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The Carpenters’ Union was picketing the Safeway at College and Claremont on the Berkeley-Oakland border on Tuesday to publicize a dispute with the grocery corporation over the alleged use of non-union carpenters on a San Jose building site, which is now being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board.
Nancy McKay
The Carpenters’ Union was picketing the Safeway at College and Claremont on the Berkeley-Oakland border on Tuesday to publicize a dispute with the grocery corporation over the alleged use of non-union carpenters on a San Jose building site, which is now being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board.


New: Berkeley to Tackle $14.6M Budget Deficit at Council Tuesday

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday March 22, 2010 - 11:54:00 PM

A severe cash crunch has sent the City of Berkeley scrambling to find ways to stay afloat in a tough economy, including a two-year rescue plan whose blueprint City Manager Phil Kamlarz will present to the City Council Tuesday. 

At a press briefing Monday morning, Kamlarz reiterated what he had already told council at their March 9 council meeting, that the city was facing a $14.6 million deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1 because of the recession, loss of state funding, a decline in property and sales tax revenues and change in the use of city services. 

The city’s total budget is $350 million, of which half is made up by the General Fund and the other half by revenue and other funds. The most drastic shortfalls include $6 million in the General Fund, $4 million in the refuse fund and $2.7 million in public health funds, Kamlarz said. 

Mental health funds will also be cut quite a bit, he said. That report will be presented to the council April 20. 

“And all that’s before the state deals with the $20 billion deficit,” he said. 

Kamlarz called the current budget slump the most serious he had seen in his 35 years working with the city. 

“Most of the time we come back quickly, but not this time,” he said. 

The city received $16 million in transfer tax evenue in 2008 from property sales which decreased to $8 million last year and will stay at that number this year. 

“Our home prices have remained essentially flat,” he said. “Sales taxes have also remained flat. Everything else doesn’t have any growth at all.” 

One possible bright spot, Kamlarz said, was that if President Barack Obama signed the Health Bill Tuesday, then it would help the city’s Health Department over the next four years. “All the people who were not covered will now be covered,” he said. “We’ll have to wait to get more details.” 

The city’s clean storm water fund is also suffering from a $0.9 million deficit. For this, the city’s Budget Manager Tracy Vesely said they might have to turn to voters to fund day to day operations. 

Another depressing area is the $6.1 million shortfall in affordable housing needs because of limited Housing Trust Fund resources coupled with increased demands, Kamlarz said. 

The council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to extend the $1.4 million Housing Trust Fund allocation for the proposed Ashby Arts affordable housing project at 1200 Ashby Ave.  

The project is currently stalled because of the economy. Project developers CityCentric is seeking a non-profit partner to take over the ownership of a part of the project. 

The city’s permit service center—whose revenue funds the Planning Department—is also operating at an annual deficit of $1.1 million. 

“Building activity is down, we are not seeing a pick-up,” Kamlarz said, adding that the Planning Department had stopped filling any vacancies for a while now. 

Balancing measures for 2011 include $10.8 million in cuts, $2.3 million in new revenue and slashing 67 positions, half of which are vacant. Public safety will see minimal cuts, Kamlarz said. 

Recurring cuts are expected to balance the $4.8 million budget deficit in 2012. 

The city will also present a plan Tuesday to balance its refuse collection budget. When Berkeley raised its collection rates by 20 percent last year, many residents switched to cheaper smaller trash cans, but Kamlarz said the city might raise rates again to combat the current deficit. 

The budget balancing plan, which will have to be approved by the council first, will also reduce the number of workers on each garbage collection truck from two to one. 

Every city in Alameda County except Berkeley has one person on these trucks, Kamlarz said 

Another fast approaching problem for the city, Kamlarz said, is the rise in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System fees for Berkeley in 2012 and 2013. 

The rate was low in 2003 and 2004, Kamlarz said. “Then all of a sudden the market tanked and people retired early,” he said. “We had a lot of retirements. Costs have gone through the roof.” 


The Berkeley City Council will hold a workshop at 5:30  

p.m. Tuesday to discuss ways to balance the refuse collection budget. 

The council is scheduled to adopt the budget on June 22. 


New: Berkeley City Council to Vote on Whether to Support Center Street Plaza

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday March 22, 2010 - 12:06:00 AM

When it comes to its city’s downtown, the Berkeley City Council can be extremely picky. But on Tuesday, a concept for creating a plaza with a water feature on Center Street could very well receive its unanimous blessings. 

At this point, the council is being asked to vote on a resolution supporting the proposed project, which is being called the Strawberry Creek or the Center Street Plaza. 

The council could also ask City Manager Phil Kamlarz to send the conceptual design to staff for review and to work with Oakland-based Ecocity Builders and Citizens for a Strawberry Creek Plaza on developing the plan. Private and public funding sources will also be studied. 

The council unanimously passed the UC Hotel Task Force recommendations in June 2004, which supported opening Strawberry Creek as part of a public pedestrian-friendly open space. (Plans for a hotel at the site are now on hold or have been abandoned.)  

About three years later, the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee also supported this idea. 

Berkeley citizens, with the help of nonprofit Ecocity Builders, asked renowned landscape architect Walter Hood to develop a proposal which aligned with the city’s objectives. 

Public meetings were held over a course of two years, and in July 2009, the Berkeley City Council adopted the Downtown Area Plan which called for “several small plazas,” most notable of which was the Center Street Plaza, 

Hood, who is the designer behind the gardens at the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, began creating a blueprint of the plaza in 2007. 

His design would close off the block of Center between Oxford Street and Shattuck Avenue except for emergency and delivery vehicles to create a pedestrian-oriented gathering space which can be tied to the proposed Berkeley Art Museum at the old UC Printing Plant. 

Proponents say that Strawberry Creek will be partially “daylighted” or excavated from underground storm drains which currently bury it for people to enjoy and learn about creek ecology and the regional watershed, though the original creekbed of Strawberry Creek, which is open on the UC Berkeley campus to the east, is a block south of Center Street 

“This is an exciting time in Berkeley,” said Kirstin Miller, executive director of Ecocity Builders. “The project has the potential to catalyze economic development in the downtown area.”  

Hood’s proposal was presented to the Berkeley Planning Commission in 2009 and to the City Council in January. 

Councilmembers Linda Maio, Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin, who introduced the item on the agenda, urged the rest of the council to support the proposal in their report, especially in light of upcoming funding deadlines and grants. 

The Berkeley City Council is scheduled to meet Tuesday, March 23, at 7 p.m., City Council Chambers, 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. 


New: Former Berkeley Nursing Home Administrator Suspected of Stealing from Alzheimer’s Patients

By Bay City News
Monday March 22, 2010 - 05:59:00 PM

A former Berkeley nursing home administrator was arrested this morning for allegedly stealing more than $50,000 from elderly patients, including one woman who she allegedly kidnapped and held for nearly a year while cashing her pension and social security checks, state Attorney General Jerry Brown announced. 

Concepcion “Connie” Pinco Giron, 51, was arrested at her home in Richmond this morning on charges of kidnapping to commit another crime, false imprisonment, elder abuse and six counts of theft from an elder or dependent adult by a caretaker, according to a criminal complaint filed in Alameda County Superior Court. 

If convicted of all the charges, Giron could face up to 12 years in prison, according to Brown's office. 

The investigation into Giron's alleged criminal activity began in August when an employee from the Elmwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Berkeley filed a complaint with Richmond police. 

At the time, Giron was working as an assistant administrator at the facility.  

Richmond police forwarded the complaint on to the attorney general’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse, according to a spokesman from Brown's office. 

Investigators discovered that Giron had allegedly falsified discharge papers for an 85-year-old women with Alzheimer's dementia saying that the woman was going to be transferred to a different care facility. But instead of taking the woman to a care facility, Giron allegedly took her to her own home, where she kept her for almost a year, from Sept. 10, 2008, to Aug. 31, 2009, according to the complaint. 

During that time, Giron allegedly used the woman's monthly pension and social security checks to pay her own bills, according to Brown’s office. 

The elderly woman, who stayed with Giron until she was taken by a friend to another care facility, was not harmed during the ordeal. 

Investigators also found that Giron had allegedly opened bank accounts for several of her elderly patients and transferred funds from those accounts into her own account. She also allegedly used their ATM cards, wrote checks to herself from patients’ accounts and stole cash from patients’ trust accounts that were being maintained by the nursing home, according to the complaint. 

Giron also allegedly convinced the son of one patient that he needed to pay an additional $600 per month in cash to keep his mother at the facility. The son made cash payments for 18 months, which Giron allegedly pocketed, according to Brown's office. 

Giron was booked into Alameda County jail this morning and is being held on $365,000 bail.

New: Lawrence Berkeley Lab Gets $13.5M for Cancer Research

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday March 22, 2010 - 04:08:00 PM

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will receive $13.5 million from the National Cancer Institute to develop computational models that predict breast cancer responses to therapeutic agents. 

Under this grant, Berkeley Lab will host one of 11 new Centers for Cancer Systems Biology, which will be co-directed by Joe Gray, director of the LBNL’s Life Sciences Division 

“We’re proud to have been selected by NCI to be a part of its effort to study cancer as a systemic disease, an effort we feel is critical to the future of cancer research,” said Gray in a statement. “Our work will help advance the development of breast cancer diagnostic and therapeutic strategies that are effective and durable.” 

Gray will co-direct the new cancer center along with Claire Tomlin, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at UC Berkeley. 

In addition to researchers from Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley and San Francisco, the new center will also involve participants from the University of Texas and the University of Warwick.  

Principal investigators include Berkeley Lab’s Paul Spellman, UCSF’s Michael Korn, Gordon Mills at MD Anderson and Sach Mukherjee in England.  

For more information visit www.lbl.gov.

New: UC Student Senate Israel Divestment Vote Sparks Controversy

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday March 19, 2010 - 06:25:00 PM

A controversial UC Berkeley student senate bill opposing UC investments in companies providing military support to Israel has once again added a local twist to the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

Although the bill is labeled “UC Divestment From War Crimes,” it focuses on the conflict in the Middle East and human rights violations by the Israeli Army in Gaza and the West Bank. 

The bill’s critics contend that singling out Israel as a perpetrator of war crimes is unfair, given the vast number of human rights violations that go on elsewhere in the world. 

Sandra Y. Cohen, a UC Berkeley Civil Engineering sophomore and one of the four Associated Students of the University of California senators who voted against the bill, called it a brazen attack on Israel in the guise of drawing attention to war crimes. 

“I hope everyone who voted yes realizes what they truly voted for,” Cohen wrote in an e-mail message to a Google group after the vote. “I am really disheartened.” 

The ASUC student senate’s vote is probably the first of its kind to take place in any college campus in the United States. 

At Thursday’s meeting, both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine student groups—comprised of students, professors and community members from different ethnic backgrounds—packed the first-floor room of the student union building, forcing the meeting to be shifted to a library on the seventh floor. 

ASUC senator Christina Oatfield said it was the highest attendance she could remember at any recent ASUC meeting. 

Many stayed to hear the final vote—16-4—announced at 4 a.m. 

“It was really exciting to see so many people engaging in the issue,” Oatfield said. “There was a little bit of shouting but overall I was surprised by how respectful everything was.” 

The Berkeley campus has been rocked by altercations between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine student groups from time to time, some of which were caused by alleged incidents of hate speech, graffiti and vandalism. 

“The bill cites facts, such as from the UN’s Goldstone Report, that should be disregarded,” said Cohen, as she boarded a flight Friday to leave for spring break. “It’s blatantly anti-Israel. I was told that the bill is not divesting from Israel, it’s divesting from war crimes. But then we should not have any reference of Israel in it. This is just dividing the community in Berkeley.” 

Emiliano Huet-Vaughn, a second-year Economics Ph.D. student who co-authored the bill, said that Israel had been used as a case study to highlight the ethics violations being committed by its government on Palestinian settlements. 

“What about the war crimes in other countries—China, Sudan, Afghanistan?” Cohen asked. “They are trying to make it about war crimes but it’s not about war crimes. If they cared about war crimes then the bill would have mentioned other countries. They are trying to dissolve the State of Israel.” 

Oatfield said that the ASUC senate has a long history of taking strong action to divest funds from countries involved in war crimes. 

“We have singled out Sudan, we have singled out South Africa in the past,” said Huet-Vaughn. “It’s our job to condemn unethical treatment. We want to make a statement about what can be done with student government funds. But the more significant thing is we don’t want our university to support war crimes.” 

The bill specifically calls for ASUC and UC to stop investing in two American companies—General Electric and United Technologies—which are providing Israel with weapons.  

Oatfield said that although the bill is focused on conflicts in Israel, it also asks the ASUC to create a commission which will investigate war crimes in Morocco and Saudi Arabia. 

“The immediate action is pertaining to two companies, but it also has long-term goals,” Oatfield said. 

E-mails supporting or denouncing the senate’s action started flying about right after the final vote, with author and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz being one of the first to issue a statement. 

“Divesting from Israel is immoral, bigoted and if done by a state university illegal,” Dershowitz said. “It encourages terrorism and discourages peace. Any university that would actually divest from Israel will be subjected to countermeasures—financial, legal, academic and political. We will fight back against this selective bigotry that hurts the good name of the University of California. This misuse of the university’s name does not represent the views of students, faculty, alumni and other constituents of the greater Berkeley community. Instead it represents the hijacking of the university for improper ideological purposes. It must be rejected immediately and categorically.” 

The international pro-Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs called the bill “misguided.” 

Pro-divestment Berkeley residents who attended the meeting congratulated each other with celebratory messages. 

One e-mail called it a “substantial victory,” while another called it a “historic occasion.” 

Huet-Vaughn said that the bill would prohibit ASUC funds from going toward the two American companies with immediate effect. 






Berkeley Swims to Save Its Swimming Pools

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday March 18, 2010 - 06:31:00 PM
A 24-hour swimathon is being held to raise funds for the Measure C campaign which seeks to rehabilitate and expand the city's pools.
Seth Goddard
A 24-hour swimathon is being held to raise funds for the Measure C campaign which seeks to rehabilitate and expand the city's pools.

Swim to save the swimming pools. That’s the unofficial motto of the Berkeley Pools Campaign at least for Friday, when they launch a 24-hour swimathon to raise funds to upgrade and expand the city’s pools. 

The Berkeley City Council recently voted to approve a $22.6 million pools ballot measure for the June 8 election, paving the way for campaign workers to start raising money for the big day. 

Friday’s swimathon will start at 6 a.m. and continue until 6 a.m. Saturday.  

It’s the biggest fundraiser for the campaign, expected to bring in $20,000, said Rob Collier, co-chair of the Berkeley Pools Campaign, which lobbied the City Council to approve the ballot measure. 

“We hope to raise more money to take us throughout May,” Collier said. “The campaign is going to be very expensive and we expect our opposition to be very well funded.” 

Campaign organizers will officially learn who their opponents are Friday, the last day to file ballot arguments. 

Collier said that the idea of a swimathon was born right after the council’s final vote. 

“There was so much enthusiasm that we had to do something with all that energy,” he said. “The best way to deal with charged up swimmers is to throw them in the pool.” 

