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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.


Flash: Berkeley High Principal Jim Slemp Announces That He Will Retire in June

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 10, 2010 - 02:40:00 PM
Berkeley High Principal Jim Slemp cheers on more than 3,000 high school students who formed a human chain around the campus in June 2008 to protest immigration raids by ICE agents in Berkeley.
Riya Bhattacharjee/File Photo
Berkeley High Principal Jim Slemp cheers on more than 3,000 high school students who formed a human chain around the campus in June 2008 to protest immigration raids by ICE agents in Berkeley.

Berkeley High School Principal Jim Slemp, whose tenure was sometimes marked by controversy and contentious relationships with parents and teachers, announced Wednesday morning he was going to retire in June. 

Slemp was in the news recently for proposing to slash Berkeley High’s before-and-after-school science labs in favor of what were described as equity-based programs aimed at closing the school’s high achievement gap. 

His last appearance before the Berkeley Board of Education was Feb. 3, when he presented the Berkeley High School Redesign Plan with a host of other teachers and staff, but was criticized by several members of the public, some of them his own students. 

The news about his retirement came during the school’s regular morning announcement, according to his assistant Richard Ng, and was followed by a curt email to staff, which simply read: 

“Dear Berkeley High Community, 

I want you to know that I have decided to retire effective June 30, 2010. I look forward to continuing to work with you through that time. 




Rumors were circulating on email lists all morning, and although Slemp couldn’t be reached for comment immediately, Berkeley Unified spokesperson Mark Coplan confirmed that the news was true. 

“I knew that he was contemplating making that decision,” Coplan said. He added that the high school was getting ready to embark on a search to find a replacement. 

A message on the Berkeley High E-tree listserve ran a brief summary of Slemp’s accomplishments at Berkeley High School: 

“Mr. Slemp came to Berkeley High in the fall of 2003. Under his calm and steady leadership, Berkeley High moved to its current configuration of six small learning communities including the renowned International Baccalaureate program; the school obtained a coveted six year accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC); and the rundown physical plant was transformed into a place of beauty. Mr. Slemp’s focus has always been on the students of Berkeley High—their well being and their education. He has provided stability and leadership during a time of difficult budget cuts to education. The Berkeley High School community deeply appreciates the talents and dedication he has brought to his work on behalf of our student body.” 

Slemp couldn’t be reached for comment immediately. Among Berkeley Unified administrators, Slemp was unique because he rarely returned phone calls, especially from the press. He once told the Daily Planet that he preferred meeting with people in person because his busy schedule prevented him from returning phone calls. 

Reactions ranged from surprise to shock to relief in the Berkeley High community, which is split between those who idolize Slemp and those who don’t. 

Science Department head Evy Kavaler said the news came to her both “as a surprise and not a surprise.” 

“Nobody knew anything,” Kavaler said. “A lot of people were hoping that something like that would happen. They were wishing for new leadership.” 

Kavaler said that Slemp went about business as usual at the High school’s Shared Governance meeting Tuesday night. 

“He didn’t say anything—he was acting like he was not gone,” she said. “He may have told other people, but he didn’t tell me. I am not one of his closest friends anymore.” 

Slemp’s relationship with the Berkeley High Science Department soured badly in the last year, especially because of the science lab issue. 

“It’s been very frustrating to deal with the administration,” Kavaler said. “Even the vice principals have not been very supportive of the science labs. But it’s not just the science labs, there were other things going on in other departments.” 

Kavaler said she had heard a bit of good news from one of her colleagues--that Superintendent Bill Huyett was ready to support science labs at the high school. 

Apart from the science lab controversy, Slemp’s relationship with Berkeley High science teachers has been one disaster after another.. 

A group of science teachers recently protested Slemp’s recommendation not to renew a science teacher’s contract because of performance issues. 

BHS science department teachers walked out of their staff meeting last week and marched en masse first to the principal's office and then to the office of the district superintendent protesting the decision. 

Slemp was also in the news after some parent complained that the Berkeley High School Governance Council lacked transparency and was not in compliance with federal, state and local guidelines. The board formed a two-member policy subcommittee last June to investigate the issue.  

When reached by the Planet Wednesday, Huyett said he could not immediately comment on Slemp’s retirement because it was a personnel issue. 

He added that the retirement would be discussed by the board in closed session at the school board meeting tonight. 

Huyett issued a statement lauding Slemp for his efforts to improve Berkeley High, especially campus safety, student environment and development and implementation of new programs, including small schools. 

“As a new Principal at Berkeley High School, Jim Slemp immediately developed positive relationships with students,” Huyett’s statement said. “His commitment to students was obvious and visible. He could be seen talking to seniors, laughing with freshmen, and generally making students feel safer and more comfortable on campus. Jim has continued to maintain a great relationship with students throughout his tenure. Jim developed a leadership team of vice principals to assist him in carrying out the task of running a large urban high school. He can be credited with encouraging the same team spirit among support staff. Under his leadership, BHS created the small schools and the American Baccalaureate High School and brought back student activities such as assemblies, all school spirit rallies, and school dances.” 

Huyett also assured community members that their input would be heard when the district begins its search for a new candidate. Before Slemp arrived at Berkeley High, his predecessors went through extremely short stints as principal. 

Kavaler, whose time at Berkeley High started before Slemp’s, recalled the principal’s early years at the school. 

“When he came into Berkeley High School, it was a mess,” she said. “I was not going to send my children there if they didn’t get a new principal. He turned Berkeley High School around. In his first couple of years, the tenor of the high school changed. Teachers felt like it was a place where they could belong. The problem was that tension started arising between different groups—between the small schools and the big programs.” 

Another teacher, who did not want to reveal her name, said that the science department at the high school was probably having a party after hearing the news. 

“He wanted to destroy the science program, so teachers were saying, wouldn’t it be great if Slemp retired?,” the teacher said. 




Council to Tackle Budget, Alcohol Permits, Columbaria and Google Internet Service

Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 09, 2010 - 05:14:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council will start its meeting today with a special 5:30 p.m. budget workshop detailing how the city can balance its 2010-2011 budget. 

The city currently faces a $10 million deficit. Berkeley’s Budget Manager Tracy Vesely is expected to inform the council about state funding cuts which will affect the city’s Public Health funds. The city’s public health programs are estimated to be facing a $2.7 million loss. 


Alcohol Permits for downtown quick-service restaurants  

The Berkeley City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to approve expedited alcohol permits for quick service restaurants downtown. Although the Planning Commission signed off on this recommendation, the proposal has met with opposition from the Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition, which has expressed concern about public safety, health and quality of life.  

Though the City Council had initially included Telegraph Avenue, the Planning Commission, in its final vote, limited the proposed zoning amendments to downtown establishments located more than 200 feet away from a residential zone.  

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, who introduced the item, says that he hopes that an easier permit process will help restaurants during a difficult economy. 


Development of columbaria within city limits  

The Berkeley City Council will also vote on whether to amend the city’s existing zoning codes to permit columbaria (buildings which are dedicated repositories for human ashes) within residential and commercial districts in the city. 

The current proposal would allow a maximum of 400 such sites. Only 5 percent of a site could be used for a columbarium--the rest would have to be associated with religious or related uses. 


Council Considers Google Fiber for Berkeley  

The council will also vote on whether to ask City Manager Phil Kamlarz to submit an application for Google’s Fiber for Communities project by the March 26 deadline. 

Kamlarz will evaluate the application and Request for Information to determine whether the proposed fiber optic network is suitable for Berkeley and report the results to the council. 

According to a report from Councilmembers Darryl Moore and Gordon Wozniak, who introduced the item, “Google plans to build and test ultra-high speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the country, which expects to deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections.” The report says that “Google will offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000, and potentially up to 500,000 people.” 

Google is kicking off this program by putting out a RFI to help identify interested communities, including local government and the public. 


The City Council meeting starts with a special workshop at 5:30 p.m., followed by a regular meeting at 7 p.m. Both meetings will take place at the Maudelle Shirek Building (Old City Hall) Council Chamber, 2132 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 


BUSD Dismisses Rumors About Berkeley Adult School Closure

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday March 08, 2010 - 09:46:00 PM

The Berkeley Unified School District dismissed rumors stirred up online over the weekend about the closure of the Berkeley Adult School. 

Berkeley Unified School District Mark Coplan said Monday that although the adult program likely faces another round of cuts—the last one slashed funding by $1.5 million—there was no plan to close it down. 

According to Coplan, the Berkeley Board of Education will discuss $2.67 million in cuts for the next school year at its Wednesday meeting, of which $100,000 is expected to come from the adult school. 

Coplan said that a satellite Older Adult Program would be “at risk in the event that it is not possible to negotiate a two day furlough, cutting the cost of two staff development days.” 

“These are the only effects that would impact the adult school,” Coplan said. 

The rumor, which first surfaced on LeConte Chat—a Yahoo! group formed by LeConte neighborhood residents—Sunday said the “Berkeley Adult School may go out of business after June 2010.” 

“There are strong rumors that the Berkeley School District will stop funding the venerable Berkeley Adult School at the end of the current semester,” the message said. “That would be a hard blow for Berkeley's many adult and senior residents who take advantage of the learning opportunities offered.” 

The message also asked recipients to send a brief message to Berkeley Unified Superintendent Bill Huyett appealing this decision. 

The Berkeley Federation of Teachers has been lobbying the school district to support the adult school program, which serves over 10,000 students every year. 

The school has already eliminated summer session and pronunciation classes and increased the number of students in English language classes.  


Berkeley-based Earth Island Behind Oscar Winner 'The Cove'

Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday March 08, 2010 - 08:13:00 PM
Judith Ehrlich, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America, on the way to the Kodak Theater for the Oscars with Daniel and Patricia Ellsberg. Judy's dress was designed and made in the East Bay by Devi, proprietor of Outback in Point Richmond,*with help from the LoveTribe (Outback's loyal customers). Jewelry by Clare Ullman.
Contributed Photo
Judith Ehrlich, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America, on the way to the Kodak Theater for the Oscars with Daniel and Patricia Ellsberg. Judy's dress was designed and made in the East Bay by Devi, proprietor of Outback in Point Richmond,*with help from the LoveTribe (Outback's loyal customers). Jewelry by Clare Ullman.
The film crew and staff for 'The Cove' gather for a photo after the premiere at Sundance Film Festival in Park City in January
Copyright Mark J. Palmer
The film crew and staff for 'The Cove' gather for a photo after the premiere at Sundance Film Festival in Park City in January

Berkeley-based Earth Island Institute is behind the making of The Cove, which won an Oscar for best documentary Sunday night. 

The movie details the work of the institute’s Save Japan Dolphins coalition and marine specialist and activist Ric O’Barry, focusing on the largest remaining annual dolphin slaughter in the world, which takes place in the Japanese seaside town of Taiji. 

The documentary received plaudits at various film festivals worldwide, including the Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival as well as audience awards at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto, the Newport Film Festival, the Sydney International Film Festival and the Seattle International Film Festival among others. 

The documentary, directed by Louie Psihoyos and the Oceanic Preservation Society, is an attempt to raise awareness and to garner public support to end the slaughter of dolphins and whales in Japan.  

“We will be working hard this spring and summer screening the Japanese version of The Cove throughout Japan." said Mark J. Palmer, associate director of the Earth Island Institute and Save Japan Dolphins Coalition. "We need to bring the truth about dolphins and whales to the Japanese people—that is what will end the slaughters.” 

Palmer sent the Planet O'Barry's statement on the Oscar win. 

“Winning the Oscar is an amazing honor, and it does have a real impact in Japan," said O'Barry, Earth Island Institute’s Campaign Director for Save Japan Dolphins. "But so few people have seen this film, and let's be honest, with the exception of the biggest stars, most people don't listen to the speeches. I wanted people watching to know that they can take action to help end this terrible slaughter. People who text (DOLPHIN 44144) in will immediately get our petition to the Japanese Ambassador to the US, Japan's Prime Minister, President Obama, and Vice President Biden. They can sign right there from their phone. We'll also send them videos they can share and updates on the campaign." 

The Oscar-nominated documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America also has Berkeley connections. Directors Rick Goldsmith and Judith Ehrlich are both based in Berkeley. Read Gar Smith's review here

For more information on the campaign to save dolphins or to read O'Barry's blog, visit savejapandolphins.org.  




Richmond's Oscar Connection

Tom Butt, Special to The Planet
Tuesday March 09, 2010 - 04:17:00 PM
Pete Docter with his Oscar.
Photograph courtesy Tom Butt
Pete Docter with his Oscar.
The 'envelope.'
Tom Butt
The 'envelope.'
From left, Shirley Butt, Amanda Docter, unidentified neighbor and Pete Docter.
Tom Butt
From left, Shirley Butt, Amanda Docter, unidentified neighbor and Pete Docter.
Elie Docter and two unidentified friends with Pete Docter's Oscar.
Tom Butt
Elie Docter and two unidentified friends with Pete Docter's Oscar.

Richmond Councilmember Tom Butt on his city's Oscar connection

Pete and Amanda Docter moved to Richmond with Pixar, where Pete started working at age 21, Pixar’s 10th employee. They bought the “old Stairley place” in Point Richmond, fixed it up and lived there, almost across the street from Pixar, until Pixar moved to Emeryville. The Docter family were fixtures at Hidden City for years, and Pete even put Hidden City in the film Monsters, Inc. 

I don’t think Pete ever missed a morning walking up to Nichol Knob with his dog alongside and his son Nicholas on his shoulders. 

Sunday night, Pete accepted the Academy Award for Best Animated Film, Pixar’s “Up.” Pete had racked up a half-dozen Oscar nominations in his career, including for his screenplay work on 2008's "WALL-E" and for making 2001's "Monsters, Inc." but Sunday the Oscar was finally his. 

Despite only two hours sleep the night before, Pete and Amanda had friends and neighbors over last night, and we had a chance to help celebrate with them, including an opportunity to hold the actual Oscar. Ironically, we attended a local Oscar Party on Sunday night, a fundraiser for the Point Richmond Business Association, in Pixar’s former digs, hosted by a successful and expanding Richmond technology business, Vertigo Software. 

Berkeley Bike-Pedestrian Safety Remains Consistently Poor

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday March 08, 2010 - 05:52:00 PM
The Office of Traffic Safety currently ranks Berkeley highest in terms of the number of pedestrian injury collisions among similarly sized cities in California. The numbers have changed little since 2003.
By Riya Bhattacharjee/File Photo
The Office of Traffic Safety currently ranks Berkeley highest in terms of the number of pedestrian injury collisions among similarly sized cities in California. The numbers have changed little since 2003.

