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A fence was constructed around the former Union 76 station at the corner of College and Claremont avenues last week after Safeway bought the site and closed the station as part of its plans to expand.
Michael Howerton
A fence was constructed around the former Union 76 station at the corner of College and Claremont avenues last week after Safeway bought the site and closed the station as part of its plans to expand.


UC Students, Workers Launch 3-Day Strike

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday November 17, 2009 - 05:19:00 PM
Protesters rallied on campus and marched throughout downtown Berkeley Wednesday to voice their dissatisfaction with the University of California’s budget priorities.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Protesters rallied on campus and marched throughout downtown Berkeley Wednesday to voice their dissatisfaction with the University of California’s budget priorities.

UC Berkeley students embarked on a three day strike Wednesday to protest budget cuts, furloughs and fee hikes. 

Chanting “Whose university? Our university!” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” the students once again marched from Sproul Hall to downtown Berkeley and to Berkeley High School and Berkeley City College to rally for their cause. 

Wednesday’s strike started as early as 5 a.m. with picket lines forming in front of campus construction sites and, starting about 7 a.m., at the main entrances to the campus. 

Facing a $1.2 billion deficit next year, a UC Regents’ committee voted Wednesday at UCLA to increase student fees and adopt a financial plan asking the state to fund the university’s needs. 

More than two dozen people were arrested at UCLA Wednesday during a protest against the fee hikes. 

The fee increases are part of the 2010-11 operating budget, which seeks an additional $913 million to pay for unfunded enrollment growth and to restore program cuts, stop employee furloughs and contribute to the UC Retirement Plan.  

The regents acted at the recommendation of UC President Mark G. Yudof, who said the budget “is designed to provide access, maintain quality and stabilize the fiscal health of the university.” 

The UC Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on the fee and budget proposals Thursday. 

After the noon rally, the marchers walked to California Hall before sending busloads of students to UCLA to protest at the regents’ Thursday meeting.  

The protesters are also planning to dump trash outside California Hall Thursday at 3 p.m. to show their anger about the 32 percent fee increase. 

The fee increases are expected to bring $505 million in revenue, of which $175 million would used toward financial aid. 

“We can no longer tolerate fiscal uncertainty and continual cutting as we wait for Sacramento to navigate through this crisis,” Yudof said in a statement. “We will keep working hard with state political leaders to restore the university’s funding to an appropriate level. In the meantime, however, we must act now to shore up our own finances if we are to preserve the quality and ensure the access that California expects from the world’s premier public research university system ... I know this is a painful day for university students and their families, but as I stand here today I can assure you this is our one best shot at preventing this recession from pulling down a great system toward mediocrity.” 


For the complete story, see Thursday's edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet.

Martin Charged With Murder of Zoelina Toney and Child

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday November 17, 2009 - 12:37:00 PM

The Alameda County district attorney charged Oakland resident Curtis Martin III Tuesday with murdering Zoelina Toney and her 17-month-old son Jashon Williams. 

Toney, who is also known as Zoelina Williams, was found beaten and shot to death near the Aquatic Park entrance early Friday morning.  

Martin was charged with two counts of murder, with special circumstances, said Lt. Andrew Greenwood of the Berkeley Police Department. 

Berkeley police investigators now believe that the body of a child found in the San Francisco Bay off the Berkeley Marina Sunday morning is that of Jashon, Toney’s missing son. Greenwood said the “body is consistent in race, gender, and size to that of Jashon Williams.” The coroner’s office is still working to confirm his identity, he said. 

Greenwood said that investigators believe Martin killed Toney, 23, “because because she had knowledge of the death of Jashon.” 

“The nature of the ongoing investigation precludes our sharing further information regarding the time and manner of Jashon Williams’ death,” Greenwood said.  

Toney’s family members packed the courtroom of Judge Robert McGuiness for Martin’s brief arraignment at Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland. 

McGuiness referred Martin to the public defender’s office for representation and ordered him to return to court Thursday to be assigned an attorney and enter a plea. Martin is currently being held at the Alameda County Jail in Pleasanton without bail. 

Prosecutors also charged Martin with two special circumstance clauses that could result in the death penalty if he is convicted: committing multiple murders and murdering Toney because she was a witness to the murder of her son. 

Martin was also charged for enhancements because of two prior felony convictions—a 1994 manslaughter conviction and a 1992 conviction for possession of an assault weapon. 

Authorities had spent 10 to 12 hours Saturday searching the waters near Aquatic Park for Jashon’s body, but to no avail.  

But at 10:57 a.m. Sunday the Berkeleley Police Department got a 911 call that kayakers had found the body of a small child floating in the water. 

Both Berkeley police and fire responded and officers from the Fire Department retrieved the body from the water. 

Greenwood said that BPD asked Oakland police to investigate the case as a “as a matter of professional courtesy.”  

Greenwood said the Alameda County coroner’s bureau took custody of the child’s body.  

Members of the Alameda County Sheriff’s office, a volunteer dive team and search-and-rescue dogs, and aircraft from the California Highway Patrol and East Bay Regional Parks District assisted in the search.  

Williams may have been with his mother when she was killed, Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said.  

Oakland police arrested Martin at Chestnut Street and 24th Avenue in Oakland a little after 1 p.m. Friday for his alleged involvement in the homicide, Berkeley’s fifth this year.  

A patrol officer conducting a routine security check in the south end of the park shortly after 4 a.m. found the body of an adult female lying on the shoreline adjacent to the parking lot on Bolivar Drive north of Potter Street.  

Martin, 38, was convicted in 1994 for fatally beating 3-year-old Devin Brewer of Oakland, the son of his then-girlfriend. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, of which he served only six. Police arrested Martin last year in a domestic violence case, but did not prosecute him. He has spent time in jail on robbery, burglary and weapons charges.  

Police searched Martin’s home, as well as the home where Zoelina Toney and Jashon Williams were living in Oakland.  

Martin has so far declined requests for interviews from reporters. 

Toney’s relatives contacted Oakland police at 12:40 a.m. Saturday to let them know about the missing child, he said.  

A Berkeley resident who works at the park and did not want to be identified said that the crime scene is at a place frequented by bikers, joggers and dog walkers during the day, but desolate at night. The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., similar to other City of Berkeley parks.  

“The woman was shot twice, they needed a place to dump the body and they dumped it there,” he said. “It’s not the first time a body has been dumped there. I think the last time it happened was eight years ago. A lot of people dumps things in the park because no one can see it, so you can do whatever you want there.”  

Anyone with any information on this crime is urged to call the Berkeley Police Department’s Homicide Detail at 981-5741 (office) or 981-5900 (non-emergency dispatch line). Callers wishing to remain anonymous can call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).  


Bay City News contributed to this report.  

Berkeley City Council Considers Ban on Balloon Releases

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday November 17, 2009 - 08:44:00 AM
The City Council will vote tonight on whether to ban the release of balloons.
Riya Bhattacharjee
The City Council will vote tonight on whether to ban the release of balloons.
Balloon artist Don Daniels, of Paper Plus on San Pablo Avenue, posts a sign on the store window: "Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon … except the City of Berkeley."
Riya Bhattacharjee
Balloon artist Don Daniels, of Paper Plus on San Pablo Avenue, posts a sign on the store window: "Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon … except the City of Berkeley."

Just as the hullabaloo over Balloon Boy seems to be finally cooling off, Berkeley is getting ready to make some noise about balloons. 

At tonight's meeting, the Berkeley City Council will vote on whether to ban balloon releases based on a report from the city’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission that says that balloons pose an environmental hazard when let loose. 

The commission is recommending that the council request the city manager to include a clause prohibiting balloon releases in special event permits issued by the city. The council might even decide to ask city staff to work with the CEAC to provide event organizers, schools, businesses and balloon sellers with leaflets informing them about the dangers of having a Mylar or latex balloon floating around. 

If the council approves the stipulation, balloon enthusiasts will have to think twice before letting go of that string at birthdays, graduations and block parties, occasions where balloons have traditionally been a big part of the celebrations. 

Although environmentalists might approve of the prohibition, not everybody feels the same way. 

Berkeley's largest balloon seller, Paper Plus Incredible Balloons at 1629 San Pablo Ave., will be at the council meeting to oppose the ban. 

“They are trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist,” said Don Daniels, a certified balloon artist who has been with Paper Plus for over a decade. “There are no balloon releases in Berkeley. I have sold balloons for 15 years—from people's births to when their loved ones have passed away to all the holidays in between—and I have never done a single balloon release. My question is: How many balloons are being released in Berkeley? How big a problem is this?” 

CEAC's report doesn't offer any statistics. What it does say is that although the commission “does not oppose the use of balloons nor wants to ruin an amusement for people, the wanton release of balloons into the air is tantamount to dumping” toxic materials into the San Francisco Bay. Their report says that Mylar balloons can lead to shocks or blackouts and even injure utility workers trying to remove balloons stuck on power lines. And balloon chords can choke birds to death, the report says. 

“Balloons can be enjoyed without watching them float away indiscriminately into the sky,” said the commission, which at one point had even considered extreme alternate measures, such as banning balloons entirely or the materials they are made from. 

Daniels said that California state law already mandates that all Mylar balloons be put on a weight so that they don't float away. 

Calls to Berkeley's Hazardous Waste Manager and CEAC Secretary Nabil Al-Hadithy and CEAC Chair Greg Leventis were not returned by press time. 

Every week Paper Plus sells more than 2,000 latex and Mylar balloons—pearls, stars, cats, caterpillars, columns, centerpieces—which find their way into shelters, schools, churches and even prisons. 

“We have things you have never seen before, things you never knew you could do with balloons,” Daniels said. “You should see the kids run and fall into them. Balloons generate emotions. But now, people will be scared to buy them. A ban will put a chill on the industry.” 

Daniels' said that even if balloons are released in the air, 90 to 95 percent of them disappear, while only 5 or 10 percent make it back to the ground. Latex balloons are biodegradable, he said. 

Daniel's employer, Michele Schurman, who started Paper Plus 25 years ago with her husband Philip, nodded in agreement. 

“I am outraged by the false allegations of the hazards of balloons in the report,” Schurman said, “The CEAC has done no research, and moreover they have done no balloon studies on the environment. Just because the CEAC makes a statement does not make it a fact.” 

Holding up a piece of paper from the Balloon Council, a national organization representing balloon sellers, Schurman explained that latex dissolves in water. 

“CEAC states that plastic and latex are associated with the deaths of all sea life—I am sorry but they have made this up,” she said. “If swallowed, latex will not block the digestive tract. It's not a plastic bag.” 

But CEAC contends that in cold water, even latex can take as long as six months to disintegrate. 

“Balloon's ain't cheap, so people won't release them anyway,” Daniels said, making a “running man” balloon out of one bubble and five longitudinal balloons Monday as a wide-eyed 2-year-old watched. “They take them home and keep them 'til they have the last gasp of air in them.” 

Schurman said she had approached her councilmember, Linda Maio, and other city officials to protest the proposed ban. 

Reached Monday, Maio called the recommendation “a sensible item.” 

“I don't see anything wrong with it on its face,” she said. “It's about time people realized there are some consequences to using these things carelessly.” 

A customer hunting for Thanksgiving decorations turned around in surprise when she heard about the proposed ban. “I don't think it's a bad idea, though they release everything else in the air,” she said laughing. “I think we have more important things to focus on. This is so Berkeley.” 

Daniels said that city officials had told him about similar bans in Virginia and Florida. 

“The city is saying anyone who releases a balloon will be fined, not the person getting the permit” said Daniels. “So guess what, when that little baby lets go of that balloon, he can get a ticket for $100 to $200.” 

Schurman said that she had received a letter from the city saying that in the event council adopted the CEAC's recommendation, her store would be “required to have a leaflet stating that customers” couldn't release balloons into the air and some ideas on how to dispose of them. 

“Who's going to pay for it?” Schurman asked. “The city's broke. We can't pay any more. We already pay for licenses and property taxes.” 

Both Schurman and Daniels called the idea a waste of taxpayer dollars. 

“Berkeley claims to be business-friendly. Well, three years ago the city said helium is hazardous and charged us a $2.70 tax for it; then they said the sign outside was two inches too big, 'take it down.' " said Daniels. “Then they said we are going to put parking meters outside. We said it's going to kill our business, but they said they were broke and that they will have to put them up. And now they are saying they have to ban balloons. They never talked to us and we are the biggest balloon store in the East Bay.” 

As Daniels stood at the cash register handing out fliers that said “Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon … except the city of Berkeley,” 1-year-old Sabine Rosen walked in with her mother to pick up a couple of balloons for her birthday party. 

“Mommy, I want the purple stars,” she said smiling, her eyes lighting up at the sight of all the different balloons adorning the shop's walls. 

When Sabine's mother heard about the proposed ban, she didn't seem too upset. 

“I think it's fine,” she said. “It's not good for the birds. But if nobody's releasing them, it doesn't matter one way or the other.” 

The Berkeley City Council meets at 7 p.m. tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 17) at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 


City Council to Gauge Berkeley Ferry Project

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday November 17, 2009 - 09:00:00 AM

Is Berkeley ready for a ferry? The Berkeley City Council might have an answer after receiving a presentation on this highly contentious proposal at tonight's council meeting. 

City Manager Phil Kamlarz has recommended that, following the Water Emergency Transportation Authority's pitch for the $57 million ferry project, the council should either adopt a resolution supporting it or await the release of its final environmental impact report while solving some unresolved issues raised by the city's planning, transportation and waterfront commissions. 

While there are many Berkeley residents who support the rebirth of a ferry terminal in the city—Berkeley last had ferry service during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but it was discontinued due to a lack of demand—there are others who view it as unnecessary, and have called it a “vanity project.” 

WETA officials have said that a ferry would offer the public more mass transit options during weekdays as well as offer emergency transportation during natural disasters and bridge closures, like the time a Bay Bridge cable snapped due to high winds last month, resulting in highly crowded BART trains during peak hours. 

When the Planning Commission failed to make any kind of recommendation at their Oct. 30 meeting, WETA officials returned disappointed. However, a few weeks later, both the transportation and the waterfront commissions declared conditional support for the project. 

Although WETA wants the Berkeley City Council to pass a resolution supporting the proposed project prior to certifying the final environmental impact report in December—which would clear the way for regional funds to build the terminal in Berkeley—the agency does not need the council's approval in order to sign off on it, according to a report by Kamlarz. If WETA does not certify the report by December, the regional funds would go towards building a terminal in Richmond. 

However, WETA has hinted that the Federal Transportation Authority “requires an expression of local interest” before accepting an environmental impact study for a project which would spend millions of dollars in federal money. 

Kamlarz said that the city is not yet aware of any specific deadline by which the FTA is required to accept the study. 

However without Berkeley's support, WETA could lose federal dollars. 

Some of the concerns Kamlarz raised after listening to comments made by the planning, transportation and waterfront commissions on the draft environmental impact report released in December 2008 were the proposed project's impact on recreational and economic development uses of the Berkeley Marina and mitigation for traffic impacts. 

Ian Austin, vice president of URS, a San Francisco-based engineering firm, told the Planning Commission at the October meeting that the terminal, which would be located on Seawall Drive near Hs Lordship's restaurant, would enhance the adjacent Bay Trail along with the waterfront. 

Austin said the project would change waterfront use by improving landscaping and adding bike racks and free parking without altering current recreational and commercial features. 
 With respect to the commissioners’ questions about whether the terminal would have adequate parking given the recent service cuts to AC Transit, WETA said the cuts “would match the level of service provided by the ferry route.” 

The ride across the bay would take about 22 minutes and would drop commuters off at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal, which also serves as a stop for the Sausalito and Tiburon ferries. 
 The two 199-passenger ferries would provide an estimated 1,716 weekday ferry passenger trips by 2025, according to WETA, which the agency said would be one of the highest ridership levels among proposed Bay Area ferry routes. 

Members of the Waterfront Commission have voiced concern about how the project would impact water sports as well as vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic flow. 

The Berkeley City Council meets at 7 p.m. tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 17) at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 


Click here here to read a report on the Oct. 30 Planning Commission. 



Unidentified Child's Body Found in SF Bay

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Sunday November 15, 2009 - 04:17:00 PM

The body of a child recovered Sunday from San Francisco Bay near the Berkeley Marina remains unidentified. 

Authorities have not yet confirmed whether the child is Jashon Williams, the missing 17-month-old son of 23-year-old Oakland resident Zoelina Williams, who was found beaten and shot to death near the Aquatic Park entrance early Friday morning. 

Authorities spent 10 to 12 hours Saturday searching the waters near Aquatic Park for Jashon’s body, but to no avail.  

But just before 11 a.m. Sunday, according to Berkeley Police Lt. Andrew Greenwood, several kayakers spotted a body floating in the waters and called 911. 

Greenwood said Berkeley police arrived at the scene and asked Oakland police to investigate as a “as a matter of professional courtesy.” 

Greenwood said the Alameda County coroner’s bureau took custody of the child’s body.  

Members of the Alameda County Sheriff’s office, a volunteer dive team and search-and-rescue dogs, and aircraft from the California Highway Patrol and East Bay Regional Parks District assisted in the search. 

Williams may have been with his mother when she was killed, Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said.  

Oakland police arrested Curtis Martin III at Chestnut Street and 24th Avenue in Oakland a little after 1 p.m. Friday for his alleged involvement in the homicide, Berkeley’s fifth this year. 

A patrol officer conducting a routine security check in the south end of the park shortly after 4 a.m. found the body of an adult female lying on the shoreline adjacent to the parking lot on Bolivar Drive north of Potter Street. 

Greenwood said at 4:50 p.m. Monday that “the investigation into the homicide continues,” but that there were “no new developments in the case to share.” 

Martin is scheduled to be arraigned in the Alameda County Superior Court Tuesday afternoon. 

Greenwood said that Martin declined to be interviewed by reporters. 

  If Martin “is held to answer in tomorrow afternoon’s arraignment, and he remains in custody with a no-bail hold, he will be moved to the Santa Rita Jail,” he said. 

Detectives learned of Martin’s alleged involvement through their ongoing investigation. According to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel, this information was sent out as a “Be On the Look Out” bulletin to neighboring agencies. 

Martin, 38, is an Oakland resident who was convicted in 1994 for fatally beating 3-year-old Devin Brewer of Oakland, the son of his then-girlfriend. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, of which he served only six. Police arrested Martin last year in a domestic violence case, but did not prosecute him. He has spent time in jail on robbery, burglary and weapons charges. 

Police searched Martin’s home, as well as the home where Zoelina and Jashon Williams were living in Oakland.  

Zoelina Williams’ relatives contacted Oakland police at 12:40 a.m. Saturday to let them know about the missing child, he said.  

A Berkeley resident who works at the park and did not want to be identified said that the crime scene is at a place frequented by bikers, joggers and dog walkers during the day, but desolate at night. The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., similar to other City of Berkeley parks. 

“The woman was shot twice, they needed a place to dump the body and they dumped it there,” he said. “It’s not the first time a body has been dumped there. I think the last time it happened was eight years ago. A lot of people dumps things in the park because no one can see it, so you can do whatever you want there.” 

Anyone with any information on this crime is urged to call the Berkeley Police Department’s Homicide Detail at 981-5741 (office) or 981-5900 (non-emergency dispatch line). Callers wishing to remain anonymous can call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). 


Bay City News contributed to this report. 

Landmarks Commission Revisits Obata Studio Application

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday November 16, 2009 - 05:00:00 PM

Japanese artist Chiura Obata’s landmarked Mission revival-style studio was back before the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission Nov. 5, after a remand from the City Council asked the commission to carefully consider singling out the building’s courtyards for preservation as historic features. 

Following a lengthy discussion, the commission voted to remove the courtyards from the list of the building’s special characteristics. 

After the commission landmarked the 2525 Telegraph Ave. structure in May primarily due to its connection to Berkeley’s pre-World War II Japanese American heritage—Obata lived there with his family until the American government forced them into internment camps, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor—owner Ali Eslami appealed the decision. 

Calling the three “semi-private” courtyards flanked by apartments an interior feature over which the landmarks commission has no jursidiction—the commission can only designate exterior features as landmarks, except in public buildings—Eslami asked that they be removed from consideration as special characteristics. 

In a letter to the commission, Eslami argued that giving the courtyards special preservation status would make it hard for him to modify or relocate them if he tried to bring the building up to current safety code requirements. Eslami has said that in order for him to get a bank loan to repair the building he will have to expand it by adding two stories. 

In the process of asking the commission to revisit the landmarking, the City Council replaced the word “courtyards” with the word “lightwells,” an action some commissioners strongly objected to. 

“The thing that’s really disturbing is the change in the wording,” said commissioner Anne Wagley, who is also the calendar editor for the Daily Planet. “It went to City Council as courtyard, where did the word lightwells come in? It is fiction, and this fiction is being circulated all around.” 

Commissioner Steve Winkel said he voted against the landmarking because he didn’t think the courtyards contributed to the building’s Mission Revival style architecture. 

“But the fact that the language got changed gets me tweaked as well,” he admitted. 

A good part of the evening was spent debating whether the courtyard was indeed a courtyard or a lightwell. 

“It’s not a lightwell, you can’t walk into a lightwell,” said retired city planner John English, who regularly attends commission meetings. “These are outdoor recreational spaces.” 

Tenants of the building, who fear they might be dislocated during the proposed expansion, supported preservation of the courtyards. 

“Lightwells only have doors; we have doors, windows, tables, chairs—everything,” said Marcia Poole, who has lived there for two decades. 

While the tenants argued that the courtyards were a feature of the landmarked building’s Mission Revival Style architecture, the opposition brought preservation architects who argued to the contrary. 

Eslami said that the only way to preserve the building’s history would be to “remodel, upgrade and enhance.” 

“We want to fix the building, we want to keep the tenants happy,” he said. Citing a weak foundation, Eslami said that extensive renovations would be required to keep the building standing. 

“We are here for a very minor alteration which would make a huge difference,” said Rina Rickles, a land-use attorney representing Eslami. “The courtyards were not part of the application; courtyards are not part of [Obata’s] art. The key part of the landmark was his art. The courtyards/lightwells don’t meet the characteristic feature of the building. They are not significant from any elevation.”  

Donna Graves, one of the three authors of the landmark application, is currently studying historic preservation at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. 

“We don’t need to have the word courtyard—it doesn’t need to be a feature to be preserved,” said Commissioner Carrie Olson. 

In the end, the commission voted 8 to 1 to take courtyards off the list of special characteristics. 

Man Arrested in Aquatic Park Murder

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday November 13, 2009 - 11:39:00 AM
Curtis Martin III
Curtis Martin III

Oakland police arrested Curtis Martin III at Chestnut Street and 24th Avenue in Oakland a little after 1 p.m. Friday for his alleged involvement in this morning’s Aquatic Park homicide. 

The park became the scene of Berkeley’s fifth homicide early Friday morning when a woman’s body was found at its southern end. 

Detectives learned of Martin’s alleged involvement through their ongoing investigation. According to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel, this information was sent out as a “Be On the Look Out” bulletin to neighboring agencies. 

Martin, 38, is an Oakland resident. 

Frankel said Friday morning that part of the park would probably remain closed until later this afternoon. 

Detectives are continuing to examine the crime scene for additional evidence while attempts are being made to identify the victim’s next of kin, Frankel said. 

A patrol officer conducting a routine security check shortly after 4 a.m. found the body of an adult female lying on the shoreline adjacent to the parking lot on Bolivar Drive north of Potter Street. 

Frankel said the victim has not yet been identified and that detectives are still examining the scene for evidence. 

A Berkeley resident who works at the park and did not want to be identified said that the crime scene was right at the entrance to the park. The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

“The woman was shot twice, they needed a place to dump the body and they dumped it there,” he said. “It’s not the first time a body has been dumped there. I think the last time it happened was eight years ago. A lot of people dumps things in the park because no one can see it, so you can do whatever you want there.” 

Police would not confirm that the victim had been shot. 

Anyone with any information on this crime is urged to call the Berkeley Police Department’s Homicide Detail at 981-5741 (office) or 981-5900 (non-emergency dispatch line). Callers wishing to remain anonymous can call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

UC Food Court Vendors to Strike Monday to Protest Rent Increases

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday November 13, 2009 - 04:09:00 PM

UC Berkeley students aren’t the only ones planning to go on strike next week.  

Two of the three Bear’s Lair food court vendors, disgruntled by the student union administration’s plans to double their rent, will close shop Monday until they can start negotiating the terms of their contract. 

The vendors have been fighting over lease negotiations with the Associated Students of the University of California Auxiliary Store Operations Board since summer when the board proposed a rent increase to boost flagging revenue and revitalize Lower Sproul Plaza. 

The two vendors have also expressed concerns about the length of the lease, terms for extensions and the number of months of partial payment when school is out. 

Both ASUC Auxiliary Director Dr. Nadesan Permaul and Store Operations Board Chair Nish Rajan have maintained that the increase is on par with current market rates. 

Ann Vu, proprietor of Healthy Heavenly Foods, a Vietnamese concession stall at Bear’s Lair, said it was impossible for her to meet the rent hike and backed out of the contract in August.  

The board gave Vu an extension last month until May 2010 because it was taking a long time to prepare a request for proposal. 

“It’s not a fair contract for me and Arnoldo,” Vu told the Planet Friday. “Monday we will close our business and put up a sign. We hope to let the students know what’s going on.” 

Arnoldo Marquez, who runs Tacqueria Tacontento next to Vu’s restaurant, agreed to the terms of the new contract, but has refrained from signing it so far. 

Vu, who has been at the food court for 20 years, said that she was angry the board was giving preferential treatment to Tully’s Coffee by offering them space on campus at a lower rate. 

“Tully’s contract was negotiated and approved by the board in advance of the terms offered to the food court vendors,” Permaul said in a statement to the Planet. “All leases are discreet and distinct, based on a variety of factors, costs of improvements, risk, location, and other conditions. Tully's lease was approved just as the economy crashed, they paid for substantial improvements to the location to make it meet the campus’ requirements, and they were assuming a risk in a new business location that was untested.” 

Permaul said the board voted to approve the terms of Tully’s contract unanimously on Sept. 23, 2008.   

He said that about seven months later all the vendors spoke to the board and “insisted they would be happy to make significant physical improvements and pay larger rents to remain in their locations.” 

  “Based on those promises,” Permaul said, the board subverted their earlier decision to go out and bid on all the spaces, instead resolving to negotiate new terms for extending the vendors’ leases. 

He added that both Vu and Arnoldo had amenities such as ovens and hoods which allowed them to cook on site, which resulted in higher utility bills than Coffee Spot or Tully’s, which are both quick service. 

