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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.


Students Protest at UC President’s Office in Oakland; Birgeneau Promises Police Action Review

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday November 23, 2009 - 05:52:00 PM

As part of the ongoing protest over the University of California's 32 percent fee increase, UC Berkeley students marched to UC President Mark Yudof’s office in Oakland Monday afternoon and staged a sit-in, demanding to meet with him. 

The students went to Yudof’s office after finding out at the Alameda County Superior court that burglary charges against three Wheeler Hall occupiers had been reduced to a misdemeanor. 

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof confirmed that there were students in Yudof’s office “who were engaged in peaceful conversation with officials there.” 

Mogulof said Yudof was not present. 

An employee at the UC Office of the President, who answered the phone around 5 p.m. Monday, but refused to give his name, said the office had received internal reports that some students had come into the lobby staged a protest there. 

He said that Peter King, who is in charge of media relations for the office, had gone down to the lobby to talk to them and that employees were being asked to use alternative exits because of the protesters. 

King could not be reached immediately for comment. 

UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau issued a statement Monday saying that an independent review panel consisting of students, faculty members and staff would investigate the allegations of police brutality at Friday’s protest. Several students have charged that police used excessive force during the protests outside Wheeler Hall, sometimes beating individuals with batons and firing rubber bullets. 

One girl had her finger broken by a baton and another student complained that the police simultaneously struck him with a baton and fired a rubber bullet at him. 

“We truly regret the incidents that brought physical and emotional injury to members of our community,” Birgeneau said. “UCPD has already begun conducting an operational review that entails collection of all the available information including reports, videos and pictures taken by UCPD, students, the public, and media, to ensure that actions were reasonable given the situation presented and the information known at the time. This includes a review of uses of force.”  

Flash: 9 p.m.: UC Berkeley Occupation Ends Peacefully

by Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday November 20, 2009 - 10:14:00 PM
Adam Astan shows reporters his injuries caused by a police baton.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Adam Astan shows reporters his injuries caused by a police baton.
Police escort student occupiers outside Wheeler Hall around 9 p.m.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Police escort student occupiers outside Wheeler Hall around 9 p.m.
Student occupiers greet their friends after being released from Wheeler Hall.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Student occupiers greet their friends after being released from Wheeler Hall.

All 40 occupiers were released from Wheeler Hall a little after 9 p.m. to cheers and applause from the crowd which surrounded the building. 

As the first three students left, escorted by police, the crowd clapped and shouted out their names. 

Fred, the father of one of the student occupiers who didn't want to give his last name because he feared retribution for his daughter, praised the protesters. 

"My daughter is still in the building and I am very proud of her," he said. "I am very proud of all of you." 

Fred told the Daily Planet that his daughter had called him in the middle of the night and told him that "they were occupying the building." 

"I said 'good luck and be as safe as possible," he said. "And I told her I will be here." 

He said he had been waiting outside Wheeler all day long, worrying "how the police will treat her." 

"She gave me updates until her cell phone ran out of batteries," he said. "She sounded anxious but very energized." 

As more students came out, their friends hugged and kissed them, patting them on the back. 

"It's so good to be back with all of you," one girl said. "We were cited for trespassing and released ... That's all." 

The group requested media cameramen to respect their privacy, and invited everyone to a later meeting in front of Dwinelle Hall. 

UC Berkeley Political Science senior Adam Astan,who was in the crowd outside the hall, recounted how Alameda County police had hit him with a baton. He said he had also been shot with a rubber bullet, pulling up his t-shirt to show his injuries. 

"I was crying out 'peace, peace' and they suddenly hit me," Astan said. 

He said he had seen one of the police batons fly out and hit a girl on the face. Another girl who showed up at the meeting later underwent reconstructive surgery after having her finger smashed by a stray baton. 

As the occupiers huddled under a tree outside Wheeler around 9 p.m, they thanked the crowd. 

"What we did in there doesn't compare to what you did out here," said one of the occupiers, who wouldn't give their names to the press,as the crowd roared. "What you did out here blew what we did away. Whatever you did today, don't stop doing it. It got people out of this building." 

Some of the girls said they had been very scared all along since they didn't know what to expect. 

"We know about the sacrifices you made, we know you put your bodies on the line," one of them said. "We need to keep going." 

Students at UC Davis reportedly have also occupied a building. UCLA still has a building occupied. 

The students decided to hold a meeting Saturday at 5 p.m. to decide the next steps in the protest. They will also discuss the felony charges filed against the three occupiers this morning. The hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland.

UC Berkeley Strike Day 3: Wheeler Hall Takeover

Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday November 20, 2009 - 12:57:00 AM



Prof George Lakoff of the UC Berkeley linguistics department tells student protesters outside Wheeler Hall about the occupiers' demands Friday afternoon.

Wheeler Occupiers Speak to the Public

Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday November 20, 2009 - 01:15:00 AM



Occupiers talk to protestors from a Wheeler Hall classroom window Friday afternoon. The crowd threw apples, bagels and Subway sandwiches to the occupiers until the police stopped them. The student protestors were joined by the local Native American community who were commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Alcatraz takeover.

Flash: 6:36 p.m.: UC Berkeley Students To Be Cited and Released

by Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday November 20, 2009 - 07:06:00 PM
Occupiers cheer the crowd standing outside wheeler
Riya Bhattacharjee
Occupiers cheer the crowd standing outside wheeler

6:36 p.m. : UC Berkeley professor of Sociology Andrew Barlow, who was part of the faculty negotiating team, told the Planet that the occupiers inside Wheeler Hall would be cited and released one by one within an hour. 

Barlow said that police officers had a key to enter the occupied space. He said that an 11-member faculty team had met with the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs right after the police entered the second floor. 

"We were negotiating to end this day peacefully," Barlow said. "The students are being cited for a misdemeanor of trespassing. They are not being taken to jail. They can come out and be with their friends." 

Barlow said that none of the students' demands had been accepted. 

"But I'll still say this was a huge success," he said. "It's a beginning of a new student movement." 

He said that the day-long negotiation had made it harder for the students to come out of the building earlier. 

"They will not come out in a group," he said. "They will come out one by one." 

Barlow said it was not clear what the occupiers would do after being released. 

"It's up to the leadership of the protestors to decide what they want to do next," he said. "Whether to hold more meetings or a press conference." 


Flash: 5:30 p.m.: Police Break Into Occupied Space at Wheeler

Friday November 20, 2009 - 05:45:00 PM

This just in from the occupiers' liaison—the police have broken into the space occupied by the protestors in Wheeler Hall. The protestors are holding their hands up high to indicate that they intend to act non-violently. 


—Raymond Barglow and Riya Bhattacharjee

Flash: 5:30 p.m.: Standoff Continues at Wheeler Hall

By Riya Bhattacharjee and Raymond Barglow
Friday November 20, 2009 - 05:36:00 PM
Riya Bhattacharjee
Alameda County's Sheriff's Department keep watch over Wheeler Hall.
Alameda County's Sheriff's Department keep watch over Wheeler Hall.
One of the occupiers read out the group's demands to the regents during Friday's standoff
Riya Bhattacharjee
One of the occupiers read out the group's demands to the regents during Friday's standoff

A cold rain did not deter thousands of UC Berkeley students this afternoon as they surrounded the campus’ Wheeler Hall in support of 35 protesters who have occupied the building since this morning in demonstration against the University of California’s 32 percent tuition fee hike.  

As of 4:30 p.m., the students were still negotiating with campus officials, having outlined at least five demands:  

• Repeal of the 32 percent fee hike. 

• Amnesty for all the students occupying Wheeler Hall.  

• Amnesty for three students arrested during the occupation.  

• Negotiation of leases for Bear’s Lair food court vendors who have been asked to pay double their current rent. 

• Reinstatement of all 38 laid-off UC Berkeley custodians.  

UC Berkeley police entered the building earlier this morning and took control of the first floor as the protesters moved to the second floor. Three students who did not make it to the second floor were arrested by UC police.  

UC and Berkeley police later put up barricades around the building and cordoned off much of the area with yellow tape. Students and police clashed near Sather Gate as the crowd surged toward the barricades and police used batons to fight them off.  

Some students urged the crowd to remain peaceful, and faculty members at one point emerged from Wheeler Hall to inform that the crowd that the dean of students was in touch with UC Berkeley police and had guaranteed there would be no violence.  

The Alameda County Sheriff's Department arrived in riot gear in the early afternoon and surrounded the hall.  

Student leaders outside the building urged the crowd not to rush the students inside the hall, but to give them time to negotiate.  

According to student leaders, the occupation was planned after a Thursday night 6 p.m. general assembly, at subcommittee meetings at various locations.  

The protesters gathered at Wheeler Hall at 5 a.m. Friday and entered the building at 6 a.m.  

At 9:30 this morning, students surrounded Wheeler Hall and linked arms, hoping to prevent protesters from being taken from the building and arrested.  

Chancellor Birgeneau declared Wheeler Hall closed until further notice and the main path through the campus was blocked where it passes the building.  

Earlier this morning, police tried to move students further from Wheeler Hall. Lauren Cartwright told the Daily Planet that when she refused to move back, police grabbed her. Other students held on to her and police relented, released her, and backed off a few feet.  

Pegah Zardoos, an undergraduate who is on the board of Cal Berkeley Democrats, said she was “shocked and appalled by the police actions ...” 

Business undergraduates Astrid Fernandes and Ameetah Mishna came to Wheeler Hall but could not get to their class. They then joined the protest and walked in the picket line.  

“This occupation is a way, the only way, to get attention to what is going on,” Fernandes said.  

Emily Ng, a graduate student in anthropology, joined the protest with two of her friends. “This is a public institution, after all,” Ng said. “We are taught to forget that we can affect the institutions in which we partake.”  

A spokesperson for the occupants who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the occupiers were given an offer that they could either be “charged with misdemeanors and may leave the building without being arrested, then meet with the chancellor and other UC administrators to negotiate their demands” or they could be arrested and charged with a felony. 

As of 5:30 p.m., the occupiers had rejected the offer. Several faculty members were trying to arrange direct negotiations between the occupiers and UC administration. 

Protest leaders asked supporters to remain outside Wheeler Hall, saying that without witnesses they feared police would begin arresting the occupiers.  

Students set off fire alarms at a number of buildings on campus throughout the day, with at least 14 fire alarms going off at Dwinelle Hall, which is right across from Wheeler. 

Dean of Student Affairs Jonathan Poullard was negotiating with a student protestor about the occupants’ release around 4 p.m. 

Poullard told the student that although the occupiers would be cited and released, he wasn’t sure what the final charges would be against them. 

“There’s a due process for student conduct,” Poullard said. “There can be suspension, there is the possibility of expulsion ... we don’t know that yet.” 

Poullard appeared to be talking to UCPD and Berkeley police officers to bring the situation under control. 

“What about negotiation?” asked a student leader. 

“You can’t negotiate with 500 people,” Poullard answered. 

Anne Wagner, a professor of art history at UC Berkeley, said that she came to the protest to make sure no drastic steps were taken against the students. 

“Students at UCLA were tasered and pepper-sprayed yesterday,” she said. “That’s why I am here. That’s why a bunch of faculty members are here, to make sure things don’t go against the students.” 

Flash: 3:30 p.m.: Wheeler Hall Protesters Still Negotiating With Campus Officials

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday November 20, 2009 - 02:27:00 PM
A UC Berkeley faculty member asks students to show their support for the occupiers inside Wheeler Hall
Riya Bhattacharjee
A UC Berkeley faculty member asks students to show their support for the occupiers inside Wheeler Hall
UC Berkeley linguistics professor George Lakoff talks to student protesters
UC Berkeley linguistics professor George Lakoff talks to student protesters

Though UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff announced at 3 p.m. Friday that student protesters occupying Wheeler Hall on the UC Berkeley campus Friday would soon be exiting the building, escorted by UC police, no one has yet left the hall.  

After negotiating with police, the protesters will apparently be cited for misdemeanors. Lakoff said none will be handcuffed as they leave the building.  

According to Lakoff, terms of an agreement with campus officials say that a student representative will meet with the vice chancellor of student affairs, who may meet with the Chancellor Robert Birgeneau later. 

Flash: Wheeler Hall Occupation Continues; Sheriff's Dept. Arrives in Riot Gear

By Riya Bhattacharjee and Raymond Barglow
Friday November 20, 2009 - 12:52:00 PM
Protesters displayed a banner and addressed the crowed from a Wheeler Hall window Friday morning.
Raymond Barglow
Protesters displayed a banner and addressed the crowed from a Wheeler Hall window Friday morning.
UCPD push back students with their batons to prevent them from crossing the barricade line.
              After some amount of scuffle, the students listend to the protest organizers and became peaceful.
Riya Bhattacharjee
UCPD push back students with their batons to prevent them from crossing the barricade line. After some amount of scuffle, the students listend to the protest organizers and became peaceful.
The Alameda County Sheriff's Department, clad in riot gear, establishes a line around the perimeter of Wheeler Hall Friday afternoon.
Riya Bhattacharjee
The Alameda County Sheriff's Department, clad in riot gear, establishes a line around the perimeter of Wheeler Hall Friday afternoon.

Rain did not deter thousands of UC Berkeley students this afternoon as they surrounded the campus’ Wheeler Hall in support of about 50 protesters who have occupied the building since this morning in demonstration against the University of California’s 32 percent tuition fee hike.  

As of 4:30 p.m., the students were still negotiating with campus officials, having outline three demands: 

• Amnesty for all the students occupying Wheeler Hall. 

• Amnesty for the three students arrested.  

• All 38 laid-off UC Berkeley custodians be rehired. 

UC Berkeley police entered the building earlier this morning and took control of the first floor as the protesters moved to the second floor. Three students who did not make it to the second floor were arrested by UC police.  

UC and Berkeley police later put up barricades around the building and cordoned off much of the area with yellow tape. Students and police clashed near Sather Gate as the crowd surged toward the barricades and police used batons to fight them off.  

Some students urged the crowd to remain peaceful, and faculty members at one point emerged from Wheeler Hall to inform that the crowd that the dean of students was in touch with UC Berkeley police and had guaranteed there would be no violence. 

The Alameda County Sheriff's Department arrived in riot gear in the early afternoon and surrounded the hall.  

Student leaders outside the building urged the crowd not to rush the students inside the hall, but to give them time to negotiate.  

According to student leaders, the occupation was planned Thursday night, first at a 6 p.m. general assembly, and later in subcommittees meeting at various locations. 

The protesters gathered at Wheeler Hall at 5 a.m. Friday and entered the building at 6 a.m.  

At 9:30 this morning, students surrounded Wheeler Hall and linked arms, hoping to prevent protesters from being taken from the building and arrested.  

  The occupation of Wheeler seems to have galvanized the protest on its third day after seeing a significant decrease in participation Thursday.  

Chancellor Birgeneau has declared Wheeler Hall closed until further notice. The main path through the campus is blocked where it passes the building. 

Earlier this morning, police tried to move students further from Wheeler Hall. Lauren Cartwright told the Planet that when she refused to move back, police grabbed her. Other students held on to her and police relented, released her, and backed off a few feet. 

Pegah Zardoos, an undergraduate who is on the board of Cal Berkeley Democrats, said she was “shocked and appalled by the police actions ... " 

Business undergraduates Astrid Fernandes and Ameetah Mishna came to Wheeler Hall but could not get to their class. They then joined the protest and walked in the picket line.  

"This occupation is a way, the only way, to get attention to what is going on,” Fernandes said. 

Emily Ng, a graduate student in anthropology, joined the protest with two of her friends. “This is a public institution, after all,” Ng said. “We are taught to forget that we can affect the institutions in which we partake.” 


Flash: UC Students Take Over Wheeler Hall

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday November 20, 2009 - 09:48:00 AM
Despite the rain, students surrounded Wheeler Hall Friday in support of protesters who occupied the building.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Despite the rain, students surrounded Wheeler Hall Friday in support of protesters who occupied the building.
Students wait anxiously outside Wheeler Hall for news about the occupiers inside.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Students wait anxiously outside Wheeler Hall for news about the occupiers inside.

Reports are coming in that UC Berkeley students have taken over Wheeler Hall on campus to protest the 32 percent fee increase approved by the UC Regents at UCLA Thursday. 

Today (Friday) is day three of the strike students and university custodians and unions embarked upon Wednesday after a big rally and march. 

According to published reports this morning, students wearing red bandannas entered the building at 6 a.m., chained themselves to the doors and barricaded themselves inside. 

On Wednesday, a group of students dumped trash outside California Hall at 3 p.m., and an hour later had a discussion to plan next steps. 

Student leaders indicated at that time that they might be planning something for Friday.  

UC Berkeley police have now surrounded the building.  

It has been reported that pepper spray was used to make student arrests, and that at least three students have been arrested so far. 

Criminal Profiled in 'America’s Most Wanted' Caught in Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday November 20, 2009 - 04:40:00 PM

The Berkeley Police Department announced Tuesday that they have arrested a man suspected of being involved in a Berkeley homicide that took place in May. 

The suspect, 25-year-old Rafael Campbell, was profiled in the Nov. 7 broadcast of America’s Most Wanted. 

Police have been looking for Campbell in connection with the May 16 murder of Charles CJ Jones at 10th Street and Allston Way. Campbell is one of the final four suspects in that case to be arrested, according to Berkeley Polcie Department spokesperson Lt. Andrew Greenwood. 

Greenwood said that the U.S. Marshall’s office “has been engaged in an ongoing search for Campbell.” 

  At approximately 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, U.S. Marshalls, working with the California Department of Corrections Northern California Fugitive Apprehension Team, and officers from the Sacramento Police Department, tried to contact Campbell at a ground-floor apartment at 4500 Natomas Crossing Road. 

  Greenwood said “Campbell attempted to flee out of the rear of the apartment, and was apprehended by a Sacramento Police K-9 and officers who’d surrounded the complex.” 

  Campbell was arrested without further incident, and is being held at the Berkeley Police Department Jail till his arraignment. 


UC Regents Approve 32 Percent Fee Hike Amid Angry Protests

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 01:55:00 PM
Students dumped trash in front of California Hall Thursday to protest University of California leadership.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Students dumped trash in front of California Hall Thursday to protest University of California leadership.
Kathryn Lybarger, an organizer for the workers union, pumps up the crowd of protesters in front of California Hall.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Kathryn Lybarger, an organizer for the workers union, pumps up the crowd of protesters in front of California Hall.

The UC Regents approved a fee hike at a meeting on the UCLA campus today (Thursday, Nov. 19) to address a $1.2 billion deficit next year, amid angry protests throughout the 10-campus University of California system. 

Student regent Jesse Bernal was the only one to vote against the fee increases. 

As a result of the hike, undergraduates and graduate professional school students will see a 15 percent increase in winter-spring 2010 fees, amounting to $585. Graduate students will see a 2.6 percent increase, amounting to $111. 

Starting summer 2010, all students will see an additional 15 percent, or $1,334, increase. 

A contingent of students from UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego left for UCLA Wednesday, the first day of a three-day strike on the Berkeley campus, to protest at the regents’ meeting. 

