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Student Participants in the National Day of Silence
Student Participants in the National Day of Silence


Press Release: Berkeley City Council May Improve Screening Fee Protection for Apartment Seekers

From Councilmember Jesse Arreguin
Monday April 25, 2011 - 07:17:00 PM

Renters looking for an apartment may be able to keep more of their money in their pocket if a tenant screening fee proposal (PDF) is passed by the Berkeley City Council this upcoming Tuesday night. 

With more people seeking rental housing in this economic downturn, a $40screening fee can be a significant burden for low-income renters and students, particularly when renters have to apply for multiple units before successfully landing one in Berkeley’s competitive rental market. 

The Tenant Screening Fees Ordinance, introduced by Councilmember Jesse Arreguín, would require that rental applicants receive a copy of California Civil Code 1950.6 (state tenant screening fee law) when paying an application fee. 

State law sets the maximum fee that can be charged to apply for rental housing (currently, $42.41) and requires that any fee only covers the direct cost of the screening. Rental applicants must be provided with an itemized receipt and refunded any unused portion of the fee. 

Despite these protections, however, both landlords and renters often are unaware of state screening fee requirements, which -in addition to a lack of penalty for non-compliance- make the state law ineffective. As a result, there have been many cases where fees have been inappropriately used as a way to generate income such as landlords charging more than the actual cost or accepting a fee with no intention of conducting a screening, often times after another applicant has already been screened and accepted. 

The Ordinance aims to address these shortcomings by educating tenants and landlords about their existing rights and providing effective enforcement through an enhanced private right of action. The Ordinance does not require any City staff resources or the expenditure of any City funds for implementation. 

“Information is powerful and it’s important that renters and landlords know their rights to better protect themselves,” said Councilmember Arreguín. “This proposal will keep more dollars in the pockets of those who need it most –low-income renters and students simply searching for a place to live.” 

The City Council meeting begins at 7PM on Tuesday, April 26th

WHAT:Berkeley City Council vote on Tenant Screening Fee Protections 

WHEN:Tuesday, April 26 2011. Meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. 

WHERE:City Council Chambers, Second Floor, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA (between Center and Allston Streets) 


The Tactics Used to Discredit Library Demolition Opponents Are Wrong (Opinion, reprinted with permission from the LeConte Chat Listserv)

By Vincent Casalaina
Monday April 25, 2011 - 08:00:00 PM

We need more people who stand up to the City when they put one thing on the ballot and then choose to do something totally different. In this case it's about our libraries but this is not the first time we've seen this change of purpose happen with ballot measures - and unfortunately I think it's not likely to be the last. 

In this particular case, the language of the ballot measure is pretty clear. The language makes it look like Berkeley residents didn't vote to demolish libraries. They voted to refurbish the branch libraries, to keep historic architecture intact and to make them seismically safe. 

Whether you believe a new library needs to be built in South Berkeley or not, it's absolutely wrong to disparage those of us who feel there is something wrong with the process that allows city government to raise funds for one project and then to use them for a totally different purpose. I am not a party to the lawsuit but I object to the tactics that have been used to discredit its supporters. 

Let's keep the discourse civil and on topic. Let's make sure that the funds we voted for are used as the language in the ballot measure states. In this case - let the courts decide what we actually voted for.

Racism Charges in Library Demolition Dispute(Opinion, reprinted with permission from the LeConte Chat Listserv)

By Patti Dacey
Monday April 25, 2011 - 07:55:00 PM

This library issue just gets curiouser and curiouser. Charges of racism are outrageously flung around at the people who believe that the bond issue purposely left out any information about demolition or who support preservation efforts, draining the very concept of racism of any meaning at all. Also, please note that the library board and the people playing the race card pushed a change in the zoning code, passed by the Planning Commission, that allows all libraries to be demolished or changed in any way by right, INCLUDING the downtown library (anyone for a 120 foot tower on the downtown library without a public hearing?). There's also the completely false indication at the end of Max's announcement that only one person is behind the law suit (which has already been partly won)" WE URGE THE PLAINTIFF TO WITHDRAW HER SUIT!", though there are several people, and a whole lot more backers. 

I have had nothing at all to do with this lawsuit, but I have been absolutely shocked by the tactics of the library board and their backers around this lawsuit. They haven't been able to win in court yet because of the legal incompetence of our city attorney, the mistakes made by that office, and the bait and switch tactics used by those who wrote the language of the bond, so now they adopt a scorched-earth policy towards the people who object to this that's one of the nastiest, most toxic strategies I've ever seen in this town.  

Berkeley has always come together around its libraries. We fought to keep our beautiful downtown library--remember that a good slice of the political establishment wished to demolish it to build a brand new building--and we pay a great deal in taxes cheerfully to keep all our libraries open. Just say no to this rally and the ugliness it represents. Even if you believe that the South and West libraries should be demolished, please forcefully reject the tactic that accuses anybody who stands in the way of the library board and its backers as racist and worthy of being personally destroyed. It's shameful and its hateful, and it's just plain wrong.

Press Release: Councilmember Anderson Calls for Rally to Support Demolition of Branch Libraries

Monday April 25, 2011 - 10:59:00 AM



New Libraries for South and West Berkeley NOW!!! 





For more information email: NewLibrariesNow@gmail.com 



Charlene Washington, Legislative Aide, District 3 

Councilmember Max Anderson 

2180 Milvia Street, 5th Floor , Berkeley, CA 94704 

Tel: 510.981.7130/Fax: 510.981.7133 


Library Wins Zoning and Landmark Commission Approval for Tear-Down Plans; Lawsuit over Branch Demolition Remains (Partisan Position)

By Steven Finacom
Thursday April 21, 2011 - 12:12:00 PM

[Editor's Note: The Partisan Position designation is used for factual reports of meetings or events written by people who have taken public positions on the issues in question, and who identify their interest.]

Supporters of current Berkeley Public Library plans to tear down and rebuild the South and West Berkeley branch libraries won affirmative votes from both the Zoning Adjustments Board and Landmarks Preservation Commission at a complex joint meeting held on Thursday, April 14, 2011.

The demolition of the branches is contested by both a lawsuit and by some members of the public who argue that restoring the original portions of the two branch libraries and building additions would be a better solution.

The Library was seeking—and achieved at this meeting—certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as well as approval of use permits to demolish and rebuild the two branches. The actions can be appealed to the City Council.

Library demolition / rebuild supporters and their critics clashed during a marathon series of no less than five public hearings held consecutively on various aspects of the Library proposal by the ZAB and LPC. The Zoning Adjustments Board was asked to certify the Final Environmental Impact Report related to the projects, which it did. 

The ZAB also voted 7-0-2 to approve a use permit to demolish and rebuild the South Branch Library, and 8-1 to approve a use permit to do the same with the West Branch Library. 

The Landmarks Preservation Commission, holding a meeting in sequence with the ZAB in the same room, voted 7-2 essentially not to interfere with the proposed demolition plans either by holding up the demolition permit for the West Branch Library or by initiating landmark consideration of the South Branch Library. 

Since both ZAB and LPC were presented with staff reports, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and consultant documents totaling thousands of pages and did not read into the record full motions, it is not possible to quote here the exact wording of the Commission actions. City staffers are expected this week to issue written copies of the actions the ZAB and LPC took on April 14. 

(Disclosure. I spoke at some of the public hearings, offering comments critical of the Environmental Impact Report and the proposals to demolish the two branch libraries. I am not a member of Concerned Library Users, the group suing the City, or the Library Users Association. I am a past president of the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library, and also a board member of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, but spoke only as an individual.) 

Donna Corbiel, the Director of Library Services, was huddling in the audience with a group of consultants and supporters of the Library’s current plans, and handing out speaker cards to them when I arrived and took a seat nearby. Others trickled in. Ultimately the room seemed a third to half full, although attendance dwindled as the evening wore on. 

Zoning Board and Landmark Commission each took the podium twice to conduct public hearings and meetings under the watchful eye of Steven Buckley, the ZAB staffer, who periodically advised them on what action or policy they were considering. 

The arrangement of five separate public hearings, each on a different aspect of the branch library development was a confusing affair. 

Some public speakers tried to speak directly to the specific subject of a given hearing, while others made more general comments. Because of the format, a number of individuals went to the podium several times, while others chose to speak only once. 

The Landmarks Commission sat in the audience while the Zoning Board heard public testimony and took action, and vice versa. 

The public hearings consumed most of the meeting time. Discussion by the ZAB and LPC was abbreviated, and almost non-existent on some of the issues up for a vote. Many of the 18 Commission members present said nothing, or very little, during the deliberations. 

Public testimony was split between supporters and critics of the Library’s current plans. In general, supporters of the Library’s current plans to demolish and rebuild the West and South Branch libraries argued that the new building projects represent the best way to replace the existing, inadequate, branch library facilities and that any delay endangers the projects. 

Some speakers in support of the Library’s current plans broadly inferred that any opposition to demolishing the branches would be racist. 

Critics of the Library’s current plans argued that the alternative plans by architect Todd Jersey, prepared at the request of Concerned Library Users and submitted during the EIR process, represent a better and possibly more cost effective way to improve the branches and also provide more space for the West and South branches to accommodate future expansion. Most of these speakers also argued for the historic value of the original parts of the two branch libraries. 

Some speakers also emphasized that Measure FF, the 2008 bond measure that provided funding for branch improvements, did not refer to demolition and rebuilding, calling for renovation, expansion, and improvement of the existing branches instead. 

Concerned Library Users has sued the City of Berkeley regarding the branch library projects. A portion of the lawsuit that contends Measure FF did not authorize demolition of the branches is still pending. 

A different portion of the lawsuit calling for an environmental impact report on the branch demolitions and the proposed zoning amendment that would provide new, more lenient, zoning policies for Berkeley’s five public library sites was settled in 2010. Part of the result of that settlement was the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) being considered for certification at this meeting. 

(For the purposes of this article, I’ve summarized and quoted, in roughly chronological sequence, the testimony of members of the public at the several public hearings, and the intervening actions of the Zoning Board and the Landmarks Commission. Direct quotes are from my notes at the meeting. . In most cases I was able to identify a speaker by full name; in a few cases I did not get their full name. Interested readers may also review the on-line taped version of the meeting on the City’s website to hear the complete comments of speakers. However, as of Wednesday, April 20, the City’s website said there were technical problems with the video transcript and it was not yet ready to be posted.) 

Leading off the testimony at the first public hearing before the Zoning Board, Berkeley School Board member Karen Hemphill said she was there “as an individual” and a long time resident of South Berkeley, and “I really want to support the environmental impact report as well as the recommendations that the structures should be demolished in order to have a modern, 21st century, library.” 

She said her son goes to the Central Library instead of the crowded South Branch, and “I really ask that the proposal to demolish the South Branch Library be supported…That process should be honored and not hijacked by a small group of people at the last minute.” 

“I believed the EIR analyzed a reasonable range of alternatives,” said Cathy Brown, identifying herself as a board member of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, a non-profit organization which is raising money to provide furnishings and equipment for the four branches. 

“The process was respectful of the buildings” which will be demolished, Brown said. “The Library, the staff, and the environmental consultants left no stone unturned.” She added that the Library’s demolition proposal “meets the interest of (Measure) FF.” 

“I came to speak on behalf of the West Library demolition,” said the next speaker. “I hope you will build that building to be a really good place in the neighborhood. I’m just asking you to support the people.” 

Kathleen Fogel spoke next, saying she is a ten year resident of Berkeley and noting “I am here as a senior analyst at the California Public Utilities Commission.” 

I urge your support for this project” of demolishing and rebuilding the West Branch, she said. She characterized the Library plan as “a beautiful, attractive, building that will be an asset to the community.” “Over the long term that will save Berkeley money on its energy bills.” 

“That project will put Berkeley on the map internationally” by being a “zero net energy library” she said. 

Linda Schacht, a member of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation Board, said “I want to talk about not only the EIR but also the demolition and use permits.” 

She criticized “the alternative proposals that have been put forth by a small group of people at the last” moment. She said there have been “dozens of meetings, hundreds of citizens had their say” and asserted “the people who put forth this lawsuit do not live near any of these branches” being considered by the LPC and ZAB. 

Diane Davenport, a retired Berkeley Public librarian, spoke as the President of the Friends of the Library. She said she has “been involved in this campaign since we began campaigning for Measure FF in 2007”, and she supported the plans to “renovate and replace” the branch libraries. 

“We think the best plans are before you.” “We urge you to certify the EIR so these four branches can be either renovated or replaced.” 

(During a break, I asked her if when she had campaigned for Measure FF she had discussed with voters the concept of demolishing any of the branches. She said that in campaign meetings she had told people that if the bonds passed, then the Library would have a public process to decide how to carry out branch improvements.) 

Elizabeth Butler identified herself as a homeowner in Berkeley for 57 years and said, “we seniors need that West Berkeley branch.” “We just need our library, please, don’t do that to us.” Her testimony appeared to be in favor of demolishing and rebuilding the branch. 

A woman named Naomi said she lives immediately behind the West Branch. She said, “we’re in support of the new library” but expressed concern about “demolition and construction impacts”. 

“The South Branch is my library”, Lori Kossowsky said, and “I wouldn’t have voted for Measure FF if I had known it would involve partial demolitions.” She said she supported the alternative renovation / addition plans drawn up by architect Todd Jersey for Concerned Library Users. “Our children who use this branch deserve the best branch possible”, she said. 

“The (ZAB) Board should give consideration to Todd Jersey’s plan,” said James Grandison, identifying himself as a Board member of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. “We strongly support Todd Jersey’s design.” 

“As a taxpayer it bothers me--the people on the west side of Berkeley deserve a state of the art library”, which Jersey’s designs would accomplish. “The taxpayers voted for renovation”, he said, not demolition. 

He said his family members were Claremont Branch users, but all the branches belong to all the residents of Berkeley. 

He cautioned the ZAB that approving demolition, when renovation was called for in the bond language, would be a dangerous precedent. “If you take a precedent of a measure for renovation, and you allow a full demolition, what happens to the next project?” he asked. “People are going to use this as an example” to oppose future bonds, or propose things that bond votes didn’t authorize. 

“CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act) is a public process”, said Judith Epstein, a member of Concerned Library Users. “In this case the City took quite a bit of time before it engaged the CEQA process” which would allow alternatives to demolition to be considered. “We submitted alternative designs” in the EIR process, she noted. “The (Final) EIR has a number of flaws. You may have noted them if you read the EIR.” 

“It’s very clear a partial demolition (as the Jersey plans propose) has less impact on a historic resource than a full demolition.” 

She noted that the Todd Jersey alternatives propose bigger branch libraries than the City’s demolition / rebuild plans. “Neither the west branch or the south branch are (in the City’s plans) designed to accommodate future population growth”, she asserted. “They don’t analyze what happens when the (branch) libraries need to be expanded.” 

Alice Lapierre identified herself as the City of Berkeley’s energy efficiency coordinator. She said she would “urge you to consider Measure G”, which called for reductions in local greenhouse gas emissions. “The only way we’re going to get there is if when we have the opportunity we redesign our buildings to use less energy.” 

“The City is retrofitting a lot of its buildings”, she noted. 

“The EIR has a number of problems”, said Peter Warfield, speaking for the Library Users Association. “It appears to have been written with a conclusion” in mind rather than giving an impartial analysis, he argued. 

“The zoning amendments include a blank check endlessly into the future” for any project the Library would like to propose at any branch or the Central Library downtown, he said. “We favor improved, upgraded libraries and everyone getting what they expected” after Measure FF. 

He expressed concern that the EIR and documents given to the ZAB and LPC contained few pictures of the two branches before they were altered by unsympathetic expansion. He said that the Library Users Association had sent the City three letters by the stated deadlines, but they did not appear in the packet materials given to the ZAB and LPC. 

(Warfield went over the allotted three minutes, and Councilmember Max Anderson sitting near the back of the room, and a supporter of the branch library demolitions, started vigorously making a sports “time-out” sign with his hands at George Williams, who was chairing the meeting. Williams did allow Warfield and a number of other speakers on both sides of the issue to continue their comments slightly beyond the three-minute limits.) 

I spoke, saying that the proposed zoning amendment went too far, in that it applies to all five Berkeley public library properties and would allow easier demolition or unsympathetic alterations to the Claremont, North Berkeley, and Central libraries in the future. 

I also argued that the historic analysis in the EIR was flawed in that it seemed to argue that renovating the historic South and West branch libraries would be as much of a historic impact as demolishing them. 

After the first public hearing the ZAB quickly voted to “adopt certification of the Final EIR.” George Williams Bob Allen made the motion, Deborah Matthews seconded, and the motion was quickly passed, with eight ZAB members voting in favor, and Gene Poschman voting “No”. 

The ZAB then descended to take seats in the first row of chairs, while the Landmarks Preservation Commission took over the Council dais. The LPC had its usual membership, with the exception of Carole Kennerly who had been appointed by Councilmember Linda Maio to sit in for Carrie Olson for one meeting. 

The LPC opened a public hearing on the West Branch library. 

“We’ve been working very actively to support the Library”, said Liz Hoadley, the Treasurer of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation. “The public has really had a lot of input into the renovation and design of the four branches.” 

Pastor M.. Peeples spoke next, saying “I urge you to approve the plan and move it forward.” “My grandfather could not read or write in Louisiana,” he said, talking about the importance of public libraries. “It’s not based on color, it’s on what people need.” 

He said that high numbers of African-American children in Berkeley drop out of school and “I’m disturbed.” “When I encouraged the people of my congregation for vote for FF” it was for new libraries, he said. 