“These critical amenities also make their sites much more attractive in the market place,” Permaul said. “A recent proposed vendor, who did not get board approval, was willing to pay almost $1,000,000 for physical improvements to get similar conditions for their proposed site.” 

Vu said that unless the board agreed to begin negotiations, they would continue to strike until Tuesday. 

“We are getting ready for the strike,” Marquez said. “This is our way of showing we support the students.” 

The board gave Marquez a week’s extension Nov. 9 for signing his lease. 

“I cannot make that kind of a contract,” Marquez said. “That’s why I asked for an extension. I am not ready.” 

Permaul said that the third vendor, Coffee Spot, has signed the lease, whose terms include requiring the vendors to carry out upgrades and improvements to their store. 

“We are working with the Coffee Spot on the physical improvements,” Permaul said. “The owner has expressed nothing but satisfaction with the new lease and our relationship. Marquez, who accepted the terms in June, had a full month to express his concerns and did not. Then, yesterday two days before his deadline to sign, comes an announcement of a strike in conjunction with the vendor [Vu] who did not accept the board's offer in June, and was aware that by doing so she had forfeited her right to an extension.” 

UC Berkeley senior Matt Marks, who has been supporting the vendors on the lease issue, showed up Friday to help them make banners. 

“I think a strike is a great idea, especially since this week students are striking to protect higher education,” Marks said. “Arnoldo and Ann are protesting to keep prices from going up at the Bear’s Lair. There will be no business as usual.” 

UC Berkeley students are expected to embark on a “no business as usual” three-day strike Wednesday to protest the state budget cuts to public education, fee hikes and furloughs.  

Marquez and Vu said they already increased food prices by 50 cents to a amid a tough economy. 

“The ASUC Auxiliary has not taken students’ input into consideration,” Marks said. “I think these vendors are paying fair market rate. The ASUC needs more revenue, but they are not taking anything else into consideration. They have given Tully’s a smaller rent. I think they should give Ann and Arnoldo a gradual rent increase instead of doubling their rent at once. It’s an invitation to leave, not an offer to stay.” 

Students have spoken out in support of the vendors at Store Operations Board meetings, urging for a fair contract. 

Marks said the Store Operations Board is scheduled to bring some prospective tenants for a walk-through Monday afternoon.  


14 Birds Injured in Dubai Star Oil Spill Released Today

Bay City News
Friday November 13, 2009 - 12:52:00 PM

Fourteen birds injured after last month’s Dubai Star oil spill have been rehabilitated and were released today at Eastshore State Park in Berkeley.  

The birds were rehabilitated at an Oiled Wildlife Care Network center in Fairfield after the vessel spilled hundreds of gallons of bunker fuel into the San Francisco Bay Oct. 30. 

The U.S. Coast Guard reported that of 49 birds taken to the care facility, 14 died from their injuries. Ten were rehabilitated and released Tuesday, and 14 more were released today. Twenty dead birds were collected after the spill. 

Dr. Michael Ziccardi of the wildlife care network said it usually takes 10 to 14 days to rehabilitate birds that have been injured in an oil spill, but the birds that were released today were especially sensitive because the oil used by the Dubai Star irritated their skin more than usual.  

Initially, Ziccardi said, the biggest threat to birds after an oil spill is hypothermia and overall shock. Birds rely on their feathers to stay warm and buoyant because the feathers trap air close to the skin and keep water out. The air heats up and insulates the body.  

“Oil creates a hole in that dry suit,” Ziccardi said. “Birds need to maintain a normal body temperature of 102 to 106 degrees, and they can’t survive in that environment.” 

One of the first things the birds do to try to repair the “dry suit” is to try to remove the oil by preening the area, Ziccardi said. They can ingest large amounts of oil this way, which causes problems for almost all of the body’s internal systems. 

The colder the birds get, the more oil they ingest. One of the most important parts of bird rehabilitation is reaching the birds quickly and warming them up, Ziccardi said. Before they are transplanted to the rehabilitation center, the birds are warmed, hydrated and stabilized. 

Then they are taken to the wildlife care network’s facility, where they are documented, processed and given a full medical evaluation. Veterinarians take small blood samples to determine if the birds are anemic. The birds rest for 24 to 48 hours in a warm environment, and staff members focus on rehydrating and nourishing them.  

Once the birds have recovered from the shock of the oil spill, they are cleaned with dishwashing detergent, Ziccardi said. Each bird takes about an hour to wash.  

After their waterproofing is restored and the staff observes normal behavior—such as aggregating, diving for food or avoiding predators—the birds are evaluated and released back into the wild. 

Ziccardi said about 50 to 70 percent of the live birds rescued by the care network after oil spills survive.  

Today’s release puts the number of rehabilitated birds at just above 50 percent of those rescued after the oil spill, according to Ziccardi. The center hopes to release more next week. 

The Panamanian tanker Dubai Star dumped between 400 and 800 gallons of oil into the Bay two miles south of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The spill, caused by a mechanical failure that occurred during a bunkering operation with a fuel barge, affected miles of shoreline in the East Bay.

Downtown Drill

Friday November 13, 2009 - 11:40:00 AM
By Riya Bhattacharjee

Civic Center Park became the safest place in Berkeley Friday evening due to a joint training program for hostage negotiations by the Berkeley police and fire departments. About six fire engines lined up on Center Street across from City Hall a little before 6 p.m., stretching all the way to the Public Safety Building on Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Safeway Closes Gas Station, Moves Ahead with Rockridge Expansion

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:24:00 AM
A fence was constructed around the former Union 76 station at the corner of College and Claremont avenues last week after Safeway bought the site and closed the station as part of its plans to expand.
Michael Howerton
A fence was constructed around the former Union 76 station at the corner of College and Claremont avenues last week after Safeway bought the site and closed the station as part of its plans to expand.

Safeway took ownership of the Union 76 gas station site in Rockridge last week and is moving ahead with plans to incorporate it into a proposed remodeling project for its supermarket at the corner of College and Claremont avenues. 

Todd Paradis, real estate manager for Safeway’s Northern California Division, told the Planet that escrow for the property closed on Nov. 3. 

A fence has been constructed around the property since then to prevent loitering and trash from collecting. According to the website www.safewayoncollege.com, created by Safeway to post updates about the development, the fence was erected to prevent the property from turning into a public nuisance. 

The website also reports that Safeway is considering “temporary commercial uses such as an auto repair tenant without gas,” who will rent the site until it is ready to be redeveloped. 

Safeway embarked on a mission to revamp its College Avenue store several years ago, meeting stiff opposition from neighbors regarding size, traffic and other issues. 

Size is still an issue for a number of area residents, many of whom balked at the idea of a 65,000-square-foot shopping center—more than twice the size of the current Safeway. 

Opponents of the plan think the scale is unsuitable and unnecessary for the neighborhood, threatening to change the area’s small town feel. 

They also say they are worried that an expanded Safeway, with its larger selection of merchandise, would chase away the small independent shops across College Avenue from the supermarket. 

Safeway officials contend that the store, which was built in the 1960s, is long due for an upgrade. 

“We believe that keeping with the spirit of the location is important and that is why we’ve tried to design a new store that blends well with the local area,” said Susan Houghton, public and government affairs director of Safeway, Northern California. “Since we exist in the area now, I am not sure how our new store would threaten local businesses. We want to be a valued neighbor in the area—and we believe there is room for all.” 

Some neighbors said they suspect that Safeway is sending a nal that development is “going to happen” by acquiring the gas station. Others are waiting for a chance to go before the Oakland Planning Department to comment on what they think should be included in the project’s environmental impact report. 

Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency and Planning and Zoning Division are preparing a draft environmental impact report for the College Avenue Safeway and have invited the public to comment on what they think should be included in the document at a meeting on Nov. 18. 

The city has crafted an initial study that says that the environmental impact report will address transportation, traffic, noise and air quality. 

Susan Shawl of Concerned Neighbors, a neighborhood group opposed to the scale of the project, said that she wanted to voice concerns about zoning and land use at the project. 

The store is in the C-31 or Special Retail zone. 

Shawl said that she did not object to the building’s external design, but is opposed to its scale. The project includes a two-story building with a roof-top garden and a pedestrian walkway next to eight retail stores. 

Safeway also plans to expand its Broadway and 51st Street store, about a mile away from the College Avenue store. 

“Why are they building two stores totaling about 100,000 square feet so close to each other when this area is already so well served?” Shawl asked. “There are parts of east and west Oakland that could use stores like this. I am concerned about the cumulative effect of both stores. What about traffic?” 

Oakland city planner Pete Vollmann told the Planet that a traffic study was being conducted by transportation consultants Fehr & Peers and would be part of the environmental impact report. 

Vollmann said there was no set timeline for when the study would be released to the public. 

Houghton defended Safeway’s plans to upgrade both stores. 

“The area in question has a lot of residents—and two stores have been supporting this general location for quite some time with high transaction counts,” she said. “The average size of our new stores or lifestyle remodels is 55,000 square feet—so they can adequately provide many of the lifestyle type services (wine, cheese, deli, produce) that our customers desire. So these plans are not out of line for how we handle remodels in other locations. We obviously want to be sensitive to the desires of our neighbors and customers and that is why we’ve worked diligently with a number of local groups to design the store.”  

Shawl said that neighborhood zoning laws mandated that any development should “maintain and enhance what is there now.” 

“However, they are literally going to grow and change the area,” she said. “College and Claremont will never be the same again.” 

Oakland’s planning staff wrote in the study that the “proposed project would result in a taller, more massive, and more intensively developed commercial center at this key retail corner in north Oakland than what presently exists at the site.” 

“I am skeptical of Safeway’s ability to deliver a neighborhood development that is consistent with the pedestrian-oriented shopping district that characterizes College Avenue and of the project’s ability to comply with Oakland’s zoning code,” said Jerome Buttrick, an architect at Buttrick Wong Architects who lives in the neighborhood. 

“They have no track record building urban infill projects of this sort. Most importantly, however, the impact it will have on the local community cannot be overstated,” he said. “The project will quickly destroy the delicate balance of small, local retail shops that has taken decades to put in place.”

UC Students, Faculty Talk Strike Tactics

By Raymond Barglow, Special to the Planet
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:25:00 AM

On Tuesday evening about 80 UC Berkeley students and faculty packed the Sociology Department lounge in Barrows Hall to ponder strategy and tactics for a strike that will take place Wednesday through Friday next week, Nov. 18–20.  

The strike is scheduled to overlap with the next UC Regent’s meeting, Nov. 17–19, and organizers hope that it will halt “business as usual” at all UC campuses. 

Along with the sharp cutbacks being made to funding for higher education in California, the immediate grievance that motivates the strike is a proposed hike in student fees of 32 percent over two semesters. That comes on top of a 9 percent fee increase last summer. The result is that the expense of an education at UC will be three times higher than it was in 2000. 

From the Berkeley campus, five or six buses will carry students down to Los Angeles to protest the Regents’ actions.  

Zachary Levenson, a sociology graduate student and a strike organizer at UC Berkeley, told the Planet that the regents may choose to hold their meeting via teleconference, seeking thereby to thwart the protesters. He views the fee hikes as unwarranted.  

Contrary to a popular perception, says Levenson, these increases are not being made to compensate for a shortfall in funding for education. On the contrary, he says, the money paid by students will provide collateral for bonds that UC will use for new construction projects. 

Levenson acknowledges that ordinarily such construction might be uncontroversial, but he is doubtful that, given the current financial crisis, building new buildings can be justified. He cites as evidence for misuse of student fees a report written by Bob Meister, professor at UC Santa Cruz and president of the Council of UC Faculty Associations.  

In his “Open Letter to UC Students,” Meister says, “Higher tuition lets UC borrow more for construction even while it cuts instruction and research.”  

This claim is contested by Peter Taylor, UC’s chief financial officer: “It’s the kind of factually challenged distortion we’ve come to expect in partisan politics.”  

Taylor says that there will be no allocation of fees to new construction projects. 

“The educational fee—equivalent to tuition—supports university operations, including instruction and support activities. It’s counted as general revenue,” he said. “But, while general revenue is pledged as security for bonds, educational fees are not used to pay debt service on our bonds.”  

Meister replies that part of the problem here is that UC financial planning is not transparent. 

“Proponents of UC privatization both rely upon and betray the public’s willingness to believe that UC’s values are not changing—that it simply needs new sources of funding to do what it has always done,” Meister wrote. “Californians need to know that a tuition-dependent UC will have its priorities driven by financial markets rather than by citizens.” 

Organizers of the proposed three-day strike acknowledge that the decision to go on strike will be a difficult one for many students and faculty.  

“There is concern among professors that in the already shortened semester, which is two weeks shorter than previous semesters, the students have lost a Thursday from the first strike and another Thursday during the Thanksgiving break, and now could lose yet another Thursday with a 3-day strike,” said Anna Cohen. “A one-day strike on Wednesday or Friday could gather more support.” 

At the Tuesday evening meeting, sociology professor Barry Thorne expressed her hope that teachers will support the strike. She cited the appeal to faculty that is being made by the Solidarity Alliance at Berkeley to which she belongs. 

“All of you are informed enough to understand what a 32 percent fee increase means to the accessibility and diversity of the UC,” Thorne said. “You are all compassionate enough to acknowledge what 1,900 layoffs and further pay cuts mean to the staff of the UC.”  

The appeal points out that teachers can support the strike in various ways short of canceling classes. They can, for example, choose not to punish students who participate in the strike, they can use class time to host a discussion about the meaning and values of public education, they can endorse the strike demands, even if not the strike itself. 

The University Professional & Technical Employees Union (UPTE) will participate in the strike on Nov. 18 and 19.  

It appears that the strike has support within the university community, but will that support be as widespread and strong as that given to the walkout in September? Those meeting in Barrows Hall on Tuesday hope that the community will deliver an affirmative answer next week at university branches up and down the state.

Meehan Approved as City’s New Police Chief

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:26:00 AM
Michael Meehan will take over as Berkeley’s new police chief next month.
Andrew Taylor
Michael Meehan will take over as Berkeley’s new police chief next month.

When news of Captain Michael Meehan’s appointment as Berkeley’s new police chief reached Seattle last week, the city was going through a rough patch. 

The Seattle Police Department, where Meehan heads the Violent Crime Division, had just lost veteran Officer Timothy Brenton during a fatal Halloween night drive-by shooting, which many are describing as a targeted attack on Seattle police at random, even assassination. 

Brenton’s partner Officer Britt Sweeney, sitting next to him in the police patrol vehicle, was seriously injured.  

As Seattle prepared Friday for a funeral procession to honor 39-year-old Brenton, the father of two young children, Meehan flew back to attend the memorial after interviewing with the Berkeley City Council. 

“It’s been really tough around here,” Meehan, 48, told the Planet during a telephone interview from Seattle Monday. “We have had a lot on our mind.” 

Meehan wasn’t present at Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting, at which councilmembers confirmed him as former Berkeley Police Chief Doug Hambleton’s replacement. 

“Please extend my apologies to the people of Berkeley, but I still have a job I need to finish here,” Meehan said. “I was planning to go down there a few weeks before joining, but it looks like that’s not happening anymore.” 

Meehan is scheduled to start his new job Dec. 13.  

Seattle police are working around the clock to uncover clues behind Brenton’s slaying, and are preparing to file charges Thursday against the suspect, Tukwila resident Christopher John Monfort. 

When the conversation turned to his new job in Berkeley, Meehan, who was born and raised in Southern California, opened up, offering a glimpse into his personal life. 

“I am very delighted about it, very hopeful and very excited,” he said. “I am looking forward to getting back to California and working closely with the community there.” 

A business graduate from the University of Washington, Meehan has a master’s degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. 

On why he picked Berkeley, a college town less than half the size of Seattle, Meehan, who has been with the Seattle force since 1986, said he was attracted to the “interesting challenges and fine staff” of the Berkeley Police Department, which has 185 sworn officers and 116 non-sworn personnel and an annual operating budget of $56 million. 

Meehan’s annual salary will be $205,400 and he will also receive a $500,000 housing assistance loan from the city of Berkeley. 

Meehan was picked from a three-panel nationwide search, which included mailing brochures to police chiefs in the top 100 university towns in the country, and narrowing the search down to eight candidates and ultimately three finalists. 

“He’s very friendly, very open, and he’ll be good with the community,” said Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz, who said the city had conducted a thorough background check on Meehan. “And he has a lot of experience.” 

Besides heading SPD’s training, vice, narcotics. major crimes, fraud, audit, policy, ethics and auto theft division, Meehan also led its Field Training Program, where he was in charge of more than 100 field training officers and sergeants. 

“I have reached a point in my life where my wife and I could use a change,” Meehan said. “Plus Berkeley has a warmer climate. Northern California particularly appealed to us. It’s close to Southern California, and there’s a lot of stuff to do outdoors.” 

Meehan said he was looking forward to exploring California’s natural wilderness with his two young children. 

Seattlites who worked closely with Meehan when he took over the city’s East Precinct—which serves the predominantly gay Capitol Hill area, and has 135 officers and a budget of $20 million—in 2004, praised him. 

Andrew Taylor, chair of the Miller Park Neighborhood Association, said he first met Meehan when he toured the Madison–Miller neighborhood that year to talk to neighbors. 

“I took a picture of him,” said Taylor, who has been living in Seattle since the 1980s and runs a neighborhood blog. “He put on his uniform, stuck his truncheon in his jacket—he was like the Pied Piper walking through town, and as he walked, more and more neighbors came along. His photograph pretty much tells the story. He was the most confident in talking to the public, probably the most intelligent. He liked doing his job.”  

Taylor said that his neighborhood had struggled with drug dealing and prostitution for years, which he said percolated from an old bar in the area called Deano’s. 

“People were finding prostitutes' customers getting blowjobs on their back porches ... It was really bad,” he said. “Capt. Meehan was very honest about what could be done. He has always been frank to discuss matters.” 

One of Taylor’s old blog posts on Meehan’s visit says: “[Meehan] emphasized that while the police could help with an immediate problem by arresting someone, their experience was that, due to long waits for court dates and short sentences, this did little to help the long-term chronic problems in the neighborhood. His advice was for neighbors to select a couple of discrete problems and to concentrate on finding solutions for them.” 

Taylor said that Meehan along with Lt. John Hayes of the SPD started an outreach program that offered social services to the addicts and homeless people hanging around in the neighborhood. 

“They were not only protecting us, but doing something for the community as well,” he said. “I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t want him as your police chief. I would love to have him back as the Seattle Police Chief, but the logical career progress would be to be the commander of a medium-sized city.” 

When Deano’s closed down a few years ago, Taylor said, the problems stopped literally overnight. Meehan and Hayes nominated Taylor for SPD’s Citizen Appreciation Award in 2004 for being a “model community organizer and a tireless advocate for those who live in the neighborhood.” 

A post on the blog Capitol Hill Seattle, by Doug Schwartz, noted that historically, police commanders have had short stints at the East Precinct, which is Seattle’s newest, with nine officers over a period of 10 years. 

When Schwartz interviewed Meehan about how long he expected to stay on the “Hill”, he said: “I say this laughingly, but I told my boss that my intention is to stay here until the day I retire. I'll stay here as long as they allow me to stay. I am very happy to be at the East Precinct.” 

Meehan stayed at the East Precinct until mid-2005. 

Some of Meehan’s harshest critics in Seattle called him a “radical conservative.” 

“He’s a very nice guy,” said Dominic Holden, a writer and editor at Seattle’s alternative newsweekly The Stranger, who in 2003 spearheaded the campaign to pass Initiative 75, which aims to reduce pot possession to the lowest law-enforcement priority in the city, a law Meehan opposed from the very beginning and wanted to repeal last year while sitting on a city-appointed marijuana policy review panel in his role as head of the SPD’s narcotics section.  

“However, you will have a police chief cut from the mold of the Bush-era drug policy,” Holden warned. “I am surprised that a city that’s as progressive as Berkeley chose an officer who by Seattle’s standards is very conservative in his views about drug crime.” 

Like Seattle, which is home to the world’s largest hempfest, Berkeley too has a liberal marijuana-use policy. The city’s Municipal Code mandates that the Berkeley City Council ensure “that the Berkeley Police Department gives lowest priority to the enforcement of marijuana laws.” 

Holden said that although Seattle police appeared to be complying with the law under Meehan, he proposed more than two dozen changes to the panel’s final report to indicate rising drug crime rates and use rates among teens although the data showed the opposite.  

The report showed an overall decrease in marijuana cases and prosecution since the voter-approved initiative’s passage, but a racial disparity in the number of arrests. 

Meehan’s primary concern, as reported in a Jan. 10 Seattle Times article, was the effect of the law on youth. “I don’t want to send a message to kids that drug use is OK,” he said. 

After talking to Meehan, several Berkeley councilmembers said they were impressed that Meehan regularly consulted with the ACLU about marijuana laws, something Holden said was only natural. 

“There is no way he can be the narcotics captain and not consult with the ACLU,” Holden said. “There are a number of laws that are ambiguous and the ACLU is a key player on drug policy.” 

Meehan defended his position, but stressed that he could not go into a lot of detail about policy since he had not been officially appointed chief at the time of the interview. 

“I am not sure citizen initiatives are the best way to set the priority for the police department,” he said. “I think the police department should work with the leaders of the city [to address enforcement].” 

Meehan said both Seattle—which he called extremely progressive—and Berkeley had similar cultures, and that he was willing to keep an open mind. 

“Having worked in narcotics for some time, I can say with some authority that Seattle has many laws that are very similar to Berkeley and I want to learn more about them,” he said. “I think people will be very surprised with how open I am. I am willing to do things Berkeley’s way.” 

Meehan said he was aware of Berkeley’s position as a Sanctuary City to undocumented immigrants. 

“I am supportive of anything that is protective of people’s rights,” he said. “But at the same time I want the city to be safe as can be. I feel comfortable moving to Berkeley—I don’t feel apprehensive at all.” 

Advocates of decriminalizing marijuana use in Berkeley said they were looking forward to working with Meehan. 

“It will take some time for him to fit into Berkeley, but hopefully he will acclimatize,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington.  

Robert MacCoun, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, said that it was unlikely that Meehan would come in and change any existing marijuana-use policies. 

“Even without laws marijuana possession is already a low priority” he said. “There’s no state in the United States that makes marijuana possession a top priority. It’s kind of a tool used to justify other crimes. It has more of a political implication—if you are opposed to the law, it’s like ‘I want to send a tough message.’ But I doubt whether he (Meehan) would bring about any real policy change. There are so many priorities it’s difficult to see it rising to a high priority.” 

Speaking at the City Council meeting Tuesday, students and community members asked their new chief to address escalating crime on the north and south of campus. 

Police Review Commission Officer Victoria Erbi said the commission was currently in the process of urging the City Council to reinstate Berkeley Police General Order A-1, which asks police officers to use the “least intrusive action ... when possible.” 

Former Police Chief Doug Hambleton rescinded the order two weeks before retiring in September. 

“It’s the difference between being issued a citation or being warned during, say, jaywalking,” Urbi said. “Hambleton said the order didn’t make much sense to the police department and that there were other general orders similar to A1. But he couldn’t point out anything.” 

Urbi said interim chief Eric Gustafson was holding off on any policy changes until Meehan takes office.

Council Revises Sign Policy, Bans Cat Declawing

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:26:00 AM

Berkeleyans, beware: the city will be banning all pole signs effective the third week of December. 

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council voted to revise the city’s sign ordinance. 

Garage sale signs are still OK, provided you dismantle them later. Sandwich board signs are not OK, although Mayor Tom Bates admitted that he sympathized with local merchants who are struggling to keep their businesses afloat by doing virtually anything, even when it verges on violating the law. 

Bates hinted that he would support legislation that would allow shopkeepers to advertise their wares on sidewalk display boards as long as they complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Councilmember Kriss Worth-ington, who vehemently objected to the revisions in the ordinance as they were proposed at a council meeting Oct. 13 because they continued to “suffer from constitutional flaws,” said he was relatively satisfied with the new language. 

“It’s clearly a dramatic im-provement,” Worthington said. “It’s not perfect, but it’s constitutional.” 

Worthington said that City Attorney Zach Cowan had done a good job of addressing constitutional shortcomings in the current ordinance, including language regulating the content of a sign. 

Cowan, along with consultant Vivian Kahn, updated the current ordinance, which Kahn called “more of a repair, with few substantial changes.” 

“The sign ordinance has not been updated for years,” said Kahn. “It will be now easier for people to use and for staff to understand.” 

Not everyone, however, felt that the amendment had made things simpler. 

“I thought this was a clean-up,” said Councilmember Susan Wengraf. “It’s daunting.” 

“You should see what is there now,” said Cowan, smiling. 

The updated ordinance includes a severability clause to reduce the city’s liability in case it gets sued for not complying with state law. 

Changes include consolidating provisions dealing with the same topic, alphabetization of definitions, and deleting provisions that have become obsolete. 

All new signs have to comply with the city’s Building Code. 

Under the new provisions, signs have to be maintained regularly and the city will notify sign owners in case of graffiti or other public nuisance. 

Height for ground signs have been lowered from 30 feet to 20 feet. Service station signs can only be 12 feet high. 

Coucilmembers Darryl Moore and Max Anderson stressed that they wanted the city to be proactive about the blight of billboards along the South Berkeley corridor. 

“I don’t see any billboards on the hills,” Anderson said. “I know why that is, it’s because they won’t allow them to be there.” 


Cat declawing banned 

Berkeley became the sixth city in the United States to ban cat declawing Tuesday despite stiff opposition from the California Veterinary Medical Association and others. 

Declawing of cats is a controversial issue, with those in favor of banning the practice describing it as “cruel and inhuman,” while opponents often refer to the operation as the last resort in many cases. 

West Hollywood, Santa Monica, San Francisco, Beverly Hills, and Los Angeles have already passed the ban, which cities will not be able to impose after Jan. 1 due to a recent amendment in the state’s Business and Professions Code. CVMA sponsored the state legislation and has spent thousands of dollars lobbying cities to support it. 

CVMA’s official position is that “the decision to declaw a cat should remain between the owner in consultation with his veterinarian on a case-by-case basis.” 

The organization has maintained in letters to several city councils that declawing of cats may become necessary for behavioral reasons. though only after all other remedies have been considered. 

One Berkeley resident who spoke at the meeting said that a recent survey showed that only four declawing procedures had been carried out in Berkeley this year, three for therapeutic reasons and one so that a child with cancer could keep his pet. 

“We do not want to see patients who have health issues compromised by not being able to keep their pets,” said Sally Goodman, who asked the council to hold a public hearing before passing the ban. 

