As the debate over replacement construction of Berkeley’s South and West branch libraries continues to slide into personal attacks, I hesitate to enter the fray again. However, Bradley Wiedmaier’s opinion piece about the South Branch library seems to contain some serious errors which demand correction. I don’t know Wiedmaier and don’t want to impugn him or his motives, but I think his information is wrong. -more-
On May 12, the New York Times did a very curious thing.
In an article entitled “Indian and Afghan Leaders Forge Deeper Ties in Meeting” by Alissa J. Rubin and Sanger Rahimi, the newspaper failed to mention that during his visit to Afghanistan, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had endorsed peace talks between the Taliban and the government of Hamid Karzai. -more-
On May 11 two citizens’ groups sued the City of Berkeley over proposed zoning that would radically restructure West Berkeley. The Sustainable West Berkeley Alliance (SWBA), an organization of Berkeley residents and businesses, and the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CNA) filed their suit in Alameda County Superior Court under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). -more-
Given the number of lawsuits against the City of Berkeley at any given time, it probably seems odd that the library lawsuit would generate so much controversy. Just yesterday, a new lawsuit was filed against the City, and a decision is expected in yet another by next week. It’s almost like a judicial cycle of life in Berkeley – a cycle fed by a Council majority that seems unwilling or unable to follow the law. In this regard, the Concerned Library Users (CLU) lawsuit about the misuse of Measure FF funds is not unusual in the way the City works. What is unusual is the vitriol being slung by a small group of people, who want to bypass an election. -more-
In a memo sent to Planning Department staff on May 3 and forwarded to the Planet this evening, City of Berkeley Director of Planning Dan Marks announced that he’s retiring effective July 1, 2011. -more-
At the end of his term, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed a new member of the UC Board of Regents. Governor Schwarzenegger appointed David Crane, a multi-millionaire investor and former advisor with deep political and business connections to the former Governor. The UC Student Association is opposed to the appointment of David Crane. -more-
Thursday, May 12, is “Bike to Work Day” nationally, and there is always a particularly robust East Bay set of activities.
Those who bicycle to work regularly, and those who travel to their job on two wheels for the first time or just for the day, can take advantage of a variety of services, prizes, and benefits. -more-
Discussion of the large Acheson Commons housing development proposed for Downtown Berkeley occupied the attention of Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) at their May 5, 2011 regular meeting.
The proposed project, which occupies most of the rectangular block bordered by University Avenue, Shattuck, Berkeley Way, and Walnut Street, includes the removal of two older brown shingle apartment buildings, additions on top of two existing landmark buildings and a third, undesignated, older structure, conversion of the landmark Acheson Physician’s Building to housing, and one entirely new construction structure.
The development would also wrap around three sides of the five story Bachenheimer Building, which Peterson designed several years ago and which Equity Residential owns. -more-
Press Release: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Names Six Finalists for Possible Second Campus Location
Following an extensive evaluation, the University of California, manager of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), released a list of six potential sites for the Lab’s proposed second campus. -more-
Amyris, Inc., the creation of UC Berkeley bioengineer Jay Keasling and his students, has issued its latest financial filing, the 10-K form required by the Securities and Exchange Commission of all publicly traded corporations.