“Move forward to tear that thing (the West Branch) down and put something up that’s effective for our kids.” “We want this thing moving forward.” “Tear the thing down!” he said. 

“The money will run out. Litigation will make it run out.” “Please approve the knocking down of buildings,” he concluded. “Thank you very much.” 

Elizabeth Watson, vice president of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, said that the Todd Jersey alternative, according to the EIR, meets only four of ten standards of the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for historic structures. 

“If we’re going to get this done, we have to stay within budget and we have to move” forward, she said. 

“We had some 45 community meetings, all of which were reasonably well attended.” 

Todd Jersey, the architect of the alternative plans for West and South branches, said of the South Branch, “not only should it be saved, we’d save a million dollars in construction costs” with a partial renovation, rather than all new construction, approach. “There’s no reason that it should be torn down.” 

He talked about growing up in Berkeley and using the public libraries. Since the 1970s, he said, “the (South Branch) building has been so abused, misused, and degraded”, but it can be approved. 

Naomi Lavelle who said she lives by the West Branch said, “I wish there was a way we could preserve the historical remnants of the building and put the two (original library and new construction) together.” 

“We would like to see better libraries for everyone, as was originally planned under Measure FF”, said Peter Warfield of the Library Users Association. He said Concerned Library Users had proposed “a design that is workable” and that involves the renovation FF called for. 

“You are considering an historic architectural death sentence”, he told the LPC, nothing again that historic pictures of the two branches before they were altered have not been provided to the Commission. “We’re hearing all kinds of red herrings” in the other testimony, he said. 

Chris Adams, “speaking as an individual” but identifying himself as a past president of Berkeley Architectural Heritage, said he is an architect and planner, and “I am working on the campaign to raise money” for the branches. “As a preservationist I would have liked to have thought they could preserve parts of the buildings”, but he concluded that couldn’t be done with the South Branch. 

The Library, he said, studied a scheme “very similar to the one that at the last minute has been offered up as an alternative.” 

He said he thought the Todd Jersey South Branch design would cost at least nineteen million dollars, more than Measure FF provided for the South Branch, and “the new (construction) schemes that have been brought before you have been carefully worked out.” 

Cathy Brown, speaking again, said, “if this process were without end how many alternatives could we come up with?...At some point you have to say you’ve got enough information here…I urge you to approve the demolition.” 

“The Todd Jersey designs for the West Berkeley Branch are absolutely stunning,” said Judith Epstein, also speaking a second time. “The thing that makes this design beautiful is that it accommodates the growth” needs of the branch. “It’s better for the future.” 

She spoke to the issue of the timing of the Jersey designs, noting “the City made it at the last minute. You can’t submit alternative designs as part of CEQA until the CEQA process is opened”, which the City did not do until 2010. That undermines the arguments that the Jersey plans were “last minute” and shouldn’t be considered, she said. 

“Demolition is forever”, she concluded. She urged the LPC to support “restoring the 1923 reading room (of the West Branch) and make it a gem for the neighborhood.” 

Susan Kupfer, from the Board of Library Trustees told the LPC “it is only with careful process…that we are able to propose these designs.” 

She asserted that it was “always out in the public” that the South Branch might need to be demolished. “Our architects (for the demolition/rebuild plans) were vetted by the community, that was a public process.” 

“We looked at the alternatives. They did not meet our program, they did not meet our budget” “We did consider very similar alternatives” to the Todd Jersey plans, she stated. 

Doug Buchwald said that Measure FF had been “Democracy in action”, and noted “there is nothing about demolition or entire reconstruction in this Measure.” 

“All I ask is that this group honor the direct, expressed wishes of the voters of the City of Berkeley”, he said. “No demolitions.” 

“Over the last two years the Library has continued to move to educate and inform the public about the work that will take place” at the branches, said David Snyder, the Executive Director of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation. 

He urged tearing down the West Branch and rebuilding it. “We’ve allocated over ten years to the process” of planning for the West Branch, he asserted. He said not approving the demolition of the West Branch would “deny the citizens of Berkeley what they voted for.” 

There are “5,000 to 6,000” donors “stepping forward to do it again” and raise funds for the branch furnishes as they did for the Central Library expansion, he said. “We as a community cannot support going over budget.” 

Snyder made a pointed remark apparently directed at Peter Warfield of the Library Users Association about people who don’t live in Berkeley commenting on Berkeley issues. 

(Warfield lives in San Francisco. During a break I asked Snyder if he lived in Berkeley? “No I don’t, I just work here,” he said primly.) 

I spoke about the process of planning the branch libraries, noting that there were only a small number of community meetings held for the West Branch and South Branch projects between when the Library unveiled a proposal for demolishing the branches, and when the Board of Library Trustees voted to adopt demolition as the preferred alternative. 

I said that those meetings had as few as seven community members in attendance at one time, and did not represent a process of hundreds of people and dozens of meetings participating directly in a debate over demolishing the branches, before the Library Board adopted demolition plans. 

I also noted that the Library project team had recently been off by a million dollars in its estimates for the renovation / expansion costs for the North Branch, casting doubt on the credibility of Library consultants to assert that the Todd Jersey plans would be too expensive for the South and West branches. 

“I don’t think anyone WANTS to see a building demolished”, said Linda Schacht of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation. 

“Steve Finacom insults the process”, she stated. “This is what’s before us (demolition), this is what we need to do.” 

Ces Rosales, identifying herself as a Russell Street resident “just a few blocks from the Tool (Lending) Library” said she is a user of the libraries, and “I just want to support the construction of this library as soon as possible.” She said she did not want a plan that would be “denying the residents of South Berkeley a library.” 

Gene Bernardi called the Todd Jersey plan for the West Branch “a stately and classic design”, and supported renovation and expansion rather than demolition of the branches. 

After the public hearing was closed, LPC chair Gary Parsons said, “there might be a surprise in store here.” “Our actions are fairly constrained”, he told the audience. 

In the landmarks ordinance “there is no language allowing us to deny the demolition”. Instead, the LPC could approve, approve modification of the landmark West Branch library, or move to suspend the demolition for a period of time. 

Commissioner Antoinette Pietras immediately said “Move to approve as proposed”, that is, support demolishing the West Branch. Commissioner Kennerly seconded the motion. 

Commissioner Austene Hall spoke against demolition. “I believe the community needs fantastic libraries”, she said. “I believe we can have wonderful libraries (and) south and west branches with partial restoration and new construction.” 

She noted the West Berkeley branch was Berkeley’s oldest surviving public library, having been built in 1923. With renovation and a new addition, she said, “you can have a beautiful, functional library.” 

Hall moved a substitute motion to suspend the demolition permit. Commissioner Anne Wagley seconded. “I would not have voted for Measure FF if I knew it involved demolition of the South and West branches” she said. “It makes me very said that South and West Berkeley won’t have their historic resources in the area. 

Wagley said that the LPC had “strongly suggested to them (the Library) that the preservation alternative be considered.” “I’m very sorry that more weight wasn’t given to Todd Jersey’s proposals.” 

“I just wish the Library Board and City staff would have given more weight to exploring possible alternatives.” 

“I would be opposed to any delay”, said Commissioner Paul Schwartz. “The name of the game is delay, delay, delay”, he asserted. “If there’s something to protect that’s good, but neither of these buildings are particularly unique.” 

“I really see nothing worth saving”, he said. “I think it’s time to get going on this…the funds are going to run out.” 

Commissioner Steve Winkel said he would “speak against the substitute motion, reluctantly.” He said the West Branch “fails the test” of having the potential to be renovated a green building “and needs to be demolished.” 

“I do not take this lightly”, he said. “But I do think that having the building demolished is the right thing to do.” He also said he felt that the Todd Jersey plans would prove more expensive than Jersey had estimated.

Commissioner Miriam Ng also spoke against the substitute motion, saying she had been on the LPC subcommittee that had looked at the West Branch and alternative designs there with the Library consultants. 

“There was really nothing to preserve. Everything was ROTTED”, she said. “We did look at trying to save the building, save parts of the building, and none of them (the alternatives) actually worked.” 

The LPC then voted on the motion to suspend demolition. It failed 2-7, with Hall and Wagley voting in favor. The original motion to endorse demolition was then voted on. It passed 7-2, with Hall and Wagley opposed. 

After a break, the Landmarks Commission convened again to consider the South Branch Library. Unlike the West Branch, the South Branch is not an officially designated historic resource of the City, but Library consultant studies had shown it to be eligible for historic listing. 

Chair Parsons characterized the purpose of the discussion as revisiting the May 6, 2010 LPC meeting at which the Commission had not initiated any proposal to landmark the South Branch. 

A third public hearing of the evening was then opened. 

Todd Jersey was the first speaker. He talked with animation about the “beautiful human scale” of the original South Branch library, and spoke to Commissioner Winkel’s earlier comments that the South Branch would be too expensive to renovate and expand. 

“I know what I’m talking about with costs”, said Jersey, who was the architect for the historic Richmond Plunge renovation. “Don’t tell me about hyper inflated ideas of cost.” 

“We could save a million dollars by saving that building” (the South Branch). “It’s a very simple, straightforward” seismic retrofit project, he said. 

“Let’s save this building”, he urged the Commission. “This building can be restored into a wonderful architectural gem.” “It’s a Berkeley gem, this is a piece of Berkeley history.” 

I spoke, for a second time during the evening, saying that buildings of the “recent past” like the South Berkeley Branch library are often difficult to save because people don’t think they are old enough to be historic. I also said it was not accurate for LPC Commissioners to believe that initiating a process to consider the historic status of the branches would delay the Library’s plans. 

The Library administration has said that only two branches will be closed at a time. The Claremont remodel is now underway and the North Branch hasn’t yet closed, so the South and West branches cannot be closed until sometime in 2012. That would allow sufficient time for Commission review of the historic issues without delaying the Library. 

Peter Warfield spoke for a third time during the evening, noting that the South Branch had won both an American Institute of Architects and an American Library Association award when it had been constructed in the early 1960s. 

Judith Epstein testified for the third time as well, saying, “The South and West projects are not supposed to start until 2012.” “The delay is actually the City’s.” 

“I don’t anticipate any delay because of the lawsuit” by Concerned Library Users, she said. 

“The (original) design is still there, even thought it has been worked over”, she said of the South Branch. “It just needs to be restored.” She said that the City’s planned all-new branch involves a lot of money constructing a new façade, while restoring the original portions of the building would preserve the original façade and not require an elaborate and expensive new design. 

“Todd Jersey’s design does satisfy all the (Library) program conditions”, she asserted. “Save this structure.” 

Susan Kupfer spoke for a second time for the Board of Library Trustees. She acknowledged that the South Branch schedule would not require demolition before 2012, but that the Library needed to proceed with finishing the design for the new building and “we have relied on the recommendation you (the LPC) made in July of 2010.” 

“Because of the EIR, because of the use permits” she said, “we have not gone forward with the construction drawings which would be the very next step.” 

“We need this time to be able to work on the construction drawings. We need to know we’re not stalled in the construction process.” 

“On the timing issue, we would very much opposed any sort of delay on the South Branch”, she concluded. 

David Snyder, speaking for a second time, urged the Commission to “vote to take a pass on the South Branch.” 

He said that the Library had considered moving the South Branch to the new Ed Roberts Campus at the Ashby BART station but “the community rose up and said no”, they wanted a branch at the current location. 

“You could go back to that architectural element (the original design) if you vacate the site and turn it into a nice little historic preservation”, he said sarcastically. 

The current branch libraries were designed to have five to eight thousand books, he said, and there are currently “fifty thousand books” at each branch. 

Linda Schacht spoke for a third time, saying, “it would be an enormous disservice to the South Berkeley community” not to demolish the existing branch. “It would inevitably delay the process.” 

“The people want it, they want a new South Branch.” “It would be a huge disservice to that community if it would be the one who didn’t get a new library”, she said. 

Ces Rosales spoke for the second time. “I beg you, please, please!” she said to the Commission. “I don’t feel like the building is worth saving.” “For the needs of the community, as a library it should be functional.” 

Gene Bernardi spoke for a second time, saying that she had talked to the original master architect of the Hans Ostwald firm that had designed the South Branch. 

“He is very, very, proud of the building”, she said. She said original plans for the building that would help clarify details of the original structural design might be available at the office of architect E. Paul Kelly. 

“I am very tired of hearing people say there are people from outside the community expressing their concerns,” she said, apparently in response to the attack on Warfield as a San Francisco resident. The Library Users Association is concerned about libraries, she said. “There’s no reason in the world they can’t be concerned about libraries everywhere.” 

“A lot of the people who are complaining about ‘outsiders’, for example the (Berkeley Public Library) Foundation, I don’t think they live in South and West Berkeley”, she said. 

The Commission then closed the public hearing. Commissioner Kennerly immediately moved that the Commission take no action on the South Branch, and Commissioner Pietras immediately seconded. 

“I’m persuaded that if we initiate, it will cause a delay”, Kennerly said. “For years there’s been a big gap in terms of the resources in South Berkeley.” We also want to be sensitive to what people in the area are saying.” “People want things to move forward as soon as possible”, she said. 

“Libraries are about the living, about what is going on now”, Kennerly added. “It’s in the context of the people, the children, the families.” 

Commissioner Hall said “when this came to us in May of 2010, I had been to the South Berkeley Library, I had been through it…but I hadn’t spent much time reading about it, looking at it.” 

Since then, she said, the Library consultant, Page & Turnbull, had produced a report in September of 2010 that had evaluated the South Branch and said it had historic merit. 

“I’ve gotten an immense fondness for it. It’s a little gem”, Hall said. “When you landmark a property in Berkeley it does not mean you can’t touch it”, or make changes, she said. “You can restore it, you can renovate it.” “You can add onto it”. 

“This building deserves to be saved”, she concluded. It’s “amazing little building that will be even more amazing if we restore it and add on to it.” 

“It is a gem, and I wish it would be preserved,” agreed Commissioner Wagley. “Landmarking means this building has value to our history.” 

She noted that most of the work of the LPC involves reviewing and approving plans for changes to landmarked structures. “We deal with things changing over time.” 

“Once a structure is demolished, it is gone forever”, she said. “This is a very unique and charming building.” “Both West and South (branches) are significant in Berkeley’s history.” 

“South Berkeley has many charming houses,” Wagley added. “It’s too bad South Berkeley would lose a landmark (civic) building.” 

“It is very sad, it is very, very sad, if this building goes.” 

“I really don’t think it functions well as a library,” said Commissioner Paul Schwartz. “I don’t find anything unique about this library, it’s not attractive.” 

“It looks like a hurricane shelter in Miami,” he asserted. “I don’t think financially it could be restored to its original beauty.” “I don’t know why anyone would want to preserve that building.” 

“The Sixties is one of my least favorite eras of architecture”, he added. 

After the discussion, the Commission voted 7-1-1 to take no action in regard to the South Branch, with Commissioner Hall opposed, and Commissioner Wagley abstaining. 

The migration of the commissioners began again, with the Landmarks members trekking down off the dais and the Zoning Adjustments Board resuming seats there and opening the fourth public hearing of the night, this time on the use permit for the West branch library project. 

Chair Williams told the audience that while the ZAB would hear public comments, “please recognize that the ZAB has another meeting following this meeting,” with other items of business. 

Attendees at the other meeting had already started to filter into the room, as people interested in the library discussion left. Williams said he would limit comments in this hearing to two minutes, instead of three. 

Edward Dean made a brief presentation for the project architects for the West Branch rebuild. He said the design team had looked at three schemes, and that a renovation alternative for the building could not make use of the original 1923 building entry, so “it necessarily has to be a two story scheme.” “The two story scheme raises several issues, there’s extra cost involved”, he said. 

“It’s not possible to do a zero net energy design with this type of geometry” (a two story building), and a renovation “costs about $600,000 more than the money available in the budget.” The new building “is a zero net energy design” he said. 

“There is not a significant embodied energy savings by going with the partial preservation alternative”, he added. “It in the case of West there’s no basis for this discussion of embodied energy”, that is saving energy by renovating rather than demolishing. 

When Williams called for additional public comment, no one responded from the audience. Commissioner Michael Cohen then immediately moved to approve the project “use permit, which includes the demolition” and the findings suggested by City staff in the staff report. 

The Commission voted 8-0-1 to approve the use permit, with Commissioner Poschman abstaining. 

Williams then opened the fifth public hearing of the evening, on the use permit for the South Branch. 

Avery Moore from the design team for the South Branch made a brief presentation, saying, “it’s a very different project than the West.” When designing the current building, Hans Ostwald, she said, “deliberately turned it inward and away from the street and towards landscape courts.” 

She said the original reading room with its pyramidal roof was “conceived as an elegant contemplative space, but that no longer applies.” The design team, she said, had studied a partial preservation scheme and “we found it had to go to two stories,” which the Library didn’t want. 

She said that the Landmarks Commission had “come to the same conclusion that an all new scheme was preferable.” 

There were a small number of speakers during the public hearing. 

I spoke for a fourth time, noting that the staff-written findings for the use permit state that the action would be carrying out the will of the voters in Measure FF, but that the findings mischaracterize Measure FF as calling for “rebuilding” of the branches, rather than the actual language that limited the projects to renovation and expansion. 

I also noted that the entire meeting had proceeded with none of the staff or Commissioners noting that the public hearing and the use permits were being held for an address that didn’t exist. The documents stated “Russell Avenue”, instead of “Russell Street.” 

Judith Epstein spoke for the fourth time, stating that a complete rebuild of the South Branch “can’t be legally financed by Measure FF.” “There is a better way”, she told the ZAB. “This is really not the best option.” 

