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Thursday alongside Berkeley Public Library on Shattuck. What looks like a "demonstration" is just the street tramp gear taken topside to avoid water hoses.
Ted Friedman
Thursday alongside Berkeley Public Library on Shattuck. What looks like a "demonstration" is just the street tramp gear taken topside to avoid water hoses.


UC Berkeley's Police Review Board is Disturbed by Use of Batons

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday June 06, 2012 - 05:58:00 PM

The University of California at Berkeley's police review board says in a report issued today that it's "disturbed" by officers' use of batons against protesters at an "Occupy Cal" demonstration last Nov. 9.

Officers used batons when they cracked down on an encampment in front of Sproul Hall.

The report says the five members of the board disagree on the number of instances in which the conduct by campus police was "inconsistent with campus norms."

But it says, "We are in agreement that specific campus processes and procedures in the future must be in place to make it clear to the entire campus community when those norms may be crossed."

The report adds that, "Strictly confined limits, as precise as possible, should be articulated regarding the use of force by law enforcement during any protest events." 

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who had prohibited campus encampments but was traveling in Asia at the time of the Nov. 9 protest, asked the police review board to investigate officers' actions and tactics. 

After he returned to the campus, Birgeneau and the university's crisis management team adopted a new approach to deal with protests and encampments calling for university leaders to be more patient and choose the time and manner of responding to unlawful protests that will minimize the possibility of physical harm. 

The new approach also requires that civilian university administrators must authorize any use of force by police except in emergencies in which police must act immediately on their own. 

Jesse Choper, a professor at UC Berkeley's law school who chairs the police review board, said in a conference call with reporters that the policy change is "very promising" and offers hope for better outcomes at future protests if the university implements it properly. 

The report says officers' coordinated use of batons to access protestors' tents and establish a perimeter "may well have been contrary" to university police policies at the time. 

And it says the use of batons was "more plainly contrary" to the new principles created after Nov. 9 because "there was no immediate threat to the safety of officers or others" and there wasn't any active resistance to or evasion of arrest. 

UC Berkeley graduate student Eve Weissman, a member of the police review commission, said in an addendum to the report that, "The university's use of force on Nov. 9 was unjustified because it rested on faulty factual assumptions and questionable legal premises." 

Weissman said the university's belief that non-students prone to disruptive behavior had a central role in the protest was "unfounded" and it's unclear if the university had a legal basis to remove the protesters' tents from Sproul Plaza. 

Birgeneau said in a statement that the events of Nov. 9 were "unfortunate" and "we truly regret that our processes were not adequate for dealing with the particular challenges of that day." 

Birgeneau said he's confident that the new guidelines that were put in place after Nov. 9 "will minimize the likelihood of unfortunate interactions and use of force such as occurred" that day. 

He said the university will continue to clarify and improve its future responses to protests "consistent with honoring the university's commitment to freedom of expression and maintaining the kind of secure and safe environment which makes that ideal possible."

Press Release: McCormick Challenges Incumbent in 2012 Berkeley Mayoral Race

From Jacquelyn McCormick
Monday June 04, 2012 - 02:34:00 PM

Official paperwork was filed today in Berkeley’s City Clerk’s office by Jacquelyn McCormick. She is poised to challenge 10-year incumbent, Tom Bates, in Berkeley’s 2012 Mayor Election. McCormick is a small business owner and active community organizer. She is spokesperson for citizen and neighborhood issues and has a broad understanding of city problems as founder and ongoing contributor to the website berkeleycouncilwatch.com. 

The city is facing rising costs with a diminished ability to pay. For years, the city has been cutting maintenance to infrastructure, parks and recreational facilities; and there is a continuing decline of support for our social services. At the same time, the cost of our employee retirement and health care benefits continue to rise. Of particular concern to McCormick is the inability of the city to continue to fund city social service agencies: “We need to change course” states Ms. McCormick, who is the coordinator of the citizens group “Berkeley Budget SOS”, advocates of comprehensive financial reporting and citizen based planning. “Berkeley is still a great place to live but the neglect of basic services is starting to show. The people of Berkeley want an efficient city, run in good order, with streets repaired, strong schools, parks, pools and libraries; and they deserve for all civic functions to run well. I will get back to basics and put the needs and desires of the people first.”  

According to McCormick, the city needs to get its house in order. She maintains that the future of Berkeley is to “do more with less”. That means good management, good information, and strong citizen participation with shared solutions. While she welcomes new development, she also understands the benefits and drawbacks associated with it: “It is important to understand how to achieve a true balance, while supporting what our community desires in the process. Berkeley is yearning for new and more dynamic leadership; the old ways of doing business are no longer working. I have the energy, experience, desire and political independence to get things done.” And she does. Just ask anyone in Berkeley Budget SOS: Her leadership inspired almost 4000 signatures to be gathered for the FACTS initiative in 6 weeks. 

McCormick has remarkable enthusiasm for the City of Berkeley; and she is fond of discussing its many notable characteristics, ranging from its possession of the state’s educational “crown jewel”, U.C. Berkeley, to its multiple historic landmarks and extraordinarily diverse people. 

Those of us who also love Berkeley await her campaign with renewed interest, relishing the idea that the status quo will be challenged. After all, who doesn’t love a good fight, with all of the earmarks of a David and Goliath cautionary tale? 

For more information, volunteer opportunities and donations: mccormick4mayor.com

New: NIMBY Geese Protest West Berkeley Development (News Analysis)

By Toni Mester
Monday June 04, 2012 - 11:21:00 AM
Canada Geese occupy Aquatic Park
Toni Mester
Canada Geese occupy Aquatic Park
Bolivar Drive and the main lagoon
Toni Mester
Bolivar Drive and the main lagoon

A gaggle of Canada geese has occupied the north end of Aquatic Park in a growing protest against the West Berkeley Project and its flawed EIR, which claims that bird habitats are concentrated at the south end of the park.

The human inhabitants of West Berkeley are also concerned and have turned out in the hundreds for City Council public hearings that began May 1 and continued for three weeks, the large majority of speakers opposed to zoning changes west of San Pablo Avenue including Aquatic Park. Many complained about a top-down process that ignored their concerns. The next public hearing is scheduled for June 12.

The definition of habitat, according to Mike Lynes, conservation director of Golden Gate Audubon, is “anywhere the birds are,” and the threat of increased distress brought by large development on the north end of the lagoon has ruffled the feathers of the diving ducks and more than 70 other avian species found at the park.

The Canada geese (Branta Canadensis), usually visit in winter but are staying on this year, which worries the leadership of Ducks United because the geese, who poop worse than seagulls, are considered the black bloc of the occupy Aquatic Park movement, giving birds a bad rep.

Glaring Errors and Omissions

As a result of Audubon’s EIR comments, bird-safe building standards have appeared in the mitigations monitoring program of the revised master use permits ordinance that will get a public hearing on June 12. 

But bird-safe standards are not intended to safeguard against glare and reflected heat, which could also disturb park users, blinding boaters and cyclists in the afternoons. Bird-safe building standards, like those adopted city-wide in San Francisco, demand window treatments to prevent transparency and bird collisions, but environmentally sensitive fenestration should also prevent glare and heat reflection caused by certain types of widely used window glass. 

If activists are successful in adding prevention of glare and heat reflection, it will join a growing list of changes to the West Berkeley Project that appear in the mitigations monitoring program rather than in the ordinance itself, because state law requires that any modification of such legislation be referred to the Planning Commission for consideration, an issue that was raised May 8 by Gene Poschman, a long time member of Berkeley’s planning body. According to City Attorney Zach Cowan, the mitigations monitoring program has the force of law. 

On May 22 Councilmember Laurie Capitelli presented approximately 20 amendments to the ordinance that he characterized as a compromise “put forward after conversations with a variety of stakeholders.” Some of these changes can be found in the revised ordinance and some in the mitigations monitoring program, depending on whether the issues were considered by the Planning Commission. 

The amendments were moved by Laurie Capitelli and Darryl Moore, both of whom face opposition in the November election, and referred to staff. The public hearing was set for June 12, and the proposed changes are now available on the Council agenda


A Moving Target 

Following late changes to the master use permit (MUP) amendments proposed by Planning Director Eric Angstadt and Laurie Capitelli, Council plans to vote on June 12, without the benefit of review by the Planning Commission. Although the Public Hearing has been reopened for June 12, a vote at the same meeting will not allow for revisions in response to public comments. 

Some of the changes include a setback of 5 feet for MUP projects adjacent to the Mixed Use-Residential (MU-R) zone, and within the MU-R, buildings will step up from 35' to 45' at a 30° angle. Density in the MU-R may be increased to C-W (San Pablo) standards, a 100% increase, in spite of recommendations by both Planning Director Angstadt and the Planning Commission to maintain existing density. 