Students rallied, cheered, shouted and marched downtown to voice their concerns Wednesday. 

According to local media blogs in Los Angeles, angry cries erupted outside the regents’ meeting room at UCLA while they discussed the fee hikes. UC President Mark G. Yudof has encouraged students to explore all available options, including scholarships, to fund their studies instead of getting discouraged and dropping out. 

At UC Berkeley, students and faculty members held open discussions all over campus today. 

The strike reached its peak at 3 p.m., when students and custodians dumped days-old trash from the different campus buildings outside California Hall, where UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau works, to protest recent custodian layoffs. 

Although California Hall was locked and looked deserted, a couple of people could be seen peaking out from behind the blinds. 

“Tell me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like!” shouted Kathryn Lybarger, an organizer for the workers union, as students threw used paper cups, apple cores and banana peels at the front door. “What does a regents’ meeting look like? This is what a regent’s meeting looks like!” 

“We will bring your job back,” Lybarger assured Houam Ounniyom, a laid-off custodian. 

UC Berkeley undergraduate Marika Goodrich said some buildings on campus had not had their trash picked up for a month because custodians had been laid off. 

“One custodian is being asked to clean an entire university building—garbage is piling up in the chemistry labs, in offices, everywhere,” she said. “Some people think it’s because the custodians are lazy but it’s because they are being laid off.” 

UC Berkeley student Marika Ryer said that a shortage of maintenance workers was taking its toll on some classrooms. 

“The other day a chalkboard fell on a professor’s face and he had a concussion,” she said. “It’s pretty bad.” 

The pile of garbage was about five feet high by 4 p.m. 

“It smells like hell,” chanted the crowd. “It smells like the bathroom.” 

“It smells like leadership,” cried Lybarger, to applause from the audience. 

Senior Matt Marks said that the students had specifically picked 3 p.m. to dump the trash outside California Hall because most custodians end their shift then. 

“So when they clean all this garbage up, they will get some overtime,” he said. “The union members were OK with us doing this.” 

Marks said that students had wanted to have an after-party at the Bear’s Lair following Wednesday’s rally but the student union administrative body had locked it down. 

“They kicked the students out and chained the doors,” he said. “The fire marshall came and told them to open the locks because it was a fire hazard.” 

Marks said that although the students had wanted to hold open lectures inside the food court Thursday, the student union officials told them that would require insurance. 

“I don’t think they want us to do anything there except eat food,” he said. “And apparently even then we have to be out by 6 p.m.”

BART Board Votes Against Awarding Contract to Nedir Bay

Bay City News
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 05:11:00 PM

The BART board of directors voted today not to give any part of a $2 million lighting improvement project for two stations to a longtime associate of the troubled Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland. 

The BART board voted on Oct. 23 to have Nedir Bey and his firm, Solar Eclipse, of Oakland, do lighting improvement work at the North Berkeley station and have LINC Lighting & Electrical Group, of San Jose, do improvement work at the 12th Street/Oakland City Center station. 

But Bey failed to meet a Nov. 12 deadline to provide the license, bond and insurance documentation that was needed to prove that he is qualified to do the work. 

BART's staff recommended that LINC be awarded the contract for the North Berkeley station, but there was a heated two-hour public hearing today before the board finally voted 7-1, with one abstention, to give the work to LINC. 

Director Carol Ward Allen voted against giving LINC the North Berkeley station work and Director Lynette Sweet abstained. 

Bey told the board that "there was not a good faith effort to make this work" because he was only given seven days to get a bond for the project. 

But BART procurement manager Dick Wieczorek said all the contractors who bid on the work were told in September that they would have to get a bond and also provide license and insurance documentation. 

After the board voted, Bey declined to say whether he will challenge the board's vote, saying only, "I'm trying to take care of my family, man." 

Bey, 38, formerly was a member of the Oakland-based Your Black Muslim Bakery, which closed two years ago after going bankrupt. 

In 1994, Bey pleaded no contest to a felony false imprisonment charge for an incident in which he and other bakery associates were charged with torturing and robbing a man with whom they had a real estate dispute. 

Bey also never repaid a $1.1 million loan from the city of Oakland, according to Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente. 

Sweet said, "I didn't know his history" before she and other directors voted unanimously on Oct. 23 to give him part of the contract. 

She said, "It seemed like he was a businessman who was trying to get something done."

Mehserle Case to Be Moved to Los Angeles County

Bay City News
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 05:10:00 PM

An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled this afternoon that the case of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle will be moved to Los Angeles County. 

Mehserle is accused of murder for the shooting death of Oscar Grant III on the platform of the Fruitvale BART station on New Year's Day. 

Judge Morris Jacobson made the ruling at hearing this afternoon in Oakland.  

"The interest of justice will best be served by transferring the case to Los Angeles County," Jacobson said.  

Jacobson said Alameda County does not have the resources to send a judge to Los Angeles County and that it will be up to the state Supreme Court chief justice to select a judge for the case.

UC’s California News Services Aims to Fill D.C. Journalism Void

Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:38:00 AM

The business of journalism is dying. But the need for journalists is not. 

It is that dilemma that gave birth to the UC Washington Center’s California News Service. 

Washington bureaus are rapidly closing, at a time when landmark legislation on health and energy are moving through Congress, a new president is completing his first year, the military is fighting two wars and the nation is emerging from its worst recession in nearly a century. 

The California News Service employs UC students, who are participating in the university’s Washington semester, to write Washington news for local California news outlets. Roughly 220 UC students from nine campuses are in Washington each term working as interns for members of Congress, the White House, think tanks, media outlets and other agencies, as they take classes as part of the UCDC program. 

The idea behind the California News Service is to fill the vacuum created by the diminished ranks of Washington reporters, while providing experience to aspiring journalists. 

“Three years ago the San Francisco Chronicle had five people in Washington. Today there is one,’’ said Marc Sandalow, the Chronicle’s former Washington bureau chief, who was laid off in 2007. “It may be an economic necessity, but sadly it doesn’t mean there is only one fifth as much to write about.’’ 

So Sandalow, who spent 21 years at the Chronicle and now teaches at UC’s Washington Center, teamed up with Susan Rasky, a former Congressional Correspondent for the New York Times and now a professor at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, to develop the news service. 

The California News Service operates out of the UCDC building six blocks north of the White House and has placed stories in papers up and down the state on topics ranging from health care and immigration to politics and the stimulus bill. 

The Daily Planet is publishing a story today about Jeffrey Bleich, an East Bay attorney and old friend of President Obama’s, who will be sworn in Friday as the U.S. Ambassador to Australia. 

To contact the California New Service, e-mail CNS@ucdc.edu.

UC Students, Workers Launch 3-Day Strike

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:28:00 AM
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.
Protesters demand that UC officials "Hear Our Voices!"
Richard Brenneman
Protesters demand that UC officials "Hear Our Voices!"
Strikers began picketing entrances to the UC Berkeley campus at 7 a.m. Wednesday.
Raymond Barglow
Strikers began picketing entrances to the UC Berkeley campus at 7 a.m. Wednesday.
Students demonstrate against the "privatization" of the University of California.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Students demonstrate against the "privatization" of the University of California.

It was anything but business as usual at UC Berkeley Wednesday as students, faculty members and workers embarked on a three-day strike 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. 

Drumbeats, dance music, bells, whistles, sirens and screams filled the air as hundreds gathered on Sproul Plaza, evoking a scene similar in spirit, if not in numbers, to the Sept. 24 UC walkout, at which more than 5,000 people marched to protest the cuts. 

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. 

David Kessler, a member of the Coalition of Union Employees, was handing out CUE buttons to passers-by. 

“A lot of students are taking our buttons, even if they’re going to class today,” he said. “We understand that. Education is what our movement is all about. What the campus community is doing here today—that’s what we mean by ‘Go Bears.’” 

Although quite a few students said they had missed class to take part in the rally, many stuck to their regular routine. 

Wearing T-shirts reading “Hey, hey, Mark Yudof, don’t sell our future off,” students vented their frustrations regarding fee increases. 

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. 

“We declare it’s not business as usual,” said UC Berkeley Professor Ananya Roy, to cheers from the crowd on the Sproul Hall steps Wednesday. “I am here to say ‘not in my name.’ I call upon UC’s top administration to stand with us in solidarity ... Friends, it is time to raise hell. It is time to take back the university and the state of California. This may be the best education we have ever had.” 

Cynthia Ubilla, a Fulbright Scholar at UC Berkeley, said she was attending the strike to show support for her friends. 

“I have a scholarship, but a fee hike for my friends means that their loans will go up,” she said. “It means less opportunities for them, for the thousands of minority students who come here.” 

Mary June Flores, a member of CalServe, which organized the strike along with the Solidarity Alliance, said that students were also organizing Open University lectures all day Thursday. 

“We want to let people know that public education is not only for UC Berkeley students,” she said.  

Flores contended that a fee increase would create more chaos, 

“It will show that the regents are not listening to the students,” she said. 

UC faculty member Joshua Clover criticized what he called the “privatization of a public university.” 

“They have interests, we have solidarity,” he said. “Solidarity is knowing that while your life may be different from the person standing next to you, different from the undocumented North African worker in France, different from the student in Zagreb—knowing still that you share a common desire, a common urgency. That you will not accept the privatizing away of your common lives.” 

UC Santa Cruz faculty member Barbara Epstein said her institution was by far the worst off in the 10-campus UC system. 

“We are more reliant on public funds,” she explained. “Our humanities department is facing the biggest crisis. History, philosophy are not money-making programs. If the next project cuts come through, then there will be no support for graduate students, no money for repairing buildings. If a door stays open, it will stay that way.” 

University officials have implemented hiring freezes and furloughs and have laid off custodians and building maintenance workers in the past few months to address the budget cuts, angering many in the UC community. 

Eugene Estokes, a building maintenance worker on campus, listened intently to Clover’s speech from the Student Union balcony. 

“I am in danger of losing my job, and I am confused about what to do,” he said, shaking his head. “My 15-year-old, who goes to Berkeley High, asked me yesterday ‘Daddy, will I be able to go to college?’ and I stumbled to give her an answer.” 

UC Berkeley third-year social welfare student Cherrie Chen said she missed two classes Wednesday morning to show support for the rally. 

“I just couldn’t bring myself to cross the picket lines,” she said. “That would be disrespecting my co-students’ rights.” 

Chen said her professor, Ananya Roy, had canceled class because of the strike. 

A group of students from UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design held signs protesting the increases in professional school fees in 2010-11. 

“It’s being sold to us as a way of getting access to the professional world but it’s going to end up being a stopgap measure for these budget cuts,” said Jessica Luk, a graduate student in the City Planning Department. “It’s a step to privatization. This fee violates the principles of our university system.” 

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.” 

Luk said she was a little upset there weren’t more students protesting the fee hikes. 

“But it’s just the first day, so let’s see what happens over the next few days.” 

A first-year UC Berkeley science student left her Chemistry 1A class around 1:30 p.m. 

“I support the strike, but you can’t really miss Chem 1A,” she said smiling. “Some people have midterms this week, and they still have to submit papers.” 


Raymond Barglow contributed to this report.  

Oakland Man Charged with Aquatic Park Murders

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:31:00 AM

Body of Child Found in Bay Believed to Be  

Slain Woman’s Son 

The Alameda County district attorney charged Oakland resident Curtis Martin III Tuesday, Nov. 17 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 on the morning of Friday, Nov. 13.  

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 on the morning of Sunday, Nov. 15, is that of Jashon, Toney’s missing son. Green-wood said the “body is consistent in race, gender, and size to that of Jashon Williams.” The coroner’s office is still working to confirm the identity of the child, he said. 

Greenwood said that investigators believe Martin killed Toney, 23, “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 today (Thursday, Nov. 19) 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, 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. 

Berkeley Police and Fire departments 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 6. 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 is 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.  


Council Votes to Support Berkeley Ferry Project

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:32:00 AM

Is Berkeley ready for a ferry? The Berkeley City Council seems to think so. 

The council voted 7–2 to support the project with a number of conditions, after debating and discussing this contentious proposal until midnight Tuesday. 

City Manager Phil Kamlarz had recommended that, following the Water Emergency Transpor-tation 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 unresolved issues raised by the city’s Planning, Transportation and Waterfront commissions.  

While there were many Berkeley residents at the meeting who supported 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 were others who viewed it as unnecessary, calling it a “vanity project.”  

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

WETA Executive Director Nina Reynolds told the council that a 2005 phone poll of about 400 Berkeley residents showed that 74 percent were interested in restoring ferry services to Berkeley. 

Subsequently the City Council asked WETA to do an environmental study, and in April 2009, after several scoping sessions, the agency whittled site selection down to Seawall Drive. 

Work on the final environmental study began right after that. 

WETA then went on to secure funds from a number of regional, state and federal partners, including $9 million in federal capital construction funds with the help of Congresswoman Barbara Lee. 

The project was also included in MTC’s Regional Transit Expansion Program. 

“We consider this a highly supported project, Reynolds said. “We think there are many benefits to providing ferry service. It’s a great transbay transportation alternative—a great way to link great cities. Ferries were able to pick up some of the load during the recent Bay Bridge emergency.” 

Reynolds added that the Berkeley ferry would be able to take 30 bikes at a time, which she said would be to the advantage of people who can’t bike across the Bay Bridge or have limited access to bringing their bikes on BART. 

“As we have moved through the process we have heard concerns about parking and access to the ferry terminal site,” Reynolds said. “We are working to modify the design to address the problem.” 

When the Planning Commission failed to make any kind of recommendation at its Oct. 30 meeting, WETA officials returned disappointed. However, a few weeks later, both the transportation commission and the waterfront commission—which came close to opposing the proposal a second time—declared conditional support for the project.  

Although WETA wanted the City Council to pass a resolution supporting the proposed project before the agency certifies the final environmental impact report in December—which would clear the way for regional funds to build the terminal in Berkeley—the council’s approval of the EIR is not required, according to a report signed by Kamlarz.  

If WETA does not certify the report by December, the regional funds could go toward building a terminal in Richmond.  

On Tuesday WETA officials hinted that it might take until March or April before the final EIR is released to the public. 

WETA said that the Federal Transportation Authority “requires an expression of local interest” before accepting an environmental impact study for a project that 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.  

Reynolds said that the terminal, which would use the existing parking space for Hs. Lordship’s restaurant, would enhance the adjacent Bay Trail along the waterfront.  

Reynolds 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 planning 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 30 minutes during peak service 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 voiced concern Tuesday about how the project would impact water sports as well as vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic flow.  

Reynolds said that the breakwater would create a “very small footprint” and not interfere with windsurfers. 

She said that the project would employ 107 construction workers and 20 full-time staff. The council strongly urged WETA to hire locally. 

“This will be an improvement to the marina,” said Steve McDonald, an avid windsurfer who owns a business in West Berkeley. “It will not affect me at all, windsurfing. This is the beginning of a ferry system. As people come and we have smart growth, the ferries will be a very practical way to commute.” 

Carol Denney, a West Berkeley resident, said that the traffic generated from the project would stack the backup all the way to Nevada. 

“Gridlock is the new green,” she said, adding that frustrated drivers would start throwing their keys into the bay. 

“Everyone loves a ferry, but the devil’s in the details,” said David Fielder, a local sailor and windsurfer. “It will cost double that of BART—as Berkeley again leads the way in going green, why would you support something that’s less efficient than a car?” 

A majority of the councilmembers said that, although they supported the idea of a ferry, they would have been more comfortable supporting it if they had reviewed the final environmental study. 

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli proposed a number of changes to the conditions proposed by staff, an action Councilmember Jesse Arreguín, who voted against the project, contended watered down the terms to a certain extent. 

Based on Capitelli’s suggestions, the council decided to lease the ferry terminal and the parking lot to WETA for $1 annually instead of charging a fair market rate, as proposed by city staff. 

Other conditions imposed seek to have WETA collaborating with the city of Berkeley to design a parking enforcement plan that limits the ferry parking lot to WETA patrons only, in order to minimize impact on other parking areas. WETA will also provide traffic mitigations as mandated in the final environmental impact report. The city also has to be satisfied that the pending environmental impact report is legally adequate and addresses all its concerns. 

Although Capitelli wanted to strike bathrooms off the ferry terminal plans, the council voted to keep them on, out of concern for elderly and disabled commuters. 

WETA will also be required to continue addressing community concerns during the planning process. 

Although Councilmember Kriss Worthington wanted the council to hold off voting on the project until there was more time to gauge the revised set of conditions as well as its greenhouse gas impacts, his motion failed to pass. 

Worthington voted against the project. 





Berkeley Balloon Ban?

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:33:00 AM
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.  

The Berkeley City Council held off voting Tuesday on whether to ban balloon releases, based on a report from the city’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission, which says that balloons pose an environmental hazard when let loose.  

The Daily Planet reported Nov. 17 that the commission was 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.  

Councilmembers said Tuesday that they needed more information from the commission on the hazards of balloon releases in Berkeley, before taking further action. 

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.  

Although some environmentalists approved of the prohibition at Tuesday’s meeting, not everyone felt the same way.  

Berkeley’s largest balloon seller, Paper Plus Incredible Balloons at 1629 San Pablo Ave., showed up at council, along with customers, children and of course balloons, 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, in an interview with the Planet before the meeting. “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 didn’t offer any statistics. What it did 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 San Francisco Bay.  

The report said that Mylar balloons can lead to shocks or blackouts and even injure utility workers trying to remove balloons stuck on power lines. And balloon cords can choke birds to death, the report said.  

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

Daniels told the council that California state law already mandates that all Mylar balloons be put on weights so that they don’t float away.  

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 disappear, while only 5 or 10 percent make it back to the ground. Latex balloons are biodegradable, he said.  

Daniels’ 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.  

“Balloons 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.”  

A customer hunting for Thanksgiving decorations at the store 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 offering 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 store’s cash register on Monday handing out fliers that said “Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon … except the city of Berkeley,” Sabine Rosen walked in with her mother to pick up a couple of balloons for her second 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.” 

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.” 

However, at Tuesday’s meeting, Maio relented, saying, “I think it’s a courtesy to this business to give this a little bit more time, a little bit more attention.” 

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli said that while he was tempted to suggest that “we have blown this whole thing out of proportion,” he sympathized with the balloon sellers. 

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak suggested that the city should make the most of balloons while it could. 

“They are a fun thing,” he said. “This problem will solve itself in 10 or 20 years when helium runs out. Maybe we should enjoy [balloons] in the next decade.” 



Obata Studio Landmarking Revisited

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:33:00 AM

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 jurisdiction—the commission can designate only 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 that 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 a 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. 

“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 in the building 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.

Bear’s Lair Food Court Vendors Strike to Protest Rent Increases

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:34:00 AM
Ann Vu protests her rent increase in front of Sproul Plaza Wednesday, right before students board the bus to go the regent's meeting at UCLA.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Ann Vu protests her rent increase in front of Sproul Plaza Wednesday, right before students board the bus to go the regent's meeting at UCLA.