She added, “the Zoning Amendment, as written, is actually not analyzed in the EIR.” 

Gwendolyn Reed spoke, saying she lives at Otis and Russell, Street, near the South Branch. “I would like to see the library demolished and another one built”, she said. “I’ve seen it become too small…Please don’t let this library remain as is.” 

Peter Warfield spoke, noting that the EIR doesn’t say what will happen to salvaged materials from the historic South Branch. They should be retained and reused, he said. “Other, better, options are available”, he said, echoing Epstein. “Measure FF does not justify demolition.” 

He said the proposed new building design was “unwelcoming” forcing library users to enter a passage way and turn a blind corner in order to reach the interior. 

Susan Kupfer spoke for a third time, “speaking for the Board of Library Trustees.” 

The use permit contains some suggested mitigations, she said. She said using those mitigations to save fragments removed from the old structure “would preserve through (an) exhibit and installation that would honor this building and make it available to the future of Berkeley.” (She was referring to mitigations calling for a display in the new building on the old, demolished, building.) 

When the public hearing closed, Commissioner Deborah Matthews spoke. “I’ve been waiting for this moment”, she proclaimed. She said that “one of the things I think happens for South Berkeley is (the statement that things have to be done) ‘more cost effectively’—I think that has to change”, she said. 

“With the South Berkeley Library, it has had its life…now it’s time for a change”, she said. “By doing anything except for demolition of the site we are not serving the community.” 

Don’t save a building, “save community minds”, she said. “To make the assumption that the meeting spaces in that building wont’ be utilized (by the community) is a total misnomer.” 

Matthews moved to approve the use permit. The motion passed 7-0-2, with Commissioner Poschman and Commissioner Bertha Romo abstaining. 

Williams belatedly made mention to staff that the use permit should be corrected to reflect the real street name of the South Berkeley library. 

After the meeting, I asked both Linda Schacht from the Berkeley Public Library Foundation and Judith Epstein from Concerned Library Users if they had any reaction to the meeting. 

“I’m going to draw back from public involvement now, since the people who are concerned are now getting involved”, Schacht said, gesturing in the direction of four or five African American women sitting in the front of the room. She did not respond to a later e-mail request for comment. 

Judith Epstein responded to the same e-mail request with this statement. 

"CLU believes that there are feasible alternatives to total demolition that accomplish the library program objectives without destroying historic resources. This is exactly what Measure FF promised to do. Todd Jersey's designs are simply beautiful, and his partial preservation alternatives provide for bigger libraries than the City's plans do. This will accommodate the needs of growing neighborhoods without additional construction or expense in the future. The City's designs only accommodate the current level of service. What's going to happen when that's not enough?" 

Berkeley School Employee Killed in Oakland Drive-By Shooting

By Rachel Purdy (BCN)
Tuesday April 19, 2011 - 11:27:00 PM

The shots that killed Beatrice Burton in West Oakland Monday night also wounded the Berkeley Unified School District, where Burton worked for the past three years. 

With 9,000 students and 1,500 employees, the school district is very close-knit and very much a family, said Mark Coplan, a spokesman for the school district. 

Burton, the 33-year-old Richmond woman who was fatally shot on Union Street near Poplar Park at about 9:45 p.m. Monday, was a member of that family for the past three years. 

It is an extended family that included several of Burton's own kin. 

"Hers is somewhat of a typical story, with Beatrice working in nutrition services, her son's father working in central kitchen services, and her aunt and niece working in the school district," Coplan said.  

For some members of the district, coping with the loss of Burton will be more challenging than simply losing an employee or a coworker, he said. Mental health counselors from the city of Berkeley were aiding staff members today at the district's central kitchen, where Burton started in 2008, and at Oxford Elementary School, where she worked for the past year, Coplan said.  

There are students and employees who are grieving the loss of an adult and a coworker, and then there are those who are dealing with a much greater loss, he said. 

Counselors are focusing on "how to best support our coworker who's dealing with a more immediate hit than us," Coplan said.  

Coplan said he has received little response from those close to Burton except for shock. 

"It's contrary to what anyone would expect to happen to Beatrice," he said.  

Burton was shot multiple times in the 3000 block of Union Street, Oakland police said. 

Her boyfriend took her to the hospital before Oakland police responded to the scene after they received reports of the gunfire.  

Police were contacted by Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and told that a woman with multiple gunshot wounds had been brought to the hospital. 

Burton died from her injuries at about 10:30 p.m., police said. 

On Wednesday, teachers at Oxford Elementary School will tell students about Burton's death but not the circumstances surrounding her murder, Coplan said. 

Counselors will be on hand Wednesday and possibly Thursday to answer questions and provide support, he said.  

Many coworkers close to Burton have not been able to communicate, Coplan said. 

"It's a tight group, which is why it's affected them so much," he said.  

Oakland police have not released any suspect information or made any arrests.  

Investigators with the Oakland Police Department's homicide unit have assumed control of the case. 

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact the homicide investigations unit at (510) 238-3821.

Holi Festival Paints a Multi-Colored, Multi-cultural, UC Berkeley Campus

By Steven Finacom
Monday April 18, 2011 - 05:51:00 PM

Ancient Hindu festival, rite of spring, mass water fight, and unparalleled colorful campus event—the festival of Holi, as celebrated at UC Berkeley seemed all of those things Sunday, April 17, 2011.
Sponsored by the Indian Student Association, the event drew hundreds of students and other celebrants to fill the center of Lower Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus from late morning through early afternoon.
For nearly three hours participants lined up to buy packets of dyed maize and starch in 50 gram increments and enter a fenced area where the object was to enthusiastically pelt one another with the vivid powders and the resultant colored water. 

Students from a multitude of ethnicities and backgrounds participated. Most arrived in white T-shirts. After a few minutes, the white cotton was liberally splotched, like the clothes of a kindergardener after finger painting, with patches of colors described by the Indian Student Association as “purple, yellow, green, pink, orange, magenta, baby pink.” A vivid blue was also apparent in the mix. 

As the event went on, colors blended into a sort of irregular deep violet tone, especially as water from buckets, wading pools, and hoses showered over the crowd. Purple water pooled and sloshed over the pavement of the plaza. 

Throbbing music was an ever-present counterpart. The participants sang, danced, and circulated through the crowd, laughing with both friends and strangers. Puffs of thrown powder exploded into the sky like miniature fireworks and formed a tangible, faintly gritty, haze or prismatic mist.  

Holi, the festival of colors, commemorates the story of an Indian prince who was lured to an apparent death. About to be burned alive, his devotion to the true gods saved him from the flames while his executioner, thinking herself immune to the fire, died instead. 

It was “The Triumph of Truth over Evil”, the packets of powder used on Sunday on campus read. 

The Indian Student Association is also promoting, on Friday, April 22, Vaisakhi Bhangra Night, “full of food, dancing, and memories…” at International House. 

See their website here: http://isa.berkeley.edu/

National Day of Silence at UC Berkeley

By Steven Finacom
Monday April 18, 2011 - 05:32:00 PM
Student Participants in the National Day of Silence
Student Participants in the National Day of Silence

A group of students participated in the National Day of Silence, 2011, by forming a sign barrier across Sather Gate on the UC Berkeley campus during the lunch hour on Friday, April 15, 2011 as the campus set up for the Cal Day open house on Saturday, April 16. The students wore pink tape over their mouths, emphasizing the theme of the day that LGLT students and youth are often silenced by bigotry and discrimination. They faced both into and out of the campus. The side portals of the gate remained open to pedestrians, and many passersby stopped to take flyers. 

The flyers noted that the nationwide event--during which participants do not speak for the day--represents "a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step towards building awareness and making a commitment to address the injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today," the flyers concluded.

Berkeley Councilmembers Move to Block New Drugstores

From the Berkeley City Council Agenda
Monday April 18, 2011 - 01:31:00 PM

From:Office of the Mayor
For: Berkeley City Council CONSENT CALENDAR, April 26, 2011 meeting
TO: Members of the City Council
FROM: Mayor Tom Bates,Council Members Laurie Capitelli and Susan Wengraf
SUBJECT: Restrict Location of Drug Stores
Request the Planning Commission draft a Zoning Ordinance amendment that limits location of new or expanded drugstores to a minimum of 1000 feet of an existing drugstore, and return to Council with proposed language as soon as possible. 


Drugstores serve an important purpose by offering pharmaceutical products and general merchandise to our community. Unfortunately an important part of their product mix is the sale of alcoholic beverages, leading to a proliferation of off sale alcohol permit applications. 

There has also been a trend for competing drugstores to locate in very close proximity to each other offering redundant services and products in small localized areas. This trend ignores other neighborhoods in the city which could benefit from the services. 

Concentrating such uses contributes to a lack of commercial diversity and does not serve the needs of the greater community. 

General Plan Policy ED-3 (e) of the Economic Development chapter states, “Develop and implement planning and zoning mechanisms that promote community-serving commercial diversity and that limit development of undesirable chain stores, formula businesses, and big-box developments without limiting the ability of local businesses grow and expand and, when needed, to establish additional outlets in various parts [of] the city.” 

To implement this policy, we request the Planning Commission consider a zoning amendment to restrict the location or relocation of any drugstore use to a minimum of 1000 feet from an existing similar use. We further request the Planning Commission return to City Council with the proposed zoning amendment as soon as possible.

Watching the Council: BerkeleyCouncilWatch.com Debuts (News Analysis)

By Shirley Dean
Monday April 18, 2011 - 11:16:00 AM

Our town is wonderful, lovely and exciting. Issues always seem to pop up – issues that trigger vociferous debate that ranges from nasty - “Bezerkely is at it again” - to confused - “who can figure out what’s going on”- to hopeless - “ it doesn’t matter what’s going on, no one listens anyway.” Not long ago, businesswoman Jacqueline McCormick, school and community activist Sophie Hahn, neighborhood leader Dean Metzger and former Mayor Shirley Dean were grousing about how hard it can be to keep up with Council happenings, when we jointly concluded it was time to help make sense of the maze of confusing information. We set a goal to provide people with a way to obtain timely, objective information, facilitate communication with our elected representatives, and converse with and learn from other residents. To accomplish this, we launched a new website, Berkeley Council Watch (BCW) in early April, since that’s when Berkeley was incorporated 133 years ago. 

First, to maximize awareness of issues being considered and decisions that have been made, you can obtain information about upcoming meetings, hot topics under considerations and decisions that have been made and by whom. BCW provides a “one-stop shop” that links together all things city government related, from upcoming meeting agendas and their related underlying documents to press articles and commentaries. 

If you have ever used the City’s website to try and understand what is going on, you know the frustration of navigating through a maze of pages. It’s difficult and time-consuming to find the documents that have lead up to a particular Council agenda item. Minutes from previous meetings are not posted immediately following meetings and once they are, there is no detail. To find out what really happened, you must view the video – and who has 4+ hours for that? Berkeley Council Watch links all documents on a single topic together, so you can get everything with just one click! 

Second, Berkeley Council Watch provides a consistent outlet for voicing your opinion. Before every Council meeting, BCW gives you the opportunity to let your councilmember know how you feel about a specific issue via the site’s unbiased comments feature. All comments received through the site are consolidated and delivered to the City Clerk for distribution to each Councilmember the day before the meeting. All comments are distributed without filtering so long as name and Council District number are included. 

Third, Berkeley Council Watch offers residents a forum to converse with each other using a shared, easily accessible information base to communicate and learn from each other. 

The key to Berkeley Council Watch is the availability of objective information based on reports and videos that the City itself provides and balanced by the comments of identified community members and the press. Everyone involved with Berkeley Council Watch is committed to providing unbiased, open information and to delivering all registered opinions to city officials for inclusion in the public record. 

Berkeley Council Watch is an ambitious undertaking that requires continuing user input and feedback, so suggestions for improvements are most welcome. This is a site of the people, by the people, and for the people of Berkeley. Please visit us at http://berkeleycouncilwatch.com and e-mail us at info@berkeleycouncilwatch.com to let us know what you think, and we will answer. 



The Tactics Used to Discredit Library Demolition Opponents Are Wrong (Reprinted from the LeConte Chat)

By Vincent Casalaina
Monday April 25, 2011 - 08:00:00 PM

We need more people who stand up to the City when they put one thing on the ballot and then choose to do something totally different. In this case it's about our libraries but this is not the first time we've seen this change of purpose happen with ballot measures - and unfortunately I think it's not likely to be the last. 

In this particular case, the language of the ballot measure is pretty clear. The language makes it look like Berkeley residents didn't vote to demolish libraries. They voted to refurbish the branch libraries, to keep historic architecture intact and to make them seismically safe. 

Whether you believe a new library needs to be built in South Berkeley or not, it's absolutely wrong to disparage those of us who feel there is something wrong with the process that allows city government to raise funds for one project and then to use them for a totally different purpose. I am not a party to the lawsuit but I object to the tactics that have been used to discredit its supporters. 

Let's keep the discourse civil and on topic. Let's make sure that the funds we voted for are used as the language in the ballot measure states. In this case - let the courts decide what we actually voted for. 

Phoebe Hearst Remembered As Premier UC Benefactor

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday April 20, 2011 - 12:11:00 PM
After the opening reception, curator William Roberts showed Kevin Starr a portion of the exhibit in the Bernice Brown Gallery in UC Berkeley’s Doe Library.
Steven Finacom
After the opening reception, curator William Roberts showed Kevin Starr a portion of the exhibit in the Bernice Brown Gallery in UC Berkeley’s Doe Library.
Phoebe Hearst in 1899, when she moved to Berkeley to be near the University.
San Francisco Examiner, 1899
Phoebe Hearst in 1899, when she moved to Berkeley to be near the University.
Will Hearst, Phoebe’s great-grandson, accepted a copy of the Hearst Architectural Plan publication at the opening reception for the exhibit.
Steven Finacom
Will Hearst, Phoebe’s great-grandson, accepted a copy of the Hearst Architectural Plan publication at the opening reception for the exhibit.
Phoebe Hearst rented this recently built house at Channing and Piedmont in Berkeley when she came to live near the University in 1899.  She soon commissioned Bernard Maybeck to build a substantial social hall next door.
San Francisco Examiner, 1899
Phoebe Hearst rented this recently built house at Channing and Piedmont in Berkeley when she came to live near the University in 1899. She soon commissioned Bernard Maybeck to build a substantial social hall next door.
The exhibit includes this whimsical “double-spouted whistling jar”, circa 800 AD, depicting a monkey, acquired during a Hearst-funded expedition to Peru in 1905, and now in the Hearst Museum collections.
Steven Finacom
The exhibit includes this whimsical “double-spouted whistling jar”, circa 800 AD, depicting a monkey, acquired during a Hearst-funded expedition to Peru in 1905, and now in the Hearst Museum collections.

“Hearst” is a name known to almost anyone in Berkeley. Not only is there Hearst Avenue, running almost all the way across town, but also familiar facilities including the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, Hearst Greek Theatre, and Hearst Museum bracket the UC Berkeley campus.  

It’s been that way—“Hearst” on everyone’s lips, in one context or another—for more than a century. 

However, the most prominent person behind that name, at least in its Berkeley connection, has receded into history. Today, Phoebe Apperson Hearst is not the ubiquitously known and revered figure she was in early 20th century California. 

A new exhibit in the Bernice Brown Gallery of the Doe Library on the Berkeley campus aims to bring her back into popular familiarity and focus.  

Curated by retired University Archivist William Roberts, combining resources from the University Archives and Hearst Museum of Anthropology on the campus, and additionally supported by the College of Letters and Science, the exhibit, “Building Berkeley: The Legacy of Phoebe Apperson Hearst”, opened this past Friday just in time for Cal Day and will run through August 31. 

A small Friday evening gathering in the Morrison Library adjacent to the Brown Gallery featured remarks by Chancellor Birgeneau, Will Hearst (William Randolph Hearst, III), one of Phoebe’s great grandsons, and a number of academic leaders, as well as a spirited impromptu commentary by noted California historian Kevin Starr. 

Phoebe Hearst was “one of the University’s most important benefactors”, said Birgeneau. “Her legacy was, and remains, building Berkeley.” 

The Chancellor, who has invested much energy in increasing student diversity on the campus, quipped that Hearst was “the matriarch of Access and Excellence.” 

He noted he was a student at Yale when that institution decided to admit women for the first time. UC had admitted women in the 1870s, and Phoebe Hearst had later strengthened the place of women students at Berkeley by funding a series of women-only scholarships that became known as “Phoebes”. 

“Hearst was a full century ahead of the times”, Birgeneau said. 

“From the beginning, Berkeley has always existed because of public / private partnerships” like that of Hearst and the University, he noted. He praised her “great leadership in the 19th century” and said that the architectural plan she funded for the campus was “one of the catalysts that make Berkeley the great campus it is today.” 

University Librarian Tom Leonard also spoke, noting that Hearst academic benefactions were still producing results. Only five years previously the Library had received the last of the Tebtunis Papyri collected in Egypt on an expedition Hearst funded in 1899.  

Leonard described Doe Library, where the gathering was held, as “another monument to Hearst’s vision” and a key element of the architectural plan she funded for the campus. Doe will turn 100 years old in 2012 and a Centennial celebration is being planned. 

At the same time, the new Hearst exhibit will allow “many thousands of people to get to know Phoebe Hearst better.” “I think she would be very pleased this afternoon”, Leonard said. 

“I think the family is enormously proud of the association” of the Hearsts and Berkeley, said Will Hearst, Phoebe’s great-grandson. “This is really kind of our mother ship” for family philanthropy. 