Emotions ran high as some compared the action to banning a woman’s right to get legal abortion.  

“What’s next? Banning circumcision of children?” asked a woman. 

Berkeley previously passed a resolution asking for declawing to be banned. 

Several veterinarians, including Jennifer Conrad, the founder of the Paw Project, said that there are various alternatives to declawing, such as Soft Paws—a little pad that fits over a cat’s claws—no-scratch spray and claw clippings at cat clinics. 

“It is horrible,” said Jean Hofve, a former veterinarian who used to perform declawing. “Thirty-three percent of cats declawed will develop behavioral problems. A cat bite is worse than a scratch.” 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguín, who proposed the ordinance along with Councilmember Susan Wengraf, who is allergic to cats, said that declawing was essentially the amputation of the last bone of the cat’s toe. 

“I have had cats my whole life and I recently adopted a 3-month-old kitten, and I know that declawing makes cats more aggressive and less likely to use litter boxes,” Arreguín said. “This ban is keeping in line with Berkeley’s long history of being humane to animals.” 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington amended the ordinance, giving the citing officer some wiggle room in case they found a cat owner or veterinarian guilty of declawing in Berkeley. 

An officer will have the discretion to write up the violator as either a misdemeanor or an infraction. 

The council voted unanimously to approve the ban. 

Pinpointing Just Where to Celebrate Geographic Information System Day

By Bruce Joffe, Special to the Planet
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:27:00 AM

For some people, “where” is a prominent question for getting oriented and staying informed: “where is it?,” “how far?”, “what route to take?”   

These people already know and love geography.   

The rest of us may only be peripherally aware that geography, and geographic information system (GIS) technology are the root of the GPS map device in our cars, the source of GoogleMaps, and the base of those MLS real-estate listings.   

Next week, Nov. 16–20, is the annual celebration of geography, National Geography Week.    

To celebrate, our geographical friends at the Bay Area Automated Mapping Association, the UC Berkeley Geospatial Innovation Facility, and the Northern California Region of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing are hosting the 14th annual GIS Day at UC Berkeley’s Mulford Hall.   

Afternoon activities begin at 3 p.m. with a free MapTogether workshop introducing GIS concepts in a nonprofit/community context. GIS computer workstations will be set up to demonstrate examples of how GIS can be used to visualize data and solve problems. Those who are adventurous and playful can try “geocaching,” a search for clues to hidden treasure using satellite-based GPS. 

From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. local GIS professionals will be explaining some of the important ways GIS affects our lives and our public policy. Then, at 7:30 p.m. keynote speaker James Fee, geospatial blogger and community organizer, will discuss what people are doing to make geographic data accessible and shareable (http://www.planetgs.com). 

The event is free and refreshments will be served. You can find out how to get there and where to park at http://gif.berkeley.edu/gisday.html. 



BCC Teach-In Aims to Forge Movement

By Raymond Barglow
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:28:00 AM
Teach-in participants meet at BCC on Saturday.
Raymond Barglow
Teach-in participants meet at BCC on Saturday.

A teach-in supporting public school education took place at Berkeley City College on Saturday.  

Organizers of the teach-in, including Joan Berezin, Global Studies Program Coordinator at BCC, and Marc Lispi, who teaches English, spoke to the audience about the need to form a broad social movement to resist deep cuts in funding for California’s public schools. 

One view expressed many times during this day-long gathering was that public education from kindergarten through university should be accessible to all Californians.  

The audience was reminded by Richard Hansen, teacher at De Anza College, that this vision is in keeping with California’s historical commitment over the past century to public education as the heart and soul of opportunity in the Golden State. 

That commitment is being abandoned, the teach-in organizers say, by actions of the governor and state legislature. According to the teach-in organizing packet, K–12 school funding is being slashed by $5.2 billion, and at the college level, California’s university system is being cut back by $1.4 billion, which means that tens of thousands will be denied college admission.  

Meanwhile, fees are being raised for those who do gain admittance.  

The situation at California’s community colleges—the largest college system in the United States—is also dire. Cuts of $935 million mean that classes, library services, tutoring and other programs are being canceled or sharply cut back, student fees are rising, and workers are being laid off. About 250,000 prospective students will be denied admission to the community colleges in 2009–10. 

Jen Wood, a student at Berkeley City College and a teach-in organizer, says that these cuts are impacting the working-class population that the community colleges serve.  

Nearly 3 million students attend 110 community colleges in California. More than half of them are women and more than half minorities. One-third are over 40 years old and 80 percent are working while taking classes.  

On Teaching: Between Work and Play

By Mary Wolff
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:28:00 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mary Wolf is a Bay Area teacher who will be writing occasional columns for the Planet based on her experiences in the classroom.  


We tend to separate work and play. We see work as something that is not necessarily pleasant but must be done and play as something to do when work is done. School reflects this. In kindergarten, we do our work and when all is done, then the students get play time. Those who haven’t finished their work do that during play time. Many kindergartens don’t have a play time. 

In the garden the other day, I was sitting in the dirt pulling weeds. I was reminded of playing in the dirt as a child, making mud pies and other recipes. I actually had a book my sister had given me titled “How to Make Mudpies and Other Recipes.” I loved that book and used it for many days. Well, I no longer play in the garden, but I do work. And is there much difference?  

I can justify the work; the weeds need to be pulled, I am getting the garden in shape and besides, I am getting exercise. So it is work: something that needs to be done. However, it resembles the play of childhood. I am doing something I enjoy, by my own volition. I derive pleasure and gain knowledge from doing it. So it is workplay, the best type of activity, I would say. 

So too, do my kindergartners play. At play time, they choose the activity, it is something from which they derive pleasure, but it is also an activity from which they draw many lessons. And thus, it is important to do it. We call it play, we let them do it only when their work is done, we cancel it when necessary, but it is so important. There are those, usually boys, who choose Lego each time. They are learning about how shapes fit together; they learn to negotiate for the piece they need; and they derive great pride from their creations. Others choose Playdoh, learning about cause and effect, and negotiation again, and pride.  

One girl this year always chose the box of scraps. She showed great creativity making crowns, cards, etc., from scraps of paper and cardboard. There are the block builders, the computer kids, the math manipulators … all are choosing an activity of their own volition, learning science and math concepts, and learning to cooperate with other children besides. They also learn to clean up after themselves. 

We call this play! And we limit it to 20 minutes a day. It used to be that play was most of the kindergarten day, as nursery school is today. No longer. We spend the rest of the day on seatwork or at the rug learning the alphabet and numbers.  

This year, I had a class that was very difficult but also smart. They would only do well when it was an activity they chose or liked. Many didn’t want to learn the alphabet or numbers until I finally convinced them that it was in their self-interest. When an activity bored them, they would play games with each other, tune out, or disrupt the class. But whenever the activity was playlike, they cooperated. They would listen to stories and respond enthusiastically and with excellent comprehension. They loved science and art and P.E. The last week of school, with assessments done, I could ignore the pacing guide as no one would be the wiser.  

I had the students make and paint wood sculptures for their fathers for Father’s Day. I was apprehensive, given their behavior. Would they wave their brushes around, spill the paint, get paint all over their desks? No, they painted neatly, focussed and quiet. Because it was an activity that engaged them. 

So the trick is to choose activities that engage them at all times. This is tricky. I try but given the textbooks we must use, the pacing guides and the assessments, it is too easy to fall back on worksheets and bookwork.  

After all, I will be judged on the test, not how engaged they were. But I always keep in the back of my mind the need to engage them, to let them indulge in play, in short, to teach kindergarten the way it should be taught!

Iran Charges UC Graduates with Spying

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:29:00 AM

The three American hikers, all graduates of UC Berkeley, who were detained by Iranian authorities, were charged with espionage Monday, according to reports by national and international media. 

UC Berkeley alumni Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal have been held by Iranian authorities since July 31 for illegally crossing into Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan. 

Family and friends have said that the three were on a hike when they crossed the Iran–Iraq border by mistake. 

The families of Bauer, Shourd and Fattal issued a statement Monday to the Planet in response to the latest reports from Tehran: 

“The allegation that our loved ones may have been engaged in espionage is untrue,” the statement said. “It is entirely at odds with the people Shane, Sarah and Josh are and with anything that Iran can have learned about them since they were detained on July 31. Shane, Sarah and Josh have now been held for more than 100 days simply because they apparently strayed into Iran by accident while hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan. We again call on Iran to show compassion to our loved ones and release them without delay. This has already gone on for too long.” 

Efforts by U.S. government officials—including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—to free the three have been unsuccessful. Clinton met with the families of all three hikers recently, according to UC Berkeley officials. 

According to CNN, Tehran’s prosecutor general, Abbas Ja’afari Dolatabadi, made an announcement about the charges during an interview with the official Iranian news agency IRNA. 

“The charge against the three U.S. citizens who were arrested on the Iran–Iraq border is espionage. Investigation of their cases is in progress,” he told IRNA, adding: “There will be more to say [about them] soon.” 

CNN reported that Clinton urged the Iranian government Monday to “exercise compassion,” saying, “We believe strongly that there is no evidence to support any charge whatsoever.” 

Dolatabadi also told IRNA during the interview that Iranian authorities had also arrested a Danish journalism student and were investigating him, CNN said. 

“A journalist must have an official permit from authorized officials,” he told IRNA. “Therefore, the investigation will continue. We have also requested information from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and, after they respond to our inquiry, we will make our decision.” 

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance is in charge of issuing permits to journalists. 

UC Berkeley officials said they would not comment on the latest charges but expressed concern about the ongoing detention. The university’s Associate Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs Claire Holmes described the news as a “most unfortunate turn of events.” 

“Our hearts go out to the hikers and their families,” she told the Planet. “We certainly hope this gets resolved quickly, and they return home to be with their families and loved ones. They are in our thoughts and prayers. We certainly hope that the State Department will do all it takes to bring them back.” 

Holmes said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau had sent Clinton a letter urging consular access, which was granted. 

“We don’t want to do anything to jeopardize their release, but the letter basically said that all three hikers graduated from UC Berkeley, and while we do not know the particulars of the situation, we urged for consular access.” 

Because the United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran, the U.S. government appealed for the hikers’ release through Swiss diplomats, who met with them twice at the Evin Prison in Tehran, most recently Oct. 29, according to CNN. 

Bauer, 27, and Shourd, 31, are freelance journalists, and Fattal, 27, is involved with a sustainable living project at the Aprovecho Research Center in Cottage Grove, Ore., the families have said. 

UC Berkeley held a vigil in August marking the 30-day anniversary of the detention.  

“We wanted to keep this topic in the forefront and get the attention of the media,” Holmes said. “It’s terrible.” 

Holmes said that it was very uncommon for college students to get detained and charged for espionage by international authorities while traveling. 

Worldwide vigils for the hikers were held on the 100-day anniversary of their arrest.  

The university is in touch with the hikers’ families through sporadic e-mails, Holmes said. 

A website created in support of the three hikers, www.freethehikers.org, was jammed because of a spike in web traffic Monday morning.

Downtown Berkeley Association Hires New Executive Director

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:30:00 AM

The Downtown Berkeley Association announced Tuesday that it had hired John Caner as their new executive director. 

Caner will replace current executive director Deborah Badhia Nov. 16, who will become the DBA’s new director of operations. 

A press release by the DBA said that Caner would “lead the organization through an exciting period of transition.”  

The DBA announced plans in September to develop a strategic blueprint that would revitalize the downtown, and perhaps convert the existing Business Improvement District into a new Property Based Business Improvement District. 

Caner, who was selected from a pool of 20 applicants, ran Rebuilding Together Oakland for three and a half years. 

According to the DBA, Caner, who has lived in Berkeley for 18 years, previously worked in the private sector as well as in non-profit management. 

“I look forward to working with a broad coalition of business, city, arts, retail, community and civic leaders in developing a more vibrant downtown—and building upon the many recent successes including the expansion of the Berkeley Rep, the moving of Freight and Salvage to downtown, the renovation of the Shattuck Hotel, and the opening of the new showcase Brower Center,” Caner said in a statement. 

Caner contributed to the presidential campaigns of John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, and lives on Derby Street with his partner George Beier, who ran against District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington in 2006. 

In his campaign statement in the Planet, Beier said he and Caner met in 1989. Beier and Caner started a software company with their savings in 1993. 

“We look forward to working with John and the rest of the DBA community in building a more vibrant and prosperous Downtown Berkeley,” said Michael Caplan, director of economic development with the City of Berkeley in a statement. “While these are trying economic times, I believe John has the energy, leadership, creativity, and community ties to help make this happen.” 

Caner has also worked at Berkeley-based Loansoft Inc., Nextel Communication and PacTel Cellular. He has served as a board member on several neighborhood associations and commissions and volunteered at Willard Middle School. 



First Person: Why on Earth Is Organic Produce More Expensive?

By Shirley Barker
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:51:00 AM
Organic produce can have a cost structure that sometimes defies logic. Tomatoes wait for takers at a Berkeley farmers market.
Michael Howerton
Organic produce can have a cost structure that sometimes defies logic. Tomatoes wait for takers at a Berkeley farmers market.

When at a farmers’ market I had to pay $2.25 for a tomato which, to add injury to insult, looked as though it had a shelf life of half an hour, I asked the vendor why it was so outrageously expensive.  

“Because it’s organic,” was his reply as I knew it would be. What did he mean by organic? He responded that it means growing things without pesticides and fertilizers. Why not? “Because, er, they’re poisonous.” 

So far so good, but he could have gone much, much further. If this really is what “organic” means, fruits and vegetables grown organically should be cheaper than those grown with chemical pesticides and artificial fertilizers, since such items are expensive. Instead, the very word seems to have become an opportunity to charge exorbitant prices, a gilded bandwagon on which many middlemen have landed, including restaurateurs. 

We all know that our ancestors for centuries grew food plants without artificial additives, and in so doing developed a respect for and understanding of the earth barely recognizable today. Hands up how many of you gardeners out there taste the earth before planting? I thought not. 

Less well known seems to be that they also practiced genetic engineering. In the full title of Charles Darwin’s famous book (preface to a larger tome he never got around to writing), On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, the implied emphasis is on the word Natural. Artificial selection or plant breeding or genetic engineering had been going on for years. The original parents of wheat and corn are no longer known. Now and then a long scrawny ivory-colored root will appear in a bed of plump orange carrots. That is a wild ancestor, evidence of man’s intervention. 

Darwin was a gardener, developed his experiments with the help of his own gardener, corresponded with gardeners. In a book on poultry published in 1906, the author Edward Brown is on familiar terms with Mr. Darwin, as one of a happy breed of like-minded tinkering husbandmen. 

At about the same time the so-called modern organic movement began in India, where Albert Howard, hired to advise Indian farmers, instead became their advocate. After observing how Indians were farming, he realized that the modern agriculture he was supposed to teach them had become fragmented because of the adoption of chemical fertilizers, insecticides and drugs, so that soil, crops, animals and humans were unnaturally separated. He could see that such deteriorated and poisonous agricultural practices combined with population increase would lead to food shortage and ill health.  

Scrutinizing the natural and ancient agriculture of Punjabi farmers, Baluchistan tribesmen, West Indian planters, and English growers, he became convinced of the importance of maintaining healthy soil, subsequently laying the foundation, literally and figuratively, of organic gardening and farming, as J. I. Rodale describes in his Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. Rodale published many titles after coming under Howard’s influence and his name remains significant today. 

All good organic growing processes arise from this foundation. The crop rotation that discourages disease, the frequent sowing of nitrogen-rich legumes, the aeration of the soil by planting root crops, the encouragement of earthworms that aerate the soil and break down particles for micro-organisms to absorb, the carboniferous materials dug under and spread over the earth to enrich and protect it, the absence of pesticides that kill indiscriminately, the use of natural fertilizers that fortify the substrata, unlike artificial ones that poison it—all such efforts are in the service of the soil. Soil is king. 

If your plant in a pot is wilting and diseased, check the soil. Knock the plant out of the pot and look at its roots. Is the plant pot-bound, its roots twisted or pressed against the sides of the pot, with insufficient earth to nourish them and no space to aerate them? Is the soil too wet, too dry, too over or under fed? The solution to many gardening problems lies beneath or within the ground, or pot. 

Once while I was traveling in Oregon my car broke down on a country road. A farmer appeared, towed my car to a garage, and while it was being fixed, gave me a tour of his organic farm. Two things struck me. First, its size: healthy looking fields stretching as far as I could see. Second, the farmer’s relaxed behavior.  

Despite the size of his farm, he seemed in no hurry to work at all. Indeed, why should he? The fields were mulched, and Oregon gets summer rain. Microbes, sun, air and water were doubtless combining to grow healthy crops with no need for human intervention. 

That he also prospered, an expensive-looking black shiny sports car parked under a tree gave evidence. Good for him. But was it due to the tomatoes? 




Telling the Truth About Carbon Emissions

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:42:00 AM

A figure cited by a letter writer in a recent issue of the British magazine New Scientist grabbed my attention this week: 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the manufacture of steel and concrete.  

A bit of internet research persuaded me that this estimate is roughly credible from a scientific perspective, though of course subject to clarification when you get down to details.  

Many of the local policy discussions exhibit our politicians’ ignorance—willful or innocent—of this fundamental concept. The foolish idea that we can build our way out of global warming surfaces in all kinds of ways. Three local controversies which have been extensively covered in these pages are illustrative. 

First, we have the Berkeley city council's rush to up-zone almost everything in sight to accommodate big buildings.  

The now-discredited new Downtown Plan was an attempt to make room for new structures so tall that they had to be built of—yes—steel and concrete, totally ignoring the wealth of information available from a myriad of sources that shows that re-using old buildings and infilling only with new wood-frame structures under four stories is the best way to go.  

PG&E even provided an expert who talked about this at one of the DAPAC meetings, but his advice was ignored by the City Council when it came time to vote.  

And they’re at it again in West Berkeley. The word on the street is that if the council tries the same kind of ploy, attempting to overturn the balanced West Berkeley Plan with spot re-zoning to cater to large landowners, another referendum is inevitable.  

One more time, guys and gals. The fact that Measure G passed overwhelmingly means that we should not be rebuilding in a functional industrial zone with steel and concrete behemoths intended to provide offices for biofuel entrepreneurs. The idea that biofuels are a climate-change panacea is also increasingly suspect, but that’s another day’s topic. 

It does provide a segue to another panacea, however, the dream of thwarting climate change with public transport. While it’s true that single-passenger gasoline-powered vehicles generate excessive greenhouse gases, putting huge empty diesel buses and a lot of concrete islands down Telegraph in Berkeley will not materially reduce the number of single-passenger car trips—check the environmental documents that have already been produced for the Bus Rapid Transit boondoggle for confirmation.  

The intelligent answer to the gasoline engine problem is the progress now being made on inventing more efficient propulsion methods for cars, which many smart people think is much less than 20 years from success.  

Finally, on a smaller scale, we have the Safeway Corporation’s lust to build a Walmart-competitive superstore on the site of what is now a perfectly adequate neighborhood grocery story at the corner of College and Claremont. The name for the project on the most recently released version of the plans has morphed into “shopping center.” The gas station on the corner has sold out to Safeway—it closed last week—so the site is getting bigger. 

Does anyone think that the purpose of building a much much bigger store with eight satellite retail bays is to enable Claremont and Rockridge neighbors to “shop local”? Not likely, since these neighborhoods are already very well served by excellent walk-to independents like the Star Grocery, Verbrugge Meats, La Farine Bakery and Yasai Produce.  

Safeway’s obvious goal is to create a regional draw, bringing ever more cars into an already congested area with merchandise delivered by mammoth trucks from far away. 

Oh, they say, but it will be a LEED-certified building. Not nearly good enough. It will still be a new building, and an unnecessary one. 

The Planet's in-house science adviser, who reads widely about the climate change problem and gets a lot of detailed information about scientific progress in solving it from his Caltech alumni magazine, explains it this way: 

Every ton of carbon which we emit in the form of carbon dioxide in 2009 will stay in the atmosphere for 1000 years. Half-measures, reducing our contribution to greenhouse gasses by 20 percent or 50 percent or even 80 percent, are not going to work.  

Large scale solutions for using solar and wind and other renewable sources of energy which won’t add to our carbon footprint are very close but not here yet. Until these are on line, it's much better not to produce any new CO2 unless it's absolutely necessary. Then future generations won't have to deal with it at all. 

That means continuing to use the perfectly adequate old Safeway until it really wears out, not building a new one, no matter how LEED-pretty it seems to be, because all building adds carbon. It means thinking twice about that new Prius, if your old Corolla is still perking along. Operating a new model would be somewhat more efficient, true, but consider the energy it takes to manufacture the Prius.  

It means telling UC administrators that instead of building a forest of new high rises downtown, they should take pay cuts and give their service employees raises so that they can afford existing Berkeley housing.  

The bible for scientifically-minded people who worry about the plethora of phony small-time solutions to the climate change dilemma is Sustainable Energy—without the hot air by University of Cambridge Professor of Physics David J.C. MacKay.  

It’s available all sorts of ways, including free online at withouthotair.com. His prose is pungent, and his facts are compelling.  

A small example from page three:  

“The result of this lack of meaningful numbers and facts? We are inundated with a flood of crazy innumerate codswallop. The BBC doles out advice on how we can do our bit to save the planet—for example “switch off your mobile phone charger when it's not in use;” if anyone objects that mobile phone chargers are not actually our number one form of energy consumption, the mantra “every little [bit] helps” is wheeled out. Every little helps?  

A more realistic mantra is: if everyone does a little, we'll achieve only a little. 

This book should be required reading for every politician who wants to make conscientious decisions on the environmental matters that come before them.  

Instead, sadly, officials are most often influenced by the green-washing proganda produced by self-serving profiteers in the building industry, both developers and union representatives, or by corporations like Safeway whose only motive is the profit motive.  

Anyone who wants to see this process at work should drop in next week on the first discussion of the Safeway proposal, the scoping session which will kick off the environmental review of the plans.  

The Oakland Planning Commission will have the EIR Scoping Hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Report at Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 1, next Wed., Nov. 18, beginning at 6 p.m. The progress of this ill-advised venture through the Oakland political system could be an environmental education in itself. 

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:43:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I thoroughly appreciated the wonderful tribute paid to the memory of Hilda Roberts in your last issue. I had learned earlier from her friend Jane Welford that she had passed on Sept. 30 but wondered why no paper had reported on it until you did so last Thursday. 

I was one of Hilda’s many long-time admirers. I first only knew her by reputation as a nurse serving the fighters against Franco and fascism in the Spanish Civil War, but didn’t meet her personally until joining with her a few years back in the Rockin’ Solidarity Labor Heritage Chorus in which we both sang. She was such a warm, gentle, radiant person, but just as fierce in fighting for social justice to almost the end just as she must have been as a young nurse in Spain. 

Although she couldn’t manage the route all the way, I recall her in Dolores Park at the beginning of one of the innumerable antiwar marches that have taken place in San Francisco. After another march I saw her with the Women in Black at the SF Civic Center, always with the same beautiful demeanor. 

I also appreciated Arnie Passman’s tribute to the late Ted Vincent in the same issue who I was also honored to know. 

Hilda and Ted were two lifelong battlers for social justice in the finest Berkeley progressive tradition. They’ll be much missed but long-remembered. 

Harry Siitonen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks to Conn Hallinan’s informative piece on Sgr. Belusconi of Oct. 29, I can sleep, assured that Italian politics is as messed up as ever. Better still, he seems to have drawn assurance of his own from power-consolidating lessons imparted by the Cheney-Bush-Limburger triumvirate. 

Mulling things over, I got this terrific notion: the Prime Minister should re-instate the Roman Empire, beginning with the 15 or so regions in “the Boot.” The roads, navy, and aqueducts are in place. Italy has the prominence of G-20 membership. People from all over love its natural, town, and countryside beauty, food, art, design, expressiveness, whatall. Silvio could become Silvius I, wear a purple toga, and commit magnanimous deeds. Maybe even bring back real sports; who needs dumb old football or wrestling when we can thrill to gladiators? 

Just a musing. Still, I think I’ll mention it to him at our next session. 

Phil Allen  




Editors, Daily Planet:   

Alright, enough already, the Cal athletic program must put out bids for a long-running sitcom series —hit preferences?—whose profits and royalties could then go to academics, 21st century sports. . . 

There are sure signs aplenty that football sure should end—10 minutes or whatever from being No. 1 in gringolandia to deep dive bombing in 2007, the slashing of the oaks curse—whose ordering judge died this weekend, a mere 58—hyper-trashed by ducks in Oregon is one thing, but getting thoroughly chewed again at home by beavers, well. . . 

     You know Cal is the co-cretinous creator of the atom bomb with the University of Chicago—and they gave up football 75 years ago. Hint! Hint! 

     Any further football fantasy wish fulfillment, hellacious macho blindness and annual holiday toilet bowl visit is just not worthy of an enlightened university town—wherever it is. Keep a soft upper lip. 

    As for the student-athletes of the football team, the word on the street is the Board of Regents is shopping for an Imperial Guard—an SS to the UC Gestapolice?—Triple Canopy trained.  

Arnie Passman 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Daily Californian this morning, Nov. 6, that the UC Berkeley Faculty Senate is distressed by the fact that the Intercollegiate Athletics program at the University received $13.4 million in fiscal 2008-09 from student fees and the university’s general fund, and that the ICA had cost the university more than $10 million each year for the past five years, and that the university had had to forgive the ICA a $34.1 million debt in 2007.  

In short, the Intercollegiate Athletics program has cost the university about $171 million since 1991.  

Then there is the additional $321 million being spent to renovate the football stadium, and the $136 million to construct a new Student-Athlete High Performance Center for the use of about 450 athletes, and the multi-million dollar salaries of the coaches. 

On KPFA radio this morning, also Nov. 6, I listened to a program decrying the $14.2 million which has been cut from the California State Parks budget for the coming year, imperiling the existence of about 80 percent of our State Parks. 

$13.4 million and $14.2 million are very roughly equivalent amounts. Comparisons are both odious and sometimes misleading, but I can’t help but wonder which is more important to us, the Cal Bears teams or our State Parks? 

Bill Woodcock 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The UC President has a UCB Chancellor that should do the high paid job he is paid for instead of hiring an East Coast consulting firm to fulfill his responsibilities. “World class” smart executives like Chancellor Birgeneau need to do the analysis, hard work and make the difficult decisions of their executive job! 

Where do consulting firms like Bain—paid $3 million for their consulting services for UC—get their recommendations?  