Records from the state Office of Traffic Safety show that Berkeley has consistently been one of the least safe—and in some cases the most unsafe—places in California for bicyclists and pedestrians for the last several years.  

When the Berkeley Police Department announced last week that it was launching a month-long pedestrian safety campaign in honor of Zachary Michael Cruz, the five-year-old who died in a motor collision while walking to an after-school program Feb. 27, 2009, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan cited a OTS study which ranked Berkeley as the most dangerous city of its size for pedestrians.  

However, a little more digging by the Daily Planet revealed that the situation has been just as bad since 2003.  

“Berkeley has been very bad for the last five or six years,” said Chris Cochran, a spokesperson for the Office of Traffic Safety. “But the good thing is it seems to have identified its problems and is working toward fixing it. If you do something high profile for a month, it lasts in the public mind for a longer time. But the longer you do it, the more effective it becomes.”  

According to the Berkeley Police Department, 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.  

Calls to Sgt. R. Rittenhouse of the Berkeley Police Department for comment were not returned immediately.  

Meehan told the Planet that the police department was “putting more and more attention” to pedestrian safety. 

"Zachary’s death was a wakeup call—pedestrian safety is important now and will become more important over time,” he said. “We don’t want to treat people as numbers. This is something we will be looking at in more detail and devising strategies to address it. There’s a feeling that if you arrest enough people then that solves the problem but the world doesn’t work that way. Along with enforcement, engineering and education is what counts.” 

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

In 2008, Berkeley was listed in the second highest population category—between 100,000 to 250,000—for California cities.  

A report prepared by the Office of Traffic Safety showed that on any given day people drove an average of 950,000 miles inside Berkeley city limits.  

There were a total of 634 collision-related deaths and injuries, making Berkeley fifth among 55 like-sized cities in its category when ranked by daily vehicle miles traveled. It was fourteenth when ranked according to population.  

“Shows Berkeley isn’t doing too well,” Cochran said. “It’s not doing very well for speeding, nighttime or hit and run injuries and collisions.”  

There were a total of 93 pedestrian deaths and injuries the same year—the most in any similar-sized city, with eight fatalities under the age of 15, a phenomenon Cochran described as “worse than average.” Berkeley also ranked number one for pedestrian deaths for age 65 or above.  

“These are numbers I am looking at,” Meehan said. “Berkeley is a complex moving place and we are working to reduce the number of people getting hit by cars. We are looking at when and why and how things are happening.” 

The only place where Berkeley didn’t come out looking so bad was alcohol-related deaths and injuries. Berkeley hovers somewhere in the middle for this category.  

In 2003, Berkeley was ranked at the very top in numbers of both pedestrian and bicycle-related deaths and injuries and has showed little or no improvement in all the categories it has been ranked in since then, Cochran said.  

Cities comparable to Berkeley within Alameda County include Hayward and Fremont. While Hayward has its share of problems, they are not as bad as Berkeley’s. Its main problem is pedestrian safety for young people. Fremont ranks in the middle for most categories.  

Although the Office of Traffic Safety carries out these reviews periodically, cities are not penalized for their poor ranking.  

“The penalty is that people are dying,” Cochran said. He added that the OTS published the rankings “so that cities can look at them and see how they can improve either on their own or with help from the Office of Traffic Safety.”  

“If you are in a position like Berkeley, we encourage the Berkeley Police Department to come to us,” said Cochran  

The Office of Traffic Safety, which is federally funded, regularly provides grants for DUI checks and seat belt and red light enforcement, among other things.  

UC Berkeley also carries out a free pedestrian assessment for cities.  

Alameda County Safe Routes to School Director Nora Cody said discussions with the City of Berkeley’s Bike and Pedestrian Planner Eric Anderson revealed that “even if it’s true” that Berkeley ranks highest among comparable cities when it comes to the number of pedestrian injury collisions, it is important to remember that the city has “one of the highest rates of pedestrians and bikers” on its streets.  

“If you have many more pedestrians walking, you will have more injuries,” Cody said. “It should be looked at by injury per pedestrian rather than injury per capita.”  

Cody said that although Safe Routes to School—which launched a traffic safety campaign in the Berkeley public schools after Zachary’s death—had not been contacted by the Berkeley Police Department about the March campaign, they were happy it was taking place.  

“And of course I want it to be more than a month,” she said. “It’s going to be a great challenge next year because of all the budget cuts. Both the city and our school district are going to be devastated by the cuts.”  

Anderson said that Berkeley’s first pedestrian master plan is scheduled to go before the Berkeley City Council in April.  

“It’s not a legislative document—it’s mainly going to outline safety for all those people who walk for recreation and transportation,” he said.  

Zachary’s father Frank Cruz said his family proudly supported the BPD in their effort to make the city a safer place for all pedestrians.  

Cruz has been sharing his experience with the Berkeley Police Department as part of the campaign. 

“We hope that through these efforts we can raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, and perhaps save other families from having to go through the kind of loss our family lives with everyday,” Cruz said. “I hope that Berkeley Police Department’s focus on enforcement, engineering and education this month will make a positive difference in Zachary’s honor. Zach’s seventh birthday is coming up [on March 12], and I think a safer city would be a nice gift for him and all the other kids of our community." 


Worth A Look

Links to Other Sites
Saturday March 06, 2010 - 08:43:00 AM

An elegant essay on planning theory from Berkeleyside. Gary Parsons graciously also submitted this piece to the Planet, but it looks nice here, and there are comments too. 

A nice editorial about the Planet which appeared in all the Bay Area News Group papers. Thanks, folks. 

A view of the Planet from space, and no, we didn't give him permission to take that picture, he took it on the sly. Is that ethical journalism? But at least it shows the wall of awards we've won, even though he doesn't mention them in the story.  

A respectable little piece about Berkeley's perennial eco-hype industry. For the full back story on how it all started, search the Planet for the last two years.

Berkeley Law Dean to Advise UC President on Race Matters

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday March 05, 2010 - 06:30:00 PM
Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley was named special advisor to UC President Mark Yudof and UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox Friday to help resolve recent acts of racism on the UCSD campus.
UC Berkeley
Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley was named special advisor to UC President Mark Yudof and UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox Friday to help resolve recent acts of racism on the UCSD campus.

Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley was named special advisor to UC President Mark Yudof and UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox Friday to help resolve recent acts of racism on the UCSD campus. 

Tensions ran high on the UCSD campus last month when students found a Facebook event mocking Black History Month. A week later a noose was discovered hanging from a campus library. The student responsible for the noose incident was suspended from campus. Earlier this week a KKK-style hat was found on a statue outside a UCSD library, sparking another set of investigations. 

Black students on the Berkeley campus protested these racist incidents last Monday and detailed what they said were racist acts at their own university. 

A news release from Yudof’s office said Edley, who is regarded as an authority on civil rights, will help with implementing the campus climate action plan outlined in the agreement signed by UCSD students and administration Thursday. 

According to the release, the adopted recommendations seek to take UC San Diego “past hurtful incidents and improve the campus climate by enhancing diversity in the curriculum and throughout the UC San Diego community.” 

The racial incidents prompted UCSD African American students to craft a list of recommendations calling for minority representation and improvement of the overall climate on campus. 

Besides having provided counsel on domestic policy and affirmative action for two White House administrations, Edley was a congressional appointee on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He is the founder and director of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity, a multidisciplinary think tank. 

As special advisor, Edley will assess and monitor the situation at UC San Diego and advise Yudof and Fox on their future course of action. 

“These serious racial incidents raise difficult questions,” Yudof said in a statement. “And we are confident that we will identify the most effective and substantive solutions. Dean Edley will go to work at once helping UC San Diego through this passage. The bottom line is this: We will not tolerate racism in any form, and we will not hesitate to act to eradicate it whenever and wherever it arises.” 

  The UCSD administration has also contacted the FBI and the San Diego City Attorney for possible criminal charges stemming from the racist actions.   

  Edley is expected to arrive at the UCSD campus next week and meet with students, faculty and university officials. 



Blogs, Blogs and More Blogs

compiled by Becky O'Malley and friends
Friday March 05, 2010 - 05:37:00 PM

This is an arbitrary and eclectic selection of some local blogs we think are worth reading: 


Eric Klein's new blog Eric has broadcast the Berkeley City Council for KPFA for several years without punching anyone out, for which he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.  

Jane Stillwater Jane is a world traveler, world-class kvetcher and idolatrous grandmother.  

Carol Polsgrove Carol has been both a working journalist and a professor of journalism, two professions that don't always go together. She's sometimes in Berkeley but mostly beyond. The latest post is a tribute to the late Howard Zinn, taken from her book Divided Minds.  

Mark Leventhal A 19-year-old from Berkeley who is taking a gap year in Chile reports on his earthquake experiences. 


Send us your own ideas for additions.

Berkeley Drops Everything to Read

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday March 05, 2010 - 02:14:00 PM
Berkeley Police Department Chief Michael Meehan reads to fifth graders at Washinton Elementary School Friday morning
Mark Coplan
Berkeley Police Department Chief Michael Meehan reads to fifth graders at Washinton Elementary School Friday morning
Berkeley Unified School District Director of Certificated Personnel Pasquale Scuderi reads to another fifth grade class at Washington.
By Mark Coplan
Berkeley Unified School District Director of Certificated Personnel Pasquale Scuderi reads to another fifth grade class at Washington.

A police chief, firefighters and city officials in Berkeley dropped everything for about an hour Friday to read. 

Berkeley public preschools and elementary schools celebrated DEAR (Drop Everything to Read) Day today, where volunteers read their favorite books to students before class. 

Started as a citywide celebration of books and reading in 1994, DEAR Day recently received a proclamation from the City of Berkeley. 

Organized by the Berkeley School Volunteers, which is a part of the Berkeley Public Education Foundation, the program draws over 1,500 volunteers every year. 

In proclaiming March 5, 2010 as DEAR Day, the City Council pointed out the program’s connection with the citywide 2020 Vision plan, which includes volunteering as a vital part of closing the achievement gap. 

According to Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan, Thursday’s event saw people of all ages, color, gender and occupation—”from firefighters in uniform to lawyers in suits to retired teachers”—sit down and read for 20 minutes. 

“It’s a wonderful way to connect with Berkeley’s schools, share your love of reading, and serve as a role model for eager young listeners,” Coplan said.  

The list of readers included Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, city councilmembers Linda Maio, Gordon Wozniak, Max Anderson, Laurie Capitelli and Kriss Worthington and Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Shiela Jordan. Councilmember Jesse Arreguin read Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You”ll Go” while his aide Anthony Sanchez read Harry Potter to children at Washington Elementary School. 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett read at Malcolm X Elementary School. Employees of Bayer Pharmaceuticals and members of the Berkeley Rotary Club also showed up to read. 

For more information on DEAR Day or to sign up to read, contact Michelle Khazai, Director, Berkeley School Volunteers at 644-8833 or bsv@berkeley.k12.ca.us. 

Visit their website at www.bpef-online.org 


Willard Middle School Students Join UC Berkeley to Protest Cuts

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday March 04, 2010 - 04:53:00 PM
Willard Middle School students wave to the marchers on Telegraph
Willard Middle School teacher Sharon Aethur greets students who took part in the rally in front of the school Thursday afternoon
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Willard Middle School teacher Sharon Aethur greets students who took part in the rally in front of the school Thursday afternoon
Berkeley public school teachers perform in downtown Berkeley Thursday.
By Raymond Barglow
Berkeley public school teachers perform in downtown Berkeley Thursday.
The Berkeley Federation of Teachers show their support for the March 4 Day of Action in front of their district headquarters at 2132 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
By Raymond Barglow
The Berkeley Federation of Teachers show their support for the March 4 Day of Action in front of their district headquarters at 2132 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
BUSD parents and students at MLK Jr. Civic Center Park protest the cuts.
By Raymond Barglow
BUSD parents and students at MLK Jr. Civic Center Park protest the cuts.

Willard Middle School students also took part in the March 4 Day of Action—some joining the march and others cheering from the school balcony. 

As the protesters approached the Willard campus, the middle schoolers broke into applause, jumping up and down in excitement. 

A small group ran out to hug their friends, who took part in the rally with permission from their parents, Willard teacher Sharon Arthur said. 

“Some teachers took their students on field trips so that they could witness the march,” said Arthur, who teaches sixth grade English and history. “We support the Day of Action. But we teachers can’t leave because of our contracts.” 

The Berkeley Federation of Teachers held their own rally outside the Berkeley Unified School District headquarters on Martin Luther King Jr. Way Thursday, raising awareness about the cuts. 

BFT President Cathy Campbell said the union had wanted to do something more “family oriented,” so that the parent and teacher community could stay in Berkeley. 

“The kids are pretty juiced up,” Arthur said. “They know what’s going on, they are Berkeley kids. Teachers from the 70s remember what it was like when Prop 13 changed our lives. It’s not a spending issue, it’s a revenue issue.” 


Flash: More Than 1,000 March in Berkeley to Protest Budget Cuts

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday March 04, 2010 - 09:36:00 PM
UC Berkeley students dance at the entrance of Sproul Plaza on Bancroft and Telegraph before starting on their march at noon Thursday. The Subway restaurant that was vandalized during a riot about a week ago can be seen in the background.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
UC Berkeley students dance at the entrance of Sproul Plaza on Bancroft and Telegraph before starting on their march at noon Thursday. The Subway restaurant that was vandalized during a riot about a week ago can be seen in the background.
Nancy Kato, assistant registrar at Boalt Hall, speaks to the crowd before the march.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Nancy Kato, assistant registrar at Boalt Hall, speaks to the crowd before the march.
Paper mache dolls, like this one above, dotted the march, making bold statements about the cuts.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Paper mache dolls, like this one above, dotted the march, making bold statements about the cuts.
UC Berkeley student Marika Goodrich, who was arrested last Thursday for inciting riots, speaks before the march.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
UC Berkeley student Marika Goodrich, who was arrested last Thursday for inciting riots, speaks before the march.
Mario Medina, second from right, cheers on the crowd during the march.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Mario Medina, second from right, cheers on the crowd during the march.
A "save public education" caravan joined the march to Oakland.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
A "save public education" caravan joined the march to Oakland.
UC Berkeley student Corey Scher writes the word "greed" on an American flag at the corner of Ashby and Telegraph avenues.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
UC Berkeley student Corey Scher writes the word "greed" on an American flag at the corner of Ashby and Telegraph avenues.

UC Berkeley—where the idea of the March 4 Day of Action incubated last October—erupted into a riot of noise and colors Thursday afternoon, when more than 1,000 people marched from Sproul Plaza to Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland.  

Students, faculty, staff and workers protested the budget cuts, fee hikes and furloughs in public education, chanting slogans, waving signs and playing loud music as they walked down Telegraph Avenue.  