He was one of three Hearst descendants who attended the opening. The others were Anissa Balson and her daughter, Phoebe Balson. 

“It’s not hard to be enthusiastic about Berkeley,” Will Hearst said. “This is a great institution.” “The University is really the seed corn of a society.” 

“I’m particularly encouraged that the vocabulary of private and public is more emphasized”, he added. “The private sector is going to have to step up and do more”, as the University suffers from State budget cuts. 

Hearst noted that the gathering “includes my old professor Kevin Starr. I’ll see you at office hours later,” he said, to laughter. 

College of Letters and Science Executive Dean, Professor Mark Richards, told the gathering, “there’s so much to say about the Hearst legacy.” He reminisced that when he first came to Berkeley to join the faculty, a colleague took him to look at the Hearst Memorial Mining Building and told him, “Phoebe Hearst built this University better than anyone else.”  

“Phoebe Hearst set a level of aspiration for this land grant university”, Richards said. She believed Berkeley “was supposed to be just as good as Harvard or Cambridge, or the great universities of Europe…and if you look around you, you’ll see that it is.” 

Richards said that if he had lived a century ago and had a similar fortune to hers and decided how to spend it on the University of California, “I’m afraid that I would fall short of the power of her vision.” 

“It’s a pleasure to be here tonight”, said Rosemary Joyce, the Director of the Hearst Museum. “It really is a brilliant exhibit.” “If we leave any kind of an exhibition wishing we could see more, it’s a success. Thank you”, she said to the curators and exhibit organizers. 

“I’ve spent an enormous amount of time reading her letters”, Joyce said of Phoebe Hearst, the namesake of her institution. “I personally will always be grateful to her.” 

“Mrs. Hearst envisioned the institution as a cultural center”, she added. “She was a teacher. She must have been a wonderful teacher”, and she “was interested in understanding the culture of others.” 

Hearst believed “the museum should be dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge among the many, and to give the people of California every educational advantage.” “She was truly a century ahead of her time”, Joyce concluded, echoing Will Hearst. 

After the formal remarks, Kevin Starr was induced to come to the podium and make a few comments. “I’m unprepared”, he initially protested, but then went on to talk movingly about Phoebe Hearst for several minutes. 

“I feel that I know her.” Starr said, recalling Hearst as the young Phebe (sic) Apperson, “teaching herself to read French” in Missouri. “She had the benefit of the same education Abraham Lincoln had”, he observed; basic schooling in a rural region, plus whatever she could learn on her own.  

In her adult years, with the money to travel and see the world, associations with educators, and support for the University, “she absolutely relished that life long education” opportunity. 

Although a rich woman for most of her life, “she never became trapped into becoming the ‘Great Mrs. Hearst’,” Starr emphasized. “She never lost that small ‘d’ democratic streak”. “Actually, capital ‘D’ Democratic, too” he added, to laughter. 

Phoebe Hearst was, Starr concluded, one of the women who were essentially founders of the State of California. 

After the remarks, University officials presented Will Hearst with an original edition of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Architectural Plan for the Berkeley campus.  

The group then adjourned to informal conversation, and a gallery tour of the exhibit by Curator William Roberts. 

The exhibit occupies several low glass covered cabinets and two large display cases in the stately, columned, Bernice Lane Brown Gallery, the main formal entrance hallway into Doe Library.  

Roberts put together a varied array of materials. Some are biographical, tracing Phoebe’s life. Most have something to do with her long support for the University of California. 

Although most of the materials are works on paper—letters, telegrams, newspaper articles, reports, photographs—Roberts created visual interest in the exhibit by interspersing various artifacts.  

They include whimsical ceramics collected in Peru by the Uhle expedition funded by Hearst, the drawing instruments of University Supervising Architect John Galen Howard who was hired to implement the Hearst Architectural Plan, and a ceremonial silver trowel used at the groundbreaking for the Hearst Memorial Mining Building. The trowel bears, in Latin, an inscription that reads “From Wife to Husband.” 

Parts of one case are devoted to an exploration of the origins of campus plans at Berkeley and the elaborate Hearst Architectural Competition that, at the end of the 19th century, set the University on the road to international notability and a grand, neo-classical, campus. 

Other cases explore the enormous variety of Hearst’s gifts to the University, starting in 1891 with a promise to fund a series of scholarships for deserving women students.  

A partial list I gleaned from the exhibit shows the breath of her interests and benefactions.  

Phoebe funded programs in anthropology and archaeology. Research and collecting expeditions went with her support to Peru, Guatemala, rural California, the American Midwest and Southwest, and even her home state of Missouri. She made personal gifts of artifacts from the South Pacific, Alaska, the Etruscan region of Italy, and the Philippines. 

Collections she assembled accumulated in new buildings she funded on the Berkeley campus. Her gifts ranged from Sioux Indian artifacts to “forty-eight Roman marbles, selected in Italy…” to paintings of early Californian pioneers. 

Astronomers at UC’s Lick Observatory benefited from a swimming pool, a car she bought so they could reach their mountaintop posts more efficiently, and an eclipse expedition to Chile funded by her. The architectural library on campus was seeded with her gifts.  

She paid the salary for the University’s physician for women students and her assistant, financed music concerts and dramatic productions at Berkeley, and stepped in when fundraising campaigns fell short for campus features like the Class of 1910 Bridge. She even gave money to help build Senior Men’s Hall, despite the exclusion of women from its use. 

The 1902 President’s Report for the University noted, “In such countless ways has Mrs. Hearst shown her sympathetic and inspiring friendship for the University, and so little has her right hand known what the left has done, that a complete enumeration of her beneficences is impossible.” 

Her touch seemed everywhere on campus and it was very personal. Phoebe Hearst was known for hearing about a financial problem at a meeting of the Regents, and soon sending a check to alleviate it (one suspects that University administrators might have, on occasion, taken advantage of this generosity, seeding their reports to The Regents and discussions at meetings with laments about this or that financial need.)  

Hearst rented a house at Channing Circle—and later built another—in Berkeley and spent much time in town hosting receptions, visiting with students—particularly the young women—and nurturing programs for community support.  

She financed the Hearst Domestic Industries that employed financially needy women students, and funded the West Berkeley Settlement House where students went to provide education and services for poor immigrant residents. 

The exhibit also touches on Phoebe Hearst’s rich personal life. She traveled extensively, was involved in many organizations, and causes, and was in great demand for both social and charitable events.  

Her interests ranged far and wide. There are public facilities named for Phoebe Hearst from a library in South Dakota to an elementary school in Louisiana. 

Last year on a visit to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home, I was pleased and surprised to see in an exhibit that she was a Regent of the organization that saved and operated that monument and gave money for practical improvements there, including hiring Mr. Edison to electrify the place.  

UC students, faculty, and dignitaries were entertained on a regular basis both at her Berkeley homes. Whole chartered trains were sometimes required to convey her guests from Berkeley to one of her elaborate and eclectic country homes, Hacienda del Pozo de Verona, in Pleasanton.  

Roberts included in the exhibit pages from her appointment calendar detailing many of her multitude of commitments. 

But the most evocative entry might be this short one, from a random Tuesday afternoon. Hearst noted, “Visits. Calls. Shopping. Many duties.” The life of a woman of means, money, and many interests. 

One of the most interesting parts of the exhibit is a series of newspaper articles and photographs detailing her construction, on Channing Way, of an imaginative wooden reception hall, designed by Bernard Maybeck.  

It was soon dismantled and moved to a site adjacent to the Berkeley campus, where it became Hearst Hall, the women’s gymnasium. When it burned in the early 1920s, it was a catalyst for the construction of the much more elaborate Hearst Gymnasium. 

When Hearst’s son, William Randolph Hearst, paid for Hearst Gym he also proposed an elaborate, interconnected, series of other buildings and memorials to his mother. She had, a note in the exhibit mentions, said during her last illness that she would like to go ahead and finance a University Museum in her name.  

The memorial her son proposed—but ultimately did not fund, beyond the gymnasium element—would have included that museum, just across the street from where today’s Berkeley Art Museum would rise half a century later. And her name would ultimately go to the anthropology museum on campus. 

Soon after her death, the Academic Senate on the Berkeley campus passed a resolution that concluded, “Whereas, we as a faculty and individually have recognized the embodiment of all that is good, gentle, lovable and womanly in Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst, therefore be it Resolved: that the faculty of the University of California will cherish the ideals fostered by Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst, striving to emulate her noble example, and will forever revere her memory.” 

The Hearst name is indeed revered and remembered, but in more than 90 years since her death, the exact identity of “Phoebe Hearst” has faded from the campus consciousness, morphing into the more generic “Hearst” this and “Hearst” that, with no detailed appreciation of the person behind the name.  

There’s a University administrator who tells with both humor and chagrin a story of recently going to a reception and meeting a student who was a recipient of one of the scholarships Phoebe Hearst funded. He mentioned what a good benefactor Hearst had been to the campus. 

“Is she here?” asked the student, having no idea that the donor whose gift was helping to pay her education set the scholarship wheels in motion more than a century ago. 

Now, at least, that student—and her classmates—has the opportunity to find their way to Doe Library and learn in detail about Phoebe Hearst. The “gentle mother of the University” and the “fairy godmother” of the campus may, at last, come back into her own. 

A Phoebe Hearst Primer: 

Born December 3, 1842, in Missouri, Phoebe Apperson was only 19 and a schoolteacher when a much older family friend, George Hearst, returned newly rich from California and courted her. They were married June 15, 1862 in Missouri and she returned west with him. 

Making their home in San Francisco, Phoebe supported her husband in his business and political endeavors. They had one child, William Randolph, who traveled in Europe with his mother and went to Harvard. The family fortune grew from mining and land investments, and George Hearst became a Senator from California.  

Phoebe set up a home for them in Washington D.C, serving as a political hostess. When George died in 1891 he left the family fortune to her, not to son Willie, who was already dabbling in journalism and politics and showing signs of the expansive collecting and building instincts that would mark his adult life.  

Phoebe was the first woman appointed to the UC Board of Regents in 1897, not long after another Bay Area power couple, Jane and Leland Stanford, established a private University in Palo Alto.  

For most of three decades after her husband died Phoebe managed the family funds and spent them not only on her son’s interests but also on a wide range of her own charitable, scientific, and philanthropic causes.  

Her interests were particularly focused on improving the lives of women and children, and promoting education. She helped establish the practice of American kindergarten education, supported the creation of what would become the PTA, and sympathized with the campaign for Women’s Suffrage, the right to vote. 

She had homes in Pleasanton, San Francisco, and Berkeley, and a country estate designed like a castle near Mount Shasta. In 1919, she died at the age of 76 at her Pleasanton estate. She was buried in Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, south of San Francisco.  

Several facilities and programs on the UC Berkeley campus currently bear the Hearst name. They include: the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, paid for by Phoebe as a memorial to her husband, George; the Hearst Greek Theatre, funded by William Randolph at her suggestion; the Hearst Gymnasium, built by her son as a memorial to her; the Hearst Museum of Anthropology, honoring her many years of varied donations of artifacts, art, and research funds and salaries to the anthropology and archaeology programs of the University. 

For more details on the exhibit, see: 


For more on the University Architectural Plan Phoebe Hearst funded, and the monument once planned in her honor, see: 


Cal Day: UC Berkeley's Open House

By Steven Finacom
Monday April 18, 2011 - 06:26:00 PM
Student ballroom dancers rhumbaed on the steps of Sproul Hall.
Student ballroom dancers rhumbaed on the steps of Sproul Hall.
Having your picture taken with the statue of Mark Twain in Doe Library was a popular activity.
Having your picture taken with the statue of Mark Twain in Doe Library was a popular activity.
Protestors shed most of their clothes on Sproul Plaza to protest the rapidly climbing costs of higher education at Cal.
Protestors shed most of their clothes on Sproul Plaza to protest the rapidly climbing costs of higher education at Cal.
Astronomy students set up a sundial with chalk and book markers next to Mining Circle and solar telescope displays.
Astronomy students set up a sundial with chalk and book markers next to Mining Circle and solar telescope displays.
The Cal Victory Cannon, maintained by the Rally Committee, was a popular prop at “OskiLand” on Memorial Glade.
The Cal Victory Cannon, maintained by the Rally Committee, was a popular prop at “OskiLand” on Memorial Glade.
A gigantic inflated Oski presided over OskiLand and its children’s games and prizes.
A gigantic inflated Oski presided over OskiLand and its children’s games and prizes.
Engineering students displayed a solar electric car that they hope to take to Australia to compete in a distance contest.
Engineering students displayed a solar electric car that they hope to take to Australia to compete in a distance contest.
An armored member of the Society for Creative Anachronism demonstrated proper medieval fighting style in Memorial Glade.
An armored member of the Society for Creative Anachronism demonstrated proper medieval fighting style in Memorial Glade.
A Cal volunteer overseas talked live to a gathering in Wheeler Auditorium celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps.  More Cal alumni have gone into the Peace Corps than from any other university in the United States.
A Cal volunteer overseas talked live to a gathering in Wheeler Auditorium celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. More Cal alumni have gone into the Peace Corps than from any other university in the United States.
The ASUC Art Studio held an open air sale of handmade ceramics, jewelry, candles, and photographs.
The ASUC Art Studio held an open air sale of handmade ceramics, jewelry, candles, and photographs.
The Jewish Student Union and Catholics at Cal tabled side by side in the long arrays of student activity groups.
The Jewish Student Union and Catholics at Cal tabled side by side in the long arrays of student activity groups.
Two dinosaurs advertising an exhibit at the Lawrence Hall of Science passed through campus.
Two dinosaurs advertising an exhibit at the Lawrence Hall of Science passed through campus.
Cal Origami Club members demonstrated their skills on Sproul Plaza.  Yes, they made an origami bear.
Cal Origami Club members demonstrated their skills on Sproul Plaza. Yes, they made an origami bear.
A student awaits immersion in a fundraising dunk tank on Lower Sproul.
A student awaits immersion in a fundraising dunk tank on Lower Sproul.
The experimental garden at the Oxford Tract was celebrating its 40th birthday, and also had a campus table selling plants.
The experimental garden at the Oxford Tract was celebrating its 40th birthday, and also had a campus table selling plants.
LaDawn Duvall, head of Visitor Services at Cal, and maestro of the day’s activities was driven through the crowd in a golf cart taking blue and gold flowers from one event to the next.
LaDawn Duvall, head of Visitor Services at Cal, and maestro of the day’s activities was driven through the crowd in a golf cart taking blue and gold flowers from one event to the next.
That’s not days left to Finals, but 35 days until the End of the World, according to one evangelist promoting his theology at Bancroft and Telegraph.
That’s not days left to Finals, but 35 days until the End of the World, according to one evangelist promoting his theology at Bancroft and Telegraph.
The real Oski was a highly visible presence throughout the day.   Here he emcees a spirit rally on Sproul Plaza.
The real Oski was a highly visible presence throughout the day. Here he emcees a spirit rally on Sproul Plaza.
Lower Sproul Plaza blossomed with tables, food, music, and entertainment throughout the day.
Lower Sproul Plaza blossomed with tables, food, music, and entertainment throughout the day.
Cal Day, the annual spring Open House, welcomed tens of thousands to the UC Berkeley campus on Saturday, April 16, 2011.   From the Lawrence Hall of Science to International House, Sproul Plaza, and Downtown Berkeley students, faculty, and staff greeted, entertained, and educated hosts of alumni, community members, and new and prospective students.  Many of the activities were planned to welcome and orient newly admitted students to the campus and college life.
Cal Day, the annual spring Open House, welcomed tens of thousands to the UC Berkeley campus on Saturday, April 16, 2011. From the Lawrence Hall of Science to International House, Sproul Plaza, and Downtown Berkeley students, faculty, and staff greeted, entertained, and educated hosts of alumni, community members, and new and prospective students. Many of the activities were planned to welcome and orient newly admitted students to the campus and college life.

Cal Day, the annual spring Open House, welcomed tens of thousands to the UC Berkeley campus on Saturday, April 16, 2011. From the Lawrence Hall of Science to International House, Sproul Plaza, and Downtown Berkeley students, faculty, and staff greeted, entertained, and educated hosts of alumni, community members, and new and prospective students. Many of the activities were planned to welcome and orient newly admitted students to the campus and college life.



Find Out What's Going on in Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday April 20, 2011 - 01:30:00 PM

So, what’s up in Berkeley? An endlessly interesting question to some, deadly dull to others. And as in many big towns which like to think of themselves as small cities, it’s been harder and harder to find out in recent years, even if you care.

In the first place, there’s the two Berkeley problem. For a sizeable number of residents, Berkeley is just a more PC Piedmont: comfortable view homes, an easy car commute to pleasant white collar jobs on the UC campus or in San Francisco, okay city services. Getting anywhere—shopping, movies, whatever—is just about impossible without an automobile, and once you’re in the car, you might as well go to El Cerrito Plaza or Emeryville or Walnut Creek if you need anything. For concerned parents, there’s a choice of driving the kids to not-so-bad public schools or to interesting added-value private schools where the little darlings can learn French, creative sharing, Hebrew, music…whatever you think might improve them the most.

In this Berkeley, no one's trying to build an enormous apartment development to loom over your block, and if the occasional passing car threatens to disturb your peace, you might be able to persuade the city to gift you with a few bumps in the road. That’s about all you need from the city, unless a neighbor’s new gable invades your view, necessitating a complaint. Your house is worth a lot, even with the recession, so your tax bill is substantial, and if you’re that kind of person you might gripe about that.