Although the council had initially voted unanimously to approve a $19 million measure to renovate the city’s three existing public pools—King, Willard and West Campus—and build a new warm water pool at West Campus, it changed its vote at a Feb. 25 meeting when it agreed to include the construction of a new competition pool at King Middle School. 

The principal reason for the council’s change of mind was because of the outpouring of support for a new pool at King from the Berkeley Barracudas, a local competitive swim team which complained that the current facility was in dire need of an upgrade. The Masters team, which is mostly made up of older swimmers, also rallied for a new pool. 

“A larger pool will allow the Barracudas to train and grow,” Collier said. “So they are really gunning to go.” 

Even though a recent voter poll warned that citizens were not too keen to fund pool expansions in a desperate economy, the council reasoned that a new pool at King would garner wider support. 

Despite being popular with public pool users in Berkeley, the pools ballot measure has its share of critics, including councilmember Gordon Wozniak, who cautioned at a recent council meeting that taxing citizens during a difficult economy was probably not the wisest thing to do. Wozniak ultimately voted to support the measure with the rest of the council. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who has been known to show up in his swimming trucks for other aquatics-centered fund raisers, said the ballot measure was critical to keep valuable resources alive for people of all age groups. 

“It’s exciting,” Worthington said of the swimathon. “I might be there.” 

Collier acknowledged that the pool’s campaign faced a tough road ahead, including a short window for raising funds, but maintained that it was the only way to save at least two of the city’s pools. 

“We have no choice,” he said. “The warm pool is closing next year and Willard Pool will close this year if the ballot measure doesn’t pass. So it’s now or never.” 

The Berkeley High School Old Gym, which houses the warm pool, is scheduled for demolition in 2011 to make room for a new classroom building. Although local preservationists rallied for adaptive reuse of the historic gym, their proposal was shot down. 

The City of Berkeley will close Willard Pool after summer unless a voter-approved bond measure can continue to fund it 

“Berkeley residents have made far-sighted investments where it counted,” Collier said. “In the 60s it was the underground BART, in the 70s it was our parks, in the 80s it was emergency services for the disabled and more recently it was support for our schools and libraries. Berkeley voters realize that pools are our community’s future, it’s our legacy to our children, our grandchildren an our great grandchildren.” 

Berkeley Pools Campaign co-chair Shelly Hayden said that each participant would have to pledge to swim for at least an hour for which they get a $100 minimum sponsorship. 

“As of tomorrow, when we get our official ballot letter, we need to start printing yard signs and brochures that we will distribute to the community as soon as possible,” said Hayden, who will be swimming for an hour and has already raised $300 from her sponsors. 

Anyone can sign up for the swimathon, either on www.berkeleypools.org or at King Pool, and slots are still available throughout the day. 

People can also get sponsors online or put their donations in an envelope at the site. 

“You an do anything you want in the water for that one hour,” Hayden said. “We just want you to move.” 

The Cal Men's Water Polo team is expected to do 3,000 meters in an hour, Hayden said. “But others can do 500, it doesn’t really matter.” 

For more information, please see the sign-up sheet at King Pool, or email volunteer@berkeleypools.org.

Lau Resigns from Zoning Adjustments Board, Continues as Aide to Councilmember Moore

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday March 18, 2010 - 12:51:00 PM

Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board member and City Council Aide Ryan Lau has resigned from the zoning board following a report in the Daily Planet last week which revealed that he had violated the city’s permit process.  

Lau’s appointee, Councilmember Darryl Moore, confirmed Thursday that Lau had sent him a resignation letter after the two of them talked and came to the conclusion that given the current circumstances, resigning would be the logical course of action.  

“He apologized to me and the city for his indiscretion and hopes that he doesn’t bring any bad will to my office and my name,” Moore told the Planet Thursday. “I have accepted his letter.”  

Moore said when he first found out about the violation, he was “horrified with Lau’s tragic lack of judgment.” 

“I apologize for any embarrassment that I may have caused to you and the city,” Lau said in his e-mail to Moore. “I am in the process of working with the city’s planning department to resolve this matter.” 

City Planning Department officials said Lau had halted construction on his Carleton Street residence and is seeking the necessary zoning and building permits.  

He was in the middle of expanding an old garage on the property he had bought last year when the Planet received an anonymous tip about the illegal construction and launched an investigation. 

Lau continues to serve as Councilmember Moore’s staff aide. He joined Moore’s office in 2004, a couple of weeks after Moore got elected to the Berkeley City Council.  

Moore said he appointed Lau to the zoning board in January after board member Terry Doran stepped down. 

“He bought a house in my district where he lives with his partner Nicole Drake (aide to Councilmember Linda Maio and a Rent Stabilization Board commissioner) and I thought he’d be a good candidate for the zoning board,” Moore said. “I interviewed two other people but they were out of my district, so I decided to appoint him. I was impressed with his zeal for serving on the commission.” 

Moore said he did not know what prompted Lau’s decision not to apply for the proper permits, which has resulted in calls for his resignation as Moore’s appointee. 

“I have asked him but he hasn’t been able to tell me verbally why he did it except to say it was ‘stupid,’” Moore said. “Ryan is a great guy. I was so disappointed he took a short cut. I think it was the right thing for him to resign from the zoning board—he lost credibility. But I don’t agree with the calls for him to resign from his job as my aide. Hopefully he will meet all the requirements of the city process and it will be the end of the incident.” 

Moore added that for “a young man his (Lau’s) age,” it is no small accomplishment to buy a house in Berkeley. 

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and majority of the other zoning board members did not return calls for comment.  

Zoning board members who did respond to calls said they didn’t want to comment. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who has also appointed his aides to various commissions, including the zoning board, said he has learned that there is a “significant amount of illegal construction without permits” in Berkeley. 

Worthington’s former aide Jesse Arreguin, who was elected to the City Council in Nov. 2008, served as his representative on the zoning board before running for election. 

Worthington’s current aide Alejandro Soto-Vigil is on the Berkeley Housing Commission. His wife Danfeng Koon was appointed by Worthington to serve on the zoning board. 

“I think Ryan is a very nice man,” Worthington said. “Many first-time homeowners who buy houses often don’t know the complexities of regulations. It’s sad.” 


New: Berkeley Remembers Waving Man on his 100th Birthday

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday March 22, 2010 - 01:41:00 PM
Mr. Charles’ great grandson Charles Kimble, 29, showed up to take part in the birthday celebrations Monday.
Mr. Charles’ great grandson Charles Kimble, 29, showed up to take part in the birthday celebrations Monday.
Mr. Charles’ granddaughter Sherrill Charles, who lives in Oakland, smiled and waved with many other people Monday in memory of her grandfather.
Mr. Charles’ granddaughter Sherrill Charles, who lives in Oakland, smiled and waved with many other people Monday in memory of her grandfather.
Fans of Mr. Charles have also set up a Facebook page, "Ask the Mayor of Berkeley to recognize Mr. Charles 100th Birthday," which has more than 700 members from all over the world.
Fans of Mr. Charles have also set up a Facebook page, "Ask the Mayor of Berkeley to recognize Mr. Charles 100th Birthday," which has more than 700 members from all over the world.

The yellow gloves came out once again at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Oregon Street Monday to celebrate the 100th birthday of Joseph Charles, Berkeley’s Waving Man. 

Friends, family and even strangers gathered outside his old house to smile and wave at passers-by and motorists—a tradition carried out by Mr. Charles for 30 years until he stopped doing it in 1992. 

Denisha DeLane, NAACP youth council advisor in Berkeley, said that she organized the event this year with a lot more hope for the future. 

DeLane has been encouraging people to show up on March 22 for the past several years to help keep this important gesture alive. 

“Mr. Charles was the face of Berkeley for many years—people loved him and respected him,” she said. “We need to show the same love and respect even today. We don’t want people to forget what he did.” 

DeLane said that the Berkeley City Council was expected to issue a proclamation at its Tuesday meeting honoring Mr. Charles, who passed away in 2002. 

For many, Mr. Charles was more than just the “Waving Man.”  

Artists drew murals honoring him and neighborhood resources, such as the Oregon Street tennis courts which overlooked his white house, was also named after him. His fans have also set up a Facebook page, "Ask the Mayor of Berkeley to recognize Mr. Charles 100th Birthday," which has more than 700 members from all over the world. 

“So many people came out today, including his grandchildren and his great grandchildren,” said DeLane, who remembered seeing Mr. Charles wave to her every day on her way to school. “It’s remarkable.” 

DeLane said she’d like to see the place where he stood waving every day designated a historic landmark. 

“I keep asking myself, how can we keep his memory alive?” she said. “Now that I am 31, I want to see people remembering him even after 50 years. He helped to build a healthy community, to make the day better for everyone, especially for southwest Berkeley. We need children to know who their neighbors are. We should be able to look out for each other.” 

Mr. Charles’ granddaughter Sherrill Charles, who lives in Oakland, cheered and clapped as a truck honked when it saw her waving. 

“I remember him standing here when I went to Presentation High School every morning,” said Charles. “I heard about him on the news and I was so proud of him.” 

Mr. Charles’ great grandson Charles Kimble, 29, showed up around 9 a.m. to participate. 

“I remember him standing in the corner with a big smile on his face,” he said. “It made my day.” 

New: 24-Hour Swimathon Supports Berkeley’s June Measure C

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday March 19, 2010 - 01:12:00 PM
CAL Men's Water Polo Team swims in support of ballot Measure C -- a bond measure to save, rehab and improve Berkeley's city pools
Seth Goddard
CAL Men's Water Polo Team swims in support of ballot Measure C -- a bond measure to save, rehab and improve Berkeley's city pools
Berkeley Aquatic Masters (BAM!) kick-off a 24hr swimathon at sunrise in support of ballot Measure C.
Seth Goddard
Berkeley Aquatic Masters (BAM!) kick-off a 24hr swimathon at sunrise in support of ballot Measure C.
Swimmers at the swimathon
Seth Goddard
Swimmers at the swimathon
The Cal Men's Water Polo Team at the King Pool.
Seth Goddard
The Cal Men's Water Polo Team at the King Pool.
Berkeley resident Heather Sarantis, who is nine months pregnant, gets into the water Friday.
Shelley Hayden
Berkeley resident Heather Sarantis, who is nine months pregnant, gets into the water Friday.

The 24-hour swimathon to support Berkeley’s June ballot Measure C—a bond measure to save, rehabilitate and improve the city’s public pools—kicked off at sunrise today. 

The first ones to create a splash was Berkeley Aquatic Masters (BAM!). 

Thirty players from the Cal Men’s Water Polo Team showed up at 8:15 a.m.—at which point the event had already raised $2,700. 

One of the swimmers completed 5,500 meters. 

At 1 p.m., the team had raised over $7,124. Jean, a 84-year-old swimmer, raised $600. 

For more information on the campagn visit www.berkeleypools.org/support-your-pools.html 

City Council Opens Debate on Bus Alternatives

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday March 18, 2010 - 10:35:00 PM
The City Council is scheduled to discuss a "Build" option at their meeting. Above, a AC Transit Rapid bus on Telegraph Avenue.
The City Council is scheduled to discuss a "Build" option at their meeting. Above, a AC Transit Rapid bus on Telegraph Avenue.

Bus Rapid Transit lovers, haters and skeptics are getting ready to make their case at the Berkeley City Council Tuesday, when the council discusses whether to decide on which “Build” alternative if any to forward to AC Transit for environmental review.  

The council is now scheduled to take a formal vote on the issue on April 20. 

Although Councilmember Kriss Worthington asked at Monday's Council Agenda Committee meeting for a public hearing to be scheduled at one of these meetings to allow Berkeley residents a chance to voice their concerns, his proposal was voted down. 

Worthington's district, which includes Telegraph Avenue, has vociferously opposed certain aspects of BRT, such as two-way traffic on Telegraph, which would affect street vendors and neighborhood businesses. 

“The absolutist so-called 'Full Build' option would be catastrophic to the city,” Worthington said. “It's outrageous that it was city staff who originally proposed something that AC Transit had never asked for. I think it's unfair for AC Transit to get the blame. We shouldn't be wasting staff or AC Transit's money on it.” 

The Downtown Berkeley Association has come out against dedicated bus lanes on the four blocks of the BRT route on Shattuck Avenue between Addison Street and Bancroft Way because of the loss of parking. 

A Feb. 10 Planning Commission recommendation had asked the Berkeley City Council to study the Bus Rapid Transit Full Build option, which includes making Telegraph two ways and creating dedicated downtown bus lanes, for possible endorsement, along with another alternative called Rapid Bus Plus and a “No Build” option. 

However the city's Planning Department staff proposed their own new set of recommendations at a March 10 meeting in light of new information about the decision process and continued opposition to the plans for Telegraph and downtown. 

City Planner Elizabeth Greene said that AC Transit had now indicated that cities would not have the ability to significantly modify any proposed Build option after federal and state environmental studies were completed, which would limit Berkeley's ability to pick and choose among the best components of a BRT route. 

AC Transit is expected to clarify this statement at Tuesday's meeting. 

City staff, Greene said, “already had concerns” about a two-way Telegraph north of Dwight and a two-way BRT on Bancroft Way above Dana Street. 

A staff report to the March Planning Commission meeting explained the short notice the commission received of the staff's proposed alternatives by saying that further evaluation of traffic flows and signal impacts and potential impacts to sidewalks, crosswalks and intersections showed numerous problems which would be impossible to fix through design changes. 

Studies for the Streets and Open Space Improvement Plan—which is supposed to enhance the downtown area-would also become limited based on the particular Build alignment proposed for downtown, the report said, adding that dedicated lanes in that area did not significantly benefit BRT. 

The changes suggested by staff to two-way Telegraph would maintain the Telegraph-Dana north-south pairing. Northbound buses would run in mixed flow on Telegraph—the same way the 1R AC Transit bus does right now—and southbound buses would run in dedicated lanes on Dana. 

City staff also recommended no dedicated lanes for downtown. Instead there would be raised platforms at curb stops—a dominant feature of BRT—which would be the same height as the buses themselves. 

“So that buses don't have to kneel—it speeds things up,” Greene said. “Kind of like getting on a BART train.” 

The Planning Commission voted 5-0-4 to accept the staff's recommendation if it indeed were not possible to change the Build option after the environmental study was completed and released as the staff reported. 

Planning Commissioner Patti Dacey said she supported the staff’s recommendation because it was “the lesser of the two evils.” 

“All of a sudden it looked like what we picked for study might end up being built,” said Dacey, whose vote provided the crucial fifth nod for the motion to pass. “The staff’s recommendation is much closer to what I wanted. I was afraid that if the Planning Commission voted Full Build, the City Council would vote Full Build as well.” 

Dacey said she personally preferred Rapid Bus Plus, which is being studied by AC Transit right now. 

“It just seemed like we didn't have enough information before us to make a good judgment,” said Planning Commissioner Jim Novosel, one of the four people who abstained. “My big picture goal is that whatever happens with BRT, the city coordinates that with changes to its one way streets around Telegraph to improve pedestrian safety and generally slow traffic down.” 

