildings at the city’s core are empty, abandoned older 10 and 20 story buildings. Beyond them lies an over 40 square mile strip of urban blight that has over 70,000 empty homes and commercial buildings with an equal number of vacant lots where houses, factories, schools and stores have been razzed or burned out. Despite this and despite the fact that the Detroit area has lost over a million residents due to its failed economy, farmland continues to be gobbled up along the periphery of the metropolis, new housing continues to be built and the suburbs march on. Even Chicago with its better economy, its light rail system and much lauded Loop of skyscrapers, museums, universities and parks, has a more than five miles deep expanding belt of urban desolation that your average suburban commuter is afraid to enter along with new housing developments on the fringe that are continuing to relentlessly destroy farmland of even neighboring states. 

California has not been immune to this kind of development. Today, more bigger, glitzier developments are planned at a time when California’s unemployment rate is high (fourth in the nation, right behind Michigan) and budgetary woes have cut essential services beyond the bone. 

The Bay Area already has its dead zones of empty stores and boarded up buildings. There are people sleeping on the streets, in shelters, cars and on their grandmothers’ couches. Inner city services like schools, libraries, recreational facilities, public health and police are so minimal they can be considered to not exist. Along with this, the recent housing bust is leaving swatches of empty foreclosed houses, while planned factory closures guarantee to make the situation worse. 

Berkeley lies between two Bay Area cities - Richmond and Oakland - that have more than their share of decay and  blight. Despite its suburban university self-image, Berkeley is also a city with a density greater than either Oakland or Richmond along with almost twice the national rate of property crimes.  It has urban problems - congestion, parking, noise, murder. traffic fatalities, empty storefronts, drugs, gangs, environmental pollution, wilding, alienation, poverty and homelessness - particularly in its densest neighborhoods south and west of the university. Over the past twenty-five years the commercial areas in these neighborhoods have lost much of their vitality as locally owned, neighborhood friendly businesses have been priced/pushed out by chains who then, when profits dried up, moved on leaving behind sites empty so long they appear to be permanently abandoned. With every turn of the screw the response by the City in collusion with the University has been the same old same-old: build more bigger, taller buildings Downtown. This solution is not sustainable. It is not working, has not, will not work. 

Other cities now realize this. Planners in Chicago are working with neighborhoods to bring about solutions that will strengthen their local communities. Pittsburgh, PA has committed itself to local public education. Detroit and Youngstown, OH are moving toward ‘shrinking’ themselves to create green, livable urban areas.  

Here in the East Bay we have so many people with good, workable sustainable ideas, like Van Jones, Carl Anthony, Alice Waters and the community gardening and historical preservation folk that it would be almost criminal to settle for a model that has a fifty year history of failure.  

So yes, I am opposed to a policy that has contributed so much to global warming.  

Not in my backyard. 


Joanne Kowalski is a central Berkeley resident. 


The Public Eye: Why Isn’t There a Left-Wing Conspiracy?

By Bob Burnett
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:26:00 AM

In 1998, then First Lady Hillary Clinton famously observed that a “vast right-wing conspiracy” was subverting her husband’s presidency. A decade later, a similar gang of Republican miscreants has mobilized to bring down the Obama administration and healthcare reform. Recent conservative attacks resulted in the firing of Van Jones. Didn’t liberals learn anything from the coordinated assaults on the Clinton administration? Why isn’t there a left-wing “conspiracy” to counter the kamikaze tactics of the right? 

The conservative attack machine has three components. The first is political. Conservatives have adopted what Clinton adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, termed the perpetual campaign. As soon as Barack Obama was inaugurated, Republicans went on the offensive, aiming to diminish the new president’s popularity and to increase GOP congressional numbers in the mid-term election. 

The right wing reiterates a simple theme: Obama is wrong for America. Beginning with the economic stimulus legislation in mid-February, Congressional Republicans have dogmatically opposed every Obama initiative. Meanwhile, the conservative spin machine has cranked out daily messages that denigrated Democratic proposals—Obama’s program will lead to socialism—and attacked members of the Obama administration, such as Van Jones. 

The GOP’s daily messages are relentlessly negative and designed to evoke fear: Everything you hold dear is about to be taken from you. While some Republican missives seem nonsensical—Obama is not an American citizen—their thematic unity plays on visceral conservative emotions: People who are not real Americans are ruining the United States. 

As a result, right-wingers have begun to describe themselves as “patriots” and assert that they want to “take back the country.” Heavily armed, they favor “sovereignty,” a blanket assertion of state’s rights that would diminish the power of the Federal government and, they hope, put white folks back in control. 

The second component of the right-wing media strategy is sociological. The conservative attack machine broadcasts to those who did not vote for Obama in November—46 percent of voters who are overwhelmingly white, Protestant, and conservative. The negative messages resonate because Republican voters operate in an information “silo,” where their news is supplied by reactionary radio hosts, Fox News and conservative Christian ministers. 

Since January, Republicans have solidified their base of McCain-Palin voters, who are overwhelmingly opposed to the Obama administration and Democratic initiatives. More importantly, GOP attacks have spilled over into the mainstream media, where they’ve eroded Obama’s support among Independents. 

Finally, the right-wing attacks have a psychological component. George Lakoff’s Moral Politics, observed that conservatives and liberals have different worldviews. The conservative view, the “Strict Father” model, is rule based: children are taught to respect and obey their parents and the rules they espouse. Conservative messages are framed from a rules-based worldview that encourages absolutist, “concrete operational” thinking. Obama is not a legitimate president because he didn’t follow the rules about citizenship. Democrats aren’t following the rules because they’ve allowed “giveaways” to special interests. 

There are several reasons why liberals haven’t been effective countering the right-wing spin machine. First, conservatives have an advantage because they only attack; they don’t propose solutions to real problems or alternatives to Democratic initiatives. The right-wing spin machine aims to bring down the Obama administration by maintaining that he is wrong for America. Therefore, conservatives blithely assert that, whatever ails the United States, government is not the solution, as the “free” market will fix all problems. 

Second, while the Obama administration has controlled the legislative agenda, the right wing has dominated the message agenda and, therefore, been more effective shaping public opinion. Until recently, the Obama administration did not frame their message so that it resonated with average Americans. This is beginning to change. On Sept. 9, Obama began talking about access to healthcare as a moral issue, evidence of “large-heartedness ... A belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play, and an acknowledgement that, sometimes, government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.” 

Third, while President Obama is a compelling speaker, it’s not his role to counter conservative attacks. There has to be two aspects of the Obama administration: one concerned with governance, running the White House, and a separate entity that’s directing the liberal version of the perpetual campaign—the left-wing spin machine. The latter has been missing-in-action since Obama’s election. 

It’s not a question of money. Liberals can raise enough money to counter the vast right-wing conspiracy. Rather, it’s a question of focus. After Obama’s election, liberals turned their attention to repairing America. While Democrats have to propose solutions to the mammoth problems created by eight years of Republican incompetence, it’s equally important to win the message wars. 

Liberals must wage their own perpetual political campaign and use it as a vehicle to counter the vicious right-wing attacks. There has to be a liberal message machine that on a daily basis battles for the hearts and minds of average Americans. 



Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bobburnett@comcast.net.

Undercurrents: Our Favorite East Bay Conservative Obsesses Over Race, Again

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:27:00 AM

One of the reasons I spend little time worrying about—much less answering—my many critics is that so many of them, bless their hearts, spend so little time in the verification process. 

In our modern times, too many charges are tossed out with only the echo chamber effect in mind. That is, if enough voices come back echoing the same the same charge, it does not matter if the facts asserted are true or not. There is a comfort in collective ignorance. 

That was my impression when I came across a late August entry on the East Bay Conservative blogsite disguising itself as a discussion about race (“Race, Race, Race 24/7”). 

The entry begins by the anonymous East Bay Conservative declaring that “I guess this might come as a surprise to Black people, but in my experience white men spend essentially zero time thinking about race and race relations. It’s just a total non-issue.” (Why it is the fashion for such blogsites to keep their posts anonymous is the subject of another discussion.) Anyways, the EB Conservative does not make the point that his/her “experience” may have nothing to do with what white men are actually thinking at all points during the day, but that somehow this “experience” extrapolates to a general truism about our good white friends. Or, at least, the male members of the group. 

Me, I don’t pretend to speak for all Black People, I never have, but speaking for myself and only myself, it comes as something of a surprise that anyone has the, um, cojones, in these days and times, to purport to speak for “white men” on any given issue. 

After saying that white men spend zero time thinking about race and race relations, the EB Conservative—presumably a white man himself because of the context, but I’m only extrapolating—then goes on to spend an entire blog entry talking about race and race relations, but then places the blame for it on the Black guy (in this instance, on me, not to put too fine a point on it). 

“The thing that brought this topic to mind today,” the EB Conservative explains, “was J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s latest article in the Berkeley Daily Planet.” The article in question was an Aug. 20, 2009 UnderCurrents column published in the Daily Planet and entitled “Despite Batts Appointment, Dellums Still Has Fences to Mend.” 

“Allen-Taylor’s article discusses,” the EB Conservative writes “the ‘African-American/progressive coalition’ which drafted Ron Dellums into running for mayor of Oakland. He talks about Councilmember Jean Quan as having an ‘Asian American’ base of financial contributors. Just for fun, I started using Google to do image searches for the list of people Allen-Taylor discussed in his article. Pretty much every single person he said clearly good things about is Black—Ron Dellums, Barbara Lee, Sandré Swanson, Keith Carson and new police chief Anthony Batts. Allen-Taylor seems more skeptical of Quan, and he doesn’t seem to like Phil Tagami (who doesn’t look Black to me), Gilda Gonzales and Ignacio De La Fuente.” 

There is something off-kilter about a person who writes a blog giving out views on Oakland political issues but then purports to have to do a Google search of the images of Oakland political figures to find out their race. Either that person spends little or no time in Oakland political circles, or else they are disingenuously trying to convince us that they are so “above” the issue of race that they never think of it when looking at others. I won’t try to figure out which. 

Anyway, I feel like the fellow at the funeral who kept rising out of his coffin to make sure it was he who they were talking about, not recognizing himself in the remarks people were getting up to say about him. I don’t recognize my original column in the summation the EB Conservative provides. 