Buildings in an MUP may be 75 feet high at a site-wide average height of 50 feet, and can cover 75% of a project area with a minimum of 10% dedicated to publicly accessible open space. Since the average height is “site-wide” rather than an average height of the buildings, grade of 0 would be figured in the average, which means that up to two-thirds of an MUP site could reach 75 feet. In the mitigations program, a new stipulation to preserve the visual character of West Berkeley states that no more than 25% of the site area can be at a single height as part of a contiguous mass. 

It’s hard to imagine how this will produce a less massive and more visually pleasing project without seeing architectural drawings and models. 

Additional building height is allowed up to 100 feet for industrial infrastructure when the applicant can demonstrate absolute necessity, although a developer argues that this should include rooftop equipment and mechanical penthouses. 


The Abuses of Uses 

In the Capitelli proposal, certain uses normally allowed in the MULI are prohibited in the underlying MU-R portions of an MUP site: construction products manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, testing and commercial biological research labs, and commercial excavation. This would cushion nearby residences from obnoxious industry. 

The location and density of housing have been a matter of controversy and confusion throughout this process. In an early staff version, residential uses that were allowed in one portion of an MUP site could “float” to other locations and be expanded, subject to approval by the zoning board. After the public hearings, Eric Angstadt concurred with the Planning Commission in retaining the MU-R standards, much to the relief of the neighbors. 

Now the housing allowance has been changed once again to permit C-W (commercial west) standards in the MU-R portion of an MUP, which would apply to the Peerless project on Fifth Street between Allston and Bancroft, evidence that Doug Herst and his team have been successful in lobbying for increased housing density on his site. That’s no surprise since high density growth has long been a priority for Mayor Bates and his Council allies. 

C-W allows 40 feet of housing or 50 feet with mixed use, but the zone, which includes the new project 4th and U, stops south of University at Addison. If the Peerless spot-zoning is approved, condos on Fifth Street could rise to over 65' due to the density bonus. The additional height would depend on the amount of affordable housing provided. 

This twist in the saga of Fifth Street is sure to dismay the MU-R neighbors who have turned out in force for the hearings and felt a fleeting sense of relief for a few weeks, believing that they had preserved the scale of their neighborhood. 

In the Capitelli proposals, the C-W zoning portion of the MUP site owned by Wareham Corporation, where the Urban Adamah farm is located between San Pablo and Tenth Street, would have retained the C-W zoning standards, but that limitation is not clarified in the revised ordinance. An apartment building could still be 75' on San Pablo Avenue, with a potential increase from the density bonus, unless stated otherwise. 


Aquatic Park Puzzle 

Doug Herst publicized his Peerless Greens project two years ago, hired a traffic engineer for the environmental review, and made his plans visible, if not totally accessible. The size of the residential units, the economic viability of the project, and the fate of his current tenants remain indeterminate, but at least the community knows what he intends. 

The general appearance of the Wareham project in Berkeley is available in their LBNL second campus presentation August 2011, although not specifically articulated. The Wareham development track record in Emeryville suggests the look of their expanded Berkeley site. 

But the design of the Aquatic Park MUP sites remains a mystery. Of all the LBNL presentations, Aquatic Park was the least specific, a preliminary plan relying on pretty views of the lagoons and the bay as well as West Berkeley shops, restaurants, and galleries. Adam Glaser, an architect with Stantec, mentioned that the buildings would be 2-4 stories and located to protect view corridors, while the landscape design would add 2 acres to Aquatic Park by blending the public and private open spaces. Both Glaser and Joe DeCredico spoke of environmental enhancements that would remediate the hydrology problems of the lagoons. 

What has happened to all these good intentions since LBNL has chosen to locate in Richmond? The Aquatic Park MUP properties, owned by the Jones and Goldin families, would get a height allowance to 75', enough for five lab stories that could obliterate public views, while Glaser said the project would respect the scale of the neighborhood and implied that 60' (four stories) might suffice. 

The new proposal for building setbacks would be “an average of 100' from the water’s edge” but fails to stipulate how such an average would be calculated and suggests a blending of public and private lands. The corollary to the notion of adding acres to the park is expropriating public land for a corporate campus. It’s problematic for many reasons, including maintenance, access to recreational amenities, and liability. Setbacks are normally measured from the edge of private property, which would be along Bolivar Drive. 

And then there’s the problem of grade. At present, the north end of the Jones property, including Plexxikon is level with the park but the south end, the American soils yard, is almost 20' above Bolivar Drive. Before building heights can be determined, it is necessary to know how buildings will be designed relative to the grade of the site. 

The latest revision of the development standards for the Aquatic Park sites includes building step-backs at a 45° angle, a steeper plane than the 30° required at the MU-R interface, and there are no MULI prohibitions of use for the sensitive park environment. These inequalities should be resolved so that the park gets similar protections, even if egrets can’t vote. 

To complicate matters further, the EIR did not study rise in sea levels and revealed in the final SEIR that “contaminated plumes” exist in the high water table west of the railroad tracks, new information which may necessitate further environmental review, according to Tom Lippe, the lawyer representing the Sustainable West Berkeley Alliance in a May 15 letter to the City. 

The rezoning of the Aquatic Park sites has preceded the environmental review of the Aquatic Park Improvement Program (APIP) that begins this fall, which could create problems. These efforts should be better coordinated, connecting the Planning Department to Public Works and their big project, the Watershed Management Plan, and to Parks, Recreation and Waterfront, who will be overseeing APIP. All three of these projects affect Aquatic Park. 


The Giveaway 

Money is the motive. The City thinks that their zoning initiative is going to pump up the local economy, attract LBNL spin-offs and start-ups in biotech, bring brilliant scientists to Berkeley who will live in a nearby maxi dorm, and that industries need 100 feet heights to cure cancer. Plexxikon is developing a melanoma drug in a 15 foot high building and needs to expand, but not that much. 

Scientists and technicians will commute from their single family homes in the suburbs, and the West Berkeley neighbors, who have been insulted throughout this process as infantilized NIMBYs who simply cannot accept change, will suffer worsening traffic conditions and air quality, and a local economy destabilized by a sudden rise in land values. 

The Council has a sketchy list of community benefits they would like to exact from developers, but those benefits have not been considered by the Planning Commission. And so our elected officials plan to pass this zoning ordinance, granting increased building allowances to a few owners and developers, before defining what benefits the developers would be required to provide to the community. 

Two benefits should have priority: transportation and infrastructure. Both have a clear nexus to the developments and will benefit the new employees and residents. Many of the traffic mitigations depend on TDM (traffic demand management) programs like providing employee Clipper cards and funding a BART shuttle. Other transportation fees could apply to redesigning intersections and road improvements that are suggested mitigations in the EIR. 

The decayed hydrology infrastructure of Aquatic Park requires massive capital investment, and the tax payers may not vote for the green infrastructure bond if they feel that developers aren’t paying their fair share. In recent polls, streets and the storm water system (watershed management) are getting the highest approval. If the Council shows a clear priority for these benefits, the City could possibly afford to improve streets and intersections as well as the water quality of Aquatic Park and the bay. 

Our over-eager City Council would be making a mistake in passing this half-baked ordinance. They should send the MUP amendments back to the Planning Commission, requiring input from all stakeholders, until they get it right. Creating building allowances before determining fees weakens the City’s negotiating position in what are sure to become development agreements by another name. 


Dump the MUPs? 

The Council could abandon this ordinance without sacrificing future projects and economic growth. There’s a growing awareness in the environmental community that Aquatic Park is at risk and that the adjacent properties should be zoned separately. But the same could be said for all of these sites, each unique in problems and potentials. 

With separate development agreements, the community could examine the plans, and the challenges could be solved on a case by case basis. One size does not fit all. The original intent of the master use permit section was to allow the owner to get permits for more than one building without having to apply separately, but within the existing allowances and standards in the zoning code. 

The proper channel to develop large parcels with expanded allowances in exchange for benefits is the development agreement. Everything is negotiated, and the community participates in an advisory capacity. All the experience and information gained to date can be used in the agreements and will not be wasted. Each project would undergo separate environmental review, and their EIRs can be improved based on what has been learned. As currently proposed, an environmental review is discretionary, not mandatory. 

Clarity can not be achieved in the current situation because it is ruled by political gamesmanship, not good governance and planning. The Council majority is pushing the flawed and unfinished MUP ordinance so they can overcome a referendum in November. Instead of working with the community for a win/win outcome, they want to defeat West Berkeley. The members of the Council who are trying to broker a compromise should be commended for their efforts, even if politically motivated. That’s OK. Compromise is what politicians should do. They should not make war on workers, tax payers, small business, and existing neighborhoods. 

This planning exercise, both process and product, has failed. It has become a grotesque charade that sacrifices the life investments of thousands to the ambitions of a few. The ordinance cannot be fixed within this rushed time frame. Many commendable projects will take longer to create under this miserable piece of legislation than through separate development agreements in more open and transparent negotiations. 