Planning Commissioner and transportation consultant Victoria Eisen, another abstainer, said that she encouraged the City Council “to keep an open mind and wait for the environmental analysis results before making decisions about the configuration of particular segments [of the route].”  

For various segments of the route, the City of Berkeley could decide to use some form of either BRT or Rapid Bus Plus, or not to build, ,Greene said. 

She said she was hopeful that the environmental review would be available by summer.  

AC Transit has asked for a final Locally Preferred Alternative or Build option from Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro—the three cities through which BRT will link a 17-mile route-by April. 

The agency is working under a deadline for a $75 million federal grant, $15 million of which it has already received. 




Berkeley Building Inspector Halts Lau Building Project

by Fred Dodsworth
Thursday March 18, 2010 - 10:07:00 PM

While Berkeley City Council District 2 representative Daryl Moore says his aide, Ryan Lau, made a mistake in replacing an old funky garage with a larger living structure without obtaining permits or zoning approval, it appears the mistake is much bigger, more expensive and more problematic than simply paying a higher fee. Lau was ordered to cease construction on Monday, March 15, 2010, by Building Inspector Greg Heidenreich.  

Berkeley’s building code specifically sets out ‘Development Standards for Accessory Dwelling Units’ that appear to prohibitively restrict the type of development Lau has already built. Deputy Planning Director Wendy Cosin was not optimistic that the city would be able to approve Lau’s project without a variance, and in the city of Berkeley obtaining a variance is nearly impossible she acknowledged.  

The first obstacle to issuing a permit is the size of Lau’s ‘Accessory Dwelling Unit. The estimated size of Lau’s nearly finished project is 432 square feet. According to the code (Section 23D.16.040), such structures are restricted to 300 square feet or less. The specific language of the code states: “No more than 25% of the gross floor area of the main dwelling in existence prior to the construction of the Accessory Dwelling Unit,” with an exemption that allows a building up to 300 square foot if the main house is smaller than 1,200 square feet. Lau’s main dwelling is less than 1,200 square feet but the building he has nearly completed is almost 44% over the upper limit. 

Additionally the code specifically excludes building less than four feet from the property line. Apparently Lau has built the entire structure on the side property line 

“In no case can zoning approve this if the setbacks are less than four feet,” said Deputy Director Cosin. “If he doesn’t meet the standards he’ll need a variance and it is very, very difficult to get a variance.”  

Ironically, any person seeking a variance from local building codes has to get approval from the Zoning Adjustment Board. Ryan Lau is Councilman Darryl Moore’s appointee to that board. 

While one local reporter stated that in attempting to resolve this issue promptly Berkeley’s Planning Department was expediting Lau’s permit, Cosin insisted that wasn’t the case.  

“We’re handling this the same way we would handle any other violation,” Cosin said.  

Any other treatment would be preferential and ethically improper. It is possible for Lau to pay an extra fee to expedite the permit process, which is available to any applicant, but Cosin said that Lau is “not at the building permit stage.”  

As of Wednesday, March 17, 2010, Lau had not applied for zoning clearance, which he must do before he can turn in a building permit application.  

If Lau does not get a variance, the council aide would have to tear the structure down, Cosin said.  

While neither Lau, nor District One Councilman Darryl Moore, nor Mayor Tom Bates, nor City Manager Phil Kamlarz, nor Deputy City Manager Christine Daniel (formerly of the city attorney’s office) returned this reporter’s phone calls on Wednesday, other city staff expressed concern about the underlying issues this violation has exposed.  

“I’m confused about how that can be allowed without him resigning his aide position. He’s a city employee. Seems like a conflict of interest,” said one Berkeley staffer by email. That person requested I not use their name. “In light of your discovery, it seems the only reasonable action is to remove him from ZAB (credibility shot and not fit to rule on similar situations) and he should be fired as an employee (violated the oath we take to uphold all rules and regulations).” 

Another city employee, who also did not offer his name, suggested Berkeley City Auditor Anne-Marie Hogan’s office should investigate Lau’s ethical lapses. 

Hogan said all city staff except the mayor, councilmembers, their staff and their appointees are required to sign and abide by a code of ethical standards crafted by her office and the office of the City Manager that specifically requires they adhere to the laws and regulations of the city. The city manager administratively adopted that code of ethical standards for all city staff, but compliance with that code of ethics is not enforceable on the Mayor, the city council or their staff and appointees.  

The mayor and council members, as elected legislative officers, do not report to the city manager’s office, nor do their aides or commission appointees, Hogan said.  

“City council staff are hired and fired only by the City Council,” Hogan said. “They are ‘at-will’ employees.”  

Similarly commission appointees only refer matters back to the city council, they actually don’t have any ‘authority,’ Hogan said. The mayor and city council must approve all commission actions.  

“It’s never a bad idea to adopt a code of ethics,” Hogan said.  

Regarding Lau’s lapses and his continued presence on the Zoning Adjustment Board, neither Cosin nor Hogan was willing to comment.  

Councilmember Linda Maio (her aide is Nicole Drake, Lau’s tenant and partner) was more forthcoming.  

“No,”Maio responded bluntly when asked if Lau should remain on the ZAB. “I think not!”  

Students Leave Berkeley for March for America

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday March 18, 2010 - 10:23:00 PM
Father Crespin blesses the delegation on the steps of St. Joseph The Worker Church Wednesday morning before the journey.
Mark Coplan
Father Crespin blesses the delegation on the steps of St. Joseph The Worker Church Wednesday morning before the journey.
Longfellow sixth grader Felipe Omar Leon and his father Felipe Leon
              gather their belongings as they prepare to get onto the bus for Washington.
Mark Coplan
Longfellow sixth grader Felipe Omar Leon and his father Felipe Leon gather their belongings as they prepare to get onto the bus for Washington.
Longfellow sixth grader Felipe Omar Leon checks out the BOCA banner
              held by Washington 5th grader Sophia Carrillo, right, and LeConte 5th
              grader Rebeca Torres while they wait to get on the bus to Washington. The
              first stop will be Senator Boxer's office in San Francisco, where they
              will also pick up a San Francisco group before heading to Oakland for an
              additional 30 people.
Mark Coplan
Longfellow sixth grader Felipe Omar Leon checks out the BOCA banner held by Washington 5th grader Sophia Carrillo, right, and LeConte 5th grader Rebeca Torres while they wait to get on the bus to Washington. The first stop will be Senator Boxer's office in San Francisco, where they will also pick up a San Francisco group before heading to Oakland for an additional 30 people.

A busload of Berkeley students left for Washington D.C. Wednesday morning for the March 21 March for America demonstration at the National Mall. 

More than 20 students from the Berkeley public schools, UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University along with members of the Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action boarded the bus from St. Joseph The Worker Church at 10:30 a.m., after waving good-bye to their families, many of them undocumented workers in Berkeley. 

The mood was festive with parents giving their children last minute instructions and tips for the road. 

Longfellow Middle School sixth grader Felipe Omar Leon and his father Felipe packed their bags as they prepared to take off. 

Washington Elementary School fifth grader Sophia Carrillo and LeConte Elementary School fifth grader Rebeca Torres checked out the BOCA banner which decorated the bus with other colorful immigration rights banners and posters. 

The group’s first stop is Senator Barbara Boxer’s office in San Francisco, after which they will stop in Nevada, where they are expected to meet with Senator Harry Reed.  

Cities taking part in the statewide mobilization include Los Angeles, Salinas, San Jose, San Francisco and San Rafael. 

Congresswoman Barbara Lee is trying to coordinate appointments with lawmakers in DC, and has even requested one with President Barack Obama. 

“We want to represent the Berkeley community in Washington D.C. and express our concerns on immigration legislation,” said BOCA lead organizer Belen Pulido. “We want to let the Congressmen and senators know that we are not going to rest until a comprehensive immigration reform is passed.” 

Thousands of people are expected to gather in the capital Sunday in support of immigration rights. 

BOCA, which offers support to immigrant communities in Berkeley, accompanied students to the Berkeley City Council and school board meetings to ask for donations for the trip. 

One of the students asking for money, urged city officials to donate to help her “get documents.” 

The girl, whose name is not being revealed to protect her identity, is enrolled at a Berkeley public elementary school. 

She said that as someone who was born in Mexico and brought up in the United States, she thought of herself as an ‘American girl.” 

“I want to get my papers so that I can go to field trips and have fun like my friends,” she said. “I don’t get to go anywhere, and I would like to go on these trips.” 

Two of the students in the group, Zelma Munoz of UC Berkeley and Mabel Kimble of SF State, are scheduled to speak at Sunday’s national rally 

Father Crespin spoke to the delegation before they left, explaining the importance of their mission, and reminding the children that ... “this is not a vacation. You have taken on this responsibility, and you have a lot of work ahead of you.”  

He then blessed their journey. 



Major AC Transit Cuts To Go Into Effect Sunday, March 28

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday March 18, 2010 - 06:40:00 PM

Major changes are in store for AC Transit riders in Berkeley, Emeryville and Albany starting next Sunday, March 28. 

Service adjustments include re-routing several lines and reducing or eliminating bus service to cope with a projected $56 million budget shortfall by fiscal year 2010-11. 

A statement from AC Transit said that the changes come after “months of study and unprecedented public input that prompted a paring of under-used routes in favor of new or expanded service for some of the busier corridors.” 

While AC Transit expects the overall number of service hours to be reduced, there will be no significant loss of service on major corridors such as University Avenue, Martin Luther King Way, or Shattuck, Telegraph and San Pablo avenues. 

AC Transit said that “generally, service will be adjusted more than eradicated.” 

Some bus routes will be shortened to improve arrival times and lines will be added to serve downtown Berkeley. 

According to the agency, the most significant change will be the branching of Line 51 into Line 51A and Line 51B, which will result in shorter routes, designed to improve on-time performance and reduce passenger wait times. 

Line 51B is also expected to provide improved service to the Berkeley Marina. 

A 13 mile-long line which runs along major traffic corridors from Berkeley’s estuary to Alameda’s southern shore, Line 51 was hit with scheduling problems, including routine “severe bunching” of buses and passenger delays at one end of the line or the other. 

AC Transit said that by splitting the line—with 51A now going from Alameda to the Rockridge BART and 51B from the Rockridge BART to the Berkeley estuary—the new lines will become shorter and easily manageable.  

Berkeley will also have two new circulator routes: 

• Line 49, the South Berkeley Circulator, will run to three BART stations (Downtown Berkeley, Rockridge, Ashby) until 10 p.m. week days and until 8 p.m. weekends. It will also serve the Clark Kerr campus and for the first time directly connect Rockridge BART to West Berkeley. 

• Line 25, the North Berkeley Circulator, will add a second route choice for residents of UC Village and replace part of Line 52L which has been discontinued. Line 25 serves residential areas near Pacific East mall, Monterey Market, and downtown Berkeley.  

Although Line 67 had originally been slated for the chopping block, it was saved after a large number of people rallied to support it at AC transit meetings. 

Below is a summary of changes to bus routes serving Berkeley:  

New: 25, 49, 51B, 52  

Discontinued: 9, 15, 19, 51, 52L, 79  

Routes significantly changed: 7, 88, F  

For complete AC Transit service change information, maps, schedules and trip planning assistance, visit www.actransit.org or call 511 and say, “AC Transit.” 



Updated: Rash of Violence at Berkeley High

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday March 18, 2010 - 02:56:00 PM

New details emerged Tuesday about the string of violent incidents that took place in and around Berkeley High School last week. 

A message from Berkeley High Dean of Students Ardarius McDonald on the school e-tree message service last Friday talked about three separate incidents on Wednesday, March 10. 

The first occurred in the MLK Civic Center Park around noon, when a Berkeley High safety officer, while making rounds, was assaulted by one non-student and two Berkeley High students.  

McDonald said that Berkeley police responded and made arrests.  

The safety officer is fine, according to McDonald. 

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said that the safety officer had stopped a student at 11:50 a.m. and was checking his ID, when some of his friends “unsuccessfully tried to take the card from him.” 

One of them, a Berkeley High School student, struck the officer with a closed fist. Another student also tried to take the ID away, at which point the safety officer pushed him back and was struck again. 

Another girl, a non-student also joined in the effort to take the ID away from the safety officer. 

The two minor male students were arrested and booked into the Alameda County Juvenile Hall for battery against a school student 

At 12:45 p.m., a former Berkeley High School student, William Hayes, got into a verbal argument with BHS students and followed them back to campus. She entered the school grounds without permission and brandished a pair of scissors to students and staff. 

Hayes, 21, was detained by safety officers and arrested by Berkeley police for brandishing. 

At approximately 3:40 p.m., a group of non-Berkeley High students were involved in a fight. Safety officers were dispatched to the scene, McDonald’s email said, following which the individuals moved up toward Shattuck Avenue.  

The Berkeley Police Department was also called to the scene. However, Frankel did not have details about this incident. 

McDonald’s email said that a fight which broke out between two groups of Berkeley High students on March 11 escalated in the On Campus Intervention office when a parent and at least one non student arrived.  

McDonald’s email said that the Berkeley Police Department, Berkeley High administrators and safety officers were present at the site to control the situation.  

Frankel said that three separate incidents happened in or around campus that day. 

At 11:50 a.m., a fight involving two groups of students occurred in the school courtyard which separates the south entrance of C Building from the north entrance of the gymnasium. 

Frankel said school staff witnessed the students using weapons, including a collapsible baton and parts of a steering wheel locking device during the fight. 

The staff members identified the students, who they saw swinging and hitting students with “club-type” weapons, Frankel said. 

“It was amazing no one was hurt,” Frankel said, adding that nobody was willing to cooperate or even admit that they were involved. 

Berkeley police arrested two minors who were sent to Juvenile Hall and one adult, 18-year-old Maher Abdullah of Berkeley, who were booked into Berkeley City Jail for assault with a deadly weapon and possession with intent to assault with a deadly weapon. 

At 2 p.m., a student who was involved in the on-campus fight was detained in the OCI office.  

His brother, Raymon Brown, a former Berkeley High School student, entered the campus without authorization and came to the OCI office where he was detained by staff. 

When Brown, 19 saw his little brother detained, he became physically and verbally abusive with Berkeley High School staff, Frankel said.  

Berkeley police was already on campus investigating the earlier fight. Frankel said Brown was pushing the officers to get to his younger brother and was arrested by BPD for being an unauthorized presence in a high school while it was in session and giving a false ID to a peace officer. 

Brown’s brother was also arrested. Both are Berkeley residents. 

The dean’s email said that “instructions to secure the campus by asking all teachers to keep students in the class was a precautionary measure so that students and staff would be clear of any potential danger.”  

McDonald said that Berkeley police and school safety officers responded swiftly and arrested several people.  

“We apologize for any disturbance to your classes but do appreciate all of your support,” his email said.  

Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan said he learned about the incident from McDonald’s email.  

Coplan said students who “act up” are often sent to the On Campus Intervention office instead of getting suspended.  

At about 4:30 p.m., officers were breaking up a fight on Allston and MLK Jr. Way—the sidewalk adjacent to Berkeley High—when one of the participants tried to walk away, Frankel said.  

When Berkeley High officers stopped him, they found that the individual had a stay away order from the high school.  

