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Flash: Berkeley Schools, Colleges Gear Up for March 4 Day of Action

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 03:37:00 PM
Students at Berkeley City College gear up for the March 4 Day of Action Wednesday. BCC will send three busloads of students and 50 students by BART to a 5 p.m. rally Thursday at the Civic Center in San Francisco.
Shanna Hullaby
Students at Berkeley City College gear up for the March 4 Day of Action Wednesday. BCC will send three busloads of students and 50 students by BART to a 5 p.m. rally Thursday at the Civic Center in San Francisco.
Students took part in organizing for the rally in the BCC atrium Wednesday. Others leafleted on the street.
Shanna Hullaby
Students took part in organizing for the rally in the BCC atrium Wednesday. Others leafleted on the street.
Faculty and students are expected to wear this red T-shirt for the Thursday rally which says "education is a right not a privilege."
Shanna Hullaby
Faculty and students are expected to wear this red T-shirt for the Thursday rally which says "education is a right not a privilege."

Schools, classrooms, corridors and cafeterias in Berkeley are buzzing with excitement over the March 4 Day of Action in California. An idea born out of the Oct. 24 education conference at the UC Berkeley campus, Thursday’s rally has evolved into a statewide movement to protest budget cuts, fee hikes and furloughs in public education. 

“We see the rally as an important first step that for the first time brings all of education together in one protest,” said Joan Berezin, who teaches Global Studies at Berkeley City College. “In the past we have fought group by group—K-12, community colleges, CSUs and UCs. That has often resulted in the politicians playing us off against each other. We want to make sure that we are all seen and heard--that the politicians all over California get the message that these cuts are not okay.” 

Berkeley City College students plan to march throughout their building at noon Thursday and then take a bus or the BART over to the Civic Center in San Francisco, where a rally is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. 

Berezin, who will speak at the rally, said many of the students who were organizing around the budget cuts had never done anything like that before. 

“We hope that we are training a new generation of organizers and activists,” she said.  

Over the last few months, BCC students and teachers have gone out to churches, unions, schools, farmers’ markets, BART stations and hospitals to educate the community about how the cuts were affecting public education. 

Marc Lispi, who teaches English at Berkeley City College, said the rally in San Francisco was being held at 5 p.m. to give everybody a chance to participate. 

“We could have pushed for the rally earlier in the day, but then that would have forced teachers and workers to either take the day off, call in sick or go on strike, none of which most people are willing to do,” he said. “And it would basically mean that most of K-12 would not attend. So it is in the evening, after school and after work to have the greatest turnout.”  

Dozens of classes have been cut throughout the Peralta College district, part-time teachers, counselors and custodians laid off and bus routes slashed, making it difficult for students to get to college. 

“This was by far the most crowded first weeks of classes ever, with some classes having 20 to 30 additional students because other sections had been cut,” Lispi said. “Many students just didn't get the classes they needed.” 

The situation is just as bleak at UC Berkeley, which is planning its own rally at noon at Sproul Plaza. From there students will march to Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland, where UC President Mark Yudof has his office. 

“We expect pretty much anyone interested in keeping up with the issue of public education in California to be there,” said Sue Le Jue, a lecturer of physical education in Berkeley. “This is not just about UC, it’s about everyone. The state of California is funding money for prisons instead of education. There’s a lot at stake right now. We need transparency in the UC budget, a change in priorities at UC and in the entire state of education. You can’t keep building buildings and laying people off.” 

A protest against an expansion of Durant Hall last Thursday turned violent when an angry crowd went into the streets and set trash cans ablaze, even breaking the glass windows of a sandwich shop. 

UC Berkeley administration, faculty and students have condemned the incident, which led to two arrests. 

“The real fight is in Sacramento,” said Nik Dixit, an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley and Policy Director of Cal Berkeley Democrats. “That’s where the budget cuts are being made, and that’s where solutions must be found. I personally believe that violent protesters are criminals and don’t represent the student population. We support non-violent protest. These protesters are delegitimizing the thousands of students who are speaking out every day.” 

Dixit and other students are also gearing up for the rally. Students are expected to form picket lines at all the entrances on campus from 7 a.m. to noon. 

Cathy Campbell, President of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, said teachers from the Berkeley public elementary and middle schools will be leafleting at their school sites in the morning and gathering outside district headquarters at 2132 Martin Luther King Jr. Way around 3:30 p.m. to answer questions about the cuts. 

Berkeley Unified School District has slashed $8 million over the last two years and is facing a $2.7 million deficit in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. 

All teachers on temporary contracts have been released. Campbell said she was concerned about further cuts to the Berkeley Adult School, which lost $1.5 million last year. 

Rally organizers said they were hopeful the protest would remain peaceful. 

“At this point the biggest worry is the weather,” Berezin said. “We hope it will cooperate.” 


Ray Barglow contributed reporting to this story  

Some of Thursday’s events include: 


East Bay-Oakland regional rally  

• 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.—rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza (in front of Oakland City Hall, 14th and Broadway) 

• March to the Ogawa Plaza Rally from: 

-UC Berkeley: 12 p.m. Rally at Bancroft and Telegraph, followed by march 

-Laney College: 11 a.m. rally, followed by march 

-Fruitvale BART: assemble at 11 a.m., march at 11:30 a.m. 

• Travel to San Francisco regional rally (See regional listing below) 


San Francisco regional rally 

• 1:30 p.m. rally at San Francisco Civic Center 

• 5 p.m. rally at San Francisco Civic Center 


For a complete list of events visit: this website  






Berkeley Police Focuses on Pedestrian Safety in March to Remember Zachary Cruz

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 02, 2010 - 05:58:00 PM
Zachary Cruz, 5, was killed in a pedestrian accident on his way to an after-school program at the Clark Kerr campus.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Zachary Cruz, 5, was killed in a pedestrian accident on his way to an after-school program at the Clark Kerr campus.

The Berkeley Police Department announced Tuesday it will focus on pedestrian safety in March in honor of Zachary Michael Cruz, who was killed in a collision while walking to an after-school program Feb. 27, 2009. 

A kindergartner at LeConte Elementary School, Zachary would have turned seven March 12. 

The fatal accident, which was caused by a welder’s truck at the crossing of Warring and Derby streets, put a spotlight on traffic safety issues in the Berkeley public schools. Zachary was on his way to an after-school program at the Clark Kerr campus. 

Although police did not arrest the driver of the truck for the accident, Zachary’s parents, Frank and Jody Cruz, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court in August against the Berkeley Unified School District, the University of California regents; truck driver John William Martin Sr., and his employer, Ferguson Welding Service in Hayward; school-bus driver Zakiya Green and after-school program employee Zayda Arevalo.  

Cruz’s lawyer Andrew Schwartz told the Daily Planet that Berkeley police concluded their investigation without making a recommendation for criminal prosecution. He said that the case had been forwarded to the district attorney’s office.  

Zachary’s death also led to the launch of a campaign by the Berkeley Unified School District and the Alameda County Safe Routes to School Program. 

A $900,000 CalTrans Safe Routes to School grant to the city of Berkeley for traffic improvements at four Berkeley public elementary schools last fall will ensure that two flashing beacons are installed at Ashby Avenue at Ellis Street to alert drivers and pedestrians. The intersection has been the site of numerous accidents and traffic hazards. 

A press release from the Berkeley Police Department said officers will concentrate on violations that place pedestrians at risk, especially dangerous driving behavior such as speeding, cell phone use and pedestrian right-of-way violations. The department will also provide additional training to officers which will help them spot problematic driving habits. 

Last year, 106 pedestrians were injured in collisions in Berkeley. All three of the city's fatal collisions in 2009 involved pedestrians in crosswalks. 

The Office of Traffic Safety currently ranks Berkeley highest in terms of the number of pedestrian injury collisions among similarly sized cities in California, said Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan. "Our focus on pedestrian safety is an appropriate way to remember Zachary and to do our part to make this community safer," said Meehan, who has two young children. 




KKK-style Hood Found at UCSD Monday

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 02, 2010 - 03:30:00 PM

On the same day Black students at UC Berkeley stood in solidarity with their peers at UC San Diego to condemn racist acts on campus, a KKK-style hood was found outside UCSD’s main campus library. 

According to a UCSD news release , campus police are investigating a white pillowcase crudely fashioned into a KKK-style hood with a hand-drawn symbol that was discovered on a statue about 11 p.m. Monday. 

A rose was found inserted into the statue’s fingers. The objects have been removed and processed by police for evidence, including fingerprinting and DNA analysis, according to the news release. 

University officials have said that the incident will be aggressively pursued and the individuals found responsible punished to the full extent of the Student Code of Conduct and all applicable laws, the news release said. 

“We will not allow this incident, or any incident, to deter the progress we are making to change and heal our university community,” UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said in the news release. “We will not tolerate these despicable actions. We stand in firm solidarity with our students and are fully committed to instituting their recommendations. We know these changes will make this university a better place and will help us improve our campus climate.” 

UCSD administrators Monday detailed a plan to address escalating racial tensions, which includes making greater attempts to recruit minority faculty, creating an African American Resource Center, establishing a commission to address the campus climate, and holding quarterly meetings between the administration and the Black Student Union. 

Some of these ideas were suggested by the university’s Black Student Union in 2006, when members became concerned about racist incidents and started feeling alienated on campus. 

Tensions erupted on the UCSD campus in February when students came across a Facebook event called the “Compton Cookout” which mocked Black History Month and asked guests to dress like ghetto steretypes. 

A YouTube video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGfFSZ2kcRg) titled UCSD Compton Cookout Event/DVD Release Party shows Black comedian Jiggaboo Jones explaining that the off campus party was not meant to be racist. 

“Everybody had a good time,” Jones says in the video. “It was like Halloween, but it wasn’t in October ... People are making so much out of nothing. News people should do more fact checking.” 



Berkeley Subway Vandalism May Be Connected to Bear’s Lair Lease

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 02, 2010 - 02:33:00 PM
Subway sandwich shop manager Rigo Alonso, left, and worker Servando Gomez, right, stand in front of one of the store's broken windows Wednesday. Alonso said damages arising from the vandalism had cost the store $2,000 so far.
Raymond Barglow
Subway sandwich shop manager Rigo Alonso, left, and worker Servando Gomez, right, stand in front of one of the store's broken windows Wednesday. Alonso said damages arising from the vandalism had cost the store $2,000 so far.

Although media reports have linked the recent acts of vandalism on a Telegraph Avenue Subway store to discontent over lease negotiations at UC Berkeley’s Bear’s Lair Food Court, Berkeley police said Tuesday that the intent of the vandals was still under investigation. 

The Daily Planet reported Feb. 18 that two independent vendors at the food court, Healthy Heavenly Foods and Taqueria El Tacontento, had lost out to a Subway franchisee and Saigon Eats, a Vietnamese restaurant. 

UC Berkeley students supporting the owners of Heavenly Foods and Taqueria El Tacontento criticized the university’s decision to lease the space to Subway, saying that it was a step toward privatizing the student union center. 

They pointed out that there was a Subway restaurant right across the street from Bear’s Lair—the one that was targeted in the early morning of Feb. 26, when students marched out of campus to protest budget cuts and clashed with police, damaging public as well as private property. 

“There was little damage to city property,” said City Manager Phil Kamlarz Tuesday. “Trash can set on fire, etc. No value has been determined yet. There was a cost for added police overtime. I don’t have that amount yet.” 

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said that the only private property damaged was the Subway restaurant, whose windows were smashed. 

Frankel said the incident was still under investigation. 

Nish Rajan, chair of the Store Operations Board of the student union’s administrative wing—which is handling Subway’s food court contract—said he is “completely unaware of any link between the attack on the Telegraph Subway and the current lease negotiations.” 

“I really don’t have much to say about the attack on Subway but to add my voice to the chorus that condemns such attacks and promotes peaceful protests.” Rajan said. 

Student union senator Christina Oatfield, who has helped the food court vendors with their lease negotiations, condemned the attack on Subway. 

I do not know who carried out the vandalism so I cannot speak to their motives,” Oatfield said. “I do not think property destruction is generally an effective means of protest.” 

When a group of people occupying Wheeler Hall last November protested fee hikes, layoffs and cuts to public education, they also asked the university to give the two Bear’s Lair vendors a chance to stay on.  



UC Berkeley Students Protest UCSD Racist Acts

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday March 01, 2010 - 12:37:00 PM
Black students at UC Berkeley protest racist acts at UCSD Monday.
Contributed photo
Black students at UC Berkeley protest racist acts at UCSD Monday.
UC Berkeley students during a silent protest Monday, after which they marched to the university's administrative offices at California Hall.
Contributed photo
UC Berkeley students during a silent protest Monday, after which they marched to the university's administrative offices at California Hall.

UC Berkeley became the scene of yet another protest Monday when a group of students and supporters staged a “Blackout 2010” blockade of Sather Gate. 

The group—comprised mainly of black students on campus—wore black clothing, with black scarves around their mouth, to silently protest racist acts at UC San Diego, including an off-campus event mocking Black History Month. The situation escalated when a noose was found hanging in UCSD’s Geisel Library two weeks later. 

An e-mail message from Blackout’s organizers said the Feb. 14 “Compton Cookout” themed party encouraged “female participants to be ‘ghetto chicks’ with gold teeth, cheap clothes and ‘short, nappy hair ...’ and ‘a limited vocabulary,’ while consuming ‘chicken and watermelon.’” 

It pointed out that state Bill AB 412 makes placing a noose on school property a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. 

“It is deplorable that while our students, faculty and staff work to heal the campus, a few misguided individuals tried to divide it,” UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said in a statement Feb. 26. “We are feeling real pain, and we will take real action. The safety of our students, faculty, and staff is my primary concern.” 

Fox said that an individual had come forward and admitted responsibility for the latest incident due to pressure from the UCSD community. 

“This underscores the fact that our university is banding together,” her statement said. “We will not tolerate hate on our campus, and all criminal acts will be punished.” 

UC President Mark Yudof met with students in Sacramento today and pledged to focus on system-wide strategies to prevent further acts of intolerance. 

The Berkeley campus protesters stood or sat silently back-to-back, arms linked, blocking a major part of Sather Gate, the main entrance to campus, from 11: 30 a.m. to 2 p.m., after which they marched to California Hall, where Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and other administrators have their offices. 

“We are brothers and sisters in a nonviolent, silent demonstration, standing in solidarity with the UCSD students who have been affected by blatant acts of ignorance and hatred,” a flyer from protest organizers said. 

UC Berkeley senior Lajuanda M. Asemota, who helped organize the “Blackout,” said the protest also wanted “to call attention to all the things happening on the Berkeley campus despite the administration’s promises about racial diversity.”  

The protest, which remained non-violent, had about 200 students at its peak. Pedestrians were able to pass through the narrow side arches of Sather Gate, although a female protester was reportedly pushed by a student trying to squeeze through. 

In front of California Hall, the group read out a letter addressed to Birgeneau which expressed disappointment with a message he sent to the student body on Feb. 24. 

In his letter, Birgeneau condemned the racist acts at UCSD and outlined the steps UC Berkeley has taken to promote equity and inclusion among faculty, staff and students 

“We are distressed by the recent event involving UC San Diego students that mocked the commemoration of Black History Month,” Birgeneau’s letter said. “We have zero tolerance for deliberate acts that discriminate or demean others based on race, gender, national original, sexual orientation, or any other personal characteristic, and know that all UC campuses share that view.” 

Birgeneau said that a team comprising of students and staff was working with the Vice Chancellor to organize a Climate Forum later this semester. 

“They expressed their outrage regarding the UCSD event and are working to discourage and prevent such incidents at Berkeley,” his letter said. “An excellent step in this direction was the early response by the CalGreeks community deploring and distancing themselves from the actions at UCSD.” 

The letter to Birgeneau from the Berkeley protesters said that his message “failed to explicitly address the ‘deliberate acts that discriminate[d] and demean[ed] others based on race...” at UCSD.” 

“We are disgusted that the administration is merely ‘distressed’” by the offenses,” the students’ letter said. 

The letter went on to outline what they said were racist incidents on the UCB campus, including: 

• “A hate crime committed by the men’s crew team in which members encircled, assaulted, and poured beer on a black female student while calling her “n***er” repeatedly. UCPD was called, and did nothing.” 

• “An incident in science class in which the professor turned out the lights for a classroom presentation and a student yelled, “Where did all the black people go?” The professor made no rebuke.” 

• “An on-campus PETA demonstration comparing enslaved Africans, lynched Black Americans, and Tuskegee experiment subjects to chickens, pigs, and cows. Canines were brought to a peaceful protest to “calm” the situation.” 

• “A hate crime in which the African-American Theme House Co-Op was vandalized with swastikas.” 

• “An article in the [campus student newspaper] Daily Cal which stated that Blacks are seven times more likely to kill than whites” 

“Though these incidents seem isolated, they are in fact symptomatic of a deeper issue that plagues the University of California as a whole—a continued marginalization of the Black student body,” the letter said. 

The letter criticized the low population of black students on campus—3.49 percent of 35,843 students—since the passage of Proposition 209 and the failure of the UC administration to recruit and retain Black students or appoint Black faculty members. 

Signed “3.49 percent,” the letter concluded by saying that the protesters hoped that the “few hours of discomfort” they had caused would “be indicative of the anguish experienced daily by Black UC students.” 

“The UC Berkeley Black community stands here silent,” the letter said. “Silent because we fear for the future. Silent because the past is prologue. Silent because there is nothing left to say. Our silence, then, is your opportunity to act.” 

Asemota said UC Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor Harry Le Grande came out to talk with the group after they finished reading out the letter. 

“Breslauer said he was really sorry about the things outlined in the letter and that stuff like that continued to happen on campus,” she said. “He said that the campus administration would come forward with a resolution.” 

Pesticide Causes Frog Sex Change

Monday March 01, 2010 - 01:03:00 PM

Atrazine, one of the world's most widely used pesticides, wreaks havoc with the sex lives of adult male frogs, emasculating three-quarters of them and turning one in 10 into females, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley, biologists. 

UC Berkeley Budget Cut Protest Turns Violent

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 26, 2010 - 01:44:00 PM

An open-air dance party at UC Berkeley turned violent Thursday night when protesters occupied a campus building, clashed with police officers, broke windows and set dumpsters on fire. 

Berkeley police said that at least two people were arrested for inciting riots and vandalizing private property. 

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Andrew Frankel said both BPD and the UC Police Department are investigating the incident. 

Reports started trickling in around 11:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25 that a group of people had occupied Durant Hall in support of the scheduled March 4 statewide “Day of Action” to protest cuts to education. 

Durant Hall is currently closed for construction. 

UC Berkeley officials said that after cutting the locks off the south gates, about half the group entered the building, resumed partying and began vandalizing the interior and exterior of the building, writing slogans on the walls and breaking windows and a skylight. 

Others gathered in front of the hall’s doors, preventing UC Berkeley police from entering, university officials said. 

Frankel said the Berkeley Police Department got a phone call at 1:41 a.m. Friday from UCPD asking for emergency response to deal with a crowd of 200 protesters who were making their way to the intersection of Durant and Telegraph avenues. 

The crowd was beginning to break windows and overturn dumpsters and could not be controlled, Frankel said. 

“They were basically committing acts of vandalism in our city,” he said. 

Most of the city’s on-duty Berkeley police officers responded to the scene where they were met by a hostile crowd who began throwing rocks and bottles at them. 

One officer was struck in the thigh by a fire extinguisher and another was struck in the neck with a metal cap from a fire hydrant resulting in minor injuries, Frankel said. 

At 1:51 a.m., the rioters lit a dumpster and pushed it into the intersection of Bancroft Avenue and Telegraph, Frankel said. 

“The police started to put the fire out by moving the crowd away from the intersection,” he said. At this point Berkeley police officers began calling for off-duty police officers as well as assistance from the Oakland Police Department, the California Highway Patrol and the Bay Area Rapid Transit, 

A total of 12 officers from OPD, 10 from CHP and five from BART, along with officers from UCPD, helped BPD remove the crowd from the intersection so that the Berkeley Fire Department could douse the flames. 

“During the course of the last one hour, the police were pelted with projectiles including rocks, bottles and fire extinguishers,” Frankel said. “When enough officers began moving the crowd it gradually dispersed.” 

Police arrested UC Berkeley student Marika Goodrich, 28, and booked her for assault on a peace officer, inciting a riot and resisting arrest. She is being held on $32,500 bail. 

They also arrested Berkeley resident Zachary Miller, 26, and booked him for inciting a riot, resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer. He is being held on $22,500 bail. 

Frankel said that so far there has been one report of vandalism from the owners of the Subway restaurant in the 2300 block of Telegraph, which had two of its glass doors shattered during the riot. 

There were five separate incidents of arson, with a dumpster set on fire in each case in the vicinity of Telegraph, Bancroft Durant and College, he said. 

UCPD also reported severe property damage, Frankel said. Calls to UCPD for comment were not returned by press time. 

Christine Shaff, director of communications for UC Berkeley Facilities Services, said that the vandalized Durant Hall site has been secured and is being assessed for damage. 

Thursday’s incident took place on the last day of Rolling University week on the Berkeley campus, a series of events not unlike the Open University held last year, where students held open forums, discussions, pot lucks and performances. 

UC Berkeley senior Asaf Shalev, who witnessed the protest last night, said the crowd from the dance party started moving towards Durant Hall around 11: 30 p.m. 

“All of a sudden, they saw the gate was open and found some students up in the building who had a banner saying March 4,” he said. “At that point there was music, people were dancing and there was very little police presence. At some point people started to walk away from the construction site and toward Telegraph with a shopping cart blaring music.” 

They formed a line and linked arms at Durant and Telegraph, Shalev said. “The scene was very chaotic, and suddenly a couple of people were grabbed by police.” 

Shalev said the occupiers at Durant Hall had released a statement which said they were protesting the state cuts to public education and the UC administration’s decision to construct more buildings on campus. 

Shalev said students were angry that their tuition was being “used as collateral for construction bonds.” 

“Buildings are being built with our money,” he said. “UC regents have a conflict of interest with many of these projects.” 

In a message to the campus community, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau condemned the vandalism and violence. “Such action does incredible damage to our advocacy efforts with Sacramento and with the California public to preserve public higher education,” Birgeneau said. “We call on our campus community to work together to express our support for state reinvestment in public higher education in ways that uphold Berkeley’s values of peaceful protest and freedom of expression.” 


Reports Coming In About UC Students Occupying Durant Hall

Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 26, 2010 - 01:18:00 AM

Media reports about a group of protesters occupying UC Berkeley's Durant Hall are trickling in. 

The protesters have reportedly occupied the building in support of the March 4 statewide Day of Action against the budget cuts to public education. 

The Daily Planet has not been able to confirm the reports yet.  

A group of students occupied Wheeler Hall last November to protest fee hikes, lay offs and cuts to public education. 

Students have been organizing a "Rolling University" event this week, similar to the Open University week held last year, where discussions, forums, potlucks and performances are being held. 

A dance party was scheduled for 10 p.m. today at Upper Sproul Plaza. 


Please check the website for updates Friday morning.

Berkeley Law’s Goodwin Liu Nominated to S.F. Ninth Circuit Court

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 05:29:00 PM
UC Berkeley Law Professor Goodwin Liu was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco by President Barack Obama Feb. 24.
Image: UC Berkeley
UC Berkeley Law Professor Goodwin Liu was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco by President Barack Obama Feb. 24.

UC Berkeley Law Professor Goodwin Liu was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco by President Barack Obama Feb. 24. 

Liu, who will serve as a judge on the Appeals Court, is an expert on constitutional law, education policy, civil rights, and the Supreme Court. 

The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Liu will become the Ninth Circuit’s only active Asian American judge if his nomination gets confirmed. 

He joined the Berkeley Law faculty in 2003 and was promoted to Associate Dean in 2008. Liu said he is “very humbled” by the nomination and thanked Obama and California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer “for their support and confidence in me.” 

He is the recipient of the Education Law Association’s Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in 2007 and UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2009—the university’s highest teaching honor. 

Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. described Li as “one of the most capable colleagues I’ve had in my three decades in academia.” Liu’s “ability to analyze, communicate, and inspire will make him a favorite among litigants and a leader among judges,” Edley said. 

Before joining Berkeley Law, Liu worked as an associate at O’Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C. and clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David S. Tatel. 

He has also served as a special assistant to the Deputy. 

A Rhodes Scholar, Liu earned a master’s degree from Oxford and a law degree from Yale. 

“Liu has a breadth of experience that will be an invaluable addition to the Ninth Circuit,” said Berkeley Law alumni Hollu Fujie, immediate past president of the California State Bar. “I am excited that this nomination will add diversity to the federal courts of appeal.”

Mayor Bates Pushes New Downtown Plan For November Ballot

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:37:00 AM

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates signaled at the Berkeley City Council meeting Tuesday that he was ready to put the future of Berkeley’s downtown in the hands of the city’s voters. 

In presenting his new proposal to replace the City Council’s previously approved downtown plan, which the council rescinded at Tuesday’s meeting, Bates did not deviate from the basic plan he introduced at the council’s Agenda Committee meeting Feb. 16 but did say that the height and number of tall buildings was “still up for grabs.” 

Responding to queries from the Sierra Club and community members about as-yet-unspecified parts of the plan, the mayor promised to tighten up the draft and explore strict enforcement of the public benefits included in it. 

Opponents of the council’s downtown plan moved to referend it last August in order to put it on a future ballot for voters to decide, claiming it ignored Berkeley’s affordable housing needs, transit options, workers’ rights, greenhouse gas emissions and quality of life. 

Density and height were also major concerns. The group working on the referendum campaign, including Berkeley City Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arre-guin, said they were against the 225-foot maximum height proposed in the plan and instead wanted to see the tallest buildings downtown be closer to 120 feet, as suggested by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee. 

Arreguin said that although Bates had met with him a few times since then—“I was the only member of the referendum campaign he met with”—they were unable to resolve their differences. 

On Wednesday, the City Council voted unanimously to rescind the council’s original downtown plan and voted 8-1—with Arreguin the only dissenting vote—to ask City Manager Phil Kamlarz to return with a set of recommendations they could vote on. 

Under the mayor’s plan, which he described as a “much better” one than the previous one, the usual maximum height allowed downtown would be 75 feet, with specified exceptions. 

Although Bates had initially proposed allowing six tall residential buildings with a maximum height limit of 160 feet as exceptions, at Councilmember Linda Maio’s insistence the number was changed to three 180-foot buildings, one of which could be a hotel. 

“One of the goals of the downtown plan was to get more people living downtown, in the neighborhood of about 5,000 new people,” Bates said. “Even though [the plan] has been dubbed as coming from my office, it’s coming from everybody on this dais. It’s ebbing and flowing.” 

Bates said he was hopeful that developers would “voluntarily” opt for the Green Pathway—a voluntary scheme that fast-tracks projects in exchange for public benefits. Existing problems in the Green Pathway are supposed to be addressed by the Planning Commission before coming back to City Council. 

One of the things Bates said he wanted the commission to figure out was “how much money [developers] should provide to the city’s transportation fund if they don’t want to provide parking.” 

“It’s an opportunity for us to get the greenest downtown anywhere in America,” Bates said of his plan, complete with LEED, parking for bikes and cars, and energy efficiency requirements. “It’s an opportunity to live in a place that will become one of the most vibrant in America.” 

According to Bates, the Green Pathway would also help the city tackle the recent Palmer decision, which will prevent the city from mandating inclusionary housing in rentals, by requiring that developers either put $80,000 into the Housing Trust Fund or build affordable housing units somewhere in the city. 

It also ensures that developers hire local help, if not from Berkeley then at least from the Green Corridor, which includes Richmond and San Leandro. 

“I know everything is not perfect,” Bates said. “Some people in here feel [the buildings] are too high and others feel it’s too low.” 

Arreguin argued that there was nothing in the mayor’s plan that convinced him that creating taller buildings would solve the vacancies plaguing downtown. 

“I just feel it’s deja vu all over again,” Arreguin said. “One of the major concerns was height. I am waiting to see how tripling the height of buildings will help small businesses. I hope that at some point that plan will start tackling the real problems facing our downtown.” 

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak asked that a “super-green option”—which Wozniak called his “pet project”—be studied by the city manager. The option would defer building fees by five years if buildings met energy efficiency standards successfully. 

Erin Rhoades, executive director of Livable Berkeley, which backs Bates’ plan, stressed the importance of a denser downtown, which she said would help the city during a time of economic uncertainty.  

“The real key to a lively downtown is what happens on the ground,” said Donlyn Lyndon, professor emeritus of architecture at UC Berkeley. “How Oxford Street can become a link between University Avenue and the downtown. What matters is that you have volumes [that are] not too obtrusive.” 

There were others, like Berkeley resident Stuart Jones, who called Bates’ plan “greenwash—just like atomic energy,” and stormed out of the meeting. 

Another point Arreguin seized on was a provision in the Green Pathway that would allow developers to require the Landmark Presevation Commission to determine within three months whether a building on a desired project site could be designated a landmark. 

Arreguin compared this to the proposed time limit Bates tried to enact in Measure LL, which sought to modify the ordinance to make demolition easier but was rejected by Berkeley voters in 2008. 

Berkeley Investigates Ways to Boost Recycling Revenue

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:42:00 AM

If the city of Berkeley is looking for ways to boost its recycling revenue, it will have to try harder. 

At a special workshop  

Tuesday, most councilmembers showed little excitement about the Public Works Department’s plans to meet a staggering deficit in the refuse fund, complaining about the lack of a long-term plan on environmental policies. 

However, everyone agreed that the problem needs to be addressed before it gets any worse. 

As one councilmember pointed out, if the city ends up meeting its zero waste goals, there may not be any garbage left to recycle soon. 

Although the city’s Public Works Department had hoped that a 20 percent hike in garbage collection rates would result in $5.5 million in revenue, it actually caused a $4 million shortfall, contributing to a $10 million deficit in the city’s General Funds for the 2010-11 fiscal year. 

Public Works Director Claudette Ford told the council that 80 percent of the revenue expected from new rates in commercial and residential recycling as well as from the city’s transfer station fees had not been attained. 

Customers switching from bigger to smaller garbage cans to avoid higher rates was one of the main reasons for the deficit, she said. There has been a 15 percent decrease in the number of large gallon cans and a 209 percent increase in 20-gallon cans in residential recycling. 

“People realized that when they recycled, they didn’t need that big a garbage can,” she said. 

For commercial services, the loss of two customers alone accounted for a $60,000 loss. 