Interstate-880 in downtown Oakland was temporarily shut down when a small group broke off from the marchers and a little after 5 p.m. walked into the highway where they were chased away by police in riot gear. The California Highway Patrol said lanes was reopened around 5:30 p.m., but the incident backed up traffic in all directions. 

In Berkeley, rally organizers estimated the crowd to be around 2,500, although the Berkeley Police Department said it was closer to 1,000.  

The crowd crossed safely into Oakland around 1:30 p.m., and Berkeley police reported that the march to the border had been peaceful.  

The day started with picketers stationed at every entrance on campus, which some students said had essentially shut down the university. However, later in the morning students went about their daily activities—attending classes, going to the gym and strolling about with friends, unmindful of the action going on at the entrance of Sproul Plaza on Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way.  

“I see so many students in the library, in classrooms—they are missing out on an opportunity,” public high school student Raphael Cardenas said to the crowd from a makeshift stage assembled at that intersection.  

A few Latino students got up to do a symbolic dance not far away from the Subway shop that had its windows smashed a week ago when a dance party on the Berkeley campus turned violent, causing two students to get arrested.  

Marika Goodrich, one of the two who were arrested by Berkeley police for initiating a riot, assaulting an officer and resisting arrest, recalled the incident.  

“Thursday night I went to this dance party and I was unjustly arrested on Telegraph and Dwight,” said Goodrich, a senior in American Studies. “I was struck by a baton which caused my nose to bleed. I was struck all over my body when I was only exercising my right to free speech. My experience was intensely painful and angry. But I am not the first they have attempted to silence and I will not be the last. Every bone in my body is a sign of their attempts to silence us. But we are not afraid ... Man, today we are not going to be silenced. We are fighting for the future.”  

“Take a look around you—ages, colors, gender,” said Nancy Kato, assistant registrar at Boalt Hall, told the crowd. “All of us are united as workers, students and community members. Our movement is national and international.”  

Students spoke of emails and letters of encouragement trickling in from their peers and supporters in Moscow, Brazil and Mexico.  

“They are going after public schools because they want our youth to join their wars and fill their prisons,” Kato said. “We will not let the university or the bureaucracy or the police intimidate us. Tax the rich and the big businesses!”  

Owen, an exchange student at UC Berkeley from Singapore who did not want to give his last name, stood on the curb filming as the march kicked off.  

“We don’t see this in Singapore,” he said. “It’s illegal there. I am just a bit shocked by the magnitude of the whole protest. I am not sure if it’s good or bad, it’s just a channel to vent all your frustrations I guess.”  

As the marchers walked down Telegraph, store owners and passers-by stopped to take pictures and cheer them on. Students at Willard Middle School clapped and waved from their balcony and came out to hug their classmates, who had received permission from their parents to join the rally.  

A group of protesters stopped in the middle of Telegraph and Dwight Way for an impromptu dance party under a massive black banner, with Daft Punk and Cut Copy blaring in the background.  

“I think this is a different type of rally than what Berkeley has seen,” said Marika Aiyer, one of the students who took part in the Wheeler Hall occupation last November. “A lot of students have walked out of classes—I think a real effort was made this time. But we let that energy flow out naturally. Nobody was forced to do anything.”  

Aiyer said that students had started planning the event at an education conference on Oct. 24 last year and mobilized through Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. Students from UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego, and the California State Universities including San Francisco State also took part in the Day of Action, with violence breaking out in some cases.  

Mario Medina, a third year transfer student at UC Berkeley, was one of the students leading the march. 

“I am marching because I want to go to law school, because I want my one-year-old niece to have a chance at education,” he said. “Right now, these cuts are affecting me financially. My rent, food, tuition, everything.”  

Latin American Studies sophomore Edgar Quiroz-Medrano held an “End Racism at UC” poster next to Medina. “The UC system is made up of an overwhelming majority of white administrators which leaves only a few administrators of color,” he said. “This needs to change.”  

Although an AC Transit bus blocking the entire width of Telegraph at Ward Street momentarily stopped the march from progressing, it was finally moved to make way for the protesters.  

AFSCME organizer Maricruz Manzanarez said that union workers had not gone on strike.  

“They are taking part during lunch break, but everyone is talking about it,” she said.  

Paper mache dolls, puppets and other handiwork dotted the march, making bold statements about the cuts.  

UC President Mark Yudof, whose office at the Frank Ogawa Plaza was the destination for Thursday’s marchers, released a statement supporting a peaceful protest.  

My heart and my support are with everybody and anybody who wants to stand up for public education,” Yudof said. “I salute those who are making themselves heard today in a peaceful manner on behalf of a great cause.”  

Our public institutions, from kindergarten to the doctoral level, have shaped our nation’s course and are an essential piece of the American fabric. Here at UC, through the Master Plan for Higher Education, we have created a model emulated throughout the world. It’s time that model started receiving the support it deserves in the place of its birth.” California currently faces a $20 billion budget shortfall which has resulted in millions of dollars being slashed from public education statewide. 

Yudof went on to quote his predecessor Clark Kerr, who he said believed “higher education should never be regarded as a cost, but rather as an investment.”  

“The university is an investment, not only in an individual’s well being, but also in the public good,” Yudof said. “Public education drives a society’s ability to progress and to prosper. This state’s great public universities hold the key to our economic and social growth and are deserving of support by all Californians.”  

Berkeley public school teachers, who once again face the threat of pink slips this year, rallied in front of Old City Hall, which is also the Berkeley Unified School District headquarters. 

Alma Owens,a teacher at Martin Luther King Middle School, and Angela Barra, a Berkeley High parent, stood on the sidewalk holding a sign saying “education is needed for a democracy.” Paula Phillips, president of the Berkeley classified employees’ union, said that the cuts to Berkeley Unified had resulted in layoffs of classified workers for each of the past three years. “And an extreme workload for those who continue to work for the district,” she said.  


Raymond Barglow contributed reporting to this story.  









Demonstrators Shut Down UC Berkeley

Thursday March 04, 2010 - 11:44:00 AM
On the left are two graduate students in Geography, both members of the UAW union which represents teaching assistants and readers. At right is a member of the Coalition of University Employees union.
              The fellow in the center is Alex Tarr, graduate student in geography.  Why is he protesting?  He said that "There is a crisis of governance in California, with no way to pass a sensible budget because of minority political rule at the state level.  There is also a crisis of leadership here at UC.  There is in the Office of the President no vision of public education that does not go down the path of privatization.  Innovations such as ‘distance learning’and the ‘cyber university,’ for instance, are neither better for education nor fiscally sound."
               To his left is John Stehlin, an instructor in the geography department. 
              On the right is David Kessler, a member of CUE.  He works in the Bancroft Library, and said that funding cuts have been very harmful to the library, resulting in overworked staff and diminished service to the public.
Raymond Barglow
On the left are two graduate students in Geography, both members of the UAW union which represents teaching assistants and readers. At right is a member of the Coalition of University Employees union. The fellow in the center is Alex Tarr, graduate student in geography. Why is he protesting? He said that "There is a crisis of governance in California, with no way to pass a sensible budget because of minority political rule at the state level. There is also a crisis of leadership here at UC. There is in the Office of the President no vision of public education that does not go down the path of privatization. Innovations such as ‘distance learning’and the ‘cyber university,’ for instance, are neither better for education nor fiscally sound." To his left is John Stehlin, an instructor in the geography department. On the right is David Kessler, a member of CUE. He works in the Bancroft Library, and said that funding cuts have been very harmful to the library, resulting in overworked staff and diminished service to the public.
Raymond Barglow
contributed photo
contributed photo
contributed photo
contributed photo

Budget cut demonstrators got an early start on the UC Berkeley campus with a colorful blockade of signs and chanting protesters at Sather Gate. The UC Berkeley campus is effectively shut down.  


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

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 08:29:00 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  


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UC Berkeley Budget Cut Protest Turns Violent

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 08:49:00 PM

An open-air dance party at UC Berkeley turned violent last Thursday 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., 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.” 

UC Berkeley Students Protest UCSD Racist Acts

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 08:47:00 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.” 

KKK-style Hood Found at UCSD Monday

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 08:35:00 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 Police Focuses on Pedestrian Safety in March to Remember Zachary Cruz

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 08:22:00 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. 




As BUSD Weighs Construction Bonds for Nov Ballot, Berkeley High Tops the List

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 08:02:00 PM

The Berkeley Board of Education is weighing recommendations for placing a new construction bond on the November ballot, with Berkeley High School topping the list of immediate priorities. 

The board has until June to make a final decision about whether to put a Prop. 39 bond in front of Berkeley voters, according to the district’s facilities manager Lew Jones, who presented a report from the Superintendent’s Facilities Committee to the school board Feb. 24. 

Jones said that the committee had held a number of meetings, at the end of which it had detailed an initial wish list for close to $400 million in bonds. 

When their suggestions were presented to the board, that list got whittled down to $206 million, Jones said. 

The district is planning to ask for a 55 percent approval rate, instead of two thirds, although both are allowed, he said. 

Berkeley Unified also hopes to simultaneously ask for renewal of the existing special maintenance tax. 

The board approved the hiring of a public opinion survey firm which will be calling Berkeley residents this month to get their opinion on the tax and bond proposals being considered. 

“We want to see if there is any support for this, depending on which the board will decide whether or not to put anything on the November ballot,” Jones said. “They may decide it’s a good idea or they may decide it’s not worth putting anything on the ballot at this time.” 

The poll results are expected to come before the board March 24 or April 13. 

However, Jones said that the time had come for another 10-year bond—the last one was passed in 2000—especially with regards to expediting projects at Berkeley High. 

This bond will cover construction costs in the district from 2011 to 2020. 

“It’s important to consider not delaying the work at Berkeley High,” Jones said. “But of course, the board still has to debate the issue. This is just the information gathering point.” 

The Berkeley High South of Bancroft project—which is in its first stage—is a proposal to tear down the seismically unsafe Old Gym which houses the warm water pool and replace it with an athletic facility and classrooms. 

“Berkeley High would be one of the more important ones,” Jones said. “Definitely one of the things that need to be done earlier.” 

A space crunch at Berkeley High has led teachers to hold classes in corridors, on the playgrounds and the steps of the Little Theater. 

The district currently has money to fund the first stage of the South of Bancroft Master Plan—building bleachers near the football fields—and the second phase—the demolition of the Old Gym—which is not expected to take place at least until June 2011. 

Jones said that bids were currently out for the bleacher building. 

“It’s a bit slow right now, the design review process at the state level is taking some time,” he said. 

The district hopes to fund the third phase of the project— the design and construction of the classroom building—from the new bond measure. 

Jones said that the district was trying its best to keep costs at a minimum for Berkeley voters. One of the constraints of a new bond is that taxes for homeowners cannot exceed $172.80 for every $100,000 of assessed value, he said. 

“We want to minimize the burden, so we are thinking of issuing interest deferred bonds,” he said. 

Other construction projects being considered include solar energy, seismic retrofits, program improvement, deferred maintenance and technological equipment upgrades all across the Berkeley public schools. 

Stephanie Allen and Eric Weaver of the Facilities Committee told the board that the new bond would ensure that Berkeley Unified maintains its status as “one of the safest districts.” 

“We are well prepared and we feel comfortable going out into the community and asking for their support,” Allen said. 

Board member Nancy Riddle advised that if the district ends up going ahead with all the projects, then “we have to make sure we maintain them.” 

Board Vice President Beatrice Leyva-Cutler urged the district to plan science labs for Berkeley Technological Academy, which doesn’t have any. 

Others underscored the importance of giving equal importance to the needs of all schools. Board President Karen Hemphill contrasted Willard Middle School with King Middle School.  

“King is so different in terms of facilities. We need to think of what we can change at Willard and Longfellow Middle Schools that will change the experience,” she said. Hemphill also said that the district should be thinking ahead in terms of updating its technology. 

“I saw Avatar and I am wondering if we are up to date on where technology will be in 10 years,” she said. “I am concerned we are only replacing computers and not thinking about what we want to see in terms of a 21 century classroom.” 

Protests Greet Berkeley High Science Teacher Dismissal Recommendation

By Raymond Barglow, Special to the Planet
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 07:44:00 PM

Three Berkeley High School science teachers, Matt Bissell, Matt McHugh, and Kate Haber, say that they were astonished to learn that Principal Jim Slemp has concluded that a well-regarded fellow science teacher should not be re-hired for next year. They told the Planet that in protest of the principal's action, BHS science department teachers walked out of their staff meeting on Monday morning and marched en masse first to the principal's office and then to the office of the district superintendent.  

The school administration has not revealed any information about possible grounds for the dismissal of the teacher. Principal Slemp said that such personnel matters are confidential. The teacher is in her second year at BHS and does not have tenure, which means that protections provided by due process do not apply to her. Her colleagues have asked the Planet to withhold her name in order not to damage her prospects for future employment if she loses her job. She herself has declined to be interviewed.  

Her colleagues said that she told them that after a meeting on Friday Slemp informed her that he was giving her a "non re-elect" evaluation, which means that he will recommend to the school district that she be fired. In the absence of any other explanation, many of them say they regard his action as retaliatory.  

Bissell, McHugh, and Haber vouched for her excellence as a teacher. “[She] is a top-quality teacher, and everyone knows it," said McHugh. "This is a teacher who has good evaluations, and she has lots of support from teachers, students, and parents." 

Haber met with Principal Slemp on Monday afternoon and asked him to reconsider his decision. According to Haber, "This is a miscarriage of justice. I cannot imagine that there is any legitimate reason for this." She added that the teacher in question is "extremely well respected by everyone in the science department, respected for her teaching and her integrity. She is not only a good teacher, she is a mentor and facilitator of this program. Who sets the tone, who organizes meetings, who makes sure everyone gets the information they need? She's the one." 

The teacher's colleagues said that earlier this school year, the teacher's union filed a grievance on her behalf because of the large size of her classes, which exceeded the average class sizes at the school. They offered another conceivable reason why this teacher could be slated for firing: a collaboration initiated in the biology department last year.  

Four teachers in that department wanted to work on improving their own teaching. They decided to cooperate with one another in reflecting on their teaching methods, sharing their experiences, and seeking to understand what was working in the classroom and what needed improvement. All four were teaching a course in biology, and together they created a single final examination that was given in all four of their classes. The idea was to look at the exam results and see how students in different classes performed and how the learning of all the students might be improved. In order to discuss their teaching in a non-competitive, less ego-involved way, they identified their four classes as A, B, C, and D. 