Back at the lagoon, the geese are foraging in the shallow waters of the north end of Aquatic Park, oblivious to the surrounding storm of controversy. 

The executive committee of Ducks United huddle at Bird Island, savoring their new found status as stakeholders and wondering if the immigrants from Canada will undermine their cause. 

“Our goose is cooked,” proclaims Patches, the leader. 

“The City Council has its ducks in a row,” quacks another, as they wade away into the sunset, flipping their tails and calling to one another. 

“We’re not going to be sitting ducks” 

“Aquatic Park is for the birds.” 

“It’s water off my back.” 

“They are so lame.” 

Toni Mester, a West Berkeley resident for 33 years, served on the Bayer Development Agreement Citizens Advisory Committee. 

Hang Onto Your Seats – Berkeley Anti-Sitting Law on the Way

By Carol Denney
Friday June 01, 2012 - 12:34:00 PM

San Francisco is mulling over a recent report by the City Hall Fellows stating that San Francisco’s sit/lie ordinance serves primarily as a means to harass the city’s aging homeless population.[i] But that hasn’t diminished Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates’ enthusiasm for an anti-sitting law.

June 12th’s Berkeley City Council agenda is currently slated to include ballot language for an anti-sitting law which Bates is banking that Berkeley’s panhandler-weary public will pass to “improve the attractiveness and welcoming nature”[ii] of commercial districts. 

The proposal cites “concern raised by community members” as necessitating the criminalization of sidewalk sitting as “a logical next step.” The ballot measure, as opposed to a resolution passed by the council, provides political cover for council representatives who support the criminalization of sitting but fear a civil liberties backlash, creates vulnerability for council representatives who don’t support a ballot measure, and throws the whole question into the hands of the voters, a majority of whom voted for an unconstitutional anti-panhandling measure in 1994. 

The mere rumor of an anti-sitting law last summer provoked demonstrations and events targeting the anti-sitting proposal before it had even taken shape, so it is safe to assume Berkeley is signing up for another round of demonstrations, court challenges, referendum campaigns, and national press on how filthy, unpleasant, and unattractive Berkeley’s commercial districts are, an oddly counter-productive approach our merchant associations seem bent on making Berkeley’s national anthem. 

Berkeley’s anti-sitting proposal will cost an estimated $26,000 in taxpayer dollars, not including police and court costs. There are exemptions for business-supplied chairs, wheelchairs, and watching parades and demonstrations, which might excuse all sitting at all times given the daily, even hourly nature of local demonstrations, not to mention that life may be fairly construed as a parade. 

San Francisco’s City Hall Fellows “urban change-makers” found that San Francisco’s sit/lie ordinance had resulted in repeated citations to “an older homeless population, many of whom suffer from both mental and physical health conditions.” The bulk of the citations went to 19 people. 

The largest donor to the San Francisco Coalition for Civil Sidewalks for the period January 1 through June 30, 2010, was Ronald C. Conway, a managing partner of Angel Investors LP, and an early investor in Google and PayPal. Conway contributed $35,000 of the $50,800 reported for the first half of the year. 

The total estimated “Measure L” campaign in San Francisco cost was $280,000. Divided by 19, the cost comes to around $14,736.84 per person. 

That’s not counting Religious Witness for the Homeless’ estimate of approximately $2,461,756.70 in police costs spent per year recycling the same people through the system. That estimate brings the cost to around $144,302.98 per person. 

One might wonder if extinguishing the sight of poverty is worth that much of the public’s dime. 

[i] SF Weekly, by Laura Rena Murray, May 24, 2012 [ii] Civil Sidewalks Ballot Measure proposed for June 12, 2012 Berkeley City Council Action Calendar 


More on this story: 

You can read the agenda item here.

Shifting Downtown Scene Moves South

By Ted Friedman
Friday June 01, 2012 - 07:24:00 AM
Thursday alongside Berkeley Public Library on Shattuck. What looks like a "demonstration" is just the street tramp gear taken topside to avoid water hoses.
Ted Friedman
Thursday alongside Berkeley Public Library on Shattuck. What looks like a "demonstration" is just the street tramp gear taken topside to avoid water hoses.
Telegraph street tramp loyalists at usual haunt outside Amoeba annex Thursday.
Ted Friedman
Telegraph street tramp loyalists at usual haunt outside Amoeba annex Thursday.

At first, the scene Thursday looked like a demonstration, and one of the "demonstrators" said it was, but it turned out to be a "Block by Block" cleanup. 

Block by Block is the recent replacement downtown of the Host-Ambassador program, which still flourishes on Telegraph. Host-Ambassadors and Block by Block are not the same organization. 

According to BBB, the program works like this: "Security Ambassadors are under the direction of a single Operations Manager and management structure. Security Ambassadors are responsible for patrolling on foot and bike to serve as additional ‘eyes and ears’ of the Berkeley Police Department. 

While serving as a visible deterrent. Ambassadors will report all activity that is deemed to be out of the ordinary and engage low level quality of life crimes in order to seek compliance through verbal request. All Ambassadors will provide a high level of engagement with workers, residents and visitors to improve perceptions of safety." 

Boil this down and you get a "patrol' with not much more power than a citizen, who can report dangerous behaviors, or even—if they know how—make a citizen's arrest. But to downtown street tramps, the security ambassadors are just cops. 

Yesterday, an operations manager and crew were hosing down and cleaning what has become the successor scene to Constitution Square at the Bart exit. Street tramps have moved to alongside the Berkeley Library on Shattuck, under threat of harassment they say. 

Some tramps say they've moved downtown where panhandling is better than on Telegraph, and some feel threatened by recently resumed police patrols on Telegraph. Meanwhile, Telegraph appears less trampy, although the persistent street scene outside Amoeba's annex continues, uninterrupted. 

Southside Planet reporter Ted Friedman went downtown to compare Teley to Shattuck.

Hard Luck Berkeley Police Chief Trying to Keep Head Above Water (News Analysis)

By Ted Friedman
Thursday May 31, 2012 - 04:26:00 PM
"Authorized Personnel Only" behind these doors. If only we could get a foot in the door.
Ted Friedman
"Authorized Personnel Only" behind these doors. If only we could get a foot in the door.

These are hard-luck times for Berkeley Police Chief Michael K. Meehan completing his second year as Berkeley's top cop, and trying to keep his head "above water," or as he has described it, trying to stay ahead of the "media curve." 

And the times seemed to get harder last week after details surfaced of a January overtime investigation to locate the chief's son's stolen cell phone. Ironically, the chief may be taking the blame for exactly the kinds of overtime investigations he would like to curtail. 

Police spokesmen say the chief did not order the cell-phone investigation, and at least one officer said that such pursuits of stolen property are necessary to "send a message" that even seemingly petty crimes will be pursued in Berkeley. 

The cell-phone incident was reported at the Huffington Post, Yahoo News, SF Chronicle, Bay Area News Group, national television, radio, and condemned in a Daily Californian editorial Thursday. 

Berkeley's Northside near campus recently experienced a string of strong-arm robberies, although summer break—when felons have fewer students to rob—may lessen the problem, according to one officer. 

At mid-year, Berkeley already has recorded three homicides, when some years there are none or 2-3 for the year. The first homicide, in January, has not been 'solved,' and the second, in February, continues to stir up doubts over whether the police might have prevented it. 

Berkeley continues to have "a serious crime problem, with a crime rate 50% higher than similarly sized cities." according to the chief himself. 

At a packed Northside church three months ago, Meehan, 51, seemed to have re-assured a surly crowd that they were safe in their homes. "I live here with my wife and two kids," the Chief winningly observed. "I want Berkeley to be a safe place." 

As to charges of police screw-ups the night of the murder in the exclusive Park Hills neighborhood—Meehan said, "we're human" adding that cops were "people too." 

"If any other department is doing something different from ours," he said, "we want to know about it," suggesting Berkeley police were playing by the rules Feb. 18, when noted chemical engineer, Peter M. Cukor, 67, was killed by a 23 year-old Alameda man, who has been judged incompetent to stand trial. 

Because the murder trial of Cukor's assailant is on hold, we will not learn what motivated the killer to connect with Cukor, much less what really transpired that night—in the hills and back at BPD headquarters where police were "monitoring" an Occupy Oakland/Cal "Fuck the Police March," anticipating violence. 

"Fuck the Police" marches, not to be taken literally, have a violent record in Oakland where masked anarchists calling themselves "Black Block," have rioted—in response to police provocation, they say. 

Meehan touted the success of police handling of the Feb. 18 FTP demo in Berkeley, which turned out to be a self-love fest among the protesters, during which they celebrated their past achievements. 