UC Berkeley students aren’t the only ones who went on strike this week.  

Two of the three Bear’s Lair food court vendors, disgruntled by the student union administration’s plans to double their rent, planned to close shop the entire week because they want to negotiate 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 she 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. “Monday we closed 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 it 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 discrete 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.” [See Permaul’s commentary on the subject, Page 10.] 

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 changed its earlier decision to go out for bids on all the spaces, instead resolving to negotiate new terms for extending the vendors’ leases.  

He added that both Vu and Marquez 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 strike again. 

“This is our way of showing we support the students,” said Marquez. 

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 during the strike Monday with banners supporting the vendors. 

“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 embarked 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 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 a fair contract.

UC Abandons Ito’s Downtown Museum Design

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:35:00 AM

Citing “lingering economic uncertainty,” UC Berkeley announced Wednesday that it has abandoned existing architectural plans to construct a new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in downtown Berkeley. 

The university said it is currently modifying the $143 million museum project, designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito, and that a review and detailed alternate plan is due next year. 

The Berkeley Art Museum is currently located in a seismically unsafe building on Bancroft Way. The structural unstability resulted in the film archive being moved across the street to temporary campus quarters in 1999. 

The university hired Toyo Ito and Associates in 2006 to design the new museum. Ito’s design received mixed reviews from the public but was generally supported in arts circles, and the university launched its $200 million fundraising campaign. 

However, university officials were able to raise only $81 million of the necessary $200 million. City of Berkeley Planning Commissioner Patricia Dacey told the Planet she hopes the university will continue to plan for a new museum but will choose a better design. 

“I felt that the design was an arrogant imposition on the context of our existing downtown,” she said. “It related to nothing around it—it just screamed ‘look at me.’” 

BAM/PFA Director Lawrence Rinder said in a press statement that the university and BAM/PFA “remain committed to building a new facility on university property at the corner of Center and Oxford streets,” the site of the proposed design. 

Rinder emphasized that the museum’s lead donors and trustees are still committed to the project and are taking the decision in stride.  

“While the architectural plans will change,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, “what will not change is our shared goal of building a dynamic, welcoming, and seismically safe new museum.” 

“In the current economic climate, modifying the project’s proposed scope and expense by moving on to a new design is the only way to ensure BAM/PFA remains on track for a new museum,” university and museum leaders said in a statement.  

Elementary Students Get H1N1 Vaccine, Other Schools Must Wait

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:36:00 AM

More than 2,000 Berkeley public elementary school students received H1N1 vaccinations from the city’s Public Health Division this week. However, middle and high schoolers will have to wait for new shipments to arrive before they can get their shots. 

The city’s Public Health spokesperson Zandra Lee said Tuesday that just as in the rest of the country, swine flu shipments to Berkeley have been inconsistent. 

Although the Public Health Division had planned to vaccinate students of all the Berkeley public schools this week, the staff postponed the dates for 6th to 12th graders to the week of Dec. 7. 

“We are apprehensive that we may not have adequate vaccine to hold clinics in all schools the week of Nov. 16,” the city’s Public Health Officer, Janet Berreman, told Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett in an e-mail Oct. 28. “Vaccine delivery throughout California has been uneven to date, with some health jurisdictions receiving substantial supplies, and others receiving little or none—without any apparent reason or explanation. Berkeley has still received only one very small shipment.” 

Berreman said in her e-mail that “fortunately,” both Kaiser Permanante and Alameda County had received vaccines, opening up options for students and staff in the high priority vaccine groups. 

“The situation is fluid, and this is an unprecedented undertaking made more difficult by state budget constraints and furloughs.” Berreman said. “So we are all grappling with the need to remain flexible and adapt to changing conditions.” 

On Tuesday, students at Malcolm X Elementary School, which was closed for a couple of days earlier this year after reporting the first swine flu case in a parent, lined up at 10 a.m. to get H1N1 shots. 

Some cried, some closed their eyes tight, and some smiled through the procedure, which was carried out by nurses from Flu Busters, consultants hired by the city. 

“We did not have the capacity,” spokesperson Lee said, when asked why nurses from Public Health were not administering the shots. “It’s logistically very challenging. Plus we need to free up our nurses to oversee the vaccinations.” 

Most children were given the nasal spray mist. Students with respiratory problems were given an injection instead. Parents were not present at the clinics unless there was some kind of discrepancy in their consent forms. 

Berkeley Unified spokesperson Mark Coplan said that a couple of private schools had called the district inquiring whether their children could get H1N1 shots from the city. Lee said that, although the city was only prioritizing public school students, public health care workers, and first- response personnel for the time being, the plan was to extend the H1N1 vaccinations to the community as more shipments begin to arrive. 

“We completely understand their frustration,” she said. “They should continue to check for H1N1 clinics in Contra Costa and Alameda counties.” 

Jennifer Monahan, a spokesperson for Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, which has 526 students, said the school was asking parents to get their children vaccinated at their private health care providers. 

“But my impression is that even organizations like Kaiser can’t keep it in stock,” she said. “It’s a long waitlist. The only thing we can do is stress hygiene and prevention.” 

The California Department of Public Health reports that as of Nov. 7 there have been 5,830 hospitalizations from the H1N1 virus statewide, of which 297 patients have died. 

Berkeley has had four serious cases and one death as of Oct. 24, according to the CDPH website. 

Coplan said that just over half of all elementary school students were getting the H1N1 vaccinations at the school flu clinics. 

“We had originally estimated that only 30 percent of the students would get the vaccination, based on national trends and parent surveys,” said Lee. “Things have gone well so far.” 

Coplan said that none of the Berkeley public schools had reported a higher than usual absence for this time of the year. 

Lee said the city’s Public Health Division had run out of seasonal flu shots. 

“People are struggling nationwide to find seasonal flu vaccinations,” she said. “The companies manufacturing the seasonal flu vaccinations are developing H1N1 vaccines right now. The public should know that the seasonal flu has not shown up yet. Ninety percent of flu that is emerging is H1N1, so right now the H1N1 vaccine is the most pressing vaccine.” 

The Berkeley Public Health Division recommends: 

• Kaiser patients can be vaccinated at Kaiser (the Kaiser Permanente website has 

information about dates, times, and locations). 

• Health care providers in Alameda County outside of Berkeley may have vaccine—families should check with their providers. 

• The Alameda County Public Health Department is offering public H1N1 vaccine clinics at various locations—the Alameda County website has information.

Piedmont Resident to Become Ambassador to Australia

By Megan Murphy, California News Service
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:37:00 AM

As a law clerk to judge Abner Mikva 20 years ago, Jeffrey Bleich never imagined that the young man Mikva tried to recruit as a fellow clerk would one day name him ambassador to Australia. 

But Bleich is moving his family and surfboard to the American Embassy in Canberra after being unanimously confirmed for the position last week by the Senate. A swearing-in ceremony is set for Friday so Bleich can begin his diplomatic work before making the move Down Under in January. 

Bleich has remained a close friend of President Obama’s since they met in Mikva’s chambers, and he boasts an extraordinary résumé, includimg stints as a clerk to Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and attorney for the San Francisco Giants centerfielder Willie Mays. 

He has led a busy life since moving to the Bay Area to attend UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, from which he graduated in 1989.  

The new ambassador was president of the California and San Francisco Bar Associations, was chair of the American Bar Association’s Amicus Curiae Committee, and is currently a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and the California State University Board of Trustees, all while keeping up with his civil litigation practice at the San Francisco–based law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP. 

He’s also no stranger to politics. In 1999, President Clinton appointed  

Bleich director of the White House Council on Youth Violence. He was heavily involved in Obama’s presidential run, co-chairing his California campaign and raising more than $500,000 for his friend. Obama named him as a special counsel in March, a position in which he served until his nomination as ambassador in September. 

Though Bleich sees little of Obama in his current role, the two remain close friends. After their encounter in Mikva’s office, they stayed in touch through a loose network of colleagues and reconnected when Obama decided to run for president. Bleich even flew to Chicago to spend time with Michelle and the Obama daughters during the campaign. 

Of all the positions in Obama’s administration, ambassador to Australia may not seem the most obvious choice for a man of Bleich’s background. But Australia, Bleich said in an interview, is America’s key ally in the region, and the relationship between the two nations rests on issues such as national security and environmental protection, which will “define the next few decades.” 

And after working in Washington for the past several months, Bleich looks forward to escaping the capital’s grueling work hours in favor a diplomatic post that will at least allow him to share his experience with his wife and three children in a country he described as “fascinating and beautiful.” 

“We can serve our country as a family,” he said. 

He also said that his background in law will prove useful overseas. 

“It gives you the skills required for negotiation, the ability to be discreet, and patience,” he said.  

He has met several heads of state and international leaders during his career, easing some of the intimidation he recalls feeling the first time he talked to Hall of Famer Willie Mays. Bleich is briefed regularly by the State Department as well as federal agencies in Australia on issues and happenings overseas to prepare for his assignment. 

“The Internet is very helpful,” he said with a laugh. 

His reception in Australia has been a welcoming one so far. The Age, a newspaper in Melbourne, referred to Bleich as a “down to earth bloke,” calling him “one of the highest achieving young lawyers in San Francisco.” 

Though thrilled about the additional family time his ambassadorship will provide, Bleich said that leaving the Bay Area will be the hardest part of the job. He is confident that the family will return one day, and he is keeping his house in Piedmont. 

“I serve at the pleasure of the president and my wife,” Bleich said, when asked how long he anticipated staying in the position. “I’ll let them work it out.” 

Bleich is also a fan of Bay Area surfing, but he is a little intimidated about keeping up with his Aussie counterparts. 

“I surf like a middle-aged man,” he said. 

Bleich is grateful for his years spent in the Bay Area, which he calls a “welcoming, thoughtful, progressive and effective environment.” 

“I can’t imagine any environment other than the Bay Area that would have provided me with the experiences and opportunities I’ve had,” Bleich said. “I’m fortunate to call it home.” 


The California News Service is a journalism project of the University of California’s Washington Center and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Contact CNS at cns@ucdc.edu.

Remembering Andrea Lewis

By Max Pringle, New America Media
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:41:00 AM

Andrea Lewis, long-time broadcast and print journalist, co-anchor of the KPFA Evening News and host of Pacifica’s Sunday Sedition, died last weekend of an apparent heart attack. She was 52. 

Many thousands of radio listeners awoke to the voice of Andrea Lewis as co-host of the Morning Show and more recently Sunday Sedition. Her warm, relaxed delivery and knowledge of public affairs, music and the arts earned her a loyal following. 

Andrea Lewis was a native of Detroit, Michigan and earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University in 1982, where she studied Music, English Literature, and Art History. She was a 2008 Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. Andrea first made her name in journalism after moving to the Bay Area in 1983. She started her career as an editor for Plexus: West Coast Women’s Press. In the late 1980s, she became a research editor for Mother Jones magazine. From there she went on to become an editorial assistant at Harper Collins Publishers in San Francisco in 1991 and two years later became a senior editor at Third Force Magazine. In 1996, Andrea joined Pacific News Service in San Francisco (now New America Media) as an associate editor. 

She switched effortlessly to radio in 1999, joining the KPFA Morning Show as co-host. Andrea’s friends, colleagues and classmates remember her as a curious, thoughtful journalist with diverse interests. 

“Andrea was truly a renaissance woman. She could talk about the politics of the day. She could talk about issues and what was going on not only nationally but also locally what,” says Amelia Gonzalez, KPFA Interim Assistant General Manager. 

“But it was also her knowledge of cultural affairs. She was a singer. She sang in the San Francisco Community Chorus and she was an avid golfer. We loved to argue about sports.” 

Andrea’s journalism work earned her accolades. The National Federation of Community Broadcasters recognized her with its Golden Reel award in 2002. In 2004, the California Teachers Association presented her with its John Swett Award for Media Excellence. Andrea was a fellow in the Society of Professional Journalists Diversity Leadership Program from 2006-2007. Matthew Rothschild is editor of the Progressive Magazine in Madison Wisconsin, to which Andrea was a regular contributor. He remembers Andrea as a deft journalist with tools that crossed platforms: 

“She could write well. She was gifted and a natural at radio. She did interviews really well. She did cultural profiles really well for the progressive magazine. She did commentaries for the progressive media project that were strongly voiced and in a different style. She was kind of a utility infielder as far as a journalist goes and she’d appreciate that because she was a big sports fan.” 

Friends say Andrea was always warm and easy-going, but with a direct straightforward manner when it came to issues close to her heart like race, gender and sexual orientation. They say Andrea would sometimes use everyday discussions about sports and other topics as teachable moments. 

“I’m a big college basketball fan. So we were going to do a college basketball pool,” recalls Paul Kavinta, a former Stanford Knight Fellow who befriended Andrea during their time at the University. “Andrea was like ‘yeah I’ll do that, but where’s the women’s pool?’ I was like, oh right, I guess we have to have a women’s basketball pool. That’s a fun example of what Andrea would bring up.” 

Other friends from Andrea’s time as a Knight Fellow remember her as being fearless when it came to putting difficult subjects on the table during class discussions. 

“She wore her heart on her sleeve and she wore her opinions on her sleeve and what I loved about her was that she would just get in there and ask the hard questions,” says friend and former Stanford Knight Journalism Fellow Ruth Teichroeb. “She would be the one who would say what everyone else was thinking and just bring it out in the open. Sometimes it was uncomfortable, but it didn’t matter because she always told the truth.” 

Other friends and colleagues said that although she held strong opinions, she was never strident and was always open to listening to people with opposing views. 

Jim Bettinger, Director of the Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford says beyond Andrea’s journalistic achievements, he’ll remember her as someone who was just easy to like: “In my mind she was just a real sweetheart, a good person whom I liked enormously and one whom I’m going to miss enormously.” 

And we here at KPFA share that sentiment as does everyone who was privileged enough to count Andrea among their friends. If Thackeray was right and “A good laugh is sunshine in the House,” then all our houses are a little sunnier for having known Andrea. 


A memorial service for Andrea Lewis will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24 at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St. All Andrea's friends and colleagues are invited to celebrate Andrea's life and grieve our loss as a community.  


Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:34:00 AM

The name and author of a Seattle blog were misidentified in the Nov. 12 story, “Meehan Approv-ed as City’s New Police Chief.” Quotes regarding police commanders’ length of service at Seattle’s East Precinct and about Meehan’s tenure there were originally posted by Doug Schwartz on the blog Capitol Hill Seattle.



What Shall We Tell the Children?

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:43:00 AM

The most famous words spoken about the Great Depression, by Franklin Roosevelt in his first inaugural address, were these: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” They have become a mantra invoked in many situations where there’s a lot more than fear to fear, where real dangers are confronting people who must nonetheless act unafraid. 

This week we saw two gripping dramatic representations of coping with genuine fear of real danger. Both have been reviewed in these pages as theatrical events, but the questions they raise transcend the context presented on stage. 

Dark River, a new opera by Mary Watkins, focuses on the role of Fannie Lou Hamer, a woman with little education and modest resources, in organizing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964 to push for voting rights for African-Americans. It starts with a chilling ballet enacting the 1950s murder of the young Black Emmett Till for the supposed crime of whistling at a white woman. Seven Jewish Children: a Play for Gaza, by Caryl Churchill, also opens with a shocker, a tense conversation about family members disappearing during the Holocaust. Both works go on to explore how the communities involved have been able to deal with their fears. 

Both move through time in a series of blackout vignettes. The Churchill play, just 10 or 20 minutes long, uses a very effective device to do this, the actors’ repeated alternation of “Tell her about…” and “Don’t tell her about…” referring to an always off-stage child who will learn how to view the world from the stories adults tell her. The action turns on their disputes about what to say and how to say it. The final injunction, repeated frequently: “Don’t frighten her!” 

That’s the crux of the matter examined in both plays: in a world full of pain and evil, what do we tell the kids? Both shed light on the specific historic situations presented on stage, but also raise questions bigger than the dramas that audiences of these two productions see enacted before them.  

An African-American mother who saw Seven Jewish Children spoke about wondering how she should tell her kindergarten child about slavery without frightening him. Many of our children and grandchildren are simultaneously descended from slaves and slaveholders, abolitionists and do-nothing bystanders—how can we explain their heritage to them? 

And there are many more thorny problems to grapple with. How can we talk to our daughters and sons about the relationships between the sexes? Not only about the evils of Capital S Sexism, but about the myriad ways the sexual impulse can either be celebrated or abused.  

What do we tell them about the recent news of horrendous events at a high school in Richmond? We don’t want our daughters to be irrationally afraid, but we need to warn them to stay out of dark alleys and away from boys who are drinking.  

Or about drugs of all kinds? A beer, a glass of wine, even occasional marijuana, fine, sure, but how to explain what happened to the adults all Berkeley kids know who are being destroyed by too much of these? And how do we caution young people to avoid seriously dangerous substances like crack or meth?  

On health? Should we tell the kids to wash their hands, but not to skip birthday parties or feeding the goats at the children’s zoo because of fear of germs? 

Do we caution a young daughter to get frequent mammograms, or should we tell her that worrying about getting cancer should be rationally connected to the probability of doing so?  

Don’t frighten her.  

At a recent meeting of the North-East Berkeley Association, a councilmember who represents the high Berkeley hills said that her constituents were afraid to go downtown. Is that a statement about the downtown or a statement about her constituents or a little of both? Many have chosen to live a suburban lifestyle in the hills because they’re afraid of the city and everything city life implies, but many people live in the flats, and only a few of these live in fear most of the time. 

Fear is everywhere. It’s what people make of their fears that counts. 

In Dark River we see Black people in Mississippi experimenting with violence and with self-segregation as ways of dealing with their fears. The life of Fannie Lou Hamer is celebrated in the opera because she managed to rise above these temptations and look toward a future when, most of the time, even in Mississippi, the right to vote would be secured for everyone without bloodshed. 

The Churchill play is more about questions, less about answers, but it too suggests that fear can create a temptation to become like the people one fears. The un-named characters in the last scenes seem to be in Israel, and seem to be inclined to choose violence to allay their fears, but doors are left open for other solutions.  

The tenor of the lives of future generations—our own children and grandchildren and others—will be determined in large part by what we do and don’t tell them to be afraid of. How is it possible to inform and warn them without frightening them?  

In the last analysis, it’s all about choice. It’s not realistic to expect to have a life free of fear, but it’s important not to let fears dominate and control life. As the two productions illustrate, it’s always been a challenge to achieve the right balance, and it probably always will be. 




Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:43:00 AM



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hey everybody! Come to the Transportation Commission hearing tonight (Thursday, Nov. 19) and let’s show these arrogant bullies that they can’t manipulate the democratic process anymore. It’s time for us to stand up for our rights as Berkeley citizens.  