However, most councilmembers agreed that it would be unfair to punish people for recycling. 

“We are glad we are going in this direction—that we are recycling more, but it still costs the same to go and pick up the cans, whether they’re 2 feet or 4 feet high,” said Councilmember Linda Maio. “It’s labor-intensive.” 

Berkeley is currently the only city in Alameda County that uses a two-person pickup truck. 

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak asked for more proof of how close Berkeley was getting to meeting its zero waste goal. 

“We may be more pure than other cities, but we are not recycling more,” he said. “We are not a star yet.” 

Ford said that her department was working with the Zero Waste Commission to come up with viable ways to address the deficit. 

“We certainly want residents to recycle, we encourage that,” Ford said. 

Some of the things being considered are a restructured business model, a minimum service charge and a review of transfer station fees. 

Public Works is also proposing to redirect commercial recyclables from the city’s dual-stream Materials Recycling Facility to a single-stream processor to save money, which critics said would increase contamination and reduce the value of materials, clashing with Berkeley’s Highest and Best Use principles. 

Dual stream keeps newspapers and mixed paper separate from cans and bottles. 

Zero Waste Commission Chair David Tam urged the City Council to reconsider switching from dual to single stream. 

Mark Gorrell from the Ecology Center asked the council not to blame all the city’s problems on recycling. 

“Fees for recycling have gone up a little bit, but we think it’s important that doing things the right way is much better than doing things the quick and easy way,” he said.  

Members of the Ecology Center and the Community Conservation Center stressed that dual stream was much more cost-effective than single stream. 

“The question is not a dual stream or a single stream; the question is which one gets us closer to 100 percent zero waste,” Wozniak said. 

Ford said that the city would also be rolling out split carts in September, which would keep different kinds of trash in separate compartments and hopefully reduce poaching. 

The Zero Waste Commission is scheduled to hold a meeting on March 15 to discuss some of the proposals suggested to balance the refuse fund. 

The council is expected to provide further direction on the issue on March 23. 








General Assistance Recipients to Ask County Supervisors to Rescind Cuts

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:42:00 AM

General Assistance recipients once again gathered outside Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza Tuesday to ask the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to rescind severe cuts to their funding.  

The rally, “Homes Not Streets II,” was organized by homeless advocacy groups such as Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, the East Bay Community Law Center and the Berkeley Food and Housing Project.  

Although the group braved the rain and waited for the supervisors to come out of their almost five-hour-long closed-session meeting, they did not get the news they were expecting. 

The board did not take any action on changing their decision. 

The protesters met for the second time since December to object to a new policy, which went into effect Jan. 1. It will reduce the length of GA funding for employable economically disadvantaged people in the county from twelve months to three.  

Those dependent on GA—sometimes as their only source of funding—include the disabled, veterans, seniors, victims of domestic violence, transition-age youth, and women. Prior to Nov. 2009, the most anyone could receive from GA per month was $336.  

New rules allow the county to slash GA payments by as much as $84 for recipients with roommates and by up to $40 unless they receive Medi-Cal.  

Supervisors Keith Carson, who is responsible for Berkeley, and Nate Miley, whose constituency includes East Oakland, voted against the cuts. Supervisors Alice Lai Bitker, Scott Haggerty and Gail Steele all voted in favor of the cuts, which will affect more than 7,000 poor people countywide.  

“This was their one opportunity to change their minds before the three-month time limit goes into effect for the first wave of people,” said Luan Huynh, an attorney with the East Bay Community Law Center. “Come April 1, thousands will be strapped for cash. We want at least one of them to change their minds.”  

Huynh said that EBCLC had been encouraged by recent talks with Haggerty. “He has an open mind, but we don’t know which way he will turn,” she said.  

Haggerty and Carson did not return calls for comment. 

Homeless advocates and GA recipients spoke to the board after a report presented by the Social Service Agency on the GA cuts at the Board of Supervisors’ Tuesday meeting.  

The cuts will save the agency $2.5 million.  

“The SSA might save money, but the county will pay more in increased costs to Medi-Cal, shelters and policing,” said Huynh, who feared the cuts would cause rampant homelessness.  

John Engstrom of EBCLC pointed to studies carried out in Los Angeles County which showed that local governments end up spending much more taking care of homeless individuals than aiding those who had housing.  

In one of the studies, “Where We Sleep,” the county tracked the cost of services used by over 10,000 homeless residents. It showed that the average cost to the county was $2,897 per month for each homeless individual.  

For the roughly 1,000 residents the county was able to place in supportive housing, the cost dropped 79 percent (an average of $605 per month).  

A pilot program started by LA County to provide 900 people with rental assistance saved the county more than $11 million over a two-year period.  

“The county can actually save large amounts of money by implementing targeted services,” Engstrom said. “Saving GA is not only the correct moral decision but also the fiscally responsible decision.”  

Michael Diehl, a mental health worker in Berkeley, said everyone at the rally had been really disappointed by the outcome of the supervisors’ meeting. 

“Some of my clients are in great anguish; some of them are suicidal right now,” he said. Diehl said that the cuts would result in more homelessness in Berkeley, at a time when the city was making some progress in curbing its homeless population. 

A report released last year showed that Berkeley’s chronic homeless count dropped by 50 percent after the city invested time and money toward providing services. 

“What the county doesn’t understand is that an increase in the city’s homeless population would burden its criminal justice system and hospitals,” he said. “It’s a shame.” 

For more information on the General Assistance cuts, contact Luan Huynh at the East Bay Community Law Center, 548-4040, ext. 371.  

Dept. of Justice Clears UC Berkeley Professor John Yoo of Misconduct

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:44:00 AM

An internal review by the U.S. Department of Justice released Friday said that the lawyers who authorized waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques under the Bush administration showed “poor judgment” but were not guilty of professional misconduct.  

The Justice Department’s findings clear John Yoo, a tenured professor at UC Berkeley and Jay Bybee, both former lawyers in the Department of Justice, of charges that could have had them disbarred.  

Community activists and law students have protested outside the UC Berkeley law school for months, calling for Yoo to be fired and stripped of his legal license. Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley has responded to the criticism by defending Yoo’s actions on the basis of academic freedom. Edley said earlier that he would wait for the Justice Department’s report to make any further decisions about Yoo’s future at the university.  

“DOJ’s conclusion underscores why it was important that the university not rush to judgment,” Edley said in a statement Friday. “Any effort to discipline a faculty member for their outside activities creates dangers that ideological or political agendas may 

be advanced under the vague banner of ‘morality.’ I hope these new developments will end the arguments about faculty sanctions, but we should and will continue to argue about what is right or wrong, legal or illegal in combating terrorism. That’s why we are here.” 

Yoo did not respond to e-mail requests for comment. 

Although an earlier review by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility found that Yoo and Bybee had engaged in professional misconduct, the Justice Department’s top lawyer did not agree after reviewing the issue.  

“This decision should not be viewed as an endorsement of the legal work that underlies those memoranda,” Assistant Deputy Attorney General David Margolis said in a memo Friday.  

Although Margolis called the memos flawed, he said that Yoo and Bybee did not “recklessly” or “knowingly” give misleading advice to the Bush administration.  

“But as all that glitters is not gold, all flaws do not consti- 

tute professional misconduct,” he wrote.  

Margolis wrote, “Although Yoo and Bybee’s errors were more than minor, I do not believe they evidence serious deficiencies that could have prejudiced the client... While I have declined to adopt OPR’s findings of misconduct, I fear John Yoo’s loyalty to his own ideology and convictions clouded his view of his obligations to his client and led him to author opinions that reflected his own extreme, albeit sincerely held, views of executive power while speaking for an institutional client.”  

Though Edley’s statement signaled that the law school was ready to close the chapter on whether Yoo should be investigated or even disciplined for authoring the memos, there were those who thought differently. 

“We’d like to emphasize how groundbreaking we find the OPR report to be,” said Megan Schuller, a Berkeley law student who is also a member of the Boalt Alliance to Abolish Torture (B.A.A.T.). “It has new evidence which draws the conclusion that Yoo engaged in intentional professional misconduct. We are disappointed that Deputy Attorney General David Margolis decided to downgrade that.” 

The OPR report says, “Yoo put his desire to accommodate the client above his obligation to provide thorough, objective, and candid legal advice, and that he therefore committed intentional professional misconduct.” 

It concludes that “given Yoo’s background as a former Supreme Court law clerk and tenured professor of law, we concluded that his awareness of the complex and confusing nature of the law, his failure to carefully read the cases and his exclusive reliance on the work of a junior attorney, established by a preponderance of the evidence that he knowingly failed to present a sufficiently thorough, objective, and candid analysis of the specific intent element of the torture statute.” 

House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers has disputed Margolis’ decision and scheduled Congressional hearings on the matter.  

Other members of B.A.A.T., which was formed last fall by law students and student organizations to restore respect for the international prohibition against torture, joined Schuller in applauding OPR’s findings. 

“It was apparent that Yoo engaged in professional misconduct, but I’m still shocked by the report—that as a lawyer advising the President on a matter so important as torture, Yoo failed to carefully read the cases he was citing and relied on a junior attorney for critical legal analysis,” said first-year Berkeley law student Thomas Frampton. “If I did the same thing on a law school assignment, I’d fail. Yet, Yoo is a tenured professor here at Berkeley.” 

B.A.A.T. has been actively educating law students and sending petitions to the Justice Department, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and the University of California Faculty Senate, urging investigations of Yoo and Bybee. 

“Thorough investigations are essential if we want to ensure that human rights violations and civil rights abuses have stopped and that they never happen again,” said first-year Berkeley law student and B.A.A.T. member Nell Green-Nylen.

Reward Offered in City’s First Murder of 2010

y Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:45:00 AM

The City of Berkeley Monday announced a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect charged with murdering a Richmond man in West Berkeley.  

Bay Area Crime Stoppers is offering an additional $2,000 reward.  

Berkeley police responded to a stabbing at around 7:40 p.m., Feb. 11, on the 2100 block of Curtis Street Patrol officers found the victim, Michael Mayfield of Richmond, with a stab wound to his chest near Allston Way and Curtis Street,  

Fire Department paramedics rushed Mayfield to the Alameda County Hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries.  

Police are still searching for the suspect, 22-year-old Kevin Aaron Alvarado of Berkeley, who they describe as a known member of the West Side Berkeley gang and consider “armed and dangerous.” Police have already arrested Robert Charles Briggs, 43, for his involvement in the case.  

Briggs, another Berkeley resident, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and an accessory to murder.  

Detectives ask anyone with information on the crime to call the BPD Homicide Detail at 981-5741 or 981-5900. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers line at 1-800-222-8477. 

Alzheimer’s Disease — How Long Before We Find a Cure?

By Raymond Barglow, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:46:00 AM

Today more than 5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and 10 million caregivers will attend to them during the coming year. If we do not find a way of preventing this disease, there will be about 8 million cases by 2030 and as many as 16 million in 2050. Alzheimer’s is economically as well as emotionally burdensome: direct and indirect costs of the disease amount to over $100 billion annually, according to the National Institute on Aging. 

What is to be done? It’s been over a century since the German physician Alois Alzheimer described this disease in 1906. Will we remain unable to heal or prevent this fatal illness? This reporter spoke with scientists at UC Berkeley and elsewhere to better understand what we currently know and what we have yet to learn about this disease. 

Were Alzheimer’s caused by a germ, it would probably be much easier to remedy. Bacteria are a familiar kind of enemy, one that a traditional medical approach is designed to combat. You just ride into Dodge City and kill the bad guys. (Unfortunately, the “bad guys” often mutate and learn to survive the drugs we throw at them—but that’s a story for another time.) Alzheimer’s is a more complex adversary. Although we are learning to use imaging technologies to observe the havoc being wreaked in the brain, we haven’t been able so far to clearly identify the responsible party or parties. 

The most persuasive and widely accepted hypothesis about Alzheimer’s is that it essentially involves the accumulation in the brain of a protein called “amyloid beta.” A protein consists of one or several long strings of amino acids and routinely forms, folds, and unfolds under the guidance of enzymes and so-called “chaperone” molecules. Enzymes also slice protein strings, and it’s this last action that appears to be implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Two enzymes, beta secretase and gamma secretase, clip an amyloid beta segment (colored yellow in the diagram) out of a larger, and entirely normal, parent molecule, amyloid precursor protein (blue). The clipped segments, in soluble form or clumped into plaques, damage neurons and synapses.  

Because amyloid beta accumulation is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s an obvious therapeutic target. There are multiple points of possible intervention into the amyloid-related sequence of events—the so-called “amyloid cascade”—that eventually cripples the brain. Substances are being explored that could inhibit or halt the cleaving of the precursor protein by the beta and gamma secretases.  

Another approach is to prevent the amyloid beta segments from attaching to one another. Yet another is to clear the plaque deposits from the brain, once they have formed.  

All of this seems straightforward enough, and in the early nineties, when details of the amyloid cascade came to light, there was optimism that the seemingly inexorable processes leading to Alzheimer’s could be interrupted. 

Now, as a new decade gets under way, the story appears to be more complicated than many anticipated. Alzheimer’s may turn out to be an illness that has multiple, interrelated molecular causes. Still, it’s likely that the amyloid cascade plays an important role in the disease, and many scientists are trying to understand it. 

Here at UC Berkeley, the bioengineering team of Dr. Teresa Head-Gordon is studying the self-assembly dynamics of proteins; this research may unlock the mysteries of many diseases in addition to Alzheimer’s. In the UC Berkeley lab of Dr. Randy Schekman, graduate student Regina Choy is studying the “trafficking” (directed movement within the cell) of the precursor protein that may lead to Alzheimer’s. Up on the hill, at the Lawrence-Berkeley National Laboratory, Dr. Bing Jap and his colleagues have been studying proteins that are active within cell membranes, including the gamma secretase enzyme mentioned above. 

Such research has revealed a great deal about molecular processes that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. Advancing toward the discovery of effective remedies to the disease will also require, though, studies of living human subjects. But it has been difficult in the past for such studies to follow the disease in its early stages. By the time a person develops the tell-tale symptoms of the disease such as memory loss, a lot of neurological damage has already been done. Yet progress is being made on observing the disease further “upstream,” as it were, years before the full-blown disease becomes manifest. The laboratory of Dr. William Jagust, a scientist at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, uses PET scans and magnetic resonance imaging to measure amyloid deposits. That information can help to identify people whose cognition is currently intact but who—judging from their amyloid level and certain neural and behavioral measures—are at high risk for Alzheimer’s. We can then study these individuals over time in order to learn more about the neurological changes that lead to the disease. 

People who are likely to get Alzheimer’s obviously make the best experimental subjects in clinical trials that seek to establish which preventive therapies work and which do not. But clinical trials of this kind, which could last a decade or longer, are going to be enormously expensive, requiring a level of funding far above what is currently available. 

Given that Alzheimer’s disease threatens to devastate our nation’s health care system, the current level of support for research into the disease is very low. Zaven Khachaturian, former director of the NIH Office of Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the chief architect of NIH Alzheimer’s research programs, told the Berkeley Daily Planet that “The amount of funding going into Alzheimer’s research has been flat and is actually going down.” The NIH provided less than half a billion dollars for the research in 2009. Cancer research, on the other hand, received 13 times more support. 

There is a movement building to increase funding for Alzheimer’s research. A Congressional Task Force established an “Alzheimer’s Study Group” that proposed in 2009 that a project to overcome Alzheimer’s be made an urgent national priority, and that an “Alzheimer’s Solutions Project Office” be created within the federal government. 

“Our effort has to be major, akin to the Manhattan Project or the Apollo project to land someone on the moon,” according to Khachaturian. “We will ask President Obama for a commitment of this kind … [aiming] to prevent the disease within the next decade, by the year 2020.” 

This sense of urgency is an appropriate one, even if we consider only the economic cost of the disease. However the current health care debate in this country is resolved, reform will fail unless Alzheimer’s disease is defeated.  


Raymond Barglow is the founder of the Berkeley Tutors Network. 


I wish to thank the scientists and research advocates who discussed with me current directions and prospects of Alzheimer’s research. 


Providing guidance early on was: Laurel Martin-Harris, graduate student at the Brain Research Institute, UCLA. 


Also very helpful were: 


Regina Choy, graduate student, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, UC Berkeley 


Elizabeth Edgerly, Ph.D., Chief Program Officer, Alzheimer’s Association 


Teresa Head-Gordon, Ph.D., Department of Bioengineering, UC Berkeley 


William Jagust, M.D., UC Berkeley School of Public Health and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute in Berkeley 


Bing Jap, Ph.D., Senior Staff Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 


Zaven Khachaturian, Ph.D., President, Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease 2020; Chief Editor, Alzheimer’s & Dementia: the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association; Senior Science Advisor to the Alzheimer’s Association; Senior Science Advisor to Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health 


Edward Koo, MD, School of Medicine, UC San Diego 

Council Approves New Pool For Berkeley Barracudas

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:47:00 AM
Members of the Berkeley Barracudas swim team at the City Council meeting.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Members of the Berkeley Barracudas swim team at the City Council meeting.

The Berkeley Barracudas finally got their way at Tuesday’s City Council meeting when the council agreed to include the construction of a new competition pool at King Middle School as part of the June pools ballot measure. 

At its Feb. 9 meeting, the council voted unanimously, 9-0, to approve a $19 million measure to renovate the city’s three existing public pools—King, Willard and West Campus—and build a new warm water pool at West Campus.  

At least four councilmembers then were in favor of an alternative proposal that would add a new competition pool to the renovations and the new warm water pool, but the majority of the council ddecided that the cost—$22.6 million—was too expensive. 

At that time, some councilmembers argued that it might not be prudent to impose additional taxes on Berkeley homeowners for an expansion, especially because of the state of the current economy. 

But since then, the Berkeley Barracudas, a local competitive swim team with hundreds of members, has been lobbying the council to add a new pool for them. 

The Barracudas—dressed in their signature blue tones—argued at the meeting that their current facility was overcrowded. 

More than 50 people wrote letters urging the council to help them. 

“I am embarrassed when we compete against another team and they make comments such as ‘you actually swim in this pool?’” wrote Laura Howard, whose five children are on the Barracudas team. “I must say that I started swimming over in El Cerrito and it was a bit of an adjustment to come to our pools. If I didn’t have children and the dire need of convenience, I would be tempted to go to a nicer pool.” 

Howard complained about cramped lanes, a dangerous “L” shape in the shallow pool and other frustrations shared by swimmers. 

“We are literally swimming on top of each other,” said a member of the Barracudas. “Advanced swimmers end up in the dive tank to practice.” 

Others warned that a scaled-down bond measure would only chase a broad spectrum of voters away. 

Councilmember Linda Miao said she had changed her mind after talking to supporters of a new pool at King. 

Under the new price tag, Berkeley voters would pay $56 per year on taxes which could increase to $63 over the course of time.

Council Questions New Rent Board Position

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:48:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council asked for more information about the creation of a new $130,000 position for the city’s Rent Stabilization Program at Tuesday’s council meeting. 

One of councilmembers’ main objections—also made by members of the public who spoke at the meeting—was to spending such a large amount on hiring a deputy director for the Rent Board at a time when the city was laying off employees or freezing new positions. 

The Rent Board, which is an independent elected body, has already approved the position. 

Sid Lakireddy of the Berkeley Property Owners Association asked why the Rent Board could not “promote someone in-house” for the job. 

Others questioned why the program would even require a deputy director, complaining that the agency had slipped in efficiency over the years. 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, who said he could answer questions on behalf of the Rent Board Executive Director Jay Kelekian—absent due to a family emergency—defended the need for the new role. 

“Unfortunately this discussion has turned into a Rent Board bashing session,” Arreguin said, responding to the criticisms. 

Arreguin said that the agency had seen a 25 percent increase in the number of people asking for help with their rental issues, especially during a tough economy. 

In addition to day-to-day operation of the Rent Stabilization Program, the rent board staff conducts outreach to tenants to inform them of their rights, provides counseling to both tenants and landlords and works to influence state legislation and court cases affecting Berkeley tenants. 

Arreguin added that the board had replaced three highly paid staff attorney positions with a deputy director and one staff attorney as part of a cost-saving measure. 

“There is a need for an administrator,” he said. 

However, the majority of the councilmembers said it was important for Kelekian to be present to explain the new position. 

“There needs to be a justification for hiring someone for $130,000 when we have stopped hiring people,” Mayor Tom Bates said. 


Berkeley Proposes Taxing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:49:00 AM

If the City of Berkeley has its way, pot in Berkeley might just get a wee bit more expensive.  

Weighed down by a $10 million budget deficit in 2010-2011, the city is proposing to tax Berkeley’s three medical marijuana dispensaries to bring in more revenue by putting a ballot measure in the November election.  

Language drafted by City Attorney Zack Cowan is designed to impose a business license tax on the cannabis clinics based on their square footage, something supporters of medical marijuana in the community aren’t too enthusiastic about.  

Cowan said the idea stemmed from Oakland, whose voters last year approved a sales tax for their dispensaries.  

“I looked at it and said OK, that’s a good idea,” he said. “Why don’t we do something like that in Berkeley?”  

The Berkeley Cannabis Commission, which is in charge of oversight of the city’s dispensaries, discussed the issue at a Feb. 18 meeting. The commission’s members are appointed by the three dispensaries.  

Cannabis commissioner Becky DeKeuster, who is also involved with the Berkeley Patients Group, said Friday that the commission was concerned about the difference between Oakland and Berkeley’s plans when it came to taxing medical marijuana dispensaries.  

“There were some questions about why Zach decided to go for a square foot tax instead of a revenue tax,” DeKeuster said.  

Cowan said that he didn’t want to explore a sales tax option because any organization that attains non-profit status from the California Tax Franchise Board would be exempt from local revenue-based taxes.  

“If we say we’ll tax based on gross tax receipts and that becomes obsolete in a year, then we are out of luck,” he said. “I don’t see anything immoral about a business license tax. It’s not like we are asking for $10 million. We are talking about under a million.”  

For the tax to go on the November ballot, the council would have to act on it by the end of July, Cowan said.  

Under Cowan’s proposal, the dispensaries would be charged $10 per square foot.  

For Berkeley Patients Group, which is planning to relocate from its current space on San Pablo Avenue to the former 28,000-square-feet Scharffen Berger factory on Heinz Street, that would mean paying the city $280,000 every year for using the building.  

The clinic ran into choppy waters earlier this year, when Wareham Development and the French-American School, Ecole Bilingue, protested its plans to move, claiming iolations of state and federal law. Berkeley Patients’ Group, which contends that it canget an over-the-counter use permit for the space because of a ballot measure approved by Berkeley citizens, is currently in negotiations with both groups.  

Erik Miller, manager of the Patients Care Collective on Telegraph Avenue, called the tax “arbitrary and unfair.”  

“Ten dollars per square foot is highly unusual,” Miller said. “The square footage is not all used for dispensaries—at the Berkeley Patients Group, the space is used for acupuncture, massage, healing and other services. I understand the City of Berkeley needs more money but I personally don’t agree with putting an extra tax on sick people’s medicine. It’s ridiculous.”  

Miller said that even if Patients Care Collective were able to pay the proposed $8,000 tax for their 800-square-foot site, it would be difficult for Berkeley Patients Group alone to absorb the whole amount for their larger space.  

“They would have to raise prices,” he said. “I hope the city is willing to work with us to come up with something that’s reasonable.”  

Calls to Berkeley Patients Group were not returned by press time.  

Medical Cannabis Commission Chair Amanda Reiman said that the commission had not yet taken an official position on the proposal.  

“As a commission, we are definitely interested in discussing the possibility of taxing the dispensaries as a revenue generator for the city,” Reiman said. “But we also want to make sure that the dispensaries are not penalized for their large spaces often used for counseling or healing. We are working with the city attorney and our attorney to only tax the active dispensary space and not where the social services are given.”  

All the dispensaries, Reiman said, were interested in seeing the community prosper.  

“We just don’t want to see red tape get in their way,” she said.  

Goodbye From the Front Desk

By Anne Wagley
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:49:00 AM

“Hello? Daily Planet? I think you should get a photographer over here to North Berkeley because there is a UFO hovering over Solano, and you need to report on it.”  

“The city is chopping down this really beautiful tree on my street and the neighbors are all out here in tears, and we want the Planet to stop the buzz saws.” 

“There are some really nasty-smelling barrels that someone dumped on the corner and they kind of look toxic, so can you figure out how to get rid of them?”  

This last request to the Daily Planet newsroom phone was actually solvable. Nabil Al-Hadithy in the city’s toxics department was able to arrange to have the barrels removed. Some calls resulted in news stories, more often a kind of counseling session ensued, with advice offered on other groups to turn to for help. The calls produced a snapshot of a city and its residents, the fires and accidents, the outrage and, frequently enough, the comic and the absurd. 

I have sat at the front desk in the newsroom of the Daily Planet for seven-plus years, often wishing I had kept a record of the phone calls and visitors we had, as it would have been fodder for a great soap opera. But I didn’t—though I did manage to be entertained. 

We had some nasty phone calls, too. If you are a regular Planet reader, and seen the vitriol in the letters section, or an advertiser who has been subjected to it, I am sorry. I got the same stuff at the front desk. I wish we could find a way toward peace in the Middle East, but the hate, from one side in particular, that I have listened to, has soured me on the subject. 

But within our little space of an office, we had a wonderful life. We made some great friends (we miss the woman who came by with sweet potato pies), and celebrated each other’s achievements, even though Justin won the most. We celebrated marriages. We had children (Production Manager Ken was first with Lauren, then Michael with Daisy). We won awards, we were in the news, we hosted staff from other media (once a local TV crew needed a restroom); we celebrated with another crew when Obama won the election and they interviewed our neighbor Don at the barber shop. We mourned the death of friends: Fred Lupke, Denise Brown, Mr. Sugimoto and his wife Kay, Al Winslow and others.  

We had a home. We brought in food for each other, and Joanie, from our circulation department, was especially wonderful for bringing us fresh fruit. We had a note over the sink admonishing folks to wash their own dishes, and we had a particularly difficult time with a mouse that terrorized some of us, but was acceptable to others. Sometimes we didn’t like one other, and sometimes we had major disagreements. We also laughed a lot. We were a family. 

The garden flourished under the attentive care of our landlord, Mr. Sugimoto. And after that kind and gentle man passed on, Andy Liu and Mark Lilios helped us continue with the garden, with beans and tomatoes galore, kale (which last summer fed the office in the form of kale quiches for weeks), cabbages and even some weird squashes, which we never actually harvested. We raised three puppies under the front desk. Our children and grandchildren, passed in and out of the office, drawing for us on our endless supply of paper to be recycled, and we always hung their artwork prominently. 

We survived the years of Bush and Fox news, and many of their egregious errors ended up on our wall of shame and fame, a partition covered with news clippings, and photographs, in the newsroom, which always entertained our visitors. 

We had some great parties, with all the usual suspects in attendance, and several luminaries who graced our doorstep and our pages, and to whom I am so grateful for their friendship, especially Peter Selz, Peter and Annette, and Arthur Blaustein. 

I apologize to the many people who called with really serious problems that we were not able to investigate, or to help you with. Unfortunately, this will get worse as community newspapers die off. To whom do you turn to when the city will not respond?  

I am very sad to leave this front desk, my colleagues, and my work here. The Planet will continue to publish online, and I hope you continue to send in letters and commentaries. It is only with an informed public that democracy will survive. 

Thank you all.  

Sleep, Stretch, Ski: One Woman’s Search For Satisfaction in Central Oregon

By Susan Parker, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:50:00 AM

I’m no Elizabeth Gilbert, and when my life changed dramatically a few years ago I didn’t set off for Italy to eat, India to pray, or Indonesia to find love. I didn’t have the money or the resources. My husband died in September 2006 and it took me six months to put one foot in front of the other, to figure out finances, and to adjust to not being a full-time caregiver. It took another year for me to realize that I needed to leave town. 

Twelve years before his death, my husband Ralph had a devastating bicycling accident that left him a C-4 quadriplegic, unable to move his arms or legs, incapable of eating or voiding on his own. One minute he was an amazingly fit athlete training for the California Land Rush, a 400-mile, two-day road bike sprint from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and the next he was flying over the handlebars of his Italian racing bike, about to plunge into a reality neither of us was prepared for.  

I knew that our lives would never be the same that first night in the Highland Hospital Intensive Care Unit when a sensible nurse told me that if my husband lived I would have to learn how to clean his ears and brush his teeth. Two months later Ralph was released from the Kaiser Vallejo rehab center where I had been taught the proper way to move his extremities, and how to give him a sponge bath. A kind nursing assistant helped me tie him with old bed sheets into the front seat of our Honda Civic. We weren’t going skiing, biking or rock climbing together again. We were headed home to a hospital bed in the middle of our North Oakland living room. Ralph was told to concentrate on his breathing. No one suggested out loud that his wife needed to get a new attitude, but it was clear to everyone that she did. 

Ralph, a nuclear physicist by training, tackled the situation pragmatically, like the brilliant scientist he was. He looked only forward, concentrating on the things he could do, not on what he’d lost. While I floundered around feeling sorry for myself and our situation, Ralph learned to manipulate his electric wheelchair and to use a computer by tapping the keyboard with a mouth stick. He got very good at allowing others to do for him what he could not do for himself. He let go of the past. I had no choice but to follow his lead. 

I gave up cycling, skiing, and climbing. Despite our limited finances and insurance coverage, I had to find full-time, live-in caregivers to assist with Ralph’s 24-hour needs. It was not a job I could do alone. The people we hired were not professional nursing assistants but folks we could afford: undocumented aliens, guys just out of prison, single mothers desperate for a place to live, former (and sometimes current) drug addicts. It was a world we knew nothing about, but that we embraced. We had no other options. We needed their help. 

Every day was a new learning experience. We tried to stay positive, creative, and forward-thinking. It was an uphill climb, harder than anything we’d done before. Ralph in-volved himself in disability issues and became an ex-pert in several diverse, eclectic hobbies: antique lighting, film noir, voice-activated computer enhance-ments. I became relatively proficient at driving a large van with a lift in the rear, and searching for and finding those elusive blue disabled parking signs. 

But as the years went by, Ralph’s drug regimen began to affect his once stunning mental capabilities. He became more and more isolated from everyone, including me. His last five years were spent confined to his hospital bed. There, surrounded by computers, antique lights, and television screens, he watched movies, and perused E-Bay. Days after he passed away, films arrived that he had ordered online. They were all about dancing. Ralph had become obsessed with salsa, ballet, and the tango. 