"I'm particularly proud of that," [police handling of the protest] Meehan told the North-siders. There were no arrests that night and no incidents, according to Meehan 

But only hours after the public meeting convened, Meehan sent an (likely) armed police spokeswoman to a local reporter's home to request changes to his just-posted story for Bay Area news Group, a bay area press conglomerate. 

Meehan's actions that night triggered an avalanche of protests that threatened to bury him and triggered an investigation commissioned by the city manager's office, not to mention a mass media Berkeley cop-watch that has made the chief notorious on-line. When Meehan showed up at a recent Police Review Commission with his attorney, he refused to take questions, except those submitted in writing. 

[See correction explained here] ] 

Back in March, Meehan's own Police Officers Association,rebuked him tartly for his actions. 

Attacked from without and within, Meehan, an expert on homeland security, on which he has published scholarly articles and papers, could not be blamed for feeling his own security threatened. The chief has a Master’s Degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness from the Naval Postgraduate School. 

When Meehan was sworn in as chief in January 2010, the then city manager Phil Kamlarz, lauded the appointment, saying Meehan would "keep his head above water." Perhaps he has, but he must be gasping for air each time he takes another dunking. 


News of the chief's latest media imbroglio reached vacationing South side Planet reporter, Friedman, in Portland.

Transit of Venus to Bring Viewers Out at Sites across the Bay Area

By Dan McMenamin, Bay City News Service
Tuesday June 05, 2012 - 09:56:00 AM

Amateur astronomers across the Bay Area will keep their eyes on the skies Tuesday to see a rare astronomical event -- the passing of the planet Venus in front of the sun.

During the so-called "transit of Venus," which is similar to a solar eclipse by the moon, the planet passes directly between the sun and Earth and becomes visible as a small dot drifting across the sun.

Several sites around the Bay are inviting the public to see the transit for what will likely be the last time in their lives. The rare event occurs in pairs, most recently in 2004, and will not be seen again from Earth until December 2117.

The Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland and Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley are hosting events to mark the transit of Venus. 

Members of the public can view the transit through special solar telescopes and sun spotters and talk about it with astronomers. 

It begins shortly after 3 p.m. and will last for about six hours and 40 minutes, according to Michele Johnson, a spokeswoman for NASA, which is hosting a viewing of the transit at its Ames Research Center at Moffett Field. 

Attendees can watch a live broadcast of the transit that is being filmed from atop the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii and will also be able to safely view the event themselves using solar filter glasses and telescopes, Johnson said. 

She said the event is significant because "it's the last chance for the next two generations to see it," and added that the most dramatic sights will be at the start and finish of the transit. 

The Lafayette Library and Learning Center is setting up several telescopes too at its outdoor amphitheater and will also show NASA's live video feed. 

For people unable to make it to a site specializing in space studies, the hilltop at Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve in Solano County will be opened up to the public to provide people with their own telescopes or solar glasses a chance to view the transit. 

The transit can also be followed online at www.venustransit.nasa.gov, which also has more information about various viewing events, as well as safety precautions for viewing the transit.

New: Correct This: Journalistic Mistakes in an Age of Corrections

By Ted Friedman
Thursday June 07, 2012 - 03:57:00 PM
"To err is human, to forgive divine"--Alexander Pope.
Ted Friedman
"To err is human, to forgive divine"--Alexander Pope.

The New York Times, possibly the best edited rag in the world averages nearly 3,000 errors a year, based on multiplying the average number of daily errors they admit by days in the year, although this will probably call for a correction, or as my editor at the Berkeley Daily Planet calls corrections, "quibbles." 

In fact, the Times' corrections often seem like quibbles, except when they take a major pratfall, as they did April 28 when they misstated the cause of death as forced drinking in a fraternity hazing incident. The cause of death in the case had not been determined. 

This reminds me of my latest gaff in my Planet piece published Friday, which said, without qualification or attribution, that Police Chief Michael K. (or is it M.?) Meehan now speaks only through an attorney. I learned of my mistake from the chief, who spoke to me directly and without an attorney. 

I think he said, he didn't even have an attorney, but am not sure. His departmental spokesperson has an attorney, but she won't talk about it, with or without an attorney, but she may wish to correct me on that. 

Since we at the Planet do not have a corrections feature, I am constantly approached by dissatisfied sources, who have quibbles. Some of their quibbles have brought tears to my eyes. "I wrote that?" I have responded frequently. 

In the case of my Chief Meehan gaff, I was relying on sources I neither named nor alluded to, generally, who attended the meeting of which I wrote. I did not attend the meeting. I believe my mistake was a conflation. Worse, I may have needed the paragraph which was in error, to establish that the Chief has been under fire lately. 

There is nothing more frustrating than to have your story unravel, just because the facts won't support it. It's enough to drive you to fiction writing. 

The worst journalistic practice occurs when you stretch a fact for brevity. In my recent Planet piece about Portland, Oregon, I referred to a death as "suspicious," just because the victim died behind the wheel of a car in a non-accident, and the cause of death had not yet been determined. 

I wanted to spice up the piece. My complaining source pointed out that suspicious death is reserved for cases where foul play is suspected. 

How bad a reporter am I? Please don't tell me. I'm too fragile, but I must say this: there are innocent mistakes, lazy mistakes, and foolish mistakes, but when someone is bruised by a mistake, the defense of "innocent mistake" don't cut it. 

Even worse, there are little mistakes, which the Times trots out as trojan horses to mask their reporter, Judith Miller's "mistakes," which allegedly got us into Iraq, and then there are cosmic mistakes, like those of Miller's and her editors. 

The Times eventually devoted an editorial, apologizing for their Iraq debacle. 

I left out the arrogant mistake and the lying mistake. Arrogant mistakes are akin to the remark made by Roger Rot Thornhill (or is it just Roger R.?) that "in advertising, there are no lies, just the expedient exaggeration." Expedient exaggerations appeal to wise-guy writers who sometimes favor form over substance. 

You wise-guy writers know who you are. 

There is possibly nothing worse than such arrogance, but someone may wish to correct this expedient exaggeration. 

I have memorized a self-serving apology for my victims. The speech goes something like this although I may have to correct myself. "There are an average 865 facts, or is it 863?including addresses and such in one of my stories," although I am taking a wild guess with this, so don't bother to correct me, or quibble over the definition of fact. 

"I am correct most of the time," I say, and "besides, I am always close to the deep truth of the story," whatever that is. I once went out of my way to take the name of an event from its flyer, because I was getting the name wrong--and still got it wrong. I told the complaining source, "I got the day and the fact that the event occurred. So you can be thankful of that." 

When all my excuses fall flat, I go to Alexander Pope, an oft-quoted poet and wit from the 16th Century, or is it 15th Century? You take a guess--so I can correct you. 

The quote is, "to err is human, to forgive, divine," or was it John Donne? But most people are less interested in divine forgiveness than in accuracy. 

Ask not for whom the bell (tools?) tolls. Wasn't that Donne, or was it Pope? 

Fact check this, dear reader. 




The Shop at CIL Fills a Need in the Disability Community

By Lydia Gans
Friday June 01, 2012 - 07:45:00 AM

When the Center for Independent Living (CIL) moved into the Ed Roberts Campus several years ago the building at 2539 Telegraph Avenue was temporarily abandoned. But since the beginning of this year it has been coming back to life. The front along the street has offices of various non profit organizations and the vast space in the rest of the building is reconstituted as THE SHOP at CIL. It contains facilities for wheelchair and scooter repair and a program for recycling every kind of assistive technology. It promises to provide convenient, accessible services and equipment for people with disabilities. They celebrated its official grand opening this month with Mayor Bates cutting the blue ribbon. 

When we met with Laurie Shay, business manager of the SHOP, she described the operation. There are actually two program parts. For wheelchair and scooter repair they are partnered with Wheelchairs of San Mateo, a well established business respected by many wheelchair users. This is useful, she explains, because they have the business infra- structure and the ability to bill MediCare and other insurance which is important for the clients. Asked if they can do house calls, Lauri explains; “Most people come here and we are working on how to provide services for minor needs. Most services are major repairs. If somebody just needs something minor we are working to get a whole group of volunteer workers who can help out with that or, the other thought is that we're going to have workshops here and people from the community can be trained to do those minor repairs.” 

The other, a very exciting and important program run by the SHOP is the repair, reuse and recycling of assistive technology (AT). Lauri defines AT as “a piece of equipment or device that would help a person with a disability do something that they wouldn't be able to do otherwise without that piece of technology or it would be really difficult for them to do.” The SHOP solicits donations of items that people are no longer using but might still have life in them. It could be a cane, crutches, a walker, a shower chair, a screen reader, assisted listening device. “We take donations of durable medical equipment such as hospital beds, commodes and things like that. Once they come in we evaluate them whether they are fit to be given out again or they need to be repaired. Some things we can repair some we can't. Or if they need to be sanitized we have what's called a hub scrub ...” (This is a machine that looks something like a small car wash). “Once we get the donations in we will be giving them out free or low cost depending on the item”, Laurie says, “and we can also loan out an item to someone who might have only temporary need for it.” There is a room filled with smaller, simple AT items for daily living - canes, grab bars, alarm clocks, vibrator clocks, pill organizer for people with memory issues, large timers, magnifiers, jar grippers that are free or very inexpensive. 