Case in point. This is what—and all of what—I wrote about Congressmember Barbara Lee, California Assemblymember Sandré Swanson and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson in the original column: “It is hard to see a Barbara Lee or a Keith Carson or a Sandré Swanson emerging from the Dellums mayoral staff as such political powerhouses emerged from the Dellums Congressional staff.” 

This is what I wrote about Oakland City Councilmember Jean Quan: “Ms. Quan is a relentless campaigner, knows Oakland city issues, has the credentials to run Oakland government, has a strong base of popular support, will probably have access to the same vast Asian-American financial base that poured money into Wilma Chan’s campaign for state Senate last year, and has piled up considerable political credits over the years. … I think counting Ms. Quan out of the top tier of mayoral candidates is a mistake” 

Based in part upon these passages, the EB Conservative concluded that “pretty much every single person [I] said clearly good things about is Black,” while I “seem[ed] more skeptical of Quan.” 

Only if you didn’t actually read my original column. But that is often what these internet-driven “debaters” count on, that their readers and friends will only read their interpretations of other articles, without bothering to look for themselves at the original articles. Thus the echo chamber, where misinterpretations are confirmed over and over, in a closed debating circle. 

The EB Conservative goes on to write that “to be fair, Allen-Taylor is largely reporting the views of others in this piece, so this tendency probably has less to do with him and more to do with the ‘African-American/progressive coalition’ he’s describing. But, I’ve called him on this question of race bias in the past, and he has more or less admitted it when it comes to his support of Dellums. My recollection is that he argued that there’s nothing wrong with one Black guy supporting another.” 

While I cannot remember this particular exchange with EB Conservative—strange, because we’ve had so few exchanges—but I would certainly agree with the contention that “there’s nothing wrong with one Black guy supporting another.” Why would there be? I also see nothing wrong with a white guy, or girl, supporting another, or an Asian-American or Latino guy or girl supporting another. Or a Black guy supporting a Latino girl. Or an Asian-American girl supporting a white guy. 

But that isn’t the point EB Conservative is not-so-subtly making is it? The point she (or he) is making is that there is something inherently suspect about an African-American supporting another African-American for political office. White folks support white folks for office all the time without the issue of racial bias being raised. But in the type of thinking advanced by EB Conservative, an African-American supporting another African-American for political office must be doing so-not for political reasons-but for reasons of racial solidarity. 

But how is it that I came to be identified with “supporting” Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums? 

To a great degree, it is because I choose not to blindly trot behind the collection of Oakland critics when they throw buckets of criticism at the mayor. If their criticisms are valid, I agree with them. But for the most part, I’ve found those criticisms far off the mark. 

A case in point is a recent entry concerning the upcoming Oakland mayoral race in the Oakland blog of the San Francisco Chronicle (“Mayor’s Race Starting To Take Shape,” Sept. 18). 

In the entry, the blogger, Jonathan Blair, writes in part that “Ron Dellums … never found his footing and lost credibility with the public when he failed to fire former City Administrator Deborah Edgerly for weeks after she was publicly accused of interfering in a police gang investigation on behalf of her nephew, a city employee.”  

That depends upon your definition of “weeks.” 

My records indicate that even though the incident in which Ms. Edgerly was alleged to have interfered with a police investigation occurred on June 7, the first news reports that Mr. Dellums was looking into those allegations were broadcast by Channel 5 News on June 19. That was followed up quickly over the next three days by news accounts in the Tribune and the Chronicle, and columns by Chronicle columnists Chip Johnson and Matier & Ross, all repeating the allegation. 

On Tuesday, June 23, Mr. Dellums and Ms. Edgerly held the famous press conference in which Mr. Dellums said he had found no information to justify disciplining the City Manager, and Ms. Edgerly announced her December retirement. 

Over that weekend and immediately following the press conference, there were repeated calls by Oakland officeholders that Mr. Dellums suspend Ms. Edgerly over those allegations, not fire her. (“People were outraged, and justifiably so,” said City Councilwoman Pat Kernighan. “How can somebody be accused of something so serious and then there is no action whatsoever? She should have been placed on administrative leave immediately.” Matier & Ross, June 26, 2009.) 

Six days later, Mr. Dellums put Ms. Edgerly on administrative leave for reasons not directly related to the original allegations of interfering with the police. On July 1 he fired her for insubordination.  

By my count, it took Mr. Dellums 13 days to fire Ms. Edgerly from the day it became publicly reported that he was looking into the allegations against her. While it has never been publicly determined when Mr. Dellums began his investigation, to my knowledge no public criticism of his actions was issued prior to the June 19 Channel 5 report.  

I know that many of my friends in the two local daily papers-the Chronicle and the Tribune-wrote continually last summer that Mr. Dellums bungled the Edgerly matter, and many people in Oakland hold to that belief. Myself, I happen to believe that firing a major city official in 13 days counts as a deft bureaucratic maneuver. And that, in part, is why have refused to chime in with the criticisms of Mr. Dellums on that point. 

But hindsight should give everybody a better perspective on this issue. Who made any allegations against Ms. Edgerly about interference with a police investigation, and what came of those allegations? In the summer of 2008 there was a lot of talk and rumor about investigations into Ms. Edgerly’s alleged conduct. If any such investigations were undertaken they seem to have ended without action against her, not even a murmur. But those who convicted Ms. Edgerly because of what they read from Chip Johnson and Matier & Ross appear to have conveniently overlooked that fact. Because if Ms. Edgerly did not interfere with an Oakland police action, as was widely alleged, then perhaps Mr. Dellums did not err in refusing to suspend her over those allegations. And that conclusion would not fit with the philosophy of that corps of hard-core critics of Mr. Dellums that he must be criticized for all things at all times, regardless of the weight or truth behind those criticisms. 

But there is a final note of irony in the complaints by EB Conservative about my Aug. 20 column, that irony implied in the title “Despite Batts Appointment, Dellums Still Has Fences to Mend.” The column, as indicated, was in part a criticism of the Dellums Administration. I wrote that when Mr. Dellums was elected, “it was assumed that the best and the brightest would flock to Oakland to work in a Dellums administration, and the most significant problem would be finding enough room at City Hall and within the city’s boundaries and budget to harness and use all the expected incoming talent. That, of course, has not happened. … [I]t is the failure to attract major talent to the city that has been the administration’s biggest single and actual disappointment. Until the Batts appointment, in fact, the Dellums administration was best-known for the chance that got away, the failure to put a star quality player in the post of city administrator.” 

I’ve made other criticisms of the Dellums administration in this column, my own criticisms, not the echo of others. But these don’t get repeated by my friends like the East Bay Conservative because to do so would mean to admit that a Black man was criticizing a Black man, and that would mean to admit that Black guys don’t always stick together simply because of race, which would throw out the entire premise of the East Bay Conservative’s recent blog entry, that race and Black racial solidarity is my main consideration in writing these columns. 


About the House: All About Gutters

By Matt Cantor
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:52:00 AM

Now this is a dopey little subject in the face of all the larger issues that one might discuss regarding our homes (not to mention war, famine or social injustice), but it keeps coming up and there are valuable points and, well, a review of this minor but worthy set of issues is long overdue. 

When roofs leak, it’s a fairly big deal for people, though it’s never on my list of top 10 problems. It doesn’t kill; it damages fairly slowly; it’s easy to find (usually), and it’s not the most expensive repair that home ownership brings.  

People are always surprised when I say this, but, if you use that worst-case scenario thinking I so dearly rely on every day, it ends up ranking somewhere between a lack of really good mustard in the house and not getting the best calculus teacher in a community college class. Bad, but not worth missing a night’s sleep. 

And gutters matter less than roofs. They are appendages to assist in small ways, but they don’t affect the space-time continuum more than a wee tiny bit. Gutters are often claimed by those who know relatively little about soil drainage issues to be a major source of drainage problems. Maybe that’s a bit harsh but that’s how I’m feeling tonight. Damned Facebook. 

Gutters can, in fact, direct water much more effectively at a vulnerable portion of one’s foundation than no gutter at all, but, if they do their job well, they can help to move water away from the foundation, and this is where our story starts. 

As I’ve just noted, a gutter can create a real problem, but it generally takes quite a long time (decades) and some endemic (or that catchword of the month … pre-existing) conditions to come to fruition.  

If I dump all the rain water on one side of my roof right on one corner of a foundation that has a very small footing (one that bears upon a small area of soil) then, over time, it will wash away some of the soil below that footing and can, if the conditions are right, cause that foundation section to droop, crack and, by someone’s metric, fail. Again, this requires a smallish footing since a footing that spreads the weight of the house over a large area will be less affected by the loss of some soil. This is a basic principle in foundation design and is why we tend to see either deep legs (piers) or fat, wide footings or slabs used in modern houses. They tolerate these inequities of support better than small foundations that bear the load of large houses. 

All that said, I haven’t seen tons of this in the hundreds of houses I’ve looked at. Occasionally—a few times a year—I will see a corner (or maybe two) of a house right next to a downspout, or next to the trough of water created downhill of a downspout, that is clearly failing from the loss of soil.  

Again, it’s important to note that, were there no gutter and downspout and the natural flow along the grade were to be restored, there would probably be less loss than in the case where the downspout takes all the water off the roof and dumps it with some modest velocity right at the side of a foundation.  

Logic dictates two course of action, one clearly better than the other. Either have no gutters at all and let water disperse along the entire length of the foundation as the roof shape dictates or, better, gather all the water off the roof in some neat fashion and take it away.  

There are other reasons to want to use gutters and one of these is to make it more pleasant entering or walking around your house in the rain. It may seem a minor issue, but it’s nice and that’s where we’re at with gutters. 

An issue worthy of some actual attention is that that some houses have gutters that are attached, not to eaves projections but directly to the walls of the house. Sometimes there is a small separation that is filled with trims, but the basic effect is similar. These are potentially ruinous. The worst ones are the wooden ones of 80 years past that were first attached to the wooden framing of the house and then stuccoed into place, forming what could easily become a drainage pathway from a crack or rotten spot in the gutter right into the wall behind the stucco. You get the picture.  

These have provided lots of income opportunity for pest companies over the years and always get my attention. Gutters should be well away from the walls of the house and are just one more reason to love eaves. Modern architecture has been trying to get away from eaves for decades in the interest of modernity, and while I dig rock-and-roll music and space flight, wooden houses do better when there are eaves.  

This means it’s much harder to build properly (“to keep the water out”) and, over time, someone’s not going to roof right and it’s more likely to leak. It’s not fair to the third owner 25 years later. 

