Opinion

Editorials

Who's After Berkeley Police Chief's Scalp, and Why?

By Becky O'Malley
Friday March 16, 2012 - 10:40:00 AM

The subject lines on friends’ email forwards of the original Bay Area News Group article about PoliceChiefGate told the story. “OMG!” “Unbelievable!” and more. And who could argue with their reaction? Everyone in Berkeley and beyond, it seemed, even people who have never agreed on anything else before, agreed on this one:. “How could he? What could he have been thinking?”

And so did I. I’ve been a First Amendment absolutist for all of my adult life. I joined the ACLU before I was old enough to vote. I’ve many times quoted Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the constitutional ban on abridging freedom of speech: “When it says ‘no law’ it means NO LAW!”

After working for a number of years as a political agitator for civil rights and in the anti-war movement, I took up journalism. These experiences fueled my outrage at the report of the Berkeley Police Chief’s midnight messenger sent to press a reporter to correct an online story. I imagined myself hearing that ominous knock, reliving that fearsome confrontation with an armed officer on my doorstep.

There’s no question in my mind that what used to be called The Standard Liberal Position is that this should never have happened. We all have the right to be safe and secure in our homes, don’t we? And we shouldn’t have to be afraid when someone comes knocking after midnight, especially the police. I absolutely agree—or at least I do when I’m wearing my journalist’s hat.

But when the Berkeley Police Officers’ Association issued their first statement criticizing Meehan, I started to wonder. The BPOA is technically not a union, since they can’t strike under the law—but it’s a professional association which does collective bargaining on behalf of its members . And as luck would have it, collective bargaining is underway right now—and Chief Meehan is the boss with whom they’re negotiating. It occurred to me that there might be more than one reason the Association is looking askance at him.

When Berkeley attorney Jim Chanin, a veteran ACLU officer, a former chair of Berkeley’s Police Review Commission and a litigator who has brought and won many police misconduct lawsuits in many jurisdictions in his 40 year career, was quoted in the Chronicle as thinking that Meehan showed “a serious lapse in judgment”, but should not have to resign, I wondered more. So I called Jim to get his take at first hand. -more-


The Editor's Back Fence

Hiring and Firing Department Heads in Berkeley's City Government: A Legal Sidebar

By Becky O'Malley
Friday March 16, 2012 - 11:07:00 AM

A legal point, often misunderstood, is that under Berkeley’s charter the city council can vote whether or not to accept the manager’s hiring recommendations, but after a department head is hired only the manager can fire him or her.

If the councilmembers, including the mayor, wanted to get rid of such an employee and the manager declined to do so, they’d have to fire the manager first. So the mayor and his fellow council members can’t just fire the embattled police chief, even if they want to.

Right now there’s another good current illustration of what this entails. The department head position of Director of Planning is vacant. It was mistakenly reported in a local news outlet that one Eric Angstadt of Oakland had the job, but the mayor and council took great pains at the Monday meeting to say that he had NOT been hired, that the council was just receiving the recommendation and the approval vote wouldn’t be until April 3.

But if you were in any doubt that Angstadt’s got the job nailed, two little slips of the often-loose Mayoral tongue offer further proof. On Monday Mayor Tom Bates let slip that he’d met Angstadt, though only for “a couple of minutes’. Then at the Tuesday special council meeting the mayor spoke approvingly of “our new planning director. ” And it’s not a done deal? -more-


Check Out This Link: UC's Edifice Complex

Friday March 16, 2012 - 08:35:00 AM

Here's a terrific story from Berkeley-based California Watch which shows how the University of California has been cheerfully constructing away, with no real plan for how to pay for staffing the many new buildings named after donors. -more-


Cartoons

Odd Bodkins: Moral Fiber (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 05:18:00 PM

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday March 16, 2012 - 12:43:00 PM

Editorial -more-


A Crisis of Legitimacy in Berkeley

By Steve Martinot
Friday March 16, 2012 - 11:42:00 AM

Police action in Berkeley has been the subject of much discussion of late. There were problematic police responses to phonecalls (directly impacting Peter Cukor's murder in the Berkeley hills Feb. 18), two different apologies by the police chief, a degree of outrage or at least concern by Berkeleyans, a special community meeting to vet the issues, direct police pressure on a reporter at that meeting to report only what would be agreeable to the police chief, a further apology by the chief for that pressure, and a public statement made by some Berkeley police officers dissociating themselves from the chief's action with respect to the reporter (SFChron, March 12, 2012), claiming it could damage their relation of trust with the community. -more-