The person, a non-student, was arrested for violating a court order.  

Frankel said that none of the individuals involved in the fight were willing to cooperate with the police. 

He said he couldn’t give any specific reason for the sudden rash of incidents that broke out on the Berkeley High campus. 

He said that campus safety officers and Berkeley police were constantly maintaining the same level of awareness and security as before. 

Calls to McDonald, Berkeley High School Resource Officer Mitch Collins and Principal Jim Slemp, who will retire in June, were not returned. 


New: Berkeley Schools Celebrates Annual Music Education Festival Sunday

By Raymond Barglow, Special to the Planet
Saturday March 20, 2010 - 11:02:00 AM
The Berkeley Unified School Sistrict

The Berkeley public schools will present their annual Performing Arts Showcase Sunday, March 21. 

The music celebration will take place at the Berkeley High Community Theatre, 1930 Allston Way, from 1 to 3:30 p.m.  

The event is free and open to the public. 

Five hundred students from 15 Berkeley schools will perform.  

Choirs, orchestras, concert and jazz bands will play music and sing songs that they have learned over the past year. A special guest will be Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson. 

Schools in Berkeley make musical education available to all students in all grades, ranging from choral and instrumental classes in elementary school to orchestra, band, AP music theory, and jazz in high school. 

California Schools have cut music programs in response to financial crisis. 

In Berkeley, however, the school district has continued to fund music education. Support for K-12 music education in Berkeley is provided by a Berkeley Schools Excellence Project (BSEP) parcel tax. 

The Berkeley Unified School District is part of the 10-year anniversary of Art IS Education celebrations, an annual showcase of youth arts learning in Alameda County celebrated every year during March, national arts education month.  

 The Alameda County Arts Commission in partnership with the Alameda County Office of Education has coordinated featured events within each of the five districts of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in honor of the 10-year anniversary of Art IS Education. 

Julie Holcomb, co-chair of the BSEP Planning and Oversight Committee, wrote in a letter to the Planet that “music instruction is disappearing from schools statewide and nationwide, but it remains a powerful presence in our Berkeley public schools … Our music program will continue no matter how steep the cuts in state funding of schools. We can be proud to be part of a community that values its children, the arts, and education, and is willing to vote resources to support them.” 


What: Annual Performing Arts Showcase. 


Where: Berkeley High Community Theatre, 1930 Allston Way, Berkeley.  


For details please call 510-644-8772. 


Raymond Barglow is the founder of Berkeley Tutors Network  



Persian New Year Festival in Berkeley

VIDEO by Mike O'Malley
Thursday March 18, 2010 - 11:25:00 PM

Celebrators of the Persian New Year, “Chahrshanbeh Souri”, jumped over a bonfire on Tuesday, at Berkeley’s Persian Center, in order to shake off the darkness of winter and welcome the lightness of spring, a Persian ritual passed down since ancient Zoroastrian times.  

Chahar-Shanbeh Souri means literally “Eve of Wednesday”,because the festival is always held on the last Tuesday of winter, just before the Vernal Equinox. In Iran (and parts of Afghanistan and India), people to make bonfires in front of their homes and jump over them as the sun sets. The Persian Center sponsored this event for Iranian-Americans and all who are interested in their culture. It is one of a few secular Persian organizations in the United States. 



Police Ask Help to Identify North Berkeley Burglar Suspect

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 17, 2010 - 04:18:00 PM

Berkeley police said Wednesday that they want the community’s help to identify a suspect responsible for a series of North Berkeley residential burglaries. 

Police believe that the suspect may be connected to as many as seven burglaries which started in February and are still ongoing. 

The suspect was described as an adult male between 25-30 years, 5’ 10”, thin build with dreadlocks. 

The suspect was last seen prowling around residences in the 1600 block of Lincoln Street and the 1700 block of Eola Street on March 3, 2010. A community member took the suspect’s photo after he knocked on the door and inquired about someone who lived there. 

With the advent of warmer weather, the Berkeley Police Department is asking everyone to remember to lock their doors and windows. 

Police are asking anyone with any information to call the Berkeley Property Crimes Detail at 981-5742. If the event has occurred or in progress, please immediately report it to the BPD at 981-5900 or, from your cell phone, at 981-5911. Those wishing to submit an anonymous tip can call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Charles Muscatine, 1920-2010

From UC Berkeley Media Relations
Wednesday March 17, 2010 - 03:14:00 PM

Editor’s Note: Like many before and after me, I had the great privilege and pleasure of studying Chaucer with Mr. Muscatine. In the olden days, those who taught in the college of Letters and Sciences at Cal (never “UC Berkeley” or “Berkeley”) prided themselves on being just plain Mr., or occasionally Mrs. or Miss. Titles like Doctor or Professor were thought to pertain to lesser institutions where teachers boasted of their research achievements with their titles, but in the English Department at least it was taken for granted that everyone was a scholar. But not everyone was a born teacher, as was Mr. Muscatine. 

He had two important qualities that not all of his colleagues could claim: a delicious sense of humor and a backbone. He told our class on the first day that he feared that when he showed up at parties people would say behind his back “here comes old Whan That Aprille…”, alluding to the only line from the Canterbury tales that every former English major can remember.  

Backbone was an even rarer commodity than humor among academics in that barely-post-McCarthy era. Students who cared about such things in the late ‘50s were aware of his courageous stand against the loyalty oath the Regents had tried to force faculty members to sign in 1949, and that example contributed to the decision some 5000 of us made to join the first big political demonstration of what would become the ‘60s, against the House Committee on Un-American Activities.  

Later Mr. Muscatine went on to even greater achievements, well described below by the University of California press office. I was lucky enough to encounter him at parties a few times after I moved back to Berkeley as an adult in the ‘70s, though I regret that even in middle age I was too awed by the experience to exchange more than a few words with him. Faculty members who are attempting to deal with the current crisis in education would do well to study his career and his life work (not the same thing) as models for righteous and honorable action.



Charles Muscatine, a University of California, Berkeley, professor emeritus of English, a scholar of Chaucer and medieval literature, and an educational reformer known for refusing to sign a state loyalty oath during the McCarthy era, died of an infection in Oakland on Friday, March 12. He was 89. 

At a 1999 conference on the loyalty oath, Muscatine explained that refusing the pledge some 50 years earlier “was related to a disease I caught from my father, a Russian immigrant, and that is, acute idealism and acute optimism about the American way of life. And I had early seen in my academic career a kind of nexus between teaching and preservation of American democracy.” 

Born Nov. 28, 1920, in Brooklyn, New York, Muscatine received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in English from Yale University in 1941, 1942 and 1948, respectively. Later in life, he received three honorary degrees, including one from State University of New York in Albany in 1988. 

During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant and participated in war maneuvers in Sicily, Salerno, North Africa and in Normandy on D-Day. Muscatine received the Navy Commendation Medal for his bravery at Normandy’s Omaha Beach. 

Muscatine and his wife, Doris, moved to Berkeley in 1948, when Muscatine joined the English Department as a specialist in medieval literature. A year later, he refused to sign the anti-Communist loyalty oath required by UC Regents of university employees, primarily because he said he considered it an unethical intrusion into academic freedom.  

Muscatine and 30 other UC faculty members – including David Saxon, a UCLA professor who later became UCLA’s president, and Edward Tolman, a UC Berkeley psychology professor for whom the campus’s Tolman Hall is named – were fired for their refusals. After several months of unemployment, during which he was in part supported by sympathetic members of the UC and other university faculties, Muscatine took a teaching post at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.  

He returned to UC Berkeley in 1954, when the California Supreme Court declared the loyalty oath unconstitutional, and non-signers were invited back. Muscatine became a full professor at UC Berkeley in 1960. 

He was in the public eye before, during and after the 1960s’ Free Speech Movement, gaining widespread attention as chair of the Select Committee on Education, which in 1966 produced “Education at Berkeley,” or the “Muscatine Report.” The controversial document anticipated many student demands and included recommendations for instituting small, student-based and student-led interdisciplinary courses.  

The same year, Muscatine criticized undergraduate education as a “mechanized training ground for the upper reaches of the labor market” and said “political turmoil feeds on educational failure.” 

University officials balked at the Muscatine Report recommendations, so in 1974, Muscatine and fellow UC Berkeley professors Peter Dale Scott and Charles Sellers created "Strawberry Creek College.” Officially known as the Collegiate Seminar Program, the college encouraged all faculty and graduate students to create adventurous new courses for small groups of lower-division students. Strawberry Creek lasted six years. 

Muscatine told California Monthly magazine in 1999 that he loved teaching freshman English, calling it “the foundation of a democratic education, if what you want is a literate public, a thoughtful public.” He wrote a book, “First Person Singular” (1973), to help teach students to write by reading famous, first-person examples of writing.  

He retired from UC Berkeley in 1991, but continued to write, lecture and advise other schools in support of major changes in the teaching of American college students and in teacher training.  

Just last year, Muscatine published "Fixing College Education: A New Curriculum for the Twenty-First Century." In the book, he reiterated points he had been making for years: that university professors spend too much time learning and too little time teaching, and that the undergraduate curriculum overemphasizes memorization and note-taking. 

“He was a teacher to the core, continuing to help students with their writing, thinking and studying up until the end of his life (literally),” said his daughter, Lissa Muscatine. “Not only was there an assortment of young students who would come by to talk to him and pick his brain, he became a reading tutor over the past year and would go down to the public library on University Avenue once a week to work with an illiterate man he had been paired with. It gave him great satisfaction.” 

In addition to his books on educational reform and medieval literature, Muscatine co-edited the popular "Borzoi College Reader,” which went through six editions. He also wrote “Chaucer and the French Tradition” (1957) and “The Book of Geoffrey Chaucer” (1963). In addition, Muscatine authored “The Old French Fabliaux” (1986) and “Poetry and Crisis in the Age of Chaucer” (1972), as well as a book of essays.  

Muscatine also served on the California Council for the Humanities and for many years was a member of the selection committee for Guggenheim Fellowships. He was awarded his own Guggenheim Fellowship in 1962. He also received two Fulbright Research Fellowships and a American Council of Learned Society Research Fellowship.  

Muscatine was chosen to deliver UC Berkeley’s 1971 Charles Mills Gayley Lecture, the highest distinction the English Department can confer on one of its faculty members. He received the Berkeley Citation in 1991, one of the campus’s highest honors in recognition of university service. 

Muscatine served on the board of directors of the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and was a member of the Modern Language Association, the Medieval Academy and Phi Beta Kappa. He also was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and served as president of the New Chaucer Society from 1980-1981. 

He and his wife, Doris, were known for hosting memorable parties at one of the first “modern” houses in the Berkeley hills, as well as for the fruits of a vineyard they co-owned for about 20 years in Napa Valley. Muscatine became an avid amateur pilot after starting out with lessons around the age of 50, and once flew himself across country and back in a single engine Cessna. He also skied until the age of 83. Family members said Muscatine was also known for his keen and unwavering sense of humor. 

He died at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland. Muscatine is survived by a son, Jeff Muscatine, of Palo Alto, Calif., a daughter, Lissa Muscatine, of Bethesda, Md., and six grandchildren. His wife, Doris, died in 2006.  

Plans for a memorial service are pending.  

Muscatine’s oral history is available through the Regional Oral History Office at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.  



Edgar Tietjen Monk, 1917-2010

By Edith Monk Hallberg
Tuesday March 16, 2010 - 09:44:00 PM

Edgar T. Monk was born February 29, 1917 in Cowley Wyoming. His mother, Augusta Tietjen Monk died when he was 10 and he was sent to live with his paternal grandparents, devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He was a cowboy on his grandfather’s ranch until 1937, when he became an elder in the Church and went on missions to Norway and the UK until his return in 1939. 

He met and married Cledyth A. Marshall of Lovell, Wyoming in 1940. They were married for 48 years until her death in 1988. Mr. Monk volunteered for service in the Army early in 1942, but was honorably discharged just before his first child, Ferol Maxine was born. In the last years of the war, he worked in the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, CA. 

Through the last of the 1940's and early 1950's he worked at many occupations including driving a taxi, store clerk, and shoe repairman. 

In 1957 he was employed with Clearprint/Dietrich Post, a company that produced specialty papers for engineering firms. He joined the Printing Specialties Local 1, and became Shop Steward for the company's plants in Emeryville and in San Francisco and thus sat on both the San Francisco as well as the Alameda Central Labor Councils where a few people know of him today. The family moved from Oakland to Richmond in 1959 and Mr. Monk started work on the Santa Fe Neighborhood Council in 1961 and was its first President. Neighborhood Councils eventually became Model Cities and he served on this organization too. 

In the late 1940's He and Cledyth joined the Consumers Co-operative of Berkeley. More than just a Co-operative grocery store, this group included many other services, including consumer education.  

Edgar served on many elected positions in this co-operative. Perhaps it was experience at picking crops, or perhaps it was the co-op and his union background, but he became an advocate and activist with the United Farmworkers and proudly mentioned that he had dinner with Cesar Chavez at his house. 

He participated in civil rights and peace marches through the 1960s and in 1977 he helped to form the Society for Soviet-American Friendship, which folded in 1991. Many cultural programs were held during these years. 

After retirement in 1982, he pursued hobbies like painting and writing, and spent much of his time in senior concerns. He drove his own car to deliver Meals On Wheels in Contra Costa County, and was on the Board of the Contra Costa Senior Nutrition Project. In 2006 he was honored by Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin for "his over 3 decades of service to the City of Richmond". Edgar T Monk passed away in Oakland after a 3 month 

illness. He is survived by a sister Louise Monk Birch of Idaho, his brother Benjamin Ronald of Colorado, Maxine Monk Wood and Pamela Monk Railsback of Texas, Edith Monk Hallberg of Berkeley, 6 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. 

Donations in lieu of flowers may be sent to the following: 


Meals on Wheels of Contra Costa, Inc. 

PO Box 3195 

Martinez, CA 94553  


4545 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave.  

Los Angeles, CA 90022  

US Friends of the Soviet People  

P.O. Box 140434 

Staten Island, NY 10314-0434 






Monday March 22, 2010 - 04:17:00 PM

Monday March 22, 2010 - 02:42:00 PM
From the Facebook page "Ask the Mayor of Berkeley to recognize Mr. Charles 100th Birthday." The page has more than 700 fans from all over the world.
From the Facebook page "Ask the Mayor of Berkeley to recognize Mr. Charles 100th Birthday." The page has more than 700 fans from all over the world.

Friday March 19, 2010 - 01:23:00 PM



New: Worth A Look

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday March 23, 2010 - 10:14:00 AM

This space this week is being used to direct readers to interesting offerings on other websites.  

Here are some controversial pieces you probably won't find either in the major metropolitan media or in the local outlets of what might be called "beige journalism"--not guaranteed to be 100% accurate, but sure to be provocative:  

Obama Needs Our Help to Stand Firm Against Israeli Building Projects in East Jerusalem  

BHA attempts to block residents from buying their long-time public housing units  

The Berkeley City Council is falling all over itself to try to participate in a Google PR stunt. It's been gee-whiz reported on a local blog, with a local commentator nailing the blog report. Delicious.