Here are a few suggestions about choosing and installing gutters. I have distinct preferences in this area, and they are all based on seeing the screw-ups and damage that inevitably occurs as the result of various choices. 

Given the types of gutters, I tend to prefer galvanized steel over either aluminum or plastic. It’s tougher and doesn’t get bent up the way aluminum often does (though they could make aluminum thicker and add more bends if they wanted to. If you shop far and wide, you could find really good aluminum gutters but most are second-rate). Plastic might be a good idea, but I have yet to see a single system that didn’t look weird or that didn’t pull apart, leak or have other problems. They are sold as easy to install, and that’s about the only merit they have. 

Copper is fabulous, of course and would be my first choice if I were the CEO of a health plan. If you can afford copper, it’s the way to go. Lasts eons and looks maaaahvelous. 

One last note on gutters (though there is actually so much more that could be said). Make sure they pitch to the drains. 

I’ve actually heard gutter installers (roofers most of the time) say that they install them with the roof line for looks, but that’s nuts. They should always drain at least a little bit in the direction of the downspouts. If a gutter sits dry most the time, it will last far longer. 

Gutters can be painted to increase their longevity, but be sure to use the appropriate primer. There is actually a primer for galvanized metal (who knew?), and using it adds years to the life of that paint job. Primers are always a good idea. 

Another set of items to include in your gutter life is strainers. These catch leaves and keep them from clogging the downspouts. They’re simple shapes formed from wire and often have the shape of a light bulb with the narrow part sliding down into the downspout a few inches. Clean these out every few month and your downspouts will stay free of clogging leaves, toys and bits of falling satellites.  

Now gutters are not that big a deal, except when they’re attached to the wall framing of your house, but they’re a nice neat way to deal with all excess water.  

If you take the water from the downspouts and direct it (pipe it?) to a well considered place, you’re better off, and it’s just more proof of how smart you really are! 


Matt Cantor owns Cantor Inspections and lives in Berkeley. His column runs weekly. 

Copyright 2009 Matt Cantor

Wild Neighbors: Southbound with the Western Tanager

By Joe Eaton
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:55:00 AM
Male western tanager; females have yellow heads.
Contributed photo
Male western tanager; females have yellow heads.

The handy thing about the songbird’s fall migration is that sometimes the birds come to you. You're not likely to find southbound shorebirds or geese in the typical Berkeley back yard. But we do get a steady trickle of warblers, vireos and flycatchers in late summer and early fall, and now and then a surprise. Last weekend I had a brief look at a female western tanager in the island mallow near the garage: a midsized yellow-green songbird with two yellow wingbars and a large pale bill; as far as I can recall, she was a new addition to the yard list. 

Western tanagers have always seemed like one of those quintessential Sierra birds. But they're not confined to the high mountains; the Contra Costa breeding bird atlasers has found them nesting in the Berkeley Hills, as well as the Diablo Range. Most likely the tanager in the yard came from the northern part of the species' range, which stretches as far as the Chilkat and Skagway rivers in Alaska. 

Males are unmistakable, with their blazing red heads. That color, it turns out, comes from an unusual pigment called rhodoxanthin, which seems to be sequestered from insects they eat. I have to wonder if males and females have different dietary preferences; not sure anyone has investigated that. The other North American tanagers—summer, scarlet, and hepatic—get their reds from a more common type of carotenoid pigment, as do male house finches. 

The female in my yard was about on schedule for her species. A few precursors reach Southern California as early as mid-July, but the peak of the California migration spans late August through late September. Stragglers have been seen as late as November. At least in southern British Columbia, adults head south first. They fly by night, most traveling singly or in pairs but sometimes in groups of up to 30. They're suspected of being high fliers, since their nocturnal flight calls have never been documented. 

Some western tanagers only travel as far as the coastal region from Santa Barbara to San Diego, where about 75 are documented each year in the Audubon Christmas Bird Counts. They're attracted to flowering eucalyptus trees, feeding on nectar and insects. (Eucs can be dangerous to smaller songbirds like warblers, gumming up their beaks; it's not clear if the tanagers are also affected.) 

The bulk of the migrants, though, are headed for western Mexico (from southern Baja California and central Sonora southward), Guatemala, and Costa Rica. In Mexico they frequent the pine-oak woodlands of the Sierra Madre, and sometimes high-altitude fir forests. Wintering tanagers in Costa Rica use a wider range of habitats, including deciduous forests, scrub and second-growth, and open areas. 

Like many neotropical migrants, western tanagers adopt a different set of behaviors on their wintering grounds. Solitary during the nesting season, they often join mixed-species foraging flocks in winter. Flocking provides more eyes to search for food and detect predators. Northern birds often team up with resident species. In Oaxaca, three tanagers were observed associating with house finches and several warbler species in a fruiting fig tree. Primarily insect-eaters on their breeding grounds, these birds may eat more fruit in winter if it's available. Costa Rican sojourners glean insects from branches and flycatch from the crowns of trees. 

In a real sense, songbirds that winter in Mexico and points south are returning to their evolutionary roots. We like to think of them as “our” birds, but most of these groups originated in the tropics and still spend half their lives there. The tanagers' ancestors expanded their breeding ranges northward to take advantage of the spring flush of insects at higher latitudes and the lower incidence of nest predation.  

The catch, of course, is getting from Point A to Point B without flying off course, slamming into a high-rise building or radio tower, or being nailed by a hawk or cat—and then finding the right habitat still there at the end of the journey. With massive clearcutting for poppy and marijuana plantations, the Sierra Madrean forests are in grave trouble, and so are its specialist bird species. E.O. Wilson says we've lost at least 70 percent of the neotropical dry forest where many winter migrants winter.  

Western tanagers, fortunately, seem flexible in their requirements. They'll raid ripe figs, take seed from feeders, even pick through trash in logging camps. With luck, we'll have these striking birds around for a while.

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:50:00 AM



Robert Scheer and Peter Richardson in conversation about “A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America” at 7:30 p.m. at FCCB, in the sanctuary at 2345 Channing Way at Dana. Enter from courtyard. Tickets are $6-$15. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Carolina De Robertis reads from her novel “The Invisible Mountain” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


Greek National Opera “Le Nozze di Figaro” Thurs.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 3rd St., Oakland. Tickets are $25-$35.Free for children 12 and under. www.bayareaBACH.org 

Music in the Redwood Grove at 5:30 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $12-$15. For reservations call 643-2755.  

Luminaries, Souleye, DC at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $13-$10. 525-5054.  

Ellis Paul & Antje Duvekot at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Modesto Brisenio Septet, featuring Bob Kenmotsu at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Guitar vs Gravity, Spidermeow at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Tian Gong Celestial Music at 7:30 p.m. at D. King Gallery, 2284 Fulton St. Cost is $20. 883-1920.  

The Sacred Profanities at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 




Alameda Civic Light Opera “Hair” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Kofman Theater, 2200 Central Ave., Alameda, through Sept. 27. Tickets are $30-$34. 864-2256.  

Altarena Playhouse “The Nerd” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through Oct. 25. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553.  

Aurora Theatre “Awake and Sing!” through Sept. 27, at 2081 Addison St. Tickets are $15-$55. 843-482. 

Belleherst Productions “See Me! Hear Me!” Fri. at 8 p.m. and Sun. at 7 p.m. at The Berkeley City Club. Discussion follows. Tickets are $7.50-$10. www.belleherst.com 

Berkeley Rep “American Idiot” at 2025 Addison St., through Nov. 1. Tickets are $32-$86. www.berkeleyrep.org 

Contra Costa Civic Theatre “Harvey” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through Oct. 11 at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito. Tickets are $18, $11 for 16 and under. 524-9132. = 

Galatean Players Ensemble Theatre “Rivets” A musical based on Rosie the Riveter and Richmond’s Kaiser Shipyards, Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. on board the SS Red Oak Victory, 1337 Canal Blvd., Berth 6A, Richmond, through Sept. 27. Tickets are $15-$20. Rosies, WW2 Veterans and uniformed soldiers, free. 925-676-5705.  

Impact Theatre “See How We Are” A contemporary adaptation of “Antigone.” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through Oct. 17. Tickets are $12-$20. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Loot” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Sept. 26. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Shotgun Players “This World In A Woman’s Hands” The story of the WWII Victory warships and the African-American women who built them, with live acoustic bass by Marcus Shelby. Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage. 1901 Ashby Ave., through Oct. 18. Tickets are $18-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

“The Apple of Nobody’s Eye” On teaching in inner-city schools at 7 p.m., and Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at Montclair Presbyterian Church, 5701 Thornhill Drive, Oakland. Tickets are $10. www.mpcfamily.org 


“Bobbin Lace: The Taming of Multitudes of Threads” Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles, 2982 Adeline St. Exhibition runs to Feb. 1. LacisMuseum.org 


Berkeley Video and Film Festival Fri. and Sat. at the Landmark Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Ave. www.berkeleyvideofilmfest.org 

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” at 6:30 p.m. at Charles Chocolates, 6529 Hollis St., Emeryville. 652-4412, ext. 311.  


Friday Night Poetry at 7 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. www.expressionsgallery.org 

West Marin Review, readings by contributors, at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


Point Richmond Summer Concert with Lava, latin, at 5:30 p.m. and Birdlegg and the Tight Fit Blues Band, at 6:45 p.m. at Park Place at Washington Ave. in downtown Point Richmond. www.pointrichmond.com 

Dancing Under the Stars Salsa with Salsa Caliente at 8:30 p.m. at Jack London Square. Dance exhibition and lessons at 7:30 p.m. www.lindendance.com 

Greek National Opera “Le Nozze di Figaro” Thurs.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 3rd St., Oakland. Tickets are $25-$35.Free for children 12 and under. www.bayareaBACH.org 

University Symphony Orchestra with Michelle Choo, violin, at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $5-$15. tickets.berkeley.edu 

“Con Serrat en el Corazón” Homage to singer and composer Joan Manuel Serrat at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $16. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Joel Dorham Latin Jazz Octet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Kugelplex at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

GO Ensemble, world jazz, at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

John Gorka & Lucy Kaplansky at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Lucas Ohio at 8 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Donation $5-$10. 

The Dead Guise at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

The P-PL at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Oggi Beat at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Active Arts Theatre “Strega Nona” Sat. and Sun. at various times at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave, through Oct. 4. Tickets are $14-$18. 296-4433. activeartstheatre.org 

Babes in Toyland Puppet Show at 11 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. at at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. 296-4433.  