The hearing on the Bus Rapid Transit Locally Preferred Alternative is at 6 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 

Hope to see you there! 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If there was ever any doubt of the astonishing number of journalist Amy Goodman’s ardent admirers, that doubt was dispelled Monday morning, when she spoke to any overflow audience at the Northgate Hall Library in the UC School of Journalism at the rather unorthodox hour of 10 a.m. Introduced by Lowell Bergman, himself a well-known professor and investigative reporter, Amy spoke for more than an hour to rapt listeners, reading from her new book, Breaking the Sound Barrier. Producer of the radio program, “Democracy Now,” she is without question one of the most respected news reporter and analyst in the country. 

On a personal note, Amy’s a petite, attractive and very outgoing woman, not at all the somber, somewhat dour person we see on our Cable TV screen. At the conclusion of her remarks and the lively question and answer session, she received a standing ovation, with everyone rising to their feet in recognition of this outstanding journalist. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last week, a failed vice-presidential candidate claimed that animals belong right next to the mashed potatoes. This week, our president is pardoning two turkeys. It’s food for thought. 

Each of us has the presidential power to pardon a turkey this Thanksgiving. It shows our compassion for an innocent animal, as well as our concern for our family’s and our planet’s health. It’s a most fitting way to give thanks for our own life, health, and happiness. 

The 270 million turkeys abused and slaughtered in the United States each year have nothing to give thanks for. They breathe toxic fumes in crowded sheds. Their beaks and toes are severed. At the slaughter-house, workers cut their throats, and dump them into boiling water, sometimes while still conscious. 

Consumers too pay a heavy price. Turkey flesh is laced with cholesterol and saturated fats that ele-vate the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Careful adherence to government warning labels is required to avoid food poisoning. Turkey excrements pollute our water supplies. 

This Thanksgiving, I won’t be calling the Poultry Hot Line, or staying awake wondering how that turkey lived and died. I will be joining millions of other Americans in observing this joyful family holiday with nonviolent healthful products of the earth’s bounty: vegetables, fruits, and grains. 

A visit to my local supermarket or health food store and an Internet search on vegan Thanksgiving will provide me more recipes and delicious turkey alternatives than I can possibly use. 

Harold Kunitz 

Walnut Creek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

How can we attach party to the Republicans? And isn’t it beyond time now to call them the Reprivateans, no? 

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s Nov. 12 editorial, “Telling the Truth About Carbon,” made the point that even a new LEED certified building has a far greater environmental impact than keeping an existing building in use. The example she cited is the proposed Safeway superstore at College and Claremont. 

An even more obvious example of environmental irresponsibility is the decision of the Berkeley Unified School District to tear down the landmarked old gymnasium at Berkeley High School. The school board decided to build a new building in spite of the fact that everything they are planning to build can fit in the old building with room to spare. 

I have prepared plans that demonstrate the feasibility of this adaptive reuse which would also keep the warm pool in operation. The school board has shown no interest in looking at this proposal which would be a truly green solution. 

Henrik Bull 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It always amazes me how a person only sees what they wish to see, as opposed to what appears before their eyes. This is the only explanation I could conclude from anti-Daily Planet campaign supporter Faith Meltzer’s Nov. 12 letter, which asserts that my previous letter “contains a major factual error.” She then challenged me to “cite some sources, please” of my statement that Israel has the fourth most powerful military force in the world. 

Upon checking the very sources she uses to refute my allegation, I discovered some intriguing information. Globalfirepower.com ranks Israel 11th overall, but Nationmaster.com gives it the top spot among all nations listed in military expenditures per capita and military weapon holdings per capita. It ranked fourth in military weapon holdings, a category I would equate to military power. 

Also, according to Nationmaster, Israel has the most advanced nuclear weapons program in the Middle East, clandestinely established in the late 1950s by its first prime minister, David Ben Gurion. Based on estimates, they have roughly 100-200 nuclear explosive devices. Israeli officials continue to prevent any international inspections of these weapons, nor are they a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. 

The point of my previous letter was not to tussle over boring statistics or facts. It was primarily to refute the idea that Israel is weak and powerless over their enemies. They are not. They have the ability to solve their differences without violence, they just don’t have the courage to do so. I and many others around the Bay Area and the world are crying out, not to annihilate them—which obviously won’t happen—but to push them to find that courage. I urge you all to join us, in any way that you can. 

Robert Kanter 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Have you ever had to run from a leaf blower? 

My wife does it a few times a day. One good leaf blower could put her in the hospital with her allergies. I found out that leafblowers are against the law in Berkeley. But you would never know it. They are every where all over town making the dirt and clippings of a landscaping job someone else’s problem. 

Leafblowers are not made to clean up. They are made to blow dirt into the street, the neighbors and the atmosphere. Anywhere but here. 

There is a reason why leafblowers are illegal and we need to ask the mayor, the City Council and the Police Department to take our respiratory health seriously. 

Dan McMullan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Shirley Barker’s off-target polemic casting organic food producers as an enemy of the people’s right to eat: 

Barker could choose to plant/tend her own tomatoes in one of those pots. Of course that involves much effort, demands ample sun and to succeed she will have to periodically pluck off pests. 

Likely her “vendor” was hired to work the stand and isn’t the farmer who would have more to say. It’s not just inputs raising the costs. Small farms reclaiming land in “service to the soil,” remains an outlier business model. Tending to soil health is a labor-intensive process taking some number of years before running on anything similar to the misleading, bucolic auto-pilot Barker suggests. Allocating acreage to lie fallow also raises the cost per output for acres planted. 

Consider the “shelf life” of produce harvested and brought to market ready to eat. It isn’t long, true, but our idea that tomatoes or other fruits and veggies can “last” weeks is a perversion of “natural” produce grown in full spectrum, mineral rich soils. Cost per mile to truck peak harvest into the city farmers’ markets from more sun drenched soils that grow those luscious tomatoes is another cost factor. 

As is hiring, supervising and paying market workers. Large, mono-crop agribiz farms feed product into the grand maw of a large, centralized distribution system that plunks their outputs into the bins of grocery chains without further need for the trucking and selling costs that local farmers incur. 

Last, but certainly not least, egregious USDA farm policy’s labyrinthine regulations that keep small fruit and vegetable producers from being able to actively work more land in the hopes of meeting demand with lower prices made possible by achieving economies of scale. At first blush it’s challenging to pin the high cost of organic fruits and vegetables on USDA Farm subsidies—90 percent of which support only corn, wheat, soy, rice or cotton crops—but it turns out that the most recent bill penalizes any farmer who receives government commodity subsidies from—even experimenting with—growing perishables for sale. Nor can s/he rent out unplanted acres to a small producer who could put the land to use in meeting the rising demand for healthy food crops.  

Caretaking the land remains hard work. Feeding the hungry is a virtue. The farmer and his/her family are welcome to their success. 

Fern Leaf 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would first like to publicly thank the People’s Park Community Advisory Board Subcommittee on Censorship for meeting secretly on the public’s behalf on Friday, Nov. 6, as best suits a subcommittee formed to govern the public tongue, which, without appropriate safeguards, would probably just say the wrong thing. 

I would secondly like to commend them for starting the ball rolling on a procedure for evaluating and endorsing slogans for the People’s Park stage. As a member of the public, I appreciate that finding precisely the right slogan could take months, even years, but that the search itself will be a journey worth taking with the whole-hearted, open-minded members of the Subcommittee on Censorship. 

I would thirdly like to recommend going further. Now that a Subcommittee on Censorship is firmly in place, I would suggest that all speech in People’s Park, which is often a location burdened with great contention and gratuitous discussion, be sent through this Subcommittee first for approval. 

I believe this will bring about a more pastoral, peaceful park, and assure park users that any language used therein has the full endorsement and approval of the University of California. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve been a swimmer at Berkeley’s public pools for some 20 years, and I am dismayed this year by the curtailing of hours for lap swimmers. It seems odd to me to cut the hours from two to one and also to cut out swimming time not only for lap swimmers but for children and seniors. What is your reasoning for this? The lifeguards sit in their lobby office for about four hours each day, waiting for their next shift; of course, they don’t get paid for their waiting time, but the pool is still heated as are the locker rooms. What a waste! And we swimmers must rush to swim in very crowded lanes for one brief hour! 

People I’ve talked to say they are now going to the pools at Temescal, El Cerrito, and the JFK High School Richmond pool because they have longer hours for lap swimming, so the city of Berkeley is losing money and the good health of their citizens. 

I urge the city to reconsider its decision (how was it reached?!!) and continue the two-hour shifts and also restore the afternoon swim times on the weekend, just when everyone has more time to swim! 

Estelle Jelinek 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As the current chair of Berkeley’s Commission on Aging, I must correct an impression left by Helen Wheeler’s informative and passionate commentary on elder abuse (Daily Planet, Nov. 5). After describing a program she organized on this important topic, she states that the commission chair did not think elder abuse “merit(s) consideration.” Apparently, that program was over two years ago, and she must be citing some previous chair, as I have never thought that and find it hard to imagine anyone concerned about aging would. Of course, elder abuse is a major social problem, an issue on which I hope the commission and City of Berkeley can focus greater attention, in pursuit of effective remedies. Toward that end, the commission recently invited a presentation by police representatives regarding elder safety, including from crime, fraud, physical hazards. In the coming year, we hope to develop a community forum on safety and on abuse, in its disturbingly various and prevalent forms. 

Judy Turiel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Poor people! You know peoples, I really don’t feel right when poor people beg. Don’t you care! Give them some support here! They need some help. Think about it, you have a house, they don’t. They live on the streets. You have food, they don’t and if they had three or four dollars they’d usually have to go to McDonald’s or some nasty place. You have a TV, they don’t. You have a bed and covers and they sleep on the ground. Think about it, you can get on a plane and afford it and go when ever you need to. They have to stay and sit all day or walk and not have food. You all, including me, are a great country. You have more team work and love somewhere in your hearts! 

Sylvia Sawislak 

3rd grade 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The world around us is often noisy. 

Many children feel frustrated by the noisy conversational style of their parents and of their peers. It is not easy for noisy, bustling children to settle into receptive attentiveness. 

We all know that when we get a chance to take a deep breath, our nerves calm down and we feel relaxed. Beginning each class with a minute or two of “watching” our breathing will be a very effective way for children to get focused. Their memory cells will feel fresh and clear thinking will become natural. All the teacher has to say is: “Sit in a relaxed way and watch your breath flow in and out.” 

Children who begins lessons this way become very good learners.  

Romila Khanna 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In honor of the great David Swanson’s visit to Berkeley this Sunday, Nov. 22—he’s speaking at the Unitarian Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar @ Bonita, 7:30 pm—there will be a peaceful protest at “torture professor” John Yoo’s house from 10-11 am, on Grizzly Peak near Shasta. “Yoo” will be there in striped prison garb and handcuffs, telling anyone who will listen that he can’t be held accountable for the torture and deaths of many innocents, including children, because “I was just doing my job. I cleverly redefined torture in those memos. Yes, the memos were rescinded by the DOJ for shoddy research, but I was correct: it is legal to torture people if the president wants to. It kept us safe from terrorists! Don’t let them prosecute me. I’m a tenured professor at UC. Professors are exempt from the law!” 

Unfortunately, UC Law School continues to legitimize John Yoo’s complicity in torture by allowing him to teach next semester: “Constitutional Design and the California Constitution” Wednesdays, 6:20 p.m., co-taught with David Carrillo, deputy attorney general with the California Department of Justice, member of La Raza Lawyers Association, active supporter of the Constitutional Rights Foundation, an inescapable irony. The worst aspect of this situation at the law school, in my judgment, is that students are being misinformed. They’re being told that Yoo’s academic freedom is at stake when it’s Yoo’s actionable legal advice to the Bush administration that it’s legal to torture people to get false intelligence to justify the illegal occupation of Iraq that is being questioned. Yoo should be disciplined—if not fired, at least not given a class to teach! This is a slap in the face to our Berkeley community, where the City Council passed a resolution calling for Yoo’s prosecution! 

Swanson, a PDA and UFPJ board member and founder of afterdowningstreet.org and ProsecuteBushCheney.org, looks forward to joining the protest and meeting some of the great community members who continue to shine the spotlight on Professor Yoo’s crimes. “John Yoo of the Office of Legal Counsel famously claimed in 2006 that the president had the right to crush a child’s testicles. Somehow that image doesn’t strike me as a worthy replacement for the Statue of Liberty,” says Swanson in his new book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, Seven Stories Press, 2009. David’s talk is Sunday at 7:30. Join us! 

Cynthia Papermaster 

Blue Dog Democrats and Health Care Reform

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:45:00 AM

Recently, Senate majority leader Harry Reid indicated that health care reform might not be passed this year. Why? Because he may not have the votes in the Senate to pass the legislation and, if such legislation were passed, it might not survive a Republican filibuster. 

Many have criticized Reid’s and House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi’s handling of health care reform. As the argument goes, we have a Democrat-controlled Congress, so forget the Republicans and pass a health care reform bill without them. But that argument does not take into consideration the conservative Blue Dog Democrats in both Houses, who largely control the debate. What’s the difference between a Blue Dog Democrat and a Republican? Not much, I guess. 


Blue Dog Democrats 

Presently, there are 435 Representatives with 257 Democrats and 178 Republicans. Of the 257, 56 are a coalition of conservative Blue Dog Democrats, and without them, the Democrats do not have a majority.  

In the Senate, there are 58 Democrat Senators. Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders are officially listed as Independent but usually caucus with the Democrats, giving them 60 votes. Of these, there are 15 to 20 Blue Dog Democrats. Without them, the Democrats do not have a filibuster-proof majority. And Senator Joe Lieberman recently said he would join a Republican filibuster of any health care legislation that includes a public option, leaving the Democrats one short to defeat a filibuster. That, of course, assumes that all the Blue Dog Democrats vote for a health care reform bill, which is not at all certain. Clearly, the Blue Dogs control the issue in both houses of Congress. 


Cost control 

Important objectives of meaningful health care reform are cost control and to provide health care for the approximately 45 million Americans without health care. The Blue Dog Democrats ostensibly focus on deficit reduction and fiscal responsibilty. These Democrats are especially concerned, as we all are, about the cost of health care reform. Presently, we have a $1.4 trillion deficit and the ten-year deficit is estimated to reach $9.05 trillion. Representative Pelosi claims that the House version of the legislation will cost $900 billion over ten years. The priorities of the House Blue Dogs are to keep the cost under $900 billion and to get a 20-year cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. If and when hearings begin, skeptical Representatives will focus on the legislation’s cost and who’s going to pay for it.  


Public option 

The health insurance industry enjoys obscene profits, while consumers pay more for less coverage. Profits at ten of the country’s largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007. One of the main reasons for such high profits is the growing lack of competition in the private health insurance industry, which has led to near-monopoly conditions in many markets. 

Any comparative analysis of health care systems indicates that the greater the role of private, for-profit health insurance companies in the delivery of health care, the higher the cost. This is why the United States has the most expensive health care system in the world but trails well behind on crucial indicators of public health, such as infant mortality, longevity, and death of women in childbirth. These facts provide compelling evidence for the inclusion of a public option in any health care reform legislation to provide some healthy competition, which in turn will bring down costs and provide the greatest amount of choice possible for consumers. 

Without a public option, more people will have health coverage, but it will do little to rein in the spiraling cost of health care. Giving consumers the choice of an efficient, nonprofit, government-run insurance plan similar to our Medicare or to the single-payer plans enjoyed by Australia’s Medicare, Canada’s Medicare, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, and Taiwan’s National Health Insurance would move us toward real cost control. Unfortunately, the votes simply are not there in either the House or the Senate for a single-payer plan.  

In an Oct. 21 Gallup survey, 50 percent of respondents thought a health care bill should include a public, government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurance companies. Forty-six percent thought it should not. These poll results encouraged the Senate leadership to include a public option with an opt-out provision for states. Under this concept, states would be able to determine whether the public option works for them and would have the ability to opt-out. Up until this point, it was thought that any public option was dead in the water. 

The next step in the legislative process would be to send the new merged language to the Congressional Budget Office for analysis. When the CBO has finished scoring the combined Senate bill, it would be brought to the floor for an open debate and amendment process. That would leave the Senate and the conference committee between the two chambers as the final battlegrounds for the public option. There appears to be no opposition to this public option in the House, including among the Blue Dogs. 

Finally, Representative Dennis Kucinich introduced an amendment calling for a state single-payer option, which would protect the right of states to pursue a single-payer health care system. The House leadership rejected his amendment. Once the health care bill passes the House, and the Senate passes its version, the two bills will go to a conference committee. Kucinich hopes at that point that the amendment will be included in the conference committee report, since that is what would ultimately become law. Unfortunately, this is an unlikely scenario.  

A health care plan with any kind of public option is still far from certain in the Senate, and, even if one passed in the House and Senate, Senator Lieberman may be in a position to kill the legislation by joining a likely Republican filibuster. The Republicans will probably stand united against any Democrat-sponored bill even one without a public option. They do not want to give President Obama and the Democrats any political advantage, especially with mid-term elections just around the corner. 



Ralph E. Stone is a retired Bay Area attorney.

Smart Balloon Practices Are Better Than Bans

By Dan Flynn 
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:44:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council may soon consider a measure that would make balloon releases illegal at any public events that require a permit authorized by the city. This is an unwise action; the City Council’s objectives could be far better addressed through less extreme measures, including consumer education about smart balloon practices.  

The Balloon Council, a nationwide organization representing balloon manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers, is committed to this education.   

The Balloon Council has been informing consumers about smart balloon use for years and is now launching a revamped “Smart Balloon Practices” campaign. Balloon retailers at small card shops, gift stores, grocery stores, florists and other locations will soon be provided with consumer information sheets and other educational materials to make sure that their customers understand the smartest ways to use and enjoy balloons.  

Balloon releases can easily be executed in a responsible way and it is unnecessary to outlaw them, a move that would negatively impact small businesses in the area. It would be unwise, especially in today’s difficult economy, to place a needless burden on these companies.   

Smart balloon practices can make balloon release safe and fun.  

Only latex balloons should be used in mass releases and, as industry guidelines require, those balloons should be self-tied and have no attached strings or ribbons. In this way each released balloon is 100 percent biodegradable.  

Rarely do released balloons return to the earth’s surface intact. Studies show these balloons usually rise to an altitude of about five miles. At that point, freezing and air pressure cause “brittle fracture,” creating spaghetti-like pieces that scatter.  

While some balloons don’t reach this altitude, research indicates that in an average 500-balloon release, the unexploded-balloon-return density is no greater than one per 15 square miles.  

Research shows that, regardless of the latex balloon’s ultimate form, when it lands it will decompose, forming a natural soil nutrient at the same rate as a decomposing oak leaf. And extensive review of government and environmental databases show no direct scientific evidence that any sea animal has been harmed or killed by a latex balloon involved in a release.  

Consumers need to remember that care needs to be taken when using any product, including balloons. That’s why the Balloon Council is enhancing its education efforts with its recent campaign.  

Public education about the best ways to enjoy balloon releases is a far better way for the Berkeley City Council to accomplish its goals than by banning the wholesome enjoyment of balloons. 


Dan Flynn is the chairman of the Balloon Council, a trade group of manufacturers and retailers. 


Bus Rapid Transit: Feel-Good Environmentalism?