From interviewing the senior management that hired them and will be approving their monthly consultant fees and expense reports. Remember the nationally known auditing firm who said the right things and submitted recommendations that senior management wanted to hear and fooled government oversight agencies and the public? Consultants never bite the hand that feeds them. 

Mr. Birgeneau’s executive officer performance management responsibilities include “inspiring innovation and leading change.” This involves “defining outcomes, energizing others at all levels and ensuring continuing commitment.” Instead of demonstrating his capacity to fulfill his executive accountabilities, Mr. Birgeneau outsourced them. Doesn’t he engage University of California and University of California Berkeley people at all levels to help examine the budget and recommend the necessary trims? Hasn’t he talked to Cornell and the University of North Carolina—which also hired Bain— about best practices and recommendations that might apply to UCB cuts? 

No wonder the faculty and staff are angry and suspicious. Three million dollars is a high price for Californians to pay when a knowledgeable “world-class” Chancellor is not doing his job. 

Please help save $3,000,000 for teaching our students and request that the UC President require the UCB Chancellor to fulfill his executive job accountabilities! 

Milan Moravec 

Walnut Creek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is with great appreciation, the legal administration and professional judicial community reflect on the outstanding service to Alameda County by the recently transitioned Alameda County Superior Court Judge, Barbara J. Miller. Much prior to Judge Miller’s notoriety resulting from adjudicating the ubiquitous University California football stadium tree sitters litigation, Judge Miller, as a Court Commissioner, demonstrated a commitment, talent, conscientiousness and equitable treatment towards litigating parties and attorneys. In the spirit of the outstanding Alameda County judges Dawn Girard, Roderick Duncan, Benjamin Travis, Martin Jenkins. Christopher Hurley and many others, Judge Barbara Miller read the case files and pleadings of the parties and was always prepared for her court hearings. The last set of hearings this writer observed with Judge Miller sitting was in the Family Court Division of the Hayward branch Alameda County Superior Court. Given the Alameda County Court budget constraints, it was instructive to witness Judge Miller’s command of the law, legal issues involved in each case and the equity of her rulings in a very crowded calendar. Judge Barbara Miller’s professionalism and courteous decorum will be missed but well remembered by the greater Alameda County legal and public communities. 

Ulysses S. Crockett, Jr. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I think it is a bad idea to have your “Partisan Position” articles included in the news section of the Berkeley Daily Planet. These articles fit into a gray area between opinion and news, and this presents a real difficulty for readers in evaluating them. I’ve noticed that sometimes even the basic facts get mixed up. That’s really not good! While a trained reporter will make attempts to verify facts before including them in a story, untrained writers—as well-intentioned as they may be—may not have the time or experience to perform this task adequately. As a result, the news section of your paper now lacks its previous level of integrity. 

I thought your best reporter by far was Richard Brenneman. He helped me understand the intricacies of City Council meetings and other city events. I don’t think the “partisan” reporters are up to this task. Could you please bring Mr. Brenneman back to the paper? I would really appreciate it! 

Satya Preeti 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berlanty Azzam, a young woman in her final semester at Bethlehem University in the West Bank, was detained Wed., Oct. 28, by the Israeli military on her way back to Bethlehem from an internship interview in Ramallah. The soldiers blindfolded and handcuffed her and deported her to Gaza. Israeli authorities claimed she had no permit to be in the West Bank. When she entered the West Bank in 2005 to attend college, no such permit was required, only a permit to cross through Israel from Gaza, and she received that permit. Israel requires no permit to remain in the West Bank. The Israeli state admits that a “mistake” was made in removing her from the West Bank, but refuses to allow her to return to Bethlehem to complete her final semester towards her bachelor’s degree in business administration. The Israeli High Court of Justice will hold another hearing Thurs., Nov. 12, for the Israeli military to explain its case. The Israeli nonprofit legal organization Gisha is representing Berlanty in court. For the time being she remains at home with her parents. Her father works for the YMCA, and her mother works for UNRWA. The family is Christian. Bethlehem University is a Vatican-sponsored university. 

Please contact your elected officials, the United States Consulate in Jerusalem (UsConGen.Jerusalem@state.gov), and Secretary of State Clinton on Berlanty’s behalf, asking that Berlanty be allowed to return to Bethlehem University complete her studies on humanitarian grounds, in the spirit of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access negotiated between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. You can get more information about her case at www.bethlehem.edu and at www.gisha.org. People around the world have already made a difference. I doubt the Israeli government would have admitted it made a “mistake” in abducting her without the outpouring of support from the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. 

Whatever anyone can do to help will be most appreciated. 

Jeanie Shaterian 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The so-called health care reform bill passed by the House last Saturday essentially requires Americans to continue to accept a defective, unfair, inefficient, and costly health care system—with just a few minor improvements. It also happens to be a huge waste of money at a time when this country can ill afford such expenditures—whereas a system like universal single payer health care would actually save us money. Why hasn’t this important fiscal issue been highlighted at every congressional meeting or public event during the lengthy health care debate this year? Simple: the corporations don’t want us to think about it, and the major media do their duty as opinion-shapers in their service.  

Unfortunately, the price we’ll pay for these tid-bits of health insurance reform—not health care reform, mind you, which is what we really need—will be astronomically high.Estimates range as high as a trillion dollars over the next ten years or so. Just because it may not add to the national deficit, the money still comes from somewhere—our pockets, to be exact. 

Worse yet, passing this sham reform bill means that needed healthcare reforms will be delayed for years to come. That is exactly the outcome that the health insurance giants hoped for, and the Obama administration played right into their hands. Gosh, it turns out he was really on their side all the time, and his starring role was a reprise of that all-time favorite of Democratic and Republican administrations alike: “Tricking the Public into Voting Against their Own Best Interests.” This is definitely the longest-running show in town—nobody ever seems to tire of watching it. 

One thing we have learned, though, just changing the cast doesn’t change the script. 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

According to the SF Chronicle, Oakland Mayor Dellums currently owes almost $240,000 in unpaid taxes. The NY Times reported that Congressman Rangel failed to report $75,000 in income from residential income properties he owns in the Dominican Republic. In an interview on MSNBC, our own Congresswoman Barbara Lee refused to condemn Rangel’s failure to comply in his personal life with the very tax code he himself oversees as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. While everyday working Americans pay increasing levels of their incomes in taxes, too many of our leaders seem comfortable with sloppiness at best in their own taxpaying and with corruption at worst. If a public official’s personal tax situation is so disorganized or dishonest that they will not or cannot pay their taxes, they must immediately resign.  How can such an individual be expected to effectively and honestly administer government bodies which receive tax revenues? Why do we tolerate such mediocrity in our public officials?   

Nathaniel Hardin 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

President Obama’s statement on the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran makes no mention of the precipitating event—the CIA overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953. If Obama wants to establish a relationship of “mutual respect” with the Iranian people, he should travel in person to Tehran, issue an unconditional and far-reaching apology for that shameful episode, and offer reparations. As it stands, his claim that the American people have great respect for Iran’s “rich history” is absurd. Most Americans have no idea what we did to Iran in 1953, or the consequences of that action. Stephen Kinzer’s “All the Shah’s Men” should be required reading for all U.S. citizens. 

Matthew Taylor 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Robert Kanters’ Nov. 5 letter contains a major factual error. According to Wikipedia’s list of countries by military expenditures, Israel is ranked No. 17. According to nationmaster.com, in terms of military personnel, Israel is ranked a distant No. 37, well behind Iran (No. 11), Syria (No. 17) and Saudi Arabia (No. 29) And according to globalfirepower.com, Irans’ active military manpower is ranked No. 8 , Egypt is ranked No. 10, Syria is ranked No. 13, well ahead of Israel, ranked No. 22. 

Looking at specifics—Israel naval strength is ranked No. 36, well behind its neighbor Egypt, which comes in at No. 15, and Iran at No. 23. Israels’ air systems are ranked 11th in the world. 

Israel is ranked No. 153 in the world in terms of size. Israel’s land mass is 1/16th of one perceent of that of the neighboring Arab lands, with a total land mass is 12,877 square miles. Israel is roughly the size of New Jersey, our second smallest state. The land mass of the 21 surrounding Arab countries along with the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas including Gaza and parts of the West Bank is 8,368,272 square miles.  

  Using both Internet and print based research material, I see is nothing whatsoever that supports Mr. Kanters’ contention that Israel is the “fourth most powerful military force in the world.” Mr. Kanter, care to cite some sources, please? 

Faith Melzer 

El Cerrito 

Letters to the Editor: Health Care

Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:43:00 AM

Doctors want to see patients and help people, not fill out paperwork. Give them one framework under which they perform their jobs, and every doctor will become more efficient. Want to save costs? Make it so those who spend decades learning their science spend their time using it, not wasting man months per year filling out differing insurance paperwork. 

Michael Tierney 



Each day we wait, 122 Americans die because of lack of health care. America can’t wait any longer! Everyone has the right to see a doctor when he or she is sick. America is only healthy if all of her citizens are healthy. 

Lucas Metcalf-Tobin 


Do not let the nay-sayers win! Stick to your guns. Single payer “neducare” health care system for all. Out with the insurance companies. They do not belong in health. Severely regulate the pharmaceutical companies. Clean up the hospitals. They are user unfriendly. Get the MD’s better educated. Entice more geriatric and gerontologist interns. We elderly need them. We need someone to go to to discuss being, who has some people skills, knows how to listen and can diagnose ... please! 

Marcia Berman 


One fact that is not mentioned in the health care reform debate is that the US now has almost no large scale first response public health capability. This would be needed in the event of a large scale natural disaster, pandemic or large scale terrorist event. Such work is not appropriate for private for profit—the local hospital—or non-profit organizations, such as the Red Cross. In other words, the US is essentially naked towards large scale health disasters. What ismore, the network of a robust public health network would provide a skeleton for public health for certain sections of the uninsured and homebound elderly—already a public health disaster in terms of preventing potentially fatal infections, such as cellulitis and pneumonia. 

Charles Davidson 


I am hesitant to sign this because to “pass nothing” once again would be too terrible. American health care is so expensive because it’s a business, big business rather than a right. I frankly don’t think that we can have universal health care until the profit motive is removed from the equation. 

Emily Benner 


Healthcare reform is long overdue for Americans. It is unjust that the average citizen must risk losing their job, their home and their financial security should they fall ill. It is also Usury to profit off of the illness of people. It is time to reign in those insurance companies who abuse and profit at the expense of the lives and well being of millions of Americans. 

I support fully a public option that offers Medicare for All. Those who want to keep their private insurance can have that choice. However their choice should not hinder those who would opt for Medicare. 

Once we take the profit out of healthcare, we will also begin to take responsibility to clean up our planet of the pollutants that are poisoning our waterways and air. Why? because there will no longer be great profits to be made by the pharmaceutical and health industries on the sickness of our people, much created by these toxins in our environment. 

This is a win win for the American people and for our planet. 

Bonnie L Carpenter 


It’s time the members of Congress truly represent the people, rather than just a few rabid, opinionated citizens, who are only interested in preserving their way of life. It is time the “me” is turned into the “we.” In today’s economy there is not room for selfishness. It is time we truly become a community that cares for the well-being of all residents and not just the few privileged. 

Cathie O’Hanks 

El Cerrito 


The most inexpensive and effective solution to this health care crises is to provide medicare for all. With the lowest administrative costs in the insurance industry, and the most efficient system so far devised, most people would be able to afford this plan. Be brave and face up to the behemoths who have grown greed to the detriment of the American people. 

Moona Reeva 


Thanks to all of the Congress Members who voted for a move toward non-profit health care for all Americans. Our country is moving into the mainstream of what most industrialized countries consider their duty to all citizens. Hopefully we have learned to stand as one country concerned about each other. 

Candace Hyde-Wang 


On Sat., Nov. 7th, a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives made history by passing H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. 

This is a critical first step towards creating a society that truly cares for all of its citizens. I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Representative Barbara Lee for voting in favor of H.R. 3962 and resisting the tremendous pressure from the insurance industry lobbyists. 

I applaud this movement towards Health Care reform, however there is one major flaw that needs to be addressed. Included in the passage of H.R. 3962 was the last minute attachment of the Stupak/Pitts Amendment which restricts women’s access to abortion coverage in the private health insurance market, undermining the ability of women to purchase private health plans that cover abortion, even if they pay for most of the premiums with their own money. 

I did want to point out the Representative Barbara Lee did not vote in favor of this amendment. We absolutely need a major overhaul of our failing health care system, but slipping in eleventh hour amendments that take away women’s reproductive rights is not in line with this progress. 

Del Mulhem 


It is truly egregious that single payer health care is not an option which would truly help the deficit and regulate the insurance companies. 

I am a senior voter that has lots of time to contact other voters! 

Shang-Mei Lee 


Last night, Nov. 6, the House of Representatives made history by passing the first bill for comprehensive health care reform in our nation’s history. I want to thank Representative Lee along with her 219 colleagues who case their vote for this historic bill. 

While the House Bill (H.R. 3962) has its flaws, it will provide coverage for upwards of 36 million Americans and provide security and peace of mind for the rest of us. No longer will I worry about being unable to buy health insurance because of some minor pre-existing condition and no longer will I, as a woman, be forced to pay an exorbinant premium for that coverage. 

The 220 members of the House of Representatives who voted for this bill deserve our thanks, as does Speaker Pelosi who worked tirelessly to ensure its passage. Let us celebrate but also let us keep up the pressure and the momentum to finish the job and finally enact the health care reform that this country desperately needs. 

Laura Beckerman 


I am an avid supporter of the Affordable Health Care for America Act, which, thanks to the perseverance and courage of a majority of representatives in the House, was passed yesterday. It is an astounding historical accomplishment that a bipartisan group of legislators managed to pass comprehensive health insurance reform. 

As a cancer survivor, I watched the progress and fits and starts as the legislation was developed, with much trepidation. My pre-existing condition was to have impaired my ability to buy supplemental health insurance one I gain Medicare coverage, so I have written often to local legislators, urging their support. It is high time for our country to provide secure coverage for American who do not have insurance! This bill is a much needed step in lowering costs for both families and businesses, and helping to reduce our huge deficit, inherited by the current administration. Thank you Barbara Lee for your courageous and historic vote! 

Lynn Garnica 


At last, after nearly a century of failed attempts to pass a comprehensive health insurance reform bill, courageous members of the House of Representatives put the health of the nation above personal interest and fear tactics. As a mental health professional and a health scholar, I know firs-hand the human cost of not being able to afford health insurance, of losing homes in order to pay for treatment, and of dying due to insurance companies refusing treatment. 

Thank you Mr. President and members of the House. I urge those members of the House who did not vote for this bill to put the health and well being of hard-working Americans first and support this bill in the upcoming final House vote. 

Yvette G. Flores, Ph.D. 


I am writing to say that I support Rep Lee’s vote in yesterday’s health care bill, HR 3962. America needs better health care and I am happy to live in a district where my representative understands this and is courageous enough to support the vision of stronger, healthier, and more fair America. 

Ian Schragg 


As someone trapped in a low paying job I cannot afford to quit, because losing my health insurance during a catastrophic illness would bankrupt me, I am incredibly grateful for Ms. Lee’s support of the bill that passed the House yesterday. With CA.’s disastrous unemployment rate and financial woes, there are undoubtedly millions of Californians in the same position as myself,or worse. 

My friends, family and co-workers alike all support the final passge through the Senate, and I sincerely hope that Ms. Lee will keep up the fight! 

Kathleen O’Connell 


A very special thanks to the members of the Congress who voted for the Healthcare Bill—some of us can and will defy Wall Street, the insurance companies, the Republicans and Democrats who oppose the bill. 

Those who did not vote for the bill have one last opportunity to reconsider and support reform in the upcoming final House vote, and they should do so. The media should should take note too. 

Reaz Haque 


I am proud to be a constituent in Barbara Lee’s 9th Congressional District. Our Congresswoman led the Congressional Black Caucus and others to victory on Saturday. In the 9th District alone 57,000 uninsured will be eligible for affordable health care and around the Bay Area, countless thousands will receive health care. This is an occasion in our history that is truly momentous and I will look forward to the joyful day when a healthcare bill with a robust public option is on the President’s desk.  

Liz Raymer 


For Democrats to bend and conform to the party that lost power due to it’s proven failures to do the right thing again and again is ridiculous. We need the real change that was promised during the campaign and is now sadly being swallowed by a wrongheaded agenda of bi-partisanship. If the other had good ideas it would not be so mis-guiged, but the so called “free market” way has had it’s chance for 30 years now and has put us where we are today. That is greater concentration of wealth at the top and poorer environmental regulation than since the 70s. Time to demand real change and equality for all. 

Don DeLaCruz 


My 84 year-old heart beat louder through my tears as I heard the good news late last night. Congratulations to Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Lee, our local representative and many others who fought hard and smart against gross misrepresentations by the opposition. For those who are speculating and planting fears about higher premiums, damage to Medicare and group insurance coverage, loss of control over selecting our own physicians, higher taxes on our wealthy destroying our economy, raising our deficit and a significant loss of jobs, I ask if you will be willing to publicly support the new health care system in the future: 

1. If we find that health insurance premiums are rising less than had we maintained the status quo? 

2. If we find that Medicare and group insurance coverage are enhanced rather than degraded? 

3. If we find that we have not lost control over selecting our own physicians? 

4. If we find that our deficit has been reduced and our economy has been enhanced and not crippled by asking the wealthy to help pay for a universal health care system? 

5. If we find that the new health care system creates a net increase in new jobs vs maintaining the status quo? 

I will be willing to hold the new system accountable to these criteria in the hope that my children, grand children and great grand children, and everyone in the US will have access to affordable, quality health care. 

Bruce Copeland 


I am very healthy 53 year-old woman who has been looking to find medical insurance. I am very willing to pay for good medical insurance. I am also premenopausal and I do not have regular menstral periods any longer. This has been the reason why I have been rejected by health insurance companies! I need to have a regular menstral period? Things have definately gotten out of hand and now for the first time, I see some hope. This is the very first time a chamber of Congress has ever passed comprehensive health insurance reform. This is a historic accomplishment! Please get out and vote! 

Lisa Fitch 


Berkeley Marina Inappropriate For Ferry Terminal

By Ed Bennett
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:45:00 AM

Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP) has reviewed the present proposal for a ferry terminal at the Berkeley Marina as presented to the Berkeley Waterfront Commission in October 2009. CESP now strongly urges the Berkeley City Council to deny permission for a terminal at the proposed site.  

CESP has followed the proposal for a ferry terminal in the Berkeley and Albany waterfronts and opposed the two sites proposed in Albany due to the impact on the future East Shore Park development in Albany.  

At that time CESP took no position on the two proposed sites in Berkeley pending future details. We attended several presentations by WETA staff. Initially some members of the CESP Board were favorable to the proposed Hs Lordship site because of the amenities the ferry might provide. However as more details became available it became evident that the ferry proposal had severe environmental and financial problems which have not been resolved. These critically outweigh any of the alleged benefits. Some of the concerns have been noted in the Waterfront Commission Oct. 14 recommendations to the Council and others have been more thoroughly described by Jim McGrath in his open letter to the Berkeley City Council dated Nov. 6.  

Reasons for a Ferry from Berkeley to San Francisco 

1. The ferry would provide added public service from the Berkeley-Albany area to SF and increase the availability of public transportation in addition to BART and AC Transit. The present proposal is for two ferries running at about 30 minute intervals with a capacity of less than 200 per trip. The total number of passenger trips projected per day is about 1750 or 875 each way. This is miniscule compared to the total passengers taken by car, bus and BART each day.  

2. The ferry would provide emergency service in case of a bridge failure from an earthquake or other catastrophic event. WETA staff has recently stated that it will take two years to complete the design for the ferry terminal. How much longer will it take to build, two years? By then the new eastern span of the bridge is scheduled to be completed. During the recent closure of the Bay Bridge only a small increase was noted in the existing ferry ridership from Oakland and Alameda while a large increase was noted in BART passengers and cars used other bridges.  

3. Surveys show that citizens liked ferries as an “amenity” and I am sure you would probably give the same answer. But your answer might be different if you were given information about the cost and subsidy required which is estimated to be in excess of $15 per trip which is several times the present subsidy for AC Transit or BART. What amenity is being offered? A 22-minute ride to SF, or from SF, during limited hours in the morning or late afternoon, no mid-day, evening or weekend service—a trip probably not long enough for a morning coffee or late afternoon drink! The ferry would not provide needed weekend service to popular recreational spots in Marin which are not easily accessible by public transportation.  


Arguments Against the Ferry in Berkeley 

1. One half of the present Hs Lordship parking lot would be dedicated to provide ferry only parking for an indefinite future and thus preclude more intelligent and visionary planning for a prime area of the waterfront which is now underutilized. 

In the future, Berkeley will have an opportunity to plan this area for more appropriate commercial and recreational use, perhaps even a “Caesar Chavez Park-South” to further complement the popular and well-used Caesar Chavez “North,” the developing East Shore Park in Berkeley and Albany and eventually into Richmond to fulfill the dream of Sylvia McLaughlin of a string of parks from the Bay Bridge to the Carquinez Bridge. At the present time, these parks are in the developing stage, we have a shoreline trail from Emeryville to Berkeley, an overpass bridge to Berkeley, but no trail from Sea Breeze Market to the Marina. Plans are slowly being developed by the State for the Brickyard. The last two phases of the Meadow restoration have been completed. We have the initial Tom Bates Ball fields and more should be built in 2010. This year Albany has been engaged in a “visioning” plan for its waterfront and the preliminary results show that Albany citizens want open space, not malls or other intensive commercial development. Bankrupt Golden Gate Fields property may be sold to the highest bidder in February. And there may be hope for some fantastic development in Richmond along San Pablo Bay and even Point Molate. 

2. The ferry will require a large public subsidy which we will pay for in higher bridge tolls or sales taxes or leave as a debt to our children. Is this the legacy we want to leave? This subsidy can be more effectively spent to provide improved service on AC Transit and/or BART. 

3. The environmental impacts of reduced enjoyment of the Marina are many. The concerns of the windsurfing community have been noted by their many enthusiasts. We have not heard from the many fishermen who frequent the shoreline in this area or from the many people who park their cars along the shore to admire the view or maybe eat their lunch. The trail along the bay will be reduced in width and planned benches will be eliminated. In order to accommodate the expected cars, the area of the parking lot facing the South sailing basin which is used by the Nature Center will be eliminated and be less accessible for the many students who learn about the ecology of the Bay. Benches and tables will be eliminated. Parking now used by buses to bring students for classes at the nature center will be eliminated and children will have to cross a busy street to get to the Nature Center and Adventure Playground. 

4. Berkeley and California have a goal of drastically reducing their “carbon footprint.” Ferries are not sailboats and are significantly more greenhouse gas generating than even cars, and especially compared to BART and AC Transit.  

In summary, the proposed ferry in Berkeley is a “big boondoggle” with little to recommend it and many negative impacts for the Marina, now an din the future. We urge the Berkeley City Council to tell WETA “No” and stop further planning. WETA has already spent $2 million on their plans and promotion. WETA should cease spending your public money for the Berkeley ferry. Albany has already told WETA they did not want a ferry in Albany and Berkeley should do the same.  


Ed Bennett is a board member of Citizens for East Shore Parks. 

NIMBYism On the Bay

By James McVaney
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:46:00 AM

There is no example more real, and relevant, as to why Berkeley should welcome a ferry system back onto its shores than the recent, and painful, days long closure of the Bay Bridge. And, according to a professional poll taken in April 2005, 83 percent of Berkeleyans think this restoration of service is a good idea.  

Furthermore, a return of this mode of transportation has been long in coming, and will not only provide emergency transportation if the bridges go down, again, but will also restore Berkeley to its true nautical and ferry centric roots that were, as Johnny Cash would say, “lost somewhere, somehow, along the way.” 

However, we are not quite there yet.  

In the Oct. 22 Planet commentary section, David Fielder wrote about the proposed ferry service. Unfortunately, Mr. Fielder did not disclose the fact that he is a fervent windsurfer, and therefore his observations are colored, not with the white of the alleged “white elephant” he thinks the ferry will be, but tinged with the burning red of anger, so often associated with NIMBYism—Not In My Back Yard. This is hurtful. Hopefully, with more didactic discussions, this burning red will turn into the soothing white of healing and growth.   

To help forward this discussion I will address some of the points he made. First, he notes the previous ferry service, which followed the Loma Prieta earthquake, did not last long because of a lack of demand. However, this lack of demand most likely resulted from the low sophistication of the service provided at the time. There was no terminal. Simply entering and exiting the Marina took the ferries five minutes, and required tight turns and careful piloting. The product was poor, and people responded by not utilizing it. This time there will be a terminal, and it will be built in a superior location with spectacular views. Also, it is being designed locally by architect, Marcy Wong, of Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects, who also recently designed the new Freight & Salvage performance center on Addison. Additionally, since the ferry terminal will be located outside of the Marina, they will have a significantly shorter and quicker trip to the Ferry terminal in San Francisco. Moreover, the greener, built to LEED standards, stronger, built to withstand the largest earthquake expected, and dedicated facilities, will result in a higher level of sophistication. This level of service will undoubtedly help ensure the Ferry’s long term survival and success.  

Mr. Fielder then writes about the economics of ferry systems. Yes, the ferry is more expensive than other modes of transportation, but if the bridges ever go down the ferry system will be priceless. This fact has always been conveniently left out of his arguments, even though it is very salient, and its recent reality is still burning in the minds of commuters, and on the balance sheets of businesses all around the Bay.  

Next, Mr. Fielder discusses the Water Emergency Transportation Authority’s (WETA) handling of the project. Having been to almost every WETA board meeting this year, I can honestly say that he does not understand what he is talking about. For example, he writes about WETA proposing a two-story garage next to the terminal. WETA never proposed this. This was Mayor Bates’ idea. I believe Mayor Bates wanted the garage to make the underperforming Hs. Lordships lease more attractive to businesspeople when its expires later this decade. Furthermore, Fielder leaves out important things such as the fact that existing seawall parking spaces are saved for public, non-ferry, usage.  

Finally, Mr. Fielder closes his commentary with eight points. Of these only one is correct: WETA currently thinks it will begin by only providing weekday service, but this could easily change. Another one of his points addresses the dollar amount of the project. He believes the money can be better spent on schools and infrastructure. Nevertheless if Berkeley does not accept the ferry and its terminal, the money will still be spent by WETA on a ferry system, but it will be in the city of Richmond. Richmond has had a representative at almost every WETA board meeting I have been to, and definitely shows interest in having the ferry dock in their shore.   

And now for the rest of the story. (Thanks Paul Harvey).  