After the funeral, I knew I would have to rejoin the workforce. Bills needed to be paid. We’d spent most of our savings on live-in help. 

I got a position at a nearby school, commuted by bicycle everyday to and from work. I was up at 6 a.m. and in bed by 8 p.m. It was not an exciting lifestyle but it left me with little time to think about anything else.  

And then one weekend I drove up to Tahoe to visit friends Ralph and I had often skied with. I’d forgotten what mountain air felt like, the smell of big pine trees, the sound of snow crunching under rubber boots. I returned to the city refreshed and wanting more of that cold weather therapy. I began to fantasize about spending the winter somewhere other than the East Bay. I had friends in Steamboat Springs and Crested Butte, Colorado, Sun Valley and Sandpoint, Idaho, Bend, Oregon, and, of course, Tahoe. Maybe I could go to one of these places for a long visit. 

I scrutinized my bank account. I studied distances on maps. I read about the snowfall and seasonal temperatures of each town, the job opportunities, housing markets, airport accessibility, population demographics, and politics. I narrowed my list down to three locations: Tahoe (it was close to my home), Sandpoint (it was far away), and Bend (it  

wasn’t too close or too far).  

Tahoe got a lot of snow. The Nordic ski scene was big, diverse and competitive. But its proximity to Oakland was a minus. I thought I might be tempted to head west whenever I got lonely. And there was another negative. Coming from a city that was once famously criticized as having “no there there,” I wondered where the There was in Tahoe. Truckee? Squaw Valley? Incline? It was a necklace of small, unattractive towns surrounding a beautiful but mostly inaccessible lake. 

I looked further north to Sandpoint. It sat beside another huge body of water circled by pristine mountains, and a rugged shoreline. I went to visit. It took two bumpy flights and a nerve racking drive along an ice-covered two-lane highway to get there. It was gorgeous, alright, but the skate ski scene? Nada. I would need to become a serious telemarker (and possibly a Republican) to fit in. 

But a visit to Bend in the fall perked my curiosity. Here was a town with lots of resources. (Maybe even too many—I wasn’t desperate for Costco, Home Depot or Bed Bath and Beyond. But Trader Joe’s? I could compromise.) The weather was good, the distance from the Bay Area doable, the rental market affordable.  

I sold the van with the lift in the back and acquired a two-door 1996 Ford Escort. Someone gave me their old skate skis, poles, and boots. I rented out rooms in my house and packed the Escort with winter clothes, a sleeping bag, and a tent (just in case). I arrived on Jan. 12, 2009, found a furnished room to rent on Jan. 13, bought a Nordic season pass at Mount Bachelor Ski Resort on Jan. 14, joined a yoga center on Jan. 15 and started some serious skiing, stretching, and sleeping. Sixty-five days of skiing, 70 yoga classes, and over 900 hours of sleep later, I felt that I’d had enough. I returned to Oakland on April 5 thinner, more flexible, well-rested. 

Unlike Elizabeth Gilbert, I didn’t learn a new language, or reach nirvana (though I came pretty close the day I did five yoga classes in a row). I didn’t find a husband either, but I wasn’t really looking. But what I did learn was that at age 56 I could make some major changes in my life. I could move to another city and state. I could relearn a sport I once loved. I could (almost) stand on my head in yoga class, and recognize the difference between a skate ski V1 and V2. Maybe Elizabeth Gilbert can write a bestselling book, find a great new husband, and even stand on her head, but I really doubt that she could skate ski up Screamer, the half mile, steepest hill at the Nordic center. Me? I can do it without stopping. 


Susan Parker is currently dividing her time between Oakland, a Nordic ski town in the West, an artist retreat center in the Northeast, and lovely Las Vegas. She will send periodic dispatches to the Planet about what life is like for an East Bay Flatlander in these far-off locations.

‘What a Wonderful Thing’: The University YWCA

By Steven Finacom, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:52:00 AM
The YWCA on Bancroft and Bowditch was completed in 1959.
The YWCA on Bancroft and Bowditch was completed in 1959.
The YWCA AT 2600 Bancroft Way as it stands today.
The YWCA AT 2600 Bancroft Way as it stands today.
The building has been nominated for local landmark status and will come up for a public hearing April 1.
The building has been nominated for local landmark status and will come up for a public hearing April 1.

Although many graceful older buildings were demolished in Berkeley in the mid-20th century, the period also produced some notable and enduring examples of new institutional architecture. One of the more important is the headquarters of the University Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), completed in 1959 at 2600 Bancroft Way, at Bowditch. 

The building is a strong expression of its era, when architecture in the Bay Area was responding to the new needs and sensibilities of a rapidly growing region and changing culture. It was designed by Joseph Esherick (1914–1998), a Pennsylvania-raised architect who came to California in the 1930s and became one of the most notable designers of his day. 

The building has been nominated for city of Berkeley Landmark status, and there will be a public hearing on April 1. (See sidebar for details.) 

Esherick “extended the two prior Bay Region Styles, the turn-of-the-century architectural tradition of Bernard Maybeck, Ernest Coxhead, Willis Polk and John Galen Howard, among others, and, decades later, the midcentury work of architects such as John Funk, John Dinwiddie, Wurster, and Dailey,” retired UC Professor Marc Treib writes in Appropriate, his 2007 book of Esherick’s residential designs. 

Although Esherick’s practice later grew into the partnership Esherick, Homsey, Dodge and Davis—now EHDD, a large architectural firm that works in many fields—when he won the YWCA commission he was still focused primarily on private residential projects.  

His new client, the Berkeley Young Women’s Christian Association, was a powerhouse independent organization. Founded by women students in 1889, it evolved into one of the more enduring “off-campus” institutions associated with the university community.  

“At the YW there is always faith in the abilities of women and in the importance of being involved with both the university and the wider community,” member Dorothy Thelen Clemens wrote in her 1990 centennial history, Standing Ground and Starting Point.  

That philosophy led the organization, over the decades, to establish social and service programs for students, reach out to international students, provide places for women to meet and eat, organize and encourage members to volunteer in the community, and also devote itself to addressing challenges—particularly sexism and racism—in the greater society.  

By the mid-1950s, the busy YWCA was facing the need to relocate its physical facilities. The selected site lay along Bowditch Street, already a well-established institutional corridor, lined with eight religious, school, or other institutional buildings, including two by Julia Morgan. 

Julia Morgan also had a connection to Berkeley’s Y, as she did to the YWCA movement in general. She was a preferred architect for women’s facilities in the West. In Berkeley she designed Hearst Gymnasium (in conjunction with Bernard Maybeck) and Girton Hall (Senior Women’s Hall) on the UC campus, the Berkeley Women’s City Club, and what became known as the YWCA Cottage. 

The Cottage stood at the now vanished southeast corner of Allston Way and Union Street. Today, a path running downhill from Sather Gate at Sproul Plaza follows the old line of Allston. It was the planning of the university’s Student Union complex on that site in the 1950s that led to the end of Julia Morgan’s Cottage and the construction of the current YWCA building two blocks away at Bancroft and Bowditch. 

The Berkeley YWCA had begun its activities in 1889, meeting in the basement “Ladies Room” (a lounge, not a lavatory) of old North Hall on the campus. Four years later, Stiles Hall, a brick structure “for religious and social uses of the university,” was privately built outside the campus border, about where the northeast corner of Haas Pavilion now rises.  

While operated by the separate university YMCA, Stiles Hall included space and opportunity for activities of the YWCA and other student religious and social groups. For 40 years it would be one of the principal centers of Berkeley student life. 

The YWCA stayed at Stiles until 1920, then moved to a home of its own. In 1918, national YWCA funds became available to build what was termed a Berkeley “Hostess House” for World War I servicemen on campus. Local women raised funds to buy the site and furnish the building.  

That building was dedicated on Jan. 25, 1920. “This building is one of three, the others being at Teachers’ College, New York, and Chicago, given by the National YWCA for student centers,” the Oakland Tribune reported. “(It) contains rest room, writing room, two hospitality rooms, lunch room and foreign foyer. There being students of 20 nationalities at the University of California it is expected this foyer will be much appreciated.”  

Berkeley’s new circa-1920 YWCA was “a building beautiful in its simplicity, and would become a dearly loved second home to a dozen generations of college women,” wrote Dorothy Clemens in 1990. By then the YWCA had a full-time professional staff as well as a corps of student leaders and volunteers, and a multitude of activities. 

The strategic location of the Cottage, steps from Sather Gate, proved both benefit and bane. It was a popular and heavily used facility, adjacent to a busy campus entrance. But it was also too close to survive the perhaps inevitable enlargement of the campus. 

“Within only a few years of moving into their beloved Cottage, the YW learned that university expansion plans would eventually engulf the Cottage, just as Stiles Hall had gone under the bulldozer in 1931-32,” Clemens wrote.  

In 1942 the YWCA took over ownership of a vacant lot at 2626 Bancroft Way as a possible future site. The land was rented for “parking and a hot dog concession” for years until the university identified it as a future acquisition site as well. 

The YWCA then shifted its property focus just west, to the end of the Bancroft block at Bowditch, where the current building would finally rise. An agreement to sell the Cottage and the 2626 Bancroft parking lot to the university was consummated, and both fundraising and planning began for the new building. The university paid $224,000 for the properties. Another $200,000 was raised through private fundraising. 

The YWCA Advisory Board, a high-powered group of “faculty wives and community women,” managed the effort. The Advisory Board included well-known Berkeley and campus names of the era, including Blaisdell, Davidson, Grether, Hager, Kerr (Mrs. Clark), Sproul (Mrs. Robert G.), Nichols, Sibley and Towle.  

On April 29, 1957, when Esherick received the news that he had been awarded the job (“You have been chosen as architect for the new YWCA!!!” one of his office staff memoed), he also received a request that he meet right away with the Publicity chair and attend meetings of the Kitchen and Lunchroom Committee and Finance Committee. 

Throughout the design and building process—which he and his colleagues recorded on hundreds of yellow notepad pages covered with sketches and large, loose, cursive notes—Esherick interacted with numerous YWCA staff, board members and benefactors.  

A handwritten note from one of them in August 1957, listed several changes re-quested in the plans and closed with the somewhat sardonic query, “You said it was easier working with a committee than with a single person. Do you still stick by that?” 

From the written evidence, Esherick seemed to have regarded the client with equanimity and enjoyed the project. In his UC Regional Oral History Office oral history in the 1990s, he told the interviewer, “That was a really nice job.”  

The feeling appears to have been mutual. In 1959, Mrs. Jefferson Larkey, chair of the Advisory Board, wrote to Esherick, “We continue to enjoy the building and feel that you really caught the spirit of the Association and portrayed it in the building. It has proved functional as well as beautiful. Thank you again.”  

Treasurer Ella Hager wrote to Esherick thanking him for making a gift to the Y’s annual fundraising campaign and noting, “The building is lovely and useful and day by day becoming even more beloved.” 

Esherick also received plaudits from peers. Architect Henry Hill wrote to him on May 13, 1957, when he received the commission, “Sincerest congratulations on the YWCA job. Your selection is indeed good news. What a wonderful thing for the Y; but above all—and this is meant most sincerely—what a wonderful thing for the whole community of Berkeley.” 

Dinwiddie Construction, based in Oakland, built the building. Much of the old furniture from the Cottage was moved in; some still remains. 

One particular sticking point over the exterior color was resolved, although Esherick recalled in the oral history that when the beige building was finished, an elderly Y lady blandly asked one of his staff in a meeting why that “baby s--t” color had been chosen. 

The design expressed Esherick’s interest in what he called in his oral history “dumb solutions,” “unpretentious, straightforward,” “as opposed to elaborately contributed or clever or whatever solutions. To me, a dumb solution to a problem is the highest possible praise.” 

“Elegance derived from an almost austere aesthetic” was an important part of Esherick’s philosophy, Treib writes. “This search for an eloquent solution in tune with quotidian values and living patterns pervaded Esherick’s architectural life. Most of the time, this search led to buildings of straightforward beauty…” 

“The university YWCA reflects Esherick’s concern with space rather than surface,” an article in the Architect & Engineer said in May 1960. “It is possible that use of space inside…will change drastically in coming years as the students’ ideas and activities change. It is also possible that the building will look better two decades from now than it does today. If these things come to pass, they will not surprise architect Esherick. They will, in fact, please him…” 

Marilyn Novell, who wrote the pending landmark application for the building, cited Esherick’s admiration of William Wurster’s Yerba Buena Club House, which stood at the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in 1939-40. Wurster’s flat-roofed building had ample windows and similarities to Y House, “particularly in the projecting trellises that cast a pattern of dark and light on the walls and in the large, outdoor space with profuse plantings,” she wrote. 

Esherick also looked, apparently at the Y’s request, at Stern Hall, the modernist women’s dormitory on the UC campus, as well as the replacement Stiles Hall (university YMCA) two blocks down Bancroft from the YWCA site.  

The two-story YWCA building—positioned over a street level-parking garage entered from Bowditch—has principal facades on north and west, and an east facade that was intended to possibly open out to university property on that side; there’s now a wooden fence.  

The main Y house entry is from the north, directly off the Bancroft sidewalk; just inside, a lobby and open staircase organize the circulation. A wide central corridor takes visitors back, past meeting rooms on the right and staff offices on the left, to large auditorium and cafeteria in the rear.  

Esherick’s design notes in the Environmental Design Archives at UC record a great deal of interest in, and discussion of, the dining arrangements, which continued an important feature of the old Cottage. The dining space in the new building occupied a large part of the ground floor and was initially run by the Y, with special “international” meals.  

Le Petit Cheval now rents the space. The restaurant bustles during the weekday lunch hour with campus and community people dropping in for inexpensive Vietnamese dishes, served cafeteria-style. 

Adjacent to the entrance are meeting rooms, including a large “living room,” with fireplaces. The ground floor design also included restrooms appropriate sized for the building’s uses. For once, women were provided from the start with toilet stalls at a ratio of 4 to 1 over the men. 

Upstairs, the smaller second floor included a library/meeting room, a terrace, an open lounging area originally called the “mixing bowl,” a “student work room,” and a simple non-denominational corner chapel. Parts of the second floor were later rented out for private professional offices, and then to student groups. 

Wide corridors, high ceilings, simple hemlock wall paneling, floor-to-ceiling doors and flooring of pecan wood—the latter selected so high heels wouldn’t dent the surface—light, muted colors and many windows, some with subtle, beveled glass multi-lite panes, give an open, spacious feeling to the interior.  

Marc Treib told me that the building has “very gracious proportions inside; the interiors are more significant than the exterior,” in his view. “That square donut plan was not unusual for its time,” he adds, noting, however, in the case of the Y that the central courtyard is not a major feature as it is in some other buildings of the period. 

“The warm materials of the interior, as well as numerous windows and doors that admit light and allow indoor/outdoor access, reinforce a sense of space that is more domestic than commercial,” Novell wrote. “In demand for his houses, Esherick brought that domestic sensibility to the YWCA building—in effect, a ‘home’ for the organization—and achieved an outstanding example of the low-profile, small-ego tradition of design for which the Bay Area is known.” 

The building remains an active facility serving its original owner and purposes. On the outside, it is largely unchanged; a small handicapped ramp and some hanging signage are the main alterations.  

The YWCA’s website current describes its mission as follows. “Strengthened by diversity, the Association draws together members who strive to create opportunities for women’s growth, leadership and power in order to attain a common vision: peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people.” 

Over the years the YWCA also played a cutting-edge roll in campus and community social action. In the 1950s it initiated inquiries into racial discrimination in student housing. In the 1960s it provided space for Planned Parenthood, which was not yet allowed into the university’s student health services.  

The YWCA reports on its website “approximately 100,000 visits to our building each year by people in our programs.” Activities—often advertised with colorful flyers that festoon the Bancroft entrance—extend from dance and fitness classes to youth mentorships and tutoring in English as a second language. They continue, in modern form, much of the Y’s core mission from its earliest days in Berkeley.  


In researching this article I drew on the thorough writing of Dorothy Clemens in her history of the YWCA, Marilyn Novell’s fine 2009 landmark application, and Esherick materials in the collections of the well-organized Environmental Design Archives at UC Berkeley and UC Regional Oral History Office’s extensive Esherick oral history. I also consulted Professor Marc Treib’s book on Esherick’s major residential designs, and he graciously shared further thoughts in a telephone interview. 



• 7 p.m., Thursday, April 1: City of Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission meets to consider the nomination of the University YWCA building for landmark designation. For confirmation, agenda and public hearing details, and exact times, see the commission’s website:  




• The YWCA celebrates its 120th anniversary with an event featuring “Auction, food and fun!” on Saturday, April 24, 2010, from 7–11 p.m. 


• At the annual YWCA membership meeting, May 12, from 9 to 11 a.m., Dorothy Clemens will sign copies of an updated edition of her 1990 YMCA history, Standing Ground and Starting Point. 


• The YWCA Berkeley / Oakland is at 2600 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. 848-6370. www.ywca-berkeley.org.

On Gardening: Mango

By Shirley Barker, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:53:00 AM

When I read in the Cal Alumni Association magazine, California, that eating locally is not necessarily an admirable thing to do, I could not suppress a sigh of relief. My feeling that local produce is overpriced also received a glow of vindication when a neighbor showed up with a bag of Roma tomatoes, 11 of them for 50 cents, from a market near Sacramento where all produce, she says, is practically given away, making the journey financially worthwhile. These tomatoes even had flavor, something that tomatoes from local farmer’s markets lack. Who knows where Berkeley’s tomatoes come from? Certainly not Berkeley. 

I felt relief because I have a passion for tropical fruits, and I know that since these do not grow in Berkeley, they must come from Central and South America. Especially do I love to eat mangoes in February. There is something about a mango that makes me thankful I live here, unlike those poor devils on the East Coast. Besides, the ground is too cold and wet in February to work on my mundane potatoes, carrots and turnips. Even though the sky shows increasing amounts of blue, and snow on the ground turns out to be plum blossom, one might as well continue for a while to dream of warmer climes. 

Mangoes are fruits beyond royal, since the mango tree, Mangifera indica, is sacred. The well-known “paisley” shape is thought to represent the seed of the mango, if not the mango itself. This shape is constantly featured in the ancient arts of India, frequently framing the seated Buddha in paintings and sculptures, and the fruit is an important part of Indian festivities. Indeed the mango is native to tropical India and perhaps Burma, is widely cultivated now throughout the tropics and can be grown in areas slightly less tropical, such as Florida. I was surprised to see it listed at all in Sunset’s Western Garden Book. Only in the most sheltered parts of southern California can it be grown, and even there it does not do well. Where it belongs it bears nobly for 40 years. It is usually propagated vegetatively, to avoid the stringy flesh of fruits of less certain provenance. Cashews and pistachios belong to the same family, Anacardiaceae. 

Mangoes are nutritionally valuable, containing huge amounts of vitamin A and measurable amounts of vitamin C, just the stuff for winter. The mango is best eaten by peeling it with a potato peeler and biting into the delicious juicy orange flesh while bending over the kitchen sink. More fastidiously, slices can be detached with a sharp knife around the large seed, which still begs to be slurped.  

Mangoes make delicious juices, add value to fruit salads, and made a fortune for Major Grey’s mango chutney. Whether Major Grey existed is uncertain. Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, lent his name to the tea flavored with oil of bergamot (derived from a variety of citrus). He has no apparent connection to chutney. His sons, Charles and Henry, were Victorian pukka sahibs but seem not to have been in India. Both Poonjiaji Spices Ltd. and Cross & Blackwell claim an exclusive relationship with Major Grey. There is no doubt the tag was and is brilliantly successful in capturing the Western market, and the Major’s scarlet pimpernel aura has not hurt sales a whit. Patak’s product is very good, available locally. India, with its abundance of sweet fresh tropical fruits, has less need of the sweet pickles, relishes and chutneys enjoyed in the West. India’s condiments tend to be sharp and bracing, salty, sour. Often they are made at home, refreshing rather than cloying. Vik’s does a salty pickle that gives a piquant jolt.  

As for paisley, in the 19th century, designs on imported textiles from India and Kashmir were copied in Europe. The looms of Paisley, Scotland, were the most advanced, although unable to reproduce the complexity and refinement of the originals. Indian shawls still drape the most beautifully and look the most gorgeous. 

Mangoes are found in many of Berkeley’s produce stores. Some are large, green, with rosy patches. Others are small and butter-yellow. There is no difference in flavor or texture. Monisha Bharadwaj in The Indian Spice Kitchen gives recipes with mango powder (also found locally), which is made from unripe fruits, sliced and sun-dried, and used as a tangy flavoring in various ways. 

The following recipe is a tropical offering whose richness helps to temper the treacherous winds of spring. First, choose whole spices such as coriander, cloves, black mustard seeds, green cardamom and pieces of cinnamon. Dry-toast these in a heavy pan, grind them, and set aside. Heat oil in another pan and stir-fry chunks of onion, eggplant and chili. Choose a chili as hot as is tolerable, or omit entirely. Sprinkle in the spices, stir briefly, add chopped canned tomatoes and their juice, a little water, and sea salt crystals. Simmer with lid on for about 10 minutes. Stir in a spoonful of almond butter. The sauce will be thick. Let it rest, lid on, heat off. In a small saucepan, heat a mixture of double cream and milk until little bubbles form around the edges. Stir this into the sauce to thin and enrich it. Coconut milk or cream is a fine alternative and is easy to make from dried coconut. Ground cashews can be substituted for almonds. Such changes subtly alter the finished dish. The second version is softer, sweeter, less rich. 

This is not an authentic Indian curry. Reay Tannahill might call it a parody. In her scholarly yet readable Foods in History she expresses her enthusiasm for the freshness and variety of Indian cooking. I share her enthusiasm. She considers the vegetarian cooking of south India to be one of the world’s distinguished cuisines. This is not faint praise. The virtues of this recipe are speed and simplicity, and really, both versions are delicious. Serve them with rice or chapattis, a dal or yogurt, and a big dollop of Major Grey’s. After all, that is not genuine either.

The Drummers at the Ashby Flea Market

By Lydia Gans, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:15:00 AM
The drummers at the Ashby BART station met every Saturday and Sunday.
The drummers at the Ashby BART station met every Saturday and Sunday.

The drum circle every Saturday and Sunday at the Ashby BART station is another one of those unique happenings that Berkeley offers for aficionados of the flea market and a collection of devoted drummers. It’s all part of their weekend routine.  

Nobody can say when it started in Berkeley, but some people remember a drum circle happening in lower Sproul Plaza as long as 25 or 30 years ago. The move to the Ashby BART station happened gradually, apparently with the more serious drummers being the first to set up there and finding that venue more desirable. For one thing, there is parking nearby, which is important considering the instruments and equipment they have to carry in.  

Some say that the roof overhang in front of the station where they play seems to enhance the acoustical quality, and it provides some shelter on rainy days. Yes, rainy days don’t faze them. Unless it’s really miserable those truly passionate drummers are there. And they are there from morning till night, long after the flea market closes down. 

Drum circles started in Africa long before recorded history. They became part of the musical culture in the Caribbean and more recently came to the U.S. where they are still primarily carried on by African-Americans who accept it as their heritage. The instruments played come from Africa; the wooden, goblet-shaped djembe, the larger wooden barrel-shaped conga, and the bell. This is not like the round bell with a clapper that we are familiar with but a hollow piece of metal struck with sticks or a metal rod. These are the basics with various other percussion instruments included.  

The bell provides the foundation. The rhythm is given by the man who strikes the bell, the others fill in and improvise around it. They get in a groove, creating intricate patterns, playing off each other, building up to a climax. Eventually some of the less experienced drummers get confused, make mistakes, the sound becomes chaotic and they stop. Everyone takes a breath as they regroup to begin again. 

Fast Eddie is the man who plays the bell. He has been drumming for over 40 years, sometimes in other venues, coming here regularly for the last ten years. He talks about what it means to him. As the person setting the rhythm he has to be fully focused. “It clears my head.” More than that, “It’s part of me, it’s part of my culture.” 

Art Briscoe, who plays the conga, feels the same way. At 58 and retired, he says, “it’s just a way of life for me. Every weekend I get up and think I have to come down here to play drums.” And like Eddie and the other long time serious drummers he continues to work at improving his skills. “I’m constantly evolving and studying and trying to learn.… It’s a passion that I have.” 

Mike, a retired lawyer, is an Irishman from New York. He says he loves traditional Irish music but had never played anything until he began drumming.  

“I was going by a drum circle one day and that’s all it took” he recalled. That was about 16 years ago. “I had a law practice for 35 years and getting down here was like going on the other side of the universe. Getting away from work, forget all about that tension. Then it became a habit.” 

For Yukon Hannibal drumming is also a kind of spiritual outlet. He recalls coming to Berkeley many years ago passing by lower Sproul and hearing the drummers.  

“I was so intrigued by the magical sound of the congas that I had to get a conga myself and sit there with the brothers,” he said. “Such good vibrations when we’re playing together,… and I’m still learning.” 

Drum circles are often formed for ceremonial or therapeutic purposes while others, like this one, are more informal. The drummers get together to share their love of creating the rhythm and the sound of their collective effort. One described it as almost an addiction, it fills a physical and a spiritual need. Someone else talked about getting satisfaction in being “part of something big”, part of a community. 

For Briscoe there is “a real community feel out here.” It’s not only the community of drummers but the flea market vendors and regulars. (The drum circle is not part of the flea market, which rents only the space in the parking lot.)  

Passersby can’t help but get drawn in. Stopping to look and listen, they begin to tap their feet and start moving to the beat. There are few women drummers because it is so demanding physically, but often they will join the drum circle with some beautiful exotic improv dancing. 

There may be many happenings around town but the drum circle at Ashby BART is a unique experience—and it is totally free and accessible for anyone to join in.



Hasta La Vista

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:56:00 AM

Ave atque vale — hello and goodbye. That was a standard greeting in ancient Rome, which a roguish blogger once compared to a Groucho Marx ditty, “Hello, I must be going.” It was also part of the rites for the dead.  

Sometimes it was turned around: vale atque ave. That’s where we are today at the Berkeley Daily Planet. “Goodbye, but now we’re back.”  

First, a few crucial housekeeping details. We want to make sure that all our readers know where to get their paper from now on.  

This is all you have to do to find us online: type berkeleydailyplanet.com into any web browser in any computer that is hooked up to the Internet. If you don’t even know how to do this, or you don’t have a computer, go to the library and ask a librarian to help you. It’s easy, trust me. 

Many readers have asked us to provide online subscriptions, so that they will be notified when a new issue comes out, or even when something newsworthy has happened between issues. At the moment, new online issues will appear as usual on Thursdays, but we will be putting up new stories every day, sometime more than once a day. If you don’t want to miss anything, be absolutely sure to send an e-mail letter to subscribe@berkeleydailyplanet.com. Online subscriptions will be free for now at least. 

We’re working up a variety of options in the brave new world of social media: Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz and similar tools. If you subscribe, we’ll let you know about these as they materialize. 

When the Planet changes next week from a daily-online, weekly-in-print paper to go online-only, some readers will be disappointed—we know this because they’ve told us in no uncertain terms that they prefer print. Print papers have some obvious advantages: more portable, faster to skim, safer to read in the bathtub. 

But an all-online format has real advantages for readers too. It’s much easier to update stories as they develop, and reporters can produce and post copy on the fly from wherever they are when news happens. All kinds of clever technical gimmicks—graphics, video, even live blogging—can easily be added to online text, as well as links to other news sources. There are now some local bloggers who are producing interesting copy, and as we find them we’ll link to them. 

The online paper won’t have the same space limitations we’ve had in the print paper, so we should be able to offer the reading public even more information on the Web than we have in print. We’ll continue to stress news rather than entertainment, to be more of a community newspaper than an alt-weekly like the East Bay Express or the Bay Guardian.  

We’ve said from the time we took over the paper seven years ago that we’re a community paper, but a community paper for an unusual community. Berkeley (by which we always mean the city, not just the university located there) is full of intelligent, literate people who can write about an amazing variety of things, much more than any paid staff we could ever afford. The Planet has always taken full advantage of these contributors, limited only by the number of pages which advertising revenue could support.  

The special niche of local papers like ours is that they provide local readers, people who plan to stick around town for a few years at least, with a window into the operations of local government which affect day-to-day and year-to-year life. This includes both big topics (How many skyscrapers are going up in my downtown neighborhood, and will shoppers be circling my block looking for parking after they’re built?) and small (Who chopped down the butterfly garden that I planted in the traffic circle on my corner?) 

Parents with children in the public schools rely on local papers to tell them what they need to know to plan their children’s future. Some Berkeley parents care about how well the football team fares, but many more have strong opinions on topics like the number and quality of science labs kids should be offered at Berkeley High. And teachers want to weigh in too. We’ll continue to serve the school community by airing such discussions. 

What we won’t be doing is offering open-ended opportunities for illiterate anonymous bloviation and venting. Readers who enjoy that sort of thing can find it in any number of online papers these days. We’ll continue to require full name signatures on letters and to ask for phone numbers (not for publication) to verify authorship. This should be enough to keep the quality of correspondence as high as it’s been in the past.  

We have tentative plans to publish occasional print papers at intervals as yet undetermined, if we can work out the logistics. It doesn’t seem impossibly hard or prohibitively expensive to put out a “Best of the Planet” issue, perhaps monthly or bi-monthly, with limited distribution in a few locations or city-wide home delivery or anything in between. This is another reason to make sure you’re on our subscription list, so we will be able to let you know where and when you might find print Planets.  

New directions: We want to use this opportunity to try once again to provide some coverage of the whole urban East Bay scene. J. Douglas Allen-Taylor has given our readers a regular window on Oakland, and we’ve had some news from points north, including Richmond, but there’s a lot more going on there. This would be an especially good opportunity for Partisan Position contributions from engaged readers in other cities, or for linking to new and old news blogs.  

We’ve also had many requests for more food coverage of all kinds which we’ve never been able to afford on a regular basis. Foodies, this is your chance for 15 minutes of fame, or even more. In fact, we welcome contributed reviews from readers on all sorts of topics, not just food.  

That’s just a sample of what might be possible in the new and improved Planet. We’d like suggestions and ideas from all of you. 

Readers have responded both resignedly and enthusiastically to our announcement that we’re going online-only. There’s been a full measure of schadenfreude expressed in some quarters as well, including the now-familiar venomous voicemail messages and hate mail.  

But love us or hate us, going online doesn’t mean the Planet’s going away, just moving into a new orbit. We’ll be seeing you there.  