Where We Are This Week, and What You Can Do About It

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday March 18, 2010 - 01:00:00 PM

It’s time for a bit of housekeeping, to clear up questions we’ve been getting around town and in letters. Many faithful Planet readers have inquired about the absence online of familiar features they knew and loved in the printed paper. In the last few weeks we’ve gotten a better understanding of the peculiar situation in which we find ourselves, and now it’s time to share it with the public. 

Because of the theft by a payroll preparer of approximately half of the taxes which the Berkeley Daily Planet Limited Liability Corporation was supposed to have paid on behalf of up to 20 employees over a period of seven years, attorneys advise us that the corporation can no longer pay for anything until the extent of its tax liability is understood. The standard analysis is that every dollar that comes into the corporation has the IRS’s name on it until proven otherwise.  

The approximately $50,000 contributed to the Fund for Local Reporting by almost 400 friends of the Planet was fortunately paid out to reporters before the IRS problem materialized. But if we continued to sell ads or even raise funds any other way, all of the proceeds would have to be held in reserve against the possible taxes owed. 

Nor should Becky and Mike O’Malley start a new corporation using our personal funds to publish the paper as before, even if we wanted to. That might be viewed by tax authorities as an effort to evade the responsibilities of the Berkeley Daily Planet LLC, the lawyers say. So we’re caught between a rock and a hard place.  

And the really bad news is that it’s expected to take years for everything to be sorted out. 

There’s been a rumor in circulation that the online paper will soon stop. It was started by a writer who mistakenly interpreted our inability to pay him as inability to put out any kind of online publication. 

Most of the people who contributed the work which produced the printed Planet were paid, as they should have been, and we have no legally advisable way to pay them any longer, that’s true. The calendars, for example, much appreciated and much missed, required perhaps 3/4 of the time of one full-time employee, thirty hours a week, and there’s no way we would be able to pay for that under the circumstances. 

So what’s been in the online paper the last two weeks? Those valiant souls whose bylines you’ve seen have contributed their work for the time being while we tried to figure out what might be done to pay them legally. Others have, quite reasonably, preferred not to work without being paid.  

Mike and I have always worked for free. 

We can probably continue to put out a pretty good online paper with volunteer labor for a while longer, thanks to our community-minded contributors. The opinion section has always been one of the best-read parts of the paper, and writers there have always worked for free. In the brave new world of citizen journalism, it’s even possible for excellent news reporting to be done by unpaid reporters, especially if they have editorial supervision and advice.  

Fred Dodsworth’s story last week about unpermitted building projects at the home of two councilmembers’ aides, one of whom is a Zoning Adjustment Board commissioner, is a fine example of the quality of reporting that can be done by independent community journalists. And no, he wasn’t paid to do it. 

A couple of stodgy readers were shocked by his sarcastic style. They must be too young to know about the “new journalism” revolution which started in the sixties, or so old that they’ve forgotten about it. The story has been widely copied by competitors since it came out, and that’s partly because of its biting tone .  

As I said in an Editor’s Note appended to the story on Tuesday, the Daily Californian in re-reporting this story mistakenly referred to it as an "op-ed". Fred's story is not an op-ed—it’s a hard news story written from a personal perspective. The information in the story came from an anonymous tip to the Berkeley Daily Planet, which was then checked by two independent citizens who follow planning issues, and only then turned over to Fred, an experienced independent journalist with a long professional resume, who did one more check to be sure of the facts.  

He added to the story by bringing in his personal experience and his son’s as reported in the Planet in 2005. This provided background for readers who have no experience with the planning process. But the story isn’t just opinion, it's facts checked by three knowledgeable people. 

The bottom line is that if talented people like Fred Dodsworth continue to step up to the plate we will go on trying to publish the Planet online on less than a shoestring. (Would anyone like to try their hand at a calendar, for example?) Please keep on subscribing,so that we know you're reading, and thanks for the encouraging notes with your subscription letters. 

Thanks to the new virtual world we don’t really need an office to do the work, but the rent on the office is paid up at least for a couple of weeks anyhow. Several people have suggested that the space would be ideal as a cooperatively run place for independent journalists to work—if anyone’s interested in that idea we’d be glad to put them in touch with our gracious landlords, the Sugimoto family, who have been very supportive in our difficulties.  

And it should be possible for a new entity, either for profit or non-profit, to raise enough money to set up some kind of print or online news source which could pay independent or staff journalists, but others would need to take a leadership role in organizing it because of our legal constraints.  

There are also multiple new projects paid for by various philanthropists and philanthropic organizations whose announced aim is to fill the gap left by the decline of newspapers. It’s too soon to see if they have any chance of working, but they seem not very interested in what used to be called local news, now “hyper-local” if it’s about anything smaller than a major metropolitan area.  

Could any of this come together to create a new news publishing organization for the urban East Bay? Does anyone around here care enough about local reporting to pursue such a project? Perhaps.  

There’s a lot of talent in Berkeley and beyond. If it could be done anywhere, it could be done here, we think. Someone should give it a try. We’ve done all we can for the time being. 


Odd Bodkins

By Dan O'Neill
Wednesday March 17, 2010 - 04:11:00 PM
Dan O'Neill

Click on the image in order to see it magnified.

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday March 18, 2010 - 10:52:00 PM

I was amused years ago when Spiro Agnew used the phrase "nattering nabobs of negativism" against the media. Now it seems a better description for the Republicans in congress. 


Robert C Chioino  

A registered Republican 



The article “Landmark Preservation Commission Reviews Mobilized Women of Berkeley Designation included two mis-statements: 

1) "(Trachtenberg) noted there are 19 identified grid form buildings in Berkeley and said “It seems to me arbitrary and unfair for the Commission to cherry pick this one building because it’s at risk of being developed.” He suggested that the building could be demolished and commemorated by “development of a window box museum” in a new structure on the site.  

While I did express the opinion that landmarking the entire building is a less meaningful way to tell the story of the Mobilized Women of Berkeley (MWB) than building a "window box museum, no one associated with this property has ever suggested that 1007 University be demolished.  

2). "Trachtenberg concluded, “My client has asked me to tell you that he will appeal this again to the City Council” if the landmark designation is not overturned." 

This is not what I said to the commission. We have no expectation that the City Council will overturn the landmark application. What I did say was that if the landmark application includes language regarding the presence of Gridform Concrete technology as a basis for landmarking that we will appeal that aspect of the landmarks application. 

We would respectfully request that these corrections be included in the next edition of the newspaper. 


David Trachtenberg, AIA, LEED AP 

/\Editor’s Note: A clarification has been added to the article as it appears online in the previous issue. 



There are many things I don't understand, but this one takes the cake. I don't understand how so many people whose lives would be drastically changed for the better with its passage continue to adamantly oppose the health care reform now being proposed. Instead of simply looking at how the plan can benefit both themselves and a huge number of other citizens, these people instead listen to rants and raves of politicians and business people whose sole goal is to make sure that the U.S. health care system continues to be a "money maker" for the individuals involved in the "business" of health care. That any profit at all comes from health care is already unconscionable, but the vast profit and profit potential that is being protected by these individuals is truly sickening. 

To the individuals who are basing their views on health care reform solely on media sound bites and "party loyalty" I say do yourself and the millions upon millions of Americans suffering from the overwhelming burden of paying for health care and.... "WAKE UP!" Base your view on a reality and not on the exhortations of the ultra rich trying to protect their mega wealth at your expense. 


Craig Knudsen 



Finally almost caught up again with back issues of the print version (and truly sad to see the end of them, because I don't have the eyes left for much computer reading after a long day on computers), I am puzzled by the amount of City time and effort being spent on getting landlords of soft-story buildings to post warning signs. My building has one, a tatty piece of paper that seems to invite comments such as, "And what are WE supposed to do about that?" My sentiments, exactly! A posted notification of the danger does absolutely NOTHING for me.  

Back in the Octpber 29-November 4, 2009 edition, Matt Cantor's column included discussion on what he referred to as "moment frames." I clipped and kept the article because I am deeply concerned about the state of the apartment building in which I live, and was thinking about sending it to my landlord. However, Cantor's comments included that fixing the problem is expensive, so I didn't bother.  

So where does this leave the thousands of Berkeley residents who live in soft-story buildings? Clearly, at considerable risk. Is the City Council going to move the conversation off useless postings and on to what should be done - as soon as possible -- to work at solving the problem?  


Nicola Bourne 



Re: Berkeley Investigates Ways to Boost Recycling Revenue 

Call me Mr. Obvious, but how does Berkeley expect to make any money recycling when the valuable aluminum cans and bottles are long gone by the time the professional and courteous crews from the City recycling trucks arrive to pick them up? I'm not talking individuals with shopping carts, but often a small crew of poachers hauling large bags up and down the street. They then dump the cans and bottles into their own trucks or vans and drive on to the next bounty. For years my neighbors and I have diligently separated our recycling and placed paper, cans and bottles into our blue bins and set them out the night before for the recycling truck. Throughout the night we're startled awake by the sounds of the rustling of bins, breaking of bottles and hauling away of aluminum cans. We changed to setting out our bins on the morning of the recycling day, but still the poachers loudly and openly haul off the cans and bottles - the only things of value. By the time the City recycling trucks arrive the only things left are paper goods - which are next to worthless. Figure out a better way Berkeley! 


Josh Maddox 



Last Friday afternoon, while lingering over a Cafe Au Lait at Peet's Coffee, I observed a lot of activity on the traffic island at the busy intersection of Dwight Way and Telegraph. There a dozen or more Cal students were energetically working on that small unattractive triangle which seemed to attract only the homeless . 

Opening up bag after bag of planting soil and fertilizer, these students raked and hoed the hard earth with great enthusiasm. In less than two hours they had planted dozens of plants and yellow flowers, transforming that formerly ugly corner of Telegraph and Dwight Way into a lovely oasis. 

Thank you, Cal students, for adding beauty to a street long in need of beautification. 


Dorothy Snodgrass 



Why buy and carry a gun? One of the ways we Americans are different from the rest of the world is that each of us has the legal right to own and carry a gun.  

Legal or not, I cannot for the life of me understand why a person would buy a hand gun and even less, having bought one, wear it in public where everyone can see it. A gun is not like a watch, a belt, a tie. It is a lethal weapon and seeing it worn like a clothing accessory is intimidating. You can’t tell if its loaded, much less whether the nut wearing it is about to use it. 

Local newspapers have printed stories recently about a loosely organized group called “Open Carry”; a half dozen men enter a coffee shop wearing handguns visible to everyone. Members of “Open Carry” seem to want everyone to know their love of the Constitution and by extension their patriotism.  

The Second Amendment states the reason Americans were allowed to own guns: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State,…” Two centuries and three decades later this reason has been severed from the basic right, the severance recently reaffirmed by the Supreme Court - a person can carry a gun for any reason or no reason.  

If the reason for wearing a gun is political advocacy, like a lapel pin or a bumper sticker, then doing so is harmless, protected as free speech, in which case the gun is merely an ornament. But if the reason a person wears a real gun openly is that it makes him feel safe, then in my opinion such a person is misguided, confused or stupid and should not be allowed to buy a gun. 


Marvin Chachere 



I think we must pass Health Care Reform. How else can we make life better for all Americans--especially African Americans who have been shut out of the American Dream. First, through slavery, which for over two hundred years, supported the country through free labor. Second, after the Civil War, blacks were shut out by segregation and the ruthlessness of the Klu Klux Klan. Third, the apartheid schools in the south kept blacks in a state of perpetual 

Though health care reform, we can assure that this group is helped. They need it for all the sacrifices they have given to the country. 


Cecil Brown  



I have expressed my concerns before about the appearance of "Partisan Position" essays in your news section. I think this category of writing unavoidably raises questions about the reliability of the information it presents, as well it should. But it also blurs the distinction between writing that at least strives for factual accuracy and balance and writing that is primarily intended to persuade. 

The latest confusion regarding Fred Dodsworth's essay entitled "Berkeley Council Aide Skips Permits for His Building Project" (Wednesday, March 10, 2010) is completely understandable. Its tone and language are very informal, and the sarcasm it contains is entirely inappropriate for a news article. 

This is very unfortunate, because in this case it is clear that Mr. Dodsworth is exploring a serious issue, and it should have been treated as such. 

If Mr. Dodsworth wanted to present his piece as a news story, he should have followed the conventions of this type of writing. Starting a piece with "Dear reader" and including so many statements laden with sarcasm and exaggeration sends an entirely different message. 

I think the real problem here is that the Daily Planet cannot afford to pay reporters any longer, yet it is still trying to be a newspaper. 


Satya Preeti 



An energized and vocal conservative religious movement has in recent years demonstrated a desire to reshape our nation's K-12 curricula to reflect its agenda and belief system. In states across the nation, Tx., Neb., GA., elements of this movement have exerted political pressure on education officials who develop academic content standards. 

Not surprisingly, these groups of evangelicals and fundamentalists are working to have their alternative explanations included in state science and social studies curricula. How would you like your child to believe anti-evolution fiction like Sarah Palin? She believes the planet is only 8000 years old parroting antiquated biblical nonsense. 

Luckily, these efforts have been beaten back by coalitions of scientists, educators, parents, theologians and business leaders committed to ensuring that students receive an education that will allow them to compete in the global economy of the 21st century. 


Ron Lowe  

An Open Letter to Darryl Moore

By Thomas J. Towey
Wednesday March 17, 2010 - 05:26:00 PM

Dear Mr. Moore: I am an architect residing in your district in Berkeley, as is my wife and business partner. I have had occasion to work with you and Mr. Lau in regard to the BUSD's ill-fated plans for the Adult School site, and (with your important support) in turning that project around, creating a much better outcome for all concerned. 

In the course of our architectural work in Berkeley, we have had occasions that have required difficult design compromises and design revisions on our projects due to capricious and vague "interpretations" and decisions by the Zoning department, and have been told to "forget about it" when considering a ZAB application for a minor variance on some issue or other. 

With this in mind, I call your attention to the article which I assume you have seen by now. This is a really important issue for the people of Berkeley. If a Council member's aide and ZAB Commissioner is allowed to "get away" with this egregious violation of both Zoning and Building Department rules, the entire rule of law is undercut in the City. I find it very difficult in my work with the firm's clients to consistently support to them the importance of going through the often risky and certainly expensive, time consuming, and difficult process of obtaining permits and following Zoning rules. 

Mr. Lau and his colleagues on the ZAB would never let one of my clients do what he has done. The elimination of a garage itself would be impossible to get permission to do without an AUP, not to mention the property line setback violation, possible lot coverage issues, non-payment of AUP Zoning or Building Department fees, lack of building inspections, lack of sewer lateral paperwork or inspection or replacement, avoidance of property tax increase (another cost to the City of Berkeley), lack of "green building" meeting, etc. The list goes on. 

However much I appreciate his efforts as your assistant I must insist that you and the other elected members of Berkeley make sure that Mr. Lau go through all the proper steps for his project before any further work commences. This would begin with the familiar "red tag" to stop construction, a step that should be taken today, as the violation is clear and obvious. There will then be an AUP hearing (because there will be objections) for the setback and parking issues, and a public hearing. At the end, Mr. Lau may be able to commence completion of the work just as planned. Alternately, he must face the same prospect as all of us in the City: He might have to tear down this illegal construction. 