The teachers said that Principal Slemp intervened and insisted that he be given the identities of the teachers of each of these classes, so that he could compare their performances. The four teachers opposed this request, and one of them -- the teacher whom Slemp now proposes to dismiss -- told him that she would not divulge this information. According to science teacher McHugh, her students did as well, on average, on the final exam as the students in any of the other three classes. 

McHugh is hopeful that the school board will look carefully into this teacher's situation, "We can make a strong case for her, based on her record. We are building a groundswell of support. There is a possibility that this decision will be reversed. The principal recommends to the board which teachers will be dismissed, but the board does not have to go along with the recommendation." 

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

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 08:17:00 PM
UC Berkeley Law Professor Goodwin Liu was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco by President Barack Obama.
Image courtesy UC Berkeley
UC Berkeley Law Professor Goodwin Liu was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco by President Barack Obama.

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.”

Former Berkeley School Board Member Joaquin Rivera To Run for County Board

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 06:41:00 PM
Former school board member Joaquin Rivera looks on as former Berkeley Unified Superintendent Michele Lawrence announces her retirement in Sept. 2007.
Former school board member Joaquin Rivera looks on as former Berkeley Unified Superintendent Michele Lawrence announces her retirement in Sept. 2007.

Former Berkeley Board of Education member Joaquin Rivera will run for trustee of the Alameda County Board of Education in the June 8 election. 

Although Rivera didn’t immediately return calls for comment, Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan confirmed Wednesday that Rivera had joined the race for board trustee. 

Rivera, who retired from the Berkeley school board in Nov. 2008 after serving for 12 years, will run for retiring incumbent Jacki Fox Ruby’s seat in Area 1, which covers Albany, Berkeley, Piedmont and parts of Oakland that include North Oakland and Chinatown. Both Jordan and Fox, who announced her retirement some time back, have endorsed Rivera. 

“I think Rivera will be an excellent representative for the district,” Jordan said. “He knows the area very well and his expertise and proven dedication to issues of equity and achievement gap will serve the county well.” 

Jordan herself is up for re-election this year and will host a kick-off party March 11. 

“I feel very proud of what we have accomplished in the county office and the leadership we provided in the district,” she said. “I am anxious to continue the work throughout this difficult period.” 

. The last day for candidates to get on the ballot is March 14. 

At the time he stepped down from the Berkeley school board, Rivera was its longest serving member. 

Community leader and activist Beatriz Leyva-Cutler—who won one of the two school board seats in the Nov. 2008 election—replaced Rivera. 

“Joaquin has experience and breadth and education,” Ruby said, detailing his stints on the Berkeley school board and the California School Board Association and various other committees and subcommittees at the state and county level. “He’s also been a long-term union activist and been in the bully pulpit to get funding for students.” 

Rivera, who teaches chemistry at Skyline College, was first elected to the Berkeley school board in November 1996 and went on to be reelected in 2000 and 2004, serving a total of three terms on the board.  

A graduate of the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, he received his masters in Chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1990.  

He has served as school board president on three occasions, most recently in 2007, and has also been a delegate to the California School Boards Association.  

When he left, school board members and Berkeley Unified Superintendent Bill Huyett thanked Rivera for leaving the district in a better shape financially.  

At that time, Rivera said that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to slash education funds had turned him against running for a fourth term. 

“I thought, I have been there done that, maybe again in the future, but right now I want to enjoy,” he said. He had said that he would be back to help the district when it was ready to introduce bond measures to Berkeley voters in 2010. 

A staunch opponent of Prop. 8, Rivera lives with his husband. He is perhaps best known for his involvement in desegregating BUSD.  

The county board of education runs schools at the San Leandro Juvenile Hall as well as Hayward and Fruitvale. 

When asked about some of the biggest challenges county board members faced at the moment, Ruby said, “money, money, money.” 

The Alameda County Office of Education is facing a 20 percent cut, Ruby said. 

“We serve the neediest children—the ones in juvenile halls and community schools,” she said. “On one side they are talking about closing the achievement gap and on the other side they are cutting counselors and teachers. You can’t have it both ways.” The board is also responsible for overseeing charter school proposals passed on by local school districts, expulsions and appeals—which Ruby described as “very difficult,”—and land transfers. 

“The legislature keeps piling more work on the county offices and cutting funds,” she said.  

As for why she decided to step down at the end of eight years on the board, Ruby said, “I am 72, I have been doing service work since I was 14. I have been a teacher, a union activist and served on both state and local levels. I think I deserve a rest. We need to turn it over to the younger people.” 

Ruby said she would keep up with education news by reading the newspaper and legislative newsletters. 

“I am going to check out the Planet online tomorrow,” she said. 

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

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 05:04:00 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 some UC Berkeley students have linked the recent acts of vandalism on a Telegraph Avenue Subway store to discontent over lease negotiations at the Bear’s Lair Food Court on campus, 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 the 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.  

UC Berkeley anthropology graduate student Callie Maidhof, who witnessed the riot, told the Planet that one of the reasons Subway was targeted was because of the Bear’s Lair situation. 

“One of the four demands of last November’s occupation of Wheeler Hall was that these small immigrant businesses be allowed to stay on,” Maidhof said. “Although there was no statement from the protesters, the connection with Subway is very clear.” 

When a group of people occupying Wheeler Hall last fall 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.  

Maidhof, who didn’t see the vandalism at the restaurant, said she believed the “whole thing had been very spontaneous.” 

“It was the act of individuals and I have no idea who,” she said. “I do believe that the way the whole thing has been spun—that certain protesters and ‘bad’ and certain protesters are ‘good,’—can be divisive for the movement when we are all working toward a common cause.” 

Five dumpsters were also set on fire in the Telegraph area. 

“There was little damage to city property,” said City Manager Phil Kamlarz Tuesday. “Trash can set on fire, et cetera. 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.  

Rigo Alonso, manager at the Telegraph Subway, confirmed that Subway intends to build a second sandwich shop in the student union building. Alonso estimated that the cost of damages to his shop as “approaching $2,000.” 

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.”  

Ann Vu, who owns Heavenly Foods, said she was shocked to learn about the Subway incident. 

“I have decided to hire a lawyer to protect my rights,” she said. 


Raymond Barglow contributed reporting to this story. 




Can Education in California Be Salvaged?

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 07:08:00 PM

This week is education week in California. All over the state, especially on Thursday, there are demonstrations planned to protest the cuts in funding and tuition increases which have been made necessary by the legislature’s inability or unwillingness to allocate the money which is needed to support even a modest amount of education. Sob stories abound at every level. Shocking statistics comparing California unfavorably to the poorest, most benighted states in the union are all too easy to find. 

In celebration of education week, I went down to Watsonville on Tuesday to take in a joint performance by the Santa Cruz County Symphony and the Santa Cruz Youth Symphony for the town’s schoolkids. (Full disclosure: I’m related to one of the violinists.) It was a wonderful event, simultaneously heart-warming and heart-breaking. 

The conductor really knew how to work his crowd. The musical program had a circus theme, and as an added attraction there were kids doing stilt-walking, juggling, tumbling, unicycling—the full panoply of circus attractions performed by students from a private school which teaches such skills as part of its curriculum.  

The grand finale was “The March of the Gladiators”, the familiar bombastic theme which has traditionally accompanied the opening parade of circus performers for at least 100 years. Students came up on stage and took turns wielding the baton for that number.  

The audience ate it up. The Watsonville crowd, filling every seat in a sizeable auditorium, seemed to be overwhelmingly Hispanic, boys and girls with big brown eyes, chattering in both Spanish and English as they filed into their seats. They’re the future of rural California schools as the Anglo population moves into the cities and has smaller families. They bounced up and down in their seats in time to the music, did some air-conducting, tapped their feet—full body music appreciation. 

At one point the conductor asked everyone who was taking music in school to raise his or her hand. A few hands went up, maybe one in twenty or even just one in fifty. That’s where the heart-breaking part comes in. 

It was clear that almost every child in that audience would love to learn how to make music. But I know that public school budgets, especially outside of Berkeley, have been cut to the point where music lessons, once a standard part of the curriculum, have started to look like a luxury that many districts can no longer afford. 

It’s become fashionable in some circles to say that students need to be drilled and tested on the basic skills of reading and arithmetic above all else. This started with the No Child Left Behind program usually attributed to George W. Bush, but also supported by the otherwise excellent Congressman George Miller of Contra Costa County. It’s being continued in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, backed by the president’s basketball buddy Arne Duncan, which is organized on a competitive sports model to play schools off against one another.  

But there are better ways to educate children, more effective ways. As I looked out over the Watsonville audience, I was reminded of another bunch of kids with big bright brown eyes that I’d seen on a YouTube video, the orchestra of Venezuela’s El Systema.  

Venezuela, a generally poor country with some oil-generated revenues, decided that the best way to bring slum kids into the mainstream is to give all of them a first class musical education in order get them interested in learning, and the plan has worked like a charm. Its trophy success is Gustavo Dudamel, who came up through the ranks to conduct the project’s world-renowned national youth orchestra and went from there to lead the LA Philharmonic while still in his twenties. But many more Venezulan children have grown up as productive citizens because of El Systema though they never became professional musicians. 

Joana Carneiros, the new conductor of the Berkeley Symphony, also looks like the kids in the Watsonville audience, with the same brown eyes and long brown hair, but she received her musical training in Portugal, not the United States. However Michael Morgan, the charismatic African-American conductor of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, is a proud product of the Washington D.C. schools, and he runs a vigorous program to put musicians in the Oakland schools to pay back the debt he acknowledges to his public education. 

No special program, however, can take the place of the free access to basic music lessons for every public schoolchild which used to be standard in California and the rest of the United States, as Morgan pointed out at his last Oakland concert. Many studies have shown that learning music dramatically improves performance in other academic areas. 

All over California, citizens are starting to wake up to the news that our once-fabled educational system has collapsed. A university system that educated people my age for the grand sum of $60 per semester in fees now requires students to sign up for the equivalent of sub-prime mortgages to pay tuition. And crucial “frills” like music are suffering worst of all.  

Is there a cure for what ails us? The analysis of what went wrong goes back to greedy Proposition 13, enacted in the late seventies, which gave property owners and corporations permission to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Its most pernicious provision is the requirement that the legislature needs a two-thirds vote to pass any tax measure. This is made worse by the completely gerrymandered situation in the state’s legislative districts, under which legislators are chosen de facto in primaries. This means that representatives from districts which have been carved out for Republicans are usually Tea-Party-esque troglydites, unwilling to pass anything that might increase taxes and all too willing to cut essential state programs, education included. 

One small ray of hope: a promising initiative, the brainchild of U.C. Berkeley Professor George Lakoff, is being circulated now to go on the ballot in November.  

It’s called the California Democracy Act, and it’s very simple. 

It changes just two words in the California Constitution to read: “All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote”. Two-thirds” becomes “a majority” in just two places. Organizers claim that’s all it takes to make California sane and solvent again. 

This initiative has no paid circulators, so getting it on the ballot will require a huge amount of work. Volunteers will be in Sproul Plaza on Thursday, and they’ve been at the farmers’ markets for a couple of weeks now. 

You can also go to www.Californiansfordemocracy.com where you can print out and sign and mail the petition. Do it today. It won’t hurt, and it might help. 


A Dan O’Neill Extravaganza

By Dan O’Neill
Thursday March 04, 2010 - 10:45:00 PM
Dan O’Neill
Dan O’Neill

Click on the image in order to see it magnified. 

















More Dan O’Neill Extravaganza

By Dan O’Neill
Thursday March 04, 2010 - 10:51:00 PM
Dan O’Neill
Dan O’Neill
Dan O’Neill

Click on the image in order to see it magnified. 









Pepper Spray Times

By Carol Denney
Thursday March 04, 2010 - 12:59:00 PM

Public Comment


Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 06:59:00 PM


Alan Tobey's Feb. 11 letter understates the advantages of the community-supported Rapid Bus Plus (RB+) plan over AC Transit's clumsier BRT proposal. 

RB+ would match BRT's transit and environmental benefits, but without BRT's drawbacks and at much lower cost. So local funding needs (already earmarked from bridge tolls) would be lower. 

Second, RB+ would -- like BRT -- qualify for Small Starts and other federal grants. But because RB+ is more cost-effective, those federal funds would go further. 

Literally further. Unlike the redundant BRT, RB+ could extend rapid transit to corridors ignored by BART -- down University Ave. to the Marina, and up the MacArthur Blvd./I-580 corridor. Those options could convince many commuters to leave their cars at home. 

Finally, Alan writes that Oakland is "increasingly interested" in a "complete streets" BRT package, which would needlessly dig up utilities as well as traffic lanes. That Big Dig approach is just what we must desperately avoid -- years of construction hell, delays in transit and traffic, huge cost overruns, and massive Telegraph Ave. business failures. 

In Toronto, this approach yielded a disaster (look up "St. Clair West fiasco"). For five long years of construction -- two years beyond schedule -- it actually degraded a streetcar route into a bus route. It went $10 million over a budget that was a quarter of what AC Transit proposes to waste. The construction ruined 50 of 200 merchants in just one affected business association. 

RB+ will avoid all this whole nightmare. Although change is always frightening, once Alan understands Rapid Bus Plus' advantages, I'm confident he will join us in advocating for it. 

Michael Katz 

Member, Rapid Bus Plus Coalition  




I opposed the proposed café in the Rhinceros building (the monstrosity at 1885 University Avenue), directly across the street from my house, because the operator wished to open at 6 AM rather than at 7 AM which is the legal time in the rest of Berkeley; because there will be no parking for the café but there will be demand for it, when there will already not be enough parking for its intended primary tenant; and because the size of the place (to be the Largest Eating Establishment in Berkeley! Some Café!) will tear out all of the landscaping that the dozens of opponents of this building had won as a concession from the developers. ZAB said: all your hard work? We don't care, poof. Gone. 

Every person who was not in line to profit from this building who had anything to say at all about this café condemned it based on its size, not its existence. 

The fact is this building was illegally constructed and its intended major tenant is a Big Box Retailer, being the number Three foodseller in the world behind Wal*Mart and Tessco, who will threaten to drive all local food business out of the market, including our beloved Fred's Market. A Berkeley without Fred's Market would far less liveable, but we didn't see Mr. Siegel trying to protect our neighborhood at those city council meetings. We didn't want an Elephant Café any more than we wanted the Rhinceros Building, but we got one anyway because the Zoning Board is improperly constituted and not enough City Councilors pay adequate attention to the issues that confront the citizens. 

Mr. Siegel needn't worry, He'll get his café (that will disturb us who live next to it at 6 AM, but not Mr. Siegel who lives two blocks away); the Mayor solicited the Developer to Ignore the Law (a law on the books that requires parking, Mr. Siegel, a requirement that the developer-generous ZAB still did not waive) which I believe is a Felony, but nobody worries about law or process anymore ... why bother, I suppose, when you know the fix is in. 