The SHOP is part of an AT network and exchange that maintains a website for members to post equipment that they have available. There are 13 locations in California that are part of the AT exchange network. Joe Escalante is AT specialist at Silicon Valley Independent Living Center which is part of the network. He explains “ As such we're tied in with each others ability to loan out devices and donate devices that's been donated to us.” He was at the SHOP last week with Frances Merrill who is a wheelchair user and works at SVILC. “I know Frances,” he said. “I went on the Exchange and I know she's been using her power chair for many years and it's kind of on the fritz every now and then, comes and goes. And with her insurance issues they're unwilling to purchase a new one until he current chair absolutely goes. With the AT exchange I was able to find a wheelchair that we hope suitable for her and lucky for us is close by. … she'll be able to get a chair at a very reasonable price that she would not be able to afford otherwise.” Frances was pleased. “I'm not able to purchase another chair for many years – so this really helps me out.” And she was happy to find our about the repair and recycling. “Normally what I've done with my old chairs in the past is either donate it if they'll take it or take it apart and recycle it as scrap.” The SHOP has put a couple of dozen items on the website and a number of them have been taken. They are always looking for donations. When they get an item Laurie explains, “We have to evaluate it, see if it's in working order, then we take a picture of it and post it on the web.” 

Peni Hall, an artist, a disability activist and wheelchair user was at the SHOP opening on Friday. She was enthusiastic. “I think it's the most exciting thing that has happened in Berkeley in a long time.” When CIL moved into the Ed Roberts Campus several years ago it left a gap in the wheelchair repair business. “Everybody in the community wanted a wheelchair repair store,” Peni said, “and this is going to be a wonderful asset for the community.” Also the AT part of the SHOP - repair, reuse, recycle, supplements the programs at the Ed Roberts Campus by making it easy for people with disabilities to obtain all sorts of assistive devices directly. And the SHOP always welcomes donations. 

Finally, the offices of the non-profits and the community room in the front part of the building provide a space for people of like minds and interests to gather. Currently there are the Grey Panthers, the United Nations Association and the Ecumenical Peace Institute. There is space for several more.

Travel: All the World’s a Stage in Ashland and Portland

By Ted Friedman
Thursday May 31, 2012 - 04:26:00 PM

All the world’s a stage said Shakespeare, and that would include Ashland, Oregon, home of America’s most famous Shakespeare festival as well as Portland’s Hillsdale district, which is only famous in a shakespearian sense, although it does have its own Sunset Boulevard, site of a stand-off between old-timers and newbies. 

Hardly a day goes by without a media story on Portland’s allure, which has drawn artists, musicians, chefs, and slackers looking for cheap rent and the hottest new scenes. 


Hillsdale, Oregon. 

Only five minutes from downtown Portland, the hamlet of Hillsdale represents everything considered “enviable,” about Portlander’s lives. A family and dog-centered district of 2,000 households, which once was cow pastures is presently up to its spacious lawns in a controversy over a proposed sidewalk on America’s other Sunset Boulevard. 

Young Portlanders at risk from not having a sidewalk to take them off a busy thoroughfare. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Proponents of the sidewalk think its high time Hillsdale had a sidewalk at its core, and would feel a lot safer walking “downtown” without traffic bearing down on their backsides. Old-time Sunset residents respond, “we were perfectly safe for fifty years without a walk.” 

When Hillsdalers decide to oppose something they usually prevail. Such was the case recently when the good burghers of Hillsdale frustrated attempts of Chase Bank to develop a vacant lot across from a strip mall, “downtown” — if Hillsdale had a downtown, which it doesn’t. 

According to one resident, the proposed Chase branch was not good for the hood. 

Back in ’92 when a radio tower, which hovers over Hillsdale like the Eiffel Tower hovers over Paris, went up on Council Crest, there was little opposition to the classic rock broadcaster’s towering, if elegant bull horn. The tower of rock was joined, recently, by two smaller cell phone towers, making Hillsdale a towering, if not radioactive place. 

When a pricey organic market closed a few years ago, Hillsdale residents organized to replace it with a food co-op. 

In Hillsdale, neighbors not only know each other, they hang out together, often getting together in each other’s homes. 

At least one set of neighbors shares a back-yard chicken coop. 

A suspicious death last week near Sunset Boulevard was big news in Hillsdale, where back fence gossip thrives. 

Thanks to community organizers, Hillsdale’s highly rated schools, a draw to a new generation of up-scale professionals, have (barely) survived school closure threats, but they have survived, making Hillsdale a happy school zone. 

Men attend PTA meetings. Some of them knit. 

'Downtown' Hillsdale, Oregon. Photo by Ted Friedman.
So as sunset descends on Portland’s Sunset Blvd., we bid ado to this not-so-sunny suburban slice of Portland life and head South to Ashland, which, at its founding, had ties to its big sister to the North. 


Ashland, Oregon 

The Berkeley street heard about a crack down on street tramps in Ashland, which is on a select list of destinations for a generation of kids with nothing left to lose in an America with no future. 

In Berkeley, a town of protests, where three protests last year opposed an ordinance that had not, and still has not been written, even the whiff of a street crack down can incur a riot. 

What was considered a crack-down in Berkeley was, in Ashland, considered lame-ass by street tramps, who have learned to co-mingle with the rich and famous. The rich and famous descend on Ashland as they descend on Sundance. 

Homeless youth activist, his dog, and his sidekick. Photo by Ted Friedman.
According to an Ashland street tramp, who organizes community support, the proposed restrictions on Ashland street dwellers, who mingle with visitors to the famous Shakespeare festival only a block from their ‘headquarters,’ are “just business as usual.” 

“They tried this in Lithia Park,” [also a block away], he said. “Three violations and you get a stay-away. It’s no biggy. Just don’t get any violations. I’m totally clean. No violations. That’s how I can be out here.” 

The street tramp said that none of the crack-downs really addresses the core problems of Ashland homelessness. The tramp has, he claimed, linked with an influential Ashland businessman to establish residential communities where homeless youth would elect to stay, unlike shelters, where no one wants to stay, he noted. 

The street tramp scene, small and mellow, in a small mellow town of 21,000 where restaurants catering to swells from around the world also cater to the homeless by looking the other way when they hoist leftovers, but offers not much else in the way of support. 

Ashland Spring Hotel, 1925, blocks sunset. Photo by Ted Friedman.
It’s Shakespeare Festival time in Ashland, and Ashland’s main drag “Main Street,” which would make the ideal Saturday night cruise, was, if not hopping, at least alive with visitors. As the sun set on Ashland’s historic Ashland Springs Hotel, 1925, Main’s pricey eateries filled. 

From a counter-top seat at the window of a pizzeria preferred by locals, you could watch the sun set near Lithia Park, next door to the bard festival and watch charming businesses across the street turn golden. 

If, as Shakespeare borrowed “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts…,” there are many parts to be played in Ashland. 

Berkeley Reporter can’t stop reporting, even when on the road. 




Once Again, Candidate Bates Blames Berkeley's Problems on the Homeless

By Becky O'Malley
Friday June 01, 2012 - 12:08:00 PM

Well, it’s Groundhog Day again in Berkeley. Just like in the movie...you wake up in the morning and they’re at it again, doing the same-old same-old…and my, does it get tiresome!

One more time, as the going gets tough, Tom Bates gets going—getting tough on the hapless homeless. As I’ve said too many times in this space, I still have in my garage a sign I swiped off a lawn somewhere that says “Assemblyman Tom Bates Supports Measures N &O”—which were a pair of initiatives cooked up by Bates and his wife the Mayor two decades ago to restrict panhandlers’ right to ask for money on the street. They were duly passed by Berkeley’s not-really-all-that-progressive electorate, but were later—at enormous legal cost to the city—thrown out by a federal judge for violating the First Amendment.

But now Bates is running for office—yet again, still at it even though he’s long past his pull date. So once again his PR apparatus, which operates at public expense out of his City Hall office, has planted single-source stories in several places which all show Bates Getting Tough on Ugly People on the Street.

In case you’re interested in three similar takes on the official version of Bates' new proposal to put an anti-sitting initiative on the November ballot, Doug Oakley’s got a report in the San Jose Mercury News, Lance Knobel has another one on the Berkeleyside site, and there’s one on the Patch site,

Needless to say, no one contacted the Planet about this proposal except several outraged homeless advocates. 

It all fits neatly into place as November approaches. It’s apparent that once again the Berkeley City Council is going to have to ask the voters to increase funding to pay for the kind of city services that used to be taken for granted. 