The other Berkeley is the one that allows upscale and uphill Berkeley to feel PC. These are the people who inhabit the area which has the “more density” bulls-eye painted on it, the place where the 16,000 households that the Association of Bay Area Government and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission want to add to Berkeley over the next 25 years would surely be located. The residents of this other Berkeley, on average, have lower property values, less income and more melanin than their fellow citizens, and they certainly have more to worry about. Instead of winding lanes, they’re apt to live on or next to transit corridors. They can—and often must—walk or bike to stores.
These are the Berkeleyans who really need to know what’s going on, in the classic phrase, “before it lands on them.” When the Mayor and the City Council are confronted, to their evident distaste. with a noisy crowd, many members of the vocal group come from what might be called “high impact” Berkeley. Most residents of “low impact” Berkeley hate going to council meetings in person, and luckily for them life is good and they don’t need to. 

So how do need-to-know Berkeleyans find out what’s going on? The recent initiative by the public-spirited citizens who have organized the berkeleycouncilwatch.com website, announced in this issue, is a real breakthrough. Much of the information they showcase is available online, with an extremely laborious search, from the city of Berkeley, but the new citizen-sponsored site puts it all in an easy to use and attractive format. There’s even an open forum section—with no nice-nanny restrictions—for public comment. 

On the Berkeley Council Watch site, just this week, I noticed that the Mayor and Councilmembers Capitelli and Wengraf, who represent low-impact Berkeley, have placed an item on the council agenda attempting to limit the number and location of pharmacies in the city. That’s swell for the auto-oriented and not-price-sensitive population of high-hills districts, where there will never be a Walgreens, but makes little sense for people who need to walk to shopping and who appreciate the way drug stores are evolving into general stores selling practical sundries for reasonable prices. Like them or not, chain pharmacies have replaced the Woolworths and the family-owned hardware stores and the small retailers which used to sell such merchandise, and that’s all over America, not only in Berkeley. 

It’s an item of faith in some circles that these stores have driven the independents out, but in fact they have by and large come in only when the old guard has failed. The walkable Elmwood shopping area when we moved to Berkeley in 1973 had two pharmacies, a hardware store, a variety store and a store selling serviceable inexpensive drygoods—all gone, mostly replaced by restaurants and chi-chi boutiques. We could use one of those Walgreens, not just for drugs but for toilet paper and milk and socks. 

Another useful source of information for the beleaguered Berkeleyan is the Berkeleyside site, with a blog-type format but ambitions, increasingly well-realized, to provide an easy-to-digest version of assorted general news and features about current city happenings. Often what’s most interesting on this site is the reader-written comments, though they sometimes add unfortunate misinformation to the discussion.Berkeleyside’s take on the proposed drugstore banprovoked a vigorous debate. 

For those who haven’t acclimated to getting their news by computer, slim pickings get ever slimmer. The major metropolitan print publications, the San Francisco Chronicle and the hydra-headed Bay Area News Group, are somewhat random in their choice of topics, too often falling back on the tried and true Bezerkeley meme because they can’t be bothered to cover governmental meetings on a regular basis. There’s also a new “good news” shopper, the Berkeley Times, seemingly featuring mostly photos from the BUSD public relations department, but since I’ve only been able to find one or two issues I really shouldn’t comment on it. 

What’s too often missing from this lineup are the back stories, since seasoned reporters with long memories and a broad perspective are expensive to support. Case in point: the drugstore ban story, when it’s been reported at all so far, has been generally placed in the context of rivalries between the two big pharmacy chains, Walgreens and CVS. 

What’s been overlooked is that Safeway is everywhere becoming yet another flavor of all-purpose general store cum pharmacy, looking to expand its Solano and North Shattuck and College/Claremont locations, all of which court the lucrative Berkeley market. Mostly likely, it’s Safeway which doesn’t want either Walgreens or CVS to expand any further in Berkeley, because they’re the competition to Safeway’s new business plan of offering everything including drugs under one convenient roof. 

Back story: Safeway has been represented before Planning Commissions and City Councils in all these endeavors by the Aroner, Jewel and Ellis lobbying firm, which sprung full-armed from the robust political organization which has long controlled the Berkeley City Council and the city’s seats in the California legislature. Dion Aroner followed now-Mayor Tom Bates as this area’s State Assembly Member, and she was followed by the Assembly term of Bates’ wife, Loni Hancock, who preceded him as Berkeley mayor. Elizabeth Jewel once worked for some or all of them, and still works with Aroner in the influence arena. And Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, another sponsor of the drugstore ban, is generally regarded as Bates’ anointed successor for the mayor’s seat. (Though if you can’t follow all this you’re not alone!) 

Bottom line: it’s almost impossible to figure what’s really going on in Berkeley (or anywhere else). But if you’re foolish enough to try, these days you’re going to have to piece together a confusing patchwork of information sources, and even then, you can’t be sure what’s really up. 




Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins, BOUNCE

Monday April 18, 2011 - 05:18:00 PM


Dan O'Neill



Joseph Young


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday April 20, 2011 - 02:26:00 PM

Republicans Again; “The General Welfare” and Other Meaningless Abstractions; Federal Budget; The Budget; Sunday Morning Funnies; The Truth; A Sad Case; Needy; Priorities; Unions; Bees; Republicans Again 

Republicans Again 

Do you remember the 8 years of the Bush presidency, with White House
spokesman Ari Fleischer saying, "People should watch what they
say." There was the Patriot Act, the weakening of habeas corpus, stolen
elections, and dissent was characterized as treason by the Bush administration. 

From illegal wiretaps, the unlawful imprisonment of American citizens,
and the creeping influence of religious extremism at the highest levels of the
U.S. government, we saw it all.
Is that what you want again? Do you think Republicans have changed one
iota except to become worse? The GOP, and its joined at the hip sidekicks the
Tea Party, will do anything to regain power and the White House in 2012.
That includes derailing the economy. We're already seeing Republicans
using budget cuts at the federal and state levels, trying to suck the life out
of the improving economy.

Ron Lowe 

* * * 

“The General Welfare” and Other Meaningless Abstractions 

Like 'public welfare,' 'national defense,' 'national security,' 'public accomodations,' 'equal opportunity,' and 'fair housing' the 'general welfare' is a limp, rubbery abstraction that means everything and nothing. You have, say, 308 million people living in the USA, but there is not additional entity called 'society.' Society is simply a mental abstraction, like the above terms, that we humans invent for purposes of classification and organization 

because the trillions of actual physical concretes would be way too much to even begin to carry around in our minds. If we always recognize them as mentally created abstractions there is no problem. Imagining them as real physical entities is the beginning of insanity. 

In actual practice, 'the public welfare' is whatever the gang in power can get away with at the moment. 

If Nixon's President then the Imperial Presidency is a bad idea but if an FDR or LBJ or JFK 

is in power then it's great and whether wars are declared or not becomes an irrelevancy. 

The Lefty Libs march in goosestep to their Supreme Leader. For further details watch Rachel Maddow any night. 

Since all collectivities, groups are solely composed of individuals they have no existence and thus no rights separate from and superior to the their individual members. 

What modern 'progressivism' in all its guises from communism-socialism to fascism-to misnamed 'liberalism' attempts to do is take us back to the status society of medieval time or the primitive tribal societes in the so-called 'Third World.' 

The 20th Century was the century of rebarbarization, of collectivism. 

It has always been a failure because Raul Castro just put it so well, "four will always be four, never five, much less six or seven as we have pretended. No individual or country can spend more than they have." 

With all due respect to your Dad, Becky, Thomas Kuchel was as much a "Republican" as Lowell Weicker, Jr., Pete McCloskey, Earl Warren or Jacob Javits. All were actually New Deal Democrats. 

To answer your question as to what we owe the intellectual see change since the late fifties, it comes to four of the most beautiful words in the english language, Ayn Rand'sAtlas Shrugged. 

Nathaniel Branden prophetically predicted in 1957 that if Atlas Shrugged sold 10,000 "this culture is cooked." Sales of Atlas Shrugged are now approaching ten million. 

Michael Paul Hardesty 


Federal Budget 

I am not sure who came out on top in the budget negotiations. The Democrats blamed the Republicans for threatening to shut down the government, but the Democrats should have passed a budget before the fiscal year began on October 1st when they had a majority on both houses of Congress. Republicans supposedly were trying to cut government spending and help the economy, but if they had indeed shut down the government, it would have damaged our economy. The shutdowns in late 1995 and early 1996 cost the government more than $1.4 billion to repay salaries of employees on furlough, lost national park and museum fees, etc. In short, the budget war reflects incompetence and cowardice. As Will Rogers said, "This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.

Ralph E. Stone 


* * * 

Sunday Morning Funnies 

All our famed political pundits of any stripe seemed to be stuck on one subject this morning.....THE BUDGET, of course. And round and round it goes.....each party blaming the other. The Republicans hope that we have amnesia about Wall Street and bank bail-outs. After all, if they could sell our government on spendingour tax dollars to save big-business.....why not try our naiveté again? 

A favorite attack on spending was for our Medicare & Medicaid! Are they kidding? 

Well, senior memories, after all, may be fading. Yes, a democrat did have to finally remind me that a large obscene portion of Medicare cost are DRUGS! Rather than apologizing that seniors will just have to pay a little more for their benefits, he suggested that the government can be buying drugs at wholesale prices, rather than giving BIG-PHARMA more billions! 

I don't remember his name, of course, but I love him! 

Gerta Farber 

The Truth 

We don't get to know the real truth. Who are the Americans who are able to influence their representatives in Congress? They are the richest people and the big corporations. Because they have lobbyists these rich people and these rich corporations pay very little tax while we working people pay full taxes and break our backs trying to make ends meet. It seems a nation founded on good and caring neighbors is disappearing. Members of Congress seem to remember only Darwin's message of survival of the fittest. Maybe only the wealthy people should be allowed to live so they never have to hear about poor, low income fellow human beings.

The poor and elderly population can't be treated like rubbish.
There will be an awakening of fellow feeling and common humanity some day. But till then let's find a way to balance the budget which doesn't mistreat the low income end of our crumbling social structure.

Romila Khanna 

A Sad Case 

Berkeley Daily Planet readers probably remember Dan Spitzer, who was leading the campaign to get advertisers to abandon the Daily Planet. What’s he doing now? He seems to be making life hell for rational people at J Weekly, the Bay Area’s Jewish publication. He comments on the J Weekly website are often so extreme that the editors see fit to delete them, though they have a hard time keeping up. 

His latest concerned the kidnapping of Vittorio Arrigoni, the human rights activist kidnapped in Gaza. He posted the following comment in the Letters section of J Weekly before the news came that Arrigoni had been killed by a small group of Palestinians, one with a worldview somewhat like Al Qaeda. 

“Finally, some good news: a member of ISM (the administrators of the notorious flotilla) had one of their pro-Palestinian activists kidnapped by a Palestinian splinter group today in Gaza. I cannot say that I wish him well…” 

This comment has since been deleted by the overworked editors of J Weekly. 

Dan Spitzer may have the distinction of being the only open supporter of kidnapping residing in the Bay Area. He is truly a sad case. 

Jim Harris 

* * * 


IHSS, a $5.8 billion program that relies on county, state and federal funds, provides services to about 440,000 low-income elderly, blind and disabled Californians. Advocates say many enrollees would otherwise use more costly care at nursing facilities, paid by Medi-Cal. In an effort to trim state costs estimated at $1.3 billion this fiscal year, the Democratic governor proposed slashing services by 8.4 % across the board. He wanted to stop paying for domestic services provided by caregivers who live with their IHSS clients. As of Feb. 1, IHSS cut another 3.6%, so the total is 12%

Democrats shelved cuts pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown in favor of alternatives backed by allies in organized labor. Brown proposed saving $365 million by reducing In-Home Supportive Services across the board and eliminating paid domestic services provided by live-in caregivers, often relatives. 

There are a few rare examples of real Christians or magnanimous rich or rich about to die who want to make a few peace offerings to the poor. But the poor get poorer in cutting the program. But I've said time and again the rich will never give up their riches unless forced to at the point of a gun! So they didn't. 

Ted Rudow III, MA 


When a household has limited resources members of the household will not spend on themselves but will think instead about their responsibility towards their dependents. I am not able to think how at the national level we can abandon our dependents, cutting, for example, funding for early education. Are we not keen to educate our youngest citizens? Will cutting off aid to early childhood education fill the budget hole? 

Romila khanna 

* * * 


Wisconsin wasn't about budget deficits as Gov. Scott Walker claimed. Wisconsin struck a nerve in the American psyche. Very few
stories captivate the American public and dominate the news cycle as long as Wisconsin did unless its a war , disaster, or an O.J. trial.
Republican Governor Scott Walker's story is about weakening unions' strength and influence so they won't be a force in raising money and "getting out the vote" for Democrats in the 2012 election.
The problem is, the plan backfired and they awoke a sleeping giant in America's labor unions. The Republican's strategy
of blaming Wisconsin's budget deficit on union's blew up in their face as they raised public awareness about unions, and unions are now more energized than they have been in decades.

Ron Lowe  

* * * 



As millions of Americans prepare to file their income taxes ahead of Monday’s deadline, corporations and the wealthy use offshore banks and tax havens to avoid paying taxes and other governmental regulations. 

"Tax havens have grown so fast in the era of globalization, since the 1970s, that they are now right at the heart of the global economy and are absolutely huge. There are anywhere between $10 and $20 trillion sitting offshore at the moment. Half of world trade is processed in one way or another through tax havens."  

--British journalist Nicholas Shaxson 

They'll pay them anything, because they're the ones that rake in all those billions of dollars that the U.S. Government has available to throw around and waste on arms, missiles, atom bombs and a huge paid military! No one is any longer a poor underpaid soldier. That why the U.S. debt is now running around 14 trillion dollars. 

It is the only budget plan that calls for a responsible end to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, bringing our troops and our tax dollars home. It is the only plan that calls for real tax reform, addressing the giveaways to billionaires, millionaires, and corporations. It is the only budget plan that calls for continued and substantial investment in job creation, education, and infrastructure. And it is the only plan that won't destroy or severely restrict critical social spending. 

Ted Rudow III, MA 

* * * 


We're sinking like never before.
How low can we go from the floor?
We'll end this descent
And I won't be content
Till the party of "no" is no more.

Ove Ofteness 

* * * 


Steven Finacom deserves a hearty pat on the back for his piece on how the Civil War is a largely forgotten event in this part of the country. While the distance of time and the absence of those who were actually there dictate that the events of those years fade with time, there are still those who find ample relevance and meaning in the sacrifices our country's citizen soldiers undertook to preserve the nation. In some ways, however, we are not that far removed from those events. Currently, there are a handful of children of Civil War soldiers still living today, and there are still at least two individuals who receive (as a result of lifelong institutionalization) pensions from their Civil War father. 

Other reminders of that time are in our midst as well, albeit sometimes forgotten. Alcatraz, which everyone remembers today primarily as a prison, was at that time an Army fort used to protect the bay and also to imprison local Confederate sympathizers, a large concentration of which were located in Contra Costa county. Mare Island was a busy place, built in the 1850's under the direction of the soon to be famous David "Damn the torpedoes" Farragut. 

In addition to that, and as mentioned in the article, The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War remains a loyal and active organization across the country and in the Bay Area. We have camps in San Jose, Castro Valley, Santa Rosa, and Sacramento, just to name those in proximity to Berkeley. In addition to appearing in various parades on patriotic holidays, marching in uniform, we also tend to the graves of the veterans of that war and catalog memorials such as the tree on campus so that they do not become forgotten. 

Thank you again for this concise yet expansive piece. 

Joe Marti 

Senior Vice Commander 

Phil Sheridan Camp 4, San Jose 

Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War 


* * * 

Mentally Ill 


  • Finally, I think it is safe to say that the mentally ill person in recovery should be in the process of learning how to socialize and mix among the “mainstream” population in society. The recovered person may still be awkward and may still not know all of the rules of etiquette, but has the social bravery to mix with people in spite of that.
Bragen offers a view, it is his, a perspective with which he is familiar. Mine is broader, of people differing in no way from those around them other than experience with an illness, people with doctoral degrees, professions, careers, neither tied down nor defined by illness. 

And a great many views in between. 

Harold A. Maio, retired Mental Health Editor 

* * * 

Non-voters are not "no" voters in union elections 

The new rules the House passed last week in the FAA Re-authorization Bill to make nonvoters count as “no†voters in railway and airline union elections are undemocratic and make it much harder for workers to form unions.

This legislation essentially stuffs the ballot box with anti-union votes in railway and airline elections -- or any other elections. Not one representative in the House would be in office today if their elections followed the same rules they´re trying to impose on workers.

Instead of attacking workers, our elected officials should focus on restoring balance in our economy and creating good American jobs that empower people who work for a living.

When Congress returns to Washington after this recess, they need to solve problems for working Americans instead of making our problems even worse. 

Marianne Robinson 

* * * 

Rainbow Over City Hall 

I always thought that City Hall was a "pot of gold" for some people. 

John Feld 

* * * 


You write:

> Back in 1923, scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner observed what was happening in fields of his Austrian homeland and correctly predicted the honeybee’s global tailspin in 80 years. It was in 2005-2006 that “colony collapse disorder” (CCD) swept through a dozen countries around the world, leaving hives mysteriously empty.

In the first place, quoting Rudolf Steiner on bees is like quoting the Three Stooges on decorum. Secondly, nobody has ever clearly defined Colony Collapse nor have its actual causes been determined. In the absence of definitive information, speculation has run rampant like dandelions on an unmowed lawn.