Berkeley Video and Film Festival from noon at Landmark Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $10-$13. www.berkeleyvideofilmfest.org 


“Through the looking glass” Artists Bruce Tamberelli, Darwin Price and Yvette M. Buigues interpret wonderland. Reception with a Mad Tea Party at 6 p.m. at Float Gallery, 1091 Calcot Place, Unit 116, Oakland. thefloatcenter.com 

“Improvised Branches” A survey of contemporary Bay Area art. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at ART@TheOakbook, 423 Water St., Oakland. 282-2139. www.theoakbook.com 


Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival with Robert Hass, David Mas Masumoto, Arthur Sze, Carol Moldaw and many others, from noon to 4 p.m. at Civic Center Park. Traditonal Strawberry Creek Walk at 10 a.m. just inside the UC campus at Oxford and Center Sts. 526-9105.  


Diana Rowan “Tales from the Harp” at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12, no one turned away. 549-3864. 

University Symphony Orchestra with Michelle Choo, violin, at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $5-$15. tickets.berkeley.edu 

Greek National Opera “Le Nozze di Figaro” at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 3rd St., Oakland. Tickets are $25-$35.Free for children 12 and under. www.bayareaBACH.org 

Golden Gate Boys Choir 20th Anniversary Fundraiser and CD release, from 9 to 11 a.m. at C’era Una Volta, 1332 Park St., Alameda $12 admission, includes continental breakfast plus performance. Children 6 and under free admission. For reservations call 887-4311. ggbc.org 

Sister I-Live, Sidewinders, Zulu Spear and others in a dance-Thon from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. 525-5045. 

Gabriela Lena Frank, Latin American classical music, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Robin Gregory & Her Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

John Gorka & Lucy Kaplansky at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

The Best Kept Secret at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10-$20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

The ZaZous at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Straggler, The Butlers, The Drowsy Holler at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

FenderCronin Band at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Pocket Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Charity Kahn & the Jamband at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


“In My View” Photographs by David Belove. Reception at 2 p.m. at the Jazzschool. 845-5373. 


Belleherst Productions “See Me! Hear Me!”at 7 p.m. at The Berkeley City Club. Discussion follows. Tickets are $7.50-$10. www.belleherst.com 


Egyptology Lecture: Ancient Nubia: A New View from the Fourth Cataract” Presented by Dr. Brenda Baker, Arizona State University at 2:30 p.m. in Barrows Hall, Room 20, Barrow Lane and Bancroft Way, UC campus. 415-664-4767. 


LastSundaysFest with music and performances from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on telegraph Ave., between Dwight and Bancroft. 

Chamber Music Sundaes A program of string chamber music at 3 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets at the door are $20-$25. 415-753-2792. www.chambermusicsundaes.org 

Nanette McGuinness and Megan McQuillan at 3 p.m. at the Christian Science Student Organization, 2601 Durant, donation at the door. 

Greek National Opera “Le Nozze di Figaro” at 3 p.m. at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 3rd St., Oakland. Tickets are $25-$35.Free for children 12 and under. www.bayareaBACH.org 

San Francisco Cabaret Opera “Solidarity” at 7 p.m., gala reception at 6 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $15-$20. 415-289-6877. www.goathall.org  

The ReSisters, satire and solidarity with Pat Wynne, Liliana Herrera and Hali Hammer at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Erik Jekabson & “Bay Area Composers’ Big Band” at 7 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Americana Unplugged: Corbin Pagter & Friends at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Teslim, Greek, Sephardic and Turkish traditionals, at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373.  

Bill Tapia and his Hawaiian Jazz Quartet at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  



Classical at the Freight at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House, 2020 Addison. Cost is $8.50-$9.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 



Peter Asmus in Conversation with Dan Kammen on “Introduction to Energy in China” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Max Blumenthal on “Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party” at 7:30 p.m. at FCCB, 2345 Channing Way at Dana. Tickets are $12-$15. www.brownpapertickets.com 


Clarinet Thing at 8 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $25, high school students, free, post-high school $10. www.berkeleychamberperform.org 

Beausoleil avec Michael Doucet at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun/Zydeco dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $18-$20. 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 

Classical at the Freight with Gabriela Lena Frank at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $8.50-$9.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 



Cine Cubano Film Fest “Tropicola” at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $17-$10 sliding scale. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 


Diane Ackerman on “Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day” at 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $10-$12. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Tao Lin reads from his latest novel “Shoplifitng from American Apparel” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Michael Shepler introduces “Dark Room Elegies,” a poem sequence on the life of photographer and revolutionary Tina Modotti, at 6:30 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. 


Wednesday Noon Concert Tribute to Messiaen with Jacqueline Chew, piano, at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864.  

Fond Farewell Series Musical Evening with Diana Stork and Portia Diwa, harpists at 7 p.m. at Grace North Church, 2138 Cedar St. www.gracenorthchurch.org 

Dazzling Divas, opera, at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre Resturant, 2629 Telegraph Ave. 

Brian Finnegan & William Couter at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Tony Peebles’ Strong Move Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ.  

Ethan Bixby and Friends at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Loveseat Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Matt Lucas at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  



“Sticky Earth” New ceramics by NIAD artists. Reception at 5 p.m. at NIAD Center for Art and Disabilities, 551 23rd St., Richmond. 620-0290. www.niadart.org 

“On the Road to Dharma” Works by Amy Oliver. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. Exhibit runs to Oct. 31. 848-1228. www.giorgigallery.com 


Round Belly Theatre Company “Orestia: Before the Furies” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Noodle Factory, 1255 26th St. at Union, Oakland. Suggested donation $10. www.roundbellytheatre.com 


Berkeley Film Foundation Grant winners honored at 6 p.m. at the Fantasy Building, 2600 Tenth St. Donation $100 benefits the Berkeley Film Foundation. filmberkeley.com 


Poetry of Protest Local poets present work focused on the realities of war and the current state of America’s Healthcare failures, at 7 p.m. at Café Mediterranean, Telegraph Ave. between Dwight and Haste. 

Celebrating 50 Years of Free Speech Readings from banned books with Mollie Katzen, Marissa Moss, Elisa Kleven, David Lance Goines and others at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Poetry Flash with Denise Newman and Sandra Stone at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. moesbooks.com 


Dervish at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Double Vision at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Bigelows Treehouse, Porkchop Express at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082.  



Altarena Playhouse “The Nerd” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through Oct. 25. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Berkeley Rep “American Idiot” at 2025 Addison St., through Nov. 1. Tickets are $32-$86. www.berkeleyrep.org 

Contra Costa Civic Theatre “Harvey” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through Oct. 11 at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito. Tickets are $18, $11 for 16 and under. 524-9132. www.cct.org 

Impact Theatre “See How We Are” A contemporary adaptation of “Antigone.” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through Oct. 17. Tickets are $12-$20. impacttheatre.com 

Round Belly Theatre Company “Orestia: Before the Furies” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Noodle Factory, 1255 26th St. at Union, Oakland. Suggested donation $10. www.roundbellytheatre.com 

Shotgun Players “This World In A Woman’s Hands” The story of the WWII Victory warships and the African-American women who built them, with live acoustic bass by Marcus Shelby. Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage. 1901 Ashby Ave, through Oct. 18. Tickets are $18-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

Woman’s Will “The Clean House” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way, through Oct. 10. Tickets are $15-$25. 420-0813. www.womanswill.org 


City of Berkeley Civic Center Art Exhibition Works by Berkeley artists on display Mon.-Fri. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Martin Luther King Civic Center, 2180 Milvia St., through Dec. 11. 981-7533. 

The El Cerrito Art Association’s 33rd Annual Art Show Meet the Artists reception at 7:30 p.m. at the El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane. ALso Sat. from noon to 7:30 p.m. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  

Art Attack! A special event for California Arts Day, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Eclectix Gallery, 10082 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. www.eclectix.com 

Tarra Lyons “Transmutation” and Joan Weiss “Reckless Blooms” Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Mercury 20 Gallery, 25 Grand Ave., Oakland. 701-4620. www.mercurytwenty.com 

“Longing for the Background” Thérèse Lahaie’s sculptures, photography and site-specific installations. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary, 25 Grand Ave., upper level, Oakland. Exhibition runs to Nov. 21. 415-577-7537. www.chandracerrito.com 

“The Human Face of Death Row” Art by Kevin Cooper, James Anderson and Edie Vargas, two of whom are on death row, and the third has a life sentence. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Rock Paper Scissors Gallery, Telegraph and 23rd St., Oakland. www.nodeathpenalty.org 

“This Long Road” work by Derek Weisberg, Crystal Morey, and Ben Belknap. Reception at 7 p.m. at The Compound Gallery, 6604 San Pablo Ave., Oakland thecompoundgallery.com 

Robert Rickard, metal wall art at Christensen Heller Gallery, 5829 College Ave., Oakland, through Nov. 1. 655-5952. www.christensenheller.com 

“Embracing the Spirit” Works by artists who teach art to children. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Museum of Children’s Art Gallery, 472 Water St., Oakland. 

23rd Annual Emeryville Art Exhibition Opening reception at 6 p.m. at 5815 Shellmound Way, Emeryville. Exhibition runs to Oct. 25. 652-6122. www.emeryarts.org 

“Faces and Places” Paintings by Damon Rodrigues. Opening reception at 1 p.m. at Alameda Museum, 2324 Alameda Ave., off Park St. 521-1233. www.alamedamuseum.org 

“Writer in Residence” Group art show in mixed media. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Frank Bette Center for the Arts, 1601 Paru St., Alameda. 523-6957. www.freankbettecenter.org 


Banned Book Week at Berkeley Public Library with readings from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Library Plaza, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6100. berkeleypubliclibrary.org 

“Celebrating Fr. Damien” A reading by Mary O’Donnell from her manuscript “The Exiles” an historical novel on the life of Fr. Damien of Molokai at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison St.  


Highlands Meets Lowlands Andean and Venezuelan harp tradtions at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $13-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Macy Blackmand & The Mighty Fines at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Agualibre, LoCura at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10, $8 with bike. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

WomenGig@Trieste with The Kitty Rose Trio at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave. Suggested donation 10-15. 548-5198. 

The Good Friends Trio with Maria Marquez, Hugo Wainzinger and Jonathan Alford at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15-$18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Ramana Viera and Ensemble, Portuguese world music, at 8 p.m. at Art House, Gallery & Cultural Center, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10-$15. 472-3170. 