A series of polls seems to indicate that at the moment voters aren’t ready to approve the combination of bonds and operating funds which will be needed to fix city streets and storm sewers, which are suffering from catastrophic deterioration, and to restore the two public swimming pools which have been closed under the Bates regime. But they’ll probably have to come around by election time, if they don’t want Berkeley to completely fall apart. 

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, remarkably, despite Bates’ vocal opposition, Councilmembers Arreguin and Wozniak forged a compromise supported by all the other council members except the mayor, suggesting a package deal which would address both problems on the November ballot. It’s now in the hands of city staff, who have been asked to come back with language to be voted on at the June 12 meeting. 

Berkeley is not alone in lacking funds to meet its expected obligations. The managerial class which runs most California cities was suckered by the financial engineering establishment (think Bain Capital) into risky investments which paid off bigtime when the investment industry was flush, enabling the managers to provide themselves with super-generous pension plans. Now that times are tough, cities are having to make up for the drop in investment income while still paying those big pensions, so money’s tight. 

But no one on the Berkeley City Council has managed to connect the dots. At the same city council meeting where the decision seems to have been made to ask the voters for more money, councilmembers voted enthusiastically, effusively, to officially hire now-acting city manager Christine Daniel, the anointed successor to City Manager Phil Kamlarz, who is now enjoying luxurious retirement on a pension that is more than his working salary. Only Kriss Worthington expressed even the shadow of a doubt about the Daniel deal, questioning the extremely generous severance provisions in her contract. 

As Kamlarz’ protégée, she should have been asked if she plans to continue his financial policies, now shown to have some serious problems. For as long as I can remember, the city’s budget process has consisted of dire threats of cuts to beloved social programs, each of which dutifully paraded its clients before the council and the public in heart-rending presentations at the hearings. 

Then, at the last minute, the city manager would step into a phone booth and re-emerge in his blue jumpsuit and red cape to save the day, having “found” the needed funds “somewhere” in the city’s coffers. “Somewhere” it now turns out, was in the public works budget, as moneys allocated by council for dull, mundane projects like fixing potholes were just never spent by staff. Paid staffers from the city manager on down kept their own pockets lined and their public profiles heroic, in the expectation that Berkeley voters would always cough up on bond issues for streets and sewers in the long run. 

Does Daniel have a plan for changing this scenario? Nobody’s asked her, at least not in public. 

(And by the way, affirmative action seems to have been totally neglected in this hire. Granted, Daniel is female and Lesbian, but is it possible that there is a applicant from another minority group somewhere who might have wanted a shot at her job if there had been an open search process? Why didn’t that happen?) 

Unfortunately, the money’s gone, and the streets are still a mess. Citizens—kids, adults, the (currently) able-bodied and the disabled—still need the affordable exercise opportunity that public swimming pools have always provided. 

Could there be a better time for Mayor Bates to distract the voters from the manifold failures of his administration by going after street beggars once again? 

Anti-sitting laws don’t even work—there’s a report out on the one-year anniversary of San Francisco’s law which documents what I saw for myself when I used the 24th Street BART station on Wednesday. Both worthy and unworthy street people are still there, folks, with their hands extended—as they are everywhere in 21st century urban America. And it’s the same story in Santa Cruz, the other city I visit regularly which has an anti-sitting law on the books. 

But as a cynical political ploy, sit/lie initiatives like the one Bates is peddling once again work just fine. 

Berkeley’s inner commercial districts—Downtown and Telegraph—are in Failed State mode. Even formerly cushy Solano Avenue is suffering. 

But let’s just blame the panhandlers instead of the greedy commercial property speculators who gouge small businesses with unaffordable rents which create vacant storefronts… 

Or the financial establishment which is sitting on the capital it should be lending to yes, the “job creators”… 

Or the politicians like Tom Bates who exploit social problems to line their campaign coffers with contributions from landlords and developers? 

Or—but there’s a huge list of culprits whose actions have contributed to Main Street decline in Berkeley and elsewhere, too numerous to list today. So let’s just go after homeless beggars instead. It’s so much easier, isn’t it? 

Meanwhile, back in the real world, what Berkeley really needs is a fresh new mayor, one not so jaded and even with some smarts. Why won’t some civic-minded person run against Bates? There’s still time to mount a campaign. 


The Editor's Back Fence

One Response to the Bates Anti-Sitting Initiative

By Becky O'Malley
Saturday June 02, 2012 - 10:08:00 AM

An East Coast friend who often visits the Bay Area writes in response to this week's coverage of the mayor's latest anti-sitting campaign:

"Becky, as I get older I become more aware of the need for places to sit down on public streets without arousing suspicions I'm homeless. Not only should we be allowed to sit down -- we should have more benches to sit on. Maybe you can work that idea into an editorial. I guess the idea here is that sitting down on public streets should be perfectly respectable. (Or does the ordinance just prohibit extending your hands as you sit down?)

I expect Berkeley's population is aging.....And how can you have a pedestrian friendly city if people can't sit down if they need to?"
She's got a point—and guess what? I did work it into an editorial, more than a year ago.

But evidently the Berkeley City Council, aging themselves as aren't we all, doesn't remember that. So here it is again

And by the way, check out the Planet's coverage of Anti-Sit over the years here


Odd Bodkins: God Bless The Bomb (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday June 01, 2012 - 08:57:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

Berkeley Anti-Sitting Ballor Measure Expensive, Unnecessary

By Paul Kealoha-Blake
Tuesday June 05, 2012 - 10:28:00 AM

I write urging you to speak against the Civil Sidewalks Ballot Measure

I enclose current reports and articles on the potential costs and consequences facing the Sit/Lie Ordinance which our Berkeley effort is modeling itself after.

2010 ‘sit-lie’ law could cost city thousands to jail repeat offenders

San Francisco's Sit/Lie Law Radically Ineffective, Report

As a Downtown property and business owner (East Bay Media Center 1939 Addison Street) I find the Sit/Lie effort to be both an economic and social travesty only awaiting the pull of an administrative trigger. 

There are currently in existence many laws and cures for nuisance offenses in our business districts. I do not wish to increase the cost of doing business in Berkeley by simply creating more costly and unenforceable work for our highly paid Police Department. Additionally, threatening the Constitutional rights of a highly marginalized segment of our community without working collectively toward other less expensive and controversial remedies, appears both mean spirited as well as short sighted. 

As a business owner in the Downtown District, as well as a business patron in the Telegraph Ave. District, I personally see no significant loss in revenue that can be attributed directly to sitting on sidewalks. 

The Downtown has been neglected for decades with blight brought to us by landlords who drive businesses out through unimaginably high rents and leases. We all pay for those decisions. Instead of holding these landlords and realtors accountable for these crime attracting properties, we instead scapegoat homeless youth while cutting funds to social services that can help us all. 

Regarding Telegraph Ave, I again turn to the City and landlords in the business district as a greater determinant of revenue loss than homeless youth sitting on curbs. 

The heart of the district, Haste and Telegraph, remains a gaping wound to revenue generating businesses and real property. We have 3 out of 4 corners of that intersection vacant and non-productive causing significant revenue loss as well as presenting the area as blighted and struggling. This has absolutely nothing to do with sitting on sidewalks. 

I urge you as a leader of our community to address these very real problems. There are few significant benefits in conducting a potentially contentious and expensive public relations campaign, on behalf of those hoping to appease a constituency that is seeking a scapegoat for much deeper systemic inadequacies. 


Numbers of Complaints Against Police Not the Whole Story

By Carol Denney
Thursday May 31, 2012 - 04:04:00 PM

“I get very few complaints,” Chanin said. “The officers I’ve met do a good job.” - Berkeley Patch story by Rebecca Rosen Lum cited in the Berkeley Daily Planet.

Those who cite fewer complaints as proof that the Berkeley police are less brutal or corrupt manage to forget the impact state constraints have had on what was once a public and robust complaint system. People who use the current system not only end up without any justice, they become police targets with little recourse when the officers about whom they complained retaliate. 

The dozens of lawyers I used to work with twenty years ago at Community Defense Inc., now rarely take cases with low damages, and no longer use the Police Review Commission complaint system since they can no longer get information which used to be routine due to state employee privacy restrictions. The Berkeley Police department also has a sizeable public relations budget now, which was minimal twenty years ago. 

Complaint volume should never be used as a measure of a police department's relations with the public. Those who had the courage to follow through on what always was an arduous and intimidating civilian complaint process were always a minority of those who experienced misconduct, and remain an even smaller minority today.

The Berkeley City Council's Vote on the City Manager Position

By Victoria Peirotes
Thursday May 31, 2012 - 02:58:00 PM


At the May 29, 2012 the Berkeley City Council voted to name Ms. Christine Daniel to the permanent position of Berkeley City Manager. In the eyes of many this action was premature and in many ways irresponsible. The position of City Manager is the most powerful one within the City hierarchy. Consequently when this position becomes "open", which is rare, great care should be taken in the selection process. In this case, no care at all was taken and there was no selection process. The following letter addressed to council prior to their vote makes abundantly clear why the nomination should have been postponed. 