By Matt Kondolf
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:45:00 AM

The city of Berkeley has now released its plan for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on Telegraph Avenue, arguing that this system will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed project may make us feel good that we are doing something but in fact is more likely to increase greenhouse gas emissions than reduce them.  

What is Bus Rapid Transit? BRT involves using buses like trains: buses run on their own lanes and cross intersections with “grade separation,” on overpasses, so they don’t have to stop at lights. Unlike normal buses, they don’t have stops every quarter mile but have less frequent stops and nice stations, more like a rail system. BRT has been tremendously successful in Latin American cities like Bogota, Quito, and Curitiba. These successful cases have some key elements in common: 

1. Large populations of poor people who don’t own cars and who need to travel from population centers to industrial/commercial centers. 

2. Buses that have their own lanes and cross over intersections on overpasses. 

If it works in Latin America, shouldn’t it work here? Not necessarily. In the San Francisco Bay region, most of us have cars: we have over 800 cars per 1,000 households, compared to around 100 cars per 1,000 households in Latin American cities. Moreover, the natural market for BRT is already served by BART and AC express buses. The proposed line in Berkeley and Oakland would follow Telegraph Avenue and International Boulevard down to San Leandro, essentially duplicating the BART Fremont line.  

Moreover, the proposals for Berkeley and San Francisco are better described as “BRT-lite.” While the Telegraph Avenue line would have its own lane (impacting vehicular traffic), it would not have grade separation at intersections, so travel times will not be that different from those of the existing buses.  

Looked at objectively, it’s not at all clear that our Bus Rapid Transit would deliver the promised benefits if implemented as proposed. And the costs will be substantial. The Telegraph Avenue BRT project is projected to $250 million, and generally the costs will result in a public subsidy of around $8 per ride. And it will create worse traffic problems on Telegraph Avenue. 

Prior to the November 2008 election, Berkeley residents received a glossy flyer in the mail—the flyer featured a polar bear and intoned “We can’t afford to wait…” The flyer argued that we must implement transit projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and we should oppose a citizen initiative to require voter approval of BRT.  

But to really reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we need to get people out of their single-person cars and into mass transit. It’s not at all clear that the BRT-lite proposed for Berkeley would accomplish this. There would be other benefits for the politicians involved: federal grants, a big construction project, jobs, and the favorable “buzz” that we are progressive because we have BRT. But the costs would be high. Moreover, once you factor in the energy and resources involved in the construction, and the effect of poaching riders from BART, the net greenhouse gas emissions are more likely to increase as a result of BRT as proposed. It may make us feel good, it may benefit politicians, but the BRT proposed for Berkeley is unlikely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  


Matt Kondolf is professor of environmental planning at UC Berkeley, where he is co-director of the environmental sciences program, and teaches Introduction to Environmental Science, among other courses.

Continuing Problems with Design of New Animal Shelter

By Jill Posener
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:46:00 AM

I appreciated the opportunity to vent my frustrations with the process for the new Berkeley Animal Shelter. Responses to your Letters page and e-mails I have received indicate that many people share the sense of being under-informed, misinformed or flat out excluded from a truly open public process.  

• There have been no community meetings, no surveys of user groups including volunteers, no notifications to interest groups to participate and provide input. That reveals that the city doesn’t understand what this facility is—a high-traffic community center. Compare this process to the extensive public meetings about renovation of the branch libraries, and you get a sense of how great a misunderstanding there is of what the animal shelter actually does. 

• The lack of an affordable wellness clinic for our community as part of the design is really a problem. This was a crucial part of the campaign, and with more people struggling financially, the inclusion of this feature is more important than ever. Our recent low-cost vaccine clinic sponsored by the East Bay Humane Society, the Berkeley Animal Welfare Fund and the shelter had people waiting in line for two hours to see a vet, receive vaccines, and get a brief well-pet exam for their pets. For some it was the first time these animals had ever seen a vet. 

Even in my lengthy opinion piece I didn’t have room to tell it all:  

• I was always told that including art in a new public building was a Berkeley city mandate—1.5 percent of overall budget of any new construction—but the art component was left out of the bond language on this project. So we now have an important public building being built in Berkeley without any funds for public art. 

• The Humane Commission was told Berkeley had a flood easement across a neighboring property, which might have been used to provide rear access to the new building, but then we were told that the easement had been a “good idea” but never actually obtained. 

• The design shows that there is just one single door for the main entrance—not a double door, not a sliding door. People with dogs are coming in and out of this entrance, because the walkway at the back of the building is so narrow that in order to avoid dog conflicts it can be used only to take dogs out for walks, not back in after their walks. 

• We have seen no drawings of what the indoor spaces look like, except for the bare technical drawings. Not a single one shows what the building looks and “feels” like from the inside. 

• The misleading report to the Zoning Adjustments Board stated baldly that there were usually no more than three or four people on site, including staff and volunteers. The shelter rarely has fewer than 10 people on site and often more than 20 or 30 at any given time. 

• The only access to the facility is at the northern tip of Aquatic Park. The city is in denial as to the impact of traffic, delivery vehicles, animal control vehicle access, rendering truck—that’s the truck that picks up the dead bodies—on that opening which is where pedestrians, bicycles, joggers, etc., access the pedestrian bridge over the freeway. The gate to the sally port is not tall enough for delivery trucks, and there is no room to turn vehicles around in that area, necessitating them reversing out in front of the entrance to the shelter. 

• There is an EBMUD easement across the front of the property that covers a 66-inch sanitary interceptor built in 1958. What happens if that easement needs to be accessed and there is NO rear access to the animal shelter? 

City staff have chosen to rush this process forward and, while doing so, taken potshots at the messengers raising the alarm. The lack of public process on this major public facility has been disappointing at best. And so I ask the city again—stop, think and choose another way, including sitting down with the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society to discuss the overwhelming benefits to both agencies to creating a joint facility, sharing hospital, sheltering, training and adoption facilities.   


Jill Posener is a member of the Berkeley Humane Commission.                 

Controversy at the Bear’s Lair Food Court

By Nad Permaul
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:47:00 AM

The Auxiliary Store Operations Board of the Associated Students of the University of California voted to offer terms to the Bear’s Lair food court vendors that the students on the board negotiated last spring. Those terms were offered to each vendor in June 2009 by the Auxiliary in the presence of two board members, Chief Victoria Harrison and former student Co-Chair David Rhoads. Two of the vendors accepted the terms, one did not. They were asked by the board at the time the terms were offered if they had any concerns. The principal concerns expressed to the board by the two vendors who accepted the terms were the length of the lease, the terms for any extension options and the number of months of partial payment when school is not in session. The board adjusted the lease language to extend the length of the lease and to alter the terms of the option and months or partial payment. In October, after the language was completed by the campus, one of the vendors, The Coffee Spot, signed. We are working with the Coffee Spot on the physical improvements. The owner has expressed nothing but satisfaction with the new lease and our relationship. 

The other vendor 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 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.  

The Tully’s contract was negotiated and approved by the board in advance of the terms offered to the food court vendors. All leases are discrete and distinct, based on a variety of factors, costs of improvements, risk, location, and other conditions. The 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. The board voted to approve the terms unanimously on Sept. 23, 2008.  

Each of the Bear’s Lair vendors spoke to the board months later, in May 2009, insisting that they would be happy to make significant physical improvements and pay larger rents to remain in their locations. Based on those promises, the board overturned its December 2008 decision to go out to bid on all the spaces and agreed to negotiate new terms for an extension of the vendors’ leases. A subcommittee of the board, made up entirely of students, discussed the terms and presented them to the board. The board adopted the new terms, and the offers were made in June 2009 well after the Tully’s lease had been negotiated and approved. One of the vendors has lived up to his commitment to sign the lease and to his statements to the board last spring. The Bear’s Lair vendors proposing the strike have ovens and hoods that allow them to cook on site and create costs for them that vendors such as the Coffee Spot and Tully’s do not pay at their current locations. These critical amenities (they are the only vendor spaces where cooking can take place on site) also make their sites much more attractive in the marketplace. 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 its proposed site. 

If you have questions about the decisions made by the board, you should speak to the board chair, Nish Rajan. 


Nad Permaul is director of the ASUC Auxiliary.

New Police Chief’s Stance on Marijuana

By Maris Arnold
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:47:00 AM

In the article on the approval by the City Council of former Seattle top cop Michael Meehan as Berkeley’s new police chief (Daily Planet, Nov. 12–18), Mr. Meehan is quoted as saying with reference to Seattle’s voter-approved policy of making marajuana arrests the lowest police priority, “I don’t want to send a message to kids that drug use is ok.” That wasn’t just a personal opinion. That was a professional judgment. Moreover, a majority of Seattle voters thought differently and passed the ordinance but Meehan was against them and it.  

  We have a similar policy in Berkeley. If Meehan still thinks the same way, then from the onset of his Berkeley tenure, he is out of step with the majority of voters here. Councilperson Worthington is quoted as saying of Meehan: “It will take some time for him to fit into Berkeley, but hopefully, he will acclimatize.” That “hopefully” is pitiful. 

  Does Meehan’s annual salary of $205,400 plus a $500,000 housing loan from our generous city, begin before or after he fits in and acclimatizes or is that what on-the-job training gets these days? 

  The article also states that Meehan tried to make changes to Seattle’s ordinance by indicating rising drug-crime rates “although the data showed the opposite.” So then, he’s not a reliable source.  

  Even more troubling is that while Seattle’s lowest priority law did result in a decrease in marijuana arrests and prosecution, there was “a racial disparity in the number of arrests.” Meaning, institutionalized racism strikes again! This is what our Council has brought us. 

  More telling is Dominic Holden, Seattle writer and editor of an alternative newsweekly’s assessment of Meehan: “a police chief cut from the mold of the Bush-era drug policy.” Holden is quoted saying that he’s surprised that Berkeley choose Meehan. I myself am disappointed but not surprised, given the mayor and the majority on the city council that we have. 

  Additionally, any intelligent person who calls marijuana a drug, and especially a police chief to be of our city, is revealing his own ignorance. He should know it’s a mild euphoric that even the APA states is non-addictive. It’s the prohibition of marijuana that’s dangerous. Legalize it and that’s the end of the crime surrounding it. 

  Mr. Meehan may turn out to be no better and perhaps worse than our last chief, but until we know how he implements Berkeley law, he will have to be carefully monitored. 


Maris Arnold is a Berkeley resident.

Turning to the White House for Help With a Berkeley Permit Problem

By Hoda A. Cox 
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:48:00 AM

Today, at the end of my rope, I wrote President Obama the attached letter.  

Failing to get any response from the Berkeley City Attorney, the City Manager, two senators and the Governor—yes, I emailed them this story—I had to turn to the White House! 

A sad state of affairs if that is your last resort! It says a lot about whether cities and government officials are taking to heart the President’s call to expedite, aid, and abridge red tape to help people who have lost their jobs get back on their feet. 

I am now also turning to the media. I need someone to help me, to shine a light on the ways our officials delay, deter and discourage new businesses. 

Dear President Obama, 

It is with great sadness that I find I have to resort to writing your office about my situation. After 15 years of service with AT&T I was suddenly laid off in June. I received a severance package that would pay my expenses for eight to nine months if spent with care. I have a 14 year old in junior high school and a daughter at UC Berkeley. 

In April my daughter pleaded with me to look at a recently vacated space across from the university. I have catered parties and events on the side for many years, and love cooking. Knowing I couldn’t leave my job, I explored the space just for fun, thinking how perfect it would be for a small to-go café … a lifelong dream. 

The landlord wanted too much, so I backed off. Two weeks later he called. He said that since he loved my menu and concept he’d accept my offer. I thought my sister-in-law could run the place. So in mid-June we signed the lease—just a few days before I got the call about losing my job! Providence, I think. 

I am a single mom, so I had to expedite what I needed to do to get the café going. I taught myself how to draw plans—couldn’t afford an architect—tried to show electrical upgrades needed, researched equipment I needed and bought much of it used. I learned what the plumbing upgrades and floor needed, etc. With only $45,000 ($30,000 from investors) to spend, it was a challenge to find people who might work for less pay per hour. 

Since then I have been going through the very lengthy, un-user friendly, complex process of getting my permits so I can begin upgrading the space. Naively, I was hoping to open when the kids returned from summer break—beginning of September, but that was not to be. 

I spent over 100 hours drawing floor plans, electrical plans and plumbing plans in Excel, and talking with anyone who was willing from the city planning department to ensure I am addressing code requirements. The Health Inspector was wonderful and visited the empty space twice to help in light of my financial situation. Finally, the first week of October I received approvals to move ahead from the fire, health, public works departmenst and the landmarks committee. 

On the last day he had to respond, Mr. Jeff Thomas, the Sr. Building and Safety Engineer talked to me on the phone to clarify why my plans weren’t up to par. He sent me a long list of changes, including page numbering and a couple of questions that did not pertain to my to-go café. I dissolved into tears from the stress of thinking that now I had to redo the plans and wait two more weeks for a response. 

I submitted the changes. He had 10 days to respond, and he took the whole 10 days. 

He wasn’t pleased that I hadn’t hired an architect to do the drawings. Given my budget how can I afford a $150 an hour architect, I asked? He responded that since I’m allegedly losing $400 a day by not being open, maybe it was a mistake not to have hired one! How does my loss of income increase my current budget? I was very upset by his remark. And yet, others in the department complimented me on such well rawn documents! 

I was very anxious that I would now lose another two weeks. Again Mr. Thomas called the last day, and said certain things were missing—some of which were actually in the plans. It was clear to me that he had barely scanned them before calling me. 

Very jarred, I scrambled for three days to gather answers to his requests, consulting an architect who works for my boyfriend’s boss, a contractor friend of his and a friend who runs a pizza chain. I requested a face-to-face meeting on Nov.3 to make sure I had everything Mr. Thomas wanted. He asked for drawings to demonstrate how I would spend 20 percent of my budget on ADA improvements. Dazed that I had to find another $5000 to spend, I almost said “forget it.” I found ADA entrance and bathroom requirements and drew them. Mr. Thomas said to make an appointment with him in a couple of days, and he’d try to turn the docs around in three days. 

I called to make an appointment on Nov. 5, but he said he didn’t have time to meet with me! So just drop them off per the usual process. I couldn’t just drop them off, I had to make an appointment for the next day, Friday, Nov. 6. I was crestfallen. On Tues., Nov. 10, Mr. Thomas said he’d retrieved my plans and would ‘try’ to look at them in the next couple of days. I left voicemails two days in a row. On Thurs. Nov. 19, he called and said to stand by my phone all day in case he had questions, and that he’d try to approve that afternoon or Friday at the latest. I believed him. I modified my plans to stay in an area with good cell phone reception. He said he’d call me back that evening either way. He did not call. On Friday, no word, no email. 

Today, Monday, Nov. 16, he wrote that he was going to look at them. I didn’t expect him to follow up, because it is very clear to me, my family, friends and partners tracking this insane, business-unfriendly process that Mr. Thomas intends to drag out the full two weeks he has a second time. He is not interested in helping me at all. 

So here I am…it is Nov. 16 and I am still not able to even begin the work needed to open the café! I hired our employees in August/September when I thought all this could be done in 60 to 90 days. I have lost two of them. I have had a plumber, electrician and flooring person standing by for weeks! 

I am now paying rent, and my personal money is dwindling. I have lost another five days. It will take two weeks to do the work, then I have to pass inspections, another week. Then we install and test the equipment—four to five days. Even if Mr. Thomas were to get back to me tomorrow, the earliest I can open my doors will be Dec. 14! Students leave for Christmas one week later, and don’t return until Jan. 10! I am sunk!  

I believe that you, Sir, have asked banks, officials and cities to help people get back on their feet, to expedite small business owners to open their shops, and skip “red tape” when possible. I don’t know that people feel the urgency of your call. It is infinitely clear that city officials happily hide behind inflexible “rules” so they don’t have to evoke their humanity and compassion. 

For example, Mr. Thomas didn’t want to do a simple calculation to determine the space’s Occupancy Load—I had no idea what that was—but he was willing to tell me where to go find the formula! It took me an hour to do what he could have done in two minutes! He had all the information needed. 

Is this America heading for Change? Is this America trying help people help themselves? I am devastated and am considering giving up on my dream. The stress is making me ill.  

I am at my wits end. I have lost $400 a day since Nov. 1st thanks to Mr. Thomas alone. I will make $0 this year. 

Who in the world do I have to turn to? Neither the Governor, nor the city manager responded to my plea for help. There is no one looking out for us. 

Politics and Theatre: A Too Comfortable Controversy

By Marc Sapir
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:49:00 AM

At the beginning of Caryl Churchill’s one act, Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza, one can not determine the ethnicity or nationality of the voices that are conflicted about what to tell a young girl about the terrible tensions and conflicts in her life, the history of her people and the lives of those around her. Brought by Anne Hallinan and Patricia Silver’s Agora Theater to the Ashby Stage in a polished reading directed by Hal Gelb this play was contrasted with another—What Strong Fences Make, by Israel Horovitz—solicited by Theatre J in Washington, D.C., in response to Churchill.  

  After the readings, the audience was asked to engage with the plays as theater and to try to keep the political heat down. The discussion was not charged. Most of the questions and discussion pertained to Churchill’s play, which was written without characters—except the girl who is not allowed to be present. In an unusual playwright’s twist, Churchill left the director the task of dividing the script—a series of intensely emotional assertions contrasting what this little Jewish Israeli girl should and should not be told about her relatives in the Holocaust, about the Palestinians, bombings, destruction of olive orchards, the wall, about all the fears that abound in the lives of the adults—among any number of characters, men or women. The dialogue is at times heated as the characters discuss what is the right approach and the wrong approach to the young girl’s edification.   

  As Gelb pointed out in discussion, the play circles around the idea of fear as a manipulative social and political force that allows people to justify retributive brutality and to consider using even fearful intimidation of one’s own children as a means of justification of one’s own adherence to brutal behaviors. The play effectively evokes some of the polarity in the Jewish psyche and the Jewish community over Israel’s conundrum, but from the very first audience question there were those who wondered aloud whether one could produce a play purportedly about the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians without a single Palestinian voice uttering one word.  

  Indeed, the absence of the Palestinian voice does leave a telling void. This became clear when one audience member asserted that the dialectic in the dialogue held a certain universality that could easily be viewed as Palestinian or another people. In fact, a young Palestinian American actress in the audience herself thought that in the stark contradictions and angst within the Jewish Israeli passion that the Palestinian reality was represented. Having spent time on the West Bank last year, I cannot but differ strongly from this view. As usual in the U.S.-Israel paradigm about the holy land the backgrounded Palestinians are there but as props to discuss the “Jewish” dilemma, as if universal morality is solely a Jewish question.  

  I would venture that when any liberal—or progressive if you prefer the word—Jewish-American Zionist sees this play she/he will recognize aspects of Israeli thought and behavior that they abhor along with those they identify with. And while this may be a worthwhile dialectic to explore in the Jewish community, it does not even begin to touch on the perspective of a people whose existence and rights are less clearly recognized and barely given lip service in the United States than any other people on earth.  