Tony Marcus at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Damage, Inc., Paradise City, Aaron Pearson at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 



Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Jerry Kennedy at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Saturday Stories “Jackson and Bud’s Bumpy Ride: America’s First Cross-Country Automobile Trip” read by author Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff at 1 p.m. at Museum of Children’s Art, 538 9th St., Oakland. 465-8770. www.mocha.org 

Active Arts Theatre “Strega Nona” Sat. and Sun. at various times at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave, through Oct. 4. Tickets are $14-$18. 296-4433. activeartstheatre.org 

Babes in Toyland Puppet Show at 11 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. at at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. 296-4433. activeartsttheatre.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 


“Metaphysical Abstraction: Contemporary Approaches to Spiritual Content” Opening Reception at 5 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center. 644-6893. berkeleyartvcenter.org 

“Faces and Places” Paintings by Damon Rodrigues. Opening reception at 1 p.m. at Alameda Museum, 2324 Alameda Ave., off Park St. 521-1233. www.alamedamuseum.org 


Bay Area Poets Coalition open reading from 3 to 5 pm. at Strawberry Creek Lodge, 1320 Addison St. Park on the street. 527-9905. 


San Francisco Cabaret Opera “Solidarity” at 8 p.m.at Flux53 Theater/Artspace, 5306 Foothill Boulevard, Oakland. Tickets are $15-$20. 415-289-6877. www.goathall.org  

Festival of the Harps, featuring over 35 harp groups, from 5 to 9 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave. Oakland. Tickets are $10-$20. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Oakland East Bay Symphony “An Evening with Denyce Graves” at 8:30 p.m. at The Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $60-$125. www.oebs.org 

Jackie Payne, Dennis Wilmerth, Jada Simone in a free concert from 1 to 5 p.m. in People’s Park. Presented in conjunction with Single Payer Healthcare Not War. 

Concert for Labor & Human Rights with George Mann at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship Unitarian Universalists 1924 Cedar at Bonita. Suggested donation $5. 495-5132. www.bfuu.org 

The Marlenes at 6:30 p.m. at Bacheeso’s Garden Bistro, 2501 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 644-2035. 

Mucho Axe CD release party at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Carlos Oliveira and Ana Carbatti at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Youssoupha Sidibe at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Walcott’s Medicine Show at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Sephardic Music Experience with Kat Parra at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Kurt Ribak Jazz Trio at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

The Zony Mash with Horns at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 



Octopretzel at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


Shepherd’s Crook, Zack Bateman & the Spirit in the Basement and others in a benefit for Children’s Hospital at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

UpSurge: Evolution of UpSurge at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Festival of Harps Fringe Festival with Ann and Charlie Heymann, Park Stickney and Rudiger Oppermann at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 




Film Festival Showcases the Indie Spirit

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:47:00 AM
David Silberberg’s documentary Oh My God! It’s Harrod Blank!, showing Saturday afternoon at the Berkeley Video and Film Festival, follows the exploits of Berkeley art car creator, filmmaker and art curator Harrod Blank, son of music filmmaker Les Blank.
David Silberberg’s documentary Oh My God! It’s Harrod Blank!, showing Saturday afternoon at the Berkeley Video and Film Festival, follows the exploits of Berkeley art car creator, filmmaker and art curator Harrod Blank, son of music filmmaker Les Blank.
Jeff Adachi, who directed The Slanted Screen, an examination of the history of Asians in American cinema that showed at a previous Berkeley Video and Film Festival, turns his camera this year to the story of Jack Soo, the Oakland-born late singer and actor, best-known for the TV series “Barney Miller,” who almost single-handedly shattered Asian-American stereotypes in Hollywood cinema and television.
Jeff Adachi, who directed The Slanted Screen, an examination of the history of Asians in American cinema that showed at a previous Berkeley Video and Film Festival, turns his camera this year to the story of Jack Soo, the Oakland-born late singer and actor, best-known for the TV series “Barney Miller,” who almost single-handedly shattered Asian-American stereotypes in Hollywood cinema and television.

“An independent cinematic marathon,” the self-description of the energetic 18th annual Berkeley Video and Film Festival, showing Friday night and Saturday at Shattuck Cinemas, seems to be the fairest way to depict the ongoing screenings that bring back something of the feel—the exhilaration—of great film festivals of yore, which these days often hold fewer surprises and discoveries than crowds, high per-show ticket prices and the tired format of a typical official event.  

But the low Berkeley Video and Film Festival ticket price and viability may be the clincher: $13 general admission, $10 students and seniors, “valid all day and night.” 

“Dodge out and back in—that’s the marathon approach to a festival, the way we like it,” said Festival Director Mel Vapour.  

Vapour spoke with enthusiasm about this year’s program, its history and the state of independent video and filmmaking while he and festival co-founder Paul Kealoha Blake were engaged in a marathon of their own, preparing for opening night. The festival is under the aegis of the East Bay Media Center, the nonprofit Vapour and Blake founded in 1980.  

This year, the offerings range from feature documentaries to ethnographic shorts and experimental shorts to full-length features.  

Jeff Adachi’s You Don’t Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story (1:15 p.m. Saturday) covers the career and travails of the Oakland-born late singer and actor Jack Soo (best-known for the TV series “Barney Miller”). David Silberberg’s doc Oh My God! It’s Harrod Blank! is about Berkeley art car creator, filmmaker and art curator Harrod Blank, son of music filmmaker Les Blank (5:18 p.m. Saturday). Words of Advice: William S. Burroughs on the Road is a Danish-produced doc of the public and private faces of the late, great vernacular satirist as he traveled to read aloud and perform his “routines” (8:10 p.m. Saturday). Holland Wilde’s Zapook of the North is billed as “a sociocultural memory mash-up” (11:18 p.m. Saturday). And Neil Ira Needleman’s I Know Who Really Sent the Anthrax Letters (7:58 p.m. Friday) is an experimental short like “What family secrets are hidden in the grainy images of ancient 8mm celluloid? Something to think about the next time you open your mail.” The festival also showcases full-length features like Sarba Das’ Karma Calling (“a fable about hope and love for a family of Hindus from Hoboken,” 9:35 p.m. Friday) and short features, like Andrea Lodovichetti’s Under My Garden (Sotto Il Mio Giardino), a kind of “miniature Rear Window told from a child’s perspective,” which has won a Golden Globe and prizes from over 30 international festivals, including Cannes (9:15 p.m. Friday). 

Films and videos such as these, over a wide range stylistically and in subject matter, are programmatically blended, often back-to-back, with student filmmakers, such as Kellan Moore’s The Girl in the Window (7:44 p.m. Friday) or Maria Jose Calderon’s The Edge of the Sea, about “a Puerto Rican fisherman trying to stop coastline development” (3:54 p.m. Saturday). 

“You could do a doubletake, seeing who’s on screen,” said Vapour. “The digital revolution so empowered independent filmmaking—camera technology, editing especially, though high definition will be the equalizer—that independent and commercial filmmaking are on an egalitarian plateau at this point. And so we put a 17-year-old producer up against a seasoned veteran because of the qualitative aspects. Again, you might do a doubletake watching Kellan Moore’s Girl in the Window: ‘A Disney film?’ You just have to shake your head. A teenager has the skill set in their bedroom to be an indie—and I say hats off to the educational facilities doing media training.” 

Vapour spoke of the festival’s beginnings and history: “Initially, in ’91 it started as an East Bay-centric sort of affair, a venue for indie and student film and videomakers to show their wares. It was presented in Schwimley Auditorium [Berkeley High School], to a sell-out crowd.” 

Vapour, who first submitted a film of his own to a festival in 1965, the third year of the first festival for independents, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, recalled the early days, “when there were maybe four [festivals] total; there have to be two to three hundred now.” 

He continued telling of the Berkeley festival’s beginnings. “It started to grow. The audience base had developed more appetite for independent cinema. We expanded into the old UC Theater on University, a 900-seat-plus venue—and we were filling it. We were going beyond our parameters and starting to get a reputation. New festivals were fast germinating: the Film Arts Foundation started theirs in San Francisco; the Mill Valley Film Festival began in Marin. 

“We carved out our niche and presentation style,” Vapour went on, “marathon screening, back-to-back. Many fimmakers hit the screen: Nick Saunders, Robert Greenwald, Mark Birnbaum ... We showed at various places on campus, including Wheeler Auditorium—and in what was really our home, the Fine Arts Cinema, with the right amount of seats. Towards the end, we were turning away literally hundreds from screenings of Unconstitutional, Robert Greenwald’s film, which we premiered. It was sad to see the Fine Arts turn into one of Patrick Kennedy’s restaurants. We were in the Oaks Theatre for three or four years—and had been getting a lot of inquiries from Landmark, dedicated to digital cinema, who had locked onto indie cinema as promoters.” 

Vapour concluded with a word about the range of what’s available today in video and film: “We’re seeing the emergence, for one thing, of a new documentary format—almost a new documentary entertainment style—like with Tao Ruspoli’s Behind the Wheel (9:25 p. m. Saturday), going through the South in a hi-tech-equipped school bus prior to the election, not on a ‘red’ and ‘blue’ states thing, but an examination of the Southern Heartland on where we’re all going politically, artistically, spiritually; the format very gritty, very real ... So many different approaches—and still today we have a niche for making purist cinema.” 




7:30–11 p.m. Friday; noon to midnight Saturday at Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Ave. $13 general, $10 students and seniors. Box office: 464-5980; info: 843-3699 or www.berkeleyvideofilmfest.org.

Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ at Berkeley Rep

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:48:00 AM
The world premiere of Green Day’s American Idiot, staged by Tony-winning director Michael Mayer at Berkeley Rep.
Photo courtesy of mellopix.com
The world premiere of Green Day’s American Idiot, staged by Tony-winning director Michael Mayer at Berkeley Rep.

Amid all the preshow hoopla and media ballyhoo, Berkeley Rep premiered the onstage version of Berkeley’s Grammy-winning rock group Green Day’s American Idiot, with an aftershow party sprawling out of the Roda Theatre, across the courtyard, and onto the thrust stage, where a skating rink-like disco held forth.  

Groaning buffets, wetbars, liquored-up sno-cones—and of course the pièce-de-resistance, lest we forget, the stage musical version of Green Day’s hit rock opera, sandwiched somewhere between. 