Bates follows the quote from Bush that runs "It sure would be easier if this were a dictatorship ... just so long as I'm the dictator." He said he'll park where he feels like, and I believe him. 


Eric Dynamic 





It’s pathetic that the City Council is considering taxing medical marijuana clinics; why not tax prescriptions, too, while they’re at it? If they want to close the budget gap all they need to do is encourage police patrols to fine people for driving in the rain with their lights off or talking on cell phones while driving. We’d have a budget surplus if those scofflaws were brought to justice. There are also some intersections that could be revenue enhancing, for example, where it says “No Turn On Red” and elsewhere. I’m sure our citizenry would happily identify intersections where drivers frequently flaunt the law. Meets the criteria of the Tea Baggers, too: no new taxes! 


Bob Blomberg  


Editor: Why is everyone afraid to call a spade a spade? The Republica Party's tactics to stifle health care reform border on tyranny. The GOP has opposed Medicare, Social Security from the beginning, and now oppose fixing a limping health care system. 

A few Republican politicians cannot be allowed to block the passage of health care legislation that will benefit 96% of Americans in one form or another; public health insurance that competes with and keeps private "for profit" insurance companies in line. 

President Obama and Democrats need to put the peddle to the metal and lead and pass the health care reform bill. Let the electorate in November respond 'yea or na' if health care for all Americanns was the correct decision. 


Ron Lowe  




Raymond Barglow asks, "Alzheimer's Disease--How Long Before We Find A Cure?" 

(February 25, 2010) 

My research into my family's genetic Alzheimer's (AD) began in 2002, at age 75, when I was diagnosed with genetic Celiac-disease, or gluten-intolerance. Little did I know that this gene-test (enterolab.com) would disclose genetic links to many family tragedies, and cause a revolution in my life.  

(July 17,'09, PreventDisease.com/ Five Generations Harmed By Gluten). 

The link to our genetic-Alzheimer's was most shocking to me, presenting the first possibility of an insight into cause and prevention of our nine known AD deaths; the last four in my own generation. 

There have been a number of researchers suggesting evidence for a developmental or environmental link to AD. ("Gluten Causes Brain Disease" by Prof. Rodney Ford M.D.www.celiac.com-Scott-Free-Newsletter) 

I had been very hopeful in Dec. '05, when the New Yorker Magazine described "The Gene Hunters" in an article about Dr. Richard Mayeux, whose Taub Institute for Research on AD "has been compiling the world's most comprehensive genetic library of families with Alzheimer's", searching for families with genetic AD who have additional genetic diseases which may link to AD. Dr. Mayeux has never responded to my letters. 

In Oct. 2006, "Mayo Clinic Discovers a Potential Link Between Celiac Disease and Cognitive Decline" ( www.mayoclinic.com/health/celiac-disease/DS00319 ) Mayo clinic's neurologist Keith A. Josephs, M.D. reports, "It is almost unheard of to see [this] reversal in dementia or cognitive decline." 

The AD Assoc. has not responded to my letters as well, since '03, and I have spoken to several of their reps. who had no knowledge of the above publications. However, their 2008 "Alzheimer's Facts and Figures", notes that causes are still unknown, but in spite of acknowledging that "Many scientists consider the emerging field of prevention one of the most exciting recent developments in the dementia-research area.", there have been almost no listings in their requests for "Research opportunities" that were not drug-related.  

Raymond Barglow presents the obvious next step; studies of human subjects, particularly those most likely to get AD. Do we need 10 more years of research and many billions more dollars? "Volunteers" for presymptomatic testing may not be necessary, if existing AD patients are routinely tested by their doctors for possible links to toxins, infections, and environmental or other degenerative disorders. Familiy members, obviously concerned about their possiblity to develop dementia, would probably be eager to aid in discovery of cause and prevention. 

A "national registry", using current computer-communication, would be a vital reference for genetic-dementia links and statistics! 

As for Barglow's question about a "cure", our vast history of past failures proves that testing for prevention is far more rational. However, will the pharmaceutical corporations, continue to stand in our way? 

Gerta Farber  




Perhaps if the Mayor would lead by example he would have more credibility. I suggest he move downtown now, freeing up his home in the LeConte neighborhood for a family who would appreciate being close to schools. An older couple with no children should populate these new buildings the Mayor proposes to build. He and his wife could participate in this "new vibrant downtown." Then he could see how living on a major corridor isn't so much fun afterall with traffic down below and soot and toxins seeping in the windows. Mayor Bates doesn't have to wait for these new buildings to be built there are plenty of vacancies in all the buildings that developers have been approved to build already. 

Constance Wiggins 




Blair's Testimony: A Tangled Legacy

By Stuart Dodds
Thursday March 04, 2010 - 09:02:00 AM

As a British-born resident of the United States with family in both countries, I followed Tony Blair's testimony before the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry in London (January 29, 2010) with a morbid fascination.  

I think the former Prime Minister found it a struggle- trying to rehabilitate his case for war minus the fraudulent WMD claim. We invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 on the basis of a lie, causing untold suffering and mayhem, and he says he would do it all over again! Even more outrageous, he had the nerve to suggest we should be prepared to do the same in Iran. The problem with these hearings and with this distinguished panel is that--unlike the people outside in the street and the spectators at the back of the room--they are too courteous. Blair's repeated assertion that the “risk calculus” had changed after 9/11 and that “it was the right thing to do” is just double-talk. Blairspeak. The truth is that he and his American counterparts decided that the WMD claim would be the centerpiece of their case for going to war knowing it to be false and suppressing or discrediting any evidence to the contrary. They believed it was the only way to “sell” the war-'regime change' wouldn't do it-and their intelligence chiefs, against their better judgment, went along with them. The protracted search for such weapons after the invasion was a charade.  

The committee should have asked tougher questions but they seemed unwilling to put him on the spot. On the WMD issue: There was no mention of Iraq's destruction of its nuclear and chemical/biological arsenal following the First Gulf War. This was described in detail by Saddam Hussein's weapons minister Hussein Kamel, after his defection to Jordan, in 1995, to an UNSCOM debriefing team which included representatives from MI6 and the CIA. This story- lost in the clamor for war- was borne out by a sheepish Iraq Survey Group within a year of the 2003 Invasion.  

Tony Blair still speaks of the risk we faced from Saddam Hussein “reconstituting” his WMD programs, an acknowledgment that such weapons existed at one time and then ceased to exist-before becoming a risk again, as though anything of that magnitude could be reconstituted in a period of draconian UN sanctions. They could not have reconstituted a washing machine!  

Why did the committee not call Hans Blix who led the UN inspections team or Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (1997-2009) to testify? Their views at the time, far from being supportive of “military action,” were discussed during the hearings-their testimony would have been valuable. In a recent interview with the French newsmagazine, l'Express, ElBaradei said, “The lies preceding the invasion of Iraq made me ill.”  

I wish they had asked more incisive questions about the machinery of propaganda that fooled so many people on both sides of the Atlantic into supporting the war. A sentence that found its way into the famous Downing Street memo of July 23, 2002 described the mindset in Washington: “The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” Tony Blair should have been asked to explain what he understood that to mean.  

Our two countries were a match for each other in the art of deception and in their childish hyperbole: The UK had its “45-minutes-to-deploy” and we had George W. Bush's “mushroom cloud.” Both intelligence chiefs had the highest honors in the land bestowed on them to ease their inevitable humiliation although I have to say that the shaven warrior John Scarlett has a lot more flair than George Tenet and I would not expect him to go quietly into the night.  

When you think about it, no country in its right mind would invade another one that has nuclear weapons in the state of readiness that was claimed for Iraq's. There were moments of unintended humor: Tony Blair, in his eagerness to convince the panel, speaking more rapidly at one point--his effusiveness was almost touching-- and Sir Lawrence Freedman asking him “to go more slowly.” There was an air of unreality about these hearings-their civilized hair-splitting over dossiers, UN resolutions, chronologies. What was real was the outburst of grief and anger, at the end of Tony Blair's session, from relatives of soldiers who had been killed or maimed in the war. Sadly, there would have been little in his circuitous, self-justifying testimony to comfort them. Blair himself cuts a sorry figure, looking older, more tense than ever, having lost that youthful charm but still eloquent and clever enough to sow confusion. The lines of Sir Walter Scott come to mind: 

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, 

When first we practice to deceive.”  


Stuart Dodds was editor/general manager of Chronicle Features, the syndication division of the San Francisco Chronicle, until his retirement in 1998. He is a published poet and lives in Berkeley. 

The Iron Fist Behind the Humor:Will Travis on Democracy

By Claire Pierce
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 07:04:00 PM

Every once in a while, a member of the local Berkeley elite will reveal some useful information about his or her true character. We were treated to just such a moment in the publication of Will Travis’ letter about the mayor’s latest plan to help developers speed up the planning process (“New Downtown Plan,” February 18, 2010). While Mr. Travis couches his remarks in ironic humor, the arrogance of his attitude nevertheless shines through. 

Of course, as he always does, Mr. Travis sides with the mayor and the developers over the neighbors regarding development proposals. That’s nothing new. But he is not content merely to express his views; instead, he proceeds to unfairly demean the informed and active citizenry in our community. 

In his letter, Mr. Travis tars local activists by completely mischaracterizing their concerns. For example, Mr. Travis contends that "community activists" typically want developers to “make design compromises” for trivial reasons, such as satisfying their personal “urban design and aesthetic tastes.”  

First of all, far and away the most important concerns of Berkeley community activists are significant quality of life issues, such as noise problems; traffic congestion; air pollution; increased truck traffic; blocked views; loss of open space; parking scarcity; removal of mature trees; increasing numbers of transient residents; construction impacts that last for months or years; and other issues. These issues are the primary factors that determine the comfort of one’s home and the livability of one’s neighborhood—they are not the superficial concerns that Mr. Travis implies they are. As seasoned Berkeley activists know, people typically become politically involved regarding development issues because they are desperate to try to protect their neighborhoods—not on a whim, as Mr. Travis suggests. 

One of the most useful phrases in politics is this: “Tell me where you live, and I’ll tell you what you believe.” Mr. Travis can happily play a role in cheerleading for development in Berkeley, because he, like most of his cohorts, lives in a home safely ensconced in R-1 single-family zoning that is not threatened in the slightest bit by his political advocacy. Good for you and your neighbors, Mr. Travis! But what about the rest of us? It obviously irritates him that we want to have any say at all about the quality of life in our own neighborhoods. 

In his letter, Mr. Travis also implies that the intervention of community activists is the primary reason why “architectural excellence” has not bloomed in Berkeley. What nonsense! 

If one wants to address the question of architectural excellence properly, one might start with the fact that our local developers are far more interested in erecting buildings as large as they can to maximize their profits, rather than creating graceful and harmonious structures. This inevitably results in massive, view-blocking structures that are built right up to the very edge of the sidewalks, leaving no room for trees or other landscaping. One look at the hulking brown monstrosity known as the Brower Center on Oxford Street will serve to illustrate my point; rather than architectural excellence, we have architectural flatulence. This intrusive and greenery-free development has made the whole area unpleasant to be around, particularly for pedestrians. As I recall, the Brower Center project was praised by Mr. Travis and other "smart" growth advocates as being exemplary. Oh, please. 

Another reason for the significant architectural failings in Berkeley is the fact that many local developers are associated with UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. The home of this college on the Berkeley campus is Wurster Hall, widely acclaimed to be the ugliest building on campus, which tells you a lot right away. The instructors at this school are virtually unanimous in their enthusiasm for high-density, high-rise growth at the expense of beautiful design. A review of the many unattractive projects developed by associates of this school indicates the magnitude of their failure to adequately consider human interaction with their works. The huge eyesores they erect survive for decades and visually pollute the community. 

Mr. Travis concludes his letter with a particularly pernicious statement: his claim that community activists are people who have “never seen…a public hearing they aren’t dying to attend.” This damaging falsehood is continually trumpeted by the developers and their enablers, including Mayor Bates, Mr. Travis, and others. 

On the contrary, people do not attend public meetings in this town for their own entertainment. Far from it. That’s because the conditions of most of the meeting rooms make attending meetings physically uncomfortable; the time they take up is interminable; and the respect shown to members of the public is abysmal. The democratic process is so corrupted in this town that the members of the city council and their appointed commissioners barely even listen to the public anymore—they can hardly wait for the citizens to shut up so they can go ahead and do whatever they planned to do anyway. 

And that is the main point. When you read Mr. Travis’ letter carefully, you realize that what he actually doesn’t like is democracy. Thanks for making that clear, Mr. Travis. I hope people will keep that in mind when they interact with you regarding public issues in the future. 

Why the Bad Teacher Narrative Does Not Help Our Students, But Fixing our Budget Process Will

By Tracey Iglehart
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 06:53:00 PM

Please help to defend public education Thursday, March 4th by rallying at 2134 MLK Jr. Way beginning at 3:3opm. As educators across the state of California plan events on March 4th to defend public education, President Obama is proudly claiming that the firing of teachers at a Rhode Island High School is sound education reform and a necessary form of accountability. 

Consistently low performing public schools can be mandated to implement 1 of 4 plans to improve the school’s performance, including the firing of an entire staff and then hiring back no more than 50% of that staff.  

This is what the superintendent of Central Falls High School decided to do after teachers refused to agree to a plan that would impose the following conditions on them: add 25 minutes to the school day, require teachers to provide tutoring on a rotating schedule before and after school, require teachers to eat lunch with students once a week, have teachers submit to more rigorous evaluations, attend weekly after-school planning sessions with other teachers and participate in two weeks of training in the summer. 

The teachers refused because these are conditions that should be negotiated rather than imposed on them, especially since they were being mandated to do all of this with very little compensation. They are being called things like “callous”, “lazy”, and “uncaring” because they want to retain control of their working conditions in a profession, which already demands much of them. 

All too often, in the conversation about our public schools, the quick fix that reformers turn to is blaming the teacher. But this bad teacher narrative is not only harmful to those of us in the business of educating; it is also harmful to those we hope will gain an education, from pre-K students all the way up to young and old adults. By demonizing teachers, we stop looking at the complex reasons that schools are failing, thus preventing us from coming up with real solutions.  

In Berkeley, our educators and public health officials have come together to create the 2020 Vision, which includes 9 goals to eliminate the achievement gap we have in our Berkeley schools. Combined, these goals look at issues of poor health; poverty; youth and parent engagement; family partnerships with schools and city services; engaging curriculum and intervention; evaluation and accountability; and early childhood programs to ensure kindergarten readiness.  