Bees are actually thriving in most countries, with the exception of parts of the US and Europe. Steiner suggested that human breeding of queen bees would cause this collapse, and there is absolutely no scientific evidence that such a procedure is behind the current problems.

Most likely the cause is a combination of known pathogens reaching the tipping point, exacerbated by the stresses on the bees produced by long distance hauling. Despite the doom and gloomers, pollination is getting done, and we are still capable of feeding ourselves. The world as we know it will not vanish any time soon.

Peter Loring Borst 

* * * 

Republicans Again 

Communication is the lifeblood of democracy. How sad then, the current
efforts by Republicans and the Tea Party to defund NPR. National Public Radio
keeps its 27 million listeners in tune with reliable and diverse broadcasts
which run counter to the Republican agenda of "dumbing down of America" to the
Fox News level. The GOP can't sell its pack of lies to a well informed and
intelligent population.
Remember when Republicans and Tea Party rowdies tried to shut down the
diologue in town hall meetings, well now they're trying to do the same thing to
NPR, using budget deficits as an excuse to silence this media outlet. 'Using
budget deficits' that they themselves created by huge tax cut to
corporations and the wealthy. Nothing like creating a problem and then
capitalizing on it!

Ron Lowe  




Incompetence, Corruption or Both?

By Peter Schorer
Tuesday April 19, 2011 - 09:50:00 AM

On the evening of Thursday, April 14, I witnessed yet another example of the outrageous incompetence and/or corruption of some of our City agencies, in this case, the Zoning Adjustment Board (ZAB) and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

The occasion of the meeting was the potential approval of the proposed demolition of the South and West Branch Libraries so that new Libraries could be constructed, and the potential approval of the Use Permits for said construction. What’s wrong with that, you ask? What’s wrong is that Measure FF, which was passed in 2008 and provides the funding for alterations to the libraries, mandated the RENOVATION of the existing Library structures – not demolition. The exact wording of the Measure was:

“Shall the City of Berkeley issue general obligation bonds not exceeding $26,000,000 to renovate, expand, and make seismic and access improvements at four neighborhood branch libraries, but not the Central Library, with annual reporting by the Library Board to the City Council?

There was not a word in the Measure about demolition, and yet somehow, the members of the Board of Library Trustees (BOLT) took it upon themselves to ignore the wording of the Measure and the members of the public who pointed out the wording of the Measure ­– and instead to do what they damn well pleased, which was to renovate the North Branch and Claremont libraries, while demolishing the two flatland libraries. It is hard to believe that this is legal. 

(I should mention here that a group called Concerned Library Users has sued over the legality of this use of the funds. They also hired a preservation architect, Todd Jersey, to draw alternate plans for the libraries which are far more inspiring than the BOLT plans, and in the case of the South Branch, are likely to be much less expensive). 

But let us try to figure out what is going on. And let us, out of fairness, attempt to give the proponents of demolition the benefit of the doubt, and not mention the “C” word (see title of this article). Let us assume, then, that they are just not paying attention to Measure FF, because I find it hard to believe that if they actually read it, they would be unable to understand such a clearly written Measure. One of the proponents, Linda Schacht, Capital Chair of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, is a former journalist and a very accomplished woman. (Just enter her name in Google and prepare to be impressed.) 

Let’s take a look at some of the things the demolition proponents said at Thursday’s meeting. 

Several of them got up and gave tear-jerking accounts of how their kids use the current Branches several times a week, but now, if the Branches are renovated, their poor kids will have to go without their books and hence be unable to continue their success at school. I ask you to contemplate the bizarre absurdity of this argument, because whether the Branches are demolished and rebuilt or renovated, the kids are going to be without the use of the Branches for however long it takes to complete the construction! I would bet that it would take just as long, or possibly longer, to demolish and rebuild, as it would to renovate. 

One speaker said that, because the West and South Branch Library buildings are currently in bad shape, that proves they cannot be renovated, and therefore should be demolished. In other words, only buildings that do not need renovation should be renovated! 

A member of the LPC (remember, that’s the Landmarks Preservation Commission) said that personally he couldn’t see why all these old buildings should be preserved. This elicited an understandable outburst from one member of the audience, who shouted, “Then get the hell off the Commission!” 

And then there was the packet that contained copies of communications that residents sent to the two commissions. These packets were distributed at the meeting. I personally wrote an email strongly opposing demolition. Yet it appears that neither my email, nor any other emails opposing demolition were included in the packet! Hmmm. 

Let me say that there were speakers who argued against the demolition, including two on the LPC. Some were very eloquent. They asked if it was really proper to consider demolition when Measure FF specifically mandated renovation. 

The votes for demolition and approval of the Use Permits for the West Branch went through with only two nays on the LPC, and two abstentions on ZAB. By the time I left the meeting shortly after that vote, I could not believe that college-educated people in Berkeley, California, including officials on two important commissions and members of various Library organizations could totally ignore the language of a Measure passed by the voters of Berkeley. 

So what is the explanation? Before attempting to answer that question, let me point out that bond measures have become a very shady business in Berkeley. The School Board’s Measures H and I, which were approved last November, asked the voters for over $250 million to fund various “education” projects. Measure H was for vaguely specified “maintenance” projects, and Measure I was for vaguely specified construction projects, most of which seemed to be sports related. One of these projects involves the unnecessary demolition of the Berkeley High Gym, which noted architects have said could have been preserved. 

The School Board, too, has a record of ignoring voters’ wishes. In 2000, Berkeley voters passed a bond issue (Measure AA) for $116.5 million which promised new classrooms at Berkeley High School. That money was spent for a variety of purposes, but no new classrooms were built. And like BOLT, the School Board suppressed dissenting opinions. At its final meeting before approving the plan for one of the projects, namely, a hardball field in South Berkeley that neighbors had been fighting for nearly 20 years, the Board prevented speakers who opposed the field from being allowed to speak. This was almost certainly in violation of the Brown Act. 

Now it is easy to see what drove the School Board. Measure I promised a feeding frenzy for local construction interests. Architects, engineers and contractors contributed well over $100,000 to the campaigns for H and I. 

There is a Pulitzer Prize waiting for the journalist who is able to blow the lid off the Machine that is Berkeley politics. Until then, we can only speculate. The key question for you, the reader, is: what made two city commissions and various important persons connected with the Libraries so willing to violate the language and the intent of a voter-approved measure? Were there cash payouts? Were jobs offered to those who went along? Was it purely a matter of a willingness to do whatever the Machine demanded? But why was the Machine so determined to demolish the Branches? 

The answer may lie in the identity of the supreme leader of the Machine, Mayor Tom Bates. I have often heard it said that if a building already exists in Berkeley, he would like it demolished and replaced with something much larger, preferably a big box. Whatever doubts I might have had about the veracity of those words were dispelled when I learned that the mayor announced at a Livable Berkeley party on April 14th, "If I had it my way, downtown Berkeley would look like Loni Hancock 's hometown, Manhattan!" 

Peter Schorer is a resident of South Berkeley near Downtown. 


California, the Alternative to Republican Rule –After Nearly Becoming a Home to It

by Craig Kaufman
Wednesday April 20, 2011 - 03:23:00 PM

California is being looked at as the rare alternative to Tea-Party rule these days. Jerry Brown’s direct style and transparent budget strategy as governor have led to a waning in people’s longtime pessimism about state government. Yet, with the extreme policies of other new governors dominating the news -- and with Meg Whitman remaining in the public eye-- one must wonder how it would have been if California had voted the other way in 2010. It was certainly significant that voters went to the polls and beat back Whitman's $178 million candidacy. This is further relevant because in California elections one can always expect that well-moneyed novices will throw their hat into the ring. 

The idea of a Governor Whitman can feel remote now, notably with Brown’s smooth transition into his old job. But the races here were considered close, and Whitman’s unprecedented self-funding ensured that she would remain competitive throughout (and of course the news was constantly buzzing that Tea-Party momentum might jump all the way to the coast). 

As we witness a brand-new Republican governor dominate national news with a labor war in Wisconsin, it is clear that larger non-red states can flip to crimson, and overnight. The shifts can border on the surreal. Florida’s new governor recently refused $2.4 billion in federal funding, for high-speed rail no less. 

Though conservatives lack an outsize presence in California these days, their offensive continues --statewide Democratic sweep notwithstanding. Due to Washington anti-tax icon Grover Norquist’s push for statehouse Republicans to sign a ‘no tax’ pledge, Brown’s proposed tax referendum is looking unlikely to make it to the voters to be voted on. The GOP even tried to outsource a debate with Brown –by asking Norquist to debate Brown for them. 

Also, Whitman, it will be remembered, ran to the right in the 2010 primary so as to ensure victory --and made sure to state during the general election: “A lot of Tea-Partiers were excited by my candidacy.” We would have seen just how ‘excited,’ had she won. The professionally-funded Tea-Party operations and stridency would have been amped up all the more for a prize as big and rare as California. 

Would a political rookie have withstood that …or even wanted to? A.G. Block, associate director of the UC Center Sacramento, noted, "I can't imagine she wouldn't have looked at what is happening in Wisconsin and tried in some way to replicate it in California."  

One can only guess, particularly because the former Ebay CEO continues to divulge little about herself. The post-race spotlight offered a good opportunity for Whitman to announce some local pet cause. Instead there has only been her swearing in to multiple boards -and corporate advisory roles- including Procter and Gamble’s and HP’s (a former employer and another Silicon Valley heavyweight, though HP was challenged about its new board selection process). This month Whitman reiterated that she “want(s) to stay involved in public policy.” 

Furthermore, in Tea-Party style, candidate Whitman employed pre-selected audiences and avoided media and editorial boards. Her campaign materials and the endless frills reminded one of a larger scale Arnold Schwarzenegger, if such a thing could be possible. The latter, with his private-jet commute, irked people so much that the famously frugal Brown has earned major plaudits simply by locking down in Sacramento and actually making himself available to the people and the press (and even the other party) –a highly unlikely scenario under a Whitman administration. Her call to ‘Take Back Sac’ was more akin to the ‘Take Back America’ anti-Obama slogans nationwide. 

With an ascendant right-wing on the scene had Brown lost, we could have expected huge cuts and the dredging up of hot-button issues. One can only imagine what it would be like if immigration were in the mix now. The veteran Brown’s cagey dance to fix the budget, and dysfunctional Sacramento itself, has been a study in nuance from day one. 

If conservatives had been empowered here, like they have been to re-fight health care in Washington, it would have been a disaster. California Republicans were fine with letting immigration spin their 2010 primary into a war of Arizona-like fury (while voters awaited reality-like budget ideas). The creative messaging of Whitman’s campaign would have been laughed off by an emboldened right-wing. Forget the harmonious Spanish-language ads. It would have been all ‘tough as nails,’ to quote her ad with campaign chair and former governor Pete Wilson. 

Brown did win, of course. But as we watch what is happening in the rest of the country, we would do well to remember how easily it might have descended here as well. Finally, lest we forget, conservatives were able to recall the last California governor who beat them.  


Craig Kaufman has organized progressive and grassroots campaigns as well as having founded an educational non-profit. His work has been featured in the New York Times, CNN, and other outlets.

Why You Shouldn’t Pull Fire Alarms When There Is No Emergency.

by Simon Williams
Wednesday April 20, 2011 - 03:02:00 PM

This is an informational article on why you should not pull fire alarms if there is not an emergency. 

The biggest reason to not pull an alarm is not because of a $500 fine or 6 months in jail, it's because setting off alarms endangers lives. The second leading cause of on-duty firefighter deaths in the US in 2009 was responding to or returning from a call. 24% of firefighter deaths were attributed to that cause in 2009. 

Another thing that happens when the dispatch goes out, is that firefighters get an adrenalin rush. They are trained to treat every alarm like it's a working fire, even if they are almost completely sure it's not. Sometimes this adrenalin rush can cause heart attacks (another leading cause of firefighter death), in firefighters, and worst of all if the firefighter has a heart attack while driving it can lead to injuries and death of other firefighters and whoever they may crash into. 

However, you do not only endanger the firefighter, you endanger those they serve as well. Just think about it, say the firefighters are responding to the alarm you pulled and then a real emergency happens, it will take longer to get emergency services to that scene in time, critical minutes for someone having a heart attack (most people in cardiac arrest will die if they do not have help within 4-5 minutes), or for a fire which spreads faster than ever as more and more flammable plastics get added to our houses and furniture. 

The average total response time for Berkeley Fire is around 5-8 minutes, however if an engine company (pumps water) and truck company (ladder) are busy (protocol for BFD is to send one of each to all alarm calls) with a malicious alarm pull that response time could increase dramatically. Say if the response time were 10-12 minutes (completely plausible) then an entire house could be in flames and possibly setting neighboring buildings on fire. 

In 2009 There were 118 malicious or prank fire alarm calls, that was up from the previous year. my hope is that if at least some people read this, maybe there will be less alarms pulled by the end of 2011 and on. 

False alarms cost money: When you pull alarms to many times the Fire department can start taking legal action, this includes fines and sometimes the UC Police and Berkeley Police can put pressure on you as well. 

Last, in regard to protests: Pulling many alarms on campus adds greater risk. Last time this happened, BFD Refused to respond after a while. This left campus alarm workers to go around resetting alarms. If there had been a fire in one of those buildings (especially the ones with lots of nasty chemicals) then the response time would have been unacceptably long. Not to mention the fact that you are disrupting classes and even midterms! 

I hope this has been interesting and informational and remember, this information doesn't have to stay with you, pass it on, especially if you know someone who has pulled alarms in the past. 








The Public Eye: Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Debt?

By Bob Burnett
Monday April 18, 2011 - 01:28:00 PM

Last week, I received an angry email accusing me of ignoring the number one political story, “…the USA is broke, and has $14 TRILLION DOLLARS worth of debt!” It wasn’t unusual as many Americans are overwrought about the US public debt. Sure, it’s a problem but not number one and here’s why. 

If you and I owed $14,280,782,221,253+ we’d be stressed. But the US isn’t an individual, or a corporation, and so there is an imperfect analogy. Imagine that you and I are the only two working members of a family and I lose my job. You continue to work, but we need two incomes to pay our bills so, until I find suitable employment, we borrow against credit cards to meet our obligations. That’s roughly the situation the US is in: we have about 15 percent un- or under-employed and, as a result, our tax revenues are down; so we must borrow to make ends meet. (This year’s deficit is estimated to be $1.6 trillion running our cumulative debt to more than $14.2T+.) 

To complicate the analogy, only 67 percent of the US debt is debt held by the public, the other 33 percent is “Intragovernmental Holdings …securities held by Government trust funds, revolving funds, and special funds,” the most important of which is the Social Security Trust Fund – in other words money we borrow from ourselves. Of course, families don’t have “intragovernmental holdings” but many borrow from family members or friends. Suppose that you have a trust fund you can access only in an emergency; if we borrowed from it because I am unemployed that would be analogous to the circumstances that account for one-third of the US national debt. 

Nonetheless, $9.5T is debt in the conventional sense; still a big number – $31,000 per US resident. $4.5T is owed to foreigners – for example, we owe the Central Bank of China $1.1T – and the balance to US entities including the Federal Reserve, state and local governments, mutual funds, and pension funds. 

Returning to my analogy, suppose you and I have a combined debt of $62,000 and I cannot find work, what would we do? We might chose to either sell our possessions to pay off our credit cards or put more energy into my finding work. 

That brings us to the present political situation where we are faced with two similar stark choices: Republicans want to cut back government in order to pay off the debt and Democrats want to invest more in government to increase employment and thereby raise tax revenues. Before we consider the merits of these alternatives – debt reduction versus public investment – let’s ponder another consideration, how did this debt accumulate? 

If you and I amass a debt of $62,000, entirely because I am unemployed for a lengthy period, we might consider selling our house. On the other hand, if much of our debt accumulated for other reasons – such as paying the legal expenses for your deadbeat brother after he was arrested for a DUI – then we might look at the debt in a different light. 

It turns out that much of the US debt results from decisions made by our own version of the “deadbeat brother.” When Bill Clinton left office, the public debt was $5.73 trillion. When George W. Bush left office, the debt was $10.7 trillion. Under Clinton the US ran yearly surpluses and paid down the debt; under Bush the US ran deficits and ran up the debt. Four Bush programs contributed to the almost doubling of debt: the 2001 tax cuts ($2.48T), the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (1.12T), the 2003 Prescription Drug Program ($1.1T), and the laissez-faire fiscal policies that produced first the housing bubble and then The Great Recession ($1T+). (Many Liberals believe that most of the $3.5T in US debt accumulated under President Obama is due to the financial legacy of the failed Bush presidency.) 

Republicans pretend there is no history behind the US debt; they want the public to believe that the $14.2T was all Barack Obama’s fault. Given this false starting point, they ring disaster alarm bells, shout “the USA is broke,” and argue the only solution is to massively downsize the Federal government and savage entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security. This tactic serves the conservative objective to “shrink government until it can be drowned in a bathtub;” Republicans are using the debt as an excuse to demolish the US social compact and give free rein to wealthy individuals and corporations. 

Let’s be clear: the US is not broke. The problems the Obama Administration faces are problems caused by the failed Bush presidency. 

Sure, the debt is a problem. But it’s not the number one problem facing us, which is how to get America back to work. If we do that and return to a commonsense tax system, where corporations and the rich pay their fair share, then we will once again run annual surpluses and begin to pay down the debt. 

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

German WW II POWs In the U.S.