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:57:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was sorry to hear about the Daily Planet’s decision to only have an electronic version, and discontinue the printed version. However, I understand why the decision was made. 

Unfortunately, I will be hard pressed to remember to connect-up with the electronic version. I have a suggestion. In both my professional life and private life I receive emails letting me know that the most recent edition of an organization’s electronic newsletter is available. The American Institute of Physics, the New York Times, and the Contra Costa Times are examples. Establishing an email address list and sending out email announcements (not more than once a week, please) are fairly inexpensive. If you decide to do so, please add me to the list. 

Don Grether 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to thank you for your great work and also thank your publishers for trying so hard to stay with the printed paper despite all the adversity. Many of us will miss it and I know will continue to read the online version and shop with your advertisers whenever possible. Thank you for your contribution to the local dialogue/discussion/debate, helping to keep free speech real and alive. 

Richard Phelps  




THe Planet’s Value 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was sad to hear of the passing of the print edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet. It was a very valuable source of information and public comment during the dark days of the Bush fascist regime (2001–2009, RIP). The Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld lies about its criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq were exposed on its pages. I pointed out how the Republicans electronically stole the 2004 presidential election by the flipping of some seven million Kerry votes into Bush votes on election night. The corporate TV media and the corporate newspapers just did not want to cover this electronic election theft. They were pathetic. The San Francisco Chronicle along with the San Jose Mercury, the Contra Costa Times and the Oakland Tribune all happily buried this bit of GOP treason. Only the Sacramento Bee even mentioned the protests about this theft (again) of our democracy. 

A few days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, the Planet published my long and detailed expose of the Bush flooding of New Orleans. It was important to get these stories into print. Having delivered the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on a morning route for several years back in the 1950s, I quickly became addicted to reading newspapers each daily. It took me about 40 years to break the habit of reading the San Francisco Chronicle; in the 21st century it has become very corporate and very imperialistic. 

The transition from print newspapers to electronic newspapers on the Internet is tough to make, but is seemingly necessary from the economics involved. If follks are willing to pay a dollar to read the corporate Chronicle, might they be willing to pay a dollar to read the progressive Daily Planet? 

To become an electonic community voice in the East Bay, one needs an interactive blog-website along the lines of Think Progress, Common Dreams or the Daily Kos, for example. News articles and editorials need to be posted to the website at least once a day and then commented on, with comments about the first comments, too. One probably needs to have live monitoring of comments to prevent flame wars from erupting, say between partisans for Israel and partisans for Palestine, for example. 

I hope that the online version of the Daily Planet can carry on with this important and difficult task. 

James K. Sayre 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I support the proposed cafe in the Trader Joe’s building, two short blocks from my house, because it would make my neighborhood more interesting and more walkable. 

A few people are opposing the cafe because it does not provide parking. How many existing cafes in Berkeley provide parking? Without the cafe, that vacant space would blight the neighborhood. 

To those who demand parking at the cafe, I suggest the following exercise: Imagine that it is the year 2030, that the world can see the damage that global warming is doing, and that your grandchildren ask you what you did about global warming decades ago, when everyone first became aware of it. 

Do you want to answer that in 2010, after the world agreed at Copenhagen on the goal of reducing GHG emissions, your main political activity was to demand more parking spaces? 

It amazes me that anyone in Berkeley can be so backward. 

The Obama administration has said that, to control global warming, it wants to build “livable cities,” which it defines as cities where people are not compelled to drive because there is good public transportation and many destinations are within walking distance. The cafe in the Trader Joe’s building would help to transform our neighborhood into this sort of livable, walkable city. 

The people who oppose the cafe still seem to be living in the days of the Bush administration. Remember that, when he heard about the idea of building walkable neighborhoods, Bush responded “Our way of life is non-negotiable.” Maybe when they go to city council on this issue, they can carry signs with that famous quote from George W. Bush. 

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a California native born in Sonora, California and raised in the Bay Area, ended up with a family of my own here in the Central Valley. So my roots in northern California and its surrounding waterways and recreational wonderlands has always been a big part of my life, as it has been for many of us here in northern California. Growing up as a kid I would fish the delta often and wonder why the south delta always looked so horribly unfishable compared to the Sacramento delta. I began asking questions, which eventually I found out the source of this mess. The huge pumping stations in Tracy, in other terms I don’t know how to put it just flat out “stealing” water from the rivers that flow to the San Francisco Bay estuary. With recent events such as the collapse of the commercial and recreational salmon fishery, other fisheries such as steelhead trout ,and green sturgeon on the decline in our delta/river system. We have to ask ourself do we really want to let Southern and Central California’s wealthy few obliterate whats left of our already heavily damaged, may I remind you biggest freshwater estuary in western North America? Please read my words knowing that I am one voice among tens, even hundreds of thousands of more than concerned northern Californian’s trying to figure out why we have let this happen so long and what we can do to keep these people from sucking the heart right of our beautiful state further wreaking havoc on local economies and eco systems. I simply cannot stand on the sidelines anymore and allow this happen, and I strongly urge anyone else living,loving, and prospering in the north part of the state to speak up to local newspapers and local congressman/woman and lawmakers. Its past time and with what time we have left im afraid it may already be to late. 

Aaron Gonzales 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The decision to empower corporations as “persons” in this nefarious decision, and thereby disempower the rest of us, is essentially a corporate coup. The national media did not make it an even medium-size story, let alone headline it—instead they were full that week of tales of a senator’s private life! The takeover of the nation went unreported, because the national media is in fact already so much owned by the corporations. We are not getting anything but sophisticated propaganda, subtly slanted national and world news (and meanwhile, as usual, the perpetrators accuse the victims of the crime, saying the media is too “liberal!!!”) This was a hostile takeover of Americans’ freedom, perpetrated by the very people that ruined our economy, took over our agriculture and health, put an unelected man into two terms as President, ruined our moral position as a nation, and told us there is no such thing as global warming. Thank heaven we have President Obama—but in a way the national media blocks his voice by editing many important passages he says. We ordinary citizens have to give him full support. The media will try to make us seem less a majority than we are, I am glad that sites like this one are giving the truth: 80 percent of America is against the corporate takeover—and most of the rest probably don’t know about it. 

Shirley Ann Lutzky 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

If someone flew an airplane into a building full of people to protest the Afghan war, it would be called an act of terrorism. However, when Mr. Joe Stack flew his plane into an IRS building and killed people, the news media calls it. “the accident,” and “the incident.” The local Texas prosecutor declared that Mr. Stack was not a terrorist. But what should you call it when a man pens a manifesto proclaiming, “violence is the only answer,” then kills people because they work for the government? Mr. Stack’s wife apologized on the news to “everyone affected by the incident,” but was careful not to use the term “victim,” when referring to the people her husband murdered. 

  Regardless of the media’s politically correct posturing, the simple fact is this: Joe Stack was a suicide bomber. Even though his name was Joe, and not Mohammed, and even though he was protesting taxes, not Israeli foreign policy, Mr. Stack was, a murderer of the innocent. So why does the media avoid the T-word when referring to him? Because anti-tax politicians are powerful. When Massachusetts’s new Senator was asked about the plane attack, he yawned, “No one likes paying taxes.” That sentiment is quite popular, as so few news outlets see fit to interview the families of Mr. Stack’s victims, or even print their names. Apparently, if you are killed because you work for the IRS, your name is not even worthy of a line in the newspaper. 

  Many have forgotten the violent Tea Party rallies of last summer, the busses full of anti-tax activists appearing at congressional offices around the country with their clubs and fists and foul mouths. Many have forgotten the Sarah Palin rallies of 2008, events that attracted characters similar to the murderous Mr. Stack. But the media has not forgotten those events, because they know that if they refer to Mr. Stack as a terrorist, as a man who killed innocent people to make a point, they’ll wind up in the crosshairs themselves. 

Arthur Plum 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Doing a program on novels a few weeks ago, notably that he believed Cervantes was Jewish—a Spanish converso—the inestimable Tariq Ali, for whom The Beatles and The Rolling Stones wrote, “Power To The People” and “Street Fighting Man,” respectively, was asked what were the great major conflict novels of the past decade. 

He replied with only one: The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Moshin Hamid, a 2007 novel I read a few years back. I don’t recall why I was drawn to it, but it’s a about a young Pakistani Muslim who graduates great from Princeton and goes on to much admired things on Wall Street or thereabouts as the millennium turned. And then he turns.  

By any means necessary, Sikh it out. 

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

  Daily, newspaper headlines bemoan the collapse of the California Dream. Today’s San Francisco Chronicle front page prints: “Over 900 Pink Slips Likely for SF Schools” (Feb 23). Yesterday’s asked: “Has the Golden State Gone Bankrupt?” How could anyone be surprised that California has declined from first in education nationally to 47th?  

  The primary reason is simple: California is the only state in the nation requiring an excess two-thirds vote in either state legislative house to pass both revenue and budget measures. This means that a 34 percent minority holds the other 66 percent of our elected representatives absolute hostage. Although California residents are often blamed for this situation, voters elected a majority of responsible representatives—who remain impotent in the face of that minority rule. 

  Fortunately, this gridlock blocking California’s recovery is now surmountable—and it may come as no surprise that doing so involves technology. 

  The California Democracy Act campaign’s goal is to place the following 14-word initiative on the November ballot: “All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be decided by a majority vote.” 

  The CDA campaign is run by volunteers and is not corporate sponsored. So how can these average citizens hope to succeed? A recent editorial by John Diaz (Chron Insight Feb. 21) described how expensive it is to place initiatives on the ballot, implying that corporations will now control the democratic process within our state—or at least to a far greater extent. 

  The campaign development I mentioned above comes from a signature gathering approach the CDA campaign recently instituted. Voters now have the ability to access, print out, sign, certify, and mail in their own single-signature petition form. This puts power directly in the hands of individual voters – returning to a system of participatory democracy run by voters, not corporations. 

As of this week, you may download your own personal California Democracy Act petition at www.californiansfordemocracy.com/ 

  All it takes for you to start California on the road to recovery is Internet access, a printer, and postage—plus your signature. If you don’t have your own Internet access, go to your local public library—one of the branches not yet closed due to budgetary cutbacks.  

  You can now easily participate in taking back control of California. I hope you will join me in doing so. 

David Fielder 




Editors, Daily Planet:   

Republicans say they have finally realized how much good Medicare does—if you believe that you’ll believe pigs fly. The GOP still wants to send the highly effective and efficient Medicare program to the dustbin. How does that grab the 20 or 30 million blue collar workers, conservatives and Republicans who depend on Medicare as their sole health care provider. 

Ever since the Reagan era the Republican Party has had the goal of undermining and dismantling Medicare. This is exactly what they will work toward if they are returned to power. 

And don’t forget what the GOP wants to do with Social Security. They want to privatize it, leaving it and your benefits at the mercy of the stock market. Two of the most productive public programs ever and the GOP is hell-bent on scuttling them. 

But hey, don’t cry crocodile tears over the possible fate of your Medicare coverage. You can always side with the Republicans, the Tea Party and their insurance allies where the bottom line is of more importance than your health. 

Ron Lowe  

Nevada City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I found an article about the composer Julian White, but I searched in vain for editions of his music,especially sheet-music, scores of his piano-works, I hope you may be of assistance, 

Hans Wallin 

Pr.Bernhardlaan 21 

2264CA Leidschendam 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I ignored the swirl of reports and comments about Tiger Woods’ “…fateful car crash” because they struck me as fresh stirrings of the stinking prurient cesspool where high achieving black men get involved sexually with white women. (What if all of Tiger’s extra-marital sex partners had been black?)  

  I am compelled to throw off my isolating blanket because of the report by Howard Kurtz, “Tiger’s Mea Culpa” (Washington Post, Feb 19, online). Kurtz seemed totally unaware that puffed up self-serving cynicism is fuel for bigotry, a legacy from slaveholders who ranked and treated black people as cattle. 

  Readers would be bored if I detailed Kurtz’s general theme that Tiger’s apology will not save him, or if I itemized Kurtz’s verbal smirks (Tiger’s wife was “…conspicuously absent”) and innuendos (it was a strong speech, “…whoever wrote it”). 

  Kurtz exposed his naked prejudice in criticizing “Tiger’s whacks” at the press. 

  Tiger said that it angered him that people would fabricate a story about his wife hurting him at the time of the accident. “Please leave my wife and kids alone”, he pleaded. 

  Making light of this plea, Kurtz accused Tiger of inviting fabrication. He wrote “…there was media speculation precisely because he (Tiger) never addressed it (the press) before now.” 

  Thus, for Kurtz, if reporters ask a public figure a question and get only silence, then it’s okay to fabricate. Silence licenses speculation.  

  Roll over, Jack Johnson.  

Marvin Chachere  

San Pablo

Berkeley BRT Proponents Follow Stalinist Model

By Satya Preeti
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:57:00 AM

In the 1930s, Joseph Stalin instituted a series of top-down reforms intended to speed the industrialization of the Soviet Union. These reforms came in the form of numerous five-year plans that completely reshaped the industrial and agricultural sectors of the USSR and were developed by top politburo officials who made decisions out of the public eye that had devastating impacts on many communities and individuals. The workers and peasants were powerless to resist these changes, and their lives were changed forever in deference to the “greater good.” 

  Most information in the Soviet economy flowed from the top down. There were opportunities for citizens to express concerns about development plans, but people who did speak up were often severely criticized. And since their concerns were almost always ignored anyway, fewer and fewer people chose to speak out. As a result, the Soviet planners had very little reliable feedback by which to gauge the likely success of their plans; instead, the planning went ahead fueled by wishful thinking and highly speculative data. 

  There are disturbing similarities between Stalin’s central planning approach and the tactics employed by the group of powerful insiders pushing the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in the East Bay. For one thing, the basic plans for BRT were essentially finalized by a small group of people a decade ago. Back in 2001, the AC Transit Board of Directors determined that their rapid transit line would use diesel buses and travel along Telegraph Avenue and East 14th Street. Thus, a major development decision was made long before the citizens in any neighborhood affected by it had the slightest idea of the proposal, as typically happened in the Soviet Union. 

  Also, the BRT plan is clearly not intended to meet the needs of current Berkeley businesses and residents. In fact, it will cause many of them significant difficulties, as removing traffic lanes on Telegraph will unavoidably make the roads much more congested in the Southside and cause already-severe parking problems to intensify. 

  Who will benefit from this plan? Just looking at the huge, largely empty 1R buses hurtling day and night down Telegraph along the projected BRT route ought to tell you that something fishy is going on. It is! The buses keep running like this because the real reason for them is to encourage the construction of huge new apartment buildings along the route. That’s why it doesn’t matter to the AC Transit Board or the BRT supporters that this wasteful practice continues. Bus Rapid Transit is really a massive redevelopment scheme in disguise, laying the groundwork for the influx of developers who will be allowed to ignore zoning and environmental laws and build gigantic buildings in neighborhoods, reaping huge profits. This is exactly the same type of development that occurred in many Soviet municipalities, and it completely destroyed neighborhoods. 

  I have been amazed to watch the progress of the BRT plan in Berkeley. The whole process with the public meetings appears to be democratic on the surface, but that is all just for show. It is clear that the decision-makers have already made up their minds; the public meetings are just held to see how many more members of the public they can coerce into accepting their plans. Also, they know they have to go through this charade to “prove” to funding sources that the public has been involved in the planning process. What a sham! 

  At these so-called public meetings, it is very striking to notice how much time is consumed by the BRT spokespeople, giving lengthy presentations about the wonderful benefits BRT will bring and conveniently ignoring all of the detriments. When the public is finally allowed to speak, they are typically allowed only a short time to make statements—and the commissioners or board members often do not even pretend to be listening. I have even seen the discussion leaders tell people what they could and could not say at the meetings. Talk about parallels to the Soviet Union! 

  And even worse, members of the public who are obviously well-informed about transportation and development issues, some of them experts in their field, are treated with utter disrespect by those in power. Their views and information rarely evoke even a hint of interest on the part of the decision-makers—even when they provide ample documentation of their assertions. Like the former Soviet planners, BRT supporters want to consider only data that supports their position, no matter how speculative and unrealistic it may be. 

  I believe that the BRT supporters realize that if people actually learn the truth about the harm it is going to bring to their community, they will rise up and put a stop to it. So they feel it is necessary to stifle free expression, control information as much as possible, hide their real intentions, and ignore the concerns of those affected by their actions. Funny thing, this was the basic approach taken in the Soviet Union, too, for its major development schemes—and I suppose we all know how well that worked out in the end. 

  One last thing: The current process of choosing a “locally preferred alternative” is a blatant subterfuge. The proponents want you to believe that this is just another step in the exploration process—with no decisions being made, just alternatives being investigated. However, BRT supporters actually want our City Council to make this choice to allow AC Transit to prepare its final environmental review of the whole plan. They realize that, after the final review is completed, there will be no legal requirement for any public process to evaluate BRT further. The City Council can then just go ahead and vote for the project in its entirety, ignoring whatever the community may think.  

  I believe that a flawed and undemocratic process like this cannot hope to yield a positive outcome. But do enough Berkeley residents realize what is at stake here—the permanent loss of their quality of life? Or will they realize this only too late, as did many in the Soviet empire? If people in Berkeley do care about their rights, they need to step up and demand to be taken seriously about BRT. Time is running out. 


Satya Preeti is a Berkeley resident.

Berkeley Pools Bond: A Final Chance?

By Charles Altekruse
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:58:00 AM

For nearly a decade, Berkeley has known that its public pools were deteriorating and needed replacement. Although we’ve expended considerable time, energy, and funds on assorted studies and band-aid solutions, the key players—especially the City Council and school district (“BUSD” on whose property the pools reside)—simply punted on the tough political choices. 

  Based on Berkeley’s size, demographics, and climate, the best pools solution is quite simple: build the three main pool types (year-around recreation/instruction pool, outdoor lap/competition pool, and indoor hot-water therapy pool), one at each of the existing public pool locations (Willard, King, and West Campus).  

This three-pool solution would satisfy current swimmers and attract new aquatics users, including underserved segments such as families, low-income kids, seniors, and the disabled. It would deliver expanded hours, value-added new facilities and services, environmental protections, economic sustainability, social equity, etc., for generations to come. Furthermore, all existing neighborhoods pool sites would be preserved. It would cost around $25 million and represent a “Grade A” solution. 

But Berkeley may have run out of time, forced to take a position by the pending forced closure of the warm pool by BUSD, mounting and costly pool malfunctions, and the timing of upcoming elections and bond measures. In a bad luck of timing, these realities now collide with a terrible economic environment and growing frustration among homeowners to pass expensive bond measures with questionable perceived value.  

Barring last-minute revisions, the City Council appears poised to punt again, settling on a truly inferior, even miserly long-term aquatics solution that is politically expedient in the short-term but woefully lacking over time. 

Fearing Berkeley citizens are in no mood to take an ambitious step for their city’s future, city leaders are promoting instead a “Grade D” solution. As it now stands, the proposed June 2010 pool bond measure calls for a $20 million bond—half to build a brand new warm pool at West Campus and half to simply rehab the existing three outdoor pools.  

Claiming it cannot afford the appropriate three-pools mix, the city will instead invest in four pools not suited to Berkeley’s needs, including three energy wasteful outdoor pools and one super-heated warm pool, which will be one of the largest municipal therapy pools in the nation and cost nearly three times what was proposed just a few years ago. 

This “four-pool folly” has many deficiencies in addition to being environmentally irresponsible, excluding the most popular, profitable, and energy- efficient indoor rec pool and competition pools for Berkeley swim teams and thereby delivering much less value to many fewer aquatic users. It was introduced at the 11th hour, was never fully vetted to the public, and flies in the face of the Pools Task Force recommendations, public forum inputs, community surveys, and accepted aquatics best practices.  

The worst problem with the current proposal is that it fails at its primary objective: it will save Berkeley taxpayers only a few dollars a year over the superior three-pool alternative—and perhaps even cost more over time. Backs against the wall, the council made a classic “false economy” political calculation: one that appeases voters in the short-term by appearing to save money but over time will result in more money being wasted than saved and, equally important, a deterioration of public services and the common good.  

The “Grade D” proposal was “justified” by a single, last-minute and terribly flawed public poll that dubiously suggested Berkeley citizens simply wanted to “conserve what pools they had.” But our city leaders may be underestimating the voters’ largess—and wisdom—to pay for bond measures that deliver real value and reject those that don’t.  

Neighboring Albany, faced with the need to upgrade its pools, embarked on a community initiative driven from start to finish by an engaged and proactive school district and is building the indoor rec/instructional pool and outdoor lap/competition pool—the two key ingredients currently missing from the Berkeley plan. 

Berkeley City Council members are on record admitting Berkeley deserves “an indoor rec pool” and that “four pools are too many,” yet none could muster the political courage to do what was right: either support the three-pools plan now or postpone the bond measure until the economy improves, while finding a stop-gap warm pool solution. 

Still, the BUSD and City Council and staff are not alone to blame for this failure of vision and leadership; current swimmers, special interests, and a frustrated public are also at fault. The Pools Task Force was badly served by advocates looking out only for themselves: the politics of self-interest and special interest trumped the commonwealth. Hard political choices were punted; sacred cows were protected. In the absence of a political center or aquatics consensus, our elected representatives could have picked up the ball and led—but at some risk—so they punted too! 

  What’s next? Barring any last minute epiphanies from the city, it appears that transient deadlines and economics—rather than enduring courage, compassion, and wisdom—will shape the fate of Berkeley pools well into the 21st century.  

  Is the much-compromised June 2010 Berkeley pools bond measure worth supporting? It depends. If you believe this is Berkeley’s last and best chance for pools, then hold your nose and support the bond. After all, a “Grade D” is still a passing grade, though barely. If you don’t care or you hold out hope that our community has the vision, talent, and stamina to start over and build a better pools solution from the ground up, then maybe not. 

Either way, Berkeley citizens should commit to being part of the solution. Whether the bond measure passes or not, the community should rally in the future to raise the will and money to convert one outdoor pool into a legitimate competitive pool for our swim teams and another into an indoor, year-around rec pool. Everyone else has punted; it’s now the voters’ turn to play ball. 

P.S.: A brief word of appreciation to the Daily Planet for its thorough and accurate coverage of Berkeley aquatics issues through the years. Thank you! 


Charles Altekruse is a former Pools Task Force Member.

Suggestions for the Downtown Berkeley Streetscape

By Steven Finacom
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:58:00 AM

The city’s Downtown Streetscape and Open Space Improvements Process (SOSIP) has the positive potential to provide real improvements in Downtown but also the capacity to green-veneer Downtown development with little actual improvements for the public. 

Here are several suggestions to make it more likely that the former, rather than the latter, is the result. 

Look to the lesser streets. The greatest opportunities for new usable open space in Downtown are not along Shattuck, Center, or University—all foci of planning to date—but wide, little-trafficked blocks to the side such as Berkeley Way between Shattuck and Oxford, and Durant between Shattuck and Milvia. Along blocks like those, where building entrances and driveways are few and far between and you’re as likely to find a cow as a moving car, large open-space areas could be created while still permitting narrow traffic lanes for emergency vehicles and building access.  

Berkeley Way is a particularly promising opportunity, since the university is planning an open-space forecourt for its HELIOS building, facing the Berkeley Way and Walnut intersection. This could also connect to proposed green space on the upper block of University Avenue, just to the south. 

Go south. The best place for a mid-Shattuck park strip is not south of Durant but south of Dwight down to Adeline and even Ashby. Here, in the ample median along blocks with few current commercial users, a substantial, multi-acre, linear park could be developed. It would be easily accessible to downtown residents and also serve new housing along those blocks. This is the single best—and most affordable—opportunity to develop meaningful open space in Central Berkeley. 

Remember active users. It’s fine to have benches, planters, posies and outdoor dining, but a lot of the people living, or anticipated to live, Downtown will need active outdoor space that isn’t anywhere there right now. Where are 5,000 new residents of Downtown going to run their dogs, shoot a few hoops, and find places for their children to play? Not in adjacent neighborhoods, which, by and large, are either entirely without public parks or already overloaded (like the Ohlone Dog Park) with users. 

Fortunately, the sorts of facilities most likely to be in demand take up relatively little land area: mini dog parks, half-court basketball plots, children’s play lots. Such active spaces should be programmed into Downtown streetscape improvements from the start.  

An added benefit is that they would provide lots of positive street activity unrelated to shopping. Want a Downtown that will be “vibrant” on weekends and at night? Basketball courts used by resident Cal students and dog parks drawing empty nesters and adult singles with pooches will help. 

Save the trees. Much “green” urban advocacy these days seems to start with the absurd premise that to Save the World we must first cut down all those pesky existing trees and replant. Razing and replacing Downtown street trees every 15 to 20 years, as the city has been wont to do, have the effect of providing perpetually small, spindly saplings rather than healthy, mature urban forest. Just when the trees get big enough, along comes another planning process proposing to hew them down. (To his credit, Matt Taecker, the city’s Downtown planner, has put more street tree planting, not just replacement, high on the current agenda.) 

Finish Civic Center Park. A lengthy community-based planning process years ago created a consensus plan for Berkeley’s historic civic square, but it was only partially implemented. Those changes that were completed—a tot lot, a handsome plaza at the west end that doubles as an informal skateboard ground, refurbishment of the lawn and plantings—have worked well. Let’s finish the job. 

One major missing element that won the support of all participants, was making the landmark fountain work again. Plans exist to put it in order and it would be the single best way to make an immediate open-space improvement Downtown. 

A second consensus view was removing the free parking lot reserved for high public officials—parking in a park, for goodness sake!—behind City Hall and returning that land to the usable park. The lot is unconscionable in a city that routinely hikes street parking rates and admonishes citizens to walk, bicycle, and use transit. If councilmembers must have parking, they can allocate themselves and senior staff reserved spaces on the little used upper levels of the Center Street garage, just around the corner from City Hall.  

Neither the university nor the school district is a substitute provider of public park space. Berkeley High and the UC campus are not permanent public “open spaces” for Downtown, and this process will be delusional from the beginning if it pretends they are. Campuses may be partially available for public use, but they have different missions from the city’s, are beyond the city’s control, and are not a reliable substitute for real, dedicated public parks and open space.  

Go up. All the current SOSIP ideas are horizontal. But high-rise buildings Downtown will make the streets marginally—and sometimes substantially—less desirable places to be. Visit the wind-whipped, shadowy BART plaza in the lee of Berkeley’s two existing skyscrapers for a cautionary example.  

So why not also plan for open spaces the public can use high above the streets? The large top of a rebuilt Center Street garage provides one such opportunity. Or how about encouraging an affordably priced public observation or roof deck atop a high-rise—a Downtown Campanile—complete with café? Otherwise most of us will be walking in chilly shadows, while only a lucky, well-to-do few, enjoy the heights and the views. 

Save the sun. Most days outdoors in Berkeley it’s cool in the shade and pleasant in the sun. Maintaining solar access for Downtown public spaces is paramount if the city wants them to be actually used. Ignore the generic planning advice that says shade is necessary; not in our Berkeley microclimate.  

Horse before cart. A lot of Berkeley’s self-identified progressives who promote Downtown development switch to a substantially conservative mind set when it comes to funding public improvements. Trickledown subsidies from over scaled private developments are not the only way to improve outdoor spaces the public already owns. And improving public space should not be used as a driver for massive new development entitlements for the private sector. 

Assess the true costs. In the 1990s Berkeley voters approved Measure S to pay for Downtown streetscape improvements. There are still many years of property taxes to pay to retire those bonds, yet the SOSIP recommendations may remove much of what was done. If that is the case, the City should also retire the existing bonds so voters are not paying for improvements that have been destroyed. 

Don’t let transit displace useable public space. For much of the 20th century Shattuck Avenue was given over largely to train and trolley lanes, with little green space or sidewalk. Berkeleyeans had to fight for the undergrounding of BART throughout the City to keep the transit vehicles from dominating civic spaces. Dedicated bus lanes in the center of Downtown should not be prioritized to the extent that they push out opportunities for green space.  

Make sure the details are done right. All the planning and investment in the world isn’t going to work if the execution is subpar. Sad to say, that has been the result of much Berkeley Downtown planning in the past. Even the designers of Berkeley’s Arts Walk, for instance, will tell you the construction of the streetscape along Addison wasn’t as good as it could be. And no one noticed until it was too late that the new street trees along University Avenue, planted as a result of the last Downtown streetscape process (Measure S) would be immediately whacked, scarred, and mangled by parking cars.  

Avoid too much stand-alone “Art”. I’m a proponent of public art, but single, widely scattered, statement, pieces shouldn’t be allowed to substitute for good streetscapes with lots of repeating, well-designed, elements from benches to light poles to signage. Downtown’s giant tuning fork is pretty striking, but I know no one who thinks the blob of ceramic a block away at Addison and Shattuck is a big success, at least at that spot. Investing in good, small, decorative art and design covering lots of ground is a better long term strategy. 

Finally, listen to the locals. Often, the discussion of Downtown planning seems to be largely conducted amongst people who proudly proclaim, “I hate Downtown!” or “I never go there.”  

In fact, a lot of people go Downtown frequently (myself included), and there are many long term restaurants, other businesses, offices, and residents there. Ask them what they’ve seen working best, and what they want and need. They’ve already voted with their feet and dollars for Downtown; give them a voice first, and others will come. 


Steve Finacom is a Berkeley resident.

Yoo Must Be Held Accountable

By Kenneth J. Theisen
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:01:00 AM

On Feb. 19, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) finally issued its report on whether John Yoo and Jay Bybee should be held accountable for their actions associated with their role providing legal cover for torture and other crimes during the Bush regime. DOJ found that they are not very competent lawyers and that they engaged in “professional misconduct” by ignoring legal precedent and providing poor legal advice. But it did not hold them accountable for the crimes committed under the cover of their “legal” memos. 

Yoo played a key role in the Bush regime. His advice and legal memos provided the “legal cover” not just for torture but also for war, indefinite incarceration without trial, rendition, massive spying and other practices that many consider criminal conduct. The report virtually ignores this. 

From the very beginning it was clear that the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder would never charge Yoo or other Bush regime officials with crimes for their actions in the U.S. war of terror. The investigation and report was narrowly confined to whether Yoo’s conduct violated the professional standards owed by an attorney. Yoo, Bybee, and other Bush regime officials were even allowed to dispute the initial draft report by making proposed revisions to it. 