Building a School-Based Local Food System

By Hannah Kopp-Yates
Friday March 16, 2012 - 01:58:00 PM

I used to live in a food desert, in the Temescal district of Oakland. I remember wandering the aisles of our local liquor-grocery store when I was young, searching for something I considered edible—something whose earthly origin I could at least recognize. I was always shocked to find that among the Corn Nuts, Doritos and Hostess Cakes, there was nothing resembling the beautiful vegetables that my Mom always brought back from her weekly trip to the Berkeley farmer’s market. Today, our gentrified neighborhood has abundant options for purchasing fresh food, like the weekly farmers’ market and the organic produce store on our corner. But I remember what it was like before, and I know that 23.5 million Americans continue to live without this kind of choice. 8% of the US lives in a food desert: a low-income area where a source of fresh foods is not available. -more-


Letters about the Berkeley Police Chief

Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:07:00 PM

Chief Must Go; "doing a pretty good job overall"? Police Chief -more-


Letters to the Editor

Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:41:00 PM

Oil Consumption, 2707 Rose, Financing Our Schools -more-


Synchronize Our Daylight Savings

By Bruce Joffe
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:27:00 PM

Sunday evening's extra daylight was marvelous! But we paid the price for moving the clocks ahead one hour on Monday morning, when we had to arise for work in the dark. Jumping ahead to Daylight Savings Time before the Spring Equinox - when there are equal amounts of daytime and night - results in dark mornings. -more-


New: The Warm Pool Situation: Dona's Last Wish-- How the City of Berkeley Fails again

By Lori Kossowsky
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:46:00 PM

Each morning when I wake up, one of the thoughts in my mind is "Oh no, the warm pool is gone." And I feel a thud in my chest and a yearning to swim in those warm waters again. Then comes the realization that my community I cherish has no where to go. The BUSD and the COB could have easily prevented this, but they refused. -more-


Help Spread Sunshine to Berkeley

By Dean Metzger and Shirley Dean
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:29:00 AM

Summer is still three months away, but it is time to think about sunshine. National Sunshine Week is March 11-17, and in Berkeley we have a chance to pass the strongest Sunshine law in the country. This ordinance would not govern the sun's rays, which light up our homes and illuminate our yards, but would instead mandate that sunshine must flow into our city government and ensure that our politicians and their employees cannot hide in the shadows. -more-


Will Council Member Walk the Walk or Just Talk the Talk?

By Gene Bernardi, Veterans For Peace, Representative to the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley (for identification only) and SuperBOLD member.
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:30:00 PM

While George Lippman’s commentary (“a Step on the Road to Protect Civil Rights”, BDP 3/6-13/12)informs us of the patriotic remarks of several councilmembers and particularly the eloquent speech of Councilmember Anderson, it misinforms the reader of the actual vote on the police department agreements that took place at the 2/14/2012 City Council meeting. -more-


New: Berkeley Copwatch Comment on Chief Meehan Scandal

By Andrea Prichett
Wednesday March 14, 2012 - 08:42:00 AM

It is not surprising that recent actions by Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan have been met by calls for his resignation. It is some comfort that, in these days of rampant police misconduct, it is still considered outrageous when a police chief sends a police officer to the door of a reporter to demand that a story be changed. It is always bad news when police take action against the written word. There are some of us in the Bay Area who remember the story of former San Francisco Police Chief Richard Hongisto who lost his job as chief after ordering the disposal of stacks of the SF Bay Times that had a rather compromising picture of him on the front cover. If there are any standards of fairness or equity, Meehan also should lose his job. -more-


Massacre in Afghanistan

By Jagjit Singh
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:15:00 PM

The seething anger triggered by the slaughter of 16 Afghan civilians, mainly women and children, by a U.S. soldier comes amidst outrage over other civilian deaths. Last week violence erupted by the burning of the Koran by U.S. troops. In January American marines were captured on video urinating on dead Taliban militants. A US army ‘kill team’ was also caught on video cutting off dead body parts as souvenir trophies. On February 8th, helicopter gunships slaughtered eight shepherds on a mountainside as they were out grazing their flocks. Just three days later in Kapisa, four civilians were killed, mistaken for insurgents. -more-


Response to Ms. O'Malley's editorial in regards to mental health care

By "Mary Smith" (pseudonym)
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 01:40:00 PM

My name is withheld since I am a woman who suffers from bipolar disorder. Maintaining anonymity is essential for me to function in our community and maintain my right to confidentiality. I am responding to Ms. O'Malley's editorial. Sorry, it's long and I need to go to bed. You may find it of interest. -more-


No Public Input in Latest Medi-Cal Cuts

By Andrés E. Jiménez
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 10:50:00 AM

When making a decision that affects the quality of health care for millions of Californians and the livelihoods of the state’s physicians and pharmacists, one would think the state and federal government departments responsible would take into account input from the public and well-informed stakeholders. -more-


Bob Burnett's recent editorial on Obama's disastrous energy policy

By Christopher Calder
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - 09:33:00 PM

Bob Burnett's recent editorial on Obama's disastrous energy policy is an example of pure mindless propaganda. -more-