On a set bursting with video screens and repros of rock posters (Dead Kennedys and The Minutemen, alas), the singers, on thrift-store furniture, faced the audience; Johnny (John Gallagher, Jr.) made a petulant rockstar leap on a platform bed, initiating the title song—chimes with American Idol—with a flow of derisive and self-derogatory post-adolescent angst with a tinge of social comment, castigating the media—perhaps bracketing those of us in the audience videoing and snapping pictures throughout the auditorium—and parodying or bonding with military figures in desert fatigues, dancing, lying prone, still or singing in hospital beds. And the 75-minute night wore on. 

Viewed online in live-performance clips or heard on their hit CD, Green Day’s own way of selling American Idol has something of the crispness, immediacy and story-telling style of good rock left to its own devices.  

But the stage version served up to us is really just a revue, scraping the bottom of the barrel for theatrical effects to dress what’s intended to be raw to make it seem raw—a kind of double feedback or the gilding of a wilted lily. 

At one point, a young woman in veils and Disneyesque Orientalism is lowered on wires from the flies, imploring a wounded GI (or member of the band? As staged, it’s ambiguous; like artistic music videos, I guess) to fly away with her ... PETER PAN pirated! Tinkerbell as Scheherazde? Where’s the ticking crocodile? 

And we were assured by all concerned that it would be so special ...  

Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day says in the program that he was floored by Spring Awakening and how unconventional Michael Mayer—director and co-writer with Armstrong for the book, who “updated” Frank Wedekind’s great century-old play about the travails of youth in a repressive society (contemporaneous with but rather unlike Peter Pan)—is. And Tony Taccone of the Berkeley Rep says he first heard of Mayer’s brilliance from Tony Kushner, when Mayer directed Angels in America, which Taccone premiered at San Francisco’s Eureka Theater. 

And—maybe because it’s the season opener—the Rep took the opportunity to let its past flash before its eyes, eulogizing itself everywhere, as if American Idiot were the icing on the cake, the life work, the masterstroke ... instead of a Berkeley-is-Connecticutt tryout of an all-too-conventional revue for future New York City consumption. 

It’s hard to adapt rock to another medium. The exhilaration gets dampened or lost, along with the point. A few films found a kind of parallax view—Performance, Privilege, maybe Rock ’n’ Roll High School—but the special energy and intelligence of rock performance, as pioneered by Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, et al., and developed by Ike and Tina Turner, American and British bands of the 1960s and the likes of The Sex Pistols and The Bad Brains doesn’t translate easily—especially when the medium’s a pastiche of floorshow kitsch. 

The performers are pros and work hard, throwing themselves into it, singing, dancing, posing ... and the onstage musicians are perfectly competent or better (drummer Trey Files is especially worthy of mention). But Berkeley Rep’s done this sort of thing before, throwing everything in the closet at Carrie Fisher’s verbal noodling, trying to make a parlor piece look like theater.  

At one point, Johnny tells the audience he knocked over a convenience store to buy a ticket (a bus or plane ticket, apparently, not one to the show), then says, no, he stole the cash from his mother—well, his mother gave it to him, “the bitch!” 

My sentiments, exactly. 

If you can’t get a ticket to the Rep, and miss it at Midtown, too, cheer up—in a couple of years American Idiot will play your local casino as an oldies floorshow. 



Through Nov. 1 at the Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley. $32–$86. Visit www.berkeleyrep.org for tickets and  


Pacific Film Archive Celebrates Internat’l Home Movie Day

Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:39:00 AM

Got old family footage you’d like to see on the big screen? Once again, Pacific Film Archive is participating in the international celebration of Home Movie Day, inviting patrons to drop off their old films by Sept. 25 for consideration for screening on Oct. 17. Bring in your home movies, in 8mm, Super-8mm and 16mm formats, and PFA will include as many as possible in the screening, where participants are invited to share their films and memories.  

Home Movie Day’s mission is to provide a forum for old footage and to educate the public about film and video care, storage and transfer. For information on International Home Movie Day, see bampfa.edu or homemovieday.com. For home movie conservation tips, see the Home Film Preservation Guide at filmforever.org.

The Ever Affable ‘Harvey’ at Contra Costa Civic Theatre

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:49:00 AM

“As you can see, he’s a Pooka,” explains Elwood P. Dowd, straightening the tie and smoothing the ears of his big, invisible friend. “Don’t be disturbed. He stares like that at everybody.” 

Since the mid-20th century, in which time the play’s set, Harvey has seen multitudes come and go in leading and supporting roles—but the title role has always been played by the same six-foot (or so) invisible rabbit who originated the part. 

But not invisible to Elwood, whom Harvey befriended one evening many years before the play’s action (and there’s a lot of crazy action, as well as crazy talk; a little bit of both, appropriately enough, in a sanitarium). Elwood can see his dear friend and is eager to introduce him to everybody he meets. And Elwood meets and befriends everybody. 

A laconic James Stewart, playing it his own way, helped make Mary Chase’s comedy into a memorable motion picture.  

And the late Louis Flynn, who co-founded Contra Costa Civic Theatre with his wife Bettianne 50 years ago this season, made Elwood a signature role; in fact, this is the first time someone else has played the genial Mr. Dowd on the CCCT stage. Tom Reardon essays this plum role in his own comic fashion, quite differently. Where Jimmy Stewart, for example, was laid back, a little absent-minded but knowing, Reardon is bright-eyed, eager to please, a little manic. Together with the others in the cast, he brings in a funny show. 

Elwood’s cockeyed charm leaves his socially-minded sister Veta (Maureen-Theresa Williams) and aggressive niece Myrtle Mae (Liz Caffrey) cool, if not cold. Elwood inherited the family estate, in and on which the distaff side lives, from his and Veta’s mother (“I suppose because she died in his arms; people get sentimental about things like that!”), and this crimped mother-daughter act resents their dependence—on Elwood, and Harvey as well. 

So they decide to stuff their friendly benefactor in the booby hatch—Chumley’s Rest, named after its psychiatrist founder (Ken Ray as William R. Chumley, M. D.)—with the help of old family retainer, Judge Omar Gaffney (Phil Reed). 

But as that truly wise, somewhat misanthropic humorist James Thurber advised, “Don’t count your boobies before they’re hatched.” Much of the fun of the plot lies in the comings and goings of Myrtle Mae, Veta, the Judge, Doctors Chumley and Sanderson (Greg Milholland), Nurse Kelly (Liz Olds), Wilson the strong-arm orderly (Billy Raphael), Dr. Chumley’s charming wife Betty (Merle Nadlin, who in one short scene with Elwood in the moderne waiting room of the sanitarium—nicely designed by Matt Flynn, complete with framed Rorschach Tests—shows as fine a grasp of the tone of Harvey as anyone has in the cast), and cabbie E. J. Lofgren (Chris Harper)—who philosophizes that those he drives to the sanitarium are a happier (and better-tipping) bunch than those he brings back—all in pursuit of Elwood, or in flight of each other, while Mr. Dowd obliviously continues his constant round of socializing, befriending strangers, and doing anybody a favor who will accept it as such. 

There’s lots of good physical comedy (Olds seems particularly adept; Raphael and Caffrey make a funny team) and old-fashioned farcical chases and door-slamming—some of it by a big, invisible entity who, well, seems to grow on everyone. In fact, Dr. Chumley himself imbibes both libations and a few drams of nonpsychological truth in an evening out on the town with the boys. The old boy and the rabbit, that is. 

Harvey is of that line of comedies about American families composed of eccentrics, maybe most famously You Can’t Take It With You and other old chestnuts like Arsenic and Old Lace, as well as some others that also serve up a little hocus-pocus in the brew, like Bell, Book, and Candle. All seemed deliberately a little old-fashioned when they premiered, because all were intended to be gentle reminders of small-town virtues—friendliness, an easy-going demeanor, and the ability to pause for a few—or more than a few—moments to no practical end—which serve as antidote to that virulent other American practice of masquerading as success, social standing, professionalism and The Greater Good. The latter having cracked the whip on and stabbed many a back ever since Plymouth Rock landed on those poor Pilgrims, who were just trying to get away ... 

Harvey—and the best of those others like it—not only reminds but serves as a refresher course in kindness through laughter. The cast, under the direction of Kathleen Ray, the Flynn’s daughter, plays it for laughs. And the play’s chock-full of great, silly old vaudeville and burlesque ticklers—like when any particular, scheming doctor or half-threatening functionary asks that archetypal male ingenue Elwood, “Is there something I can do for you?” And he uncannily replies, “What do you have in mind?” 



8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 11 at Contra Costa Civic Theatre, 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito. $18; $11 age 16 and under. 524-9132. www.ccct.org.

SF Cabaret Opera Premieres ‘Solidarity’

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:49:00 AM

The world premiere of Solidarity, a chamber opera by composer-librettist Patrick Dailly about the Solidarity Movement in Poland from its inception until martial law was imposed in 1981, will be presented by San Francisco Cabaret Opera, with music direction by Mark Alburger and stage direction by Harriet March Page, this Sunday at 7 p.m. at Berkeley’s Live Oak Theater. Three additional shows will be presented the following weekends at Flux53, the new artspace/theater in near Mills College.  

The score, which “swings from klezmer to jazz to lyric opera,” is played on keyboard, clarinet and accordion, and the production’s 10 singers represent public figures such as Lech Walesa, General Jaruzelski, Breshnev, Ronald Reagan and the Pope, accompanied by projections of the historical figures.  

“There are three women streetsweepers who are like a Greek chorus,” said Page. “And there will be clowns at the end. We’ve got some really fine singers, some of them playing multiple roles.” 

The cast includes Kristen Brown, Eric Carter, Dalyte Kodzis, Julia Hathaway, Justin Marsh, Nathaniel Marken, Roger McCracken, Eliza O’Malley, Sarah-Nicole Ruddy-Carter and Indre Viskontas. Production design is by Roger McCracken, choreography by Dalyte Kodzis. 

“Patrick [Dailly] looked at our website in 2008 and was impressed by what he called ‘the radical tinge’ of our programming,” said Page. “We liked the piece and the idea. It struck my fancy. Patrick’s English-born, lives in the Netherlands, and has done a lot of musical theater. Solidarity also has a classical music complexity I like. The libretto is well-written, from actual events well-researched. It’s for a classical music audience as well as a classic musical theater audience.” 