But regardless of the conclusions of the report, it is clear that Yoo went beyond poor judgment or engaging in professional misconduct. His actions deserve public condemnation and Yoo should be disbarred, fired as a law professor, and prosecuted for his actions. And it must be made clear that Yoo was not the one making judgments. He was merely the “hired gun” attorney providing the legal cover for decisions already made by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other top regime officials. Without his “advice” the various criminal actions listed above could not have been committed as easily. When Yoo is tried he should have these top-level officials as fellow defendants. 

Many ask why an attorney should be prosecuted for providing legal advice. But Yoo’s actions were not confined to legal advice but were intended to provide legal cover for crimes. As one example, Yoo’s infamous 2002 torture memo came about as a result of a refusal by Michael Chertoff, then chief of DOJ’s Criminal Division, to give a guarantee to the CIA not to prosecute its employees for torture. Yoo then met with David Addington, VP Cheney’s chief counsel, and then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to get around this decision. Yoo next inserted a section in his memo about the commander-in-chief’s alleged wartime powers to permit torture and another saying that CIA officers accused of torture could assert they were acting in “self-defense” to prevent terror attacks. 

Yoo’s “advice” was essential to the crimes carried out by the Bush regime. DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has traditionally advised the executive branch as to what is legal and illegal. If OLC says something is legal, the executive branch can proceed with its agenda. This happened after Yoo issued his OLC memos. Yoo provided the “get out of jail free card” to the Bush regime. 

Yoo’s memos permitted the Bush regime to launch wars; to conduct massive surveillance; to imprison, torture, and abuse prisoners; to hold prisoners indefinitely without legal protections including habeas corpus; and to generally disregard various provisions of the Constitution and international law. All of this patently illegal advice flowed from Yoo’s notorious theory of the “unitary executive”—better known as “If the President does it, it’s legal….” 

Legal scholar David Cole writes: “Yoo had a hand in virtually every major legal decision involving the US response to the attacks of Sept. 11, and at every point, so far as we know, his advice was virtually always the same—the president can do whatever the president wants.” 

Torture is a war crime and a crime against humanity. International and U.S. law both prohibit torture, under any and all circumstances, without exception. Yet while the Bush–Cheney torture state was being built, people in this country were told the lie that torture is necessary to keep Americans safe, and acceptance of this “excuse” has already spread widely in society. A 2008 survey by WorldPublicOpinion.org indicated that only 53 percent of Americans surveyed opposed torture in all circumstances. A 2006 Pentagon survey of troops in Iraq found that more than one-third of surveyed troops believed that torture was acceptable if it helped save the life of a soldier or helped obtain information about insurgents. 

Yoo also provided secret legal memos for the Bush regime that professed to supply a legal basis for illegal surveillance. Much of the content of these memos is still classified. But what has already been made public is revealing. Yoo concluded that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) could not “restrict the president’s ability to engage in warrantless searches that protect the national security” and that “unless Congress made a clear statement in FISA that it sought to restrict presidential authority to conduct warrantless searches in the national security area—which it has not—then the statute must be construed to avoid such a reading.” 

Clearly Yoo devoted his legal skills to serving as legal architect of many of the Bush regime’s crimes. Under cover of his memos, thousands have been subjected to torture, tens of thousands incarcerated, tens of millions spied upon, and a million have died in U.S. imperialist wars. Without the provision of “legal cover,” many of these crimes would not have been possible. 

The criminal past must be repudiated and yes, punished. If we fail to hold our government accountable for the creation of a national security state that utilizes torture and commits other crimes, we are condoning these crimes. The crimes will also be repeated. This is why Yoo must be held accountable. And if Yoo is not prosecuted by the Obama administration for his actions that led to so many crimes, then this administration is condoning those crimes and also deserves condemnation. 


Kenneth J. Theisen is an Oakland resident and a steering committee member of World Can’t Wait, which seeks to hold John Yoo accountable for his actions during the Bush regime.

Practice Disaster Preparedness 

By Norine Smith, Lynn Zummo and Charlotte Nolan 
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:00:00 AM

If you are not yet ready to care for yourself and your family in a disaster, and if your neighborhood is not yet prepared, it is time to start! If you and your neighbors are at some level of readiness, it is time to update and add to what you have already done: get more supplies, practice your family contact plans/drills and meet with your neighbors to initiate or improve preparations. We are establishing April 24, 2010, as “Let’s Do Something Day” for you, your household and your neighborhood to get better prepared. (See details later in this article regarding plans for that date.)  

To assist Berkeley neighborhoods in becoming better able to mount a disaster response, the Berkeley Disaster Preparedness Neighborhood Network (aka the “Network”) was created in January 2009. The Network was established for organized and unorganized neighborhoods to work together to coordinate efforts, assist each other, develop joint responses (such as group purchasing of supplies, developing workable communication systems) and work with the city. The overall goal was, and is, to ensure that all of us are better prepared to handle a disaster when—not if—it happens.  

The Network meets six times a year as a whole, with committees meeting as needed. Meeting attendees represent many areas of the city, and we welcome all new participants at each meeting. We have five active committees doing work that will benefit all of us. Over the next year or two we are planning to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation so that we will be in a position to apply for and receive grant funding. You can follow our progress and get information about our activities and meetings by visiting our website at www.bdpnnetwork.org and emailing us at info@bdpnetwork. org. We also urge you to keep track of what is happening with city of Berkeley Disaster Preparedness by visiting the city website (www.cityofberkeley.info); choose “Emergency Preparedness” from the list on the left. Here you can check for CERT classes on Disaster First Aid, Light Search and Rescue, and Fire Suppression, as well as get information on other topics at the GetReadyBerkeley section.  

The upcoming spring season brings new energy, more daylight and better weather—a good time to hold a meeting or a block party in your neighborhood. It is also a good time to hold a neighborhood drill, to practice what you would do in your area when a disaster—most likely an earthquake—strikes. To learn more about conducting a disaster preparedness drill in your neighborhood, come to the next Network meeting on Thurs., March 11, 2010, at 6:30 p.m at the Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, corner of Cedar and Bonita. Pre-paring your neighborhood by practicing emergency response techniques is the main agenda item. There will also be an opportunity to interact with other neighborhood representatives, ask questions and learn about useful resources. The meeting is a potluck, so, if you are so inclined, bring a modest contribution and enjoy!  

We know it is hard to get started with disaster preparedness with the high demands of daily life and the scariness of thinking about such an event, yet everyone needs to start somewhere! In support of that idea, the Network is sponsoring a “Let's Do Something Day” on April 24, 2010 from 9 a.m. to noon in coordination with the City of Oakland's more organized City-wide drill scheduled at that same time.  

We are asking that all of you do something that day to prepare yourself, your family, your neighborhood to respond to an earthquake. It does not need to be extensive—although it can be if so desired—but get started with some kind of progress toward better preparedness.  

So....what can you do as an individual or household?  

- Discuss a plan for how to communicate or work together within your household during a disaster  

- Establish an out-of-the-area, preferably an out-of-state, contact person who can report your situation to others during a disaster  

- Start a household supply list or buy some additional supplies for dealing with a disaster  

- Check into CERT or first aid classes that are available for you to take  

What can we as a block or neighborhood do on this day to better prepare ourselves?  

- Call a group meeting and ask attendees to start thinking about disaster preparedness OR collaborate with your neighbors to start a group if you don't already have one  

- Re-energize your block group by updating your neighborhood emergency contact list or starting one  

- Start a neighborhood cache of needed neighborhood supplies or inventory what you have already and make sure everything is up to date and working  

- Practice using supplies you have in the group cache: turn on the generator, check the flashlights, practice with the walkie-talkies  

- Have a practice drill to test neighborhood response to a disaster or inventory which people on your block have special skills useful in a disaster (medical training, CPR, search and rescue work) 

- Run a scalable drill based on the Oakland drill materials  

If you wish to follow some of the drill scenarios that Oakland will be going by that day, check the Oakland CORE website at http://www.oaklandnet.com/fire/core/citywide.html, or you can go into Oakland and help as a volunteer.  

We greatly regret the loss of the print edition of the Daily Planet and thank them for assisting the Network in getting started by printing our commentary articles. Your print presence will be missed! 


Norine Smith, Lynn Zummo and Charlotte Nolan are Berkeley residents.

Berkeley Law Students Applaud DOJ Report

By Megan Schuller
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:01:00 AM

The final report of the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) released Friday found that former Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) lawyer John Yoo committed “intentional professional misconduct” and that Yoo’s colleague, former Office of Legal Counsel lawyer Jay Bybee, engaged in “reckless disregard of his professional obligations” in their rendering of legal justifications for the Bush Administration’s torture policy. There is no more room for verbal acrobatics or flourishes in discussing this issue. The report clearly states, “Yoo’s legal analyses justified acts of outright torture.” And in rendering these analyses, the OPR report concludes that “Yoo put his desire to accommodate the client above his obligation to provide thorough, objective, and candid legal advice, and that he therefore committed intentional professional misconduct.”   

The findings of the OPR report are quite clear—the OLC lawyers responsible for authoring the so-called Torture Memos committed “professional misconduct.” Yet much of the press coverage missed the real story, focusing instead on Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis’s decision to downgrade the OPR findings to “poor judgment” and to refrain from referring the OPR findings to the relevant state bars. Fortunately, House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers is not so easily distracted from the actual contents of the report. He has disputed Margolis’s decision and scheduled Congressional hearings on the matter.   

Similarly, though the DOJ’s recommendation does not include sanctions, the contents of the OPR report provide a sound basis for action by other entities with jurisdiction over the lawyers’ conduct, including the University of California and the Pennsylvania and DC bar associations. These bar associations and the university have refused to investigate the conduct of Yoo until the release of the OPR report. Now they no longer have an excuse for delay; they have an immediate and pressing duty to investigate the professional misconduct and ethics violations spelled out in the OPR report.  

New facts revealed in the report include that Yoo “knowingly provided incomplete and one-sided advice.” The OPR report concludes “by a preponderance of the evidence” that Yoo, as a tenured professor of law, “knowingly failed to present a sufficiently thorough, objective, and candid analysis” through “his failure to carefully read the cases, and his exclusive reliance on the work of a junior attorney.” In addition, the report dismissed any excuse or justification for Yoo’s acts of professional misconduct, stating that “situations of great stress, danger, and fear do not relieve Department attorneys of their duty to provide thorough, objective, and candid legal advice, even if that advice is not what the client wants to hear.”  

It was evident from simply reading the Torture Memos that Yoo engaged in conduct that raised the gravest concerns of morality, ethics, and legality, yet the relevant bar associations and the University of California have failed thus far to fully investigate the Torture Memo authors and hold them accountable. According to the now publicly released OPR report, as a lawyer advising the president on matters of national security and “acts of outright torture,” Yoo failed to carefully read the cases he was citing and relied on a junior attorney for critical legal analysis. As the report concludes, this is clear evidence of a serious breach of professional standards.   

As a matter of law, of justice, and of due process, it is time for Congress, the Pennsylvania and DC Bar Associations, and the University of California to investigate. Full and thorough investigations are essential to ensure that these human and civil rights violations have stopped and never happen again.  


Megan Schuller is a second-year student at Berkeley Law and a member of the Boalt Alliance to Abolish Torture.  


Reporting to U.N. Human Rights Committees

By Ann Fagan Ginger
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:02:00 AM

On Thurs., Feb. 18, Assembly Member William Monning (27th District–Monterey, Santa Cruz) introduced Assembly Concurrent Resolution 129 to make California the first state to file reports to the three U.N. human rights committees under treaties the U.S. has ratified. 

The U.S. ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1992), the International Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (ICAT, 1994) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD, 1994). The treaty committees call for the U.S to publicize the treaty texts throughout its states and territories and to send periodic reports from “federal, state, and local levels” on the U.S.’s enforcement of the rights to human dignity, privacy, healthcare, and employment. 

As Monning’s resolution notes, California, as a state, has never received a notice from the federal government to compile the needed information for the treaty committees. 

The Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute of Berkeley sponsored ACR 129, after convincing the city of Berkeley to become the first city in the country to submit treaty reports. On Sept. 29, 2009, the Berkeley City Council unanimously passed a resolution allowing unpaid interns to use Berkeley statistics and data to make these reports. They will also be made public in Berkeley and will be sent to the media, the county Board of Supervisors, the state Attorney General, the U.S. Department of State so that it can be included in the country’s report, and to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, the U.N. Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the U.N. Committee Against Torture. 

Councilmember Max Anderson remarked, “This is extremely important. This is the way Berkeley should be talking. This should be an inspiration to other communities.” About youth involvement in compiling the needed data for the reports, he said, “I think it’s extremely important for young people to take part in something like this so it begins to become clear to them about the relationship, not only with their neighbors or with their fellow Berkeleyans, but with the world we live in.” Fellow Councilmember Kriss Worthington noted, “I think this is a wonderful thing to do…The city of Berkeley is setting an example on a small scale that we are going to respect these treaties, and we’re going to provide as much information as we reasonably can…[I]nstead of lecturing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, we’re taking small, simple steps…I think that sends a more powerful message that little cities can do it, so let’s motivate the U.S. to do it.” 

Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission persuaded the City Council to pass its resolution to report to the U.N. treaty committees. According to Diana Bohn, chair of the Commission’s Subcommittee on U.N. Reports, the commission will hold public hearings while preparing the reports so Berkeley citizens can state their concerns. She added that, though the U.S. has filed reports, it has yet to file them in a timely manner or to include information from states and cities, except for one report about four states after the U.N. Committee requested local information. 

The next U.S. ICCPR report to the UN Human Rights Committee is due on Aug. 8, 2010. The next U.S. ICAT and ICERD reports are due to the U.N. CAT and CERD Committees on Nov. 19 and 20, 2011, respectively. 

“Our experience at MCLI shows that making local periodic reports is essential to U.S. compliance with its human rights obligations,” summed up Susan Scott, Sacramento lawyer and MCLI board president. 


Ann Fagan Ginger is the executive director emeritus of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute. www.mcli.org

Tobacco Industry: ‘Give me your homeless, your poor…’

By Carol Denney
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:04:00 AM

When I first saw Berkeley’s new proposal for smoking restrictions in multi-unit housing, I couldn’t believe the loopholes. It exempts condos and tenant-in-common properties. It offers opt-out options for those who wish to continue smoking in their units. It refuses to identify secondhand smoke, which kills over 50,000 nonsmokers a year, as a nuisance, and suggests smoking sections, which most people know are a joke if the goal is clean air. It is a tobacco industry’s dream. 

I wondered where the weaknesses had come from and was told that the 10 percent smoking sections were necessary to address social justice needs. 

Well, I like social justice! I read through several years of committee meeting minutes and saw that the proposal’s weaknesses were based on several myths: 

• a concern that there would be a rash of evictions in the wake of smoking restrictions, even though no evidence of this exists; 

• a concern that formerly homeless people would be barred from transitional housing because they smoked, even though smokefree housing only means smokers step outside to smoke, something all smokers in California do anyway in workplaces, restaurants, etc.; 

• a concern that formerly homeless smokers with mental disabilities will be somehow less able to step outside to smoke, so that “smoking” units need to be set aside for them, even though there is no evidence of this—on the contrary, studies show that people with mental disabilities are as capable of adjusting to smoking restrictions as anybody else. 

It’s true that homeless people have a high rate of smoking, but it is no accident. The tobacco industry targets homeless and mentally disabled people the same way it targets other marginalized groups by donating free cigarettes to shelters and psychiatric clinics and encouraging the clinics and transitional housing groups to oppose smoking restrictions. It targets the service providers as well, many of whom are formerly homeless, in the hope that they will help the tobacco industry position itself in the public eye as compassionate, generous, and kind. 

The difference is that when the tobacco industry targets the gay community or the African-American community, people jump up and down and object. Targeting homeless and mentally disabled people in this way gets little such reaction—on the contrary, tobacco industry rhetoric and mythology is prevalent in the discussions of this embarrassing proposal, which sidesteps the opportunity to protect countless lungs and lives. 

A minority of 450 estimated formerly homeless mentally disabled smokers are being scapegoated to set up smoking sections in nearly seven times more housing than is needed to specifically house them, assuming for argument’s sake that they truly could not step outside, saddling everyone else in town with smoking sections which are being abandoned nationwide as a pointless joke. 

Berkeley deserves to lose its leadership role in public health policy if it thinks one can put a smoking section in a room, a theater, or multi-unit housing, and still call it “smokefree.” Ninety percent smokefree is a contradiction in terms. 

It’s tragic to lay a foundation for young children to continue to be exposed daily to deadly second- and third-hand smoke because of Berkeley’s misguided, tobacco industry-hatched mythology about “social justice.” 

The tobacco industry once created a special brand of cigarettes targeting homeless and mentally disabled people. Perhaps it’s time to launch a special Berkeley brand called “Irony.” 


Carol Denney is a Berkeley resident.

Class Warfare, in Berkeley? 

By Toni Mester
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:03:00 AM

In the 30 years since I moved to West Berkeley, politics in this city have changed. After serving on the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Bayer (then Miles Inc.) Development Agreement in 1991, I literally minded my own business and resurfaced in 2008 to find the political atmosphere even more toxic than I had remembered. 

What has happened to our communal rhetoric is complex and troubling because a basic and necessary concern about property values has been displaced. Class differences are somewhat obscured in a city that has a dysfunctional approach to private property and does not seem to recognize the very existence of working-class owners. Blame it on the smart-growth ideology or district elections without term limits or regressive taxes or rent control or the welfare housing industry or all of the above—but an entire category of citizens has been marginalized. I’m talking about lower-income residential property owners who mostly live in south and west Berkeley. 

The prevailing sentiment is summarized by this excerpt from a 2008 letter to the Planning Commission regarding the density bonus: “The transit corridors are where dense development should take place. The rest of Berkeley can maintain its semi-suburban character and will be just fine.” 

In other words, to hell with those poor slobs who live along or between San Pablo Avenue and Sixth Street, near Ashby, Dwight, Cedar, or Gilman; their years of struggle to improve their neighborhoods and property values and to build equity do not deserve respect and protection. 

As a result of such class prejudice, promoted by the planning staff and unfortunately shared by the City Council, none of whom live in far-west Berkeley, the well-considered recommendations of the Density Bonus Subcommittee were ignored, a strategic plan for San Pablo Avenue authorized in 2006 has been postponed, developers have been bankrupted to satisfy a grandiose vision, an unprofessional land-use chapter was added to an otherwise imaginative Climate Action Plan, and Carrison Street neighbors were insulted in the approval of 1200 Ashby Avenue, a misleading address for an oversized building with its entrance on Carrison Street. This integrated neighborhood was even denied a public hearing to protest a hulk that disregards street setbacks and presents a garage entry to their street and a five-story sheer wall to Ashby Avenue. 

All of these outrages have been committed in the name of smart growth, which has become the municipal religion thanks to Mayor Tom Bates and the City Council and their eminence grise Dan Marks, who rakes in over $175,000 a year by sacrificing poor slobs like us as guinea-pigs to the new order and whose lofty job description doesn’t seem to include attending Planning Commission meetings. 

West Berkeleyans understand the economic and cultural benefits of growth and increased density, but these benefits must be weighed against the moral and legal obligation that city government owes its current residents and taxpayers, regardless of income and ability to pay lawyers, and the importance of preserving our last affordable family-oriented neighborhoods. We expect and deserve protections equal to the setbacks and step-downs of the University Avenue Strategic Plan. 

We’re tired of the absurd claim that urban density carries an environmental benefit because it prevents suburban sprawl and long commutes. That argument is sixty years too late. History shows that cities and their suburbs grow in tandem, not in opposition. Families want to live in homes with yards, not in small apartments over MacDonald’s or Safeway. If more people are to live in Berkeley, especially our first-responders, then we should build dwellings that are suitable for families and preserving those we have. 

By creating more small apartments for students and singles, we actually promote sprawl because these young people establish careers in the urban core but must find family homes elsewhere to raise their children. If the city wants a coherent housing policy, then we must think and speak in rational language, not in cant and not in worship of sacred cows. We’ve had enough faith-based planning. 

The city should adopt a density bonus ordinance in compliance with state law and in recognition of the rights and needs of residents in affected neighborhoods. The design guidelines for San Pablo Avenue should be discussed and refined, and zoning that is scaled towards existing homes, that incorporates standards consistent with family housing, and that promotes handsome, functional architecture should be adopted as part of a San Pablo Avenue Strategic Plan. 

And now we have the West Berkeley Project that promises to transform the manufacturing zones to the higher purpose of R&D job creation by allowing an unspecified number of buildings to 75 feet with an FAR of 3, promoting demolition, and increasing the net floor space by almost 2 million square feet over the next 20 years. The draft environmental impact report (DEIR) runs well over 500 pages but ignores both the adjacent residential neighborhood, known by its zoning as the R-1A, and the inhabitants of the MULI and MUR zones. The consultants did not even enumerate the living beings who would be most affected by the proposed development. They talk about impacts as if effects were free-floating and forget that to impact is primarily a transitive verb. 

The DEIR shows significant and unavoidable traffic impacts from massive development in West Berkeley, but no doubt the smart-growth true believers will insist that the magic of density, less parking, and a few shuttle buses will insure the withering away of the automobile in an area that is located at the center of Bay Area roadways. 

The deadline for responses to the West Berkeley Project DEIR is March 25. See you on-line.  


Toni Mester can be contacted at berkeleyspann@comcast.net  

A Sunshine Ordinance for Berkeley

By Dean Metzger
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:03:00 AM

Sadly the sun is setting on the printed Berkeley Daily Planet, but happily the sun could rise on open government in Berkeley. After three years of work, many disagreements and agreements, the Citizen’s Sunshine Review Committee completed its work in February 2010. With the urging of Mayor Bates and the City Council and the lead of The League of Women Voters, the Committee was formed with some 30 plus Berkeley residents and others participating and went to work.  

As the work progressed, the city staff and City Council seemed uninterested in our efforts, even though they encouraged the formation of the committee. Because of this, the Citizen’s committee has filed the “Intent to Circulate an Initiative” to put the Sunshine Ordinance on the November 2010 ballot—this after many starts and stops involving rewrites.  

When the Committee submitted a draft to the city in November 2008, the staff’s reaction was to produce a financial impact report that was so outlandishly high, we think that they hoped the public would reject the Ordinance out of hand. In fact, the Committee had to file an RFI (Request for Information) to get some of the details of the staff report. Some of the information requested was withheld, using the favorite excuse provided to the city in State Gov. Code 5226. Upon examination of the information provided by the city, the Committee estimates the actual cost of the Ordinance to be a fraction of the staff’s numbers. The fact is that over the long run the Ordinance would actually save the city money.  

In a research paper published by Adrianna C. Rodriguez (a graduate student) and Dr. Laurence B. Alexander (Professor of Journalism) at the University of Florida, they write, “All 50 States and the District of Columbia have enacted open meeting laws.” They go on to write “However, while State law may provide for penalties to be levied against public officials who disregard open meeting laws, violations persist and there is little evidence that penalties are enforced.” You can google “Punishment for Shade: Analysis of Penalties and Remedies for Violations of Open Meetings Laws Across the Country” for the complete paper. An eye opener if you do.  

Berkeley is thought of as having the most open city government in the country, yet violations of the Brown Act and the California Records Act are common place; that is why we need a sunshine ordinance. 

• Decisions are being made without full knowledge of what information they are based on. 

• Public comment rules change without notice. Issues cannot be fully discussed in one or two minutes. 

• Meeting procedures need to be codified so everyone knows how to act and what to expect. 

• City records are difficult to get, with long delays common. 

• Record requests (FRI) are routinely denied using State Gov. Code 6225. This code gives the city the excuse to not provide the requested record based on the city’s determination that the release of the information would not be in the best interest of the city. 

• The city is in the dark ages when it comes to keeping and producing records. Today’s technology needs to be used; instead the city is years behind. 

• There is no enforcement of broken rules and ordinance violations in the city. 

• The citizens’ of Berkeley must take the city to Superior Court using their time and money to enforce any violations that occur. 

  The Citizen’s Sunshine Ordinance attempts to find solutions to these problems. Collecting signatures should begin on or about March 15, 2010. If you believe in open government (sunshine), please volunteer to collect signatures or sign the petition when it is circulated. The deadline for turning in enough signatures to get the Ordinance on the November 2010 ballot is early May 2010.  

If you would like to help or want more information, you can go to our website at berkeleysunshine.org, or e-mail Dean Metzger at drm1a2@sbcglobal.net  


Dean Metzger is a Berkeley resident.

Some Notes on Herstory and Humankind

By Helen Rippier Wheeler 
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:08:00 AM

In-group jargon refers to specialized language that is used by groups of like-minded individuals. The Global Language Monitor (GLM) is a nonprofit Texas group that analyzes and tracks trends in language. Its criteria are a minimum of 25,000 citations in the global media and breadth and depth of citations. 

GLM has named herstory the third most politically incorrect word, rivaled only by macaca and Global Warming Denier. These folks can’t stand the fact-of-life point that is underscored by an occasional reference to herstory, during Women’s History Month, for example. March is National Women’s History Month; March 8 is International Women’s Day; March 18 is Reproductive Freedom Day.  

The word history comes from Greek roots for such concepts as inquiring, knowing, learning. Tongue-in-cheek herstory was coined to emphasize that women’s lives, deeds, and participation in human affairs have been neglected, undervalued, or distorted in standard works. Why bother? Mean what you say and, whenever possible, say what you mean, is why. 

Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897-1941)’s principle of linguistic relativity—the way in which an individual's thoughts are influenced by the language(s) she or he has available to express them—has been criticized on the basis that he supposedly claimed that language determines thought. Whorf himself wrote that language provides “habits” of thought that influence cognition. He maintained that the structure of a language tends to condition the ways in which a speaker of that language thinks. This position and its opposite—that culture shapes language—have been much debated.  

Gender-neutral is a term invented to acknowledge sexist messages that continue to be conveyed by many languages. But gender and sex are often confounded. Gender is sociological—feminine, masculine; sex is biological—female, male. Ms (instead of Missus and Miss) is just plain logical. Women Studies is syntactically comparable to Black Studies, American Studies, etc., whereas Women’s Studies implies home economics. Poet Alicia Suskin Ostriker contends that “to say ‘poetess’ is and always has been a gentle insult… In the future our poetry, literature and art may become genderless.” 

“Strident” and “militant” are frequently used to label non-submissive threatening women. Shorthand terms often disparage a person who supports a liberation movement, especially a woman, e.g., women’s libber. Out of habit, local custom or because they think of themselves that way, some women refer to themselves and their women friends as girls. The old women and men who refer to “the girl” (in the office, behind the counter, doing the laundry) long ago prudently dropped “the boy” from their vocabulary. A girl is a pre-teen woman; a bitch is a female dog.  

I was thrilled when an old, deaf and almost-blind woman apprised me regarding the day’s mail delivery: “He or she hasn’t been here yet.” Does it make any difference if one refers to the “mailman,” just so the mail gets delivered? Or to “fireman,” just so the fire is extinguished? My theory is that constant reference (thinking, writing, saying) to “mail carrier” and “fire fighter,” as two examples, is conducive to additional qualified females being hired and advanced in male-stereotyped jobs and roles. In this case, the feds have been out front for some time. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ biennial Occupational Outlook Handbook, a classic reference about occupations, uses nonsexist job titles. 

Euphemisms are words that veil the truth and are often deceitful doublespeak. They usually substitute a mild, indirect or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive. “Collateral damage” for unintended destruction of civilians and their property, “passed on” instead of died, “enhanced interrogation technique” for torture—they tend to consist of language that is stereotypical or biased with racial, ethnic, group or gender bias. 

On the bright side, figures of speech are good stuff because they serve to seize our attention and to inform. They can be useful enhancements to facilitate communication, feeling, emotion. They appear in both prose and poetry, in fiction and nonfiction. What matters is the skill with which the writer incorporates and finesses a figure of speech. Three major figures of speech are alliteration, simile, and metaphor.  

Alliteration is the repetition of an initial sound. It appeals to the reader’s or listener’s ear and binds the phrase. For example:  

• Mistress Mary, quite contrary. (English nursery rhyme) 

• Big breasted broads, feisty females, dumb dames, damsel in distress. (the media) 

 In a simile, one thing is likened to another, dissimilar thing, usually in a phrase introduced by like or as: 

• A heart as big as a whale / Her tears flowed like wine (M.F.K. Fisher) 

• “...the girls like young horses eyeing the track.” (Rita Dove’s “Wingfoot Lake Independence Day, 1964”) 

Metaphor involves non-literal use of words and contains an implied comparison: 

• the stiff heart/ quartz contentment / the hour of lead (Emily Dickinson’s “After great pain, a formal feeling comes”) 

• “For 47 years they had been married. How deep back the stubborn, gnarled roots of the quarrel reached, ... only now, when tending to the needs of others no longer shackled them together, the roots swelled up visible, split the earth between them, and the tearing shook even to the children... . “ (Tillie Olsen’s “Tell Me A Riddle”) 


Helen Rippier Wheeler is a feminist and a Berkeley resident. She can be reached at pen136@dslextreme.com. 

Structural Unemployment

By Phil McArdle
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:07:00 AM

The current recession is having a cruel impact on American workers. Experts say it is unrealistic to hope the “structural unemployment” rate will drop below 10 percent in the near future; some think it may go higher. This is akin to saying unemployment is an insoluble problem. It means that our rich, technologically advanced economy cannot provide jobs for 10 percent of the population, and that the hopes and aspirations of millions will be put on hold indefinitely, blighted or destroyed. 

We are in this fix for a lot of reasons. The politics of the billionaires (“the malefactors of great wealth,” as FDR called them) have a lot to do with it, of course, and they should be taxed until their eyeballs bulge with apoplectic rage. 

But the computer revolution is also a contributor. In many industries automation has done away with limits on production, almost divorcing it from individual effort. This is one of the reasons we have a steadily diminishing number of jobs. Back in the dark ages, when computer science was still called cybernetics, an automated factory in England staffed by two workers produced enough light bulbs to meet England’s needs for a year. Previously, hundred of workers were needed to achieve such a result. That was considered progress. It wasn’t clear then that the need for fewer workers would eventually cause an overall excess labor supply. Now, when automobile plants (to use but one example) can be fully automated, we know. 

As things are, we have a permanent oversupply of labor. We will have to recognize that the problem of our age is not the alienation of the individual from work but the need to provide work for people who have been made “superfluous” by technology. 

To solve the problem of “structural unemployment” and prevent the suffering it causes, I believe we need a real full employment policy, with all the changes that implies. Complicated reforms will be needed to implement it. 