  In showing how historical fears and anguish contribute to Israeli violence, the play is effective, if somewhat didactic. But one problem that does not surface is the actuality that Israel is today a largely American, and Jewish-American project and would have to transform into a more peaceful secular democracy without that support—from the U.S. I am reminded of how connected Jewish America has been to the development and shaping of the Jewish State every time I look at my 1961 Brandeis yearbook—I was class of ’63—which shows Israel’s first president, David Ben Gurion, as the honored guest at commencement the previous year. And then I recall that two of our professors in that time, John Roche and I. Milton Sachs, were key “liberal” Democratic Party advisors who helped create and defend the justification of the Vietnam war for Democratic Presidents—Roche at the time had a regular column in the NY Post—while they were also helping assure Israel’s power within the U.S. political landscape.  

  Of course there are many Jewish Americans who do not support the idea of Israel as a “Jewish” State, but many Jews do, even if/when they are uncomfortable with the way that Israel treats a people it has subjugated. And among the Zionists are some of the most powerful Americans including more than a few who hold duel Israeli-American citizenship—such as Rahm Emanuel.  

  The audience at the Churchill play reading, like most readers of this paper, was an audience that is generally aware of these contradictions. And yet the play allows an audience to simultaneously be repelled by the most eggregious and anti-social behaviors of the Jewish state but also to still accept the premise upon which the oppression is based—an untenable inequality, an untenable contradiction. 

  By leaving out the Palestinian perspective Churchill avoids the central question that would have been unsettling to any audience. This is known as Israel’s “existential” question and discussing it fully is as taboo as Salmon Rushdie’s criticism of fundamentalism was to the Ayatollah. Israel exists on land stollen from an indigenous people whose diaspora is not going to go away. And in the modern world the most rational and viable settlement of that contradiction involves a transition to an egalitarian state with full equality of citizenship rights for all peoples living there. Of course this is true anywhere in the world under any government.  

  As implied by the US Supreme Court in Brown vs Bd of Education in 1955, equality can never be guaranteed if there are different classes of citizenship—or non-citizenship—rights. This pertains to any religious—or ethnicity—based state be that state Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, or Christian. And no matter the pretense of fairness. And in this respect Israel—as a Jewish state— will always share more with the Ayatollahs, Christian fundamentalists and the anti-abortion Catholic Church than it does with the moral precepts of Judaism or democracy. Likewise, its brutalization of the Palestinian people will continue unabated until we force the United States—and other nations—to sever the military and economic ties that bind us to that tyranny.

Homecare Services in Today’s Life

By Nicholas Feldman
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:50:00 AM

When the recession hit, my business was put through unbelievable turmoil here in California. Everyone who had ever worked for me started to file for unemployment, and many laborious hours were put into filling out claims to EDD and other authorities. People started to apply for low-income everything, from transportation, to welfare, to housing. 

My insurance rates skyrocketed. My clients went from 28 to eight and our contracts in California all got reduced by three percent. My profit margin went down by about ten percent, but the most tragic part is that besides not getting new clients, the work ethic of everyone except for my very dedicated office staff, crumbled right before my eyes. People stopped showing up for work, people got sick and couldn’t show any medical documentation—probably because they didn’t have any medical insurance—then there are the people who apply to work for you, they promise you the moon, you hire them, and they give a big nothing. 

After hearing the news of Friday that the unemployment rate for the country was 10.2 percent, this did not surprise me. Because I run a home health care agency, I found it very coincidental that they were interviewing a woman at an unemployment center who happened to be a home health care worker, and that they said this was a “growing field.” But of course with CNN there are always questions as to the legitimacy of what they cover, and how they cover it. If this woman at the unemployment office, was only working four days a week as a home care worker, then why didn’t she take on my shifts, and why was she at the unemployment office when she already had a job. If she was such a good home care worker, then why didn’t she pick up more hours with her agency, or go and find someone in need of homecare. 

It can be said that I am just a disconnected person who owns a company, but I choose to disagree. Not only am I the owner and director of a business, but I have dealt with home care workers every single day of my life due to my cerebral palsy. I work in my business over 80 hours a week. I have to pay rent, bills, buy into my long-term care and my health insurance, which I get through the state. Sometimes I feel like workers in the state of California have simply given up hope. They don’t want to work, or if they dp want to work, they want to work just on their own terms and at their own schedule, and only if they need to work. Maybe they believe the Governor will just pick up their tab. But the catch-22 is that when they get their paychecks, they are stunned to see how much is taken out. 

The trickledown effect of the almighty dollar can only be overpowered by one thing, the power of the people, because ultimately that is who it affects. In my business, when people don’t show up for work, people really do suffer. People who are children, the elderly, and people with mental disabilities have to go without care. It would be nice to see the work ethic come back, to find people who do their job not just for the low wage, but because they truly care about the person. I never hear my staff ask when they call out of a job “What’s going to happen to Oliver, will he have to go without, will there be someone who can replace me?” 

Besides the issue of the work ethic coming back in California, the other more critical issue is non-medical emergency response homecare services. This means that when someone has a non-medical emergency or their care providers cannot show up, that there is an on-demand service that people can call in their area that will respond, and take care of their needs. Let’s see California put some money into that.  


Nicholas Feldman resides in Berkeley with his fiancé and runs a homecare business called Dare to Dream Attendant Services. 




Undercurrents: Don’t Sell When You’re Desperate for Cash

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:39:00 AM

There are two truisms in this world about budgeting and finance. The first is, never shop in a supermarket when you’re hungry. The second is, never sell property when you’re desperate for cash. In the first instance, you’ll almost always buy more than you need. In the second, you’ll almost always settle for less than it’s worth. 

The City of Oakland’s Budget Office and Finance and Management Agency, unfortunately, has proposed to do the second, and in so doing threatens to betray the city’s voters, sell off a major portion of the city’s heritage and potential future earning capacity, and continue in the worst tradition of the Jerry Brown administration. 

With the City of Oakland projecting an $18.87 million budget deficit for the remaining seven and a half months of the current fiscal year—after the administration and City Council having to close an $83 million gap this summer just to keep the city solvent—the Budget Office is now proposing that the city raise $11.6 million of that deficit by selling two city-owned properties: the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center and the George P. Scotlan Convention Center. 

Oakland City Administrator Dan Lindheim passed the proposals on to the Oakland City Council with no recommendation, telling Oakland City Councilmembers at a special Tuesday afternoon meeting on the budget crisis that the proposals in the Budget Office’s report “are ideas and proposals [that are] not meant as a full catalogue of what can be done, should be done, or might be done” but were intended by his office to generate discussion. 

So let’s discuss it. 

In their report and recommendation to Mr. Lindheim that was passed on to the council, Oakland Budget Director Cheryl Taylor and Finance Director Joseph Yew—who cosigned the report—said precious little about the rationale for the proposed property sale, writing only that “Staff is currently reviewing the City’s portfolio of assets that could be sold in the current fiscal year. Such assets might include the George P. Scotlan Convention Center and the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center and are anticipated to generate significant one-time revenue of $11.6 million. The sale of assets in the current real estate market will be challenging; there are few buyers who have available resources (either capital or credit) to minimally pay the insured value of the City’s properties.” 

Even if the double convention center sale were a good idea for the City of Oakland, one wonders where the $11.6 million figure came from? 

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilmember Desley Brooks said the two properties, together, were valued at $149 million. That figure, it turns out, comes from a 1992 action in which Oakland took out municipal bonds on the two properties through the California Statewide Communities Development Authority, assessing the value of the Kaiser and Scotlan centers at that time at $149,825,000 (April 24, 2001 memo from the Oakland Financial Services Agency to Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb. Even in a declining real estate market, it’s hard to imagine the value of the property plummeting $138.2 million in 17 years. 

If this were to go through, somebody would be set to make a sweet profit on the deal, and it wouldn’t be the residents and taxpayers of Oakland. 

The Scotlan Convention Center is the downtown facility currently used for Oakland’s conventions and major gatherings, and is located in the same structure as the Oakland City Center Marriott. CMI Group purchased the Marriott in 2007—the latest in a string of owners who have tried to make that location—and manages the Scotlan Convention Center on behalf of the city. Presumably, the proposed sale of the Scotlan Center would be to CMI, presuming they could find the capital to do so. But if that were done, Oakland would still need a convention center—every “world class city” does—and so, presumably, we would turn around and rent the Scotlan space back from CMI whenever we needed it. That would be the equivalent of selling one’s house to solve an immediate debt problem, and then renting the house from the person you sold it to. The long-term debt problem is not solved, and you have incurred a new monthly obligation on top of the previous monthly obligations you have been struggling to meet. In addition, the city would lose whatever revenue we are currently getting from renting out the Scotlan Center for trade shows and other non-city events. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, that amounts to $14 million in annual revenue for the city. 

I’m no city or budget economist, but how this particular proposal makes fiscal sense is beyond me. 

Now to the Kaiser Convention Center, the grand old white-façade building that sits across the 12th Street-14th Street roadway from the western edge of Lake Merritt. This was Oakland’s convention center beginning in 1915, operating under the name Oakland Auditorium, until the Scotlan facility replaced it in 1983. For the next 20 years, the Kaiser Center served as an entertainment, sports, and community events venue. It was closed in 2006 by the Jerry Brown administration, with the approval of the City Council, supposedly because its $400,000 per year operating expense could not be supported while the city was facing a two year, $32 million budget deficit.  

There were some attempts made to reopen the Kaiser Center with a new operating mandate, as a world trade center, as part of an entertainment complex that would include housing the Peralta Community College District’s Performing Arts Department, and as part of the abortive plan by the east coast developers to purchase the Oakland Unified School District’s Paul Robeson Administration Building. But those deals fell through, and the Kaiser Center has sat forlorn, lonely, unoccupied, and unused across from Lake Merritt for the last three and a half years. 

In May of 2005, I wrote an article giving several reasons why closing the Kaiser Convention Center was a mistake, including the following: “Closing the Kaiser Convention Center on the first of January also appears a little shortsighted, considering what’s about to happen along the Lake Merritt Channel between Lake Merritt proper and the estuary. As all observers of recent Oakland history know, the channel is due to be opened up with money approved by Oakland voters three years ago in the water bond Measure DD. In that same measure, Oaklanders voted to do away with that highway-like 12th Street-14th Street bypass between the lake and the convention center. Nobody at the present knows what the new configuration will look like, except that when it is finished, the Kaiser Convention Center will be accessible by pedestrian traffic from both Lake Merritt and lower 14th Street. Presumably Mr. Brown does not just want to close the center down, but he wants to sell it—either as a building intact, or for its land—to some willing developer, waiting in the wings. But waiting to sell the Kaiser after the Lake Merritt Channel renovations are actually done would make it a far more valuable property. Someone whose interests were in making more money for Oakland would wait. Of course, someone who wants to get a better deal for a developer would rush the sale through early. I’m not making any accusations about Mr. Brown, or anyone else. I’m just passing out observations.” 

With the Measure DD work in the western Lake Merritt area just beginning, that is as true today as it was in late 2005. 

At Tuesday’s special council meeting, two Oakland City Councilmembers threw cold water on the entire building sale idea. Brooks, who released the $149 million figure as the value of the two buildings, added that overall, the budget balancing proposals suggested by the Budget Office “aren’t viable for the solvency of the city.” And Council Finance Committee Chair Jean Quan said that “because of legal difficulties, the sale of the assets is probably not realistic.” 

But some Councilmembers bit on portions of the building sale idea. 

Councilmembers Nancy Nadel and Pat Kernighan opposed the sale of the Kaiser building, but said they would not be opposed to the sale of the Scotlan Center. And Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Ignacio De La Fuente suggested that the sale of the Kaiser Center might be feasible if it went to a buyer who, according to Kaplan, promised to preserve the current public cultural use of the building. 

No immediate action was taken on the budget proposals, but Ms. Quan suggested that a vote might be taken by the council in December or January. 

If any portion of the proposed convention center building sales goes through, it would be the second time in less than a decade that Oakland sold away what citizens had thought to be core civic property. In 2001 and ‘02, the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners under former Mayor Jerry Brown sold off the heart of publicly-owned Jack London Square to private developers, including the properties holding the Barnes & Noble Bookstore and what was then the popular Spaghetti Factory restaurant. Mr. Brown was interested in getting on the good side of developer interests in order to help finance his successful drive for the position of California attorney general, and potentially to return to the office of California governor. 

But one wonders whose interests the proposed sale of the Kaiser Convention Center and the Scotlan Oakland Convention Center serve? As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger once said in an entirely different context, this proposed building sale is a bad idea. 

The Public Eye: Get Tough, Obama

By Bob Burnett
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:42:00 AM

A year after Barack Obama won the presidential election, it’s apparent the change he promised isn’t going to come easy. The Nov. 3 election results indicate a rising level of discontent with Obama and Democrats, in general. Confronted by massive problems, Washington is moving at a glacial pace. What should be done to quicken the tempo, to make change happen more rapidly? 

It’s tempting to say that America is burning while Congress dithers; to suggest that while the United States is beset by enormous challenges—the economy, healthcare, global climate change, the war in Afghanistan, to mention only a few—many senators and representatives don’t seem to get it. The arduous path of healthcare reform indicates how difficult it is to move significant legislation through Congress. And, unfortunately, the Senate seems to be able to only tackle one big bill at a time, so there is a rapidly growing queue of necessary legislation: things that should be done, but have an uncertain outcome. 

While it’s convenient to blame everything on Congress, particularly those senators—mostly Republicans—who object to change and drag their feet on all significant legislation, the problem goes deeper. There are four parts of the problem: the president, Congress, Washington culture, and the American people. But the buck has to stop somewhere and that’s on Obama’s desk. 

While the president’s approval ratings have stayed relatively constant over the past few months—53 percent of Americans think he’s doing a good job and 41 percent disagree—there’s been a rising level of concern about his decision-making style. The latest Gallup Poll indicated that 72 percent of respondents felt that Obama “is willing to make hard decisions” and 66 percent regarded him as “a strong and decisive leader.” Nonetheless, there was a marked difference depending upon affiliation: 90 percent of Democrats regarded him as “a strong and decisive leader,” while only 42 percent of Republicans shared this perception. And Obama’s level of support has dropped among Independents. 

Meanwhile, in the blogosphere, there is increasing discontent with both Obama’s style and his priorities. Recently, Paul Krugman observed, “President Obama came into office with a strong mandate and proclaimed the need to take bold action on the economy. His actual actions, however, were cautious rather than bold. They were enough to pull the economy back from the brink, but not enough to bring unemployment down.” A fellow New York Times columnist, Bob Herbert wrote: “More and more Americans are questioning [Obama’s] priorities, including millions who went to the mat for him in last year’s election. The biggest issue by far for most Americans is employment.” 

Both Krugman and Herbert imply Obama should deemphasize healthcare—let it take however long it takes to wend its way through Congress—and focus exclusively on the economy. That seems impractical; if Obama doesn’t push healthcare legislation it is likely to flounder and that would spell catastrophe for Democratic hopes in the mid-term elections and Obama’s presidency, in general. On the other hand, the current situation finds Obama with three number one priorities: employment, healthcare, and Afghanistan. That’s not a good situation. 

By year end, the president needs to make a decision about Afghanistan, get Congress to pass healthcare reform, and then focus on the economy. 

Those who know Obama say his natural inclination is to build consensus, but when his back is against the wall he can stiffen his spine and adopt a more directive style. That happened during his 2008 Presidential campaign and that’s what’s called for now. 

An important aspect of Obama’s mandate was changing Washington’s “business as usual” ethos. He’s tried to work with Republicans and, in general, to work within the Washington culture. Obviously, that hasn’t worked. Republicans haven’t made any effort to meet Obama halfway and Washington insiders are stuck in the dysfunctional pattern adopted during the Reagan era. Meanwhile, America’s problems have grown more severe and Americans more depressed. 

Americans have short memories. When voters go to the polls on Nov. 2, 2010, they will look at the economy and ask themselves: Am I better off since Barack Obama became president? If their answer is no, they are going to punish Democrats. Obama has 12 months to get it together. 

Change starts at the top. The tone in Washington has to change. The sense of urgency has to change. The president’s style has to change. 

Democrats have the votes to pass a job-creation bill, healthcare reform, changes to the US financial system, and other essential legislation. They must do this even if it means abandoning the Senate’s precious cloture policy. The United States is in crisis mode. The president must adopt a more forceful manner. Now is the time for Obama to get tough. 


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

Wild Neighbors: Second Chances in Sinaloa

By Joe Eaton
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:56:00 AM
Hooded orioles may nest in the United States, then raise a second brood in Mexico.
Wikipedia Commons
Hooded orioles may nest in the United States, then raise a second brood in Mexico.

The birds continue to surprise us. We think we know their routines, their travel schedules, and then someone comes up with evidence that at least five North American species—yellow-billed cuckoo, Cassin’s vireo, yellow-breasted chat, and hooded and orchard orioles—have been leading double lives. These birds, according to newly published research by Sievert Rohwer at the University of Washington, rear one brood in the United States, then fly to western Mexico and produce a second brood. Some, at least, continue on to South American wintering grounds. This is a bit like learning that your Uncle Henry, the Amtrak conductor, has a second family at the end of his route in Sacramento. 

Such behavior, which has been called “itinerant breeding,” had been thought to be rare in birds. It has only been documented in a few species, like the European quail, the dotterel, and the notorious red-billed quelea of Africa. Phainopeplas may be itinerant breeders, but the jury still seems to be out on that one. It’s known that these odd crested mistletoe-eating birds breed in late winter in the Sonora and Colorado deserts, then in spring in the California foothills. Whether the desert phainopeplas fly north to nest again has not been determined. 

More typical neotropical migrant birds breed just once (or twice, if the season is unusually favorable), then head south. Until Rohwer’s field studies in Baja California Sur and Sinaloa, no one suspected that some of them were stopping for a second nesting bout along the way. 

There’s no question that the birds Rohwer and his colleagues observed in Mexico over three consecutive summers were nesting. “We found many active nests for orchard orioles and hooded orioles, and males of all five species were singing and defending territories or guarding females,” they write in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Other males that were collected had enlarged gonads, indicative of breeding condition. The females had dry and featherless brood patches, suggesting that they had already nested earlier in the year. 

How did they know the birds weren’t Mexican residents? One species, the Cassin’s vireo, had not previously been known to nest on the Sinaloan coast. Besides that, there’s persuasive biochemical evidence. Stable isotopes—how did we ever manage without them?  

Biologists have learned that birds accumulate variant forms of hydrogen (the isotope deuterium), carbon, and nitrogen in their feathers and flesh. The ratio of deuterium to plain old hydrogen varies by latitude and can indicate how far north the bird was when its tissues grew. By that criterion, many of the migrants caught in the act in Sinaloa had come from farther north. One subtle refinement: the muscle tissue that had powered their migratory flight had northern deuterium signatures, but their reproductive tissues had been built in Mexico.  