Nothing less is required by Berkeley law and your own ethical standards. I would appreciate a response from you on this matter. 




Thomas J. Towey, CEO LEED AP 

Komorous-Towey Architects 

Regarding Mr. Ryan Lau

Paola Laverde
Wednesday March 17, 2010 - 09:02:00 AM

Hello there Daily Planet, I'm sending you a copy of the letter I wrote to Berkeley City Auditor Ms Hogan this morning (3-16-10) It is regarding the reckless behavior of Ryan Lau, the ZAB board member and aide to Councilman Moore. 

I'm sending this because the Daily California is reporting that Mr. Lau doesn't think "..that my personal life should be a reflection on my performance as an employee of the city of Berkeley," he said. This makes me even more furious because he's a freaking ZAB board member.. he administers these permits. I don't understand on what planet this guy thinks he's living on!! 

Hello Ms. Hogan, 

I am writing to complain about city council aid and ZAB member Ryan Lau. As you're probably aware, an article last week in the Daily Planet disclosed that Mr. Lau neglected to apply for permits for the remodeling of his garage into a one bedroom and one bath living unit. Well, this morning I called council member Moore's office to complain about his aid's behavior. Turns out it was Mr. Lau who answered the phone. When I talked to him regarding his lack of permits he stated: "I tried to fix a minor problem and it got out of hand... the project got away from me. I made a mistake." When I pointed out that he should know better because he's a ZAB member he stated that he's only been on the board for a short while "I've only attended something like three or four meetings". He also he really doesn't have that much experience. He added: ".. as soon as I realized I had made a mistake I stopped." I pointed out to him that that realization came as a result of a newspaper article. If this had not gone public, I really doubt he would have remedied the situation. I also lectured him on the fact that he is being paid through my taxes and I don't appreciate this type of behavior.  

So, the more I think about this incident the more infuriated I get. Although Lau claims it was a mistake, that it got out of hand, his construction project was hidden behind a wall. 

How is it that the Mayor's office isn't getting more involved? The Mayor's office tells me it's up to Council member Moore to deal with Lau. Why? This is a serious problem, this is a problem of corruption, of lack of ethics, of public trust. This is a black-eye for Berkeley. If Lau isn't reprimanded then what kind of message does this send other city employees? And how many other city employees will continue getting away with not playing by the rules? 

I ask your office to please do an in-depth investigation into this matter and that something more be done to Lau than just doubled fines for all the permits he failed to get. After all, among all the violations he committed and his claiming it was a mistake, I believe the most egregious is that he tried to HIDE the construction. So, my question is: was it really a mistake, did he really not know what he was doing? I doubt it. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 


Paola Laverde 

The Richmond Chamber of Horrors

By Tom Butt
Tuesday March 16, 2010 - 05:44:00 PM

The Richmond Chamber of Commerce, erstwhile defenders of land speculators and global oil corporations, just can’t let go of politics. They should rename themselves “Richmond Chamber of Horrors.” 

There was a time when local chambers of commerce were interested in the greater community good, particularly focusing on the needs of the whole community and small businesses that don’t have the in-house marketing, management and political savvy of larger corporations. Following is a definition of chamber of commerce I found on Answers.com:

Any of various voluntary organizations of business firms, public officials, professional people, and public-spirited citizens whose primary interest is in publicizing, promoting, and developing commercial and industrial opportunities in their local area, and usually also community schools, streets, housing, and public works. 

At the local level, chambers of commerce strive to develop and publicize business opportunities in their communities, as well as work for the betterment of local schools and other community institutions. Local chambers of commerce offer a range of programs and services to their members, including information and advice on timely business matters, opportunities for networking, and a variety of publications. Local chambers of commerce also provide their members with numerous forums—task forces, committees, special events, and so on—in which to express their specific views and concerns, whether pertaining to the challenges facing small businesses or to the issues surrounding international commerce. Depending on their geographic settings, local chambers of commerce can be small or large in terms of their membership and scope of activities.


There is nothing in this definition about local chambers of commerce becoming political powers unto themselves and campaigning for specific candidates and against others. With more challengers than winners in every election, the Richmond Chamber manages to alienate in every election more than half the community leaders who have the motivation to offer themselves for public service. 

The Richmond Chamber of Commerce apparently strives to style itself after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which with the American Petroleum Institute, is being paid by Big Oil as its mouthpiece trying to discredit climate change. Many large companies, including Nike and Apple, have resigned in protest. Apple wrote: 

We would prefer that the Chamber take a more progressive stance on this critical issue and play a constructive role in addressing the climate crisis. However, because the Chamber's position differs so sharply with Apple's, we have decided to resign our membership effectively immediately. 

Several years ago, the Richmond Chamber of Commerce decided to get more political. This worked as long as the Richmond Mayor and City Council members met the Chamber’s litmus test for “business friendly candidates” (read “boosters of Chevron and land speculators”), but when the Chamber ran an all-out campaign against Gayle McLaughlin, they lost the key to the Mayor’s Office. And now they can’t figure out why Richmond’s mayor is not altogether enthusiastic about hanging around with the Chamber leadership. So now we have a Chamber leadership that has alienated itself from the City leadership, not necessarily a good thing for Richmond small businesses who need all the help they can get from anyone who has something to give. 

Regarding the proposed General Plan, almost every change area identified in the plan “up-zones” property all over Richmond, increasing the allowable density and versatility of potential development in areas that are served by infrastructure, services and public transit. Not a word of encouragement, however, about that from the Chamber, which is so utterly focused on a handful of Northshore properties that they can’t see anything else.  

Following is the latest rant from the Richmond Chamber of Horrors: 


A Message from the President 

A message to the Richmond Chamber Membership and the Community 


Richmond City Councilmember Tom Butt and Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, on March 9, 2010, made a motion to down-zone, to open space, valuable industrial land located on Richmond's northern shoreline. Councilmember Butt and Mayor McLaughlin believe that all of the land on the northern shoreline should be open space and parks. However, they want to avoid having the City buy the land to make it into parks and open space. Instead, they want to re-zone the land so that the property owners will no longer be able to develop the land, and the land will become open space and parkland merely because the City won't let the property owners do anything else with it.  

The motion failed, but the Richmond Chamber of Commerce is alarmed and shocked that any elected official could believe that it is just and moral for the City to create parkland by eliminating the development rights of property owners without any compensation to those property owners. The Chamber is also concerned that this sends a message to developers, investors and businesses everywhere that they should avoid investing in Richmond, because if they do, they risk having the City take away their investments arbitrarily. Finally, the Chamber is worried that, once again, radical environmental interests mostly from outside the City, although (obviously) with some local support, are willing to put their agenda ahead of most of Richmond's residents, who would benefit from the jobs and tax revenues that would flow from development in Richmond. 

City Councilmembers Nat Bates and Jim Rogers voted against Mr. Butt's motion, and the Chamber salutes them for that. City Councilperson Maria Viramontes has written the following editorial:  

Imagine a thoughtful approach to preserving and planning the shoreline. I guess, Mr. Rogers, we will never live to see that day. Instead, what we get, as usual, is Mr. Butt's accusation that any council-member with a different point of view is owned by developers. Of course, the Mayor never corrects Butt's personalizations, lies of wrongdoing etc., and, as usual, anyone with a different point of view gets the gavel from her. 

However, Mr. Butt's, policy of "Manifest Destiny" -- a policy the Mayor shares -- translates in real life to: we can take any private land without compensation through the technical land use trick of down zoning. Oh well, poor them, is their attitude; these poor individuals who own private land, too bad they got in the way of "Manifest Destiny". After the Butt and McLaughlin zoning tinkering is done; the land is worthless and maybe twenty years from now the city or park district might get around to buying it. 

I believe in open space, and I have raised and fought for millions of dollars for it. If you want open space, buy it. If you are going to use eminent domain you should be honest about it and have the integrity in the process to pay people equitably for their land. But, of course, Butt and Mclaughlin are "progressives." I call it something else.  

The shoreline is our most precious asset, for sustainability in its own right and for the gift of service for human kind.  

The City began because of the shoreline, and marine activity was the first economic activity sustaining Richmond families. 

It is still providing livelihoods for families, if allowed. But, then, some members of the Council don't understand the need for creating a general environment that promotes work for Richmond Families...they are too busy with "Manifest Destiny" for that concern.  

Their eye is on international resolutions and the global economy rather than what happens to Richmond Families.  

Of course, when they can come down from the clouds to Richmond, their first discussion on the agenda is what to do with Chevron's land when it leaves.  

So much for the strategy of keeping major employers in Richmond, beyond giving them a plaque. They think that a few small boutique developments on a few blocks will make up for the lost jobs to the community and the lost tax base for the city which is always challenged to pay for services for our residents.  

Literally, this is their plan. Wake up Richmond.  

As Council members, we have seen it and touched it and unfortunately, the policy of "Manifest Destiny" will result in reducing the middle class in Richmond and driving low income families out of town...then I guess they will finally be happy. 

These are not shoreline wars. I am an environmentalist of long standing. This is a cultural and economic equity war, and not everyone has figured out where they stand in it. 

Judy Morgan 


Richmond Chamber of Commerce 




The Snub Heard Around The World

By Ralph E. Stone
Wednesday March 17, 2010 - 05:27:00 PM

In President Obama’s June 2009 Cairo Islam speech, he called for a Palestinian state and a freeze on Israeli settlements. The Obama administration seemed to be announcing a neutral U.S. policy in all things Middle East or at least a less pro-Israel approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How naive we were.  

Recently, Israel made the U.S. look ridiculous again by announcing the building of 1,600 new settler homes in an area of the occupied West Bank. The announcement came while Vice President Biden was in Israel to emphasize President Obama's commitment to Israel's security in the face of a possible Iranian nuclear threat. Clearly, this incident is another illustration of Israel's lack of interest or incentive to engage in meaningful peace negotiations with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors and a snub of U.S. efforts to jumpstart peace negotiations. Does Israel want or need peace? Apparently not.  

Israel has exploited the Israeli-Arab conflict by pioneering a successful defense and home security-related economy. It now enjoys a booming prosperity while it is in conflict with its neighbors. Israel’s economy is based on the prospect of continual conflict. Consider, Israel is the leading source of home security gadgetry and anti-terrorist technologies. Israel has over 600 security and homeland-security related companies. Israel is now the fourth-largest arms dealer in the world. The key products and services are high-tech fences, unmanned drones, biometric IDs, video and audio surveillance gear, air passenger profiling and prisoner interrogation systems, precisely the tools and technologies Israel has used to lock in the occupied territories.  

Does Israel still need a close and supportive relationship with the U.S. to survive? Probably not. Israel's vulnerability in the Middle East is just a myth. The Arab states do not pose a direct threat to Israel at this time. Even though an Arab alliance has a quantitative advantage, Israel can rely on its technological and military dominance. Israel has a nuclear monopoly in the region, although there is fear that Iran will develop this capability. It has a military superiority vis-a-vis any possible coalition of Arab forces. It has the fourth largest air force in the world after the U.S., Russian, and China. It is the only state in the region with its own defense industry. It has the most modern military in the region with about160,000 personnel.  

Before, it was David (Israel) versus Goliath (the Arab ring states). Now Israel has become the neighborhood bully.  

Thus, it can be argued that a continued war on terror is good for Israel’s defense and home security-related industries. The closure of the occupied territories serves at least two purposes: to keep the Palestinians caged in and to advertise its defense and home security-related industries. Israel is achieving its goals of slowly taking over the entire country and driving out the non-Jewish population without the necessity of engaging in peace negotiations.  

Clearly, the U.S. is not going to use any leverage it may have to force Israel to the negotiation table. Why? Because the conventional wisdom in the White House and in Congress is that it would be political suicide to threaten to cutoff foreign aid, military aid or loan guarantees to force Israel into meaningful peace negotiations. All that remains to the U.S. is bluster and outrage, which Israel and the Arab world have long realized signifies little or nothing. This is the price we pay for our lockstep support of Israel. As a result, the prospect for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the next several years is slim to none. 


Ralph E. Stone is a retired Bay Area attorney


Ending the Shore Wars

By Jim Rogers
Wednesday March 17, 2010 - 02:30:00 PM

Like Star Wars, Richmond's Shore Wars are a lengthy drama with a familiar cast of characters and endless battles. 

But there are differences: instead of fighting with light sabers and starships, we fight with General Plans and EIRs. 

More importantly, there are no heroes and villains. 

Some believe that preserving Richmond's shoreline intact not only provides the obvious recreational and environmental benefits, but increases the attractiveness of Richmond and thereby in the long run spurs economic development. 

Others believe that intelligently planned shoreline development with a mixture of commercial and recreational uses can provide desperately needed jobs and tax base while still providing excellent public access to the shoreline. 

Just as the Star Wars saga eventually had to end (much to my son Eli's dismay), its time for Shore Wars to end. 

There's a better win-win Force: Coastal Cooperation. 

Instead of incessant battles, let's take a deep breath, step back, stop looking at the sand and see the beach. 

Let's imagine a shoreline where the best recreational open space is used for that- even if it is currently zoned or used commercially. 

Where the battling armies call a truce and work out a Coastal Cooperation agreement that specifically maps out what uses each parcel will have. 

Some shoreline properties have high recreational/open space value, but little commercial value, some vice versa. 

Instead of the business as usual approach of splitting the difference (some development, some shoreline access) let's get the most out of each precious piece of Richmond's unparallelled 32 miles of shoreline.  

For the developments that do occur, let's be sure they are pushed back away form the shoreline, which means a lot more recreational area than the business as usual model of a small strip for the Bay Trail. 

And let's dedicate the future tax income stream from these properties to providing the money to reclaim land that is used commercially - but shouldn't be. 

Case in point: the noise from the shooting range on the North Richmond Shoreline ruins the area for recreational purposes. 

The shooting range members are open to relocation to an area with less conflicts with encroaching development, but it would cost a lot of money, which they don't have. 

Their land should be preserved for recreational/open space purposes: it is easily the most scenic (coves, beaches, shorebirds, wetlands, etc.) of the various North Richmond Shoreline properties. 

Locating a firing range in the middle of what should be a major recreational asset for nearby low income neighborhoods is only one of many zoning mistakes that can be corrected. 

This may be a long term project but that's what General Plans are for. 

Having a detailed parcel by parcel vision is only the start: we need a vision of shoreline access which gets all kids introduced to all our shoreline has to offer, whether that is windsurfing, kayaking, marine based biology educational programs, beaches, the Bay Trail, etc.  

Having a thriving Shoreline is a triple bottom line: good for recreation, good for local jobs , and good for the environment by reducing some lengthy recreational car trips to other shorelines. 

There are many other ideas which can be added to this, but the end result would be a General Plan amendment which would not only end the Shore Wars, but provide a vision, sparkling like the sun on the Bay, which we could use to seek funding from the Park District, the State, foundations, etc. 

I am optimistic enough to believe that Coastal Cooperation is a win-win idea that can not only provide better recreational access and environmental benefits than the status quo but also provide more jobs. 