One essential reform is to change the structure of the work week. This is one of unemployment’s less visible causes because we take the work week for granted and don’t see it. But it is real: if the work week were shorter, the economy would have to provide more jobs to maintain productivity at current levels. 

The 40-hour week is a custom. It is not immutable. Once upon a time—and not so long ago—most men, women and children worked fifteen hours a day Monday through Friday, with a half day off on Saturday. We can decide to make the thirty or thirty-two hour work week a norm. 

Such a reform would require safeguards for the workers. Salaries would have to be protected so that employees continue to be paid living wages. Overtime would have to be eliminated as a normal operating procedure. When more work is needed, more workers should be hired. All the conventional benefits—seniority, health care, retirement, etc.—should be paid to part-time workers. This would apply to everyone from part-time supermarket clerks to nurses on grants and graduate students acting as teaching assistants. 

Another reform would be to make government the normal employer of last resort, no matter where the economy is in the boom-or-bust cycle, which is intrinsic to capitalism. This should be as conventional and completely accepted as Social Security. There is always useful, creative work to be done outside the private sector. About this, we can still learn from the WPA. Workers in government service, for whom there was no employment in private industry, created such lasting local civic ornaments as the Oakland Rose Garden, the Berkeley Rose Garden and the Woodminster Amphitheater. This work did not appear to be commercially profitable, but it produced results of priceless social value. 

A third reform would be to lower the retirement age, pegging it at twenty years of work or fifty or fifty-five years, whichever came first. This would automatically make work available for young people and lengthen the lives of older people. The current proposals from the right to raise the retirement age are profoundly reactionary and wrong-headed. 

These reforms would probably be enough to save capitalism as we know it. After all, lots of people who have been made redundant by the technological revolution used to be consumers. We should never forget Henry Ford’s answer to accusations that he spoiled his workers by paying them too much: “I pay salaries that enable my workers to buy my products.” No one can be a consumer who is not first a worker. But, more than that, no one can be a fully mature human being who has not done useful work. 

We need to teach politicians what full employment really means and how important it is. One way to bring this to their attention is by translating it into political terms—electing those who support it and defeating those who oppose it. 



Phil McArdle is currently working on a book about Sidney Howard, the American playwright and screen writer. 

The Alameda’s Sensible Improvement Plan

By Alan Tobey
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:06:00 AM

I was not surprised to read Zelda Bronstein’s impassioned attack on another rational city plan to improve the safety and functionality of one of our neighborhood streets—this time the four blocks of The Alameda between Solano Ave. and Hopkins St. The plan would reduce the number of traffic lanes in each direction of this unbusy road segment from two to one, allowing for a separated left-turn lane and bicycle lanes.   

It was Ms. Bronstein who was primarily responsible in 2004-5 for the months of unnecessary delay, and the tens of thousands of dollars of extra expense for superfluous “studies,” that preceded the similar restriping plan now in place on Marin Avenue. Her new commentary seizes on the merely modest decrease in average speeds on Marin since the change as proof she was correct to oppose the plan then, and points to two pedestrian fatalities (both attributed to substance-impaired drivers) as conclusive proof of increased danger.  

However, Ms. Bronstein apparently chooses not to recall the hysterical arguments in opposition that she was vigorous in raising at the time. Opponents’ primary conclusion, unsupported by the city’s careful study, was that reducing automobile lanes would produce “gridlock all the way down Marin” that would cut off car-dependent hills dwellers from their accustomed rapid access to the freeway—an outcome which never came to pass. Nor have cyclists or left-turners from Marin been endangered by “impatient motorists” who would surely disobey the striping. Instead the street has, in fact, become safer for both drivers and pedestrians and much more usable for cyclists—just as expected. 

Unable to win on the merits of the issue, Ms. Bronstein once again is resorting to blaming city hall and the mayor for simply going ahead with a sensible and now-proven plan with minimal fuss. Here’s what she wrote with similar intent in her Daily Planet commentary of Dec. 10, 2004: “The immediate issue for the Berkeley City Council is not the merit of the project but the adequacy of the planning process. To give this proposal the final go-ahead now would amount to governance by fiat.”  She was not willing then, nor does she seem so now, to simply leave routine public-improvement work to our paid professionals with a routine amount of public input. Apparently multiple public hearings and months of expensive added delay are again warranted so that every possible “concern” can again be over-studied to death—for exactly four blocks of one neighborhood public street with far less daily traffic than Marin. 

In 2004 Ms. Bronstein complained of “The Stealth Plan to Bicycle-ize Marin Avenue,” and apparently now sees the same looming public danger for The Alameda. But the City of Berkeley is not just serving cyclists with these improvements. It is actually working toward the wider committed goal of more “complete streets”: thoroughfares that optimally serve the needs of pedestrians, bus riders and cyclists while also improving safety for drivers. We need more of these complete streets for the proven benefits they bring, and we now have the real-world experience to install them without years of public hearings or more hysterical overreaction in the name of “public participation.”  


Alan Tobey is a Berkeley resident.

Haiti: Blood, Sweat and Baseball (Apologies to Paul Farmer)

By Jean Damu
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:06:00 AM

Just two days after the Haitian earthquake, a disaster now recognized as one of biblical proportions, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig stepped to the plate and whiffed. 

  He said his organization was donating $1 million to the devastated nation. 

  One is not impressed. 

  Though MLB in alliance with Rawlings Sporting Goods conspired to help destabilize Haiti after the overthrow of dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in the late 1980’s and moved their baseball factories to Costa Rica, throwing thousands of Haitian women out of work, the professional sports organization should acknowledge their long, exploitative relationship with the devastated nation and make a much more significant donation to help rebuild the nation from which it made so much money. 

  After all, film star Sandra Bullock donated a million dollars, as did Brad Pitt. Lance Armstrong, a professional bicyclist for heaven’s sake, donated a quarter million dollars. 

  But MLB, an organization of 750 professional baseball players, who on average make $3.5 million a year, could only pony up a measly million. What’s wrong with this picture? 

  The combined salaries of MLB players in 2009 was $2,655,144,214. And this figure is in the process of increasing as many 2010 salaries are currently being negotiated and arbitrated. Therefore, MLB’s $1 million donation represents less than 4/100ths of one percent of the players’ salaries. 

  To this figure should be added a few more percentage points because the New York Yankees, by far the highest paid team, kicked in another $500,000. Every little bit counts. 

  But the fractions quoted above don’t include the salaries of the coaches, managers, general managers, front office personnel or the MLB personnel in New York. Add in all those salaries and you’d have to get one of those fellows who paint landscapes on grains of rice to make MLB’s donation to Haiti visible with a magnifying glass. 

  To be fair, Selig as Commissioner does not have the legal authority to twist the arms of players to donate money. However, if Derek Jeter can convince the Yankees to give extra, Selig can call all the teams together and figure out a way to collect more. 

  Perhaps the rumored MLB telethon for aid to Haiti will materialize. That would be worth something. 

But why should MLB be held to a higher standard regarding Haiti than other professional sports?  

  Simply this. For decades past MLB relied upon Haitian workers, mostly young women earning a high of $1.70 per day, to stitch together their baseballs. Now in this hour of great need MLB flips off the Haitian workers with its Scrooge-like donation. 

  The May 8, 1977, edition of the Sarasota Herald Tribune, ran a story by Miami News reporter Bill Brubaker who wrote from Port au Prince that in 1975 MLB had signed a contract with Rawlings Sporting goods of St. Louis to provide all of its baseballs. 

  By the late 1970s, according to Brubaker, the leading U.S. sports manufacturers— Wilson, Rawlings and Spaulding—had all flocked to Haiti to set up baseball factories in order to take advantage of Haiti’s $1.30 a day minimum wage. “U.S. baseball factory owners are not leading a movement to improve it,” Brubaker noted. 

  Eventually 10 baseball factories dotted the Port au Prince landscape, and Haiti, a non-baseball playing nation, exported 20 million baseballs a year, the most of any nation in the world. 

  Brubaker wrote, “Howard (the Rawlings’ plant manger) refused to allow the reporters to interview the employes (sic) or to tour the plant. He said he didn’t want secret production methods revealed. 

  “Rawlings president Tom O’Brien refused to disclose what he pays his Haitian employees but said, ‘A lot of girls here can more than double the minimum wage. It depends on efficiency.’ 

  “That means,” Brubaker wrote, “a Haitian woman can earn anywhere from 40 cents to one dollar for every dozen baseballs she stitches. It can take from 5 to twenty five minutes to sew the two covers of a baseball together. (Each baseball has 108 double or 216 single stitches-ed.) 

  “Using a 15 minute average, and a 70 cents per dozen pay scale, a woman could expect to earn $2.80 a day if she worked for eight hours without a break.” 

  Carrying out the calculations further, in 1977 an employee of a baseball factory in Haiti, if she worked six days, a week could earn as much as $769.60 in a year. Meanwhile in the US the minimum wage for MLB players was $60,000. Today it’s about ten times that. 

  Earlier we said that MLB and Rawlings had conspired to help destabilize Haiti after Duvalier’s overthrow by closing their baseball factories and moving them to Costa Rica. This is apparent because wages in Costa Rica are far higher than in Haiti. Why would a corporation willing pay higher wages, unless the motivation was political? 

  Workers in Costa Rica employed by Rawlings (and through their secret deal with MLB) typically earn about $2,750 a year (as of 2004.) Compare that to the less than $1,000 a year factory workers in Haiti make. 

  But even so it’s still a good deal for MLB. 

  Quoted in a 2004 New York Times article, baseball factory worker, Overly Monge, revealed the essence of The Theory of Surplus Value when he observed, “After I make the first two or three balls each week, they have already paid my salary. Imagine that.” 

  The obscene profits generated by MLB and its partners in Haiti and elsewhere should generate the public’s outrage and demands should be made to their offices in New York that more be done to help Haiti. 

  People should also contact their congressional representatives and remind them that in light of MLB exemption from federal anti-trust legislation professional baseball should be encouraged to react more responsibly during this time of international crisis.  


Jean Damu is a Berkeley resident.

How the Daily Planet Won a Battle It Didn’t Choose

By Joanna Graham
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:05:00 AM

Thank you to Becky and Mike O’Malley for publishing the quirky, personal, engaged, and engaging Berkeley Daily Planet, bringing us for the last seven years news and views about the East Bay (but mostly about Berkeley). Without the Planet as it has been, with its full staff of reporters and columnists, I fear it may prove difficult for all of us to stay informed about what our city and other local institutions are up to. A large hole is about to appear in our collective knowledge—a dark hole in which much skullduggery can flourish. 

  Editor O’Malley has suggested several reasons for the paper’s demise—and I can think of others as well. As Dorothy Bryant remarked last week, it’s rather more surprising that a small, local paper lasted this long than that it closed up shop at last. 

  I would like to address myself, however, to the one reason in which I, as an occasional commentator on the local operations of the Zionist lobby, am personally involved: the campaign directed at the Planet’s advertisers by Gertz and Sinkinson et al. I’m guessing there are a lot of high fives going on in that quarter, so I’d like to point out that these gentlemen’s victory is Pyrrhic since by securing it, they’ve done vast harm to their own cause. 

  In the first op-ed I published in the Planet (Aug. 2, 2005), I described the two-step process by which all alternatives to the official Zionist narrative have traditionally been suppressed. Step one, censorship by intimidation. Step two, censorship of the act of censorship. Think of it like this: the Mafia goon who has just stopped by your grocery store to let you know his boss expects weekly payments remarks on his way out, “By the way, don’t even think to call the police. In fact, don’t tell nobody about our little conversation.” Eventually an entire neighborhood, an entire city, not only pays up but keeps mum. Such has been the effect of the Israel lobby, not only on American policy but also on American discourse. A nation of politicians, educators, artists, activists, and media makers—all keeping mum. 

  When the O’Malleys stumbled into this situation, though (inevitable for anyone publishing a newspaper), they refused to comply. They did not shut up as directed. Instead, they published the words of the censors and the words of those who opposed them; they published information about what the censors were doing and statements from people they’d been doing it to. They devoted an entire issue to revealing the connections of their local censors to a far larger network of censorship. You might say that—unintimidated—they ran out on the street and yelled at the top of their lungs, “Hey! Hey! We just got hit up by the protection racket! We just got leaned on!” They yelled so loud that thousands of people who previously had had no idea that this is the way Israel’s narrative remains unchallenged got to see how it’s done. Even the New York Times picked up the O’Malleys’ yell, making the story a national one. 

  It’s almost inconceivable to me, as a person involved in this issue, how precipitously Israel’s international standing has declined in the time the Planet has been publishing. Jimmy Carter introduced the idea of “apartheid,” which will not go away. Mearsheimer and Walt published their influential book on the Israel lobby. The boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement took off with astounding rapidity and has already had notable successes in Europe. Israelis, to their surprise, found themselves unaccustomedly blamed after the Gaza massacre—and then, there was the Goldstone report. And finally, over and over again, people subjected to pressure have been standing up and saying, “The reason my newspaper ran into difficulty, my art was not displayed, my play was not produced, my film was not shown was that I was subjected to pressure.” Yes, at least for now, the censorship is still mostly effective, but that the mechanism of it is at last being exposed in an extraordinarily significant shift. The wizard still intimidates but Toto keeps pulling back the curtain—and every time still more people catch a glimpse of what’s behind. 

  For nearly sixty years, Israel got away with claiming victimhood, all the while attacking its neighbors and strong-arming its critics. It’s still attacking and still strong-arming, but the victimhood/self-defense rationale has collapsed. To use Israel’s own word, the Zionist project is at last being delegitimized—as it must be if there is ever to be a just peace in Israel/Palestine. I’m guessing that when the O’Malleys bought the Planet, their intention was to focus on local issues, especially the nefarious deeds of developers and their henchpersons in city hall! Helping to resolve a long-running, festering problem in the Middle East was probably not what they had in mind to do. Nevertheless, by standing up to the bullies and exposing their methods, that’s one of the many fine things which they did do—and I hope they take pride in their achievement. 


Joanna Graham is a Berkeley resident. 

Response to CHO CEO Lubin

By Bob Brokl
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:05:00 AM

We had hoped that the selection of doctors, researchers, and scientists to run Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland might result in not only a better relationship to the surrounding community by CHO but a more reasoned and analytical approach to matters in general. Not the case, unfortunately, based upon the Commentary “Response from Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland” (Feb. 18-24, 2010 Daily Planet) signed by Dr. Bertram Lubin, the new CEO of CHO, and his comments and those of Dr. Alexander Lucas, in charge of the Research Institute, at their Feb. 16 community meeting 

When Alfred Crofts and I met with Dr. Lucas in Oct. and inspected the gym, we gave him two well-written and thorough articles about the long process leading up to and after CHO’s acquisition of Old Merritt. Paul Rauber’s cover story for the March 23, 1990, East Bay Express entitled “The Case of the Languishing Landmark” and “Brownfields Redevelopment: Meeting the Challenges of Community Participation,” by Arlene Wong and Lisa Owens-Viani for the Pacific Institute in 2000, are invaluable research of the site’s torturous redevelopment history with a (mostly) happy ending. The City of Oakland spent over $19 million on basic core and shell work rehabilitating the building. Additional tens of thousands were spent on staff time and consultants—Kerry Hamill, an aide to Mayor Harris, worked full time on the issue, and even the notable SF Planning Director Dean Macris was hired to help. 

CHO eventually bought the building and site for $ 9 million (basic math: a financial loss to the city and taxpayers) and then proceeded to design the structure to meet their specific needs. It is worrisome that Lubin’s response to my Feb. 11-17 Daily Planet “Partisan Position,” and Lucas’s comments at the meeting, reveal their version that “our medical center was given an opportunity to restore and preserve a historically protected campus originally occupied by University High School and subsequently Merritt College and convert it into a research institute.” Lucas apparently never read the background pieces—his and Lubin’s version of events is rewriting history by omission and substitution, leaving out key chapters and players. 

Lubin has expressed some welcome contrition, on behalf of CHO, over the hospital’s heavy-handed expansion plans in the past. Yet, at the community meeting when he was asked about CHO’s master plan and how many houses CHO owns in the neighborhood—traditionally, buying residences and then bulldozing them was how CHO grew—Lubin said there was no master plan and he honestly didn’t know what CHO owned. Again, where’s the scientific method here, or was he just being disingenuous? 

Before Lubin took over as CEO he was head of the Research Institute and thus well-aware of the ongoing deterioration of the gym on his watch. Lucas was number two and then elevated when Lubin was made CEO. He would have known as well. In his Planet rebuttal to me, Lubin said CHO applied for the stimulus grant to “renovate and utilize the building” and Lucas repeated this intention at the public meeting. Did they even review their own grant application? The May 29-June 4, 2009 SF Business Times article in which Lubin is extensively quoted, states: “The potential 30,000 square foot facility—a new building that would replace the former University High School gymnasium on CHO’s complex.” Demo, not rehab, most succinctly put by George Brietigam, Vice-President, Facilities, for CHO, when he bluntly told us, “CHO wouldn’t spend a penny on a building it intends to tear down.”  

Lubin and Lucas both expressed the intention to apply for more stimulus money. Indeed, whatever the difficulties of being a health care provider under the current system (and CHO certainly does good work), the research facility is a moneymaker ($63 million last year) for the hospital. With their requests for federal money, Lucas and Lubin may be forced to reconsider their ill-treatment of the gymnasium, listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with the rest of the campus. “Anticipatory demolition” is expressly forbidden under federal preservation laws, the issue that we went to court over some years back (North Oakland Voters Alliance (NOVA) v. City of Oakland)—the resolution of which spurred the renovation that CHO has benefitted from (and now takes exclusive credit for). 

“A new leaf for Children’s Hospital” with doctors, researchers, and scientists in charge? Hardly. 


Robert Brokl is an Oakland resident.

Missing the Facts on Marin

By Preston Jordan
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:10:00 AM

In the Jan. 14 Planet, Zelda Bronstein relays that Berkeley's report on the Marin Avenue reconfiguration concluded that motorist speeds were not reduced (“Save the Alameda” ). This same result was found in Albany where I live. The untold story is that the number of motorists on Marin was significantly higher during the pre-reconfiguration survey in 2005 (22,453/day in Albany) than in the post-reconfiguration survey in 2006 (17,789 in Albany). Fewer motorists means most can and do choose to drive faster. 

This is not a case of ah-hah, the motorists switched to other streets, as so many argued would happen. In fact, the volume of motorists decreased on all the other streets surveyed also (which were included to catch just such a diversion should it have occurred). Rather the consultants concluded that this network-wide decrease occurred because it was pouring rain during the post-survey as compared to the sunny weather during the pre-survey. 

Albany performed a more comparable speed survey in 2007. On that day there were 19,483 motorists on Marin, still fewer than in the pre-survey, but more than the 2005 post-survey. Speeds decreased nonetheless. Half of motorists were driving faster than 30 miles per hour (mph) in 2005. This speed dropped to 27 mph in 2007. Fifteen percent of motorists were driving faster than a whopping 37 mph in 2005 (the speed limit is 25 mph). This speed dropped to 33 mph in 2007. 

Some may say, so what? A speed de-crease of three to four miles an hour is insignificant. It is only a 10 percent decrease. Those who remember their high school physics may recall that kinetic energy is proportional not to velocity but to velocity squared. So decreasing the velocity of a motorist’s car by 10 percent decreases the kinetic energy involved by about 20 percent. This matters because it is the kinetic energy, not the velocity, that controls the severity of injuries to someone walking or cycling who is hit by a motorist. A 20 percent decrease is a big change viewed from this perspective. 

Ms. Bronstein cites the fatalities of two people walking across Marin struck by motorists after the reconfiguration as another argument why such reconfigurations are not worthwhile. She fails to mention that one fatality was due to a motorist turning left onto Marin from southbound Colusa hitting a person in the crosswalk. The other was due to a drunk driver hitting a person using a crosswalk. Ms. Bronstein is correct that the reconfiguration was ineffective in preventing these accidents. Preventing such accidents would require much more significant changes to the street. However Ms. Bronstein selectively left out the accident specifics to support her desired conclusion, which is just the opposite. 

I wish Berkeley the best in its deliberations regarding reconfiguring The Alameda. I hope that the decision will be based on sound data analysis and reasoning rather than data manipulation and fear-mongering, as was the norm when Berkeley attempted to reconfigure Claremont. It is worth noting that, despite that more recent history, Berkeley was a leader at one time, having pioneered street reconfigurations to reduce traffic lanes on Marin above Hopkins and Sutter/Henry south of the Solano Tunnel decades ago. 


Preston Jordan is a Berkeley resident.

The Spanish Health Care Model

By Kelly Thompson
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:09:00 AM

I am a constituent registered to vote in Alameda County and am writing to express my strong support of real healthcare reform legislation that would minimally include a public healthcare option and ideally include a single-payer system that could exist alongside a reformed version of our current private healthcare system. 

I personally know the value of having affordable and adequate healthcare coverage after having worried about the possibility of needing to file for bankruptcy in California when my late husband was fighting lung cancer—and also witnessing my best friend and her husband recently go bankrupt in Texas because of his extremely expensive cancer treatments, which thank God saved his life. Currently, I am an active member of the Democrats Abroad Madrid Chapter, and my experience living in Spain, a country that has national healthcare for everyone (both citizens and noncitizens), has made me support healthcare reform back home in the United States even more strongly than I did before. In fact, I have been the co-chair of the Democrats Abroad Madrid Chapter’s healthcare reform committee since last summer and have helped organize a letter writing campaign for our chapter’s members to write to their senators and congressmembers, where they are registered to vote in the United States, urging them to support real healthcare reform. 

As you may well know, the national healthcare system in Spain is supported by national income taxes, and patients never have to pay anything when they are seen by doctors and other providers in the system. I get my annual physical checkups and other acute care right at the medical clinic in my neighborhood, which is a modern facility just five minutes’ walk from my house in Madrid. If I have to see a specialist, I get a referral from my primary care physician (PC) at the neighborhood clinic to go to one of the specialist centers, which are located around Madrid and accessible by public transportation. Not too long ago, when I sprained my ankle, I was able to see my PC as a walk-in patient with an urgent need, and later that day I was seen at a specialist center for an X-ray and treatment. The next day, I was given a doctor’s note form from my PC to fax to my job for disability leave, which ended up lasting three weeks in total. I was able to fully recover without worrying because I received full pay directly from my job while I was off on disability, without having to file any additional forms with the Spanish government because once an employee faxes the official doctor’s note form to the employer, the Spanish national healthcare system allows for the government to send the funds to the company to cover the employee’s pay while on disability. I also have friends here in Spain who have had to have more extensive care in the national healthcare system, like maternity care or long-term in-patient cancer treatments, which were all at NO charge to the patient. While no system is perfect (for example, Spain’s national healthcare does not include dental or optometry coverage), it is imperative for countries that want to call themselves civilized to ensure that all inhabitants have preventive and both short and long-term healthcare available to them. Just as Americans value public education for all, we also need to value and support public healthcare for all. I, like many other Americans living abroad, worry about one day returning home and not being able to get healthcare insurance because of a preexisting condition that may have arisen while living outside the U.S. for an extended period. 

I also want to mention that there are private healthcare insurance options here in Spain, which some companies offer employees, and which individuals with the financial means can elect to purchase as additional healthcare coverage in the private healthcare system (without forfeiting national healthcare coverage). In fact, a number of pregnant women who have both options use their national healthcare coverage for all routine maternity wellness checkups/tests and also for their delivery, while simultaneously using their private healthcare coverage to visit a private practice whenever they have an unexpected worry during their pregnancy. Often, these pregnant women are seeing the same practitioner in both cases, because doctors in Spain are able to work in the national healthcare system while also maintaining private practices. So, many of the fears that Americans have about losing choice with a national healthcare program do not have to be a reality, because both systems can coexist. 

In closing, I hope that sharing my personal experience and convictions about healthcare reform will inspire my fellow Americans and our lawmakers to formulate and support effective healthcare reform legislation for all Americans. Finally, I would like to thank you and your staff for your time and consideration of publishing my letter. 


Kelly Thompson is resident of Madrid and Emeryville.

Health Insurance and the Antitrust Laws

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:08:00 AM

Recently, the media have been reporting regularly about the Anthem Blue Cross plan to raise health insurance rates up to 39 percent in California. Anthem, by the way, is owned by WellPoint, Inc., an Indianapolis company. The main justification for the large rate increases, as much as 10 times greater than national health spending growth, is higher health care costs. But as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius remarked, “It remains difficult to to understand how a company [Anthem] that made $2.9 billion in the last quarter of 2009 alone can justify massive increases. . . .” And WellPoint, Inc. reported net income of $4.7 billion in 2009. And a recent report found that the combined profit for the five largest health care providers—WellPoint, Inc., United-Health Group, Aetna, Humana, and Cigna—increased 56 percent in 2009 over 2008. Increased rates mean less coverage for a higher cost or possibly no coverage for those without means.  

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. In many states, for example, insurance companies are oligopolies, with one or two companies controlling 75 to 95 percent of the market and no price competition. 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.  

Do any of these shocking facts raise antitrust concerns? They should. We have heard from Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner about Anthem’s proposed rate increases, but we haven’t heard from Attorney General Jerry Brown about whether his Antitrust Law Section has any proposed or pending antitrust investigations against Anthem Blue Cross in particular, or health insurance companies operating in California in general. With Proposition 103’s repeal in 1990 of the insurance industry’s immunity from the Cartwright Act—California’s basic antitrust statute—insurance companies are now fully subject to California’s antitrust laws.  

But what about the federal antitrust laws? The federal antitrust laws include the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, the Clayton Act of 1914, and the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914. Unfortunately, the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 gives states the exclusive authority to regulate the “business of insurance” without interference from federal regulation, unless federal law specifically provides otherwise. The business of insurance includes laws aimed at protecting or regulating the performance of an insurance contract, the relationship between insurer and insured, the type of policies issued, and the policies’ reliability, interpretation, and enforcement. Thus, any antitrust enforcement action against insurance companies has been left up to the individual states. 

Last year, there was hope for a change at the federal level. In September, Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act, which would repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act antitrust exemption for health insurance companies, and hearings were held in the Senate Judiciary Committee in October. Repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act would ensure that health insurance issuers and medical malpractice insurance issuers cannot engage in price fixing, bid rigging, monopoly practices or market allocations to the detriment of competition and consumers. And on October 16, President Obama spoke at Texas A&M University, stating it was time to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act. Since then, however, the health insurance industry has worked its magic on the president and Congress and the bill appears to have fallen through the cracks. I suspect the scrapping of the proposed House/Senate healthcare reform bill and the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts had something to do with its demise.  

For the foreseeable future, antitrust law enforcement will continue to be a state concern. However, bringing an antitrust lawsuit against a billion-dollar health insurance company would be a budget buster for most states—even for California with its current budget shortfalls—and, if the state won, the ruling would not necessarily be applicable to other states where the health insurance company defendant did business.  

While the lack of competition in the health insurance industry may well have other causes, vigorous enforcement of California’s antitrust laws is vital as a first step toward bringing at least some competition to that industry, which in turn will provide the greatest amount of choice possible for consumers. I would like to hear Attorney General Brown publicly address this issue. 


Ralph E. Stone is a retired San Francisco Regional Office Federal Trade Commission attorney. 


The Public Eye: Can Democrats Use Rope-a-Dope?

By Bob Burnett
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:54:00 AM

Out here on the left coast, folks are pretty discouraged. It seems like every day brings news of either a Congressional Democrat deciding not to run for re-election or President Obama acting like a Republican. It’s time for Dems to go on offense, time for them to use Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope” tactic. 

On Oct. 30, 1974, Ali defeated the heavily favored George Foreman in a famous boxing match. Ali used his “rope-a-dope” tactic to weaken Foreman, cause him to lower his guard, and knock him out. In “rope-a-dope,” a boxer assumes a protected stance—Ali leaned against the ring ropes—and allows his opponent to hit him, in the hope that the opponent will become tired in the process and make a fatal mistake. In the political version, one Party feigns weakness, hoping the opposition will overplay its hand. 

Hmmm. It looks like Democrats are in the perfect position to use “rope-a-dope.” 

In his State of the Union address President Obama outlined four critical policies that might be used for “rope-a-dope” traps. Each could take the same form: Obama would invite both parties to share their ideas for solving the problem; “bipartisan” legislation would be crafted; Republicans would be expected to support the final version; those who didn’t would be exposed as hypocrites and excoriated for acting against the national interest. 

The first “rope-a-dope” setup is the new jobs bill. In January, the president proposed legislation with billions for community banks, a small business tax credit, incentives for job development, additional investment in infrastructure, and the elimination of “tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas.” 

In the next few weeks a bipartisan jobs bill will come up for a vote. If Senate Republicans use the filibuster to block the bill, they should be reviled as anti-job. 

The second “rope-a-dope” opportunity is financial reform. Noting America must “guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy,” Obama demanded that the Senate act on legislation passed by the House and levy a tax on the big banks benefiting from the TARP bailout. 

The president’s proposals will soon come up for a vote in the Senate. If Republicans filibuster them, they will be seen as allies of the mammoth banks who caused the 2008 financial meltdown. 

The third “rope-a-dope” setup is healthcare. Last fall, the House and Senate passed two different healthcare bills. Before they are reconciled, the president will hold a Health Care Summit on Feb. 25, a nationally televised, half-day event including 37 Democratic and Republican lawmakers. 

Republicans face a dilemma. Not attending the summit will be seen as abandoning bipartisanship, and failing to offer constructive suggestions will be viewed as a sign they do not recognize the gravity of the problem. 

The results of the Health Care Summit will be added to the legislation during the reconciliation process. That bill should pass—it needs only a simple majority in the House and Senate. Obama will praise it as a necessary and bipartisan accomplishment, excoriating Republicans who vote against it. 

The fourth “rope-a-dope” opportunity is energy. Last June, the House passed an Energy and Climate Bill that stalled in the Senate. In his State of the Union address, Obama called on the Senate to pass the clean energy and climate bill and opened the door to Republican ideas by mentioning “building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants” and “making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.” 

If the Health Care Summit is a success, there will be likely be an “Energy and Climate Summit.” Once again, Obama could incorporate Republican ideas in the pending legislation, demand that the Senate vote on it, and excoriate the GOP if they filibuster a supposedly bipartisan bill. 

A Democratic “rope-a-dope” strategy would take advantage of several contradictory public sentiments. Voters want bipartisanship—even though it didn’t work in 2009—and therefore the president has to appear bipartisan. Voters like Obama, but they want him to be more of a leader. Therefore, the president has to try to bring opposing sides together. Voters aren’t happy with either party and want them to do more about the big issues: jobs, the economy, healthcare, and the budget deficit. Obama has to force Congress to confront these problems. 