Berkeley was born from the Bay. The first buildings and businesses were built near the waterfront in an area known as Ocean View, present day West Berkeley. Berkeley’s roots found soil here because, in 1854, a man named Captain James Jacobs built a pier near 3rd Street and Delaware to bring in supplies and commerce to the ranchlands of the East Bay. Shortly thereafter, another pier was built at the foot of Addison Street. Two more piers were later constructed at the base of University Avenue. Consequently, Berkeley has a long, and storied past relating to its ferries. The first dedicated ferry service began in the 1870’s and continued, in some form, on different piers, off and on until the construction of the Bay Bridge in the 1930’s. Importantly, this ferry system was vital in transporting emergency crews to San Francisco in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake, and to Berkeley when its hills were engulfed in flames on Sept. 17, 1923. This proven emergency capacity is part of the rationale for restoring ferry service to Berkeley.  

Its simply the best idea and solution for Berkeley to accept WETA and its services. Tearing us apart from our past, simply because this project may interfere with a small number of recreational users, mostly windsurfers, would be a classic example of NIMBYism. Let’s not pander to the few. Instead, let’s group together and welcome the Ferry, and all of it iconic and nautical flavor, back into the salad bowl we all know as Berkeley.  


James McVaney is a live-aboard boater in the Berkeley Marin, and advocate for the Berkeley Ferry.  


Berkeley Ferry Founders On Facts

By David Fielder
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:47:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council will vote on Nov. 17 whether to endorse construction of a ferry terminal at the Berkeley Marina between the fishing pier and Hs Lordships restaurant. This vote is premature because of unresolved, significant reservations expressed by Berkeley’s three cognizant commissions: Planning, Transportation, and Waterfront. 

  The Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) planners have produced a fatally flawed Environmental Impact Report (EIR) while failing to address critical concerns about the project brought to their attention over the past year. WETA is now asking the City Council to endorse the project, claiming that remaining concerns and details will be negotiated in coming years. Jim McGrath, a Berkeley Waterfront Commissioner with 16 years of professional experience as the Port of Oakland’s Environmental Manager, has documented numerous problems inherent in their plan in an open letter to the Council dated Nov. 6. The Berkeley Waterfront Commission also conditioned approval for the project on WETA paying the city market rate rent for its use of Marina land, given the loss of projected leasehold revenue to the city and Marina Fund entailed by the project. 

  At its Oct. 29 meeting, the Transportation Commission also expressed reservations about siting the terminal at the Berkeley Marina. One commissioner noted that WETA was not going to run weekend service, obviating use of that facility as a recreational amenity. Another issue raised by that commission was the viability of the single access road serving the Marina. University Avenue west of I-80 is experiencing significant subsidence due to the fact that it is built over the original Berkeley Pier pilings. Specifically, the commission was concerned that the access road could be subject to liquefaction in a major quake, thus cutting off access to a ferry terminal being designed to “essential standards” for quake survival and subsequent emergency transportation services. Without funding to reconstruct University Avenue west of I-80, the terminal’s utility becomes even more questionable. 

  At its Oct. 28 meeting, the Planning Commission, citing concerns similar to those of Commissioner McGrath’s regarding potential violation of existing City plans and EIR shortcomings, chose not to endorse this project by a two-to-one majority. 

  Additional facts of interest have also come to light. In his presentation at the Transportation Commission meeting, John Sindzinski, WETA Manager of Planning and Development, presented data detailing that the projected public operating subsidy for the Berkeley ferry would exceed five times that of BART —$8.52 per rider vs. $1.50 for BART. Subsequently, it was disclosed at the Nov. 5 WETA Board meeting that in spite of trying to meet emergency service demands resulting from the Bay Bridge closure, ferries were forced to delay or cancel departures due to fog. 

  In conclusion, The Berkeley City Council appears ready to support a project that will cost more than $50 million of taxpayer funds to erect a ferry terminal destined to be underutilized, at risk for inaccessibility post-quake, dependent on increasing taxpayer subsidies, or most likely never to be constructed due to permitting and EIR deficiencies WETA has failed to address. Of perhaps even greater significance would be the long-term commitment of this portion of the Berkeley Marina to remaining a parking lot. In the past, Berkeley has shown vision and leadership when it turned a garbage dump into a regionally acclaimed kite park and scenic vista. Let’s not commit to a major portion of the Berkeley Marina remaining a parking lot for another 50 years. 

  An endorsement by the Berkeley City Council of this project would be poor public policy and particularly imprudent in these times of scarce resources and stretched borrowing capacity of the State of California. Even more importantly, it would be a waste of one of Berkeley’s public treasures. 

  Let’s hope that reason prevails at the Council meeting on Nov. 17. 


David Fielder is a Berkeley resident.

Vivisecting the University of California

By Gray Brechin
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:48:00 AM

In her latest book Bright-Sided, Barbara Ehrenreich contends that positive thinking can render you powerless when it overrides reality. It did so for a man I knew whose face was being eaten by cancer. He dabbed at the suppurating wound with a handkerchief while sunnily burbling about everything but that or seeking treatment. I wondered how he could so blithely ignore what was obvious to everyone else. I wonder the same about the UC administrators and regents. 

On Oct. 2, former water attorney and now UC Vice President Dan Dooley announced that his Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources would be closing the University’s Center for Water Resources and attempting to find someone other than UC Berkeley to take its world-renowned Water Resources Archives in order to save money. The UC President’s Office was initiating the action as it “looked for opportunities to integrate and create synergy with the strategic initiatives.” The action, Dooley concluded, would give the University “the opportunity to realize our vision, to strengthen our proven commitment to the people of California, and to shape the future we all share.” 

Even as the administration imposes cutbacks on the university greater than anything suffered during the Great Depression, it burbles on about its highly compensate commitment to maintaining the excellence and greatness of a world-class institution and the undimmed prestige of its diplomas. President Mark Yudof regularly proclaims that as much as it pains him and the regents to sharply raise student tuition and lay off two thousand employees, “We will make it through today’s challenges as well. At the end of the day, the university will be stronger and reach even higher levels of achievement” as long as “we don’t surrender to our greatest enemy, the easy allure of mediocrity.” 

Keep dabbing at that wound, President Yudof. 

The very presence of superb research resources like the Water Resources Archives—and their synergy with others—has made the University of California at Berkeley a magnet for scholars, filmmakers, engineers, authors, and others. The President’s Office is now dismantling that magnet while claiming that it isn’t. If one wishes to compare, for example, the means by which Los Angeles’ and San Francisco’s power elites seized distant rivers to assure their respective cities’ perpetual growth, one can consult the papers of engineer J.B. Lippincott in the Water Resources Archives and then trot a few hundred yards over to the Bancroft Library to study those of Michael O’Shaughnessy. One can peruse thousands of historic and contemporary photographs and maps found nowhere else. Kevin Knuuti, the chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District says that the Corps relies upon Archives documents to protect the state capital from floods. 

Contrary to the University’s proud motto—Let There Be Light—a little more darkness falls when such public resources as the Archives are snuffed just as the state pushes for a vast and costly revamp of its water infrastructure. Dr. Peter Gleick, the president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, says “Shutting the Archives would serve the purpose of those who would seek to hide the unseemly history of California water — in the files of the archives are the stories, histories, and dirty linen of how we got where we are today,” not to mention where we are going. 

The determination of some in Sacramento and the university administration to apply a business ethos to public education recalls Governor Ronald Reagan’s discovery that the Bancroft Library had accumulated treasures of extraordinary value. In addition to making students pay the cost of their education, Reagan’s administration proposed selling its collections to fund other, more productive, units of the university operations. Saner heads prevailed, giving the University a few more decades to boast itself a world-class institution. 

That reprieve is ending as the administration vivisects the institution it manages. Outstanding professors are packing their bags, and prospective ones are rethinking offers to jump onto the foundering shipwreck. President Yudof has claimed that “As a leader, it is important to be truthful and direct.” He, and Dan Dooley, should quit dabbing at the wound. They need to tell Californians the truth about the university’s headlong plunge into the mediocrity that they now deny. 


Gray Brechin is a three-time alumnus of the University of California Berkeley and a Visiting Scholar in its Department of Geography He is the author of Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin.

Manufacturing in Berkeley? Of Course

By Bernard Marszalek
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:48:00 AM

What? Manufacturing in Berkeley? Of course. In the United States the largest economic sector is manufacturing. Manufacturing accounts for 70 percent of R & D. Manufacturing pays better. For every dollar paid to production workers, service workers receive 75 cents. Retail jobs pay 50 cents. 

In addition, manufacturing adds greater value to the economy than any other sector. Production workers support the other sectors as consumers of goods and services. Manufacturing generated dollars work harder in the economy. Economists refer to this as a multiplier effect. Manufacturing has twice the multiplier effect of financial services or retail trade. 

All of this is true of manufacturing, but these facts do not inform the choices made by the corporations. 

According to the Department of Labor’s September 2009 statistics, between 1970 and 2009 manufacturing jobs declined from 39 percent of the private-sector labor force to 18 percent (a 54 percent decline). Meanwhile, service-providing jobs increased by 34 percent. 

The early decline in manufacturing jobs, starting in the sixties, was due to automation. The subsequent job loss occurred as “run-away” corporations pursued cheap labor. Programs like NAFTA encouraged further movement of manufacturing across borders. The consolidation of globalization by the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund effectively unleashed corporations from all constraints, but one—ever increasing profit margins. 

The point here is that the decline of manufacturing in the US was a conscious economic decision. As many now recognize, this decision may impoverish us if not reversed. In July President Obama said, “The fight for American manufacturing is a fight for America’s future.” 

We have a great opportunity in Berkeley to demonstrate that we have the wisdom to use our local manufacturing resources to grow this sector by protecting what already exists—the highly prized skills and technical knowledge in shops throughout West Berkeley. 

In the printing trades, where I worked for 45 years, advances in chemistry, metallurgy, plastics, optics and computerization transformed the workplace—from highly skilled but labor-intensive tasks to highly technical labor saving tasks. 

What is true of my trade applies to others. Go to any industrial firm today and you will see new technologies implemented everywhere by people working at living wage jobs. 

The economic quagmire that engulfs us now will not be alleviated by some simple fix. No new financial bubble will save us. No fevered pursuit of a “cutting edge” investment opportunity. 

And shopping till you drop is not a program for the unemployed. 

We are in dire need of addressing infrastructure renewal, climate change and resource depletion. These crises, and that’s what they are, will not be adequately dealt with unless a coordinated, federal program to re-industrialize America emerges. 

We have in West Berkeley, thanks to the foresight of those who drafted the West Berkeley Plan, people who make things here, not there. It’s our decision to honor that legacy by expanding it without destroying it. 


Bernard Marszalek is the former sales manager of Inkworks Press of West Berkeley, and a member of JASeconomy.

Manure and Money Drive Current West Berkeley Planning Process

By Harry Wiener
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:49:00 AM

President Lyndon Johnson once said that you can’t sell chicken poop as chicken soup. Only he didn’t say poop. New Yorker’s have a saying “money talks and bull manure walks” only they don’t say manure. I have found, especially over the last eight years, that both of these truisms are wrong. When you mix money with any kind of manure you can sell chicken poop as soup and money plus manure always rides in limousines. I am writing to counter the deep manure and the heavy money that is driving the changes to the West Berkeley Plan. 

Point one. The current vibrant and resilient economy in West Berkeley is the result of the 20 plus year old West Berkeley Plan. Without the plan, West Berkeley would be a graveyard of overdevelopment from the latest dot-com or office building bust, two real estate busts—Savings and Loan and now Banking—the retail bust, and soon the genetic technology bust. 

Point two. The citizens of West Berkeley are not incidental to the economy of West Berkeley, but central to it. I am as much a part of the economy as Bayer. Any change to the West Berkeley Plan should be for the general welfare and common good of the citizens of Berkeley and not mainly the benefit of large institutions or corporations. 

Point three. The mosaic that is the West Berkeley Plan is a history of fads of development that have resulted in the large busts of the last 150 years. By preserving these designations, Berkeley will always have room to accommodate the starters of the next fad, but not face the worst of the downside—the busts—that always follows the fads. 

Point four. Redefinition of the large industrial parcels will give huge, undeserved, windfalls to the current owners of these parcels and their replacements will add no more to the general welfare of West Berkeley than the current owners. The first negative impact of these proposed changes was the Bayer Corporation’s threat to depart Berkeley, which cost the city a loss in tax revenues, to prevent their departure. When Bayer realized that the property on which their plant exists will triple in value, it became a bottom line decision. They could relocate somewhere cheaper and take their profits in real estate and save millions in leasing costs. 

Point five. Research and Development is not a money-making commercial venture it is a money risking venture with a risk of failure. The citizens of Berkeley should not be called upon to risk any part of their economy to aid large corporations with their risks. 

Point six. West Berkeley is not underdeveloped, abandoned, living in the past, dirty, ugly, empty, crime-ridden, inhabited by criminals, an eyesore, a drain on the Berkeley economy or what ever bull manure pedaled by PR hacks funded by developer money. It is diverse, habitable, inhabited, constructive, creative, industrial, industrious, educational, educated, expanding, exciting, and ever-contributing to the great city of Berkeley. It does not need re-development, it is flexible, ever changing, and generates more than its share of revenue for the city. 

Conclusion. Do not let money and bull manure sell the city chicken poop soup. The re-writing of the West Berkeley Plan through variances, exemptions, exceptions, and outright ignorance will kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Be exceptionally careful when thinking that future capitalist fads can be predicted by developers, politicians, or city planners. The West Berkeley Plan and its mosaic of uses ameliorate the dangers of over development, homogenization, and control of city resources brought on by the conflation of politics and money. 


Harry Wiener is a resident of West Berkeley, and served as Margaret Breland’s appointee to the West Berkeley Planning Area Commission for eight years and served as the Commission’s Chair for two years. 


Will Berkeley Lead or Lag? 

By Paul Perry
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:50:00 AM

Our city is on the verge of an incredible achievement. Across the country, city officials and their school district counterparts often bicker about everything under the sun relating to youth and their needs within a given jurisdiction. All the while, the children they are responsible for educating are lost in the shuffle. Low-income, African-American and Latino children fall the furthest behind and often drop out of the system altogether.  

But here in Berkeley, there is broad consensus on what needs to be done to ensure that all of our children are achieving at the impressive rates that many of our white and Asian children are achieving. In fact, they are doing so well that many of them lead the state in Academic Performance Index (API) scores.  

There is no reason that our black and brown students do not deserve and cannot achieve the same success. More importantly, there is no reason that Berkeley, the home of the world’s leading public university, should also claim the largest racial achievement gap within its public schools in the state of California. 

  Berkeley’s 2020 Vision process is an opportunity for us to change all of that. The plan emphasizes the inherent connection between health and educational outcomes by addressing a variety of issues that negatively impact the academic achievement of Berkeley’s youth. It is one of the most progressive and inclusive forms of cross-sector collaboration going on in our country right now. Very few other cities are attempting to integrate health services with educational services while attempting to service the whole child over a sustained period of time. People of goodwill have and will continue to disagree on the specifics of any program as ambitious as 2020 Vision. Certainly, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but we should be able to agree on some basic facts.  

The record, then, needs to be clarified. The Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) has by no means ceded its authority to the 2020 Vision Planning Team but is an integral member of this collaborative body that constitutes a broad range of voices from the Berkeley community. It has also been claimed that those on the 2020 Vision Planning Team are not accountable to the public. However, the 2020 Planning Team consists of parents, school board members, clergy members, teachers and city officials. By definition, these are all very public individuals working for the broader public good. 

  The 2020 Vision process is not silent on the needs of socioeconomically disadvantaged, English language learners nor students with disabilities but rather focuses its efforts on these groups by targeting black and brown students broadly. The overlap here is apparent as black and brown students make up a disproportionate number of English language learners and students with disabilities. The goals of 2020 Vision are necessarily aligned with current BUSD and City of Berkeley efforts as they were developed in partnership with the very people tasked with implementing current programs. 2020 Vision is by no means ignorant of the status quo, but hopes to move beyond it. Remaining at status quo means that vast swaths of our children are left behind, and that is simply unacceptable.  

The position offered by some is that the responsibility for closing the achievement gap rests solely upon the Berkeley Unified School District. Ironically, this is the very perspective that has gained Berkeley the dubious distinction of failing more than any other city in terms of educating its black and brown students relative to the achievement of their more White and Asian peers. As blame shifts and students are left behind, we have failed as a community to recognize the interdependent relationship between health and education and the larger need to serving our children across jurisdictions. In essence, the era of declaring, “It’s not my job,” has come and gone. Everyone is indicted if any of our kids do not achieve in our community. 

  Conventional wisdom tells us that it takes a village to raise a child and 2020 Vision recognizes this most fundamental principle in its efforts. Children’s futures are not solely determined within the confines of the schools they attend and therefore, if we care about their futures in any serious sense, we will concern ourselves with the realities they face outside those school walls.  

Ironically, some advocates call for equality in our schools “by any means necessary” while cutting out certain alternatives that could provide even greater integration for our brown and black students in favor of the inadequate status quo. 2020 Vision succeeds in considering any and all means to support students and families whose needs are simply not being met under the current system. 

  A city councilmember said it best during the recent joint session between the Berkeley City Council and the Berkeley School Board in referring to the various goals of the 2020 Vision plan when she said, “If you don’t like Goal No. 2, then work on Goal No. 7. Just as long as you are contributing to a process that will ultimately help our children.” 2020 Vision needs all hands on deck, not obfuscation and delay. Both the City Council and the School Board have already agreed, in principle, to allow the 2020 Vision goals to influence their decision-making on the policies they will consider between now and the final outcome of the process. We should celebrate their bold leadership by joining in the effort to improve life outcomes for the children in our community who need us most. 


Paul Perry is a graduate student at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. 



China’s Cultural Revolution a Human Disaster? Not According to Symposium Participants

By Reiko Redmonde 
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:50:00 AM

I don’t believe in human nature, said Prof. Dongping Han, a participant in China’s Cultural Revolution and now a Professor of History at Warren Wilson College. In the Cultural Revolution, he said, we didn’t have to care about ourselves, because others cared about us.  

“The Cultural Revolution was not, as depicted by the current Chinese government and standard Western accounts, a nightmare of persecution, violence, and senseless chaos,” Raymond Lotta, editor of “Maoist Economics and the Revolutionary Road to Communism,” summed up. “It was a society-wide political movement and struggle that brought about immense and egalitarian changes in Chinese society—in political institutions, education, health care, culture and women's participation in society.”  

Such portrayals of the Cultural Revolution came to life this past weekend at UC Berkeley where authors, scholars, and participants in the Cultural Revolution—1966-1976—gathered for a unique symposium: “Rediscovering China’s Cultural Revolution—Art and Politics, Lived Experience, Legacies of Liberation.” Panelists came from diverse backgrounds and fields—the arts, gender and cultural studies, political economy and theory, and revolutionary practice—and had different perspectives on the Cultural Revolution itself. But all felt this was a liberating chapter in Chinese history that has been much maligned, and is in need of rediscovery and reexamination.  

Through a poster exhibit and film showings, discussion of new books on the revolution’s impact in rural China, panels on art and politics and the international impact and historical significance of the Cultural Revolution, and much lively discussion, the symposium painted a vivid picture of what happened on the ground during the Cultural Revolution; its international impacts, contributions in the arts, sciences, healthcare and education, and the transformations it brought for women, peasants, workers and others. Over 250 people attended.  

Indeed, this symposium definitely went up against the dominant narrative. I recently attended a showing of excerpts of “Morning Sun” by Carma Hinton at UC Berkeley. The film was a tendentious and carefully crafted attack on the Cultural Revolution which distorted history, and the truth. In her talk Hinton acknowledged that she purposely omitted footage of Red Guards helping peasants because that didn’t fit into her “master narrative.” These are precisely the kind of anti-communist lies and distortions that currently dominate the discourse about this crucial revolutionary chapter in China’s—and the world’s—history.  

The symposium punched a big hole these kinds of portrayals and helped broaden the whole conversation about human possibility. It’s impossible here to do justice to all that was presented—video and audio tapes of the entire weekend will be available—but here are some of the highlights.  

In discussing his new book The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village, which was filmed for CSPAN’s Book TV, Professor Han noted that during the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution the government empowered the people of his region to build their own schools. The number of high schools in his county grew from one to 89. Han offered a gripping description of a society in which people worked together, looked out for each other, and were encouraged to “serve the people”— instead of the selfishness, atomization, and alienation fostered by capitalism.  

Bai Di, grew up during the Cultural Revolution and is co-editor of Some of Us: Chinese Women Growing Up During the Mao Era Bai Di talked about the lives of her grandmothers before the Chinese Revolution. Both had bound feet. Both had arranged marriages. They each had 14 children. Their lives were limited to giving birth. They didn’t even have their own names but had their husband’s and father’s names, with the word “somebody” added on at the end. Bai Di’s mother who came of age around the time of the revolution of 1949, was the first person in the family to go to college, and her generation benefitted from the marriage law which abolished arranged marriage, and the concubinage system. Bai Di said that the cultural revolution furthered the liberation of women, “girls were equal to boys in every respect,” and this theme resounded in the theater and art of the period. After Mao’s revolution and especially during the Cultural Revolution, women were encouraged to participate in all aspects of society. “Women Hold Up Half the Sky” was their slogan.  

Ann Tompkins, who lived in China from 1965-1970, said she felt the Cultural Revolution the most democratic chapter in human history, and still feels that way today.  

Other presenters included Lincoln Cushing, co-author with Ann Tompkins of Chinese Posters: Art from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution; Ban Wang, a Professor of Chinese Literature and Culture at Stanford; and Robert Weil, author of Red Cat, White Cat: China and the Contradictions of Market Socialism. 

All this matters a great deal. Understanding the Cultural Revolution is crucial to understanding China today. And how one looks at the first experiences with socialism, including the Cultural Revolution, has everything to do with recognizing and comprehending the possibility and desirability of struggling for a different future—and helps open up the discussion of how to do even better in the future.  

One UC Berkeley undergrad whose parents are from China said the discussion at the symposium brought to mind a recent study showing “that collectivist cultures were actually higher in overall well-being and self-reported happiness than individualist cultures.” A psychology major, she said, “it’s definitely eye-opening for me, especially when in high school it was ingrained in my head that the United States was a superpower and that capitalism was definitely superior to communism. I think this experience today was also eye-opening as well and I think I am starting to question basic assumptions.”  



Reiko Redmonde is a staffer at Revolution Books, Berkeley which was a sponsor of the Symposium. More on the Symposium will be available at www.revolutionbooks.org. 


Undercurrents: Working Out the Kinks in the Perata Machine

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:31:00 AM

Whatever else he may accomplish this election season, former State Senator Don Perata appears—so far—to be successfully winning the battle to get the media to adopt his electoral narrative. While no other reporter or columnist has embarrassed themselves by declaring, as the Chronicle’s Chip Johnson once did, that nothing stands between Mr. Perata and the Oakland mayor’s office but “blue skies” (“With Probe Over, Perata Primed To Lead Oakland,” May 29, 2009), there appears a subtle—if sometimes grudging—tone in local reporting that once Mr. Perata’s potential federal corruption problems were behind him, the mayor’s race is his to lose. That, of course, is clearly Mr. Perata’s strategy in next year’s election: to run as if his victory is all but inevitable, and those who do not get with his campaign immediately will be left out. 

But if the assumption that Mr. Perata has a clear path to the mayor’s position is true, then the ham-handedness of the recent Oakland police union’s endorsement of the former State senator is puzzling indeed. 

Late in October, the Neighborhood Services Division of the City of Oakland sent out official notices in the name of the city’s Neighborhood Watch Steering Committee inviting citizens to hear newly appointed Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts speak on November 5 at the headquarters of the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA). The gathering was jointly sponsored by the Steering Committee and OPOA. 

Mr. Batts did speak, but after he left, Oakland business and political activist Pamela Drake reported to the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club email list what happened next. 

“As soon as [Mr. Batts] left,” Ms. Drake wrote, “OPOA union President [Dom-inique] Arotzarena started a speech in which he denounced the leadership of our city, talked about the low morale of the department and complained about the extension of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (Consent Decree based on police misconduct), and how we now have a chance ‘to turn [the city] around.’ Then [Mr. Arotzarena] announced that OPOA would be endorsing Don Perata for mayor and asked [Mr. Perata] to speak ... A number of folks sitting in the back got up and left as soon as Perata was introduced.” 

Aside from being what would appear to be an illegal misuse of city funds for the city’s Neighborhood Services Division to send out postcards inviting citizens to a meeting that turned out, in part, to be a campaign event, the OPOA endorsement incident was embarrassing because Oakland City Councilmember Jean Quan, who has all but announced her intention to run for Oakland’s mayor, was also in the audience. She was belatedly asked to come up and speak after Mr. Perata by the chairperson of the Neighborhood Watch Steering Committee. It also must have been embarrassing to Mr. Batts, whose name has now been twice associated with the man—Mr. Perata—who wants the job currently held by the man who actually hired Mr. Batts (the first time, you remember, was back in August when Chronicle columnists Phil Matier and Andrew Ross disclosed that Mr. Batts called Mr. Perata for support when he, Mr. Batts, was a finalist for the Oakland police chief job; interestingly for the current story, Mr. Matier and Mr. Ross wrote last August that, following the reported Batts-Perata conversation, “Perata called Oakland Police Officers Association leaders and suggested [the OPOA] check Batts out. They did and came back with two thumbs up” (“Perata Hand in Oakland’s Police Chief Pick,” August 23, 2009). 

So once again, Mr. Perata and OPOA are drawing Mr. Batts into the middle of the mayoral race where, almost certainly, Mr. Batts himself does not want to be. 

The OPOA Perata endorsement incident had immediate and predictable repercussions. Oakland City Administrator Dan Lindheim announced that he was launching an investigation into the action, telling the Oakland Tribune that “it is a violation of city policy and state law to use city resources or city work time for political purposes. While any group has the right to endorse whomever they choose for political office, the Oakland Police Officers Association decision to co-opt a city-sponsored community event and use it for political purposes raises serious concerns.” We will watch with interest how that city investigation plays out. 

Meanwhile, the ham-fisted handling of the OPOA Perata endorsement leaves a puzzlement not only about how the affair was put together, but about its timing. 

The Oakland mayoral election is six months away at the very least, and a full year away if ranked-choice voting (instant runoff voting, or IRV) is implemented. Campaigns, of course, try to release announcements of endorsement for maximum effect, so one wonders what effect the Perata mayoral campaign was trying to bring about this early in the game, when most voters have not yet focused on the election. And, further, it seems strange to cloud the OPOA Perata endorsement with controversy when the announcement could have been done cleanly, either at a union meeting or at a press conference at OPOA headquarters, with greater publicity benefit for Mr. Perata’s campaign. 