The passionate and devoted individuals that have spent countless hours drafting the 2020 Vision understand that although the teacher is a key ingredient in our students’ success, it does not come close to being the ONLY ingredient. And they know that in order for all members of our society to succeed in school, basic needs must be attended to first.  

Which is why California’s public education system’s success is tied so closely with the funding of our social services as well as our education services. We know that California’s budgetary process is broken and our 2/3 super majority to pass a budget must be changed to a simple majority.  

The following 10 tax changes would have little or no negative impact on economic growth and recovery. These revenues would provide long-term solutions for our state.  

1.) Enact an oil severance tax at 9.9 percent.  

2.) Eliminate secret corporate tax loopholes 

3.) Broaden sales tax base to include untaxed commodities 

4.) Reinstate top income tax brackets to 11percent 

5.) Close corporate property tax loopholes. 

6.) Maintain Vehicle License Fee at 1 percent. 

7.) Close useless corporate tax loopholes. 

8.) Increase tobacco and alcohol taxes. 

9.) Improve tax collections. 

10.) Extend ½-cent sales tax. 

California does not have a revenue problem, it has a priorities problem. If we truly hold public education in the high regard that will educate our next generation of workers, thinkers, problem solvers, and citizens, then we must begin to deal with our funding issues and be honest about what we are wiling to pay for.  

President Obama is still fighting for healthcare reform. Are we?

By Anne Sunderland
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 05:05:00 PM

Last week I watched the Healthcare Summit with many people in mind. After a year of working on healthcare reform I’ve met many local residents who have been failed by our healthcare system. They include a man who watched his parents, janitors who had saved for years to buy a home, loose that home due to medical bills resulting from his mother’s diabetes. And a cancer survivor who can’t get health insurance due to her pre-existing condition. Now she forgoes regular check-ups to see if her cancer has returned. If it does, she’ll have few options. 


These stories remind us that healthcare reform is not, as Harry Reid said at the Healthcare Summit, about political parties fighting each other, but people fighting for their lives. So how would President Obama’s health reform plan help them?  


First, it would prohibit health insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing coverage. The mother and the cancer survivor mentioned above, for example, would be able to go to a health insurance exchange, where they can purchase coverage from one of a variety of competing private health plans – just as all members of Congress currently can. All plans sold on the exchange would be required to meet minimum standards to make sure consumers are protected. If someone can’t afford to purchase coverage, subsidies will be provided. By pooling together a large mix of people (healthy, sick, young, old), all of whom are paying into the system, the health insurance exchange should help lower risk, and therefore rates. Finally, the President’s plan would extend coverage to an estimated 30 million currently uninsured Americans.  


What’s the alternative? The Republican proposal presented at the Healthcare Summit would extend coverage to a mere 3 million Americans, continuing to leave 27 million uninsured out in the cold. Meanwhile, recent headlines show us what our future holds if we fail to act. This month Anthem Blue Cross proposed a 39% premium rate increase for individual policy holders. There are examples of proposed rate hikes by insurance companies of 20-40% across the country. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services health care spending rose in 2009 to $8,047 per person and is projected to nearly double by 2019. According to Harvard, 45,000 Americans die every year because they don’t have health insurance – almost 1,000 people a week.  


Most Americans – and residents of Berkeley – believe that the status quo as it relates to our healthcare system is unacceptable. Something must change. It’s not unlike how many felt after eight years of the Bush administration. That’s why in 2007 and 2008 Berkeley residents sacrificed to make that change happen. They held phone banks, walked door-to-door, traveled to other states to register voters. President Obama needed a movement to get elected and what the battle over healthcare reform makes clear is that he continues to need a movement to govern effectively. He will not be able to pass healthcare reform – something that multiple Presidents have tried to do and failed – without the same level of grassroots support and activism. 


Still, a year after starting down the road to reform many are tired and jaded. The healthcare debate – with its appearance of back room deals and talk of “death panels” and other misrepresentations – has only intensified frustrations. Some ask why we should continue to fight to change a system that seems held hostage by special interests. I believe covering 30 million uninsured Americans is still worth fighting for.  


Organizing for America (OFA) – formerly Obama for America of the 2008 presidential campaign – has continued to organize communities across the country, including Berkeley, to make the change we voted for in 2008 a reality. The first priority has been healthcare. Last year, while tea party protesters won media coverage by screaming down congressmen in town halls, OFA volunteers were making phone calls, canvassing, and organizing neighborhood action teams. In October, OFA was able to generate 340,000 phone calls to Congress in one day to support health insurance reform. Four thousand of those calls came from Berkeley and surrounding cities. Efforts like these helped to propel healthcare reform forward and culminated in the passage of bills in both the House and the Senate. We are still on the verge of passing comprehensive healthcare reform legislation for the first time in America history. 


After a long year of hard work we who believe in reform can not give up now. Luckily, we have a president who isn’t. By holding the Healthcare Summit and continuing to push his health reform plan forward, President Obama has done his part to breathe new life into the debate. Now those who support the President must do their part. The next 1-2 months will be critical. Recently, OFA volunteers from across the country pledged a total of 7.2 million hours. We know that President Obama, as he said during the State of the Union, can’t do it alone.  


For information about volunteering with OFA go to www.mybarackobama.com or contact Jeffrey Harry, Northern California Regional Field Director, at: jharry@ofaca.com 




Planet Needs to Publish Correction

By Rob Wrenn
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 09:38:00 PM

Riya Bhattacharjee's article on the Downtown Plan in the February 25-March 3 Planet presents a factually inaccurate picture of the differences between the Downtown Plan adopted by the City Council last year and the plan adopted and sent to the Council by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) in 2007. She says the Council adopted a 225' maximum while the DAPAC plan "suggested" a 120' maximum. 

In fact, the DAPAC plan would have allowed two hotels up to a height of 225'. The DAPAC plan allowed this exceptional height because if thought that hotels could provide unique benefits, and allowed it in return for the hotel's provision of substantial benefits to the community, along the lines of what was suggested in the 2004 Hotel Task Force recommendations, as well as meeting green building standards with the goal of having the "greenest" hotel possible. Bhattacharjee's article says that Councilmember Arreguin was against the 225' height, when in fact he voted for a 225' height maximum for up to two hotels as a member of DAPAC. Further, the Council-adopted plan would also not have allowed 225' except for a hotel. 

The height limits in the DAPAC plan and the Council plans, publicly available documents, are a matter of fact, not opinion, so the Planet should publish a correction or clarification so that readers are correctly informed about the actual differences between the various downtown plans. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Planet has published a factually inaccurate or incomplete account of a local issue. 

The Planet article goes on to discuss the Council's recent action on the Downtown Plan and reports that Councilmember Maio supports allowing up to three 180' buildings, one of which could be a hotel. Taken as a whole, with the inaccurate reporting of the DAPAC position, a reader could be expected to come away with the false impression that the DAPAC wanted a 120' limit, while the Council voted for 225' and that, now that the Council plan has been subjected to a successful referendum signature gathering drive, the Council is going down to 180', roughly midway between DAPAC and the Council. 

In fact, with respect to hotels, the Council's recent action reduces the maximum height of hotels to below what would have been permitted in the DAPAC plan. This raises the question of whether the Council has new information suggesting that a new hotel would be economically viable and provide substantial community benefits if the height is capped at 180'? Or is the Council giving up on the idea of a new hotel because the short-term prospects for a hotel in this economy are not good? An area plan should have a useful life of at least 15 years and should set parameters for more than just the next few years. 

With respect to housing and office buildings, the DAPAC plan did favor "mid-rise" development, buildings in the 5-10 story range, and made an exception only for hotels, allowing them to be "high-rise" buildings (if high-rise is defined as more than 10 stories). The plan was the product of an extensive public process. With subcommittee meetings included, there were over 100 public meetings. Like previous plans in Berkeley, the DAPAC plan attempted to balance competing interests. It rejected the no-growth position favored by some Berkeley residents, but it also set clear standards for the substantial growth and increased density that would be permitted. Developers were expected to give something in return for being able to build more densely. DAPAC wanted "green", more energy-efficient buildings, along with more open space, better transit, and more affordable housing. 

Unfortunately the Planning Commission and the City's planning staff showed no respect for all the work that went into the DAPAC plan and they produced a radically different plan with much less public input. Not surprisingly, their plan sparked widespread opposition and not just from the city's vocal minority of naysayers whose default position is to oppose new development, whatever it is. 

Ultimately, the City Council is responsible for the current mess because it allowed the Planning Commission and the staff to make radical changes to the plan that had emerged from the DAPAC public process, and because it chose the commission's version of the plan as the starting point for its discussions. It would be normal for the Council to make some changes to a plan; there was no expectation that the Council would adopt the DAPAC plan exactly as written, but in past years, the Council has not endorsed such major changes to a plan after it has come from a public planning process involving some kind of citizen's advisory committee and active participation of residents with diverse viewpoints. 

Faced with massive opposition to the Planning Commission plan, the Council, to its credit, did make major changes to the plan before adopting it in 2009. The plan ultimately adopted by the Council was, in many respects, closer to the original DAPAC plan than to the PC plan and could be fairly characterized as a compromise between the two. 

Unfortunately, the Daily Planet failed to report on these changes and most members of the public were unaware of them. To be fair to the Planet, the changes were made at the last minute. But the Planet also did a poor job of reporting the issues in the aftermath of the Council's vote when a referendum petition campaign was launched to block the plan. 

Now the Council is taking another shot at putting together a plan. I hope their efforts are successful. The mayor's proposal and the council's action are steps in the right direction. Hopefully, the end product will be something that those of us who served on DAPAC can support. The 1990 Downtown Plan is out of date and does not provide a sound basis for moving forward and is not consistent with the City's Measure G commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Downtown needs a new plan to guide future development. 

The Planet does a fine job of providing a forum for the full range of opinions on local issues in our community, even if some of the opinion is poorly thought-out or poorly written, or, worse, full of misinformation. But, it should decide if it also wants to be a newspaper that accurately reports on what the City Council and commissions and developers are doing and gives readers information that will help them to try to make sense of the issues and all the letters and opinions. If the Planet lacks the resources to be a newspaper, which would be understandable, then it should just stick to being a forum for opinions and give up the pretense of being a newspaper. Inaccurate and incomplete reporting is worse than no reporting at all. 

Berkeley needs its own newspaper to supplement the infrequent coverage of Berkeley issues in the Chronicle and other papers. I would love to be able to read the Planet online and get accurate reports of all the important Council and commission votes. If the Planet wants to be a newspaper, fact checking of articles would help, as would making sure that reporters are present at important meetings. To offer one example, the Planet has published over 100 opinion pieces and letters related to bus rapid transit in recent years, allowing a thorough airing of competing viewpoints, but failed to report the action the Planning Commission recently took on that issue. BRT and the downtown plan are unfortunately not the only examples of issues that have been throughly discussed by Planet letter and opinion writers but not adequately or accurately covered in the Planet's "news" pages. Does the Planet wish to be a newspaper or not? 

Rob Wrenn is a former member of the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee and Planning Commission's Hotel Task Force  

The Planet's Response

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday March 04, 2010 - 08:01:00 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE Rob Wrenn’s rant stands as proof of his assertion that “some of the opinion is poorly thought-out or poorly written, or, worse, full of misinformation.” The entitled attitude he exhibits is breathtaking. He shows his naivete about journalism by his suggestion that newspapers—any newspapers—have the time or money to employ factcheckers. Factcheckers, in the olden days, used to be people who worked for the New Yorker and a few similar select lavishly staffed magazines, but even the New Yorker makes its share of mistakes in the brave new world of the 21st century. Newspapers have always had a few mistakes, and they always will. The New York Times’ correction column is one of the most entertaining and well-read parts of the paper. And anyhow, this story was correct. Wrenn confuses an accurate report of what was actually said at the last city council meeting, which was recorded and is available online for anyone to check, with what he thinks should have been said or hopes was said. Given the self-righteous tone of his ill-informed and ill-mannered demand for “correction”, I have asked the reporter to set him straight below:  



Contrary to what Mr. Rob Wrenn says in his letter, the Feb. 25 Planet article “Mayor Bates Pushes New Downtown Plan for November Ballot,” simply reported what the Berkeley City Council discussed at its Feb. 23 meeting.  

1. Regarding his statement “Riya Bhattacharjee’s article on the Downtown Plan in the February 25-March 3 Planet presents a factually inaccurate picture of the differences between the Downtown Plan adopted by the City Council last year and the plan adopted and sent to the Council by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) in 2007. She says the Council adopted a 225’ maximum while the DAPAC plan “suggested” a 120’ maximum.”  

Response: This is not what “I said.” What the article says is:  

“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 Arreguin, 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.”  

The article reported what Councilmember Arreguin said at the City Council meeting, which can be viewed here .  

In his letter, Mr. Wrenn also said “Bhattacharjee’s article says that Councilmember Arreguin was against the 225’ height [in the council’s original plan passed last July], when in fact he voted for a 225’ height maximum for up to two hotels as a member of DAPAC.  

To quote Councilmember Arreguin directly on what he said at the council meeting:  

“I just feel like it’s deja vu all over again. I mean we were here last July and one of the main concerns that people had raised to the City Council was the height of buildings and the need for more specificity regarding requirements that we are asking developers to provide in exchange of building those taller buildings. And one of the things that was suggested this evening have buildings up to a 180 feet. We have 160 feet buildings in this proposal, we have 140 feet buildings in this proposal. I and Councilmember [Kriss] Worthington—we were the only two councilmembers out there circulating petitions to referendum the [council’s original] plan and one of the major concerns 9,200 Berkeley residents had with the plan they passed last summer were the heights. I feel having heights that are a 160 feet or a 180 feet does not adequately adress what I feel was the major concern that residents had expressed with the plan that the council passed last summer. I really don’t see why we need to build buildings over a 100 feet, let alone 120 feet, which is what the DAPAC had recommended. So I am very concerned about the heights that are being proposed as a part of the proposal.”  

Arreguin’s statement is pretty self-explanatory about why the Planet reported what it did, and perhaps Mr. Wrenn should take his concerns about Arreguin’s actions up with Arreguin himself, instead of accusing the Planet of publishing “incorrect or incomplete information.”  

2. Regarding: “The Planet article goes on to discuss the Council's recent action on the Downtown Plan and reports that Councilmember Maio supports allowing up to three 180' buildings, one of which could be a hotel. Taken as a whole, with the inaccurate reporting of the DAPAC position, a reader could be expected to come away with the false impression that the DAPAC wanted a 120' limit, while the Council voted for 225' and that, now that the Council plan has been subjected to a successful referendum signature gathering drive, the Council is going down to180’, roughly midway between DAPAC and the Council.”  