It’s a perfect opportunity to use the strategy perfected by Muhammad Ali. In 2009, while Democrats appeared to be leaning helplessly against the ropes, Republicans used all their best shots—“Obama is a socialist,” “health care reform means the government will come between you and your doctor,” “the stimulus didn’t work,” “global warming is a hoax.” In the process, they were weakened and dropped their guard—voters recognized that the GOP hadn’t proposed any solutions for pressing national problems. 

Now is the time for Democrats to take advantage of “rope-a-dope” and land the knockout punch. 


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

Undercurrents: Despite Federal ‘Clearance,’ Perata Deals, Finances Remain Murky

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:55:00 AM

Two weeks ago, the East Bay Express’ Bob Gammon wrote an excellent article revealing some odd financial mingling between the campaign of former state Senate leader Don Perata for mayor of Oakland with Mr. Perata’s project to put an initiative on the statewide California ballot taxing cigarettes to benefit cancer research (“The Cancer in the Oakland Mayor’s Race,” Feb. 10.) 

As part of his story, Mr. Gammon discovered that two campaign consultants for Mr. Perata’s Oakland mayoral race—Tiffany Whiten and Christina Niehaus—were also working as consultants for Hope 2010. Mr. Gammon wrote that Ms. Whiten and Ms. Niehaus received about the same amount of money apiece from both the Hope 2010 (statewide campaign) and Perata mayoral committees, “interviews with campaign figures and Perata’s own finance reports reveal little evidence that the highly paid consultants are doing much work on behalf of the cancer-research initiative.” On the other hand, Mr. Gammon said, Ms. Whiten and Ms. Niehaus “have played prominent roles in [the Perata] mayoral effort.” 

Mr. Gammon contended that Mr. Perata’s statewide initiative money ap-peared to be partially subsidizing two of his consultants for their mayoral campaign work in a manner that appeared to be an attempt to get around Oakland’s election finance limitations. In other words, Mr. Perata appeared to be gaming the system, using slippery bookkeeping and office practices in order to pump more money into his mayoral campaign than the law allowed. 

There was one small bit of oddity about the Perata financial disclosures that Mr. Gammon may have missed, however. 

In a Sept. 17, 2009 Oakland Tribune article on the Oakland mayoral race (“Quan Eyes Oakland Mayoral Run”) a man named Bruce Goddard appeared as a spokesperson for the Perata Oakland mayoral campaign. Asking the Perata mayoral campaign to comment on the possible Quan mayoral candidacy, the Tribune wrote that “Bruce Goddard, a Perata assistant, said Perata has been raising money and going door-to-door this summer. Goddard declined to discuss Quan’s intentions of joining the race. ‘[Don Perata has] made it clear what he’s going to do,’ Goddard said. ‘He’s going to run for mayor.’” 

The oddity? Well, I can’t seem to find Mr. Goddard having been paid by the Perata Oakland mayoral campaign for work as a Perata mayoral campaign spokesperson. That name is not listed in the most recent (July-December 2009) “Believe in Oakland—Perata for Mayor 2010” recipient committee campaign statement filed with the City of Oakland, nor is he listed on the staff of the two campaign consultant firms that were paid by Mr. Perata’s mayoral campaign during that time, Tramutola LLC and Whitehurst/Mosher Campaign Strategy and Media. 

The name Bruce Goddard does, however, appear in the list of consultant payees turned in by Mr. Perata’s statewide initiative finance committee, Hope 2010, to the California secretary of state’s office. According to that filing, someone named Bruce Goddard received $12,400 for campaign consultant work from Hope 2010 on Aug. 31, 2009, $6,000 on Nov. 4, $6,000 on Dec. 4, and $6,000 on Dec. 8 for a total of $30,600 between August and December of last year. That was in the same period, which we noted earlier, that someone named Bruce Goddard was acting as a media spokesperson for Mr. Perata for the Oakland mayoral campaign. 

Perhaps there is a reasonable explanation for all of this, and Mr. Perata was not paying his mayoral campaign staff out of his statewide initiative funds. But keeping up with Mr. Perata’s Byzantine and convoluted financial transactions is a wearing job, so I’ll leave that up to the professionals like Mr. Gammon, or hope that the Perata campaign—mayoral or statewide—will come forward with an explanation on their own. 

But whether this was a deliberate violation of Oakland’s campaign finance laws, or merely inadvertent, or else a case of the Perata camp skating as close to the line between legality and illegality as they figured they could get, it revives thoughts of Mr. Perata’s patterns and practices and personality that ought to raise troubling questions for Oakland voters who will soon be asked to turn over to him the keys to City Hall. 

Last May, after federal prosecutors dropped a five year corruption probe against Mr. Perata and several of his family members, employees, and associates, the former state Senator released a public statement saying that the ending of the investigation amounted to “full vindication.” “This is a complete affirmation of everything I’ve maintained for the last five years—that I’ve acted appropriately in both my professional life and my career in public service,” the San Francisco Chronicle quoted Mr. Perata as saying. (“Feds Drop 5 Year Probe of Perata—No Charges” May 28, 2009.) 

But that would seem to miss the point, wouldn’t it? 

As far as we can determine from the public record, the federal probe of Mr. Perata concentrated on allegations of whether or not he received illegal kickbacks from various deals made involving his family members, employees, or political or business associates. But regardless of whether they were illegal or not, Mr. Perata’s actions surrounding Oakland development or government deals, for example, have a troubling public policy air to them. Witness what the East Bay Express had to say in 2004 about Lily Hu, the Oakland lobbyist and close associate of Mr. Perata who was one of the prime targets of the federal investigation. (“The Investigation—How a Vengeful Ex-Lover Set the FBI on Don Perata,” Dec. 8, 2004, Will Harper and Bob Gammon.) 

“East Bay lobbying powerhouse … ow[ing] her success to Perata and [Oakland City Councilmember Ignacio] De La Fuente.” 

Ms. Hu, according to the Express article, successfully lobbied the city of Oakland to purchase its citywide computer system from the Oracle software giant, but “[t]he contract … was a disaster for Oakland. The Oracle system crashed constantly, and just before the 1999 holiday season, the payroll system failed to cut paychecks for hundreds of city employees. To top it off, the contract’s price tag skyrocketed from the original $14 million to about $25 million.” 

But Ms. Hu was no disaster for her clients. “Hiring her paid off for some of the city’s biggest development interests,” the Express article continued, explaining that she had a hand in some of the biggest, and most controversial, Oakland development deals of the last several years “including [deals with Oakland by] the DeSilva Group, Forest City, and Signature Properties. The DeSilva Group won approval in 2002 for its controversial plan to build more than 400 homes in the flood-prone Leona Quarry despite fierce opposition from local residents. Forest City stands to pocket a $60 million subsidy when it erects seven hundred apartments near downtown in the next year or two. And Signature Properties netted a $30 million discount when it purchased sixty acres of Oakland waterfront from the port to construct three thousand condos.” 

The Express article said that the lobbyist, while she put through powerhouse deals for high-roller clients, was no powerhouse herself, reporting that “[s]ome Oakland insiders came to believe that Hu would not take on a client without first obtaining Perata’s blessing. ‘It became known that if you wanted to do business in this town, you had to hire Lily Hu,’ said one high-placed Oakland business source. But apparently her success was not based upon her expertise on the issues, two city sources said. ‘It struck me how little she knew about what her clients wanted,’ one said. ‘Basically, she would introduce her clients and then sit there.’” 

These deals may seem exciting to some—and the way for Oakland to be developed—until you look at the details. 

The neighborhood complaint was that the DeSilva Leona Quarry homes are built on a hundred-year-old quarry site in an area historically prone to flooding, and worried that the development could cause the unstable quarry area to collapse and slide buildings and land down onto Highway 580 just below. Their concerns caused a Superior Court judge to temporarily halt the project—following the Oakland City Council’s approval after lobbying from Ms. Hu on behalf of the DeSilva company—because he felt the city’s environmental review had been inadequate and rushed through. 

Mr. Perata, working hand-in-hand with then-Mayor Jerry Brown, managed to get the uptown Forest City project to escape any environmental review whatsoever by passing state legislation exempting downtown Oakland development from California Environmental Quality Act scrutiny during the years the Forest City buildings were being put up. 

All of these actions surrounding Don Perata-involved activities may be perfectly legal—if you get state legislative or City Council official approval for something, that’s the very definition of being legal—as may be the shifting of money from Mr. Perata’s statewide cigarette tax initiative to his Oakland mayoral campaign. But to paraphrase Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke, saying it’s legal don’t make it right. And that leaves the question of is this the way Oakland residents want Oakland government to operate? 

Federal investigators “cleared” Mr. Perata of violating federal law when they ended their five year investigation and declined to prosecute. But the Perata deal-making and money-making practices remain murky, indeed, and require a more complete explanation from Mr. Perata if he wants to be Oakland’s mayor.  

What I Left Out: Inspecting Houses and the Same Old Thing

By Matt Cantor
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:16:00 AM

I have tried to focus, these last five years, on specific issues in each of my columns. I didn’t want to ramble and waste your time, and I tried to avoid talking about my job as much as I could manage, though I’m clear that this didn’t work out so well. But, this being my last print-edition column, it occurs to me that I should talk a little more about the inspection process—the process of looking at houses. When we look at houses, what are we looking for? What do we expect to find? What matters? Every day, I find myself trying to answer that question in a new way, and most days I find a small number of things at the top of my list. It seems to me that this might be worth sharing as this column comes to a close. 


1. Seismic everything 

The houses that populate our region (let’s just stick with our organiform, hippie-hamlet Berkeley and environs) were built, for the most part, about 80 to 90 years ago and, though they were built in the shadow and wake of one of recent history’s most notorious and well-studied earthquakes, the architects and builders of these houses did little to nothing to keep them on their moorings and 3-D (as opposed to flat) when it all started shaking again. Why is this? What would cause this mass somnambulistic design crisis? I’m really not sure.  

I think we wake up to new notions slowly, even when the failure to open our eyes is life-threatening. The age of engineering reason is arriving slowly and, despite very good reasons to do better in the 1910s and 1920s, we just didn’t manage it in most cases. We even built an entire concrete stadium right on top of a known fault line. It was a bit like sleepwalking with tools and buckets of concrete, but it seems that the concepts that we take for granted with regard to earthquakes were too rarified or too poorly understood in the design community to have made much difference in the way most houses were built. I’m still working on this one, and I’ll be back to you if I have any new insight. 

What is terribly clear is that most houses I see, all the way up to very recently built ones (and how many of those do we have in Cambridge by the Bay?), are mostly lacking in very basic elements that can protect these structures against the predictable forces of the big earthquake that is already a little late. While we may wait another 20 years, it’s not damned likely. The paleoseismology of the Hayward Fault suggests that the regularity of earthquakes here is so unimaginative that it will be a surprise if it’s another 10 years before another major quake. This fault has been studied pretty well and it tends to go off about every 140 years and, with the last big one having happened in 1868 (the year of Japan’s Meiji Restoration and of Edison’s first patented invention: the electric vote recorder—don’t even get me started; those jokes write themselves!), we can’t be very far from the next one. 

I’m not going to spend a lot time talking about what makes most of our houses ill-fit for even a moderate earthquake (I’ve written a lot about this if you want to search the Planet’s online archives) but the really sad part is that most houses that have been deliberately upgraded (the popular term is seismically retrofitted) are far shy of being ready for the nasty shake we’re gonna get. I see it again and again—screws used where nails should be, bolting faulty in numerous ways, too little of everything. So this is number one.  

After looking at the failing paint job, the thin frazzled roof, the cracked foundation (low on my list of what matters, most of the time—this always surprises people), I end up caring a lot about seismic readiness, specifically because we have not had anything vaguely like this coming earthquake since before all our houses were built (with a very few exceptions) and because the effects will surely be devastating. A paint job. Well, you might have some leakage or a little more decay next year. Get back to me. 


2. Wiring 

The next one I tend to care a lot about is bad wiring and, more specifically, bad breaker panels. Let’s focus on the latter for a moment. There is at least one very unreliable brand of panel out there and you should know its name. It’s called Federal Pacific, and a huge number of panels were made by this company, mostly in the ’60s and ’70s. While there was scant response from governmental agencies (New Jersey took civil action), hundreds of thousands of panels that do not work so well were scattered across the United States and Canada. What does it mean when an electrical breaker doesn’t work? It means that your house burns down. That’s a bad thing. Kills people, destroys property.  

Breakers have one job and one job alone. It is to stand watch 24/7 and to shut things down when the wires in the house get hotter than they were meant to get. If they get too hot, they can set something on fire. We have specific heat ratings for every part of a given circuit (the wire, the bulbs, the switches) and based on these, we install a fuse or a breaker that is designed to kill the power to the circuit if the wires are getting too hot. Federal Pacific Electric or FPE breakers have been independently tested by a number of experts and agencies and found to show extremely low reliability. These breakers have been found to not trip regardless of the heat level in many cases. Though my sources are extremely varied and filled with disagreement, it is clear that these breakers are terribly unreliable. If a house has an FPE panel, I don’t mince words. Get rid of it. The consequences (like our earthquake up above) are just too great. Moreover, a new panel might be $1,000-$2,000 depending on location and size and I don’t think that cost is high enough to warrant the danger. At this point, most of the FPE panels I see are more than 40 years old and I feel as though the technology of breakers was just too underdeveloped at that time to consider worthy of the risk. Further, can we expect any piece of vital safety equipment to be adequately reliable at that age. I’m over 50 and I know that I am not utterly unreliable. Ask anyone who knows me. 

A few additional items on wiring because I think they’re extremely important: Aluminum wiring was widely used for wiring in the mid-’60s through the early ’70s at a time when copper markets were sky high. This has turned out badly. If you have a building built during that time, have the wiring checked. Again, as with all wiring and breaker problems, we’re talking about fire, and fire’s no joke. Lastly, if a house has too few circuits, we all know that you’re more likely to be blowing fuses or breakers. That means that the wires are getting too hot and, again, we’re playing with the possibility of fire.  


3. Fire alert and escape 

As long as we’re talking about fire, I’d like to beat my favorite dead horse (I’ve had him stuffed. We call him Elmer) and talk briefly about escape from houses. If you have smoke detectors with fresh batteries well distributed through your house (bedrooms, hallways, all levels), you will live. That’s what the statistics say. Do that. Do not lock yourself in your house. If you need a key to get out or a special tool, change it. It’s a lousy way to die. 

OK, I’m almost done. Here’s the last item, and it might cost some money.  


4. Falls 

If you have stairs, inside or out, that are at all uneven or lacking in handrails, fix them. This is what’s going to kill you (again, statistics). Fix the uneven walkway, add a light outside and remove the slippery rug from the stairs. 

The rest is all commentary and nuisance. Houses don’t fall apart that fast (if they were built in 1920), and the main things that are going to hurt you are relatively few in number. Take a deep breath. Every houses has a thousand things that need fixing (or at least a hundred) and nobody passes a green-point rating (unless it’s one of those new houses I hate so much), so don’t worry: focus on what matters most. That’s what I try to do, anyway. 

Wild Neighbors: Is the Newt Mute?

By Joe Eaton
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:18:00 AM

Have I really been doing this for seven years? That’s a lot of columns; I’m not even going to try to calculate how many. It’s been a good gig. I’ve been able to write about everything from California grizzly bears to beaver mites and microblind harvestmen, which are tiny arthropods that hide under rocks, and the proprietors have never complained about the subject matter being too obscure. (I later learned there was a local musical duo called Microblind Harvestman—thanks for the CD, Hal; interesting stuff.) They’ve tolerated a couple of crusades and left the copy pretty much alone. 

Over the years, people have said encouraging things about the columns. I’ve learned that I have online readers as far away as Massachusetts. Locally, there was a gratifying response when I asked for personal anecdotes about Berkeley’s dwindling flock of mitred parakeets. My thanks to all of you. 

And here we are at the end of the Daily Planet’s print run. Whatever happens in the electronic afterlife, I’m losing at least part of the audience at this point. So this is kind of a valedictory column.  

I was thinking I should go out with a bird. A lot of readers, I suspect, think of this as the Bird Column, as they think of Ron’s as the Tree Column. Birds are conspicuous and engaging creatures, and people have thrown me questions about them that turned into columns. How has Berkeley’s bird life changed over the years? What’s happening with the crows, or the Cooper’s hawks? Birds are also well documented—much more so than microblind harvestmen—and there’s a wealth of research to draw on. 

I was, in fact, considering about basing a column on some material in the latest newsletter from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which contained some shocking news about western bluebirds, based on field studies at UC’s Hastings Reserve in Carmel Valley. There are aspects of bluebird behavior that would embarrass John Edwards. 

But then I got one of those column-generating questions, from a friend who divides his time between Berkeley and the Sierra foothills. He had been hearing an odd call at his place in the mountains, suspected that it was an amphibian but had ruled out tree frogs and toads. He wanted to know if it could possibly be a newt. 

Not likely, was my first reaction. Newts are salamanders, and I had always considered salamanders to be as silent as turtles. (I’ve heard giant tortoises—not sure whether they were of the Galapagos or Aldabra variety—groan while mating.) I did recall that arboreal salamanders will squeak when you pick them up, but had assumed that to be an exception. 

In fact, Robert Stebbins and Nathan Cohen mention several cases of salamander vocalization in their Natural History of Amphibians. 

Giant salamanders bark or make rattling noises; ensatinas hiss; red-spotted newts make a “tic-tic-tic” sound. And California newts were described as making “faint, brief sounds” not otherwise described. 

So I tracked down the article Stebbins and Cohen cited, by James R. Davis and Bayard H. Brattstrom in the December 1975 issue of the journal Herpetologica. I couldn’t have gotten far with these columns without access to the stacks of UC’s Bioscience and Natural Resources Library. (Thanks, while I’m at it, to the lady who presides over the photocopy room.) 

Davis and Brattstrom described how they set up an aquarium for California newts collected in Orange County, monitored their interactions, and recorded their sounds. They identified three kinds of vocalizations, characterized as clicks, squeaks, and whistles. 

Their newts clicked when “placed in an unfamiliar location or when confronted by another newt.” The clicks seemed at first to accompany exploratory behavior. Eventually individual newts would claim particular rocks in the tank as their territory and click while defending them against interlopers: “A typical defense sequence would be: intruder tries to climb on a rock occupied by another newt; the resident rises high on its legs, displays the brightly colored throat and chest by raising its head upwards and backward, wags its tail, and clicks; intruder either retreats or presents a similar display with clicks for a short time and then retreats.” 

Squeaks were heard only when either Davis or Brattstrom picked up a newt. As for the whistle, a very faint sound (inaudible more than a meter away), it was “produced only when newts were touched in the middle of the back by other newts or by the experimenter…In one instance, after an interruption during amplexus [amphibian sex], a breeding male became disoriented and moved over the back of another newt. The latter elicited a whistle and the breeding male moved away.” It sounds like the whistle might be translated as “Hey! Get off me!” 

That’s the story, then. You’ll never hear a deafening chorus of newts, but they do have things to say to each other. If curious, you might visit the Japanese pond at the UC Botanical Garden and listen closely for clicks and whistles. 


Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:14:00 AM



“Discolorations” work by Karen Gallagher at Branch Gallery, 455 17th Street, Suite 301, Oakland, through April 2. 508-1764. bayvan.org 


“Milvia Street” Join the contributors to Berkeley City College’s art and literary journal at 6 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Diego Rivera’s Murals a lecture by Graham Beal on “Mutual Admiration: Rivera, Ford and the Detroit Industry Murals” at 5 p.m. in the Geballe Room, Townsend Center, 220 Stephens Hall, UC campus. 642-2088. 

Kim Stanley Robinson and Terry Bisson read from their new science fiction novels at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Poetry Flash “Van Gogh’s Ear” the love edition with editor Sawn-Michelle Baude and contributors at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s books, 2475 Telegraph. 849-2087.  

Gordon Edgar on “Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge” at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 1760 4th St. 525-7777. 

Black History Month Open Mic Poetry Night on the theme “What does Liberation Look Like?” at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 


Anne Feeney, singer-songwriter at 7 p.m. at Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby St. 848-6397. 

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

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

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

Matt Payne, Sparky Grinstead, Teri Falini at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 



Aurora Theatre “The First Grade” at 2081 Addison St., through Feb. 28. Tickets are $15-$55. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Rep “Coming Home” at 2025 Addison St., through Feb. 28. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Berkeley Rep “Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West” through April 11. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Central Works “An Anonymous Story” by Anton Chekhov opens and runs Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. www.centralworks.org 

“Come Home” with Jovelyn Richards in celebration of Black History Month at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15-$18. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Community Works’ “Man. Alive.” A collaboration of formally incarcerated men, community and professional artists Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $14. 845-3332. brownpapertickets.com 

Contra Costa Civic Theater “Over the Tavern” a family comedy by Tom Dudzick, Fri. and Sat. at 8 .m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, through Feb. 28. Tickets are $11-$18. 524-9012. www.ccct.org 

Don Reed “East 14th – True Tales of a Reluctant Player” Fri. and Sat. through Feb. 27 at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St., Oakland. Tickets are $20-$50. www.east14thoak.eventbrite.com 

Impact Theatre “Learn To Be Latina” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through March 27. Tickets are $12-$20. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Kitchen Witches” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Feb. 27. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Ragged Wing “Handless” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at Central Stage, 5221 Central Ave., Richmond, through March 27. Tickets are $15-430. 800-838-3006. www.raggedwing.org 

Youth Musical Theater Company “Once Upon a Mattress” at 7:30 p.m., Sat. at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m., at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$20. www.brownpapertickets.com 


James Cagney, Tureeda Mikell and Myronn Hardy read their poetry at 7 p.m. at Rebecc’as books, 3268 Adeline St. 


Berkeley Opera “Don Giovanni” at 8 p.m. at El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater, 540 Asbury Ave., at El Cerrito High School. Tickets are $15-$65.www.brownpaprtickets.com 

Malcolm Bilson, piano, at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Oakland East Bay Symphony “Views of America” with premier by Rebeca Mauleón at 8 p.m. at Paramount Theater, Oakland. Tickets are $20-$65. www.oebs.org 

The Bernal Hill Players, classical, romantic and contemporary chamber music, at 7:30 p.m. at Pro Arts, 150 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland. Tickets are $12-$18. www.bayareabach.org 

Leyya Tawil’s Dance Elixer “Saints + Angels” at 6:30 and 9 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St., Oakland. Free. www.danceElixir.org  

Abigail Hosein Dance Company “Here, Look” at Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 6 p.m. at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, 2704 Alcatraz. Tickets are $15-$20. Advance purchase recommended. 654-5921. www.brownpapertickets.com 

The Tammy L. Hall Trio at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373.  

Mike Marshall & Darol Anger and Vasen at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761.  

Richard Buckner at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $12-$14. 841-2082.  

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



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

Thacher Hurd reads from “Bad Frogs” at 11 a.m. at Books Inc, 1760 4th St. 525-7777. 


Live Oak Laughs Standup Comedy Show with Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, Ryan Kasmier, Kevin Munroe, Brendan Lynch and others at 8:30 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $8 at the door. 

“Reality Playthings” experiments with experience with Frank Moore at 8 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St., Oakland. 526-7858. www.eroplay.com 


“XXY” Argentine film directed by Lucia Puenzo at 3 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave. Free. 981-6280. 


Lucha Corpi introduces her latest mystery novel “Death at Solstice” at 7 p.m. at Rebecca’s Books, 3268 Adeline St. 852-4768. 


SUN Quartet, all-Brahms concert, at 8 p.m. at the Hillside Club, Cedar at Arch. Tickets are $10-$15. www.hillsideclub.org 

Oakland Public Conservatory of Music Symphony Orchestra “Symphonic Works of African-American Composers” at 3:30 p.m. at Oakland Veteran’s Hall, 200 Grand Ave. at Harrison St., Oakland. Free. 836-4649. www.opcmusic.org  

Kensington Symphony Orchestra with Golden Gate Philharmonic Camerata at 8 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Suggested donation $12-$15. 524-9912. www.kensingtonsymphonyorchestra.org 

American Bach Soloists Bach’s “St. John Passion” at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18-$45. 415-621-7900. americanbach.org 

Lora Chiorah & Sukutai Marimba & Dance Ensemble at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $20-$22. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

The Junius Courtney Big Band with Denise Perrier at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Art Lande “Old Wine, New Bottles” at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

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

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

Lagtime, featuring Kyle Mueller, at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Hali Hammer and Friends at 7:30 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Donation $10. 472-3170. 



Drawings by Juana Calfunao on her struggle to reclaim ancestral lands from logging corporations. Reception at 3:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Critique of “The Modernists” Show at 1 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. 644-4930. expressionsgallery.org  

Drawings by Larry Melnick on display from 2 to 6 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Donation $5. 482-3336. 


Rafael Jesús González “La musa lunática / The Lunatic Muse” at 3:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. 841-4824. 

Poetry Reading with Luis Garcia, Robin Standish, Jim Barnard and Nance Wogan from 2 to 5 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Donation $5. 482-3336. 


Berkeley Opera “Don Giovanni” at 2 p.m. at El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater, 540 Asbury Ave., at El Cerrito High School. Tickets are $15-$65. 1-800-838-3006. www.brownpaprtickets.com 

San Francisco Chamber Orchestra with Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir at noon at Julia Morgan theatr, 2640 College Ave. Free. www.juliamorgan.org 

Stephanie Crawford at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373.  

Mary Gauthier at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

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



“Hamlet: Blood in the Brain” California Shakespeare Theater and Oakland Technical High School present scenes, followed byQ&A with actors from both the original production and Oakland Tech’s production, at 6:30 p.m. at Oakland Technical High School Auditorium, 4351 Broadway. Free. 


“Listening to Movies” with Mark Berger, four time Oscar winner for Sound Design, at 7:30 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $5. 848-3227. 

John Carroll in Conversation with Scott Rosenberg at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison St. Benefit for Park Day School. Tickets are $30. 653-0317, 103. www.ParkDaySchool.org 

Subterranean Shakespeare “Comedy of Errors” staged reading at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. Tickets are $8. 276-3871. 

“Philosophy for a Complex Life” with Mark Vernon and Astra Traylor at 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Tickets are $12-$15. 800-838-3006. brwonapapertickets.com 


Haiti Relief Concert with Wake the Dead, Rubber Souldiers at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761.  



Nicole Howard discusses her new book, “The Book: The Life Story of a Technology” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 


CZ & The Bon Vivants at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun/ 

Zydeco dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 



“The Sun” Contemporary surrealist art by Alejandro De La Torre at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 


Robert Hass reads from his new book “Song of Myself: And Other Poems by Walt Witman” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

YiYun Li reads from “The Vagrants” a novel set in China in the late 1970s, at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 


Music for the Spirit with Ron McKean on pipe organ at 12:15 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

Wednesday Noon Concert, with Kevin Yu, cello, and Chen Chen, piano, at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Whiskey Brothers at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

The California Honeydrops at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Martin Pendergrast and Sonic Safari, jazz, swing, at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Aux Cajunals with Brandon Moreau at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 



Bayview Bookish Film Festival Films based on books at 10:45 a.m. at Richmond Public Library, Bayview Branch, 5100 Harnett Ave., Richmond. 620-6566. 


Lunch Poems Noontime poetry reading with Natasha Trethewey at Morrison Library, 101 Doe Library, UC campus. 642-3761. lunchpoems.berkeley.edu 

“Process & Place” Artist panel presentation and walk-through, moderated by Ann Weber at 7 p.m. at Berkeley At Center, 1275 Walnut St. Cost is $5-$10, free for members. Please RSVP. 644-6893. annw@berkeleyartcenter.org 

“Girldrive” with journalist Nona Willis Aronowitz and photographer Emma Bee Bernstein at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Alva Noe discusses her new book, “Out of Our Heads: Why Your Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons From the Biology of Consciousness” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 


Fill-In Friends, Greatful Dead night, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $8-$10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Dry Branch Fire Squad at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

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



Berkeley Rep “Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West” through April 11. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Central Works “An Anonymous Story” by Anton Chekhov opens and runs Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. www.centralworks.org 

Impact Theatre “Learn To Be Latina” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through March 27. Tickets are $12-$20. impacttheatre.com 

Ragged Wing “Handless” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at Central Stage, 5221 Central Ave., Richmond, through March 27. Tickets are $15-430. 800-838-3006. www.raggedwing.org 

TDPS “Slaughter City” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through March 14 at Zellerbach Playhouse, UC campus. Tickets are $10-$15. 642-8827. tdps.berkeley.edu 


“The World Turned Inside Out” Photographs by Noele Lusano. Reception at 7 p.m. at Oakopolis, 447 25th St., Oakland. 663-6920. 

“Lo-Lustre” works by Barbara Holmes and Marie Reich. Reception at 7 p.m. at The Compound Gallery, 6604 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. 655-9019. www.thecompoundgallery.com 


“Wait Until Dark” by Orson Welles at 8 p.m. at Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. Tickets are $5. 800-745-3000. 


Friday Noon Concert, with chamber music from student musicians, at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

AscenDance Project “Beyond Gravity” Dance on a vertical stage, at 8 p.m. at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $10-$25. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Sandy Perez y su Lade, Afro Cuban jazz at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Spaceheater’s Blast Furnace at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12-$15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Benefit for Bandworks with The Badworks Allstars, The Works, Valerie Orth Band, Yeti and others at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Aaron Sage Trio at 8 p.m. at Cioccolata Di Vino, 1801 Shattuck Ave., between Delaware St. and Hearst Ave. 898-1392. 

The Wailin’ Jennys at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $26.50-$27.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

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



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


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


Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra “The French Suite in Europe” at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $25-$90. www.philharmonia.org 

“For Colored Girls Only” Music, dance, and readings from 3 to 6 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. Donation $5-$10. 465-8928. www.joycegordongallery.com 

AscenDance Project “Beyond Gravity” Dance on a vertical stage, at 8 p.m. at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $10-$25. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Martin McGinn New chamber compositions at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864. 

La Krudas & Sandy Perez at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568.  

Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. 

Alam Khan, Gautom Tejas Ganeshan, Indian classical music, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761.  

Permanent Wave Ensemble “I Hate to Sing: The Music of Carla Bley” at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373.  

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

Dave Matela, folk, rock, at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 



The Hipwaders at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. 