One cannot easily discern the thought and strategy behind the OPOA endorsement announcement, but that may be—may being the operative word—because there is something else in play: financial considerations. 

Mr. Perata has always been known as a prodigious political fund-raiser, particularly during the years he presided over the State Senate, but recent events may have reduced his ability to capitalize on that gift. 

In his 2004 campaign for the Senate, Mr. Perata was working with a $3,200 per individual contribution limit, an amount that allowed him to raise a quarter of a million dollars that year for the “Perata 2004” committee from individuals and organizations all around the state. 

In addition, Mr. Perata used his position as Senate President to set up official fund-raising committees to finance state ballot measures and intervene in other legislative elections around California. His Leadership California committee (now renamed Hope 2010) reported $1.4 million in contributions in 2008, $8.7 million in 2006. The former Senator’s “Friends of Don” legal defense fund, the committee set up to raise money to pay Mr. Perata’s legal fees while fighting off the federal political corruption investigation, raised another $2.2 million in 2008. 

With his term-limit retirement from the State Senate and the loss of his ability to shape state law and contracts, Mr. Perata’s ability to fundraise on a statewide level has plummeted. The same Hope 2010 committee whose predecessor raised $8.7 million in 2006 gathered only $14,000 in contributions in the first nine months of 2009, $13,500 of that from his own Perata 2004 Senate re-election committee. 

In addition, Mr. Perata’s fundraising for the mayoral race is severely hampered by the City of Oakland’s campaign finance limits. Contributions to mayoral candidates are capped at $100 per individual for candidates who plan to spend unlimited funds on their election. The individual contribution limit is $500 if the candidate agrees to a campaign spending limit of roughly $280,000 (70 cents per city resident). The contribution limits are $250 and $1,000 respectively for organizations. 

Of course, even with those restrictions, Mr. Perata has figured out ways to bring in money. In September, for example, the Oakland Tribune reported that the CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the prison guards), which comprises many longtime Perata supporters—sent almost a quarter of a million dollars Mr. Perata’s way in 2009. 

The problem is, none of this money can go directly into Mr. Perata’s Oakland mayoral campaign. 

The Tribune reported that funds controlled by the CCPOA were given in various amounts to Perata Consulting (registered to Mr. Perata’s son, Nick and partially owned by Mr. Perata himself), to the City of Alameda’s Avalon Village senior citizen nonprofit organization (where Mr. Perata serves on the Board of Directors), to Liquid Logistics (a business name registered to Nick Perata) for membership mailers, and for voter focus work by Sandi Polka, a longtime Perata associate (“Don Perata Still Making Bank From Prison Guards’ Union” November 30, 2009). 

While some of this CCPOA money may find its way into the mayoral campaign—through the hiring of Ms. Polka and Nick Perata as campaign workers at bargain rates, for example—it is possible that even with this huge influx of cash for the Peratas themselves and Perata associates, the Perata for Oakland Mayor campaign is suffering from a lack of early money. 

(As an aside, one wonders what the state organization of prison guards hopes to get in return for their financial contributions to the Perata cause. But that’s a subject for another time.) 

Campaign money is especially important for Mr. Perata at this stage of the mayoral campaign—more than it is for all-but-announced candidate Jean Quan and for possible re-election candidate Ron Dellums—because the Perata strategy appears to be to build early momentum that attempts to discourage his competitors and builds an aura of Perata inevitability. To run that kind of a blow-them-out-the-water-early campaign, early money is needed, and a good bit of it. 

Thus the possibility—and I am only suggesting it as a possibility—that the OPOA endorsement was rushed through in order to get Mr. Perata an infusion of needed cash, both through a direct contribution from the police union itself and through donations from individual officers. 

One thing is certain, however. The fumbling of the OPOA endorsement—whatever the reason—shows that the Perata machine is not as smooth and finely-tuned as Perata supporters would have us believe, and that the 2010 Oakland mayoral election will not be the “blue sky” slam dunk they have been projecting. 

Dispatches From the Edge: Malarkey over Maoists? Japan’s New Course?

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:32:00 AM

Rebels Widen Deadly Reach Across India” reads the alarming headline in the New York Times, and the prose that follows is pretty scary: “India’s Maoist rebels are now present in 20 states and have evolved into a potent and lethal insurgency.” According to the Times, the Maoists have killed 900 Indian security officers over the last four years, hi-jacked a train, burned two schools, and freed prisoners from jails. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calls them the “single greatest security challenge ever faced in our country.” 

Given that India has fought three wars with neighboring Pakistan—one that came within a whisker of going nuclear—plus a 1962 border clash with China, that is pretty strong rhetoric. Any truth in it?  

According to a recent commentary in the The Guardian (UK) by Booker Prize–winning author, Arundhati Roy, not much. Roy argues that the counterinsurgency operation that the New Delhi government is preparing to launch into the forests of Chattisgarth state has less to do with security than with corporate bottom lines. 

“The Maoist guerrilla army is made up almost entirely of desperately poor tribal people living under conditions of such chronic hunger that it verges on famine … They are people who, even after 60 years of India’s so-called independence, have not had access to education, healthcare or legal redress … If the tribals have taken up arms, they have done so because a government which has given them nothing but violence and neglect now wants to snatch away the last thing they have—their land.” 

There are an estimated 65 million tribals or “adivasis” in the five state region of Maoist activity. 

The territory in question includes parts of Chattisgarth and the neighboring states of Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, what the Indian press is calling the “Red Corridor.” The area embraces much of India’s Southeast, including thousands of square miles of forest inhabited by the country’s tribal minorities.  

It is not so much the land that interests the Indian government, as what lies beneath it. According to Amarendra Das and Felix Padel, authors of Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminum Cartel, Orrisa alone has $2.7 trillion in bauxite deposits, a figure that is twice the GDP of the entire country. That figure is a 2004 estimate, so the deposits might now be worth $4 trillion. 

Chattisgarh and Jharkhand have massive amounts of iron ore, plus uranium, tin, copper, diamonds and gold. The five-state area also includes 85 percent of India’s coal reserves. 

While Singh calls the Maoists a “threat,” at a meeting of state chief ministers this past January he described them as having only “modest capabilities.” The most telling comment by the Prime Minister was made this past June when he told the Parliament, “If left-wing extremism continues to flourish in parts which have natural resources of minerals, the climate for investment would certainly be affected.” 

To take on the Maoists, New Delhi is unleashing 70,000 paramilitaries, who have been accused of committing widespread atrocities against tribal people in the region. More than 50,000 locals have been forced into government-controlled villages that look much like the “strategic hamlets” of the Vietnam War. 

The Maoists—also called “Naxalites,” after the site of a 1967 uprising—are estimated to have between 10,000 and 20,000 fighters, although those figures are likely inflated. They are armed with AK-47 assault rifles, old bolt-action Enfields, and explosives. Some of the tribals use bows and arrows.  

They face the fourth largest army in the world: 1,414,000 regular soldiers, 1,800,000 reserves, and 787,000 “territorials.” The latter train for 32 days a year. The military also includes 32,000 pieces of artillery, 20,000 ballistic missiles, 10,000 cruise missiles, 900 aircraft, and 5,000 tanks.  

Over the past several years, Indian military spending has steadily risen, jumping 10 percent in the 2008–09 budget. India is currently upgrading its fleet of Russian Sukhoi-Su-30MKI combat fighters and MIG-29s, and is considering spending $10.6 billion to purchase 128 new MIG-35 Fulcrum fighter bombers. 

In the meantime, according to Utsa Patnaik, India’s leading agricultural economist, the average rural family is eating less than it did a decade ago. 

A study by the International Labor Federation found that India’s current economic boom is built largely on the backs of workers and farmers. While labor productivity has risen 84 percent, and India has created 100,000 dollar millionaires, real wages declined 22 percent, and 836 million Indians live on less than 50 cents a day. 

P. Sainath, India’s leading independent investigative journalist, found that farm debt had almost doubled from 1991, contributing to a huge increase in rural suicides. According to the Mumbai-based journalist, 182,937 farmers committed suicide between 1997 and 2007. Many of those were in Chattisgarth and Maharashtra.  

While most the Indian media has trumpeted the figure of 900 security forces killed by the Maoists between 2002-06, the average yearly number of farm suicides was 17,513. That is, writes Sainath, “one farmer took his or her life every 30 minutes on the average.” 

The debt crisis is largely fueled by a series of neo-liberal “rural economic reforms” that stress cash crops like cotton, coffee, sugarcane, pepper and vanilla over traditional food crops like rice, wheat and maize. When landlords forced farmers to shift to cash crops through their control of water supplies and credit, says Sainath, it “meant much higher cultivation costs, far greater loans, much higher debt,” and being locked into the “volatility of global commodity prices,” which are “dominated by a handful of multinational corporations.” 

Malnutrition rates in India are worse then they are in sub-Saharan Africa, and considerably worse then they are in one of India’s major economic competitors, China. According to Amartya Sen, who won the Nobel Prize in economics, while China has reduced childhood malnutrition to 7 percent, the rate in India is 42.5 percent.  

So the question is, what is the greatest threat to India’s democracy? A handful of insurgents deep in the forests of Chattisgarh? Or an economy that leaves the bulk of its population mired in crushing poverty and debt? 

The name of the counterinsurgency thrust into Chattisgarth, which will level forests and siphon off water sources, is “Operation Green Hunt.” 

Irony is dead. 




Japan’s new Democratic Party government is finding out that the U.S. is an ally—as long as you do what Washington wants. Show a little independence, and you get leaned on. 

When newly minted Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama indicated that Japan wanted to re-visit a 2006 agreement about basing Marines in Okinawa, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates growled that any attempt to change the deal would be “counterproductive.” And in case Tokyo didn’t get the message, Gates boycotted a dinner for Japan’s Defense Minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, and refused to attend a welcoming ceremony at the ministry. 

Tokyo responded by canceling talks between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada. Washington has since tried to patch things up before President Barak Obama’s Nov. 12–13 visit to Japan. 

The base in question is Futenma, located in the middle of a major urban area in Okinawa. The 2006 agreement would move the base to a different part of the island, but the locals want the base moved to Guam. Okinawa houses more than half of the 47,000 U.S. troops deployed in Japan.  

Behind the clash are very different views of the neighborhood. The old right-wing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was more than happy to house the United States because the LDP was hostile to China and Korea. The Party’s stubborn refusal to apologize for the atrocities committed by Imperial Japanese forces in World War II was a continual source of friction with other Asian nations. 

But the Democratic Party ran on a platform of improving relations with other Asian nations—in particular, China—and for a more “equal” alliance with the United States 

“Under the government of the Liberal Democratic Party, foreign policy was excessively dependent on the United States,” Okada told the Financial Times. “My fundamental thinking is that we would like to secure the peace and prosperity of Asia, and through that achieve peace and prosperity for Japan.” 

However, that was not the aim of the 2006 agreement, which was designed to confront China by building up Okinawa and Guam. A big part of challenging China involves stationing nuclear weapons aboard U.S. ships in the region. In theory, U.S. nuclear-armed ships are barred from Japanese ports, but the LDP turned a blind eye to the practice.  

Not so the Democratic Party. Asked about U.S. ships carrying nuclear weapons, Hatoyama said bluntly, “I wouldn’t let them in.” 

The Democrats ran on a platform of abolishing nuclear weapons and will find it difficult to retreat from that position, U.S. pressure not withstanding. 

Having an anti-nuclear government in Japan will add weight to the growing campaign to abolish the weapons. Both President Obama and UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon have called for ridding the world of nuclear weapons. This past July the 170-million member International Confederation of Trade Unions called for of a “nuclear-weapon-free world” by 2020. The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a similar resolution in 2008.  

As Lawrence Wittner, a professor of history at State University of New York-Albany and author of “Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the Nuclear Disarmament Movement, writes, the Democratic Party victory “should hearten opponents of nuclear weapons, for it provides not only a symbolic victory for antinuclear forces but a potential significant shift in the nuclear policy of a major nation. Above all, it serves as an indication that, around the world, the antinuclear momentum is growing.” 








Green Neighbors: Sweetness and Light, Evoking the Blues

By Ron Sullivan
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:58:00 AM

Those of us who came of age at a certain time think of Van Morrison and John Lee Hooker when we hear the tree’s name: tupelo. It’s an Algonquian word, like the name of the Susquehannock (“muddy river”) people, who lived along the river I grew up on, the Susquehanna. (Donald Culross Peattie said it was derived from the Creek eto, “tree”, and opelwv, “swamp.”) 

It’s riverine, too; some of our American tupelo species are so wedded to water they have to live with their feet wet in swamps and streams. Tupelo honey, so famously sweet, comes from the Apalachicola River in northern Florida, where beekeepers float their hives on rafts when the trees are in bloom in order to direct the bees’ attention exclusively to the tupelos’ flowers. Hollow tupelo trunks traditionally made good beehives, or “bee-gums.” 

There was a time, some 10 million years ago, when tupelos grew wild in a swampy East Bay (not that there was a San Francisco Bay as such back then.) Fossil tupelo fruit has been found in the Miocene Era Neroly Formation, along with the remains of swamp cypress, red bay and magnolia.  

At the time, proto-California had a summer-wet climate like that of the modern Southeast. Alligators would have felt right at home, although there’s no fossil evidence for their presence.  

Like some other southern trees that aren’t fussy about good drainage, tupelos do well as street trees in the Berkeley flatland’s water-retaining soil. The city’s been planting Nyssa sylvatica, black tupelo, along streets lately and I hope they work out. Right now, as the gray rains come in and daylight wanes, I do love the illumination we get from these—and from their Southland compatriots the liquidambars—planted along our streets. 

Sweetgums and sourgums, they’re called, and the funny thing is that it’s the sourgums that produce sweetness. The gum tree of the old fiddle tune “Possum up the Gum Tree” was a tupelo, although the gum part is somewhat mysterious. “Pepperidge” is another obscure folk name for the tree.  

Peattie says the black tupelo was considered useless as a timber tree; the wood is prone to rot if it’s in contact with the soil, and it’s notoriously hard to split. What the wood was prized for, apart from the bee-gums, was the handles of mauls and other heavy-duty tools, as well as gunstocks and pistol grips. 

Take a stroll down Dwight Way or the part of Allston Way by the city corporation yard west of Sacramento. You might even see the nametags from the nursery still on the youngsters that are wearing training stakes.  

They might tickle you with their leaves as you pass. Have patience, give them time; soon enough they’ll be safely overhead, pruned for pedestrian ease, brightening the way better than those weird orangey streetlamps ever could. 






East Bay: Then and Now: J. L. Barker Was Berkeley’s Booster for Five Decades

By Daniella Thompson
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:56:00 AM
James Barker.
San Francisco Call, March 21, 1896
James Barker.
The Barker family poses in front of its Italianate house at 2031 Dwight Way. It was built in 1877 and demolished a century later.
Barker family collection, BAHA archives
The Barker family poses in front of its Italianate house at 2031 Dwight Way. It was built in 1877 and demolished a century later.
The Barker Block at 2486 Shattuck Ave. was built in 1905 to a design by A.W. Smith.
David DeVries
The Barker Block at 2486 Shattuck Ave. was built in 1905 to a design by A.W. Smith.
In 1903, Barker built the India Block at 3250 Adeline St. to generate income for his daughter’s mission in India.
Daniella Thompson
In 1903, Barker built the India Block at 3250 Adeline St. to generate income for his daughter’s mission in India.

On many an April 18, the anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Berkeley Gazette columnist Hal Johnson used to trot out one of his favorite stories: “The Barker Block, on the northwest corner of Shattuck Ave. and Dwight Way, had just been built ... Brick cornices crashed. Damage was quickly repaired. Soon the building was housing book concerns that were burned out in San Francisco.” 

Still standing at 2486 Shattuck Ave., the landmark building, designed by A.W. Smith in 1905, is the most visible monument left of James Loring Barker, a leading Berkeley citizen and booster for five decades. 

Largely forgotten, Barker (1841–1919) was one of Berkeley’s earliest champions. His list of contributions to the town’s development is little short of astounding. 

Although Francis K. Shattuck often gets all the credit, it was Barker who “was the prime mover in inducing the Central Pacific Railroad Company to Berkeley, and it was largely due to his persistent efforts that the right of way and the necessary subscriptions for that improvement were secured, investing three months’ time and a considerable amount of money in bringing the enterprise to a successful issue.” Such was the assessment published in The Bay of San Francisco: A History (Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1892) 16 years after the Central Pacific opened the Berkeley branch line and while both Shattuck and Barker were still alive. 

William Warren Ferrier, a Congregational minister turned newspaper editor and distinguished Berkeley historian, knew Barker personally. In his 1933 book, Berkeley, California, the Story of the Evolution of a Hamlet into a City of Culture and Commerce, Ferrier enumerated some of Barker’s civic accomplishments. In addition to bringing the railroad to Berkeley in 1876, they included the establishment of Berkeley’s first newspaper, The Weekly Advocate, in 1877; leading the movement for Berkeley’s incorporation in 1878; advancing money to the newly formed Berkeley School Board for the purchase of land and for building East Berkeley’s first schoolhouse in 1879; organizing the Association for the Encouragement of Neighborhood Improvements in 1880; spearheading electric lighting for Berkeley’s streets by organizing the East Berkeley Electric Light Company in 1887; and leading the movement to establish Berkeley’s first public library in 1893. 

James Loring Barker was born on June 12, 1841, to a Congregational family in Charlestown, Mass. His father, George Barker, was captain and part owner of the ship Sea King, which in 1860 carried missionaries from Boston to Ceylon. At the age of 18, James was apprenticed to a hardware business in Boston. In 1862, he sailed to San Francisco, but not on his father’s ship—the Sea King was lost on a voyage to Liverpool that fall. 

During his first decade in San Francisco, Barker was a salesman for several well-established hardware firms. He is said to have launched his own hardware business in 1872, but the 1869 city directory already listed James L. Barker & Co., commission hardware, at 223 Sansome Street.  

The previous year, James had married Mary C. Rasché (1843–1910), daughter of German immigrants. The young couple resided at 911 Pine St., but by 1872 they had moved to Oakland. Barker had his eye on the East Bay all along; according to Ferrier, he bought his first 40 acres in Berkeley from Francis K. Shattuck in 1867. The Barker Tract comprises eight city blocks bounded by Bancroft Way, Shattuck Avenue, Dwight Way, and Martin Luther King, Jr., Way. 

Barker continued in business in San Francisco, setting up on Market Street as a manufacturer’s agent and importer of iron pipe and plumbers’ supplies. In 1877, he built a fine Italianate house at 2031 Dwight Way (the site is now Herrick Hospital’s parking lot). In this house, he and Mary brought up two daughters and two sons.  

Having sold his San Francisco business in 1878, Barker was ready to develop his Berkeley investments. In the early 1880s he set up adjacent twin offices next to his home at Dwight Way Station. One storefront offered real-estate and insurance services under the Berkeley Village Improvement Association banner, while the other sold hardware, lumber, and building materials. 

An 1887 business foray to Chicago turned into a stay of almost a year, but Barker returned and began building speculative houses on recently subdivided farmland, most notably in the College and Golden Gate Homestead tracts in north-central Berkeley. Paying heed to other expanding markets, he opened a plumbers’ supply business in downtown Oakland. 

In 1891, Barker deeded some of his land to the city, so Haste Street could be opened through his tract. In 1894, his name topped a petition calling for a new city charter. 

Prominent in Congregational church organizations, Barker was involved in many major undertakings. In 1897, he chaired a committee for famine relief in India, sending off a ship full of grain and beans. His knowledge of conditions in India was no accident—his eldest daughter, Lydia Gertrude (1969-1952), had gone to Madurai as a missionary in 1893. Barker continued to support her, and in 1903 erected the India Block on the southwest corner of Adeline and Harmon Streets so that proceeds from its rentals could be turned over to the mission. 

Barker was a director of the Congregational Church Extension Society of San Francisco, initiating a fund to provide sites for new churches. As a trustee of the Pacific Theological Seminary, his was one of the key 1899 votes that determined the school’s move from Oakland to Berkeley. 

It’s not surprising that Barker was also a leader of the local temperance movement. In 1897, after voters decided to make Berkeley a dry city, the Town Board of Trustees balked at the prospect of losing its annual $1,800 revenue from liquor licenses. Barker and banker A.W. Naylor stepped into the breach, guaranteeing the city a payment of $450 each quarter on condition that prohibition be enacted immediately. 

The arrangement worked for year, until the Town Trustees voted to repeal prohibition amid much recriminations and charges of hypocrisy. Not until the end of 1906 did the trustees adopt a resolution to revoke all liquor licenses. 

In October 1900, Barker was elected president of the Berkeley Board of Trade. The same month, he led a petition asking the Town Trustees to refuse a permit for a hospital on Channing Way between Shattuck and Milvia. The reasons given were that those blocks were thickly built up with houses; that a hospital would be a nuisance and a menace to the health of the locality, and that it would depreciate property values. 

It must have come as a cruel shock to the Barkers when, in 1904, Dr. Francis Leroy Herrick opened the 25-bed Roosevelt Hospital in the former Joseph B. Hume house next door to their own residence. 

In 1905, the famous orator William Jennings Bryan delivered a lecture to a rapt audience of a thousand at the Berkeley Theater. Bryan was thrice the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States, while James Barker was a lifelong Republican but that didn’t stop Barker from showing Bryan around town in his automobile. 

Berkeley was growing, and in 1905 Barker judged the time ripe for building a large mixed-use block on his Dwight Station corner. The architect was the prolific and versatile A.W. Smith (1864-1933), who had designed Barker’s India Block. Even before the building was complete, Barker offered space in it to the Berkeley Post Office, which had outgrown its premises at Center and Oxford Streets. 

On April 18, 1906, the Barkers were awakened at 5:12 a.m. by a “giant power and shaken as a terrier dog would shake a rat,” he later recalled. “Looking from my bedroom window, I saw the brick walls of my new building, 100 feet away on the corner, crumbling and falling down, and it seemed to me that the end of the world had come. […] In 10 minutes everybody was out of doors, and surveying the damage done. My own building presented as deplorable condition as any. When finished it will have 80 rooms for apartments and stores. Fortunately the apartments not being ready were not occupied. Briefly, my damages are about $10,000 in Berkeley and exceed perhaps the damages of any other single individual.” 

As Hal Johnson pointed out, Barker profited by the disaster, since refugees from San Francisco soon flooded Berkeley in search of accommodations. Among his new tenants was the Royal Academy of Science. 

Even after retiring in 1906, Barker’s civic benevolence continued unabated. When Clarence S. Merrill was appointed Postmaster and required to post a $45,000 bond to Washington, Barker served as one of his bondsmen. When the City Council appointed a civic committee on public charities, Barker’s name was at the head of the list. 

James Loring Barker died on Christmas Eve, 1919, following an illness of three years. Aside from an obituary in the Berkeley Gazette, his death was almost unremarked. His house was demolished in 1976 following an unsuccessful campaign to preserve it. 



Daniella Thompson publishes berkeleyheritage.com for the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA). 

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:56:00 AM



“Jesters and Gestures: Performing Yiddish Culture from Silent Cinema to Avant-Garde Film” at Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $4.50-$9.50. 642-0808. bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Stephen King in conversation with Janet Maslin on “Under the Dome” at 7 p.m. at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, corner of College and Ashby. 704-8222. 

Harvey Schwartz reads from “Solidarity Stories: An Oral History of the ILWU” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Ted Rosak reads from “The Making of an Elder Culture; Reflections on the Future of America’s Most Audacious Generation” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Kim Hermanson reads from “Getting Messy: A Guide to Taking Risks and Opening the Imagination for Teachers, Trainers and Mentors” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Fresh Ink Writers Workshop reading at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 


Oakland Opera “Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through Nov. 22 at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 Third St., Oakland. Tickets are $28. 763-1146. oaklandmetro.org 

Accordians Against Cancer with Culann’s Hounds, Big Lou’s Casserole at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Benefit for Women’s Cancer Resource Center. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Mills Repertory Dance Company “Intersections” Thurs. and Fri. at 8 p.m. at Lisser Hall, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$15, free to Mills Community with ID. 430-2175. www.mills.edu/ 


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

Jazz Singers’ Soiree with benny Watson Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

The Hot Toddies, Adam Bones at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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

Country Joe’s Open Mic Night at 7 p.m. at BFUU, 1924 Cedar. Cost is $5-$10. 841-4824. 

Mark Holzinger and guests at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 



Actors Ensemble of Berkeley “As It Is in Heaven” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., through Nov. 19. Tickets are $12-$15. 649-5999. www.aeofberkeley.org 

Aurora Theatre “Fat Pig” through Dec. 6, at 2081 Addison St. Tickets are $15-$55. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Black Repertory Group Theater “Sparkle: The Stage Play” Thurs.-Fri. at 8 p.m., Sat. at 2 and 8 p.m., Sun. at 4 p.m. at 3201 Adeline St., through Dec. 20. Tickets are $10-$45. 652-2120. 

Berkeley Playhouse “The Wizard of Oz” at the Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave, through Dec. 6. Tickets are $19-$28. For times see website www.berkeleyplayhouse.org  

Berkeley Rep “Tiny Kushner” Short plays by Tony Kushner at the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, through Nov. 29. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949 www.berkeleyrep.org 

Berkeley Rep “American Idiot” at 2025 Addison St., through Nov. 15. Tickets are $32-$86. www.berkeleyrep.org 

Central Works “Blastosphere!” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. through Nov. 22 at The Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. centralworks.org 

“Farid Mercury” Persian masculinity in the post 9/11 world with Robert Farid Karimi Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Impact Theatre “Large Animal Games” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through Dec. 12. Tickets are $12-$20. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “The Rocky Horror Show” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Dec. 12. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

“Raw-Dios: Behind the Pigpen in the Morning” the pop cultural landscape of the “Shock and Awe” era Wed.-Fri. at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

UC Dept. of Theater, Dance & Performance Studies “Silences and Salutations” Seven one act plays through Nov. 22 at Durham Studio Theater, UC campus. 642-8827. tdps.berkeley.edu 


“Urban Renaissance: New Visions of Jewelry and Sculpture” Works by Bay Area metalsmith artists. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at ACCI Gallery, 1652 Shattuck Ave. Exhibit runs to Dec. 6. 843-2527. www.accigallery.com 

“The Artwork of Leonard Peltier” Native American activist and political prisoner. Opening reception at 6:30 p.m. at La Peña. 849-2568. 