But before we get down to the dollars and sense, we’ll begin with a mystery. -more-
Two University of California at Berkeley graduates who have been detained in Iran for more than 21 months will stand trial today on espionage charges, according to their families. -more-
Once again, East Bay MUD’s more than two million water customers in the East Bay are facing a rate hike. This time, the staff proposal is for a six percent across-the-board increase in water rates. EBMUD’s explanation is, essentially, that we customers have been too good at saving water. As a consequence, the water district has been getting less revenue, while its costs haven’t decreased accordingly.-more-
U.C.'S Godzilla Crane—a Looming Presence over Teley—Pokes Its Nose Over Saturday’s ASUC Hip-hop Fest in People's Park
This university crane—a city block in length— swiveled its way into People's Park for Saturday's ASUC's annual hip-hop event. -more-
The life of über-scholar and cellist Aaron Benavidez, just named the top graduating senior at the University of California, Berkeley, is nothing short of dramatic – from his impoverished and turbulent childhood in California’s Central Valley, to playing the cello in Europe’s elite concert halls, to finding his “Ithaca” in the field of sociology. -more-
A plan opposed by low-income public housing residents of Berkeley to privatize and sell their longtime public housing units, has moved forward with the latest effort to find a buyer for Berkeley's 75 public housing units. -more-
On my way to not-so-near-by El Cerrito's Guitar Center on San Pablo Avenue to update my reporting gear, I stopped off at Barnes & Noble last week. -more-
Claremont Branch Library renovation and construction is now underway. Fine Line Construction was awarded a $3,300,000 contract for the branch improvements, which began May 3, 2011. Construction is slated to last 9 to 12 months and branch reopening is anticipated for first quarter 2012. -more-
On April 26, 2011, as I reported in the April 27th Planet, a group of about 60-70 supporters of demolishing and rebuilding the South and West branches of the Berkeley Public Library held a rally on the steps of City Hall during a Council meeting.
This was under the auspices of a group calling itself “New Libraries Now”. Dave Snyder from the Berkeley Public Library Foundation emceed the event and introduced speakers, including three members of the Berkeley City Council. All three, along with a fourth member, Darryl Moore, stood at the top of the City Hall steps by the podium holding signs supporting the rally and calling for “new libraries now.”
Councilmembers Linda Maio, Max Anderson, and Laurie Capitelli spoke at the rally.
Some of their quotations have been misreported in other media. I also quoted some of their remarks in my article, but not their complete statements. Since then, a number of people have asked me if there is a complete transcript of their remarks.
Below is a transcript [made from a recording.] There was an individual heckler yelling about the City budget during the rally, so at a few points the yelling or crowd applause made words or phrases in the Councilmember comments inaudible. Those points are indicated. Otherwise, this is a transcript of their full remarks. -more-
Clarification; No Justification for Tax Breaks to Oil and Gas Companies; Library Letter; A Book of Memories; Assassination of bin Laden; A "Precise" Attack near Islamabad -more-
The state and federal budget crises are bringing deep cuts to government-sponsored public assistance. Many of California’s most needy, including a disproportionate number of children, are facing profound reductions in aid. CalWORKs, which provides day care assistance to working families with minor children, faces the largest cuts in 25 years. And day care for 11- and 12-year old kids of working parents stands to be slashed entirely.
Wrenching as they are, many feel these cuts are justified. Anecdotal stories often circulate about purported welfare cheats squandering the public’s money in casinos, at strip clubs, and on drugs. For example, Sacramento-based CalWatchDog recently accused day care recipients of “sponging” off of the state. A self-described conservative blogger called all welfare recipients “lazy good-for-nothing moochers” who take “extravagant vacations in Hawaii.” Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, wants CalWORKs parents to be tested for drugs. If the parents fail, then the kids would be cut off.
The Berkeley Library Management, has spent over two years falsely presenting South Branch Library as a disintegrating "cinder block" building. Actually nothing is further from the truth. It is a reinforced concrete, post and beam structure, which has been seismically tested. The alternating glass and concrete block infill are not the structure. The false presentation of the concrete block as the menace of disintegrating "cinder block" was deployed to rule out renovation.-more-
Chorus: it’s the song, it’s the song
the song of the wealthy man!
always right, never wrong!
try to be just like me if you can!