The northern and southern nesting habitats of these double-breeding birds can be radically different. In California, what’s left of the yellow-billed cuckoo population nests in lush riparian growth. In Sinaloa, cuckoos nest in coastal thorn forest. Raising a second brood in Mexico during the monsoon season at a time when dry summer conditions are limiting potential insect prey in the north may be a form of bet-hedging. That has major conservation implications for both the cuckoo and the yellow-breasted chat, since the Mexican thorn forest is being converted to industrial farmland: both northern and southern breeding environments need to be protected or restored. 

There’s plenty of room for follow-up studies here. Do double-breeding migrants behave differently in Mexico? Phainopeplas—assuming we’re talking about the same phainopeplas—are fiercely territorial when they nest in the desert, but sociable, even semi-colonial in the California hills. It may be a matter of how food resources, berries in this instance, are distributed. The orioles, chats, vireos and cuckoos may go through comparable behavioral changes.  

We don’t know whether pairs of these birds migrate and rear a new brood together, or whether they find new partners for the southern season. We don’t know whether or how nest spacing, clutch size, or hatchling survival differs between the two nesting habitats. We don’t know what predators and nest parasites the birds encounter in Mexico. We don’t know when or where double-breeding birds undergo their annual molt. 

And the mysteries of migration are only compounded by the discovery. “How do the offspring of cuckoos and orioles hatched in eastern North America orient southwest in their migration, whereas offspring hatched from the same parents in west Mexico orient southeast in their migration toward a presumably common winter range?” ask Rohwer and his co-authors. How indeed? Remember that first-year neotropical migrants travel on their own, without parental guidance. Their itinerary must be innate. But how can the same parental genes produce one set of offspring programmed to travel in one direction and a second set programmed for the opposite direction? And how do the Mexican hatchlings get back to their parents’ northern starting point? 



Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday November 19, 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 


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. 13, 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 

Contra Costa Civic Theatre “Lucky Stiff” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through Dec. 6, at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito. Tickets are $18, $11 for 16 and under. 524-9132. www.cct.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.  

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.  

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

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. 



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. 


“The Spontaneous Smiley Project” Photographs of the Smiley Face in everyday objects. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Photolab Gallery 2235 Fifth St. 

Rita Sklar “Spiritual Paintings” Opening reception at 1:30 p.m. at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., at Fairview, Piedmont. 

“Trois Femmes de Metal” works by Gabrielle Curry, Elizabeth Dante and Angie Garberina at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. 848-1228.  


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. 


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.  

Trio CGY works by Beethoven, Brahams, Faure, Ravel at 3 p..m. at First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., corner W. Richmond Ave., Point Richmond. 236-0527. 

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.  

Po’ Girl at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

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.  



“Whipped Creamy White, Bing Cherry Red” Group at show at Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts Annex Lobby, 1428 Alice Street, No. 100, off 14th St., Oakland. through Jan. 21. 238-7221. 


Subterranean Shakespeare “A Winters Tale” staged reading at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, 1924 Cedar Tickets are $8. 276-3871. 

Poetry Express with Mark States at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 



The Bluesbox Bayou Band at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun/Zyeco dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 



Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082.  


David Berkeley at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761.  

Ray Cepeda Latin Jazz at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Kickin’ The Mule at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Montuno Swing at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$7. 548-1159.  

Trio of Doom at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  


Happy Thanksgiving 



Aurora Theatre “Fat Pig” through Dec. 13, 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 

“Heretic’s Potentially Offensive Comedy (2) Hour(s)” Featuring the work of Benjamin Garcia, Erin Phillips and writer/director Clay Rosenthal, at 8 p.m. at The Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck Ave. Tickets at the door are $15. 

Contra Costa Civic Theatre “Lucky Stiff” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through Dec. 6, at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito. Tickets are $18, $11 for 16 and under. 524-9132. www.cct.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 


“Bundles, Webs, Remains” work by Carol Lee Shanks. Artist reception at 6 p.m. at Garage Gallery, 3110 Wheeler. Exhibition continues Sat. and Sun. from 1 to 5 p.m. to Dec. 13. www.berkeleyoutlet.com 

“Metaphysical Abstraction” Closing party with documentary film on Agnes Martin at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. Cost is $5, free for BAC members. 644-6893. www.berkeleyartcenter.org 

“Holidayland” A joint exhibition at The Compound Gallery, 6604 San Pablo Ave., Oakland and Blankspace, 6608 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. Reception at 6 p.m. Exhibitions run to Dec. 20. www.thecompoundgalley.com, www.balckspacegallery.com 


Golden Gate Boys Choir Outdoor Holiday Performance at 4 p.m. at Alameda Town Center, Otis Drive, Alameda. Free. www.ggbc.org 

Kelly Park Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Trio Garufa, Argentine Tango at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Maria Muldaur’s Garden of Joy Jug Band at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

The Blind, Commisure, Orchestra of Antlers at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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

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

Igor & The Red Elvises at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $15, available through ticketweb.com  

Joshi’z 3 at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



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.  


“What’s Cooking” Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Berkeley Potters Guild, 731 Jones St. at 4th St. to Dec. 24. 524-7031. 


John Curl reads from “For All the People: Uncovering th Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America” at 6 p.m. at Fig Tree Gallery, 2599 8th St., Studio #42, in the Sawtooth Building. 540-7843. 


Kenney Washington & Michael O’Neill Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. East Coast Swing dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Sonic Safari Swing at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

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

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

Wave Array, James Winton Band at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Steve Carter Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Aurora Theatre Company Script Club Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” 7:30 p.m. at 2081 Addison St. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

John Curl reads from “For All the People: Uncovering th Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America” at 3 p.m. at Book Zoo, 6395 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 654-2665. 


Erik Jekabson & Bay Area Composers’ Big Band at 7 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Family Square Dance with Pearson’s Pork Pies at 3 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Mahealani Uchiyama, world, Afro-Polynesian at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

An Irish Christmas in America at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Watkins’ ‘Dark River’ at Oakland Opera

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:52:00 AM

Behind a scrim decorated with concentric circles, framed by cotton bolls, Emmett Till is dancing (performed by Hannefah Hassan-Evans), high-stepping in his Chicago finery, until he acknowledges a white woman passing—after which, two white men in black beat him in a brutal, stylized assault that turns his dance into writhing. 

That’s where Oakland Opera’s world premiere of Mary D. Watkins’ Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story takes off: with the reaction of the rural African-American community to Till’s murder in the mid-1950s. The staging employs a broad, long ramp that leads through the audience to the main stage, where the ensemble gathers in a cotton field to mourn Till and other victims of lynch law. It seems as if every spare foot of the Oakland Metro Operahouse, off Jack London Square, is in use; later, the audience will turn to watch scenes in a sharecropper’s home, positioned like a loft, opposite the main stage. 

In a flashback to the late ’20s, a black woman and two young girls are sorting cotton when one of the girls, seeing the schoolbus pass by, asks why she can’t go to school like the white kids. Jeanine Anderson, as her mother, sings beautifully, giving perspective and comfort to her daughter, one of 20 children. Bolanle Origumwa and India Wilkerson accompany her well as the two girls. The daughter, wondering why she can’t go to school, will grow up to be Fannie Lou Hamer, who will lead the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to the ’64 Democratic Convention.  

When the story jumps ahead to 1962, it starts to take off. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) workers arrive in rural Mississippi; Fannie Lou (sung and acted by the splendid Raina Simons) is surprised to learn she has a constitutional right to vote—and becomes more and more deeply involved in the movement, at first to the consternation of her husband, Papp (a prepossessing Jo Vincent Parks)—and for good reason. While attempting to be registered as a voter, Hamer and her family are thrown off the plantation where they’ve sharecropped. 

Twenty-three scenes, with an intermission, take the audience through Hamer’s odyssey and the mushrooming of the civil rights movement—from the treacherous fieldwork of voter registration and providing the indigent with food and necessities through demonstrations and the decision to work with white students, the beatings and murders of movement workers, to the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Party and its challenge of the Mississippi delegation at the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City in 1964. And finally, to Hamer’s dismissal for her integrationist views in 1966 by a reconstituted SNCC, responding to Stokely Carmichael’s call for Black Power. 

Mary Watkins’ music, played by a sextet conducted by Deirdre, with music director Skye Atman on piano, lucidly propels and embellishes the action throughout, a complex and often harrowing series of events, epic in scope, over four years’ time, crystalized in the figure of Hamer, a middle-aged wife and mother with a sixth-grade education, who heroically takes up the cause of civil rights, finally believing it to be that of human rights.  

For those who remember the events, the opera often touches some of the same nerves, has the same sense of tension and urgency that gave—and gives—a feeling both of immediacy and of history in the making. 

The score is fluid, constantly shifting—the composer later remarked on its many rhythmic and harmonic changes—with a low, dark, insistent sound, driven by strings and percussion, alternating with more lyrical moments, brightened by woodwinds. Stylistically, it’s an ambitious and successful amalgam of modern compositional modes with jazz orchestration and gospel themes, all shifting in and out, kaleidoscopically, with the action, the sung dialogue and speeches.  

There was comment about the pageant-like quality of the opera, the first half in particular. The lyrics come through most clearly when figures of speech are rendered as simple poetry, and with quotations of scripture, especially Hamer’s quoting of Proverbs 26 to a penitent Sheriff’s Wife (after an aria beautifully sung by Cary Ann Rosko): “He who digs a pit for another will fall therein ... and he of ill will who rolls a stone will see it return.” Much of the narrative seems taken directly from a wire service teletype; it’s made caustic, satiric in moments like J. Edgar Hoover (Kenneth Woods) announcing, “If you turn up dead, we’ll investigate,” lightened by humor and the vernacular: “Fanny Lou, they’re playing your speech on the picture tube!” Papp exclaims over the phone, long distance. 

With the scene in jail and a lively skit where the men re-enact with brooms blacks defending themselves against nightriders, ending on a hilarious note night riders, ending on a hilarious note when a “mean old woman” and her two sons send Klansmen scurrying when they shoot the gas tank in their car, the first half ends. After intermission, the opera doubles in intensity, with the Freedom Democratic Party’s trip to Atlantic City. In his boxer shorts, a cigarette-smoking LBJ (Woods again) calls from his hotel room to deflect the possible damage to the southern voting bloc if the official Mississippi delegation is unseated in favor of the “One Man, One Vote” Freedom Party. Hamer meets with NAACP chief Roy Wilkins (Charles Alston), who tells her to go home, go back to the farm; let the educated staff do the work. An ebullient Hubert Humphrey (Alan Cochran) tenders crocodile tears and a scant compromise, while his beaming secretary (Hassan-Evans again) flutters humorously about him like a moth.  

Much of this is based on the original events, all in counterpoint to the speeches by Aaron Henry (a splendid Darron Flagg), civil rights attorney Joseph Rauh (Alexander Frank) and Hamer, famously asserting, “I question America” and “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Sound familiar? 

The cast of 20, whether singing as a chorus or delivering the many individual roles, can’t be praised enough for its singing and acting. It’s a real opera, in that all the different production elements come to the fore, a highlight of every Oakland Opera performance. Darryl V. Jones of Cal State East Bay directed, choreographed (with Hassan-Evans) and served as dramaturge; Oakland Opera Artistic Director Tom Dean designed the set with Jesse Miller; Robert Anderson lit it; Susan Swerdlow produced and did the ensemble music direction. And there are more involved in the project produced by the composer, Oakland Opera and Cal State over the past few years. It’s emerged, a moving, singing scroll of modern history, like the old Popular Front and WPA murals, illuminated by and illuminating the story of one brave woman who stepped forward for the good of all. 



Presented by Oakland Opera at 8 p.m. Thursday–Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday through Nov. 22 at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 Third St., Oakland. $28. 763-1146. oakland-metro.org.

Admirable Woodcuts on Display at Kala Institute

By Peter Selz, Special to the Planet
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:52:00 AM
Harry Clewans' <i>Octopus</i>.
Harry Clewans' Octopus.

The visitor to the still new and stately exhibition space at the Kala Art Institute will encounter a large picture of an octopus on the right wall. The artist, Harry Clewans had read about the mollusks with their eight arms, their unusual intelligence, memory and ability to hide from their predators, and he made this picture of a large scary animal, which looks almost alive in its leafy habitat.  

The work has all the appearances of a painting, but it’s much more complicated: Octopus (2006) is a large, 56-by-60-inch woodcut collage of ink and gold leaf on paper mounted on a wood panel.  

As in all his pieces in the exhibition, the artist first made a drawing directly onto wooden blocks, then hand-carved and printed the images. He would then, working like a jigsaw puzzle, assemble them and collage them into a large composition, which consists of a multitude of found components. For Octopus he used an earlier drawing of a seedpod, which he also employed in the context of other pictures. In Octopus it serves as the mottled and puckered skin of the animal’s arms.  

He used the same detail for different functions. In the large Fireplace (2007), it serves as part of the wall decoration. This woodcut shows an elaborate and luxurious interior with a golden Baroque mantelpiece that rises to a gold crown and enfolds a mirror that reflects part of the salon’s interior. 

Clewans’ way of working requires a laborious, almost obsessive process. It can take six months to complete a finished woodcut, and all the pieces are unique—no editions. There are a total of eight works—the product of three years work in the show. Pile of Grief (2006) shows a large accumulation of debris, arranged in the form of a pyramid with a head that appears like a gas mask on top. It was motivated by the death of his mother and like other works, it shows a preoccupation with dying. What We Know (2005), depicts a prone figure of a man (Clewans’s self portrait), stretched out horizontally, reminiscent of Renaissance paintings of the dead Christ. Waiting is a memorable image of a man’s bust with an elaborate structure of bones of his skull and a raven sitting on his shoulder. The richly colored surface against its gray background creates an ominous feeling. The work was inspired by a portrait of Bruce Conner, an artist greatly admired by Harry Clewans. 

Clewans is almost entirely self-taught. He studied briefly with Gordon Cook and Joan Brown, but not for long. He is by no means unknown, however; he has been in numerous exhibitions not only in the Bay Area but also in Los Angeles, Seattle, Minnesota and in venues as far removed as Belarus and Uzbeckistan. The latter was a show curated by Kala, and Clewans was also a recipient of a Kala Fellowship. The present show, which Clewans shares with the photographer Maizie Gilbert, constitutes this year’s James D. Phelan Award, for which each artist received a $5,000 cash prize. It was juried by Larry Rinder, director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

‘Jesters and Gestures’: PFA Presents Performed Yiddish Culture

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:53:00 AM

The way many people see Yiddish culture is often one-sided, flat. Knowing just a little, they project fantasies: ‘the poor little shtetl!’” 

Zehavit Stern was talking about “Jesters and Gestures: Performing Yiddish Culture From Silent Cinema to Avant-Garde Film,” the series she curated with Jeffrey Skoller, which will feature its final two screenings Sunday and Tuesday. 

Yiddish cabaret stars Shimon Dzigan and Yisroel Shumacher appear in Jolly Paupers (Poland, 1937) with their short subject, I Want to Be a Boarder, made in the United States the same year; and on Tuesday, Ken Jacobs’ Urban Peasants (United States, 1975) with the short, Unititled (Part 1) (1981), Ernie Gehr’s portrait of the last Jewish immigrants of the Lower East Side that year.  

“Jesters and Gestures” came from a meeting between Stern and Stoller “two years ago, when I taught a class at UC Berkeley,” Stern recalled. “Jeffrey teaches film; it was from a combination of our interests—and from not having to talk about Yiddish culture as an museum artifact!” 

The series features seven shows in just over two weeks, including a rare live performance, West and East, by the Sala-Manca Group—a “translation” from the 1923 Austrian silent film East and West, starring great Yiddish actress Molly Picon.  

Stern wryly recalled reactions she’s encountered: “When I tell people I speak Yiddish, they’ll say, ‘Why do you want to do that?’” 

She talked about the upcoming Jolly Paupers. “It’s really special. Since we called the series ‘Performing Yiddish Culture,’ we wanted a broad spectrum of performances—and some would like it all at once! Humor, singing, dancing, plot, cantoral chanting, a wedding ...  

“This is an excellent performance of humor from Lodz in Poland, between the wars. They had very good—really crazy-funny—writers, and it gives you a sense of their stage performances, of cabaret, though there almost seems to be a plot. It sometimes feels like brief sketches. When Dzigan and Shumacher performed in Yiddish after the war in Israel, they were ‘persecuted’—though that’s too strong a word!—forced to live in hotels for years, because the rule was that Yiddish performers were foreign artists, not Israeli.” 

Stern commented on their short film, made in the States: “It gives a sense of American vaudeville—Jewish Fred Astaire? I don’t know!—so there’re two kinds of humor from one team on one program, in a way.” 

Of the film by the well-known experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs, composed of family home movies from Brooklyn in the 1930s and ’40s, alternating with “situations” from an LP, Instant Yiddish, Stern said, “Ken Jacobs plays with it, with the absence of Yiddish culture. So many people interview their parents about the Holocast; this is so experimental, so contemporary, engaging—touching! And it uses something like a Yiddish Berlitz guide: How to Book a Hotel Room in Yiddish, How to Go to the Bank ...” 

Of the unusual live performance by the Sala-Manca Group, Stern said, “They were accompanying their own film, with images from the original screenplay, the night after the original showed, so some people saw both. They’re very political: the protagonist is the grandson of the original film’s, who went from being a practicing Jew to secular, maybe assimilated, in America ... the grandson’s orthodox, lives in Israel ... They call it a translation; there’s also the notion of mis-translation, translating Hebrew to Yiddish, Yiddish to English, Hebrew to Yiddish, Yiddish to English, and vice versa, through Babylon, that translation software. All kinds of cultural encounters—and perfectly aware of the gaps.” 

Mentioning the reaction to a live performance in their theater by the PFA staff, Stern said, “They were very excited. And they had to pull out every piece of their equipment! It’s not a performance space.” 

The reaction to the series has been gratifying to Stern. “I was surprised. People came up afterwards, more than I expected. There was even a sense of community. Feeling connected. In discussion, we sounded like we knew each other. Many of them I do know came with the East Bay Group Yiddisher Cabaret, in which people meet every month in someone’s house. But film studies people came, too. I’m always glad to see it’s not necessary to have a background to be interested.”  



Dzigan & Shumacher in Jolly Paupers with short I Want to Be a Boarder (both 1937), 3 p.m., Sun., Nov. 22, introduced by Zehavit Stern; Ken Jacobs’ Urban Peasants (1975) with Ernie Gehr’s Untitled (Part 1) (1981), 7:30 p.m., Tues., Nov. 24, introduced by Jeffrey Skoller. Pacific Film Archive Theater, 2575 Bancroft at Bowditch (near Telegraph). Tickets: $5.50–$9.50. 642-1124; bampfa.berkeley.edu.

Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina Lectures on Islam and Human Rights

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:54:00 AM

Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina, who will appear Saturday night at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California in downtown Oakland to discuss his new book, Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights (Oxford, $25), says that religion can help persuade its own adherents to respect other humans. 