“And the Spirit Moved Her” Art by Nina Bindi, Judith Buist, Darla Engelmann, Libby Jennings and Jeannine Jourdan. Artist reception at 7 p.m. at JanRae Community Art Gallery, Women’s Cancer Resource Center, 5741 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Exhibit runs to Dec. 18. 601-4040, ext. 111. 

Estuary Art Attack Open art galleries and studios from 6 to 9 p.m. in Alameda’s Park Street Arts District. www.estuaryartattack.com  

“The Human Journey” art, poetry and prose by Nika One. Opens at 5 p.m. at Bridgehead Studios at 2516 Blanding Ave., Alameda, and runs through Dec. 11. 373-5454. 


“Art, Truth and Politics” A screening of Harold Pinter’s 2005 Nobel Prize acceptance speech at 4 p.m. at Durham Studio Theater, UC campus. tdps.berkeley.edu 


Romney Steele reads from “My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Christina Hutchins and Bill Vartnaw will read their poetry at 7 p.m. at Nefeli Caffe, 1854 Euclid Ave., a little north of Hearst. Part of the Last Word Reading Series.  

Greg Bear on his new near-future thriller “Mariposa” at 5:30 p.m. at Dark Carnival, 3085 Claremont Ave. 654-7323. books@darkcarnival.com  


Oakland East Bay Symphony “A Night at the Opera” with soprano Hope Briggs, tenor Kalil Wilson, and the Oakland-East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus at 8 p.m. at Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. tickets are $20-$65. 444-0801. www.oebs.org 

San Francisco City Chorus “Brahms’ Ein Deutches Requiem and Schicksalslied” with guest soloists Angela Arnold, soprano and Leland Morine, baritone at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $12-$20. Free for middle- and high-school students. 415-701-7664. www.sfcitychorus.org  

Dance Brigade “The Great Liberation Upon Hearing” based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 7 p.m., through Nov. 22, at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St. at 8th. Tickets are $17-$23. www.brownpapertickets.com 

East Bay Annointed Voices at 8 p.m. at UTunes Coffee House, First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St., Oakland. Tickets are $14-$18, children ages 6-15, $5. www.utunescoffehouse.org 

Fog Hill Classical Trio at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Bittersweet Trio at 7:30 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Danny Caron Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Brass Menagerie, Gaucho at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

John Reischman & the Jaybirds at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

SF Jazz High School All-Stars at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $110. 845-5373.  

Montana Slim, The Skinny, Mars Arizona at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082.  

Terrence Brewer Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

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



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

The Snow Queen Puppet Show Sat. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. at at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $7. 296-4433.  


Hecho Fest 10th Anniversary with headRush, Robert Karimi and Denise Solis at 2 p.m. at La Peña. Free. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Martin Lubner, painter and teacher, in conjunction with the exhibition “Metahyical Abstraction” at 4 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. Cost is $5. 644-6893. www.berkeleyartcenter.org 

Eve Kushner demonstrates the art of Japanese writing in “Crazy for Kanji: A Student’s Guide to the Wonderful World of Japanese Characters” at 3 p.m. at Eastwind Books of Berkeley, 2066 University Ave. 548-2350. 

Derick and Jackie Savage, authors of “Sunrise Over South Africa” book talk presentation and slide show followed by Q&A at noon at the Richmond Public Library, 325 Civic Center Plaza in Richmond. 620-6561. www.richmondlibrary.org 


Young People’s Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Cost is $12-$15. 849-9779. www.ypsomusic.net 

Contra Costa Chorale with guest soloists Courtney Bowes, lyric soprano, and Chie Treagus, alto, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Jerome Church, 308 Carmel Ave., El Cerrito. Tickets are $12-$15. 527-2026. www.ccchorale.org 

Oakland Opera “Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through Nov. 22 at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 Third St., Oakland. Tickets are $28. 763-1146. oaklandmetro.org 

Hecho Fest 10th Anniversary with Home Made at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Works in the Works 2009 Choreographers’ Performance Alliance and Eighth Street Studio performance series Sat. and Sun at 7:30 p.m. at Eighth Street Studio, 2525 Eighth St. at Dwight, through Nov. 22. Tickets are $10 at the door. 527-5115. 

Bryan Baker & Friends “Serenade” Concert and dessert reception at 8 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Tickets are $15-$25. 525-0302. 

Inge Swearingen Group at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

The Real Vocal String Quartet at 8 p.m. at Wisteria Ways, 383 61st St., Oakland. Donations $15-$20. Reservations strongly recommended. info@WisteriaWays.org 

Lakay & Mystic Man at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. African drum circle at 9 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

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

Faith Winthrop at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Kugelplex at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Jinx Jones Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Lost Cats Jazz at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

LT3 at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Culann’s Hounds, Dark Town Rounders at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Caribe Nuevo at 8 p.m. at Art House Gallery & Cultural Center, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Donation $10. 482-3336. 



“The Power of Voice” An evening of spoken word theater from 4 to 6 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


“Euphoric Aesthetic Insights” landscapes and magic realism of Mexico. Reception at 4 p.m. at 33 Revolutions Cafe and Record Shop, 10086 San Pablo Ave., at Central, El Cerrito. 223-8707. www.herkart.com 


Egyptology Lecture: Abydos Middle Cemetery Project with Dr. Janet Richards, University of Michigan, at 2:30 p.m. at Barrows Hall, Room 20, Barrow Lane and Bancroft Way, UC campus. 415- 664-4767. 

Michael Wild introduces his ”Bay Wolf Restaurant Cookbook” at 4 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Voices of Passion mystic, erotic, activist poetry, at 7:30 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck. Donations $5-$10. 482-3336. 


Beloved: A Requiem for Our Dead Elegies by queer and trans people of color at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$20. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Amphion, classical, at 2 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 210 Martina St., Point Richmond. 236-0527. 

Chamber Music Sundaes Chamber music performed by members of the San Francisco Symphony at 3 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets at the door $20-$25. 415-753-2792. www.chambermusicsundaes.org 

Cançonièr “The Black Dragon: Music from the Time of Vlad Dracula” at 7 p.m. at St. Alban’s Church, 1501 Washington Ave., Albany. Tickets are $10-$20 at Music Sources 528-1685. 

Albany Jazz Band at 2 p.m. at Anna's Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. 

Victor Jones and Cultur-Versy at 7 p.m. at Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, 1616 Franklin St., Oakland. 836-4649. 

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

Pato Banton, reggae, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Kim Nalley at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15-$18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

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

Josh Allen Trio and Large Ensemble at 8 p.m. at Flux 53 Theater, Foothill and Fairfax, Oakland. Donation $10. 338-2432. www.myspace.com/orrallenduo 

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

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



Subterranean Shakespeare “Romeo and Juliet” staged reading at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. Tickets are $8. 276-3871. 

Agora Theater “Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza” by Caryl Churchill and “What Strong Fences Make” by Israel Horovitz. Staged readings and discussion at 8 p.m. at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Free, no reservations necessary. 

Mary Karr reads from “A Life Memoir” at 7:30 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $12-$15. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Poetry Express with Bruce Isaacson at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 



Multi-Cultural Music from Around the World at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. For ages 3 and up. 524-3043. 


Kathleen Weaver reads from “Peruvian Rebel: The World of Magda Portal” and Stephen Kessler reads from his translation of Luis Cernuda “Desolation of the Chimera” at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Veronica Chater reads from “Waiting for the Apocalypse: A Memoir of Faith and Family” at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 


Kalil Wilson with the Dan Marschak Group at 8 p.m. at Yoshi's Jazz Club, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland. Tickets are $14. 238-9200. 

Tom Rigney & Flambeau at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun/ 

Zydeco dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Singers’ Open Mic with Ellen Hoffman at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 



“Magic Circus for the Holidays!” Exhibit of ceramic work by members of the Berkeley Adult School Ceramics Class from 12:30 to 2 p.m. at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis at Ashby. 


“Ordinary Storefronts of the Twentieth Century: Clues to the Local Histories of Shopping and Retailing” with Paul Groth at 7:30 at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $15. 644-9344. berkeleyheritage.com 

Ron Hassner discusses his new book “War on Sacred Grounds” at 6 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows read from their new translation “A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings from the Best of Rainer Marie Rilke” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 


Wednesday Noon Concert New works written in the graduate composers seminar of Franck Bedrossian at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

8th Annual International San Francisco Salsa Congress with over 50 workshops and four evening preformances, Wed.-Sun. at Oakland Marriott. www.sfsalsacongress.com 

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

UC Jazz Ensembles at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $6. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Balkan Folkdance at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $7. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Whiskey Brothers at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

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

Doug Beavers & Conjunto Rovira at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  



“Jesters and Gestures: Performing Yiddish Culture from Silent Cinema to Avant-Garde Film” at Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $4.50-$9.50. 642-0808. bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Druid Ireland Artist Talk An interview with the artists of “The Walworth Farce” at 4 p.m. in Zellerback Playhouse, UC campus. tdps.berkeley.edu 

Lierre Keith, author of “The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability,” reads at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Patrizia Chen on her memoir of an Italian childhood, “Rosemary and Bitter Oranges” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Cecile Pineda, Mexican American novelist, reads from and discusses her work at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. at Bonita. Free. 


Oakland Opera “Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through Nov. 22 at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 Third St., Oakland. Tickets are $28. 763-1146. oaklandmetro.org 

Scorpio Variety Showcase with Bronkar Lee, beatbox, John Staedler, guitar sax, Joshua Walters, comedy at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10, Scorpios free. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Dr. K’s Home Grown Roots Revue with the Wronglers, Harmon’s Peak, the roadoilers at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $14.50-$15.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

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

The Loyd Family Players, Antioquia at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Truth Be Told, hip hop jam, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $5. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

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

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

Ian McFeron Band with Paul Manousos at 8:30 p.m. at Speisekammer, 2424 Lincoln Ave., Alameda. Free. 522-1300. 



Aurora Theatre “Fat Pig” through Dec. 6, at 2081 Addison St. Tickets are $15-$55. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Black Repertory Group Theater “Sparkle: The Stage Play” Thurs.-Fri. at 8 p.m., Sat. at 2 and 8 p.m., Sun. at 4 p.m. at 3201 Adeline St., through Dec. 20. Tickets are $10-$45. 652-2120. 

Berkeley Rep “Tiny Kushner” Short plays by Tony Kushner at the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, through Nov. 29. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949 www.berkeleyrep.org 

Central Works “Blastosphere!” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. through Nov. 22 at The Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. centralworks.org 

Impact Theatre “Large Animal Games” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through Dec. 12. Tickets are $12-$20. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “The Rocky Horror Show” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Dec. 12. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

“Reality Playthings” experiments in experience with Frank Moore at 8 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St. www.eroplay.com 

UC Dept. of Theater, Dance & Performance Studies “Silences and Salutations” Seven one act plays through Nov. 22 at Durham Studio Theater, UC campus. 642-8827. tdps.berkeley.edu 


Jeffrey Haas reads from his new book, “The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther” followed by panel discussion, at 6:30 p.m. at Marcus Books, 3900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, Oakland.  

“If This You See: Staging Stein” A panel discussion iwth Prof. Lyn Hejinian, Prof. Peter Glazer and others at 4 p.m. in the Durham Studio Theater, UC campus. tdps.berkeley.edu 

John Greenlee and Saxon Holt on “The American Meadow Garden” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Alison Gopnik on “The Philosophical Baby” in a benefit for Habitot in a private home in Piedmont at 7 p.m. Donation $150. 647-1111, ext. 31. 


Dance Brigade “The Great Liberation Upon Hearing” based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 7 p.m., through Nov. 22, at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St. at 8th. Tickets are $17-$23. www.brownpapertickets.com 

John Santos Sextet in a celebration of Latino Heritage at 8 p.m. at Merritt College, Newton Seal Student Lounge, Building R, 12500 Campus Drive, Oakland. Tickets are $15, students, $5.  

Silvia Nakkach, Val Serrant, Francine Lancaster and friends in a benefit concert for The Stupa Peace Park at 7 p.m. at Unity of Berkeley, 2401 Le Conte Ave. Tickets are $20-$30. vajrayana.org 

Celebrating the Bolero and the Vals Criollo at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $13-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Lisbeth Scott at 8 p.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $15-$20. www.rudramandir.com 

The Jolly Gibsons at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Los Boleros, Tito y su Son de Cuba at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cuban salsa dance lesson at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

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

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

Buxter Hoot’n, Guns for San Sebastian, Fred Torphy at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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

Kev Choice Ensemble at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Joshi’z 3 at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



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

The Snow Queen Puppet Show Sat. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. at at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $7. 296-4433.  

Duo Amaranto, songs in English and Spanish, at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 10th St. Cost is $9. 526-9888. 


Rita Sklar “Spiritual Paintings” Opening reception at 1:30 p.m. at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., at Fairview, Piedmont. 


Country Joe’s Tribute to Woody Guthrie Benefit for California Coalition for Women Prisoners at 7 p.m. at BFUU, 1924 Cedar. Tickets are $25 and $100. 841-4824. 


Sarita Echavez See discusses her new book “The Decolonized Eye: Filipino American Art and Performance” at 3 p.m. at Eastwind Books of Berkeley, 2066 University Ave. 548-2350. 

Abdulziz Sachedina on his new book “Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights” at 6 p.m. at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, 1433 Madison St, between 14th and 15th, Oakland. Cost is $5-$7. 832-7600. www.iccnc.org 


Sandra Soderlund, organ recital, Baroque and neo-Baroque music at 4 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. tickets are $10-$20. 684-7563. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Chora Nova All-Beethoven concert at 8 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, 2407 Dana, between Channing and Haste. Tickets are $10-$20. 336-3307. www.choranova.org 

Michael Jones & John Burke Violin & piano music of Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Strauss and Dukelsky at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864. www.trinitychamberconcerts.com 

Passamezzo Moderno & Duo Solace “Across the Alps: The Italian Baroque Moves North” at 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College at Garber. Tickets are $10-$25. 528-1725. www.sfems.org 

Oakland Opera “Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through Nov. 22 at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 Third St., Oakland. Tickets are $28. 763-1146. oaklandmetro.org 

Lilia Valitova, solo piano concert, at 7 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, One Lawson Rd., Kensington. Tickets are $18, children 13 and under, free. www.LiliaValitova.com 

Works in the Works 2009 Choreographers’ Performance Alliance and Eighth Street Studio performance series Sat. and Sun at 7:30 p.m. at Eighth Street Studio, 2525 Eighth St. at Dwight. Tickets are $10 at the door. 527-5115. 

Celebrating Songwriters Showcase, hosted by Caren Armstrong at 8 p.m. at Left Coast Folk, Left Coast Cyclery, 2928 Domingo Ave. Cost is $10. 204-8552. www.celebratingsongwriters.com 

Three Voices in Harmony with Becky Reardon, Terry Garthwaite, and Betsy Rose at 7:30 p.m. at Avonova, 417 Avon St., Oakland. Donation $15-$20. Reservations suggested. 652-8440. 

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

Mark St. Mary at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun/Zydeco dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Strange Journey Fall Tour at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10-$15. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

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

Wayne Wallace and Rhythm & Rhyme: A evening of Latin Jazz at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15-$20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

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

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

Band of Zeroes, featuring Larry Ochs, Ben goldberg, Mathais Bossi, Jon evans, Wil Blades and Scott Amendola at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Steve Carter Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Mayan Textiles Exhibition of textiles from the Mayan weavers’ cooperative Jolom Mayaetik of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, from 1 to 5 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. at Arch. 843-8724. 



David Swanson reads from “Daybreak,” an investigation of the Bush/Cheney years, at 3 p.m. at Diesel, 5433 College Ave., Oakland. 


Prometheus Symphony Orchestra at 3 p.m. at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, 114 Montecito Ave., Oakland. Concert is free and families and children are welcome.  

Gospel Chorus “Those Singin’ Sistahs” at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $5-$15. 642-9988. 

Jupiter String Quartet at 7:30 p.m. at The Org, 2601 Durant Ave. 665-5988. 

Anne Sadjera Ensemble at 7 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Rebecca Riots at 3 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$20. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Mark Levine’s Kenny Garret Project at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

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

Jim Page, Hali Hammer and Clara Bellino at 7 p.m. at Art House, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Suggested donation $5-$12. 

Josh Allen Large Ensemble, Henry Kaiser Trio at 8 p.m. at Flux 53 Theater, Foothill and Fairfax, Oakland. Suggested donation $10. 338-2432. 

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

LaBute’s ‘Fat Pig’ Has Weight, Lacks Depth

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:52:00 AM

As in much fiction, and occasionally in life, the set-up for Fat Pig, the Neil LaBute play at the Aurora, is simple, leading to complications that threaten that initially apparent simplicity. 

Tom (Jud Williford) meets Helen (Liliane Klein) by chance in a fast-food lunch stop. A boyish, somewhat diffident junior exec, he finds himself tongue-tied with his new acquaintance, partly because she’s direct and a clever conversationalist, and partly because she’s big, overweight, and Tom doesn’t want to say the wrong thing. But the strands of friendship are there. They agree to meet again. 

This tête-à-tête is contrasted with the life-in-a-terrarium at Tom’s office, which is constantly invaded by his coworker, basketball buddy and sometime friend Carter (Peter Ruocco), a wise-ass if there ever was one, and Jeannie (Alexandra Creighton), who works in accounting, used to go out with Tom, and is still wonders what happened between them, why they’re not already engaged. 

As Tom and Helen begin to get close, there’s a stir in his office circle: where’s he spending his time and with whom? And when they—rather literally—pull it out of him, the hazing begins: Carter says he sympathizes—his mother was obese—but what’s his friend (and the butt of his practical jokes) doing, throwing away career and social opportunities on an obvious liability? And Jeannie, salty and desperate, wonders if he’s seeing a “fat bitch” just to hurt her. 

And Helen has to wonder as well: Why is it always just the two of them? Why doesn’t Tom introduce her to his friends and let her show him off in her circle? He promises to take her to the company picnic on the Fourth—the only outdoor scene in an otherwise claustrophobically urban—not just urban but “downtown”—play, where what began with a halting dialogue peters out in the bright sun, with an awkward monologue by Tom, with Helen reduced to just listening. 

The cast is very good at portraying their characters, in particular Liliane Klein (who’s played Helen before) and Jud Williford, who builds Tom’s facial tics of frustration, anxiety and indecision into a veritable score. Barbara Damashek, who’s directed other plays at Aurora and many others around the Bay, has directed Fat Pig well. And the production values, as usual for Aurora, are pretty high: Mikiko Uesugi’s set, Jim Cave’s lights, Maggie Whitaker’s costumes and Chris Houston’s sound design and original music. 

LaBute’s play shows sensitivity and some insight into contemporary human relations—though that sounds like what it would be called at the office. The comedy of an otherwise almost bleak situation allows for a few good physical turns.  

But if Tom realizes his own fear and lack of character may drive him back to conformity, the uncomfortable norm, the audience finds itself left with that emptiness, ornamented by much exposition and a few comic routines that spoof the same, and not much else. In that sense, Carter wins: “It’s a joke, dude!” 

Three-quarters of a century ago or so, George M. Cohan—who was much more than a Yankee Doodle Dandy—glibly defined the form of the commercial play, which Hollywood absorbed for the feature film: “Act one, send your hero up a tree; act two, throw rocks at him; act three, get him back on the ground again.” That formula’s adhered to by LaBute, a kind of parody , with a conclusion so abrupt, it has the effect of a quick blackout. 

To recall another, much older American story somewhat parallel—one that spanned the media, from novel to stage to several film versions, An American Tragedy showed a boyish young man with no moral will, who drops a young working-class woman to consort with a rich one, committing a crime to cover his tracks. It gives the reader—or spectator—the sense of a complex of events, of society, not just the emptiness of the protagonist or the melodrama that unfolds because of it, but of how things work or don’t work, not just how a situation turns out. And that goes for the best of modern storytelling, since Balzac and Stendhal took the middling man as subject of their art.  

In Fat Pig, a forlorn guy, caught in a vacant milieu, glimpses a dream beyond that sordid situation and realizes he  

hasn’t the capacity to make it real. (How real it is, or could be, is criticized negatively only by Carter) So Tom must sink back, self-consciously, into a kind of nothingness, unable to commit. 

That’s a lot of nothing, a lot of empty, but a surfeit of self-consciousness. It begs the question, but only to the extent of maybe wishing for a happy storybook—or Hollywood—ending, in which “the hero would save America and get the girl.” 

There’s the basis for meaningful comedy—or melodrama—here, but, like so much contemporary theater that makes the rounds, it takes its cues from reruns of cable TV stuff at best. A lot of talk, a certain amount of sparkle, but nothing much really happens. Big moral themes, measured out in scant amounts, a synthetic purse turned inside out, a pigeon emerging instead of a dove. 

Maybe Fat Pig can best be thought of as light fare for an Indian summer, if the weather holds. 




Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St. 

Thurs.–Sat. at 8 p. m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. 

through Dec. 6.  

Tickets: $15-$55.  

843-4822; www.auroratheatre.org

Agora Theater Stages Two Readings about Israel and Gaza

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:53:00 AM

Agora Theater—“think ‘marketplace of ideas’ in the public square”—was founded by Anne Hallinan and her fellow San Francisco Mime Troupe alumna Patricia Silver  

(also a charter member of Word for  

Word) expressly to stage British playwright Caryl Churchill’s brief (six pages, 10 minutes playing time) Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza, which has stirred up controversy since its first performance at London’s Royal Court last February. 

Its subsequent defense by Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon in The Nation, with one of the plays written in response to it, Israel Horovitz’s What Strong Fences Make (also under 15 minutes) has fueled the fire.  

Both are presented as staged readings, first at San Francisco’s Theatre Artaud last Monday, then this Monday, Nov. 16, at Berkeley’s Ashby Stage.  

“Neither of us had produced before,” Hallinan and Silver state in the show’s program. “At times it felt a little like an old Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movie—‘Hey, kids, let’s put on a play!’”  

The “kids” included Z Space Studio, home to Word for Word, on whose board Hallinan sits, and Shotgun Players, both offering venues, as well as director Hal Gelb, stage manager Karen Runk, sound designer David Hallinan and the cast, familiar faces to Bay Area theater goers: Sheila Balter, Hallinan, Alan Kaiser, Danielle Levin, Anthony Nemirovsky, Robert Sicular and Patricia Silver—all Equity members but Hallinan and Kaiser. 

The whole ensemble, with the exception of Kaiser, performed Churchill’s brief piece, remarkable for the sweep of history it covered, seven vignettes of the past three-quarters of a century: Jews trying to hide or escape from Nazis, emigres to America entrusted with a Jewish child from a refugee camp, Jews emigrating to Israel with high hopes—and in the following vignette, coming to grips with the realities, Israel’s victory in the 1967 War and the prospect of more land, a family going to a swimming pool where there’s been a dispute with Palestinian farmers over water, and an Israeli family discussion today, in which the grandmother has seen the changes—and “still remembers why they’re there.” 

The unifying motif throughout these quick time shifts, scene changes, is the repeated phrase: “Tell her ...”  

There is no child present; in fact Churchill, who didn’t specify how the script, which “looks like free verse,” is to be read (it was noted that a past performance had featured a single actress reciting all the lines, internalizing them, becoming a psychological conflict), specified that no children should be in any production of the play. 

“Tell her it’s a game ...”; “Tell her she can make them go away if she keeps still ...”; “Tell her this is the photograph of her grandmother, her uncle and me ... Tell her her uncle died ... Don’t tell her he was killed ... Tell her he was killed!”; “Tell her about Jerusalem!”--up to: “Tell her not to be rude to them ... Don’t tell her who used to live in this house ...”; “Tell her to be careful ...”; “Tell her she has nothing to be ashamed of.”  

Punctuating this litany: “Don’t frighten her!”—which is also the final line. Hal Gelb noted that final line—throughout a kind of syncopation to “Tell” (and “Don’t tell”)—as saying a lot about the play and the way it’s performed. 

Horovitz’s piece featured just two actors, Nemirovsky and Kaiser, and—though brief and allusive to events, like Churchill’s play—is structured more like a traditional melodrama: a soldier guarding a checkpoint into a Palestinian sector stops a man in the early morning, just before the checkpoint is due to open, and identifies him, realizing he’s an old schoolmate he didn’t recognize, who’s become famous, apparently as a writer—and who has suffered some sort of tragedy. The soldier’s ebullience contrasts to the other man’s diffidence; the soldier occasionally breaking off in embarrassment to offer condolences, apparently for the man’s triplets.  

Everything is stated or inferred from the excited, mostly one-sided conversation the soldier tries to engage the other in: memories and news of mutual friends.  

The civilian makes a few dry comments, remarks that he expected to see his old acquaintance at the checkpoint—and refuses to be searched, referring tensely and obliquely to what he intends to do, the soldier protesting, “None of us have ever done that!”—leading to a quick climax, no denouement. 

Less than a half hour of stagetime, followed by discussion. In the audience were many Bay Area theater people—Monday is, after all, traditionally a “dark” night onstage. After the discussion, there was something of the feel of a reunion.  

Some of the most interesting points were in clarification of what the plays actually showed or textually seemed to mean, along with details of their history. 

Churchill’s play has been denounced both as anti-Semitic and anti-Israel—and praised as poetic and beautiful. 

The program notes quote Churchill saying the play is about “the difficulties of explaining violence to children. In the early scenes, it is violence against Jewish people; by the end, it is the violence in Gaza.”  

Horovitz’s play was suggested for the reading by Gelb. Horovitz has declared that Churchill’s piece was, among other things (including derogatory to Israelis as a group), manipulative, although he didn’t specify the way in which it was. (At one point, one theater worker exclaimed, “And he calls HER manipulative!”—to which a director genially replied, “Playwrights ARE manipulative!”) 

The readings had about eight hours rehearsal time. To a question if the participants were on “the same page” concerning interpretation, Gelb replied that there wasn’t a lot of discussion.  

Hallinan remarked that there had been three different ways suggested to perform the last scene of Churchill’s play: the provocative lines (in the version onstage now, delivered by the grandmother character, while the next generation sits in tense, almost cringing silence, punctuated by a few exclamations) were also considered as being delivered sarcastically (as if “I’ve heard it all”) or distributed to different voices.  

Finally it was decided to go with the grandmother delivering the lines heatedly, which Gelb had favored. “Otherwise, it took away the dramatic impact,” Hallinan said. 

To remarks about the vengeful attitude of the civilian in Horovitz’s play, Gelb pointed to inferences in the dialogue that he was also guilty, additionally griefstricken perhaps for feeling he hadn’t been a good enough father and husband. 