But I am not foolish enough to believe it will be easy. 

There are numerous devil in the details complex environmental, recreational and financial issues to be worked through and bad blood between the warring parties that have been fighting Shore Wars for too long.  

Instead of having yet another Shore Wars battle and spending huge amounts of energy jockeying for tactical advantage in Shoreline zoning designations in the General Plan, I am inviting the armies to call a truce and have a timeout and use that energy on seeing what Coastal Cooperation we can agree on. 

If that process is successful, then we can add the Shoreline Settlement to the General Plan. 

If it is not, then we can go back to the status quo of Shore Wars, and fight over the General Plan. 

Whoever "wins" that battle will have achieved a victory which is both temporary and illusory because the Council historically, whether we like it or not, can and has changed the General Plan to permit whatever the majority wants to do on any Tuesday night.  

Instead of repeating the same tired arguments, let's dream, like our Shoreline, expansively and beautifully. 



THE PUBLIC EYE: Dangerous Visions for Desperate Times

By Bob Burnett
Tuesday March 16, 2010 - 06:20:00 PM

The good ship USA is sailing through an iceberg-laden sea, severely damaged and taking in water. Beset by an array of daunting problems, including a failed economy and global climate change, Americans have two choices. We can ignore how bad our situation is or we can fight to save our democracy. For those of you who feel like taking action, here are ten dangerous visions. 

1. Reform campaign finances. The financial crisis was driven by Wall Street greed and a lax regulatory environment fueled by political payoffs. Elizabeth Warren , chair of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel observed: "The banks lobbied Washington so they could write the rules that got us into this mess. They then lobbied Washington to get the money to bail them out. And now they are lobbying Washington to write the rules so they can get us into the next crisis." We can't repair our failed system until we get big money out of the political process. The first step is a constitutional amendment prohibiting private contributions to political campaigns. This change would fund campaigns with public monies, drastically restrict use of television advertisements, and prohibit "independent expenditures" in all forms. 

2. Tax the rich. Since the election of Ronald Reagan, there has been a massive shift of America's wealth from the lower and middle classes to the privileged few. Last year the S&P 500 CEO's averaged 344 times the pay of an average worker, but during the last decade real worker income decreased. This situation is both unfair and inefficient; it's produced an unsustainable American economy based on debt-financed consumption. The solution is a massive redistribution of income. We must tax the upper class; reinstate the income tax rates that were in place before Reagan and close tax loopholes that favor the wealthy. 

3. End monopoly capitalism. The Wall Street bailouts indicated the need to break up America's biggest banks - which, at the time, were judged to be too big to fail, thereby enhancing their monopoly status. These banks should be divided into separate companies, as should behemoths in other industries such as energy, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals. The absence of a level playing field discourages innovation, disadvantages entrepreneurs, inflates prices, and penalizes workers and consumers. 

4.Tax carbon. America needs to abandon use of carbon-based fuels. Using them has disastrous environmental consequences and petroleum imports provide money to dictators who sponsor terrorism. Unrealistically low prices for carbon fuels inhibit the development of clean technologies. We must dramatically increase taxes on all forms of carbon-based fuels 

5. Reduce military spending. America can no longer afford to be the world's police force - we have troops in 150 countries in over 1000 military installations. It's time for nation building at home. The funds that bloat the DOD budget should be used to rebuild America. 

6. ncrease education funding. We are not training the workforce we need to compete with the European Union, China, and India. We have to rebuild schools, pay teachers better salaries, increase school hours, and demand results. 

7. Expand the social safety net. It makes no sense to improve schools without simultaneously focusing on measures that strengthen families: healthcare, housing, public transportation, daycare, and other essential systems. The Federal government needs to stop providing corporate welfare and instead focus on support for working families. 

8. End communication monopolies Since the passage of The Telecommunications Act of 1996, America has seen an alarming concentration of ownership of all forms of communication. This has negatively impacted American culture and diminished the quality of national discourse. A recent example was the sponsorship of the Tea Party "movement" by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Monopolies in general need to be dispersed, but particular attention should be paid to communication giants. 

9. Tax Beef. "You are what you eat." The US is the world's largest beef consumer and producer, but beef is unhealthy and an inefficient source of protein. Moreover, beef production is a leading cause ofenvironmental destruction. Americans need to change their eating habits. The place to start is by taxing beef. 

10. Change the composition of the Senate. During the summer of 2009, healthcare legislation bogged down in the Senate Finance committee chaired by Montana Senator Max Baucus. In a futile effort to develop bipartisan legislation, Baucus convened a subcommittee of three Democrats and three Republicans, the Gang of Six -- the six small states represented had a combined population of 8.4 million, 2.7 percent of the US population. The Gang of Six episode was a vivid reminder that the composition of the US Senate - two Senators per state regardless of size - is a historical anachronism. There needs to be a constitutional amendment that allocates the 100 Senators by population rather than by state. 

America teeters on the edge of ruin. Solving our dire problems requires a drastic reform of the entire system. What I've proposed are only a few of the changes needed to steer the good ship USA into safe harbor. 


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



By Conn Hallinan
Wednesday March 17, 2010 - 05:49:00 PM

Earthquakes, like the recent Haitian and Chilean monsters, are not subtle events: They flatten buildings, crush houses, and turn infrastructures into concrete and steel confetti. But earthquakes can also generate a power that remains largely unseen until a huge tsunami rises out of the sea and obliterates a coastline.  

It is a metaphor that comes to mind when Amin is talking about the political earthquake in Iran. Amin can’t use his real name, nor can he afford to identify where he lives or works. Being an active trade unionist in Iran is a dangerous job description. “If three workers meet they get thrown into solitary confinement,” he says. 

When most Americans think about the recent upheavals in Iran, it is about marches demanding democracy and challenging the June 12 presidential election. The face of those protests is the “Green Movement”—so called because its supporters wear green—that put millions of people into the streets of Teheran and other large cities throughout the country.  

Largely unseen, and rarely reported on, however, are thousands of strikes, slow downs and sit-ins by workers challenging the erosion of trade union rights and the government’s drive to privatize the economy, plus instituting policies that will impoverish tens of millions of people. 

According to Amin, over the next few months the government will begin dismantling $20 billion a year in subsidies for gasoline, water, electricity, rice, flour, bus fare, and university tuition. “The Iranian people made these things, fought for these things,” says Amin. “They are all that is left of the [1979] revolution.” 

Along with the draconian cutbacks in subsidies, Amin says the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is rapidly privatizing the public sector and turning it over “to his buddies in the Revolutionary Guard.” According to official government statistics for 2008, a third of state assets have already been privatized, the vast bulk of it under Ahmadinejad. In many ways this dismantling of the public sector resembles the privatization plan Russia instituted in the 1990s that ended up turning over vast sections of the economy to oligarchs at bargain basement prices.  

The resistance to the cutbacks and privatization comes mainly from the trade union movement—much of it underground— but that can be a very perilous undertaking in Iran. 

Hundreds of unionists have been fired, threatened, or jailed under brutal conditions over the past few years. Mansour Osanioo, president of the Teheran bus drivers union, was recently released from solitary confinement, but only after an international campaign led by the International Transport Workers Federation and the Indonesian seafarers union, Kesatuan Pelaut Indonesia. 

The International Trade Union Confederation, Iranian unions and human rights groups have called for the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the persecution of trade unionists in Iran. 

Men like Osanioo, bus driver union vice-president Ebrahim Madadi, and Reza Rakhshan, a leader of the sugar cane workers union, are either in prison or fighting to stay free. But in spite of the efforts by the government to stamp out unionism, strikes continue to roil Iran. According to Amin, “there are thousands of small and large labor actions.” 

Some 600 workers at Bandar Abbas Refinery Development Company struck to recover five months of unpaid wages. Over 800 workers at the Dena Rah Sasan civil engineering company struck over the same issue, closing off the main gates with heavy trucks. Shiraz Iran Telecommunications Industries workers staged a sit-in at the provincial governor’s mansion over back wages, and a series of rolling strikes over wage and pension reductions paralyzed the Mobarakeh Steel Complex. 

Amin says the government is trying to undermine labor laws that are enshrined in the constitution. “Workers are guaranteed collective bargaining rights and the right to organize. Iran’s labor law is one of the most progressive in the world. And they are trying to change this.” 

One employer strategy is to increase the number of “temporary workers.” According to Amin, “temps” now represent upwards of 60 to 70 percent of the workforce. They have no benefits and are largely at the mercy of arbitrary firings and periodic layoffs. The trade union movement is trying to organize these “temps,” a risky undertaking in the current climate created by the government. “We have a police state and we can’t organize ourselves,” he says. 

Which is why, he says, the unionists are “100 percent behind” the democratic reform movement.  

For the moment, the reform movement appears to be on the ropes. The government has closed over 50 newspapers and magazines, and the brutality of the police and Basij militia largely prevented the Green Movement from filling the streets of the nation’s major cities on Feb. 11, the 31st anniversary of the revolution.  

The authorities first silenced the Internet—one of the Green Movement’s key organizing tools—and then flooded the streets with the police and militia. Hundreds of people were beaten, tear-gassed and arrested, and many still remain in jail. The regime also executed two dissidents on the eve of the demonstrations, and sentenced nine other political prisoners to death.  

While the Green Movement has support in many of the nation’s cities, it has not yet recruited the bulk of the Iranian people to its banner. According to a recent poll conducted by the Program for International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, a majority of the population believes that Ahmadinejad won the June 12 election, and shows no particular interest in regime change. 

But the same polls also reflected increasing disillusionment with the general economic situation, and specifically with the Ministry of the Interior. Only a little over a third supports the Ministry’s policies, and that disillusionment will almost certainly sharpen when subsides disappear and rising prices and inflation cut yet more deeply into people’s incomes. Unemployment is around 12 percent, and according to Reze Shahhabi of the Teheran Vahed Bus Workers Syndicate, many workers must hold multiple jobs to make ends meet. 

On one level, the Green Movement and the trade union movement are very different creatures. The reform movement has a strong base in the middle class and its interests are focused on democratic rights. The trade union movement is mainly concerned with resisting privatization and the end to subsidies. But both movements also share a considerable patch of common ground.  

“We are 100 percent behind the reform movement,” Amin says, “because without democracy it is extremely hard and dangerous to organize workers.” And many leading reformers are increasingly critical of the Ahmadinejad’s neo-liberal formulas. Former presidential candidate and leading reform leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has strongly criticized the cutbacks in subsidies. 

The Green Movement draws the attention of the international press, but as a Feb. 15 statement by a coalition of trade unions, including bus drivers, electrical workers, sugar refinery workers, metal workers and the Free Assembly of Iranian Workers points out, “We millions are the producers of wealth, the wheels of production. Society moves only because we move it.” As Amin says, “We have the muscle.” 

The stage is set for some sort of major upheaval—possibly around the Mar. 20 New Year’s celebrations—but a number of things could derail it, including new sanctions, or the bombing if Iranian nuclear sites.  

Sanctions “might let the regime off the hook,” says Amin. “They could let the government claim that any subsidies cutbacks are the result of Iran’s enemies. ‘See, it is not us, it is our enemies.’” 

A military attack by either the U.S. or Israel would be a disaster. “That would wreck everything,” says Amin. Behind the cover of nationalism the government could crush the opposition with impunity. 

But silencing opposition never makes it disappear. It is useful to remember that the tipping point in the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah was a nationwide strike by workers against the National Oil Company. The walkout shut down the pipelines and refineries. 

And the walls came tumbling down. 





By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Wednesday March 17, 2010 - 05:33:00 PM

“Old age comes on suddenly, and not gradually as is thought.” Emily Dickinson 

TRUE? FALSE? : The Older Americans Act of 1965 was the first federal initiative aimed at providing comprehensive services for older adults; it was passed as a part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society reforms.  

True! (Pub.L. 89-73, 79 Stat. 218, July 14, 1965; reauthorized by Congress in 2006 in its entirety, effective through FY 2011) 

Whether you’re a senior citizen, an old person’s relative or elder’s caregiver, you benefit from the Older Americans Act and the National Aging Network. The Tri-City Café’s menu refers to “Title III …OAA funds administered through the Alameda Area Agency on Aging.” The tri-cities are Albany, Berkeley and Emeryville. 

Title II of the OAA established the Administration on Aging to carry out the Act’s provisions Act. Other Titles created specific projects, including computer training and civic involvement, a program for engaging low-income senior citizens in community service employment and volunteer opportunities. Volunteers are needed by many ‘non-profits,’ and application forms are available on the Internet. 

Title VII creates state grants for programs providing “vulnerable elder rights protection.” Alas, elder abuse may occur in many places – home sweet home, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, clinics, etc.; its imposers may be caregivers, family members, therapists, counselors would-be social workers and neighbors. Read “Elder abuse and mistreatment : policy, practice, and research” edited by M. Joanna Mellor and Patricia Brownell. (Haworth Press, c2006) Go online and view the video “Nursing Home Nightmare: Perfect Cause Founder and President Wes Bledsoe Discusses the Nursing Home Abuse Case.” Today Video, Dec. 4, 2008. 

National Aging Network funds are based primarily on the percentage of an area’s population age 60 and older. In FY 2008 its initiatives provided services to nearly 3 million people. A disproportionate number of seniors receiving services (27%) are below the poverty line (compared to 9.7% of the general population over age 60).  


I sat a few feet away from an incredible, yellow lab Guide Dog at Berkeley Rep’s March 11 matinee. Thursday matinees attract senior citizens; the free hearing aids work well, and the volunteer ushers are helpful. This production -- Concerning Strange Devices From The Distant West reminded me of 19th Century English traveler, writer and natural historian Isabella Lucy Bird (1831–1904,) whose writings included Unbeaten tracks in Japan: An account of travels on horseback in the interior,” published in 1881.  


Encomium for the 

• Berkeley Firefighters who deliver annual Holiday groceries bags to low-income senior/disabled housing tenants. 

• Berkeley 911 who comes through with logical questions and prompt response. 

• Berkeley Firefighter Cal Mettler. I recently had occasion to observe this able and patient professional in his Paramedic role as he shared his knowledge and skills with a 95-year old who was “down” and distraught.  



Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at pen136@dslextreme.com  


Arts & Events

Berkeley Arts Festival Calendar Selections

By Bonnie Hughes
Thursday March 18, 2010 - 03:05:00 PM

Look here for an ongoing guide to selected arts events in Berkeley compiled by the producer of the Berkeley Arts Festival. 

The Berkeley Arts Festival Calendar is dedicated to the notion that in Berkeley every day is an arts festival. With the first month-long Arts Festival in 1997, we initiated this web site and realized that it could fill a need for information about the activities of all the Berkeley arts organizations year-round. So we expanded it and kept it going, as a guide for the arts-loving people of Berkeley and in appreciation of the City's continued support.  

The BAF 2009/2010 is in the planning stages. We are looking for a storefront as usual and will get going full steam as soon as we have a location.  

Onstage, Roundabout

By Ken Bullock
Thursday March 18, 2010 - 02:42:00 PM

Theater continues apace in Berkeley and environs, in an almost continual outpouring. 