Dear District Council Members: 

You are poised to vote on an issue pitting Mayor Bates and an obliging council against the wishes and best interests of your community. As in similar higher profile votes, namely The Downtown Plan and the West Berkeley Plan, it's likely the majority of you will cave to Mayor Bates and endorse the elevation of Ms Daniel from interim City Manager to the permanent position of City Manager. 

On behalf of the City of Berkeley I urge you to put off this appointment and instead to simply renew Ms. Daniel's present contract as interim City Manager for a further 6 months. The compelling reasons for doing so are as follow: 

(1) Ms. Daniel has not competed for the position. Mayor Bates nominated her as interim City Manager. This was understandable since she was in a position to provide continuity for running the city while the city advertised for a slate of other candidates. Yet it has become apparent that the Mayor never intended to advertise the position, and indeed has not. Consequently Ms. Daniel is a default choice foisted on the community by Mr. Bates. 

(2) Ms. Daniel's qualifications leave to be desired. There has been no public vetting of the merits and demerits of elevating Ms. Daniel. She is the protege and some say "clone" of the recently retired City Manager, Mr. Kamlarz. This makes her candidature suspect in the eyes of many. The legacy of Mr. Kamlarz will be that he was this city's most self-serving City Manager ever and the most detrimental to the long-term well being and sustainability of our community. Further note that, like Mr. Kamlarz who chose not to live in the city he milked for so long and so successfully, Ms. Daniel is also not a Berkeley resident. 

(3) The terms of the contract offered to Ms. Daniel are onerous in the extreme. The proposed debut base salary is $225,000. Mr. Kamlarz retired with a salary of $243,000, of which about $28,000 was because Mayor Bates, with approbation from council, "spiked" Mr. Kamlarz' salary 2 years ago so that his yearly pension would be increased proportionately. That pension is now in the order of $270,000/year, indexed, which the city of Berkeley is saddled with paying him for the rest of his life. Mr. Kamlarz' salary and the salary proposed for Ms. Daniel, as well as the gold-plated perks offered by Berkeley, are far more than salaries and perks for manager positions in cities many times our size, including San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco. Furthermore, the "new" contract provision guaranteeing Ms. Daniel a full year's severance pay if she is fired is unprecedented. 

(4) Can Berkeley afford to continue paying out the egregious employee salaries and benefits long promulgated by the Mayor and council without going bankrupt? The answer is "no". The fiscal servitude to city employees that this mayor and council has levied on our community is already unbearable. Our streets, parks, sewers, buildings, pools and social sustenance networks have all been decimated because resources for maintaining them have systemically been siphoned off to pay for gold-plated city employee salaries and perks. 

Please do not further in-debt this community by irresponsibly endorsing an onerous contract to a single, un-vetted applicant. Do not plunge us further into a fiscal abyss. Surely the City of Berkeley deserves better from you than this. 


New: Berkeley City Council Desperately Dialing for Tax Dollars: Homeowners Beware

By Barbara Gilbert
Tuesday June 05, 2012 - 09:28:00 AM

At a cost of $52,000, the City of Berkeley commissioned two professional polls that probed for tax-susceptible weak points in the body politic. The results were starkly clear—only one of the potential tax measures explored had majority voter support and none garnered the required two-thirds majority. With the presentation of additional favorable background information, only one target area even had the vaguest potential to reach the two-thirds voter threshold—a measure directed to streets and watershed infrastructure improvements.

For details see http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Clerk/Level_3_-_City_Council/2012/05May/Item%2042.pdf

Despite these results, the Council once again succumbed to the relentless pools lobby and is now working on: a $30M bond for streets/watershed; a $20M bond to build a warm water pool and make pool improvements at Willard and King; and a $1M parcel tax to pay for ongoing annual pool maintenance. The pools measures, even with enhanced favorable information and no opposing arguments presented (as will happen in an election), according to the pollster experts still fell short of the two-thirds requirement by about 7%. 

The Berkeley voter may well be puzzled—did voters not vote on and reject the same pool measure just two short years ago in an expensive Special Municipal Election on June 8, 2010? The answer is yes. For details see http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=50932 

So why is the Council ignoring the expertise of a professional pollster and the expressed priorities of a representative sample of Berkeleyans to spend public money, if voters choose to spend it at all, only on streets, sewers and watershed? 

In a more rational world, before asking for any more money for things residents may not even want or are able to afford, the City Council would first finalize the upcoming City labor contracts and right-size the City’s exorbitant employee costs, establish a full accounting of the $1.2B in unfunded City liabilities as called for in the FACTS measure on the November ballot, and then develop a long term plan, based on voter priorities and essential needs, to fix up the City and its finances. This plan would likely include some new taxation, but the taxes could be instituted in a rational, orderly, and defensible manner. Instead, the City is operating in the same destructive grabby fashion that helped get it into the fiscal mess in the first place. If the City wants more money to spend on important infrastructure needs, it should first dial 981-CITY and explore $40M in potential employee contributions to retirement and health care costs. 


(Barbara Gilbert is a 40 year resident of Berkeley. a chronic Council watcher, and active in several community organizations including Berkeley Budget SOS, the Committee for FACTS, and Northeast Berkeley Association) 

Sunshine/Open Government Ordinance Incorrectly Labeled

By Martha Nicoloff, Co-author Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance
Thursday May 31, 2012 - 03:51:00 PM

On Tuesday night's Berkeley City Council agenda, item #38 had a clearly identified title for an initiative being voted on in November.

For the Council's convenience in identifying, issue #38 was titled the "Sunshine" initiative. I find it more than curious that they did not extend the same information, as a courtesy, to the voter in the November ballot title. The language to be included on the ballot has a title that does not refer to "Sunshine" or "Open Government". As we gathered signatures of well over three thousand Berkeley voters, we always had posters and leaflets that said "Sunshine/Open Government". They read them and knew exactly what they were approving when they attached their signatures to the petitions. 

We anticipate a long ballot with multiple issues, and it would only be both fair and accurate in the title wording for our initiative to include the words "Sunshine" or "Open Government" as was done on the Council agenda Tuesday night. 

Ten years ago the "Height of Buildings" initiative gathered enough signatures to be on the ballot. However the title given it by the City Attorney did not include references to building heights. It appears that a deliberate effort was made to obscure the issue for the voter. 

Since four members of Council and the Mayor are up for election on the November ballot, it would be blatantly embarrassing to oppose a citizens' effort for Open Government.

Pass Prop. 29

By Carol Denney
Monday June 04, 2012 - 01:03:00 PM

Harry Brill is just flat-out wrong. Proposition 29 is not regressive – it only affects smokers, and research shows there is no better way to stop kids from taking up smoking and help adults quit. 

This is a positive approach. California’s tax is so low compared to other states that the cessation and education programs are wildly underfunded compared to tobacco’s well-funded efforts to addict another generation. 

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death. It shocks me that people like Harry Brill remain so poorly informed.

June Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday June 01, 2012 - 09:20:00 AM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.  

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 

Vote Against Proposition 29

By Harry Brill
Thursday May 31, 2012 - 04:04:00 PM

Those who are concerned about the ill effects of smoking should realize that there are far better ways of discouraging the habit than voting yes on Measure 29, which is a punitive, regressive cigarette tax on the poor. Obviously, middle class smokers won't be deterred by the extra cost. Schools as well as many good willed non-profit organizations could develop effective programs to educate and work with smokers to break this dangerous habit. A positive community approach is always far better than attempting to solve a problem with a punitive, regressive tax. Also, laws should be passed that appreciably limit the kind of advertising that the cigarette companies spend millions of dollars on. Their advertisements are dishonest and misleading. 

The claim by supporters that the tax money will be donated to fund cancer research is very seductive. But we already know the facts. More research to find cures doesn't begin to compare with the impact of taking preventative steps. To make considerable progress on defeating cancers involves acting on what we already know. In addition to community oriented programs, retailers, particularly drug stores, should be prohibited from selling cigarettes. Sounds crazy? Well, marijuana, which is far less dangerous than cigarettes is illegal. Why not, then, prohibit cigarettes, which is a known carcinogen. 

There is a broader issue. Keep in mind that our national cancer epidemic encompasses a lot more than the use of tobacco. Among other things, our foods are heavily sprayed with carcinogenic pesticides. No question, eating non-organic food is a major killer. But I doubt that most of you would support an initiative that imposed a high tax on non-organic food to protect our health. For the same reasons we should keep off the backs of poor people. We should not be distracted from the essential task of collectively engaging in a war against our unhealthy environment, which kills more people than our terrible foreign wars do, I realize that to achieve a livable environment and a longer life is a very formidable undertaking. But I am sorry to tell you that there is no other way than organizing collectively.