it’s the song of the wealthy man! -more-
Now that Wikileaks has revealed the lies of the US Government re: Guantanamo prisoners and other events, the commercial newspapers that pretend/assert they are telling the truth, we know are lying. Fiction films tell more truths then half-truth documentaries. The truth has to be a lie or else it is not believed. Lies imitating truths are better than truths. It is thereby essential to lie in order to establish the truth. -more-
Chances are you didn’t know that the Berkeley City Council was planning to abandon Old City Hall and move in with the Berkeley Unified School District for council meetings when BUSD finishes remodeling the old West Campus site to house its new administrative headquarters. I certainly didn’t, and a quick poll of six knowledgeable citizens encountered at the Farmer’s Market yesterday (the type often called activists) suggests that a lot of other people don’t know either. I even called a councilmember to check, and he seemed surprised too. -more-
In order to keep the lights on and the motors running while reducing harm to humans and planet Earth, fossil-fuel power has to shrink. While we shouldn't forget Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and the recent disaster at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, we need a rational discussion about the future of nuclear power in this country without misinformation and histrionics. By 2030, power demand will probably double. To meet this demand for power without fossil fuels, we need both nuclear power as well as renewable energy. -more-
South Farallon Island, that great seabird metropolis 32 miles west of San Francisco, is infested with house mice. That’s nothing new; the mice have been out there since the 1800s. There used to be feral cats and rabbits as well, but they were exterminated around 1974. -more-
It seems baffling to many people that persons with mental illnesses often resist taking medications that are prescribed. I have addressed some of this in a previous edition of this column. To put it succinctly, it takes a very brave and steadfast person to voluntarily take psychiatric medication; and this is for a number of reasons. -more-
Many epithets describe Osama Bin Laden, but rapist fits best. On September 11, 2001, Bin Laden orchestrated what was, in effect, the gang rape of the United States. We were violated and that explains why America’s recovery has been so difficult. -more-
“Is he still alive?” If you’re over the age of, say, 65, how many times have you heard or said or thought that! Moving quickly on…
Unique and well-known in world literature, this 86-year old writer of fiction is definitely still alive and writing, although unrecognized in the United States until recently. Identify the writer whose control over language and form as well as sympathy and humor and brilliant comment on how we live our lives are praised by critics! -more-
According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Leon Panetta, the U.S. never informed Pakistan about the operation to assassinate al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Ladin because it thought the Pakistanis could “jeopardize the mission” by tipping off the target.-more-
Arts & Events
"The martyr-drama was born from the death of Socrates as a parody of tragedy ... [and] at the end of The Symposium, ... the dialogue contains pure dramatic language, unfragmented by its dialectic of tragic and comic. This purely dramatic quality restores the mystery which had gradually become secularized in the forms of Greek drama."
Walter Benjamin, in his book on Baroque tragic drama, pinpoints the remote origins of the medieval Passion, Morality and Mystery plays--the beginnings of our theater, as they played on until the Restoration or later, influencing Shakespeare and the other great playwrights of England and Europe in the Renaissance and Baroque periods--in the dialogues of Plato, who reportedly burnt his tetralogy of tragedies and began the trend towards dialogue that could embrace both the comic and tragic, which classical theater kept absolutely apart. -more-
"They all want to come to Ireland--Germans, dentists, everybody ... why?"
"Because the people in Ireland are so friendly!"
From the first glimpse of the lit stage--a tableau of a spartan country store, a woman behind the counter frowning over a can of peas she's holding--the Druid production of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan, presented by Cal Performances at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC campus, unimposingly announces itself as humorous theater ... theater and humor of the first water. -more-
Plucky Ragged Wing Ensemble is opening Open, a new play by co-founder Amy Sass (who also directs), with live actors and puppets, based on the Bluebeard legend--and the key to the one door the bride can't enter. Preview this Thursday, opening Friday, running Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 through June 11, at Central Stage, 5221 Central Avenue (near Costco), Richmond Annex. $20-$35 sliding scale. $15 students. (800) 838-3006; raggedwing.org. Also, Ragged Wing Youth Ensemble present "In Between," staged stories the Youth Ensemble has written and acted. -more-