Handless,' Ragged Wing Ensemble at Central Stage, 5221 Central Ave., Richmond Annex (just west of I-80): Ragged Wing, the plucky little troupe that features the stylizations of physical theater, has scored again with another original, Handless, by co-founder Amy Sass, who also directed. Unlike the vaudevillized revue of Greek tragedy their last venture, So Many Ways To Kill A Man (also by Sass, with songs by Anna Shneiderman) came up with, Handless is adapted from old folk and fairytales concerning a young woman whose hands have been taken from her. Silverhands 

is maybe the best-known of these stories. Shakespeare drew from them as well, for Titus Andronicus .' But Handless ' is no blood-and-thunder melodrama, nor misty New Age appropriation. 

If just for Ragged Wing's impressive ability to maintain the fantastic, sensitive atmosphere of such a tale for almost two hours, with touches of humor and creative anachronism, Handless would be a success. Excellent casting--core members Keith Davis and Anna Shneiderman, as well as Annamarie MacLeod, Aleph Ayin, Sophia Sinsheimer, Henry Kinder, DiLecia Childress and Lauren Spencer--costumes and set (Plamena Milusheva), "trees flying from the sky," combine to evoke the daydream-like logic of intuition that many shows strive for without such a pleasing result. (Through March 27. raggedwing.org; 1-800-3006) 


Concerning Strange Devices From the Distant West , Berkeley Rep. Naomi Iizuka's box puzzle of Americans in late 19th-century Japan, a snarl of relationships over time that revolve around old photographs and a tale of interlocking tattoos, is one of those shows to which there's less than meets the eye. A lot of exposition goes into putting forward the conceits the plot's founded on. It could be said what action there is, demonstrates this conceptualism.  

Though never mentioning it, the playwright may well have read Camera Lucida , Roland Barthes' brilliant reflections on portrait photograhy (and on theater), or Susan Sontag's On Photography ,'partly inspired by Barthes. Replacing reflection, a slightly sordid melodrama's tipped in, where a stylized Gothic would've been more in order. The efforts of director Les Waters and his cast of professionals are overshadowed by Mimi Lien's set and Alexander Nichols' lighting and Leah Gelpe's projections, a spectacle about the spectacle of photography and perception, which also becomes overwrought. (Through April 11. 647-2949; berkeleyrep.org) 


Learn To Be Latina ,Impact Theatre at La Val's Subterranean on Euclid, combines some very funny performances with some wacked-out production numbers (Choreographed by Rami Margron), all directed by Mary Guzman, who worked closely with playwright Enrique Urueta, in a sometimes-gamey parody of pop culture and the media, about a Lebanese-American folksinger (charming Carlye Pollack) who's ethnically made over for stardom by recording co. execs (Emily Rosenthal, Jon Nagel and Andrew Calabrese) and a mock-Irish dominatrice-consultant (Meanie Salazar Case). But there's this attractive--and real--latina (Marilet Martinez) around the office ... 

The burlesque lessens as the play goes on, revealing itself as a pretty normal sketch comedy-cum-cautionary tale, in favor of ... a more diverse normalcy. But the cast keeps it together, even when the shine wears off the brashness. (Through March 27. 464-4468; impacttheatre.com) 


Altarena Playhouse, on High Street in Alameda, is playing Man of La Mancha , directed by Stewart Lyle and featuring troupers like Donna Turner, John Hale and Ron Dritz. Through March 27. (523-1553; altarena.org) 


--and Virago, an eclectic company, at Rhythmix Cultural Works, near the Fruitvale Bridge is opening their "concert event" of La Boheme , directed and narrated by co-founder Robert Paine-Lundy, set in contemporary San Francisco. With Eileen Meredith and Ray Chavez as Mimi and Rudolfo. Accompaniment by Skye Altman. Virago's staged adventurous productions of Threepenny Opera and Candide , in addition to dramatic fare. Preview March 18; shows, March 20 and 26-27 a. (865-6237; viragotheatre.org) 


Oakland East Bay Symphony Presents Buster Keaton's The General

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday March 18, 2010 - 03:02:00 PM
Buster Keaton as Johnnie Gray, an engineer determined to reclaim his locomotive from the Union soldiers who stole it, in the great silent comedy <i>The General.</i>
Buster Keaton as Johnnie Gray, an engineer determined to reclaim his locomotive from the Union soldiers who stole it, in the great silent comedy The General.

In 1998, amid an orgy of end-of-the-millenium top 100 lists, the American Film Institute released its list of the 100 best American films, a list that included three Charlie Chaplin movies but, inexplicably, no Buster Keaton films, despite the fact that several of his works, most notably The General (1926), rank among the silent era’s best and frequently hover near the top of many critics’ lists of the best films ever made. 

But this has been Keaton’s lot, both in life and since his death: to toil away in the shadow of the most famous comedian who ever lived. Though a late-career rediscovery of his work saw Keaton hailed as a cinematic genius, even Chaplin’s superior as a director—and though the AFI corrected its error in its 2008 list, ranking The General at no. 18—Keaton still retains his underdog status. 

Keaton's work is available on DVD, but there’s no substitute for the shared experience of comedy on the big screen. The chance doesn't come around all that often, but it will this weekend, when the Oakland East Bay Symphony presents The General at the Paramount Theater, with live accompaniment on the Mighty Wurlitzer by Christoph Bull. The program will also feature the OEBS's performance of Camille Saint-Saëns's Symphony No. 3 ("Organ Symphony"), again with Bull at the keyboard.  

The General is essentially one big chase sequence, brilliantly constructed and expanded to feature length. The story, based on a true incident from the Civil War, concerns a Southern train stolen by Northern soldiers, who spirit the engine back into Northern territory, burning bridges and destroying telegraph wires along the way. Buster, as Johnnie Grey, is the General's engineer, and sets out to recapture his beloved locomotive. Along the way, Keaton stages a series of beautifully choreographed and increasingly dangerous stunts until he arrives in enemy territory, rescues his train—and, almost by accident, his girl—and then heads back to Southern territory while hounded by Northern soldiers. Thus the chase folds back on itself, like an arc that delivers Keaton back where he began—the “Keaton Curve,” as critic Walter Kerr put it—with gags and stunts from the first half now expanded upon in the second. 

Though Keaton resisted the "genius" label and adamantly rejected intellectual interpretations of his work ("You can't be a genius in slapshoes and a flat hat," he once said), there is something inherently poetic about his work. Chaplin nakedly strove for poetry in his films, while Harold Lloyd, the third of the triumvirate of great silent clowns, simply did not have the necessary qualities. But Keaton, though he never consciously attempted to achieve Art, had an intrinsically artistic quality in his comedy and worldview.  

Watch the moment when Keaton, rejected by his girl, sits disconsolately on the train, too lost in sorrow to notice that it has begun to move, lifting him in gentle, lilting arcs. Or the hilarious but terrifying image—almost archetypal in its impact—of Keaton, while scrambling across the top of the train's cars to escape an enormous canon that is pointed directly at him, desperately and ineffectually throws a stick at it.  

The General, like much of Keaton's best work, pits the little man against overwhelming odds. Misunderstood and rejected by his girl and her family, he eventually finds himself in a position to redeem himself. He does not seek the opportunity; fate thrusts it upon him. But when it does, he is ready. Sort of. The Keaton character is never suave and is prone to all kinds of mishaps, but he is always resourceful. A frequent theme in Keaton's films is man vs. machine, and The General presents it on a grand scale as Buster struggles with trains, canons and battalions of regimented soldiers. But Keaton always manages to make his peace with the mechanized world and to sort of find an equilibrium with it. Like an aikido artist, Keaton eventually uses the strength of the forces arrayed against him, merges with them and eventually rides their momentum to a triumphant finish. Keaton doesn't so much fight his enemies, but instead finds a way to use the laws of a hostile universe as means to his own ends. 

The General and Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925) are unique among screen comedies in that they combine two seemingly incongruous genres: the comedy and the epic. Such a pairing had never been attempted before, as the grand scale of the epic seemed at odds with the smaller, more personal nature of character-based comedy. But whereas Chaplin’s film only contained a few outdoor shots in the early scenes before retreating to the comfort of studio sets, Keaton preferred to shoot on location; few of his comedies take place in studio sets. And though location shooting and period costumes were nothing new in Keaton’s work, The General dwarfs his previous efforts in scale and detail. Many critics consider it the most convincing celluloid recreation of the Civil War, the imagery recalling Matthew Brady’s photographs from the period. 

Keaton instructed his crew to make it “so authentic it hurts” and carefully replicated the trains, uniforms, styles and terrain of the era. There were no special effects; Keaton’s desire for authenticity extended to every shot, culminating in the dramatic scene in which a train crashes through a burning bridge as scores of Northern soldiers pour over the hillside to converge on the Southern army’s front lines. 

Critical reception was mixed. Some thought it a solid picture while others considered it Keaton’s weakest effort, taking offense at the notion of making light of the Civil War. Ultimately the considerable expense of the production caused Joseph Schenk, Keaton’s producer, to intervene with the usually autonomous director-star, requiring that his next feature be decidedly less extravagant. Keaton dutifully followed up with College (1927), one of his most restrained efforts, before embarking on the more elaborate Steamboat Bill, Jr (1928). It was while making Steamboat that Keaton learned that Schenk had sold his contract to MGM, bringing an end to Keaton’s independent career. 

Under MGM, Keaton struggled to keep control over his work but quickly became subsumed by the studio system after his first feature, The Cameraman (1928). Thus Keaton, like Erich von Stroheim before him and Orson Welles after him, became something of a victim of his own success as the expense of and lack of contemporary public appreciation for his greatest achievement ultimately undermined his career. 

In his last years, his work was rediscovered and rereleased, leading to a new appreciation of Keaton as not only one of the great comedians, but one of the great directors. In fact, Roger Ebert calls Keaton possibly the greatest actor-director of all time. As with the character he portrayed, it's as though the universe finally came around to see things his way.  


Oakland East Bay Symphony presents "The Mighty Wurlitzer: Music at the Movies," featuring Buster Keaton in The General. 8 p.m. Friday, March 19 and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 21 at the Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. Tickets start at $20. www.oebs.org. 444-0801. Ticketmaster: (800) 745-3000. 



Berkeley Historical Society Walking Tours Start March 27

By Steven Finacom
Thursday March 18, 2010 - 03:06:00 PM
Berkeley’s historic, hand-built, Finnish Hall will be featured on the March 27 Berkeley Historical Society walking tour.
Steven Finacom
Berkeley’s historic, hand-built, Finnish Hall will be featured on the March 27 Berkeley Historical Society walking tour.

The history of two of Berkeley’s early ethnic communities, an elevated residential enclave, a North Hills neighborhood viewed by a Berkeley native, behind the scenes visits to two notable performing arts spaces, and trees of the UC campus—the Spring 2010 walking tours season of the Berkeley Historical Society offers a varied and enticing palette of outdoor opportunities, starting Saturday, March 27. 

All the tours take place on Saturday mornings from 10-12 noon, and all are led by volunteer guides.  

West Berkeley had, by the early 20th century, a vigorous community of immigrant Finns who made important contributions to local heritage, including spearheading the establishment of local cooperative movements in the 1930s. 

Led by Berkeley native Karl Saarni and Finnish-American historian and activist Harry Siitonen, the March 27 walk will explore the cultural and political character of Berkeley’s Finnish community as well as several landmark structures. Buildings to be seen on the walk include both of Berkeley’s Finnish Halls separately created by Finns of “Red” and “White” political persuasions that mirrored pre-World War II differences in the homeland.  

The handmade halls, blocks apart in West Berkeley, were vibrant centers of community life, as was a Finnish Lutheran Church in a house-sized building that still exists nearby. The tour will also visit a site of the Walter Mork Sheet Metal Works, established more than a century ago; Mork was a member of the Berkeley City Council for many years. 

Next up, BHS tour organizer Dale Smith will lead an April 10 “Claremont Heights and its Residents” walk into the enclave of steep, winding, streets and substantial homes behind the Claremont Hotel.  

One notable resident was Stanley Hiller, “an entrepreneur who was one of Berkeley’s very first recyclers and made millions in the process of turning ‘waste’ into food as cosmetics, ” Smith says. He also developed Hiller Highlands, higher up the Hills. The walk will also recall the pre-development Smith Dairy Farm, “where the cows proverbially have two legs shorter than the others.”  

Saturday, May 1, BHS Board member and Berkeley native Buzz Cardoza will lead a ramble through north Berkeley entitled Secrets of North Cragmont Neighborhoods. In this area north of Marin Avenue Cardoza, who grew up delivering newspapers in the neighborhood, will point out eclectic architecture and describe unusual places and characters including “an observatory in a garage, the neighborhood bully, and the crabby lady he taunted.”  

On May 8, Jill Shiraki of the Preserving California Japantown’s project will illuminate the history of Berkeley’s pre-World War II Japanese-American neighborhood, south of Dwight and west of Shattuck. On the eve of Pearl Harbor Berkeley’s Japanese-Americans numbered over 1,300. Although confined by housing discrimination to southwest Berkeley residences, they operated over 70 businesses such as nurseries, florists, markets and cleaning services spread throughout town.  

Unlike most parts of Berkeley in that era, their residential district was an integrated and harmonious mix of Asian, African-American, and Caucasian families. The Japanese community had both Buddhist and Christian churches, thriving businesses, a variety of cultural activities, a younger generation attending Cal, and increasingly deep roots in Berkeley. In 1942, however, they were all forcibly removed to internment camps for the duration of the War, and not all returned to a forever-changed community when the conflict ended. 

Discover what was lost and what remains of the Japanese-American community and cultural heritage in this South Berkeley neighborhood. I have been on a similar tour organized by Shiraki, and it is both a deeply educational and moving experience. The stories of several families and institutions are told, some of them by elders who were children growing up in Berkeley in those years. 

May 22, a Stepping Out in Downtown Berkeley provides a behind the scenes look at two of the major institutions that are part of Berkeley’s Addison Street Arts District, the Berkeley Rep and the Freight and Salvage. Tour the backstage areas; see where costumes are made, and where actors prepare for performances.  

The last tour of the season, Saturday June 5, has the topic of Trees of History and Interest. It’s led by Jim Horner, the University’s Campus Landscape Architect, who also grew up playing on the Berkeley campus. 

The tour will wander up and down the nearly 200-acre UC campus, identifying unusual species and historically significant trees going back to the earliest days. Wear good shoes and be ready to walk a mile or so.  

Most of the walks are wheelchair accessible. However the Claremont walk and the Cragmont walk are steep and hilly and probably not easily accessible in a wheelchair. 


Tour attendance is limited, and BHS tours have often sold out. Make your reservation by visiting the Berkeley Historical Society at 1931 Center Street, Thursday through Saturday, between 1-4 pm (tour flyers are available there), or call 510 848-0181 for information. (BHS does not currently have an active website). 

Tickets cost $30 for a BHS member “season ticket”, $8 per individual tour for members, and $10 per tour for the general public. You can join BHS when you sign up for tours and receive the member discount. Proceeds benefit the non-profit Berkeley Historical Society. 



Steven Finacom is a Board member of the Berkeley Historical Society.