Response This is an assumption Mr. Wrenn is making. The reason some councilmembers and the Downtown Berkeley Association support the 180 feet—the height of the existing Power Bar and Wells Fargo buildings—compared with 160 feet is because the strategic economic feasibility study said that 180 feet is the borderline height for something to get built in the next five years.  

The mayor’s plan is being labeled as a compromise between the council’s original downtown plan and the concerns raised by the referendum campaign. As is obvious from discussions with Planning Commissioners and city councilmembers, this compromise plan is being done to avoid further lawsuits and referendums of the downtown plan. It would be naive to think of it being done for any other reason.  

3. The rest of Mr. Wrenn’s letter is full of his own opinion on DAPAC/council differences and Planet coverage. He complains about the Planet not covering the most recent Planning Commission meeting on BRT, which we did in a front page article on Feb. 10. Perhaps Mr. Wrenn should read the Planet more carefully. I was present at both the City Council and Planning Commission meetings, and did my reporting firsthand. I don’t believe I saw Mr. Wrenn at either.  


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Israeli Crackdown; Landmines & Clusters, Oh My!

Israeli Crackdown; Landmines & Clusters, Oh My! By Conn Hallinan
Thursday March 04, 2010 - 08:45:00 AM

A heavy-handed crack down on Israeli dissidents is drawing sharp criticism by human rights organizations and at least a mild judicial slap on the wrist for the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. The authorities are targeting such groups as B’Tselem, New Israel Fund (NIF), the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), as well as foreign activists in the occupied West Bank. 

“There is an attempt to silence and crack down on dissent,” B’Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli told the Tobias Buck of the Financial Times. “Since [the Gaza war], the political climate in Israel has become extremely polarized. And this polarization has reached a level where anyone who is critical is presented as a traitor.” 

. The Netanyanu government has endorsed a bill that, if passed, will apply onerous registration conditions on NGOs and subject violators to up to a year in prison. 

“These are classic McCarthy techniques, portraying our organizations as enemies of the state and suggesting we are aiding Hamas and terror groups,” ACRI head Hagai Elad told the Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook. 

On Jan. 15, police broke up a peaceful ARCI demonstration in East Jerusalem, arresting 16 people. The rally was protesting the eviction of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and their replacement with settlers. Demonstrators were held for 36 hours until a judge from the Jerusalem Magistrates Court released them without charge. The judge also refused a police request to ban the demonstrators from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. 

Armored personnel carriers and a squad of heavily armed soldiers surrounded the West Bank Ramallah apartment of Czech national Eva Novakova, forced her to dress at gunpoint, and deported her to Prague for overstaying her visa. Soldiers also seized an Australian and a Spanish member of the International Solidarity Movement in Ramallah, but the Israeli Supreme Court ordered their release. 

Jared Malsin, a Jewish-American English language editor at the Palestinian news agency was arrested at Ben Gurion airport and detained by Israeli authorities for deportation. The arrest and deportation order were blasted by the International Federation of Journalists as an “intolerable violation of press freedom.”  

Israeli human rights lawyer Omar Schatz says the arrests are, “all about fixing the mirror, not fixing the reflection Israelis see in the mirror.” 

The crackdown has even fallen on a group of women fighting ultra-orthodox Jews for the right to pray at the Jerusalem’s Western Wall. In November, Nofrat Frenkel of Women of the Wall (WW) was arrested for carrying a Torah and wearing a tallit at the site. 

A week before the Sheikh Jarrah arrests, Anat Hoffman, director of the Israel Religious Action Center, was detained, fingerprinted, and questioned about the organization’s support for WW protests.  

Naomi Chazan, the Israeli president of the U.S.-based organization NIF, has been subjected to a campaign of vilification, including posters depicting her with horns. A government press agency distributed an article to the foreign press accusing her of “Serving the agenda of Iran and Hamas.” She also lost her job as a columnist at the Jerusalem Post. 

The attempt to smother any challenge to the Netanyahu government is a reaction to the worldwide criticism Israel is harvesting in the aftermath of the Gaza War. Tel Aviv’s continued refusal to allow any reconstruction of the more than 3500 homes destroyed in the Israeli invasion drew a letter signed by 53 U.S. Congress members calling for an end to the “de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.” 

U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wa) suggested taking forceful action to end the Gaza blockade. “We ought to bring roll-on, roll-off ships and roll them right to the beach and bring the relief supplies in, in our version of the Berlin airlift.” 

But there are internal tensions behind the crackdown as well. The long occupation of the West Bank has begun to fray the Israeli military. According to the head of the Israeli military’s Personnel Directorate, Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, increasing numbers of Israelis are refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories. Three years of military service is compulsory for men, 21 months for women.  

“Taking into consideration Israeli Arab youth, we’re facing a situation in which 70 percent of youths will not enlist in the military,” the general told UPI. 

The “Courage to Refuse” movement has long supported soldiers who won’t serve in the Occupied Territories, and now there is an organization—Shministim— that advises young people on how to become a conscientious objector and supports “refuseniks” as well. Police have also detained several activists for New Profile, a group dedicated to demilitarizing Israeli society. 

A new law makes it a crime for Palestinians to observe “Nakba,” or “Catastrophe,” Day commemorating the loss of their land when Israel was created in 1948. 

According to human rights groups, the polarization is a serious threat to freedom of speech. A recent poll found that 57 percent of Israelis think “national security” is more important than human rights. The country, says Tel Aviv University politics professor and author Amal Jamal, is headed toward what he calls a “totalitarian democracy.”  

These courageous organizations need help. Contact them at: 



www. nif.org 

www. acri.org 


www. couragetorefuse.org 




Step lightly is the only conclusion one can draw from the Obama administration’s refusal to sign the international treaty banning landmines. U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said that the administration had decided not to join the 10-year old treaty endorsed by 156 countries. Altogether, 39 countries have not signed on, inclusing Russia, China and India. 

Kelly’s comment drew outrage from treaty supporters, including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), who called the refusal to sign a “default of U.S. leadership,” and contradictory to the White House’s “professed emphasis on multilateralism, disarmament, and humanitarian affairs.” 

The U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines called Kelly’s statement “shocking,” and anti-landmine groups were sharply critical of the review process, which was conducted behind closed doors without input from NGOs, legislators, or NATO allies who have signed the treaty. 

The 1999 treaty bans the stockpiling, production, or transferring of anti-personal mines that caused over 5,000 casualties last year, one third of them children. More than 70 countries are infested with them. 

In the face of the uproar over the Obama administration’s refusal to join the ban, the State Department quickly backed off and said the policy review “is still on-going.” 

The White House has also resisted endorsing the treaty to ban cluster weapons. 

A total of 103 governments worldwide have signed the agreement, but ratification is still working its way through various legislatures and parliaments. Some 30 nations have ratified it, however, elevating the treaty to the level of international law. 

The U.S., Russia, and China are the major producers of cluster weapons, and they are stockpiled in at least 77 countries. A number of countries, including Japan and Australia, have destroyed their stocks. 

Cluster weapons have a high failure rate—30 percent is not unusual—and the unexploded bomblets lie in wait for unwary civilians. Some 90 million cluster weapons were dropped on tiny Laos during the war in Southeast Asia, and the weapons continue to kill and maim between 100 and 200 people a year. 

Many of the 50 million clusters dropped on Kuwait during the first Gulf War failed to explode and, in the two years following the war, killed 1,400 Kuwaiti civilians. Cluster weapons continue to kill and wound hundreds of civilians in Kosovo and Iraq. 

The aftermath of war was underlined by a recent study conducted by the Vietnamese military and the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation that looked at six provinces near the old demilitarized zone in the country’s north. It found that it would take 300 years and $10 billion to clear unexploded bombs and mines from the region. 

Since the war ended in 1975, unexploded ordinance has killed 10,529 people and injured 12,231 in the six provinces. 

The Iraqi Ministry of the Environment has found that 42 sites across the country are heavily contaminated with radiation and dioxin. The dioxin is from the widespread bombing of oil pipelines and refineries during the U.S. invasion, and the radioactivity is residue from radioactive depleted uranium ammunition (DUA). Over 500 tons of DUA were used during the first and second Gulf wars.  

According to environment minister Narmin Othman, the bombing of pipelines in the Basra area has heavily contaminated the soil with dioxin. “The soil ended up in people’s lungs and has been on food that people have eaten,” he told the Guardian. 

DUA is the latest innovation in armor piercing ammunition, and it is widely used in 120mm tank shells, and 30mm cannon shells fired by aircraft. While not highly radioactive, it “has the potential to generate significant medial consequences” if ingested, according to the U.S. Environmental Policy Institute. 

DUA tends to vaporize on contact, contaminating food and water supplies with radioactive dust. 

While the U.S. claims DUA is not dangerous, birth defects and early life cancers have risen sharply in places like Falluja where the weapon was widely used. “We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies,” Falluja general hospital’s director Dr. Ayman Qais told the Guardian. “Before 2003 [the start of the war] I was seeing sporadic numbers of deformities in babies. Now the frequency of deformities has increased dramatically.” 

Admissions for deformities have risen from two every two weeks a year ago, to two a day now. Besides deformities of the head, spinal cord, and lower limbs, multiple tumors have been showing up as well. The Guardian found that in a three-week period, there were 37 abnormal babies born in the Falluja general hospital alone.

UNDERCURRENTS: The Dellums Administration Gets It Wrong On Last Year’s Parking Enforcement Crackdown

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday March 04, 2010 - 08:39:00 AM

Wrong, indefensible, and inexcusable. That’s the best way to describe the actions of the Dellums Administration surrounding what appears to be the unequal and outright discriminatory parking ticket practices city administrators put into effect in Oakland this summer and fall, tried to pretend they didn’t, and then blamed on the City Council. 

Some history, in case, somehow, you missed all the recent outcry. 

Last June, the City of Oakland was struggling to close a projected $83 million city budget deficit for the new fiscal year. As part of the budget package proposed by Mayor Ron Dellums and City Administrator Dan Lindheim, the City Council adopted an ordinance increasing parking ticket fees and parking rates across the city. Most remembered from that budget session was a decision by the Council to change the hours of parking meter operation from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. That caused such a citizen and business outcry that the Council later came back and rescinded it. 

But according to the Oakland Tribune, city officials last summer also decided to step up what the Tribune called “aggressive ticketing” in an effort to pull in more money from parking tickets, including concentration on such violations as parking on the sidewalk or parking on the wrong side of the street (“Parking Ticket Dispute Rankles Oakland” February 25, 2010). 

But during a session in late June at least two Councilmembers—Pat Kernighan and Jean Quan—and possibly a third—Jane Brunner—suggested that because sidewalk parking and wrong-way parking violations had been ignored in parts of Oakland for years, the City should start off with the issuance of courtesy notices for a short period of time—warnings that carry no fines—before moving on to parking tickets with fines in order to give residents a heads-up that they needed to stop the violations. They appared to be particularly concerned that on certain narrow streets in these areas in some of the middle and northern Oakland hills areas represented by these three Councilmembers, residents were forced to park on the wrong side of the street because there was often no room for them to turn their cars around on the street to park the right way, and often parked on the sidewalk to keep from impeding traffic on their narrow street. 

The issue before the city, therefore, was whether there might be a good reason for citizens doing wrong-way parking and sidewalk parking on narrow streets, a reason good enough that it should override the city’s ordinances against such practices. 

A fair and equitable solution seemed simple enough. Oakland city officials could have held off on ticketing for those two offenses on narrow streets throughout the city while cracking down on such violations on all streets that were not narrow. (To be even fairer, of course, Oakland officials could have given out courtesy tickets for those two offenses all across the city so that citizens would have had a chance to adjust to the new enforcement regimen. But since the purpose of the stepped up enforcement was not for safety purposes, but only to raise money for the budget, city officials wanted to catch citizens by surprise so they could issue as many tickets as possible before drivers caught on and stopped committing the violations.) 

Anyway, Oakland did neither. Instead, at least one official within the Dellums Administration—either on his own or at the direction of superiors—decided to single out two sections of the city for special, favorable treatment. On July 24, Oakland Senior Parking Enforcement Supervisor Ronald Abernathy issued the following memo to parking enforcement officials entitled “Courtesy Notices on 651 & 643 for Sidewalks & Parked the Wrong Way”:  

“Please ensure that Courtesy Notices are placed on vehicles for Sidewalks and Parked the Wrong Way violations on 651 & 643 until further notice. We are currently forming a citizens/city Parking Committee to study the cause and the narrow street issues in these areas.” (The 651 and 643 numbers refer to the enforcement areas of Broadway Terrace and Montclair, what the San Francisco Chronicle rightfully described as “two of the city’s wealthier neighborhoods” in their February 25, 2010 article “Oakland Parking Ticket Policy Called 'Not Fair'”) 

Meanwhile, the city proceeded with “aggressively enforcing” the wrong-way parking and sidewalk parking ticketing policies in all other portions of the city. 

That dual enforcement policy continued at least between late July and early November when, according to City Administrator Lindheim in an explanatory email to the East Bay Express, “a memo was issued suspending enforcement of these violations in all areas pending finding a practical resolution of the balancing issue (enforcing a State vehicle code vs. the practical reasons why some people park on sidewalks or opposite sides of streets).” 

(Note: some city parking enforcement officers contend that the wrong-way and sidewalk parking crackdown continued after November.) 

However long it lasted, one has to take a step back to appreciate how blatantly discriminatory this policy was. Despite the fact that the concern about the wrong-way parking and sidewalk parking was about “narrow streets issues,” as Mr. Abernathy wrote in his July memo, the City of Oakland placed only non-fine, courtesy notices on cars violating those parking laws in the upscale Montclair and Broadway Terrace communities whether or not those violations actually occurred on narrow streets. Meanwhile, City of Oakland traffic enforcement officers placed parking tickets on cars violating those same two city parking ordinances in all other areas of the city, even though they had been ignoring those violations in many of those areas for years, and even when violations in those other areas occurred on narrow streets

That, my friends, is a textbook definition of discrimination. 

The San Francisco Chronicle article gave one example about how this policy worked in practice. 

“On Outlook Avenue in East Oakland, residents told The Chronicle that parking officers blanketed a four-block stretch late last year. The streets are narrow there, too, as they are in Montclair. Luther Couch, 43, has lived on the block for 41 years. He said that nearly everyone on his block has been sideswiped, so parking on the sidewalk is a must. Nonetheless, he got a $100 ticket late last year for parking on the sidewalk.” 