By Ralph Stone
Monday April 18, 2011 - 01:37:00 PM

I just finished "A Brother's Blood" by Michael C. White. The novel is set in Maine where German prisoners of war (POWs) were detained during World War II. The novel begins many decades after the war when Wolfgang Kallick arrives in Maine from Germany to find out the details of his brother Dieter's death at the camp. The book is loosely based on the POW camp at Seboomook, Maine where, because of the increased shortage of paper, Great Northern Paper Company had an arrangement with the U.S. Army for a POW camp and initially 250 prisoners from General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps, the German elite, were brought to cut pulp wood and yard it with horses. You will have to read the book to discover the mystery surrounding Dieter Kallick's death.  

The novel did spark my interest in a little-known chapter in twentieth-century history. That is, by 1945 there were 425,000 German prisoners of war living in about 700 camps in 46 states throughout the United States. Nine of them were located in California, one at Camp Angel Island. Camp Ono in San Bernardino held Italian prisoners. About 860 German POWs died during captivity and remain buried in 43 sites across the United States, with graves often tended by local German Women's Clubs.  

During World War I, a relatively small number of POWs reached the U.S. and were located at Forts McPherson and Oglethorpe in Georgia and Fort Douglas in Utah. After the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, the United Kingdom asked the U.S. to house some German prisoners due to a housing shortage in Britain. The U.S. agreed. But we were initially unprepared logistically to meet the requirements of providing food, clothing, and housing. The U.S. was also wary of having German prisoners on American soil because of perceived security problems and possible fear among the civilian populace. Fore these reasons, media coverage of the camps was intentionally limited not only because of the Geneva Convention but also not to scare the populace near the camps.  

More than 150,000 men arrived after the surrender of Gen. Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps in April 1943, followed by an average of 20,000 new POWs a month. 

Under the Geneva Convention POWs could work but only if they were paid for their labor. Millions of U,S. men and women were fighting overseas, leaving a resulting shortage of labor so POW workers became welcome laborers. Ironically, by working, the POWs helped the Allied war effort. In "A Brother's Blood," the POWs worked for lumber companies cutting pulp wood and hauling the wood with horses. 

Internment camps for German POWs were often dominated by Nazi enforcers, who killed as many as 150 of their fellow prisoners during World War II. Only seven were officially considered murder. Even the smallest infraction could put German prisoners at risk. Those who talked to guards, spoke English, or refused to parrot the Nazi line were often beaten or killed. American camp officials generally looked the other way because they appreciated the discipline and order that the Nazis provided in the camps. Prisoners who were not ethnically German and had been conscripted into service were in particular danger from their fellow prisoners. Eventually, American officials began separating the Nazis from the anti-Nazi Germans. In White's book, Oswald, a German prisoner, was put in charge of the horses and POWs because of his experience working with horses on a farm. Mysteriously, a tree fell on him causing him tremendous pain and ultimately death. The nazis in the camp were suspected of engineering the "accident" because he had become too cooperative with the Americans. 

Of the tens of thousands of POWs in the United States during World War II, only 2,222, less than 1 percent, tried to escape, and most were quickly rounded up. By 1946, all prisoners had been returned to their home countries. 

Remember, President Obama’s vow to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. This erupted into a furious debate about where to relocate the prisoners captured in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. And recently, the Senate overwhelmingly rejected providing funds to close the U.S. military prison in Cuba, saying that no community in America would want terrorism suspects in its backyard. Yet, during World War II, the U.S. housed, fed, and worked over 400,000 German POWs in 46 states with little or no risk to the populace.

Senior Power: Older Americans Month

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Monday April 18, 2011 - 10:58:00 AM

Older Americans Month is coming up in May. It “pays homage to the many ways in which older adults bring inspiration and continuity to the fabric of our communities, and highlights how technology is helping older Americans live longer, healthier, and more engaged lives.” Thanks to President Carter's 1980 designation, it is now called Older Americans Month, and it has become a tradition. Each year the Administration on Aging issues a theme to assist the National Aging Services Network plan May activities. This year’s is Older Americans: Connecting the Community. 

When Older Americans Month was established in 1963, there were few programs to meet their needs. Only 17 million living Americans had reached age 65. About a third lived in poverty. Historically, it has been a time to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons, in particular those who defended our country. A glance at some previous themes is informative for they may reflect the times, and sometimes euphemistically avoid them. In 1978 the emphasis was on Older Americans and the Family. In 1997, Caregiving: Compassion in Action. In 2003, What We Do Makes A Difference. And last year, Age Strong! Live Long! 

The metaphor for happiness is youth. Advertisers sell images of happiness and well-being. Consider TV commercials’ biased role assignments, stereotypes and image distortion. Senior groups, service providers, and academics in the United States and Canada note that ageism can be a factor in elder abuse. 

The cautious health system, allied with pharmaceutical companies, imposes consulting family members, although demographics of aging clearly show that old people often do not have families. Possibly, they are happily single, never married, widowed… Moreover, many have never been parents, let alone grandparents. 

One’s image can influence the way a person sees her or himself. It can also impact opportunities for employment, pension income, legal equity and health. The way a society (the dominant culture) perceives a person or a group of people can restrict and assign them to certain roles. A term coined in France described the period of active old age as the ‘third age,’ following the ‘first age’ of childhood and youth and the ‘second age’ of adult maturity. The later, less active and independent phase of life was the ‘fourth age.’ 

The number of conferences about aging and gerontology scheduled worldwide in the next few months is impressive. A few examples: 

The 2nd Asian Congress of Medical and Care Facilities. Busan Korea (South); 

Retirement Communities World Australia 2011. Sydney Australia; 

Neurology Update 2011: Practical Information for the Primary Care Provider. Sacramento; 

Retirement Asia Expo 2011. Singapore; 

Growing Old in a Changing Climate. Vancouver Canada; 

Answers On Aging. Washington D.C.; 

Sexuality, Intimacy and Aging: What Every Professional Needs to Know, Widener University Pennsylvania; 

4th Pan American Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Ottawa Canada. 

More information, and links to conference sites, are available at:http://www.conferencealerts.com/aging.htm 

Conferences about aging are a good thing, but how’s about by and for and aged persons? Third Age members are not usually actively involved in aging-related professional/academic meetings and conferences, etc. Aging and Society: An Interdisciplinary Conference will be held at the University of California, Berkeley, in November, focusing on practice, research and theory. This is not a free occasion (although there is a student discount). Like most conferences, aged persons may be the subjects but not audience or participant. 


The Older Americans Act of 1965 was the first federal initiative providing comprehensive services for older adults. It created the National Aging Network comprising the Administration on Aging on the federal level, state units, and area agencies on aging at the local level. The Network provides funding — based primarily on the percentage of an area's 60 and older population — for nutrition and supportive home and community-based services, disease prevention/health promotion services, elder rights programs, the National Family Caregiver Support Program, and the Native American Caregiver Support Program. It aimed to provide assistance in the development of new or improved programs to help older persons through grants to the states for community planning and services and for training, through research, development, or training project grants, and to establish within the then-Department of Health, Education, and Welfare an operating agency to be designated as the Administration on Aging. 

In 2006 Congress reauthorized the Act through FY 2011. In March 2011, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released its report, "Older Americans Act: More Should Be Done to Measure the Extent of Unmet Need for Services" (GAO-11-237), is available online. 


The Act consists of seven Titles. It is within Title III that congregate nutrition and meals on wheels are mandated. Locally — Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville — congregate nutrition refers to hot meals provided at senior centers for persons who are 60 years of age and older for a $3.00 “suggested donation.” Meals on Wheels aims to deliver to homebound seniors who are 60 years of age or older and unable to prepare a balanced meal themselves or who have no one available to prepare a meal for them for a $4.00 “suggested contribution.” Currently, meals are prepared by Project Open Hand with Title III Older American Act Funds administered through the Alameda [County] Area Agency on Aging. 

Title IV creates a number of specific projects related to the objectives of the Act. These include healthcare service in rural areas, computer training, civic engagement, and Native American programs. Title V establishes a program for engaging low-income senior citizens in community service employment and volunteer opportunities. 

Title VII creates state grants for "vulnerable elder rights protection" programs. In 1992, Congress created and funded a new Title VII Chapter 3 for prevention of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Title VII Vulnerable Elder Rights Protection also includes provisions for long-term care ombudsman programs and state legal assistance development. In 2000, provisions were added to Title VII to encourage states to foster greater coordination with law enforcement and the courts. Amendments added new language to Titles II and VII emphasizing multi-disciplinary and collaborative approaches to addressing elder mistreatment when developing programs and long-term strategic plans for elder justice activities. For the first time, “elder justice” and “self-neglect” were defined. Provision is included for a legal services developer in each state to serve as a focal point at the state level for all aspects relating to coordinating the provision of legal services for the elderly. 

The Older Americans Act is vital to the health and well-being of older adults, yet it includes no mention of LGBT elders. (LGBT refers collectively to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.) Their profound challenges are detailed in the policy brief filed by SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), "LGBT Older Adults and Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act." It offers five recommendations to ensure that the Act becomes responsive to LGBT aging communities. SAGE is the only LGBT organization on the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, a 65-member association comprising the country's leading aging organizations, which has released its official "Consensus Recommendations for the 2011 Older Americans Act Reauthorization;" it includes eight recommendations specific to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender elders, as well as racially and ethnically diverse elders, and older adults with HIV/AIDS. 

The fifth White House Conference on Aging was held in December 2005 in Washington, D.C. . Like its predecessors, its purpose was to make recommendations to the President and Congress to help guide national aging policies for the next ten years and beyond. Its theme was The Booming Dynamics of Aging: From Awareness to Action, focused on the aging of today and tomorrow, including the 78 million baby boomers who began to turn 60 in January 2006. The top two resolutions adopted by the delegates were reauthorization of the Older Americans Act and the development of a coordinated and comprehensive long term care strategy. 



Thursday, May 5, 2011. 1:30 P.M. Consumer Fraud: Scams Targeting Seniors. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Has parking lot (510 526-3720). Tips for Protection and Prevention. A free workshop by Legal Assistance for Seniors (LAS). No reservations required; refreshments. Wheelchair accessible. More information and other Alameda County library branches’ dates for this program at Library Senior Services (510) 745-1491. 


Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at pen136@dslextreme.com. Please, no email attachments or phone calls. 


On Mental Illness: There are No Shortcuts to Recovery. (Part 2 of 2)

By Jack Bragen
Tuesday April 19, 2011 - 09:23:00 AM

Now that I have put forth a working definition of recovery, you might ask; “but how does a mentally ill person achieve all of that?” One method of “getting there” is to refrain from being excessively combative. If you fight those who are trying to help you too much, it is a lot harder to get results. If you are a person with a lot of “fight” in you, like I have been, you should try to redirect this instinct toward something positive. 

While I have been in my share of conflicts with the authorities of the mental health system, I have at least tried to do my fighting according to the rules that have been set down. That means that if you are angry, you express it verbally. If there is someone with whom you just don’t get along, you just walk away. You do not seek revenge, and you avoid doing something that will harm someone, including yourself. If you maintain these sorts of ethics, then people can deal with you. If others can deal with you, it enhances your chances of long-term survival. If you can stay around enough years without being permanently incarcerated and without having too many full-scale relapses of your illness, you can outlast some of the worst parts of the condition, you can outlast some of your “enemies,” and you have the time necessary to learn more life skills. 

One definition of insanity is that you keep doing the same thing and expect different results. If there is a situation in life that didn’t work out for you, it is good to give a lot of thought to it, and to understand what mistakes were made. While this may seem cliche, it is a very useful truism, and can be used often as a rule of thumb. 

Recovery for a mentally ill person entails work. It is work to have a regimen of taking medications every day. It is hard work to participate in psychotherapy. It takes effort to show up for those appointments every week. It requires effort to educate oneself. It takes work to try employment, even if the job doesn’t work out. It takes effort to remove oneself from a destructive relationship. It takes effort to say no to narcotics. It takes effort to defy someone who has a destructive plan. It takes work to refuse to participate in violence. 

It takes effort (if a person with mental illness is a cigarette smoker) to refrain from smoking in a situation where it is against the rules. (A bus driver recently warned a friend of mine that there was a fine of several hundred dollars for smoking at the bus terminal in Martinez.) 

A recovered mentally ill person will usually have some semblance of healthy eating habits, exercise and self-care, like showering and brushing teeth. Some of us are deficient in these areas. However, a person in recovery has more of a likelihood of doing this work to take care of oneself. 

A person in recovery will tend to have some type of job or volunteer work, most of the time, or they may possibly be in school to learn a new trade. Sitting at home, drinking coffee or beer all-day and hanging out with other mentally ill people doesn’t really qualify. 

Part of recovery includes not being terrified of some level of discomfort. If uncomfortable feelings must be avoided at all costs, an individual can not acknowledge an uncomfortable truth, can not deal with an uncomfortable situation, and can not resolve any problems in his or her existence. 

If a person with a mental illness wants this “recovery,” he or she must be prepared to work at it. However, the alternative is to remain an improperly developed person, to keep going to institutions, and possibly to die at a premature age. 

Arts & Events

Around and About Theater: Grotowski show

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday April 20, 2011 - 02:11:00 PM

Jerzy Grotowski was perhaps the most influential theater director of the 1960s-70s. During the last years of his life--and of last century--he founded The Workcenter in Pontedera, Italy, to research performance, not necessarily theater--"not a spectacle," said his collaborator Mario Biagini last week at SF Museum of Modern Art, "in that it doesn't have to be looked at by an audience. But it can embrace an audience. And don't look too hard for a story!" 

Biagini's troupe is here from Italy for the first time. (Thomas Richards, Grotowski's better-known "heir" at The Workcenter, is in Brazil performing and giving workshops). The ensemble is young, open and friendly. There's much choral singing and movement. The material is based on texts by Allen Ginsberg and songs from the American South. Biagini is a splendid director, fine singer and performer; an excellent commentator. 

You don't have to be a fan of Ginsberg--though it doesn't hurt!--to enjoy this.It's refreshing, sometimes exhilarating, often simple and profound, with much to say for all the performing arts. 

Thursday there're films on Ginsberg from 6 and a performance starting around 8 at SFMOMA, all for the price of museum admission. The troupe will use the public space of the museum. On Saturday, from 8, another performance of different materialat the Performance Art Institute, 575 Sutter, San Francisco downtown, for $20 suggested donation. (reservations@the workcenter.org) 

Something unusual--and highly recommended. 

After writing about the Grotowski Workcenter visiting the Bay Area, I went to an open rehearsal of the show they'll present Saturday only, 8 pm, at the Performance Art Institute, 575 Sutter (between Powell and Mason) in downtown San Francisco--a very intimate space ...

It was a phenomenal evening--I say "evening," but it was only an hour and ten minutes, though packed with dynamic song, delivery of lines from Ginsberg poems, exciting ensemble movement ... a brilliant staging by Mario Biagini, with great focus and performing by the young international cast. And this after thoroughly enjoying the events of this past week ... but this's the blockbuster, a thrilling show, pure rhapsody of performance technique that reaches sublimity. No wonder Andre Gregory praised 'I Am America' as one of the best things he'd seen onstage in years.

I urge everybody who can go to see it. A truly unique event. The place is small; contact reservations@theworkcenter.org A donation is requested, $20 suggested.

Book Review: Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion
A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict, by Richard Forer

Review by H. Scott Prosterman
Monday April 18, 2011 - 05:29:00 PM

Demosthenes, a Greek said, “All Greeks are liars.” Prosterman, a Jew said, “Many Jews are big phonies.” He’s careful not to overly-generalize or self-incriminate, as Demosthenes did. When this was presented to Steve Bhaerman (who assumes the guise of comic alter ego Swami Beyondananda,) he asked why. Prosterman cited Jewish Republicans who abandoned the Civil Rights and progressive movements for Reagan, and others who are fervent civil rights advocates EXCEPT when it comes to the Palestinians. The Great Swami replied, “The issue boils down to three things: fear, tribalism and denial. Jewish exceptionalism. Victimhood makes you an exceptional victimizer.” Then he recommended a book. 

Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion - A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict, is an accounting of Richard Forer’s journey from unconditional defender of Israel, to thoughtful advocate of human rights for all. His chapter on Gaza gives exhaustive discussion of the Goldstone Report, which is a hot topic because of Richard Goldstone’s volte face in a recent Washington Post op-ed. Roger Cohen noted in his New York Times column, ‘We have a new verb, “to Goldstone.” Its meaning: To make a finding, and then partially retract it for uncertain motive.” The initial Goldstone Report was equally critical of the IDF and Hamas for their excesses, and spared no candor in calling out Israel for the unnecessary deaths of 1,400 people, mostly civilians, over 22 days in 2008-09. One group of “military” casualties turned out to be traffic cops who had just graduated. 

While the book contains flaws, it is impeccably researched and references many unimpeachable sources. Among them are Israeli government and military officials, highly placed academic sources, and the world’s prominent human rights organizations. Then there is the Torah and Talmud, along with Maimonides. Other sources include former Israeli political and military leaders such as Abba Eban, David Ben Gurion and Moshe Dayan, who took a more generous view of Palestinian rights in their later years. Also cited are human rights organizations such as the International Red Cross, Amnesty International, B’Tselem, and Israeli human rights groups composed of former Israeli soldiers. 

President Jimmy Carter and Professor Norman Finkelstein have both been vilified by the American Zionist community for their candid assessments of the historical and current political dynamics. Forer presents thorough reviews of Carter’s Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, and Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Indeed, Finkelstein’s soul-searching tome was the primary impetus for Forer’s own “transformation.” 