Dailly, who attended the Royal Northern College of Music from 1967 to 1972, then toured with ’70s soul bands, wrote musicals in the ’80s and ’90s for the Edinburgh Festival and other festivals around the UK. His musical, Let’s Get Critical, won the Bath Festival Prize in 1998 and was performed in Paris by the Ensemble Aleph. 

Dailly has said the idea for Solidarity came out of “stumbling on The Mitrokhin Archive in my wife’s bookshop, a collection of KGB notes and minutes that were squirreled away by a KGB employee... kept secret in a glass bottle buried beneath his wooden house. Wading through the enormous tome, I discovered the involved game of chess the Kremlin was playing with Poland. It had all the necessary complications and human nastiness, ambition, ideology—lots of elements I thought would make a story ... and the stiff, upright military persona of Gen. Jaruzelski always hiding behind his sunglasses.”  

Dailly says the “key to this is that we lived in Moscow from 1994 to 1996, just after communism collapsed, and we had become darkly fascinated by what you might call the Russian Mind—nationalism, paranoia, brutality, state bullying combined with personal warmth and immense generosity on a one-to-one level.” 

Page spoke of how Cabaret Opera has been “excited about it for a year. We’d like to go around performing it at lots of places in the Bay Area. And it has an appeal for new audiences. We’ve been talking to colleges about staging it.” 

Now in its 13th season, San Francisco Cabaret Opera, the current manifestation of Goat Hall Productions, also produces the annual festival of new works, Fresh Voices. 



Presented by San Francisco Cabaret Opera at 7 p.m. Sunday (gala reception at 6 p.m.) as a special preview at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., and at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3 and Saturday, Oct. 10 at Flux53 Theater/Artspace, 5305 Foothill Blvd., Oakland. $20 general admission, $15 students and seniors. (415) 289-6877. www.goathall.org.

Moving Pictures: Work in All its Nobility and Drudgery: The Films of Ermanno Olmi

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:51:00 AM
Sandro Panseri plays a young man in search of a secure job in <i>Il Posto</i> (1961).
Sandro Panseri plays a young man in search of a secure job in Il Posto (1961).

Italian film director Ermanno Olmi spent much of his career examining people at work. He depicted work in all its nobility and suffering, showing his characters enjoying its rewards and facing down its drudgery.  

Pacific Film Archive is presenting a retrospective of the director’s films, “Life’s Work: The Cinema of Ermanno Olmi.” The series begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday with Time Stood Still (1959) and continues through Oct. 30. 

One of Olmi’s best-known films is Il Posto (1961), which screens at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3. Il Posto could almost be seen as a sequel to Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, presenting another quietly observant portrait of a young man suffering through a rite of passage. It’s as though the 13-year-old Antoine Donel of the earlier film has now grown into the 18-year-old Domenico Cantoni, sent by his parents into the big city of Milan to find a job. 

Il Posto fits in with the Italian neo-realism school of filmmaking in its presentation of a humanistic tale of youthful dreams and ambitions sacrificed at the altar of security and conformism. 

Domenico seems to dread his entry into the working world, a world presented as one of time-worn adults marking time in soulless, dreary employment. However, a ray of light appears in the form of a young woman named Antonietta (Loredana Detto), and her sparkling presence illuminates the screen as well as the life of the hero. Together they navigate the job application process and take pleasure in each other’s company, the two bright-eyed youths constituting a slightly subversive presence in an otherwise stale maze of corridors, offices and standard-issue furniture. 

The key to the film is Sandro Panseri, a non-professional actor with soulful eyes and the gentle, timid face of a youth trying to comprehend and master the ways of a foreign territory. He’s a small, skinny waif masquerading as a grown-up in ill-fitting grown-up clothing. He hits all the right notes and Olmi captures each one, showing us in wordless close-ups the fear, uncertainty, shyness and delight that flitter across the face of the young protagonist. 

But about three-quarters into the film, Olmi suddenly abandons the main character for an extended sequence in which we learn something of the personal lives of each one of a number of accountants at the unnamed firm where Domenico has landed. It may seem like a tangent at first, but the sequence marks the opening salvo in a tour de force closing sequence that drives home the film’s major themes. 

Domenico is promoted, and in an uncharacteristic but highly effective montage, Olmi shows us why. One of the accountants we’ve encountered has passed away, possibly by suicide, and his desk is turned over to Domenico, much to the dismay of his new colleagues. One, a 20-year veteran, complains to the manager, and when Domenico agrees to move to a desk in the back of the room, a frenzied and ruthless rush ensues as the other accountants begin a mad dash to claim the desk immediately in front of their own, a desperate game of musical chairs for which they’ve apparently been waiting for decades. 

The final shot shows Domenico watching a man at the front of the room as he cranks what appears to be a mimeograph machine, feeding paper into one end and removing it from the other as a deafening mechanical whirr dominates the soundtrack. The grind has begun. 

Yet as bleak as this conclusion may seem, it is also somewhat ambiguous, for throughout the film we have seen Domenico warmly befriended by the adults in his new environment, receiving a series of reassurances that a simpler life of lower expectations is not all bad but is in fact full of small pleasures. With these gentle moments of camaraderie and kindness, Olmi provides a welcome softening of the film’s sharp edge. 

Domenico may have found himself in a dispiriting situation, but there is still energy and vivaciousness and curiosity in his face, a sign that although life is certainly capable of pummeling the spirit out of a young man, he still has a choice—plenty of choices, really—and retains the power to shape his own destiny. And the fact that Domenico is able to so clearly see his predicament in the closing scene leaves us with hope that he has the strength and determination to overcome it, now that he finally understands it. 






Through Oct. 30 at Pacific Film Archive, 

2575 Bancroft Ave.  



IL POSTO (1961)  

93 minutes. 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3.

Community Calendar

Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:25:00 AM


BRT Locally Preferred Alternative Community Meeting at 7 p.m. at the Willard School Cafeteria. Residents of Willard, LeConte, Bateman, Halcyon and Claremont-Elmwood neighborhoods encouraged to attend. 

Free Speech Open Mic and KPFA Election Forum at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Ashby Village Community Meeting Information on a grassroots organization which provides resources to seniors to enable them to remain in their own homes, at 7 p.m. at West Berkeley Family Practice, 2031 Sixth St. 208-2860. www.ashbyvillage.org 

“Caring for the Dying” Film and discussion with Dr. Michelle Peticolas, filmmaker, student of Sufism and hospice at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalist Hall, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. SUggested donation $10. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org  

“Using Integrative Medicine to Control Weight & Chronic Illness” at 6:30 pm. at Berkeley West Branch Library, 1125 University Ave. Free. 981-6270. www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org 

Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum: 2009 Angel & Venture Capital Investment Overview at 6:30 p.m. in Andersen Auditorium, Haas School of Business, UC campus. Cost is $20-$30. 642-4255. http://entrepreneurship.berkeley.edu 

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at 7:20 p.m. at 4th St. Yoga, 1809C Fourth St. Free. 524-8833. 

Babies & Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

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. 

The Poetry Workshop, offered by the Berkeley Adult School, meets on Thurs. from 9 a.m. to noon in the library of the North Berkeley Senior Center. Writers of all skill levels are welcome. 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 


“People’s Park Still Blooming” Book release party at 7:30 p.m. at The Book Zoo, 6395 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 

“The Science of a Meaningful Life: Forgiveness and Gratitude” a seminar with Frederic Luskin and Robert Emmons, sponsored by The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at International House, Chevron Auditorium, 2299 Piedmont Ave. 643-8965. www.academeca.com 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Hans R. Gallas, Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas Collector on “Gertrude Stein and Oakland: Debunking the ‘There There’ Myth” 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 

Symposium for Independent Arts: A Day of Vision, Community & Action from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at The David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way. 415-738-4975. 

“The Flu is Coming!” a talk by Harvey Kayman, M.D. and MPH, Public Health Medical Officer for the California Department of Public Health at 8 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., Pt. Richmond. Free.  

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. 

Stand With Us Stand for Peace Stand with Israel vigil every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. www.sfvoiceforisrael.org 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Fri. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 


Richmond Shoreline Festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline with live music, children’s activities and guided walks. 544-2233. 

Berkeley Architectural Heritage Fall Walking Tour of West Berkeley Berkeley’s oldest district, once the independent town of Ocean View, abounds in historic relics and early Victorian architecture, retaining its charming village-like character. Walk is level and accessible, along sidewalks. From 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $10-$15, $40-$50 for the series. 841-2242. berkeleyheritage.com 

Help Ready Cerrito Creek for Rains Meet at 10 a.m. at Creekside Park, south end of Santa Clara Ave., El Cerrito. All ages welcome, snacks, tools, and gloves provided. 848-9358. www.fivecreeks.org  

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 

Festival of Gressroots Economics A bottom-up trade fair showing people working together, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St, Oakland. Free. www.jasecon.org 

Free Car Seat Checks From 10 a.m. to noon officers from the Berkeley Police Department will offer a car seat safety check on the 5th level of the Allston Way Garage, 2061 Allston Way between Milvia and Shattuck. Four out of five car seats are installed incorrectly. Parking will be validated by Habitot. 647-1111. www.habitot.org 

Mata Ortiz Potters Pot painting demonstration by artists from the Northern Chihuahua area in Mexico, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Alameda Free Library, 550 Oak St., Alameda. 747-7777. www.alamedafree.org 

Floral Design Class with Devon Gaster from 1 to 3 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. Cost is $25. www.expressionsgallery.org 

Murder Mystery Weekend at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Sat. and Sun., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Costs is $10-$15. 932-8966. www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 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.  


LastSundaysFest with music and performances from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Telegraph Ave. between Dwight and Bancroft. 

Yard Sale Benefit for Lafayette School Mentoring Project in West Oakland from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1828 Prince St., near MLK/Ashby BART. 444-7285. www.lsmptutor.org 

Luke Cole Memorial Birdathon Meet at 9 a.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, then continue on the Garin Regional Park, ending at Coyote Hills Regional Park. The challenge is to identify 400 species and raise money for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment in Luke’s memory. Bring donation of $25, checks made out to Golden Gate Audubon, along with binoculars, field guides, lunch and liquids. RLewis0727@aol.com 

8th Annual Nikkei Walkathon Fundraiser for the elderly Japanese community in the East Bay at the Richmond Marina. For details call 848-3560, ext. 101. jaseb.org 

Wildcat Peak Survivors Join a hearty hike to Wildcat Peak to admire the tenacity of climate adapted plants and views from the peak. For meeting place call 544-2233. 