“Modern Materials Echo the Ages: Bernard Maybeck’s Innovative Method in Building First Church, Berkeley” with Edward Bosley at 3 p.m. at First Church of Christ, Scientist, Berkeley, 2619 Dwight Way. Tickets at the door are $10-$15. www.friendsoffirstchurch.org 

“For Colored Girls Only” Poetry readings from 3 to 6 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. Donation $5-$10. 465-8928.  


University Chamber Chorus at 3 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft Way. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

University Gospel Chorus at 7 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $5-$15. 642-4864.  

Sacred & Profane at 4 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Curch, 2300 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $15-$20. www.sacredprofane.org 

London Quintet String quartet with clarinetist Larry London at 7:30 p.m. at Crowden School, 1475 Rose St. Tickets are $10-$15. 409-2416. 

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra “The French Suite in Europe” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $25-$90. www.philharmonia.org 

Black Olive Babes at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20. 845-5373. 

Si Kahn at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

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

Central Works Performs ‘An Anonymous Story’

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:10:00 AM
Cat Thompson in Central Works world premiere, An Anonymous Story by Anton Chekhov, a “new Chekhov play adapted for the stage by Gary Graves."
Jay Yamada
Cat Thompson in Central Works world premiere, An Anonymous Story by Anton Chekhov, a “new Chekhov play adapted for the stage by Gary Graves."

Gary Graves’ adaptation of Che-khov’s An Anonymous Story, at Central Works, opens like a Magritte painting with captions. The “anonymous” of the title, Stepan (Richard Frederick) as he’s known, is a footman in a 19th-century parlor, who confides to the audience: “I’m not a footman.” 

He alludes to spying on the bureaucrat he’s bound to, whose father is important in the government. And spy he does, with a melancholy air, commenting on but not otherwise reacting to what he sees. 

What Stepan sees has no political content to relay to the “Faction,” but instead is the behavior of the entropic upper classes in Russia. His master Orlov (Jordan Winer) and his somewhat dissolute crony Gruzin (Dennis Markam) rehearse to each other their studied skepticism concerning everything, including a display of self-mockery—an absurdist negativity long before the Theater of the Absurd—all the while snapping their fingers for the servants glued to the wall as if they were not present, gliding forward to pour drinks or serve food to these self-professing men of the world, their eyes only occasionally revealing emotion. 

And Stepan begins to see his fellow servant—the maid (Sandra Schlecter as Polya), who has flirted with him and been rebuffed—pocketing valuables she encounters around the flat. 

Polya fingers more than a watch or two. She remarks to Stepan how wrong he is for the job, that he’s no servant. “Who are you?” she asks. 

It’s an ongoing question, one Stepan begins to ask himself, occasionally sounding like a less jaded version of his “master.” 

Then Zinaida (Cat Thompson) ar-rives, having left her husband to live with Orlov, who isn’t expecting her arrival. An awful comedy of overwrought devotion met by indifference, irritation and deceit is played out, observed by Stepan, who finds himself silently defensive of Zinaida. 

So, in Chekhov’s inimitable mold, an unlikely triangle develops, seemingly as futile and dislocated as Orlov’s big words versus his little round of distractions.  

But there’s much more to this scenario as it plays out—surprises, even—though the situation is never superseded, only turned inside-out. 

As usual, Central Works has assembled the right cast for their uniquely collaborative method of developing a play with all the principals actively involved from the start. Schlechter and Frederick in particular turn in fine, subtle performances. And Cat Thompson makes Zinaida indelible, at once moving and pathetic, a woman who lives for the freedom to love, yet is shackled to her own desperate self-image.  

Central Works co-founder Soren Oliver has directed the ensemble with a good touch, so that every action, however slight, has its own significance in the midst of a kind of revolving stalemate that’s always absorbing for the audience.  

The old salon in the Julia Morgan-designed Berkeley City Club, where Central Works has staged its productions for much of its 20 years, is like another character in the play. It seems as if every square inch of the room, not originally intended for performances, is employed in the action, rendering it into both the space these characters inhabit and the theater—almost in the medical sense, like an operating theater—where their tangled interactions are played out before us. 

There are moments where the story, begun in 1887, is reminiscent of Turgenev’s short novels, like Rudin or First Love. But Chekhov bridled at being compared to his great humanist predecessor. It’s possible the familiar situations are summoned up to deliberately show the difference. Stepan’s denunciation of Orlov, directed to Zinaida to show that he feels a bond between them: “He doesn’t understand Turgenev!”  

What Chekhov supplies in place of Turgenev’s empathy goes beyond repeating through realistic observation—like his hapless faux footman—the world-weariness of his characters, beyond satire or the irony Stepan derides in Orlov and Gruzin’s show of mockery and self-mockery.  

Chekhov instead reveals a rare humor—once again, absurdist before the Absurdists (in some ways, Beckett, another storyteller-turned-dramatist, is very close to Chekhov)—which captures the characters in their awkward opposition to their situation, to themselves, and the strange opposition of stepping back and observing all of it, whether by Stepan, the anonymous narrator and seeming protagonist, the author or the reader/audience. 

It’s something seldom seen in productions of Chekhov, except in Russian-language versions, humor being wedded to language. Nabokov’s essay on this type of Russian humor is reprinted in the appendix of the Norton Critical Edition of Chekhov’s plays.  

Graves’ adaptation and the Central Works staging of Chekhov’s tale aptly opt for a truer irony—one of silence, which reveals what’s missing—with gentle touches of melancholy and comedy, for a very satisfying performance, superior to most productions of Chekhov’s major plays. 

A Russian friend once remarked that Chekhov had a special sense of humor, rarely caught in productions, going beyond the dark or jaded perspective of either doctor or sick man, because Chekhov himself was both—doctor and terminally ill consumptive—and an observant writer, originally of short comic pieces for page and stage, as well. Ezra Pound liked to quote Turgenev: “Nothing but death is irremediable.” Chekhov wrote as if seeing everything in the midst of life from a step removed—and one foot in the grave. 

This sense of humor akin to the idea that Pirandello—yet another storyteller-turned-playwright—realized, and is discussed brilliantly by Nicola Chiaromonte in The Worm of Consciousness. 

Such humor shows “a sense of the opposite ... of what you find instead of what you expect to find,” as Pirandello put it, one character slipping back into the mold while trying to realize the opposite, and another, seemingly stuck in that mold, revealing the opposite sense of his apparent self-caricature. It also allows both author and spectator to catch themselves looking on, capturing their own thoughts and emotions in response to what they see, opening up a new horizon of reflection and self-reflection. 

In other words, a complete theatrical experience, action happening onstage and within the audience. Not a static picture of “how things (or people) really are,” but the unending, revolving drama of things in time, surprising, unpredictable, yet comprehensible, by the very fact of being acted out and watched, thought about. As the chorus intones in the midst of one of Euripides’ tragedies, “Man is sometimes good, sometimes evil.” 




Presented by Central Works at 8 p.m. Thursday–Saturday and at 5 p.m. Sundays through March 28 at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant. $14–$25 (sliding scale). 558-1381. centralworks.org.

Berkeley Opera Opens ‘Don Giovanni’

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:11:00 AM

As the opening chords of Mozart’s Don Giovanni come from the pit, Eugene Brancoveanu as the Don turns to the audience, mugs, then stretches out luxuriously on the bare stage of the new El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater in a rectangle of light, while his man’s man, valet Leporello (Igor Vieira), lingers in silhouette further upstage, scratching his nose, picking his teeth, playing with his iPhone. 

When a woman appears behind a low wall, breathing heavily, gazing at the Don, he puts on a mask, jumps the partition, kisses the beauty’s hand and disappears with her into the wings. His servant, in narrow-brimmed crushable fedora and dark Hawaiian print shirt, remains—seemingly oblivious, or bored —his face dimly lit by his cellphone as the starry sky unfolds above him. 

Berkeley Opera’s first production in its exceptional new home—and the first show with Mark Streshinsky, who besides Don Giovanni has directed four previous operas for the company, as artistic director—goes right to work, fleshing out this seminal tale of the delights and savage deceptions of civilization without a wasted motion or breath. It embodies the panoply of music, operatic forms, and philosophies of life Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte had at their fingertips, crystalizing Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Classical orchestral and vocal splendor with the Enlightenment cult of man as the measure of all things. It is a breezy contemporary staging—one that cuts right to the quick, the Don finally devoured by his own self-love and recklessness, after all the delights and sorrows he encounters are displayed, with no moral outside of a wry chorus, “This is how the bad end up!”  

The first act is briskly paced, following the Don’s new escapades and bringing back dogged reminders of his older ones in the form of Donna Elvira (Aimee Puentes), whom Don G. meets again in a hilarious scene staged as an exercise class, the chorus aerobically attitudinizing, the Don lasciviously taking it all in, as abandoned Elvira spews her complaint, enthroned on her mat and that of Donna Anna (Kaileen Miller, the woman at the beginning) with her fiancé Don Ottavio (Michael Desnoyers), sworn to avenge her father, the commendatore (James Grainger), whom Don G. bashed to death at the start—and who will return to claim the reprobate with an iron grip. 

The second act is more leisurely, lingering on the different moods the Don’s lewd quest engender, yet nagged with a touch of foreshadowing as the libertine deliciously pays out the end of his own rope. 

The comedy and the opera were based on Moliere’s masterpiece, drawn from Spanish theater. The clowning of the Commedia dell’Arte is marked in Streshinsky’s direction, the cast fully up to the hilarity, especially Brancoveanu and Vieira. And the tragedy, that looms up suddenly at the end, springs full-blown from the uproarious buffoonery that preceded it. 

Streshinsky’s glib, easygoing modernization of the staging—more in delightful anachronistic touches than in any sense of a resetting of the story—only underlines the amazing freshness of a 220-year-old masterpiece. Mozart and Da Ponte were very clear in announcing proudly a new form of musical theater, one paralleling the beginnings of modern dramaturgy over the previous two decades by Diderot and Lessing (which, among other innovations, de-emphasized French Classicist theater and made Shakespeare into the model his plays have since become). 

The cast members, including William O’Neill as Masetto and Stephanie Kupfer as Zerlina (Elyse Nakajima sang the role opening night), all contributed with both their singing and acting to the overall effect. 

Yet standing above the rest, as his role virtually demands, was Brancoveanu, ably assisted by Vieira, showing by his leaps, his capering, his wonderful voice, his very expression, the whole character of the Don, charming and rapacious, an overgrown rich only child who will have his own way, deep only in self-regard. It would be hard to think of a better characterization of the great wastrel, the ne’er-do-well who makes a career, an artistic ouevre of philandery. Could Yuri Yuriev, Meyerhold’s Don Juan in his great production of Moliere in 1910, “no more than a wearer of masks ... fluttering through life,” have caught the spirit of the Don with such directness?  

The orchestra, with Alexander Katsman’s crisp direction and flourishes at the keyboard, buoyed up the voices, elegantly propelling the action and adorning it, emphasizing the music’s economy and constant activity as much as its richness. 

Streshinsky spoke to the audience opening night about the partnership created between Berkeley Opera, Streshinsky’s alma mater, El Cerrito High School (the theater is, in fact, the school theater) and the City of El Cerrito. It’s a momentous occasion for Berkeley Opera, the community and the performing arts in the Bay Area. 


Presented by Berkeley Opera at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28 at El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater, 540 Ashbury (near Central), El Cerrito. $15-$65 (student rush, $15). (800) 838-3006. berkeleyopera.org.

Berkeley Opera’s New Artistic Director, Mark Streshinsky

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:12:00 AM

Berkeley Opera will open its new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni this Saturday night at 8 p.m. in their new home, the 450-seat El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater on the campus of El Cerrito High School. 

Mark Streshinsky, newly appointed artistic director of the company, succeeding Jonathan Khuner, who will remain music director, spoke about the changes for the company, about Don Giovanni and the new theater, by phone from “the pit—with an elevator!—below a stage with wings, and plenty of fly space up above me! We’re the first ones in here; the building just opened.” 

Strashinsky has stage-directed for Berkeley Opera previously, but “I thought I’d gone as far as I could with the Julia Morgan Theater,” the company’s old home, due to its technical limitations.  

“Jonathan Khuner and I are really good friends. We love working together. He started asking me a few years ago if I would be artistic director. He knew I’d always wanted to be, for an opera company. And he’s happier concentrating on the music. He knew my background in stage management, my organizational skills.” 

Streshinsky came back to the Julia Morgan for his fourth show, lured by the offer of a world premiere, he said, referring to Clark Suprynowicz and John O’Keefe’s opera Chrysalis, for which Streshinsky stage-directed, as well as designing costumes and sets. 

When the Julia Morgan entered a partnership with Berkeley Playhouse to create a center for children’s and family-oriented performances, Berkeley Opera went looking for a new home—and Streshinsky was providing feedback to the architect of the new $25 million theater on the campus of his alma mater.  

“I thought, How can I get into this theater?” he said. “Right at that point, Jonathan approached me again. We presented it to the board, and they went for it.” 

Streshinsky spoke about the theater’s accommodations: “It has a lot more seats than we’ve ever had before. There’s a 150-seat balcony. We’re not planning on opening it. But Berkeley Opera is 80 percent above in subscriptions; we’re starting to talk about doing it.”  

The school district will manage the theater, which was built through a bond issue, and Streshinsky noted Berkeley Opera has started to talk with the district about how best to manage it.  

“It’s a little different than their usual facility management,” he said. “They’re learning from us, we’re learning their process from them. All signs point to success.” 

Streshinsky reminisced about going to school in El Cerrito.  

“When I was in high school here, I was in the musicals,” he said. “They don’t do much of that anymore. So we hold workshops in costuming and makeup for the students. Five of them who are interested are helping out here tonight, soaking it up. I don’t know what I would’ve done in high school if I didn’t have theater to center me.” 

Coming back to El Cerrito as artistic director is a homecoming for Streshinsky in more ways than one. Originally from Kensington, where he lives today with his wife, soprano Marie Plette, and their son Evan, Streshinsky took classes from Contra Costa Theater founder Louis Flynn, performing onstage there, while his sister worked in the box office. They both ushered shows at CCCT. His photo at age 16 is in the hall of the theater. Streshinsky noted his son is now taking classes at CCCT and will play the lead in Seussical. 

Berkeley Opera’s future rests on the talent they can attract, he said. 

“With a reduced budget, our focus is on the singers,” Streshinsky said. “We have some who work all over the country, as well as the best local artists and emerging singers right out of their training. We have a few from San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where I work, teaching basic acting for auditions twice a semester.” 

He spoke of Berkeley Opera “trying to do exciting programming, a real mixture, to perform the classics in slightly different ways. In the future, we plan for something from each of the three main eras of opera each season: Baroque or Classical, Romantic and Modern/Contemporary.” 

Streshinsky, who has directed at Cincinnati, Seattle and Dallas operas, as well as “fire operas” for Oakland’s fire arts project, The Crucible, talked about Don Giovanni’s staging.  

“It’s in modern dress, which is really fun,” he said. “It opens up a whole new vocabulary. The set is very stark—as Broadway sets are now—with projections. We’re focusing on the Don as a narcissist, his need to take all the women comes from his love for himself. But Jonathan and I want to focus on the three major relationships, flawed relationships the Don exposes, through the staging.” 

Streshinsky laughed. “There are dark moments, but it’s also really funny. We have some great comic actors. Comedy’s really hard, but it’s working because of those people—at least everybody coming to the rehearsals has been laughing!” 



Beyond Ignorance and Prejudice: Five Films Portray Palestinan Lives

By Annette Herskovits, Special to the Planet 
Thursday February 25, 2010 - 09:13:00 AM

Imagine that every time you wanted to visit your mother in Albany, you had to submit to questioning by an 18-year-old flaunting a loaded automatic weapon and with the power to send you back home. 

This, or worse, is everyday reality for four million Palestinians who have lived in territories under military occupation by Israel for 43 years. 

Israel claims the controls are necessary to stop “Palestinian terrorists.” Yet Israel’s policies—continuously stealing land and water resources from the native Palestinians for Jewish settlement, using a tightly knit system of abusive regulations and restrictions—have clearly provoked, rather than protected against, terrorism.  

In reality, the vast majority of Palestinians have never turned to violence. Their patience, endurance, and nonviolent resistance to dispossession are the subject of five extraordinary films to be shown in April and May, at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists. 

Also pictured in the films are Israelis who have chosen to act against the injustice of their government’s policies. They demonstrate with Palestinians against Israeli soldiers carrying out orders violating international law, or defend Palestinians in Israeli courts against confiscation of their land. 

Most important, many Israelis document the abuses committed by their government and armed forces. Indeed, the first three films in the series were made by Israelis. 

Encounter Point portrays Palestinians and Israelis who have known violence intimately and now see true nonviolence as the only way. During the first intifada (Palestinian uprising of 1987), Ali, aged 16, was sentenced to 10 years in Israeli prison for throwing stones and demonstrating. In the second intifada (begun in 2000), he was shot in the leg by an Israeli settler and his brother was killed by a soldier at a checkpoint. 

Today, Ali is a follower of Gandhi, whose teachings he discovered in prison. We see him in a hospital talking about nonviolent resistance with angry young men, civilians injured by Israeli soldiers. Yousef, who lost a leg to an Israeli bullet, says: “With Jews there’s no peace.” Patiently, brilliantly, Ali explains the power of nonviolence. 

Checkpoint shows West Bank Palestinians attempting to travel to neighboring towns—to fetch goods, bring children to school, or go for medical treatment. The film was shot over three years at checkpoints throughout the West Bank. Self-absorbed and bored Israeli teenage soldiers play cruel games. They promise to let a man through, then, when reminded of their promise, say, “That was an hour ago.” They keep some waiting for hours under a freezing rain. Saddened for both sides, we become engrossed in these callous and childish demonstrations of power, with no relationship to Israel’s security. 

Bil’in My Love is the work of an Israeli activist who joined the people of Bil’in in their nonviolent protests against Israel’s taking their land to build the Separation Wall. He decided to chronicle the confrontations, and created a moving and intelligent documentary.  

The film opens with Israeli soldiers chainsawing olive trees, as the Palestinian owner of the grove cries out, "Why? Why the olive trees?" Week after week, the unarmed villagers face Israeli soldiers and are met with tear gas, rubber bullets, beatings and arrests. Israelis and internationals join the protests. A touching friendhip develops between the filmmaker and a young Palestinian paralyzed by an Israeli bullet.  

Jerusalem: East Side Story documents Israel’s policies in Palestinian East Jerusalem. As Jerusalem is holy to Muslims and Christians, as well as Jews, there can be no peace unless the city is internationalized and open to all for worship. However, since Israel conquered the city in 1967, it has worked to drive out Palestinian Muslims and Christians. It annexed East Jerusalem, and constructed a ring of Jewish settlements that cuts Jerusalem—the center of Palestinians’ religious, cultural, and economic life—from the rest of the West Bank.  

The film shows the effects of these policies on Palestinians. Families watch in desperation as giant bulldozers demolish their home. Some live in tents across from their homes, evicted to make room for Jewish settlers. Crowds tussle to obtain permits to go worship at Al Aksa mosque, the Muslim heart of Jerusalem. The many who fail to obtain permits on time pray in the streets. 

Slingshot Hip Hop, a hopeful and sometimes joyous film, closes the series. Young Palestinian men and women in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza use music to express their pain and frustrations at living separated, occupied and treated as lesser beings. They communicate not only with each other, but, through this extraordinary film, with the world. Their music, energy and gentleness go straight to the heart. 

Each of these films exposes a facet of Israel’s oppressive occupation. Taken together, they should make it impossible to accept the misconceptions perpetuated in the U.S. media: Palestinians are terrorists, Israelis are their victims. 

There is in fact a long history of Palestinian nonviolent resistance. But Israel has been particularly quick to pounce upon such movements, imprisoning or deporting their leaders, because the image of Palestinians as terrorists is necessary to justify their massive violations of the rights of Palestinians. 

As for Israelis being the victims in the conflict: Israel receives three billion dollars in military aid every year from the United States. This provides Israelis with the most sophisticated amd powerful armed forces in the region. By any standard of comparison, the Palestinians are effectively un-armed and pose no threat to Israel’s survival. In effect, Israel is primarily the victim of its own greed for land and power.  

For the sake of both Palestinians and Israelis, Israel must be stopped on its path of folly. For this to happen, the U.S. public and Congress must be educated about the realities of the conflict. The films presented are powerful testimonies which should help in this task. 




All shows at 7 p.m. Fridays at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar St. Donation appreciated. No one turned away for lack of funds. Wheelchair accessible. 


April 2: Encounter Point (directed by Ronit Avni and Julia Bacha) 


April 16: Checkpoint (directed by Yoav Shamir) 


April 30: Bil’in Habibti (Bil’in My Love) (directed by Shai Carmeli-Pollack) 


May 7: Jerusalem: East Side Story (directed by Mohammed Alatar) 


May 21: Slingshot Hip Hop (directed by Jackie Salloum)

Community Calendar

Thursday February 25, 2010 - 08:51:00 AM


Reduce Your Footprint in 2010 A community workshop on how to reduce your global warming emissions at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St., at Bonita. Free. 548-2220, ext. 240. 

“David Brower and the Pearl of Siberia: Lake Baikal in Conversation and Photographs” discussion about the environmental challenges and successes of Siberia's Lake Baikal, with wilderness photographer Boyd Norton, Gary Cook of Baikal Watch, Melissa Prager of Center for Safe Energy, and John Knox of Earth Island Institute at 7 p.m. at David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way. Tickets are $5-$20. 859-9161. cseprograms@igc.org 

Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum “Going Public in 2010: Is the Window Opening?” at 6:30 p.m. at Andersen Auditorium, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley. Cost is $20-$30. 642-4255. http://entrepreneurship.berkeley.edu  

Job Seeker Information Session for Berkeley residents receiving unemployment insurance at 10 a.m. at North Cities One Stop Career Center, 1918 Bonita Ave. 982-7128. www.eastbayworks.com 

Free Drop-in Beginning Computer Class, Mon. at 6 p.m. and Thurs. at 10 a.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 3rd flr., 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6148. 

Babies and Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Circle of Concern Vigil meets on West Lawn of UC campus across from Addison and Oxford, Thurs. at noon and Sun. at 1 p.m. to oppose UC weapons labs contracts. 848-8055. 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Norman Bowen “Nuclear Non-Proliferation: What Does It Really Mean?” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $15, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 527-2173. www.citycommonsclub.org 

Bay Area Seed Interchange Library 11th Annual Seed Swap Potluck supper, hoe down music, home-grown garden seeds, and the company of fantastic local gardeners! Learn about seed saving classes and the Library. BASIL is a project of the Ecology Center. Please bring a garden related “white elephant” treasure to raffle. At 7 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. Cost is food and seeds to share or $10 donation. 658-9178.  

Circle Dancing, simple folk dancing with instruction. Potluck at 7 p.m., dancing at 8 p.m. at Hillside Community Church, 1422 Navellier St., El Cerrito. Donation of $5 requested. 528-4253. 

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 


Help Restore Cerrito Creek Plant natives and remove invasives on Cerrito Creek at Albany Hill with Friends of Five Creeks. Meet at 10 a.m. at Creekside Park, south end of Santa Clara Ave., El Cerrito. All ages welcome; snacks, tools, and gloves provided. Information at www.fivecreeks.org 

Wine and Chocolate Soiree for Rosa Parks School from 6 to 9 .m. at West Berkeley Senior center, 1900 6th St. Donation $20-$60. Benefits the elementary school’s PTA supplemental programs. 812-6860. 

Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure Get Started Meeting at 2:30 p.m. at Berkeley Main Library, 2090 Kittredge Street RSVP online at www.The3Day.org 

Black History Month Forum “From Slavery to Mass Incarceration” at 2 p.m. at Rockridge Library, 5366 College Ave., Oakland. Sponsored by the Spartacist League and Labor Black League for Social Defense. 839-0851. 

Hike UC Campus and Surroundings, five miles and some modest elevation. Meet at North Berkeley BART Station at 9:15 a.m. robertper7@gmail.com 

What’s It Worth? An Antiques Appraisal Faire Professional appraisers will tell you the value of that family heirloom, that gizmo from Uncle, the painting from the garage sale, from 2 to 6 p.m. at Albany Middle School, 1259 Brighton Ave., Albany. Cost is $20 per person for 2 portable items. Extra items $10 each at the door. Benefits Albany Rotary Club local and international programs. www.AlbanyCaRotary.org/faire. 

Saturday Afternoon at the Movies View and discuss award winning Independent and foreign films at 3 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave. To register for this event call 981-6280. 

Vegetable Garden Beds Learn how to prepare for spring planting at 10 a.m. at Magic Gardens Nursery, 729 Heinz Ave. www.magicgardens.com 

Family Open House at the Freight and Salvage with workshops, jams, and performances from noon to 4 p.m. at 2020 Addison St. www.freightandsalvage.org 

King of the Carnival 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 

Celebration of Purim, the Jewish costume holiday, for young children, at 10:30 a.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St., El Cerrito. RSVP required. 559-8140. www.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.  


“How We Can Complete the Gaza Freedom March” with Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, at 7 p.m. at King Middle School, 1781 Rose St. Benefit for children in Gaza. Tickets are $8-$15. 548-0542. www.mecaforpeace.org 

“Marx vs. Keynes” at 10:30 a..m. at Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave. Oakland. 

Tour of the Berkeley City Club, designed by Julia Morgan, from 1 to 4 p.m. at 2315 Durant Ave. Free, donations accepted. www.landmarkheritagefoundation.org 

Purim Carnival from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. with activities for children, carnival booths and more. Come in costume. http://prod.jcceastbay.org 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 


“East Bay Reservoirs: Curse and Blessing” with former EBMUD ranger, Bob Flasher at 7 p.m. at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. Free. 848-9358. www.fivecreeks.org 

Castoffs Kniiting Group mets at 7 p.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Free Drop-in Beginning Computer Class, Mon. at 6 p.m. and Thurs. at 10 a.m. at bekeley Public Library, 3rd flr., 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6148. 

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. 


Berkeley School Volunteers, New Volunteer Orientation from 10 to 11 a.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Bring a photo ID and two references to the orientation. Returning volunteers do not need to attend. For further information 644-8833. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Mills College, Rothwell Center Student Union, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

Homework Help at the Albany Library for students in grades 2 - 6, Tues. and Thurs. from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Emphasis on math and writing skills. No registration is required. 526-3720. 

Homework Help Program at the Richmond Public Library Tues. and Thurs. from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at 325 Civic Center Plaza. For more information or to enroll, call 620-6557. 

Street Level Cycles Community Bike Program Come use our tools as well as receive help with performing repairs free of charge. Youth classes available. Tues., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. from 2 to 6 p.m. at at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. 644-2577.  

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Share your digital images, slides and prints and learn what other photographers are doing. Monthly field trips. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We offer ongoing classes in exercise and creative arts, and always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 


“Addressing Global Health: a key priority for development” with Ann Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF, at 6 p.m. at Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley. http://tinyurl.com/ye4jkha 

“Money as Debt” A documentary about bailouts, stimulus packages, and more, at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 10 a.m. to noon at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Registration required. 594-5165. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at American Red Cross bus, 1200 Clay St., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

BHS BSEP Committee meeting to discuss the 2010-2011 budget at 4:30 p.m. in D Building conference room, Berkeley high. 501-3307. 

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


Native Plant Propagation Join a friendly group of volunteers to propagate and maintain plants for the Regional Parks Botanic Garden’s plant sales. The group meets at the garden in the Potting Shed area of the Juniper Lodge building on Thursday mornings, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Botanic Gardens in Tilden Park. 544-3169. www.nativeplants.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. 

Free Drop-in Beginning Computer Class, Mon. at 6 p.m. and Thurs. at 10 a.m. at bekeley Public Library, 3rd flr., 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6148. 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Jim Horner, Campus Landscape Architect on “The Restoration of Sather Gate at UC Berkeley” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $15, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 527-2173. www.citycommonsclub.org 

“The Philosophical Baby” with author Alison Gopnik at 6 p.m. at Habitot Children’s Museum, 2065 Kittredge St. 647-1111. www.habitot.org 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Diocese of Oakland, Church Hall, 2121 Harrison St., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 

Stand With Us Stand for Peace Stand with Israel vigil every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. www.sfvoiceforisrael.org 


South Berkeley Community Church Annual Crab Feed from 5 to 8 p.m. at 1802 Fairview St. Cost is $20-$40, $75 for couples. 652-1040. 

White Elephant Sale to benefit the Oakland Museum of California Sat. and Sun. from 10 to 4 p.m. at 333 Lancaster St., at Glascock, on the Oakland Estuary. 536-6800. www.whitelephantsale.org 

Worm Composting Workshop especially for apartment dwellers and those with limited space, from 10 a.m. to noon at EcoHouse, 1305 Hopkins St., enter via garden entrance on Peralta. Free. 548-2220, ext. 239. 

Banff Mountain Film Festival, award-winning adventure films, Sat. and Sun. from 7 to 10 p.m. at Wheeler Auditorium, UC campus. Tickets are $15-$18. 527-4140. 

“Public Education: Getting Beyond Savage Inequalities” discussion at 2 p.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 597-7417. www.marxistlibr.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. 

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.  


“Visual Thinking Strategies Workshop” with Philip Yenawine at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. Cost is $5-$10. RSVP to 644-6893. 

Celebrate International Women’s Day from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Niebyl Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to repair a flat, from 10 to 11 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

“The Dynamic Pelvis: The Link between the Upper and Lower Body” Discover your body’s natural bone rhythms to express freedom in your movement, from 3 to 6 p.m. at Studio B at Berkeley Ballet Theater, 2640 College Ave. Cost is $40-$48. 843-4687. 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712.  


Mental Health Commission meets Thurs., Feb. 25, at 5 p.m. at 2640 MLK Jr. Way, at Derby. 981-5217.  

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., Feb. 25, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7430. 

Council Agenda Committee meets Mon, March 1, at 2:30 p.m., at 2180 Milvia St. 981-6900. 

Landmarks Preservation Commission meets Thurs. March 4, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7429. 


Berkeley Housing Authority Five Year Plan and Fiscal Year Plan Public comments are being accepted by email to BHA@ci.berkeley.ca.us or at BHA office, 1901 Frairview St. The plan is available at the office. A Public Hearing will be held April 8 at 6 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 

Half Pint Library Book Drive Children’s books will be collected for distribution to pediatric clinics and community centers. Drop off books through March 31 at Half Price Books, 2036 Shattuck Ave.