Though the plays sit on opposite sides of a controversy, both very deliberately showed divisiveness in the Israeli camp. Some commented on the absence of Palestinian perspective in either; the same could be said for a lack of a non-European Jewish viewpoint.  

Others spoke of how Churchill showed “mythologies ... passed on to the younger generation by both sides ... it’s the next generation that will live out the realities we’ve failed to integrate.”  

Another remarked how both plays “described the same reality: both sides trapped by the justification for everything they do, neither path involving living with the other side.” 

After one spectator commented on Churchill “getting us inside the head” of her characters, instead of apportioning blame, R. G. Davis, founder of the SF Mime Troupe (and of Epic West), noted similarities--and disparities--between Churchill’s play and Bertolt Brecht’s collection of short plays, meant to be performed together, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF THE MASTER RACE. 

The discussion was moderated by Jane Ariel, a family therapist and group mediator who teaches at the Wright Institute in Berkeley and holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship. 

Gelb noted “reams” have been written about the controversy, much of it appearing on the Guardian (UK) website. Both plays are freely licensed to producers who will perform them for free without editing, and solicit funds for charities proposed by the playwrights—in this case, Medical Aid to Palestine and One Family Fund, which offers aid to children of various backgrounds injured in attacks on Israel. 


Agora Theater, staged readings of “Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza” by Caryl Churchill and “What Strong Fences Make” by Israel Horovitz, with discussion to follow. 8 p. m. Monday, Nov. 16 at the Ashby Stage, Ashby Ave. At MLK. Free.

Wilson’s Twin Bill: ‘A Night at the Opera,’ and Yoshi’s Too

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:54:00 AM

Kahlil Wilson, alumnus of both the UC Berkeley Young Musicians’ Program and the Oakland Youth Chorus, comes home to the Bay Area this week to sing with soprano Hope Briggs and others at the Oakland East Bay Symphony’s “Night at the Opera.”  

Under the direction of Michael Morgan, it’s on tomorrow night at 8 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland. 

Playing both classical and jazz gigs on the same weekend in the same city is almost unheard of. But Kahlil’s OEBS appearance will be followed on Tuesday by his debut at Yoshi’s Oakland, singing jazz with the Dan Marshak Group. His first album, Easy to Love, has been praised by jazz guitar maestro Kenny Burrell and singer Taj Mahal. Then he’ll be continuing around the Bay, on Nov. 18 and 19 at Silo’s in Napa, and on Nov. 20 at Enrico’s in San Francisco’s North Beach.  

The recent honors grad in ethnomusicology from UCLA spoke with exhilaration about singing in the recent Central Avenue Jazz Festival in Los Angeles two acts before [bandleader-arranger] Gerald Wilson. 

“The whole atmosphere was special,” Wilson said. “It was something I’d never seen before, an audience I’d never had the chance to perform for ... and I was well received. They take music seriously there. My mother said it was the hardest audience, yet they were telling me afterwards that they could hear Carmen McRae, especially, in my sound. It made me feel true to the music.” 

Wilson, who started out studying classical singing, competing at one point “on that historic stage” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, discovered a love for ethnomusicology and has been “straddling both worlds—or all three—performing jazz and popular vocals as well as classical opera and early music,” he said. 

“I wasn’t going about educating myself in jazz in a comprehensive way,” Wilson said. “So I didn’t really know what I was getting into. But I have an artistic need for new music constantly. I seek it out, listen to it for my own needs. I was lucky to get in with Seth Riggs, the biggest name in pop vocal coaching—everybody’s been through his studio: Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Barbara Streisand ... At 70, he’s a warm and giving mentor. I studied hard with him for a year solid and still see him.” 

Wilson went on: “I still do classical music, applying what I’ve learned to what my voice and ear tell me I should be doing.” 

He says he snuck into jazz signing. 

“I applied at the last minute for the Jose Iturbe Competition, where they ask for a non-classical component: two Cole Porter, two Gershwin, two others not outright grand opera,” Wilson said. “I was lucky to meet, for my accompanist, Berkeley Everett, a multidimensional artist. We were both crash learning. He was relearning Baroque piano he hadn’t come across since his early classical training, and I was crash-learning to sing jazz in front of people. We made it together through all the rounds to the finals.” 

About singing with Hope Briggs and the Oakland East Bay Symphony, Wilson said, “It’s a privilege to perform with Hope. She’s an artist—and an especially nice person to work with. The first time I sang with OEBS, she helped make me feel right at home.” 



A Night At The Opera 

Oakland East Bay Symphony 

8 p.m., Fri. Nov. 13 

Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway,  


Tickets: $20-$65  

444-0801; www.oebs.org  


Dan Marshak Group 

Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West 

Tues. Nov. 17, 8 p.m.  

Tickets: $14. 

238-9200; www.yoshis.com  



St. Alban’s Hosts Canconier’s Music of Vlad Dracula’s Time

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:55:00 AM

The Black Dragon: Music from the Time of Vlad Dracula, the title of Canconier’s Sunday evening concert at St. Alban’s Church in Albany, may strike some readers as being less about the richness and diversity in sounds from 15th- century Eastern and Central Europe and the Balkans than as a vague memory of Bela Lugosi intoning, to the accompaniment of a wolf howling, “Children of the Night! What music they make!” 

And maybe it’s a little bit of both that the virtuosic medieval music quartet has in mind, as Canconier co-founder and multi-instrumentalist Tim Rayborn explained with humor and erudition, speaking both about the historical figure every vampire story’s been grandfathered on, and the extraordinary array of music they’ve come up with to celebrate Vlad the Impaler. 

“Vlad achieved a horrible reputation as being a human monster in his own lifetime,” Rayborn said, “but was seen by the Hungarian court and the Holy See as a shining example of a Christian crusader against the Turks. He’s still considered a national hero in Rumania. The legends come in part from German propaganda of the time, the Germans and Austrians being political enemies of Hungary. We’ll bookend the concert with selections from a poem of the 1460s, ‘The Study of a Bloodthirsty Madman,’ a propaganda piece, the first account we know of Vlad from outside Eastern Europe, set to contemporary German music—a technique of the period, ‘counterfacting,’ setting a new poem to existing music. Part of it will be narrated in English, so the audience can revel in the lurid details.” 

He continued: “But we’ll also play Guillaume Dufay’s ‘Lamentation for the Fall  

of Constantinople’—Guillaume, Franco-Flemish by birth, was the most important French composer of the first half of the 15th century—plus Byzantine court music, Ottoman classical music, Italian and German dances, Balkan and Moldavian folk songs and an example of Orthodox chant-ing still sung in the Greek tradition. The only thing we don’t include is Romany, music of the gypsy people—whom we know Vlad persecuted!—but for whom there’s no documented music before the 18th-19th centuries ... All this—‘Music of Vlad’s World,’—for a Wallachian nobleman, whose own brother had embraced Islam and served the Sultan, a convert to Catholicism from Orthodoxy to persuade the Papacy and Hungary to outfit his brief return to power, before being killed in battle—who didn’t employ a musician as far as we know!”  

The “Black Dragon” of the concert title refers to the crusading order Vlad’s father belonged to, “Dracula” meaning “son of the Dracul,” the dragon. One of the historical figures whose work is represented in Canconier’s show was also a member of the Dracul and may have known Vlad’s father. 

Rayborn spoke of the “great fun” Canconier had rehearsing the “diverse material, in many different styles of instrumentation and voice-instrument combinations” for the concert, which will feature “over a dozen different instruments, crazy ones most people haven’t seen, like the citole, a kind of medieval guitar; a medieval bell tree, just arrived from Germany—and a tromba marina, ‘trumpet marine,’ a long tube with a single string. There’re 15th-century portraits of angels playing it, the cylinder played with a bow, a movable wooden bridge—a buzzy, drone-y sound like a hurdy-gurdy, but if the player knows how to work the overtones by touching the string, does sound like a trumpet! It went the way of the Dodo.” 

Canconier was founded by Rayborn and recorder virtuoso Annette Bauer, who first met in 2003, forming the “early music kind of super-group” in the summer of 2008 after “jamming a little, to see what would happen—and it was musical love at first sight.” The other members are singer Phoebe Jertovic and bowed strings player Shira Kammen, though the ensemble remains flexible as duo or quartet. 

Canconier’s name is from Occitan for “songbook”—chansonnier in northern France—a collection of songs both secular and sacred, so “a modern medieval songbook.”  

The group is medieval ensemble-in-residence at Music Sources, The Center for Historically Informed Performances, in Berkeley. Our concerts aren’t just concerts,” Rayborn said. “We like to talk about the music, during and afterwards, and have fun, with humor—and lots of bad jokes!” 

Rayborn, who joked about the “depressing themes” of the ensemble’s premiere concert, entitled “A Time of Wars, Plague and Death,” also mentioned a more visual—and perhaps culinary—tribute to the grisly memory of Vlad, who impaled thousands of Turks in the path of the Sultan’s invading army, “a cork board, with gummy bears impaled on toothpicks,” a belated treat—or trick—or maybe just the strangest altar for Dia de los Muertos, dedicated to the memory of a Wallachian torturer. 






7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15,  

St. Alban’s Church, 1501 Washington St. (off Solano Ave.), Albany.  

Tickets: $15-$20 

at Music Sources, 528-1685.

Community Calendar

Thursday November 12, 2009 - 09:31:00 AM


Panel Discussion on Berkeley’s Downtown covering options of no-change, the DAPAC Plan and the City Council plan at 7 p.m. at Northbrae Church, 941 The Alameda.  

City of Berkeley Watershed Management Plan A public meeting to discuss the goals and objectives of the plan, Thurs., Nov. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. 981-6418. 

Homeless Connect Health Fair with health screenings, referrals, flu shots and on-site acute care, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Multi-Service Center, 2362 Bancroft Way. dkane@bfhp.org 

“Democracy Development as a Foreign Policy Goal” with Jeremy Kinsman at 7:30 p.m., International House, Auditorium, Piedmont Ave. at Bancorft, UC campus. Free 

Walkers 50+: Explore Alameda’s Hidden Canals on an easy, level walk. Meet at 9 a.m. in front of Safeway, 867 Island Drive, on Bay Farm Island in Alameda. Turn west into shopping ctr. from Island just N. of McCartney. Optional Chinese lunch follows. The walk, sponsored by Albany Senior Center and Friends of Five Creeks, is free, but numbers are limited. Please register with Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic. 524-9122.   

Tilden Tots Join a nature adventure program for 3 and 4 year olds, each accompanied by an adult (grandparents welcome)! We’ll look for signs of animals, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival Environmental films and a celebration of the environment, complete with a pre-party, live music, and an auction at 5 p.m., films at 7 p.m. at Clif Bar & Company Headquarters, 1610 Fifth St. Cost is $10, benefits The Access Fund. www.accessfund.com/wseff  

Workshop on Oakland Rezoning covering changes to the commercial and residential zoning regulations, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Fruitvale-San Antonio Senior Center, 3301 E. 12th St., Suite 201, in Fruitvale Village, Oakland. 238-7299. www.oaklandnet.com/zoningupdate 

East Bay Mac Users Group Music Night with information on iTunes, senuti, Grace Note and more, at 7 p.m. at Expression College for Digital arts, 6601 Shellmound St., Emeryville. ebmug.org 

“New Solutions for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain” at 6 p.m. at Berkeley Library, Claremont Branch corner Benvenue and Ashby. Free. 849-1176. www.TheRedwoodClinic.com 

Nutrition 101 at 5:30 p.m. at Whole Foods, Telegraph at Ashby. Free. 512-0448. 


Tilden Explorers An after-school nature adventure program for 5-7 year olds. We will learn about the mammels that live in the park, from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m.. Cost is $6-$8, registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Tom Meyer, SF Chronicle cartoonist on “Firing Up the People with Pen and Ink!” 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. 

“Exposing America’s Bloody History” with author Mark Danner at 3 p.m. at Center for Latin American Studies, 2334 Bowditch St. 642-2088. 

Plug Into Learning: The Electric Company Circuit Tour with literacy-building activities for students and interactive, multimedia performance by Electric Company cast member Shock, from 3 to 6 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Center Auditorium, 2825 International Blvd., Oakland.  

Red Cross Blood Drive from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Red Cross Bus, 747 52nd St., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Womensong Circle An evening of participatory singing for women at 7:15 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Suggested donation $15-$20. betsy@betsyrosemusic.org 

Radical Gratitude: Jewish Wisdom on Everyday Thankfulness at 6:15 p.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St., El Cerrito. Cost is $7, or pot-luck contribution. RSVP required. www.jewishgateways.org 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 

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 


Turkey Gobble Gobble Visit the Little Farm and meet our resident turkeys, learn about their breeds and history, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at Tilden Little Farm, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

Spinning a Yarn Storytelling Come to the Little farm and watch wool being spun into yarn and listen to stories, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at Tilden Little Farm, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

Garden Makeover: A Greener Green! Volunteers needed to revilatize the landscaping from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane. To register call 215-4369. 

“Affordable Housing in Berkeley” Tour of non-profit-owned affordable housing stock from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m Sponored by Berkeley Historical Society. Cost is $8-$10. For reservations and starting point call 848-0181. 

Dropout Prevention Summit from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Castlemont Community of Small Schools, 8601 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. Free and open to the public. 238-7906.  

Art and Crafts Sale Benefit for the Berkeley Friends Meetinghouse Renovation Fund, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Berkeley Friends Meetinghouse, 2151 Vine St. 526-1403. 

Benefit for Sea Turtle Restoration Project at 7 p.m. at David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way. Tickets are $85 and up, activist discount. www.seaturtles.org/bigsplash 

“Burdens of Proof: Iran, the United States and Nuclear Weapons” with Michael Veiluva at 7 p.m. at the Alameda Free Library, Conference Rooms A and B, 1550 Oak St., at Lincoln, Alameda. Sggested donation $5. www.alamedapublicaffairsforum.org 

“White Rainbow” Free screening followed by discussion and reception at 11 a.m. at Rialto Cinemas Cerrito, 10070 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 215-4318. 

Swing Dance Lessons and dancing at 7:30 p.m. at the Albany YMCA, 921 Kains Ave. Cost is $10. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from noon to 5 p.m. at the Watergate Condominiums, Room A, 5 Captain Drive, Emeryville.. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Free Beginning Email Class from 10 to 11 a.m. at the El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. Call to sign up 526-7512. 

Handling Relationships During the Holidays A half-day meditation retreat from 1 to 4 p.m. at Alameda Yoga Station, 2414A Central Ave., Alameda. Free, a portion of donation will go to Alameda Food Bank. www.alamedayogastation.com 

Fall Integrative Medicine Conference: Improving Individual & Community Well-Being from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Registraion/check-in at 9:30 a.m. at East Entrance, Valley Life Sciences Building, UC Berkeley campus. sites.google.com/ 


Workshop on the Import-Export Business from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Free. 981-6145. 

Tribute to Frontier Village at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Films, memorabilia and performers from the former amusement park in San Jose. 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 

Tibetan Buddhism workshop on how to meditate at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. Cost is $45. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

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.  


Family Cycling Clinic Join other parents and children, (2nd-5th grade) for a morning of fun, drills, games and a neighborhood ride, from 10 a.m. to noon at Rosa Parks Elementary School, Conference room 1107. Bring your bikes, your helmet if you have one, adequate clothing for relaxed two-mile bike ride. We have a limited number of bikes that we can loan. 533-7433. www.ebbc.org/safety 

Raptors from Ridges A strenuous 8-mile hike in serach of birds of prey, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Briones Regional Park, Bear Creek Staging Area. Bring sunscreen, water and a lunch. For meeting place call 544-2233. 

Growing More Food in Albany A community forum at 1:15 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 528-2261. 

California Wrriters Club Workshop on “The Beauty of Brevity: Autobiography Distilled” with Prof. Marilyn Abildskov, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost is $9 for members, $29 for others. Registration required. cwcworkshops@gmail.com 

Exploring Yoga Day from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Downtown Berkeley YMCA, 2001 Allston Way. 665-3245.  

“Creating Radical Graphics for Our Liberation” A workshop for political printmakers from 1 to 4 p.m. at Eastside Cultural Center, 2277 International Blvd., at 23rd Ave., Oakland. Free, donations accepted. www.sfprintcollective.com 

Read Shakespeare Aloud An all-day experience, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. Cost is $25, or $20 with pot-luck dish. 644-4930. 

“Afghan Lives and Freedom Sucked into U.S. Quagmire” discussion led by Htun Lin, News & Letters “Workshop Talks” columnist at 6:30 p.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., at Alcatraz, Oakland. 658-1448. www.newsandletters.org 

East Bay Atheists November Meeting Paul Gehrman will speak about his novel, “Kaleidoscope” at 1:30 p.m. at Berkeley Main Library, 3rd Floor Meeting Room, 2090 Kittredge St. 222-7580. info@eastbayatheists.org 

Personal Theology Seminars with Bill Garrett on “Islam and the 21st Century” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

“Zen and Psychology” with author Cheri Huber at 7 p.m. at 1924 Cedar St. By donation. www.eastbayopencircle.org 

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 

Tibetan Buddhism “Path of Liberation” lecture series begins with “Buddhism in the Modern World” by Betty Cook at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000.  


Amy Goodman of Democracy Now speaks at 10 a.m. at North Gate Hall Library, 121 North Gate Hall, UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Free, but donations to the Investigative Reporting Program welcome. 642-3394. 

“Education and Empowerment in Haiti” with Haitian educators Rea Dol and Euvonie Auguste at 9 a.m. at LEAP, 440 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond. For information call 307-8084. 

Amy Goodman “Breaking the Sound Barrier” at 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $12-$15. www.brownpapertickets.com 

“Cuba Travelogue” Talk and slide show with Ed Kinney at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 


Tuesdays for the Birds Tranquil bird walks in local parklands, led by Bethany Facendini, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Today we will visit Garretson Point at the Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline. Bring water, field guides, binoculars or scopes. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 544-2233. 

Tilden Mini-Rangers Hiking, conservation and nature-based activities for ages 8-12. Dress to ramble and get dirty. Bring a snack. From 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8, registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Berkeley Garden Club “The Making of a Green Roof” with Cynthia Tanyan of Mozaic Landscape Design Group at 2 p.m. at Epworth United Methodist Church, 1953 Hopkins St. Free. 526-1083.  

“Reforms for State and Local Governance” Updates on current proposals by the League of Women Voters Oakland at 6 p.m. at Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 3, just inside the 14th St. entrance. 

“Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days” a documentary at 7:05 p.m. at Cafe Gratitude, 1730 Shattuck Ave. 725-4418. 

Berkeley School Volunteers, New Volunteer Orientation from noon to 1 p.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Bring a photo ID and two references to the orientation. Returning volunteers do not need to attend. 644-8833. 

Richmond Emergency Food Pantry Volunteers needed to help organize cases of canned food, from 9 a.m. to noon at 2369 Barrett Ave. Richmond. Ability to lift 50 pounds helpful.  Help needed on Fridays also. 235-9732. 

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 at the Albany Library for students in grades 2 - 6, Tues. and Thurs. from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Emphasis on math and writing skills. No registration is required. 526-3720. 

Homework Help Program at the Richmond Public Library Tues. and Thurs. from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at 325 Civic Center Plaza. 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. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 


Berkeley Path Wanderers: Savoring the Moment Walk A low-impact walk to take time to smell the roses, observe the small things around you, and enjoy each other’s company. Meet at 10 a.m. at Live Oak Park Arts Center. 520-3876. www.berkeleypaths.org 

“Ordinary Storefronts of the Twentieth Century: Clues to the Local Histories of Shopping and Retailing” with Paul Groth at 7:30 at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $15. 644-9344. berkeleyheritage.com 

“Bats in the Garden” Learn about bats and their benefits at 6 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden. Cost is $12-$15, $5 for children under 12, accompanied by a parent or guardian. RSVP to 643-2755, ext. 03. 

Geek Challenge “Surviving on Mars” An evening for adults with scientists, food and beverages from 7 to 10 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennal Drive. Cost is $8-$10. 642-5132. www.lawrencehallofscience.org 

GIS Day Celebration with a MapTogether workshop introducing GIS concepts at 3 p.m. and talks on GIS and GPS at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. at Mulford Hall, UC campus. For details see gif.berkeley.edu/gisday.html 

“Monumental: David Brower’s Fight for Wild America” film screening at 7:30 p.m., followed by discussion, at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Pacific Boychoir Academy Admissions Open House at 6:30 p.m. at 2401 Le Conte Ave. 849-8180.  

Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 6 to 8 p.m. at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Registration required. 594-5165. 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. 548-9840. 


Bus Rapid Transit Public Workshop on the Local Preferred Alternative at the Transportation Commission meeting at 6 p.m. at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst.  

Claremont Branch Library Rennovation Plans Meet the architects and learn about the project at 6:30 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue at Ashby. 981-6195. 

LeConte Neighborhood Association meets at 7:30 p.m. at the LeConte School. karlreeh@gmail.com 

Golden Gate Audubon Society Field Trip to Berkeley Fishing Pier Meet at 8 a.m. for a leisurely walk in search of Surf Scooters, scaup, loons, grebe and gulls. Bring a scope if you have one. www.goldengateaudubon.org 

Berkeley Sustainablity Summit and Green Gathering, with keynote speaker Robert Reich, at 4 p.m. at the David Brower Center. Tickets are $35. www.ecologycenter.org/ggss 

“Effective ‘Boss’ Management” at Assoc. of Women Scientists at 6:30 p.m. at Novartis, Building X-310, 5300 Hollis St., Emeryville. All welcome. http://ebawis.org 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Adair Lara on “Write Your Memoirs: You Owe It To Your Family” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $15, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. 527-2173.  

Say No to War! Bring our troops home now. Rally for Peace from 2 to 3 p.m. at the corner of Action and University. 

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.  


Close the Farm Say goodnight to the animals from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Little Farm, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

Giftmaking with Recycled Materials inlcuding an origami gift box, note-pad, and printed holiday cards, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $10-$15. Please call to register and for supplies list. 548-2220, ext. 239. 

Benefit for the Zapatista Autonomous Communities with Carlos Marentes Director of Sin Fronteras Border Agricultural Workers Project, and musical performance by Mamacoatl, at 7 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. $5-$20. Dinner reception at 5:30 p.m. for $30.  

“Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights” with author Dr. Abdulziz Sachedina at 6 p.m. at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, 1433 Madison St, between 14th and 15th, Oakland. Cost is $5-$7. 832-7600. www.iccnc.org 

“What’s Next for Haiti?” with Euvonie Georges Auguste and Rea Dol at 4 p.m. at La Peña, 3105 Shattuck Ave. Donation $7-$25, no one turned away. www.haitisolidarity.net 

The Hillside Club’s Annual Arts & Crafts Benefit Show from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 2286 Cedar St. 508-6242. www.hillsideclub.org 

Friends of the Albany Library Book Sale with vintage, rare and collectible items from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720. 

Diesel Car Maintenance Workshop and information on biodiesel from noon to 6 p.m. at 2465 4th St. at Dwight. Cost is $30 for lecture only, $140 for lecture and workshop. Registration required. 653-9450. dieselworkshops@gmail.com  

Floral Design Class with Devon Glaster from 1 to 3 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. Cost is $25. 644-4930. 

“Get Well!” Alternative practitioners talk about healing from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Library, 3rd Flr Community Room, 2090 Kittredge. 981-6107. 

Enchanting Autumn Art for children ages 2 to 5 and their families to make leaf rubbings and enjoy other autumn activities from 4 to 5 p.m. at the future home of happytogether Preschool, Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont. Admission is free. Please RSVP to 705-2849. 

California Writers Club “Do You Really Need an Agent to Get a Publisher?“ with Kathy Briccetti, a 10 a.m. at Barnes & Noble Booksellers Event Loft, Jack London Square, 98 Broadway, Oakland. www.cwc-berkeley.com 

Houdini Magic 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 

Socio-Religious Analysis A theological education workshop for laypersons from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pacific School of religion, 1798 Scenic Ave. 849-8239. 

Creating Jewish Home Traditions for Young Children at 10:30 a.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St., El Cerrito. RSVP to rabbibridget@jewishgateways.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.  


Nature, News and Nosh Enjoy a cup of coffee or cocoa while getting the latest news on wildlife sightings and native plants in the park, at 10 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

“Thangs Taken” Rethinking Thanksgiving hosted by Ariel Luckey at 7 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$25. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

“Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency & Forming a More Perfect Union” with author David Swanson at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. Cost is $6-$25.Tickets available at brownpapertickets 841-4824. 

“20 Years Later: Remembering the Jesuit Martyrs” in solidairty with the annual protest at the School of the Americas, at 5 p.m. on the front steps of St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison. 499-0537. 

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. 

Leslie Gallery of Animal Art Holiday Party at 1 p.m., 100 feet west of 2427 San Mateo St. Richmond Annex. http://directory.ac5.org/PALeslie 

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 

Tibetan Buddhism “Path of Liberation” lecture series begins with “Traveling the Path to Liberation” by Jack Petranker at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000.  


Food Donations for the Homeless and Hungry From Nov. 17 to Nov. 25 please drop off food donations to Berkeley Food & Housing Project at 2362 Bancroft Way. We will make Thanksgiving food boxes so no one goes without plenty on Thanksgiving Day. Contact Wanda Williams at 649-4965, ext. 506. wwilliams@bfhp.org 

Volunteers Neede for United Way’s Earn It! Keep It! Save It! The Bay Area’s largest, free tax-assistance program, is now recruiting volunteers to serve as greeters, language interpreters and tax preparers for the 2010 tax season. Training begins in November, and free tax sites will open in late January. No previous tax preparation experience is necessary. There is a special need for volunteers who can speak Spanish. Register at www.earnitkeepitsaveit.org 800-358-8832. 

One Warm Coat Drive Donate outwear including rain coats in all shapes and sizes at the Bay Street Management Office, below AMC Theaters. www.OneWarmCoat.org 


City of Berkeley Watershed Management Plan A public meeting todiscuss the goals and objectives of the plan, Thurs., Nov. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. 981-6418. 

Commission on Early Childhood Education meets Thurs., Nov. 12, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5410. 

Community Health Commission meets Thurs., Nov. 12, at 6:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5356. 

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., Nov. 12 , at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7430. 

City Council meets Tues., Nov. 17, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci. 


Civic Arts Commission meets Wed., Nov. 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7533.  

Planning Commission meets Wed., Nov. 18, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7416. 

Police Review Commission meets Wed., Nov. 18, at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 981-4950.