Beatrix Potter’s Life in Town and Country Sister-City kick-off with presentations and readings honoring Kensington’s relationship with Kensington UK, rom 2 to 5 p.m. at Rabbit Ears, 377 Colusa Ave. Kensington. 525-6155. 

St. Jerome Church Festival and Street Fair from noon to 5 p.m. at the corner of Carmel and Curry, El Cerrito. with entertainment, games, arts and crafts, food. 525-0876. 

Cycles of Change Benefit with food and entertainment to raise funds for recycled bicycle services, job training, and community repair shop, from 1 to 4 p.m. at 650 W. Ranger Ave., Alameda. 898-7830.  

Read Shakespeare Aloud led by Clifford Schwartz, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. Cost is $20, or $15 with pot-luck contribution. 644-4930.            

Tour of the Berkeley City Club, the “little castle” designed by Julia Morgan from 1 to 4 p.m. at 2315 Durant Ave. 848-7800. 

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 

Kol Hadash Secular Yom Kippur Service at 7:30 p.m. at Albnay Community Center. Registration required. www.kolhadash.org 

Yom Kippur “Return/Reflect/Remember” Discussion from noon to 3 p.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St. El Cerrito. Cost is $5. RSVP requested. 559-8140. 

Single Payer Health Care Not War Planning meetings at 4:20 at Peoples Park. For more information call 390-0830. peoplespark.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

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 “Joy of Being” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 


“Hope or Hype? What’s Next for Biofuels?” with Jay Keasling, Acting Deputy Director, LBL, and a panel of scientists at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Stage, 2015 Addison St. Free. 486-7292. 

Kensington Book Club meets to discuss “Angle of Repose” by Wallace Stenger at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Drop-in Knitting Group for all ages. Basic instruction and materials supplied. From 3 to 5 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720. 


Granite Avatars of Patagonia Photographing Los Glaciares National Park with Tom Reed at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Family Storytime for pre-schoolers and up, at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from noon to 5 p.m. at Berkeley Rep Theater, 2nd flr lobby, 2025 Addison St.. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

Homework Help Program at the Richmond Public Library Tues. and Thurs. from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at 325 Civic Center Plaza. For more information or to enroll, call 620-6557. 

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. 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 548-3991.  

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. 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. 845-6830. 


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.  

“Time for a new economic system” with speakers on alternatives to a war economy at 7 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave.  

“Hard Problems: The Road to the World’s Toughest Math Contest” A documentary by The Mathematical Assoc. of America at 5 p.m. at Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, Simons Auditorium, followed by discussion. 642-0143. www.msri.org 

Candlelight Vigil for the Three Hikers Held in Iran: Sarah, Shane and Josh, to mark 2 months in prison. Meet at 4 p.m. at the Bear statue, UC campus freethehikers.org  

“Holes in Heaven” A documentary on the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Conscious Aging in a Changing World: A Series of Dialogues with Nader Shabahangi, CEO and founder of AgeSong Senior Communities; Barry Barkan, co-founder of the Elders Guild and Live Oak Institute; and Duane Elgin, author and activist of sustainable living at 4 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. RSVP to rsvp@agesong.com  

Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 10 a.m. to noon at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Registration required. 594-5165. blackstoneA@usa.redcross.org 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. 548-9840. 


Berkeley Film Foundation Grant winners honored at 6 p.m. at the Fantasy Building, 2600 Tenth St. Donation $100 benefits the Berkeley Film Foundation. filmberkeley.com 

Berkeley Path Wanderers Annual Meeting with Zara McDonald, founder and director of the Felidae Conservation Fund for the protection of big cats, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. www.berkeleypaths.org 

Celebrating 50 Years of Free Speech Readings from banned books with Mollie Katzen, Marissa Moss, Elisa Kleven David Lance Goines and others at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Berkeley Public Library Branch Renovation Program Come share ideas, meet the architects, and learn about the projects’ scopes at 6:30 p.m. at South Branch, 1901 Russell St. at MLK, Jr. Way. www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org 

“Rational Empire and the Cuban Five” with Dr. Michael Parenti at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists. 1924 Cedar at Bonita. Donation $10-$15. 219-0092.  

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. 

The Poetry Workshop, offered by the Berkeley Adult School, meets on Thurs. from 9 a.m. to noon in the library of the North Berkeley Senior Center. Writers of all skill levels are welcome. 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 


Rainbow Ramblers Explore the magic of a full moon on a sunset moonrise walk for the LGBTQ community. Bring a sack dinner. Well-behaved dogs on leashes welcome. Meet at 6 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center. 544-2233. 

Berkeley School Volunteers New Volunteer Orientation from 10 to 11 a.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Bring a photo ID and two references to the orientation. Returning volunteers do not need to attend. For further information 644-8833. 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Jeff Robinson on “Amazon Wildlife Photography Cruise” 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 

“Celebrating Fr. Damien” A reading by Mary O’Donnell from her manuscript “The Exiles” an historical novel on the life of Fr. Damien of Molokai at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison St.  

Single Payer Healthcare Not War' Speakers’ Forum and open mic at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Plaza on Telegraph at Haste.  

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1701 Harbor Bay Pkwy., Alameda. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Kensington First Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. with art, music and refreshments from the merchants of Colusa Circle and The Arlington. 525-6155. 

Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Instruction Pointing Out the Nature of Mind with Rigzin Dorje Rinpoche at 7 p.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at Sixth St. Donation $20. http://bayvajra.inf 

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. 

Stand With Us Stand for Peace Stand with Israel vigil every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. www.sfvoiceforisrael.org 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Fri. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 


Berkeley Architectural Heritage Fall Walking Tour North-Central Berkeley Cost is $10-$15, or $40-$50 for the series. Advance registration required. 841-2242. berkeleyheritage.com  

Berkeley Historical Society Walk Marin Avenue North Early 20th Century Berkeley Hills, led by Paul Grunland at 10 a.m. with an optional picnic afterwards. Cost is $8-$10. For reservations and starting point, call 848-0181.  

Walking Tour of Old Oakland Explore the 9th and Washington St. district. Meet at 10 a.m. in front of Ratto’s, 821 Washington St. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

Mini-Farmers in Tilden A farm exploration program, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 4-6 years, accompanied by an adult. We will explore the Little Farm, care for animals, do crafts and farm chores. Wear boots and dress to get dirty! Fee is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Homefront Festival with exhibits, tours, entertainment and activities for children from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Lucretia Edwards Park in Richmond. www.homefrontfestival.com 

“Predatory Lending Prevention and Foreclosure Intervention Workshop” From 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Emeryville Senior Center, 4321 Salem St., Emeryville. All welcom. 596-4316. 



“Obama, the Middle East, and the Prospects for Peace” with Noam Chomsky at 7:30 p.m. at The Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. Cost is $22-$250, benefits the Children of Gaza. www.mecaforpeace.org 

Political Affairs Readers Group meets to discuss “The Struggle for Health Care: Lessons from China, 1949 to Now” with Al Sargis at 10 a.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library for Social Research, 6501 Telegraph Ave., near Alcatraz. 595-7417. 

A Day of Free Financial Planning, offered by the Financial Planning Association of the Bay Area from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Elihu Harris State Building, 1515 Clay St., Oakland. Please pre-register at clinicregistration@yahoo.com 

Tea & Fashion Show Benefit for Prevention International - No Cervical Cancer at 2 p.m. at Bakewell Hall, 521 29th St., Oakland, just west of Telegraph, behind the historic church. Suggested donation $25. 501-5183. Soroptimistoakland.org  

“The Zen of Alice” with author Daniel Silberberg at 4 p.m. at RabbitEars, 377 Colusa Ave., Kensington. 525-6155. 

BayAir Big Air Bammer Grand Opening Jam event and music show, of a public bike and skate park. Jam sign-up at 9 a.m., Jam at noon at 2310 Myrtle St., Oakland. Free for Oakland youth (ID required), others $10. info@bayairpark.org 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Greater Cooper AME Zion Church, Church Hall, 1420 Myrtle St., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Witches and Wizards Weekend at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Cost is $10-$15. 932-8966. www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 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.  


Spice of Life Festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with food, cooking demonstrations, arts and crafts, and activities for children, on Shattuck Ave. between Virginia and Rose. www.gourmetghetto.org 

“Oakland’s Fernwood Neighborhood” House and garden tour sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance. For details see www.OaklandHeritage.org 

Tantalizing Tarantulas Learn about these arachnids and learn th ebest sports for find them, from 2 to 3 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Pak. 544-2233. 

Brooks Island Voyage Paddle the rising tide across the Richmond Harbor Channel to Books Island to explore the island’s natural and cultural history, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.. For experienced boaters who can provide their own kayak and safety gear. Cost is $20-$22. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

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. 

“People’s Park Still Blooming” Book release party at 7 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck. Donation $5. 

“With Hammer in Hand: The Story of Women in Construction” a television documentary in progress at 2 p.m. at 1401 Walnut St., #1C. RSVP to 548-9904. ruthmag@earthlink.net  

GreenPoint Showcase Tour of homes that have been remodeled or built green, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $10. For details see www.ktvu.com/builditgreen 

Moon Viewing Festival An evening of Japanese food, entertainment, and moon viewing sponsored by the Oakland Fukuoka Sister City Association and the Golden State Bonsai Collection North. Bento dinner at 5:30 p.m., for $15 at Lakeside Park Garden Center, 666 Bellevue Ave., Oakland, entertainement at 6 p.m. and moon viewing at 6:30 p.m. For dinner reservations call 482-5896 or email info@oakland-fukuoka.org www.oakland-fukuoka.org 

“India: Memories, dreams and Reflections” with Bill Hamilton-Holway at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

East Bay Atheists Annual Picnic from noon to 4 p.m. at Big Leaf Picnic Area, Tilden Park. Please bring a dish to share. Details at www.eastbayatheists.org/meetings.html  

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 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 


Parks and Recreation Commission meets Mon., Sept. 28, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5158.  

City Council meets Tues., Sept. 29, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil 

Community Environmental Advisory Commission meets Thurs., Oct. 1, at 7 p.m., at 2118 Milvia St. Nabil Al-Hadithy, 981-7460.  

Landmarks Preservation Commission meets Thurs., Oct 1, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7429.  

Council Agenda Committee meets Mon., Oct. 5, at 2:30 p.m., at 2180 Milvia St. 981-6900.