Carter’s book elicited great wrath from the Zionist community for its candor, though Forer reminds us, “Jimmy Carter is the best friend Israel ever had:” Indeed, no other American president has done as much to protect Israel and ensure its security. The former President has been vilified by Abraham Foxman for calling out the inconvenient realities of Israeli political and military dynamics. Forer states in the chapter devoted to their dialogue, “Foxman is projecting what is not true because it serves his purpose of diverting attention away from the evidence in Carter‘s book.” Carter’s book is written by a statesman who not only initiated the Camp David Agreements, but also did his homework on all relevant historical accountings and documents. Forer also does his due diligence, with very few deficiencies. 

There is an absence of early historical research. It would have been nice to see a preface with an accounting of the break up of the Ottoman Empire and its consequences. The current mess can be attributed to the British making two separate agreements on the same piece of real estate during World War I. Namely, the Balfour Declaration (1917) which stated the British intent to support a “Jewish Homeland” in Palestine, was preceded by two years by the McMahon Correspondence. 

This was a series of cables and letters between the British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon and Sharif Hussein ibn Ali of Mecca, which laid the framework for an independent Arab country in Palestine. It was the Arabs’ reward for coming to the aid of Great Britain against the Ottoman Empire and Germany in World War I. Ultimately, the Crown determined that the Jews would make better guardians of the Straits of the Suez, to better ensure the free flow of global commerce, and that determined policy. But the Arabs have always had a valid political claim to a Palestinian homeland since the San Remo Conference in 1920, aside from their families’ presence there for centuries. 

A few chapters briefly touch on the early organic nature of the Zionist movement, which began in the late 19th Century. Arabs and Jews lived harmoniously in Israel/Palestine through the early 20th Century, until the political Zionist movement began to send more Jews to Palestine than could be absorbed by the primitive infrastructure at the time. The Shaw Commission of 1930, in its report on the 1929 riots, and the Peel Commission of 1937 both came to the same conclusion as Winston Churchill: that Jews and Arabs had lived in relative accord until a Jewish movement that originated in Europe implanted itself in Palestine, intent on turning the land into a Jewish state. 

Forer makes a number of dramatic arguments: “The condemnation of Israel is not a product of anti-Semitism. Rather, the behavior that elicited the condemnation fans the flames of anti-Semitism worldwide.” He also deconstructs the phrase, “self-hating Jew”: “The use of the label ‘self-hating Jew’ is a cop-out. This near automatic reflex is the resource of someone who is too lazy and/or obstinately unwilling to try to understand a point of view that challenges his own beliefs and assumptions. People who say this are, in fact, victims, but not of anti-Semitism. They are victims of an unexamined mind, which has no tolerance for negative images of Israel.” 

Finkelstein’s book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, was a critique of Alan Dershowitz’s A Case for Israel; and elicited a campaign of academic terrorism by Dershowitz. He noted that Dershowitz relied heavily on Joan Peters discredited hoax, From Time Immemorial. Other critiques have stated that Dershowitz actually lifted some passages and sources from that book without verifying the substance or credibility of those sources. Forer argues, “Dershowitz knowingly ignores his main historical source‘s account of the intentions of David Ben-Gurion and the Zionist movement regarding the division of Palestine so that he can promote his own version of history.” In retaliation for calling that out, Dershowitz initiated a defamation campaign against Finkelstein in an effort to deny him tenure at DePaul University in 2007, which was successful. Ironically, the Peters book was a source of arguments and comfort for Forer prior to his “transformation.” 

Forer grew up wedded to the gospel of Zionism, as presented in most American synagogues’ religious schools. Though not personally observant, he was an unconditional defender of Israel until recent years. He traces his growth through exposure to books and documents that he began to read with great reluctance and skepticism. Beyond Chutzpah was literally an epiphany for Forer, who had been a member of AIPAC. 

One of the most dramatic sources is an Israeli woman named Leah, who is a former member of Meir Kahane’s Kach Party, and other right-wing Zionist organizations. Deir Yassin was a Palestinian village that suffered a massacre in 1948, and became the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof. Kach held a Purim Carnival there, and the experience was the beginning of Leah’s transformation. She was disturbed to hear them talking disrespectfully about Yitzhak Rabin, who had just been assassinated, and finally left the group when hearing children sing, “Death to the Arabs” to the tune of the Israeli folk-song Am Yisrael, Chai. She said, “If I hadn‘t known these people were Jews I would have thought they were Nazis. My husband and I just looked at each other and said: ―This isn‘t normal. . . That was the last time I attended one of their events.” 

Leah recounts that during the 2nd Intifada, she attended an interfaith service at the Western Wall with Jews, Muslims and Christians, and was inspired that, “One of the things I had learned in the Chabad community, whose goal is to bring the Messiah, was that if you want the Messiah bad enough you should act as if he is already here. Well this was it, wasn‘t it? To see Muslims, Jews and Christians praying together to one God and not fighting was remarkable.” She added, “Now there is a theory going around that Palestinians were originally Jews who always lived on the land and converted to Islam in the Seventh Century. Even Orthodox Jews are talking about this.” 

Forer is clear that many of Israel’s policies and actions towards the Palestinians are a tragic anathema to Judaism. He also takes strong issue with the compulsion to reference the Holocaust whenever Israel is criticized for policy abuses: “If we automatically bring up the Holocaust to defend the actions of the Jewish state, we will be guilty of exploiting its horrors in order to promote selfish political manipulation.” He takes Holocaust deniers to task, while also pointing out, “The Holocaust is one of the most documented events in human history. Like him (Iranian President Ahmadinejad), deniers of the Palestinian tragedy refuse to examine the available documentation. How are they any less ignorant?” Manachem Begin compulsively referred to the Holocaust whenever anyone questioned the settlement expansions he began in the late 1970’s, and which remain the most provocative element obstructing any real peace and security for either side. 

Myths are exposed and debunked including the one about how Islam preaches a doctrinal hatred of Judaism: “If it is true that Arabs have an inborn hatred of Jews, how were Sephardic Jews able to find refuge in North Africa, Turkey and other Muslim lands during the Spanish Inquisition?” Also the Paris Mosque was responsible for saving at least 1,700 Jewish children during the Holocaust. 

The Israeli journalist Amos Oz dramatizes how Arabs and Jews are, “Two victims of the same oppressor. Europe – which colonized the Arab world, exploited it, humiliated it, trampled upon its culture, controlled it and used it as an imperialistic playground – is the same Europe that discriminated against the Jews, persecuted them, harassed them, and finally, mass-murdered them in an unprecedented crime of genocide.” 

Breakthrough is an appealing and provocative read for anyone who has a strong feeling about Israel. It is natural for Jews to react with forceful denial or avoidance when they read about Israeli settlers and troops abusing Palestinians. To realize that people are being beaten up, and having their homes and crops bulldozed in the name of Zionism (as an extension of Judaism) is a horrible thought to confront and comprehend. It is a painful and disturbing realization for any Jew who has always believed that Israel is a blameless victim, to learn that the IDF is no more merciful than General Sherman was in Georgia. Victimization has been overplayed - It has become a self-defeating and self-fulfilling prophecy. As the author noted, “What is a friend for if not to speak the truth when he sees someone he cares for acting irresponsibly and self-destructively?” Demosthenes lived in a more simple time. Swami Beyondananda may have summarized it best that exceptional victimhood makes for exceptional victimizers. That hand has been overplayed. 

H. Scott Prosterman is a writer in Berkeley, and holds an M.A. from the University of Michigan, Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He publishes commentary and analysis on various issues related to the Middle East. 

The book is available at Amazon and a buyer can also download the Kindle version there. 

The book is also available at Forer’s website

Theater Review: The Eccentricities of a Nightingale

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday April 20, 2011 - 02:15:00 PM

I've just persuaded Miss Alma to sing something for us." ... "Oh; would you prefer something profane or sacred?"

For Tennessee Williams' centennial, Aurora Theatre's chosen something unusual--not one of Williams' most canonical plays, really, much less a blockbuster (though a movie of it does exist): The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, a reworking of the material and characters from his better-known Summer and Smoke, the film of which starred Laurence Harvey and the exceptional Geraldine Page.

In many ways, it;'s summer without smoke. Some find Eccentricities refreshing after the in-your-face "symbolism" of the "original"--and the "remake" does seem to strive for more nuance, more breadth and depth ...

The Aurora production gets at some of the breadth, with an excellent supporting cast (Charles Dean, Amy Crumpacker, a particularly strong Marcia Pizzo as a smothering mother, Ryan Tasker, Leanne Borghesi and Beth Deitchman). Tom Ross, Aurora's artistic director, guides the show with an even hand--ironically enough, maybe too even.

But the dynamism of the original, with next door neighbors, in an early 20th century Misssissippi town--spinster Alma, minister's daughter, and John, libertine son of the local doctor--is defused here, with the remolding of John into a mama's boy, creating a passive character ... at any rate, Thomas Gorrebeeck played him that way ... who doesn't end up trading places with Alma in the same way as in Summer and Smoke--a one-sided "ships passing in the night" affair. Beth Wilmurt, despite some nice, brief moments, plays Alma rather caricaturishly, illustrating what others say about her in a "Mickey Mouse music" way, to use a Hollywood quip line.

Williams is always full of humor--some of this is achieved as comedy--but without the smoldering tensions, a crucial scene like the "tete-a-tete" upstairs in the roadhouse goes completely flat ... The two, not exactly star-crossed lovers, fiddle with "a fire that won't start"--and indeed, there's no chemistry, the vignette saved by Jim Cave's excellent lighting, which reignites the non-symbolic fire ...

Set (Liliana Duque Pinero), costumes in particular (Laura Hazlett) and sound (Ted Crimy) all contribute nuances which are also seen in the supporting cast, especially Pizzo as John's "doting"mother and Crumpacker's portrayal of Alma's disturbed--and mocking--mother. But a full treatment of Williams' special brand of nuance, of humor--and his sometimes-O'Neill-like shaggy dog story quality--would be needed to overcome the sketched-in quality of some of the parts ... The recurrent, never entirely explained story of Alma's "different" aunt and the fire at the Musee Mechanique in New Orleans is another, never seen (but told of) element which could be exploited more for Williams' characteristically teasing effect, often staged merely as "symbolism" again, something that dogs his memory and revivals of his plays.

Williams used to jar audiences at shows of his own plays, laughing raucously at the moments when the spectators would be either on the verge of tears or put off, taking the maudlin portrayal (of the "symbolism"?) as the playwright's intent.He found the awkward moment when adult masks slip a little from the querulous visage of the prim or rebellious character--and the resulting chagrin--as funny. A hundred years since his birth, and still one of our most mysteriously unique playwrights.

Eye from the Aisle:NO EXIT—live-feed video/theatre fusion at ACT

By John A. McMullen II
Monday April 18, 2011 - 01:56:00 PM
Laara Sadiq, Lucia Frangione, Andy Thompson
Michael Julian Berz
Laara Sadiq, Lucia Frangione, Andy Thompson

Though playwrights are sometimes excellent philosophers (e.g., Sophocles, Shakespeare, Shaw), philosophers aren’t known for being very good playwrights. 

Luckily NO EXIT is short (80 min.), and glammed-up with some glitzy though glitchy video. 

The French title for NO EXITisHuis Clos; which means in a room, implying a private discussion, kind of “behind closed doors.” In this production, the entire stage is given over to the outer lobby/storage space for the hotel. Almost all the acting happens off-stage left within an unseen cramped video set with multiple cameras; the action is projected onto a triptych screen upstage center. 

This production teases us that it’s going to be a comedic take on the play, but then serves up the existential bleakness that our philosopher/playwright tricks up in his closet drama of the hereafter – 

or perhaps a metaphor for the here-and-now. (For a reminder of the Existentialist perspective, drop down to the end of this review.) 

This play always reminds me of a joke I read in a raunchy joke-book when I was a kid. 

A man dies and goes to heaven. 

He’s sitting around on a cloud, strumming his harp, very bored, when he looks down and sees his neighbor down in Hell. His neighbor was a philandering, drunken, SOB with larceny in his heart. But there he sits on a keg of whiskey with a hot blonde on his lap. 

Our guy calls St. Peter over and says, “I don’t mean to seem ungrateful, but I just noticed that the SOB who used to live next door and never drew an honest or sober breath is down there sitting on a keg of whiskey with a blonde on his lap!’ 

St. Pete looks over at the scene, and says, “Oh yeah. Well, let me explain. You see that keg of whiskey? It has a hole in it. You see that blonde….?” 

Remember the “Call for Phillip Morris!” television commercials from the 50’s with the little guy with the funny cap with the chinstrap wearing the semi-military maroon livery? That’s the way a French valet dresses. It’s a sight-gag from the get-go. Our Valet at that Big-Hotel-Down-Below regales us with his antics throughout the play and functions as a pleasant distraction from the tedium. 

Our Valet escorts our three characters (i.e., drags them kicking and screaming) into a sitting room with no mirrors. Our characters are venal, worthless, miserable sad-sacks. The room is furnished with three chairs and a side board on which sits a bust of Caesar, a man who, unlike our characters, actually made some difference in the world. Our guests are: a confrontational, sharp-featured Lesbian (Lucia Frangione); a narcissistic, middle-aged platinum blonde (Laara Sadiq); and a womanizing, mustachioed, abusive journalist (Andy Thompson) who was allegedly shot as a collaborator (note: NO EXIT was written a month before the Americans freed Paris from the Nazis). 

Our actors give it all they’ve got in the power games and desperation that the script requires. They look the parts, as if they stepped out of a French 1950’s film, with Laara Sadiq bearing a remarkable likeness to a blonde Simone Signoret. They recount their banal and venal lives and their malice toward others, and even have a portal into the physical world of this life to observe their funerals and what they’ve left in their wake. 

Great premise, great set-up, lots of ideas and implications to follow: no mirrors for the homophobic narcissist so she has to look deeply into the eyes of the lesbian to see her own reflection; incessant chatter from the women drive the man up the wall, and when he starts to get it on with the blonde, the lesbian hovers and annoys him to distraction like a little demon from you-know-where; and the lesbian has to endure the smell of a man while she is attracted to a woman who loathes the idea of being touched by her. Like the man said, “L'enfer, c'est les autres,” i.e., hell is other people. 

Insights abound into humankind’s behavior, nature, and situation. Monsieur Sartre’s version of the afterlife is one of psychological torture and being caught in a union of opposites, with the idea that the spiritual structure which we build in this life will follow us into the next. This is a typical Christian premise absent the Dantesque seven circles of physical pain. I find it ironic that an atheistic Existentialist’s theatrical offering is based on an afterlife, unless it’s meant as irony and ridicule. And it might be a lot more entertaining if it were played as a send-up, but this, like all other versions I’ve seen, is deadly serious. Sometimes it plays like an extended episode of “The Twilight Zone.” 

The premise is engaging, but better read than acted since it seems to mainly serve as a metaphor for the author’s philosophy I don’t rankle at the bleakness—I relish the bleak—it’s that there’s—pardon the quip—nowhere to go with it. Thus, eternal ennui just chases these three little piggies wee-wee-wee-wee all the way home. It’s a little theatre of cruelty joke taken to the logical extreme that reduces the evening to absurdity…though it could put one off acting on any suicidal ideations. 

The lighting is dramatic and effective in the early moments, but the three video screens don’t match up which is a deadening distraction. The three video screens don’t even match up. When one character looks over to talk to the other, they are looking over one another’s heads or to the left or right. Audiences nowadays are exposed to such terrific effects at the movies and on TV that to have a crappy video-feed like this is too sophomoric for a 49-seat storefront theatre, let alone ACT. Fifty years ago, television devised the three-camera system which calls for a director to “call the shots” and switch between cameras. Perhaps thisvideo style was meant as a metaphor that each of us lives in our own little space playing our own little life on our own little screen. However, playing a metaphor for longer than a trice generally interferes with the drama and, in this case, with the picturization of the action. 

After the curtain, the woman in front of me remarked that she was going to start going to church and being good; I just wanted to get home to watch reruns of “Ally McBeal” to wipe away this version of futility. But my sweetie E was not familiar with NO EXIT, and was really was drawn to it; she said it stimulated a lot of ideas and ironies previously unconsidered. So maybe I’m just fatigué and blasé about this particular play. If you don’t know the play—since it is part of the canon of modern drama— this is an opportunity to further your theatrical education in a short, painless, and moderately entertaining fashion. 

(For those who are foggy on Philosophy 101, let’s turn to a paraphrase of our trusty Google: 

Existentialism focuses on the condition of human existence and the meaning or purpose of life. The early 19th century philosopher and father of existentialism Søren Kierkegaard maintained that the individual is solely responsible for giving his or her own life meaning and for living that life passionately and sincerely, in spite of many existential obstacles and distractions including despair, angst, absurdity, alienation, and boredom.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism

Anniversary Time! Last April 2010, I posted my first review in the Berkeley Daily Planet. It’s a year later, and this is my 52nd review. That’s well over 50,000 words. Figure three hours to attend each play plus three hours to write the review plus two hours to edit it, which adds up to over ten full work-weeks (conservative estimate; when I started it took me about 12 hours to write one!).  

Thanks to the O’Malleys for giving me the opportunity; the BDP is an underappreciated local treasure as are all the things they do for this community from the Chamber House to their support of the arts. 

My extreme gratitude goes to E J Dunne who has edited every review. I thank her for repairing my syntactical awkwardness and tendency toward the never-ending sentence; for constantly challenging the clarity of my expression and argumentation and where the best place for the comma is; for enduring my temperamental outbursts about her dogged attention to detail ; and for being so damn cute.