“The role of religions is to forge better relationships,” he said. “The original impulse of religious texts is to recognize the other, create better camraderie ... Secular advocates say religion has no role in these questions, that it’s historically problematic, that it would be better for people to just believe in what they believe and leave it at that. But that would be to deprive religion of a voice, of its best offer to humanity. Human rights need religion, which teaches and has the ability to persuade emotionally ... Religions need to learn that those outside religion itself have human respect, dignity. Religion can’t afford to be exclusive when it comes to human relationships.” 

Sachedina spoke specifically about Islam in relation to his study and work on the role of religion in human rights. 

“We need to search in our sources, to see what the Quran really does say,” he said. “Is it saying others are less than you? The Quran says all human beings are endowed with a divine nature, naturally understood in dignity. We also have responsibility for the earth, for a peaceful environment. God’s right to be worshiped is not to objectify human beings, but in loving one another, in working for the betterment of the earth. It’s not a ritual where we sit down and close our eyes. To work to improve the quality of life on earth is a human responsibility. That’s the fulfillment of God being worshiped, part of the commitment to do God’s bidding. God does not need to be worshipped. We worship God when we recognize each other.” 

Sachedina, originally from Tanzania and of East Indian extraction, studied in Canada, India and Iran, where he was a student of Dr. Ali Shariati’s. Sachedina speaks 10 languages and has taught since the 1970s. He is chair of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. 

Sachedina said he sees the violation of human rights in many countries, including in the Muslim world, as a major concern.  

“It is important to convince many people in the faith to recognize that human dignity, the ability to tell right from wrong, is part of our nature and comes from the divine,” he said. “People of the faith need religion to play a role in persuading its own adherents of the necessity to respect other human beings—to be citizens of the world, caring for the environment, for the world as a whole, to participate in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” 

Sachedina emphasized that his “life goal, not simply an academic concern, is to be engaged in trying to make people aware of the humanity of others, of belief, of gender, of race—to respect certain inalienable rights as human beings.” 

He said that we all had work to do in this regard, and that the Muslim community can’t be self-righteous regarding the dignity of others.  

“We should be looking for variety,” Sachedina said. “Human beings have a lot to learn.” 



Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina discusses his new book, 6 p.m., Sat. Nov. 19 at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, 1433 Madison, Oakland. $5-$7. 832-7600. www.iccnc.org.

'The Walworth Farce' — Druid Ireland at Zellerbach

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 01:09:00 PM

Opening and closing with Bing crooning “An Irish Lullaby,” and proceeding with snatches and strains of other airs and songs, including “Ireland United At Last,” accompanying abrupt—yet endlessly repeated—gestures, speeches and quick changes from one ratty costume and wig to another, the performance by Druid Ireland of Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce at Zellerbach Playhouse is by turns silly, disconcerting, uproarious, dismaying, hysterical and strangely tragic—an unexpected triumph of gestural theater and histrionic storytelling in the service of what cannot be easily articulated or shown. 

In an engaging cellphone conversation, director Mikel Murfi, appearing in Walsh’s The New Electric Ballroom in New York (the two plays will coincide at UCLA in two weeks) employed the term “sublime” along with a comparison of The Walworth Farce to the Three Stooges—an apt mismatch of categories to qualify a play about a father who keeps his grown sons locked inside their ramshackle apartment-in-exile, ceaselessly play-acting a squalid melodrama of his own, questionable account of quitting Cork for London years before, in a big hurry. 

The father, Dinny (Michael Glenn Murphy), appears as himself, as he would be seen, in the self-justifying potboiler, when he isn’t taking off his rug and rubbing cream on his pate, railing at or cajoling his grown boys as they adroitly jump through the hoops, playing a plethora of overlapping roles ... Dinny lifts his trophy high in exultation at his own genius, or is reduced to tears, impressed by his own abject state. His sons, Sean (Tadhg Murphy) and Blake (Raymond Scannell), follow his lead like terriers, breathlessly posing and reciting, finding a brief moment here and there to speak together like brothers, in a low voice, of the reality of their lot—the enforced reality of fantasy.  

Sean can recall the events predicating his father’s departure and seems to hold an uneasy secret. But the two captive brothers have known little of the world since they were 4 or 5, bred in a trunk if not born in it, and are wary of, if attracted by, what’s outside the multiply-bolted door, even remarking on the rapacity of the Outsiders, who might break through and immolate their strange family romance as performed for their own audience. 

But when the outside does come innocently knocking, over something simple like a switch of grocery bags, the perspective changes differently than expected—and Druid’s actual audience at first sees what represents the normal world outside (Mercy Ojelade as an unwitting envoy of sanity) just as comically as the weird men bonded within, before the normal is pressed into theatrical service, all of it oiling the relentless dynamo of Dinny’s delusion. 

It’s the implacable nature of this play-within-a-play and its perverse relation to reality which connects The Walworth Farce to the deepest stratum of theatricality, what various commentators have referred to as the histrionic urge or impulse. There’s something in Dinny’s homemade spectacle that seems like a backwards version of The Mousetrap, the play-within-a-play in Hamlet, played out in broad, vaudevillean manner to “catch the conscience of the king.” In fact, the whole dynamic of The Walworth Farce is somehow reminiscent of the great Baroque revenge melodramas Hamlet capitalized on, awful pantomimes of the madness of human nature, teetering on the brink of burlesque. 

But the final overtones of Walsh’s “farce” are distinctly tragic, or hyper-tragic, in the sense of Artaud’s eulogy on Euripides: “In Aeschylus, Man is very evil [or sick], but with Euripides, the floodgates are open—and in the end, we don’t know just where we are.”  

If the territory’s not the map, there’s still something familiar about this sordid terrain, this pied-a-terre rather than The Ould Sod, rickety home-away-from-home. With the immediacy of real theater, the action’s unexpected, yet strangely familiar, inevitable. As the plot—or plots—unfold, everything retroactively falls into place with the sense of inevitability that once described fate—another connection with classical tragedy. The three sorry madcaps endlessly rehearse a ritual—and, as in tragedy, it’s the variation or breakdown of that ritual, something of its hollowness (Artaudagain: “To perform the Mass again and again until we see the nothingness it comes from”) that presages the genuinely tragic. Yet, with all the verbiage, all the sense of fateful necessity, what’s tragic is that which is breakaway from fate, the irony of silence that conjures a new meaning at the frontiers of language.  

Walsh’s “farce” and Druid’s performance of it fulfill these difficult terms of engagement, with art as well as with the human condition, with a production the director described as “talky physically without saying anything.” A great deal is spoken, even more articulated through body language—“And the rest is silence.” 

Mikel Murfi, a student of Jacques Lecoq, in the ongoing mainstream of gestural theater that began a century ago with the rediscovery of vaudeville, circus and Commedia by Jacques Copeau and V. S. Meyerhold, has taken his cast and his art pretty close to the limit, coming to grips with what he referred to as the multiple rollercoasters—“three, when the audience expects two”—of the action of Walsh’s play, and the “new form of English” in the unfamiliar “distortions” of “the Cork patois” the actors employ sometimes with affection, sometimes deploy as rapiers.  

Murfi spoke of Walsh going at his work, his characterizations “with hammer and tongs ... he doesn’t sanitize, but starts punching until the lights go out ... jumping from second to second, with the audience not knowing who’s in charge or what comes next.” 

Murfi also drew parallels to the recent news stories—here and in Austria—of parents (or self-appointed surrogates) imprisoning their children for years to provoke a nightmarish parody of family life with endless rehearsals of incest. 

And Murfi spoke of his excellent players in their roles, performing “locked away, not supposed to be good actors, but not such bad actors either. “Once it takes off, Enda doesn’t let the audience sit wallowing in it for too long; he wants to give the audience no chance to rationalize it to themselves. He doesn’t give us time to think. Enda takes a huge risk, it being as constantly confused as it can be, until the audience gives over.”  

Gives over and just watches. Experiences action as overloaded and seemingly inexplicable as intense experiences are in life. Yet this intense experience was written, rehearsed and is performed again and again, like Dinny and his kids have done, maniacally cranking out their own private show for a couple decades ... something of the mystery of theater, not to mention social behavior. The audience on the first night of The Walworth Farce in Berkeley celebrated that with a big ovation.  

Author Discusses Book on Assassination of Fred Hampton

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:55:00 AM

I’m going to talk a good deal about Fred Hampton,” said Jeffrey Haas, “how he became a revolutionary leader—but, even more, who he was. How impressed I was hearing him speak, seeing him. He had a real desire for justice. He had wanted to be a lawyer but said he didn’t have enough time to get a law degree. And he died when he was only 21.” 

Haas was one of the attorneys involved in litigation for the family of Fred Hampton, killed by Chicago Police while sleeping, early in the morning of Dec. 4, 1969. Haas will speak about his new book, The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther (Lawrence Hill, $26.95), and engage in conversation with attorney John Burris and Dr. Raye Richardson, San Francisco State University Professor Emerita and owner of Marcus Book Stores, Friday evening at Black Repertory Theatre in Berkeley. The event is co-sponsored by Marcus Book Stores and Black Rep. 

Haas was part of a group of lawyers in Chicago that Hampton had recruited attorneys from and that formed the Peoples’ Law Center of Chicago, still in operation. Haas himself is no longer affiliated with PLCC but notes it is still vigorously alive after 40 years. He and attorney Flint Taylor of the PLCC initiated litigation on behalf of Hampton’s family, settling for $1.85 million after 13 years—the settlement paid equally by the city, state and federal governments. 

“What was surprising to us was how the raid was set up by the FBI. They monitored Fred Hampton’s every movement. And they provided the Chicago Police with a map of Panther headquarters. This came from the COINTELPRO program of the Nixon Administration: ‘Prevent the rise of the messiah, who will unify and electrify the masses,’ read one of its documents, saying Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Elijah Muhammed could be such a one.” 

Haas spoke of how the police portrayed the Panthers as the attackers, “but it was 99 shots to one, the bullets coming from the direction of the police, not the Panthers.” 

Haas talked about Fred Hampton, the young man. “I learned a lot after I got to know the family better,” he recalled. “They’d migrated to the West Side of Chicago from Louisiana. Fred Hampton’s mother babysat Emmitt Till—they knew him as ‘Boo’—and the funeral home Till’s body was sent back to after he was murdered down South was the same place Fred Hampton’s body was, 14 years later.” 

Haas spoke of Hampton’s “real desire for justice. And he wanted to be with the people on the street. In his neighborhood, he brought kids together, brought them home for breakfast—at 10, he had his own breakfast program. He led a walkout at his high school over black girls not being considered for homecoming queen. And he led a march to the City Council to demand a recreation center with a swimming pool for his neighborhood. That was successful; the center is named after him today. He began speaking at 15 or 16, learning by memorization the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and picking up the cadences in church. I think he knew he had the ability to inspire people.” 

Haas talked about the long-term effects of the assassination and its aftermath. “The black community was somewhat divided over the Panthers—but they came together, uniting over this. Eventually, it was the same coalition that elected Harold Washington mayor. And that’s why Obama came to Chicago, thinking something could be done under Washington.” 

Haas returned to Bennington College, receiving a degree in Creative Nonfiction “so I could tell this as a story, not argue it as a lawyer.” Writing the book was like “reliving it; doing it again, going back and seeing the places, the people involved.”  

Coming to Berkeley on tour for him is like coming “to a centerpoint for the ’60s, like Chicago in many ways. A hotbed of political activity. There’s definitely a connection.” 

As a final connection between the events surrounding Hampton’s murder and more recent events, Haas recalled “when the Church Committee proposed an overseeing of intelligence, after some of the facts of Cointelpro emerged, the two people who convinced Gerald Ford to veto it—and the veto was overruled—were Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney! So, one of the lessons of this is to hold government accountable.” 




Author Jeffrey Haas discusses his book with Dr. Raye Richardson and attorney John Burris at 6:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 19, at the Black Repertory Theatre, 3201 Adeline St., Berkeley. $5. 652-2120. marcusbookstores.com.

In the Theaters

Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:51:00 AM

Impact Theatre continues with Large Animal Games, by Steve Yockey, directed by Melissa Hillman at 8 p.m. Thursday–Saturday through Dec. 12 (La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid; $12–$20; impacttheatre.com); while Contra Costa Civic Theatre has opened Lucky Stiff, a musical comedy–murder mystery based on “The Man Who Broke the Bank At Monte Carlo,” Friday–Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Dec. 6 (951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito; $15–$24; 524-9132; ccct.org). Berkeley Playhouse is putting on The Wizard of Oz at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 6 (Julia Morgan Center, 2540 College Ave; $19-$28; 845-8542; berkeleyplayhouse.org). Druid, Ireland’s extraordinary theater company, is presenting Enda Walsh’s uproarious “gothic comedy,” The Walworth Farce, at 8 p.m. Thursday–Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, with an interview of the performers onstage (free admission) 4 p.m. Thursday (Zellerbach Playhouse; $72; 642-9988; calperfs.berkeley.edu). 

In San Francisco, Golden Thread, specializing in plays about the Middle East, presents its annual ReOrient Festival of short plays, with one series beginning Friday, another Saturday, both at 8 p.m., and afterwards running Thursday–Saturday through Dec. 13 (Thick House, Potrero Hill; $12–$20, passes at reduced rates available; (415) 401-8081; goldenthread.org). 

Community Calendar

Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:40:00 AM


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. 

2020 Vision for Berkeley’s Children and Youth Initiative Community Meeting at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Technology Academy auditorium, 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Childcare provided. 845-7103. www.berkeleyalliance.org. 

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 

Community Yoga Class: Gentle Yoga, Thurs. at 10 a.m. at James Kenney Parks and Recreation Center, 8th St. and Virginia. Cost is $6. Mats provided. 207-4501. 


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. For reservations call 527-2173.  

Senior Healthcare Policy Forum from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at The Cathedral of Christ in Light Conference Center, 2121 Harrison St., Oakland. Tickets are $35-$50. To register go to shpf.elders.org or call 839-3100. 

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. www.sfvoiceforisrael.org 


Worm Composting Workshop at 10:30 a.m. at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, 1310 McGee Ave. Free. 526-4704. www.berkeleyhort.com 

City of Berkeley’s All Storm Day Volunteer to clean storm drains from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Meet neighbors, protect neighborhoods, and clear debris that otherwise ends up in the Bay. Sign up by phone or email. If there is a particular drain you want to clean and keep from backing up, the city also will teach you to safely clean storm drains and supply equipment through its Adopt-A-Drain program. Stenciling projects for groups also available. 981-6418.  

Friends of Five Creeks Restoration Project on Cerrito Creek Meet at 10 a.m. at Creekside Park, south end of Santa Clara Ave., El Cerrito. 848-9358. www.fivecreeks.org 

Work Party at Strawberry Creek Lodge New planting and weed removal. Meet at 10 a.m. at the front door or in the Lodge’s backyard, 1320 Addison St. Please email if you’d like to join in. kyotousa@sbcglobal.net 

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. To register call 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. 

“Cosmic Fireworks: The Explosive Deaths of Massive Stars” at 11 a.m. in the Genetics and Plant Biology Building, Room 100, UC campus. Admission is free and no science background is required. 

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 

Berkeley Lacrosse Club For boys and girls ages 7-14. Registration ongoing through Nov. 30. Some scholarships available. 525-5789. berkeleylacrosse.org 

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. 

“Sewer Laterals: Am I at Risk? Be Sewer Smart” A free lecture with plumbr Peter Langes at 10 a.m. at Buildig Education Center, 812 Page St. 525-7610. 

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.  


Kensington Book Club meets to discuss “Hard Times” by Charles Dickens at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043. 

East Bay Track Club for ages 3-14 meets at 6 p.m. at the running track of Berkeley High School. For more information call Coach Walker at 776-7451. 


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 the Bear Creek Staging Area, Briones Regional Park. Bring water, field guides, binoculars or scopes. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 544-2233. 

Over the Hills Gang Hikers 55 years and older explore Tilden Park, Inspiration Point, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For details call 544-2233. 

“A Balancing Act - Defending our President Against Right Wing Attacks vs. Promoting Our Progressive Agenda” with Peggy Moore, Organizing for America's California Political Director, at the El Cerrito Democratic Club, at 6:30 p.m. in Fellowship Hall, El Cerrito United Methodist Church, 6830 Stockton Ave., at Richmond Ave., El Cerrito. 527-5953. panterazero@gmail.com 

Berkeley PC Users Group meets at 7 p.m. at 1145 Walnut St., corner of Eunice. meldancing@comcast.net 

Magic Classes for ages 7 and up from 6 to 8 p.m. at Playland-Not-at-the-Beach at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Cost is $25. Call to enroll 232-4264, ext. 24.  

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. 

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. 


Golden Gate Audubon Society Bird Walk at Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the large spherical cage near Nature Center at Perkins and Bellevue. www.goldengateaudubon.org 

“In Grave Danger of Falling Food” A documentary about permaculture at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes and a warm hat. 548-9840. 


Give Thanks and Honor the Native Community Vegetarian pot-luck from 6 to 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Free Thanksgiving Meal from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Cafe Gratitude, 1730 Shattuck. www.cafegratitude.com 

Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner noon to 2 p.m., Interfaith service at 11:30 a.m., at First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., Point Richmond. 236-0527. 


After Thanksgiving Docent Guided Garden Tour Learn about California native plants in a beautiful, naturalistic 10-acre setting at 2 p.m. Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Regional Park, Wildcat Canyon Road and South Park Drive. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Peace Corps Open House Learn about serving in the Peace Corps from noon to 2 pm, 1301 Clay St., North Tower 5th Floor Conference Room, Oakland. Please bring picture ID because you will need to pass through security. RSVP 452-8442 or SFevents@peacecorps.gov  

Houdini Magic Weekend at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Fri.-Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Cost is $10-$15. 932-8966. 

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 


Mini-Farmers in Tilden A farm exploration program, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 4-6 years, accompanied by an adult. We will care for animals, do crafts and farm chores. Wear boots and dress to get dirty! Fee is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Working with Wool Watch as the spinning wheel turns wool into yarn, try a drop spindle, and create a felted ornament to take home, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

Berkeley Artisans Open Studios Sat. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For map see www.berkeleyartisans.com 

Womyn of Color Arts and Crafts Show, Sat. and Sun. from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $14-$16. 849-2568.  

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.  


Fireside Storytime Warm yourself by the fire and sip hot cocoa while listening to nature stories, at 10:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

The Buzz About Bees Learn the natural, cultural and cuinary sides of honey, at 2 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

“Microcosmos” A documentary on bugs for the whole family, at 1:30 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 528-2261. 

A Woman’s Voice “An Examination of Choice: Who has it —who doesn’t — and the implications of that difference” with Dr. Robin Lakoff, Prof., Dept. of Linguistics, UCB, at 4 p.m. at Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street at Arch. Cost is $5-$10. 644-2967. www.hillsideclub.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 


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. 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 


Design Review Committee meets Thurs., Nov. 19, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7415.  

Transportation Commission meets Thurs., Nov. 19, at 6 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7061.