Financial Aid Relief
My husband and I went from a two income family (with employer benefits), to a single income family (with a baby and rising tuition costs) within a matter of a year. Then the market crashed, then the layoffs, then the rise in in daily expenses...
As I work towards earning my M.S. to become a Speech-Language Pathologists, I have been forced to take the maximum financial aid allocated to me. I will graduate with a bright future, and over $100,000 in student loans. I am trembling with relief knowing that I will not be required to dole out more than 10% of my yearly income towards this necessary debt, and am motivated to take my practice into the public schools by the thought of debt forgiveness in 10 years.
Access to health care and education could perhaps be argued to not be "human rights"; however, they are "civilized rights". This administration is bringing us out of Dark Ages of the last decade, and putting us back on track.
Elijah the Prophet in San Francisco
It is a Jewish tradition during Passover Seders that occurred this week to open the door for Elijah, the prophet. It is said that Elijah will return to earth once every generation in the form of an impoverished person to see how he is received. If he is received well, then the Messiah will come.
It is concerning to me that, due to recent policies of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome, if he was a young person in San Francisco that Elijah soon would be arrested for spending time on the sidewalk, as Elijah would have no home, and would be deported without due process, as he would be a young undocumented person. We cannot support political leaders who build their power by blaming our problems on the powerless, and make lives harder for those who are already suffering.
Beyond that, we must look at each of our own actions and see how they support the type of society that would arrest and deport the Elijah, the prophet. If a homeless person on the street makes us uncomfortable, we must ask ourselves what are we doing to change a country that has so many resources and so many people without.
Berkeley Public Library
Once again I write to lavish praise on the Berkeley Public Library -- that handsome Art Deco building on Kittredge at Shattuck Avenue, which over the years has afforded cultural and educational information to its users, and all for free. Credit for most of these programs must rightfully go to Debbie Carton, Art and Music Librarian.
For the past year I've been enrolled in Debbie's class, Playreading, which meets every Wednesday, from 12 to 1 in the 4th Floor Story Room. Here a group of actors, retired actors or simply theatre lovers sit at a round table reading aloud from a broad range of plays. On Sunday, March 28th at 2 p.m. there was a very stimulating program, Playreaders Performers' Showcase, with those students offering excerpts from well known theatre masterpieces -- Hamlet, Under Milk Wood, Mrs. Warren's Profession, and The Little Foxes, to name only a few. This was truly sheer heaven for the large, enthusiastic audience of theatre worshippers present that afternoon. In addition to the Playreading Group, Debbie offers an occasional operatic program. On Thursday, April 1st at 12:15, people can enjoy Aaron Copeland's "The Tender Land." What better way to spend one's lunch hour! For a less esoteric program, a class on 100-mile bicycle rides is also available for athletes. So, again, I salute the Berkeley Public Library and Debbie Carton for providing these outstanding programs to our community.
A Breath of Relief for Students and Our Families
It's not often that politicians deliver on their campaign promises, but that's exactly what President Obama did by signing the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. During his campaign, Obama pledged to take on the issue of increasing college affordability by ending wasteful subsidies to private student lenders and giving the money saved back to students in the form of increased aid.
That is exactly what the bill the President signed into law will do. The reform will cut more than $60 billion is subsidies to private lenders, double funding for Pell Grants for low-income students, and cap the amount that college graduates pay annually in student loans to 10% of their income. As the cost of attending college skyrockets, especially for UC students like myself, these reforms will go a long way to bringing relief to struggling families.
Clarification on BRT Acronyms
A tiny clarification on NEPA and other procedural acronyms which have been buzzing around the Bus Rapid Transit issue. This information may help clarify the process. NEPA is not an agency, it is a law, and the acronym stands for National Environmental Policy Act. This act was passed around 1970, and requires that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be prepared for potentially impactful projects which will receive federal funding. The federal funding for BRT requires that an EIS be prepared in addition to an EIR (Environmental Impact Report) which is the state of California instrument as mandated by CEQA. Although an EIR and an EIS are distinct requirements, they can be combined in a single document, which is undoubtedly what will happen here. There are two main differences I am aware of between an EIS and an EIR. First is that an EIR allows for subsequent modifications to a plan after the EIR is presented which make the project less impactful than what was studied, and without requiring the need for a re-study. An EIS, on the other hand, requires a re-study if a modification CHANGES the overall impact significantly in either direction. A Supplemental EIS (SEIS) may be sufficient to accommodate the dropping of dedicated lanes from BRT, but AC Transit is claiming that either scenario is not feasible with regard to their funding and timeline requirements. The build option therefore becomes inflexible with regard to dropping dedicated lanes. It is all or nothing, and that is relevant to what the council votes to submit in the LPA on April 27th. The other difference between an EIS and an EIR is that an EIR is more rigorous with regard to requiring mitigations to actually offset impacts. The requirements of NEPA are much less rigorous in this regard. According to Wikipedia, NEPA does not require any mitigations to potentially harmful environmental impacts, only that those impacts be described in an EIS for the edification and information of all parties concerned.
Obama's Student Loan Reform Signed
The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act will help America in an area that all experts say is crucial for our nation to continue to prosper: education. Making education more available and affordable for more young people will have a positive impact over time on the entire U.S. economy.
I recently graduated from U.C. Berkeley as a transfer student from a community college. I self-financed 2/3 of all of my expenses. The remaining 1/3 was covered by federal grants and loans. Mine is a success story of the community college program, but I know many others who were not as fortunate, because of the financial stresses family and full-time jobs. I know that more Pell Grants and better programming at community colleges will increase the availability of classes and help many more students to navigate the financial waters of the self-financed student.
I am very happy that Obama helped to pass such important legislation. I know it will make a meaningful and positive difference in the lives of many Americans.
Update: Autism and Police
It was reported to the Berkeley Police Review Commission, that the Berkeley Police purchased a copy of "Autism and Law Enforcement Roll Call Briefing Video". The dvd, priced at $154.95, comes with a training booklet. I'm still trying to figure myself out; I wouldn't expect the Berkeley Police to totally "get" me, but just to try to understand me a little. Of course the UC police still have hallucinations of me being a terrorist. But, Mitch "Mad Dog" Celaya can't keep it up for long. Someday soon, Mitch will be popping some kernels, and watching a certain dvd with his buddies. I know someone who would let Mitch borrow the dvd. I would like to suggest that the UC police make a pajama party out of it.
Autism Spectrum Liberation Front
Addressing Citywide Zoning Permit Issues
The news that two Council Aides, who also hold positions on jurisdictional boards, acted contrary to City law is troubling. We do not need to become more cynical of those in positions of public trust. This is a product of a larger problem.
It is not an isolated event but is rather evidence of widespread disregard for local zoning codes resulting from a lack of proactive zoning oversight and code enforcement. A systematic program to identify significant changes in buildings is long overdue.
The practice of undertaking major construction without permits is rampant. Construction without review may be dangerous to occupants and neighbors. It may be harmful to nearby properties whose owners have no warning, let alone the opportunity to negotiate. Neighbors are then left to live with concerns, suffer detriment or become embroiled in battles.
The City forgoes permit fees as well as immediate and long term property taxes. Isn't it likely that over a million dollars is lost every year from property owners who do not pay taxes on their improvements?
Maybe if this unfortunate citywide situation were addressed, a proactive system could make the City safer and more solvent.
Nancy Holland and Wendy Alfsen