While Outlook Avenue is in the East Oakland hills on the southern side of Mills College, narrow streets in Oakland are by no means confined to the hills areas. One of the narrowest streets in the city, for example, is 76th Avenue in the area between International Boulevard and San Leandro Street in the heart of the East Oakland flatlands. The street is so narrow that even with cars parked on the sidewalk on both sides of the street, it can be difficult for one car to drive down the middle of the street between them. 

But just as bad as the initial discriminatory parking ticket policy was the reaction of the Dellums Administration once the practice was brought to light. 

City of Oakland Parking Director Noel Pinto told the Tribune that he learned of the dual enforcement policies at an August 7 meeting when informed of the details of the Abernathy memo by parking enforcement officers. According to the Tribune article, Pinto said “That's when we decided, 'No. This should apply to all of the streets in the city.'” According to the Tribune, Mr. Pinto then said “he verbally instructed his staff members that the memo should apply across the city.” 

Odd and left unexplained is why, if Mr. Pinto felt the original July 24 Abernathy memo was wrong and discriminatory, the Parking Director did not issue a new memo formally rescinding the discriminatory policy, but only relied upon verbal instructions. 

Meanwhile, after members of the city’s Service Employees International Union (SEIU) went to the press last week to complain about the practice (“I don't think we should do discriminatory enforcement in one area and then give (other) people courtesies” city parking officer Shirnell Smith told the Tribune), Mr. Lindheim sent an email to Bob Gammon of the East Bay Express denying that any discrimination ever took place. 

“The allegations [of the SEIU) are incorrect, inaccurate, inappropriate,” Mr. Lindheim wrote to Mr. Gammon. “No discrimination took place in enforcement in parking generally, nor regarding parking on the wrong side of the street and on sidewalks.” 

Mr. Lindheim then put the onus on the City Council, saying that Mr. Abernathy’s “initial memo was [written] to meet the council members request.” 

“The only truthful statement [in the SEIU allegations],” Mr. Lindheim wrote to Mr. Gammon, “is there was a July memo to parking staff to issue warnings (technically ‘courtesy notices’ in the City's jargon) in two parking areas. The reason for the memo was that three Council members [Ms. Brunner, Ms. Quan, and Ms. Kernighan, presumably] made a particular request at a late June Council budget meeting to warn residents in areas of their districts where these violations had not previously been enforced of the new enforcement policy. At this same meeting, (and despite my own statement that I supported non-enforcement of these code sections) the representatives from Districts 6 and 7 [Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid] insisted on aggressive enforcement of these violations in their districts (apparently parking on sidewalks was a particular concern of theirs or their constituents).” 

In response, Ms. Kernighan told the Tribune last week that in her request, there was no intent to establish a dual parking ticket policy in the city, where certain parking violations in certain geographic sections of the city would be given notices, while the same violations in all other areas of the city would be given parking fines. And, in fact, no evidence has been brought forth showing Council written or verbal statements that they called for such a dual geographical enforcement policy. But the point is, even if Councilmembers had suggested that the city adopt such a dual policy, it was the duty of the Dellums Administration to refuse to follow such a policy because of its discriminatory nature. 

Finally, Mr. Lindheim told Mr. Gammon in his memo that “in early November, a memo was issued suspending enforcement of these violations in all areas pending finding a practical resolution of the balancing issue (enforcing a State vehicle code vs. the practical reasons why some people park on sidewalks or opposite sides of streets). Ultimately, the decision was to enforce on wide streets and not on narrow ones.” That, in fact, was what city officials should have done in the first place. 

How can Mr. Lindheim be so certain—so quickly after the SEIU charges surfaced in the press—that no discrimination in parking enforcement took place in the last months of 2009? We don’t know, but if he has some proof, he ought to release that to the press and public, so that we can be as convinced as well. 

We would have felt much better about Mr. Lindheim’s current explanations and protestations if he had been as forceful back in July when Mr. Abernathy first produced his discriminatory parking enforcement memo. That should have been rescinded in writing by top city officials, parking enforcement officers should have been informed—in writing—that such a dual geographic enforcement policy was discriminatory and should not be practiced under any circumstances, a follow up with a meeting with parking enforcement officers should have been held to make certain that they understood, and close monitoring should have been done to make sure they complied. We saw a two-Oakland policy during the Jerry Brown years and before, when some parts of the city got the benefits while other parts got the dregs. Quite frankly, we didn’t expect to see that resurface, in any form, under an administration headed by Ron Dellums. 


GREEN NEIGHBORS: Beware the Fruitless Mulberry

By Ron Sullivan
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 05:52:00 PM
Cute fuzzy little death-dealing fruitless-mulberry blossoms. Last year was especially floriferous.
Ron Sullivan
Cute fuzzy little death-dealing fruitless-mulberry blossoms. Last year was especially floriferous.
Ron Sullivan

As Joe has been ribbing me: I’m learning phenology the hard way. 

Close to this time last year, I spent a few jolly hours in Alta Bates’ emergency department, sucking bronchodilators through a mask and getting steroids infused into a vein in one arm and blood samples extracted out of an artery in the other. Arterial punctures hurt like hell but I was too far gone at that point to be bothered much. I was conscious and talking and I’d walked in under my own power but anoxia concentrates the mind wonderfully. 

I blame the fruitless mulberries, and the clinicians I’ve consulted since then agree with me.  

They’re wind-pollinated; they’re an all-male clone (and isn’t that a grammatically interesting clause?); they’re planted for five or six blocks on both sides of my street (and over on Delaware Street, and doubtless a few others); and I, like many other folks, have become hideously allergic to them.  

As soon as I could breathe enough to talk on the phone, I called my longtime allergist, sometime employer, and friend of many years, Mary Alice Murphy M.D. She and her colleagues got me through the year in one oxygenated piece.  

Dr. Murphy died last week. I can’t tell you how I miss her already. I’m still in shock, in tears, and impressed at how artfully she elided my transition to another allergist. I like him a lot so far. I won’t name him or my excellent primary-care doc because at this point I feel like a jinx. and I’m still scared witless. 

I looked out the window the other day and the buds are already swelling on the mulberry in our curbstrip. 

Phenology is the science of the timing of recurring natural events: bird migration, freezing and thawing, monsoons, hibernation, flowering. It’s as old as the fourteenth-century Japanese records of flowering cherry, as recent as UC Davis professor Art Shapiro, who offers a pitcher of beer to the finder of his area’s first cabbage white butterfly every spring. (He usually wins it himself. I’d buy him a pitcher, on general principles.)  

This is the perfect venue for citizen science, and indeed we’re all being recruited into Project Budburst where we can contribute our modest datapoints. What people have been reporting to sites like this has become one more in a million pieces of evidence for anthropogenic climate change, despite whatever loud and misleading quibbles we hear. You don’t need to heed “The Media;” you can go to primary sources. First be sure you’re speaking the same language. A “theory” is not really an unsupported guess, and “absolute certainty” does not exist in the real world.  

Hunter-gatherers learned phenology fast and accurately, or starved. Farmers and gardeners have long had a gut-level interest, especially in colder climates. All Californians do, given the dependence of our water supply on snow and its conveniently slow melting. And everyone with allergies pays attention now too.  

Me? In a few more weeks, I’m getting out of town. I hope I can stay out until the damned mulberries peter out. 

Other interesting sites: the USA National Phenology Network  

And phenology web links for flowering plants, birds, and butterflies.  



Arts & Events

On the Current Destruction of Caucasian Chalk Circle at ACT

By R.G.Davis
Wednesday March 03, 2010 - 05:19:00 PM

When I found out that the director of a current production of Caucasian Chalk Circle had been the Tony Award winning director of the Broadway musical Sweeney Todd. I wondered why no one I knew in the International Brecht Society hadn’t advised directors that doing Sweeney Todd (a murder revenge musical) was a learning process for anyone tackling a gigantic play with enormous historical importance like Caucasian Chalk Circle (derived from Augsburg Chalk Circle, Chinese Chalk Circle and Solomon’s biblical choices). John Doyle at ACT coaxed by Corey… the producer/director and publicist certainly knows her Brecht and how to prepare. 

I was invited by a friend to see the production because he was interested in discussing Brecht. I agreed to go if he bought the ticket, he did, and we climbed to the 2nd balcony breathing deeply to watch the thing in the Gallery at a 45-degree angle.  

I thought the Gallery was where people booed and talked back to the performers but not in this location, I couldn’t figure out why the director had sirens and noisy crashing sounds plus huge light flashes, along with drops flung in to interrupt the scene, until I realized these were scene changes. They were also gimmicks to keep the audience awake – but what were the sirens about? Oh, I forgot, the “play was about war.” This is what the program stated. 

However as I remembered the play (before re-reading it again after the performance a night later) it was about property and motherliness.  

“Who uses the property well, who should own it?”—the last line of the play as well (in print) and the first discussion in the prologue between two Kolkhozes. 

I bet my friend that the prologue would never appear on an ACT stage. Why? It’s a discussion between two communist Russian Kolkhozes, with people who defeated the Germans discussing the best use of the valley the mountains and the land: Whether or not to put up a dam and use the irrigation water for crops while also allowing the goats to roam the hillside to produce cheese. The Expert agronomist is asked to lay out the plans for the two groups to discuss the choices, perhaps satisfying old peasants and current needs. I think they agree to damage the land both ways (ecological view) but at least there is this discussion as to how to proceed to turn the land into useful production—usefulness is a key idea in Brecht’s play, and the lead character in the fable, parable, folktale turns out to be a good mother—after many difficulties. In the prologue the discussants invite a storyteller to tell a long fable on the subject.  

The storyteller, a famous one in the Caucasus (the location of the play) enters with musicians and is asked by the Expert agronomist from Moscow how long will the play be? 

Two hours says the storyteller. 

The Expert: I have to be in Tiflis tonight, can you cut it short? 

Storyteller: No. 

No discussion on the use of the land for food production (even though Michael Pollan’s bougie books must have been in the hands of many—how the individual consumer can save the planet) but not even that was referenced.  

They cut the prologue and located the play in no place, only on stage as if the actors (ACT people) had agreed to make a play, dressed not in Caucasian costumes rather here now, bare walls, with scribble scrabble drop cloths, and soldier in Afghan US desert duds. No need to interpret the fable, I was not there. The play was distorted, so any meaning and philosophical insight was awkward and weird.  

The direction was more like Chorus Line and much like Urine Town with a punch in the stomach, a bang on the head. A repeated image: forthright actors standing in line either on a fence or up against the footlights singing directly to the people. This must have been that dreaded Brechtian-esque trope, ‘alienation’: flat-noted music with a hard text and thin lips. Characters (such as they were) all telling it like it is. The Like it is, is the Like it is. Get it!  

By writing different music, (not Paul Dessau), retranslating it (not Ralph Manheim) with enough “f…s to make it current lest the language be too elevated and meaningful, misinterpreting, the director Doyle, with a vague opposition to war—all wars, any war, somewhere ‘what ever.’ “What the “f…” is taking place? Where are we?  

What is this play about?  

In print it is a good play and I remembered I had seen a fine production done by Carl Weber in 1963 at the SF Actors Workshop, at Marines Memorial Theatre. Weber had just come to the US and was hired by the AW (rootbeer organization) to direct Caucasians, and he did, but he did what everyone is worried about: he produced the Berliner Ensemble model on the Actors’ Workshop stage. I thought it was a great gift and a wonder. I knew the Actors’ Workshop couldn’t do such a production. They were neo realistic, with little or no great directorial or performance style, not like Guthrie in Minnesota: a fine selection of plays with mediocre reasonable productions with no stars, non-Equity, usually intelligent and competent.  

But Weber’s Berliner Ensemble remake was stunning. One memorable moment: Grusha the peasant servant picks up the Queen’s child, left behind, after a lot of looking at the bundle and wondering if she should or shouldn’t, and we begin to understand that once she picks up the baby she is in trouble –both as a potential mother protecting it and endangering her own life. The Ironshirts were after the boy to kill it to stop that particular royal line. (One group is overthrown yet later regains control while both destroy many peasants). The fable is set in a distant place.  

She picks up the bundle, is followed, hunted and has to cross a rickety bridge over a gorge with the baby. The curtain opens and there is an 80 by 50 photograph of the Caucasian (Ural) mountains and a small bridge with a spotlight on her she sings. Stunning. 

No director in the Actors’ Workshop or scenic designer ever would have thought to do such a bold stroke. It also placed this little figure of a human with a bundle in perspective. Obviously thought up elsewhere, and Weber, who worked at the Ensemble, planted the production on top of the actors. Later I talked to him and said the actors would eventually distort his direction. He agreed. And when I spoke to the actors they said: “That Teutonic director told them which hand to move…” They were not used to such stuff—nevertheless we saw a Berliner Ensemble remake and it was astounding.  

Barbara Berg Schall, daughter of Helen Weigel and Bertolt Brecht, used to prevent producers in Europe from ruining Brecht’s plays. People thought she was annoying, too restrictive; if she only had control of productions in the USA—how we need such a protector. Stephan Brecht died recently in New York, so he was not around to prevent the bizarre event at ACT.  


Dr. R.G. Davis is the founder of the San Francisco Mime Troupe and a Brecht fanatic.  

Berkeley’s La Peña Hosts Benefit for Chile

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday March 04, 2010 - 09:23:00 AM

Berkeley’s La Peña Cultural Center will hold a benefit for earthquake victims in Chile Sunday, March 7. 

Called “Hand in Hand with Chile,” the event will feature live music, poetry, food, a silent art auction and updates on the situation in Concepción, Chile. 

In a recent statement, La Peña said that the center held a meeting Feb. 28 with a group of Bay Area Chileans and North Americans which resulted in the creation of the organization Mano a Mano Con Chile (Hand in Hand with Chile). 

Mano a Mano Con Chile is planning various events and artistic activities over the next month through which it hopes to raise a minimum of $10,000 to help support the thousands of victims who were left devastated in the aftermath of the earthquake that hit Central Chile Feb. 26. 

Planned activities include Cadena de la Cocina Solidaria Chilena, a weekly series of typical Chilean breakfasts and dinners in private homes and a benefit concert.  

For more information and details of the events please visit the Facebook page: Mano a Mano Con Chile. 

Sunday’s event, which starts at 6 p.m.. will have a $20—$100 siliding scale donation but no one will turned away for lack of funds. 

On the menu is Pollo Arvejado—Chicken and Pea Stew with rice and black beans—Pablo Neruda’s favorite. 

Featured artists include Rafael Manriquez, Francisco Alarcon, 

Lichi Fuentes, Gabriela Shiroma, John Santos, Poncho Jaramillo, 

Maria Loreto, Fernando Torres and Carlos Baron. 

For more information, visit www.lapena.org 

To search for victims in Chile, visit www.chileayuda.com