ECLECTIC RANT: US Government Continues to Neglect Returning War Veterans

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday June 01, 2012 - 07:27:00 AM

On Monday, the nation observed Memorial Day, an annual federal holiday observed in the United States on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day to remember the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. I am a Vietnam veteran who luckily survived my tour with both mind and body intact. But on this day of remembrance for the dead, shouldn’t we also remember the veterans living among us in poverty, homelessness, and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that has led to an upswing in suicide rates

We send our soldiers off to fight in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Yet, once the troops become veterans, too often they are woefully neglected. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development , veterans make up less than 8 percent of the total U.S. population, but represent about 16 percent of adults who experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2009. Of the 75,609 homeless veterans counted that night, more than half were living in emergency shelters or transitional housing; the others lived on the street, in abandoned buildings, or in other places not meant for human habitation. Between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009, 136,334 veterans spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or a transitional housing facility. 

Female veterans are at greater risk of homelessness than male veterans and are two to three times more likely to be homeless. Rates of homelessness are higher for Hispanic, African American, and Native American veterans than for non-minority veterans, especially among those who are poor. Veterans between the ages of 18 and 30 are twice as likely as adults in the general population to be homeless, and the risk of homelessness increases significantly among young veterans who are poor. In addition, the National Alliance to End Homelessness (www.endhomelessness.org/files/1839_file_Vital_Mission_Final.pdf) estimates that 89,553 to 467,877 veterans are at risk of homelessness, meaning that they are below the poverty level and pay more than 50 percent of household income for rent. Homelessness is rising among veterans because of high living costs, the lack of adequate funds, and many are struggling with the effects of PTSD and substance abuse, exacerbated by a lack of adequately-funded support systems. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov/news.release/vet.nr0.htm), the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. military at any time since September 2001 – a group referred to as the Gulf War-era II veterans – was 12.1 percent. The unemployment rate for all veterans was 8.3 percent. As of April 2012, the total unemployment rate in the U.S. was 8.1 percent. Twenty-six percent of Gulf War-era II veterans reported having a service-connected disability in August 2011, compared with about 14 percent for all veterans. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been severely criticized for the diagnoses of wounded veterans with a personality disorder, instead of PTSD, thus denying them disability pay and medical benefits. More than 22,500 soldiers have been suspiciously dismissed with personality disorders, rather than PTSD. By doing so, the military saves money in disability pay and medical care over the lifetimes of veterans. How many homeless veterans, discharged for personality disorders rather than PTSD, would be off the homeless roles if they had disability pay and VA medical care? In response, in 2010 the VA has issued new regulations liberalizing the evidentiary standard for veterans claiming service-connected PTSD (. 

The new liberalized regulations may allow the VA finally to reach its stated goal “to provide excellence in patient care, veterans’ benefits and customer satisfaction.” 

As a matter of political reality, this administration, Congress, or the courts, have not established a right to housing, not even for a specific subgroup such as veterans. Even if there was such a right, the underlying root of homelessness needs to be addressed, that is, the de-funding of federal affordable housing programs since the early 1980s. The federal government’s housing assistance for veterans has largely been limited to guaranteeing home mortgage loans but, realistically, homeownership is still too expensive for many veterans, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Despite cries of “support our troops,” it is shameful that the U.S. can spend $1.3 trillion and counting in our Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but neglect our veterans at home. 

(If you want to understand the reason for this country’s housing mess, I highly recommend the 2010 Update of “Without Housing – Decades of Federal Housing Cutbacks, Massive Homelessness and Policy Failures” by the Western Regional Advocacy Project. It can be downloaded at its website . The 2010 Update focuses public attention back on the #1 reason for our housing mess: the Federal Government’s divestment in affordable housing programs and deregulation of the housing market. It comes at a critical juncture for housing policy in this country as millions of Americans are homeless and tens of millions more are on the brink of economic collapse. Most importantly, it helps people understand the complex issues fueling the crisis and provides a framework for turning the situation around).

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Delivering Pizza While Mentally Ill and Medicated

By Jack Bragen
Thursday May 31, 2012 - 04:11:00 PM

In 1988, I was in a difficult position. I was twenty-four years old. I was facing impending eviction by my parents. My parents had suggested that I needed to either get a job or get SSI. Meanwhile, the house I lived in was being sold, per the terms of my parents' prior divorce. In my despair, I decided to try a pizza delivery job, not knowing if I would be able to handle such a job, but acting from limited options. 

While I do not have permission to publicize the name of the pizza place, I have good memories of them as one of the few employers who would accommodate my disability. 

In the first couple of nights on the job, I kept getting lost and would deliver the pies hours late, to the tremendous ire of the customers. Upon returning to the store, my supervisors would ask where I had been, as I had been gone for an abnormally long time. 

The owner of the store didn't yet know that I was disabled, and was on the verge of firing me. I begged him not to fire me and said if he would give me a couple more days, that I would "get the hang of" the job. He agreed to give me a little more time. 

At that point, I decided not to let the manager of the store (the owner's wife) pressure me into running out the door (to appear speedy I guess), until I first took the time necessary to look at the map and see where I was going. That strategy paid off, and I began to deliver the pizzas in a reasonable amount of time. 

In 1988 and 89, cell phones were mostly car phones, and their use was not widespread, and GPS devices of the kind we are familiar with had not yet been invented. Thus, at the time, it required a bit more skill, compared to today, to find the places (where the pizzas were to go). 

A couple of weeks into the job, the owner confronted me, saying that I appeared to be "on drugs." It was at that point that I disclosed my disability, telling him that I took medication and not illegal drugs. He required a fair amount of convincing, which included sharing some of the details of my illness, and at that point, he accepted my disability and allowed me to stay on the job. He told me that he believed he had obsessive compulsive disorder, a less severe type of mental illness (that I believe actually helps some people be more successful). 

I found that with fifteen hours a week of work, I was able to earn close to a thousand dollars a month, which in 1988 and 89 was enough for me to live on, since I found a HUD subsidized apartment to live in. More than half of my income was from tips, and I would take this money home in cash, averaging about twenty dollars per night. I often deposited some of it in my bank account. With some of the cash, I also bought things that I needed, such as gasoline. The Reagan administration had introduced the requirement of food workers to report their tips to the IRS. Some of the employees understated this. Meanwhile, I tried to be as accurate as I could. 

The owners of the company liked me to the extent that I was chosen to pick up the head boss at the airport. I was offered a vacation, which, looking back on it, I should have taken. I turned down this vacation, and was overestimating myself. 

For a while they had me work at another store in their chain. I was framed by coworkers who were trying not to be blamed for having a car accident in which there was body damage to the company vehicle. To this day I am not certain that the owner believed my denial of guilt. 

After seven months on the job, I felt burned out on that type of work. I gave two-week notice with the belief that I would be able to work elsewhere. This materialized into several short duration, temp laborer or janitorial jobs and this was followed by collecting Social Security. 

Overall, I believe I was successful at the delivery job. Most employees at pizza delivery stay on the job for less than a year. In the short time I was there, I outlasted quite a number of other employees. 

Pizza delivery doesn't require a huge amount of brains. However, when in my twenties, I held quite a number of "idiot" jobs and was quite proud of them. Most of the actual difficulty involved seems to be that of getting along with coworkers. 

Performance isn't always the main determining factor in successful employment. Usually, in work environments that I perceived as hostile, I would not succeed in keeping that job. I have done some jobs where a lot was expected. The difference for me was usually whether or not I "gelled" with my employer and coworkers. 

The good thing about representing oneself when negotiating accommodation for a disability with an employer is that you circumvent being treated as incompetent, as a "special" person, or as someone who cannot truly do the job but who is being hired for the purpose of a tax credit. I had other jobs in which either I didn't disclose the disability, or else I negotiated the terms without assistance from mental health workers. Such a situation has always worked out much better than trying to do it through the mental health system where one is already considered mentally inferior to a "normal" person. The mental health system when providing sheltered employment destroys the entire idea of improving a person's self esteem. Providing more self esteem and self worth are the main reasons for a person with severe mental illness entering employment, since we aren't doing it to survive. However, this is a generalization and doesn't describe everyone.


By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday May 31, 2012 - 02:55:00 PM

Is religion a significant part of senior citizens’ lives. And of senior power? Are most old people religious? Depends on what you mean by “religion” and “religious.” 

“Indulge your inner goddess” advises my college alumnae affairs magazine. Religion, faith, belief in God, spirituality, belief system, philosophy, theism seem to many people to be similar or blended. As do aspects of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Shinto Sikhism, Bahá'í Faith, Jainism. Surveys identify one constant: belief in God is higher among old people, regardless of where they live. 

My father’s assignment was to deliver me to, and pick me up from, Sunday school at the Carroll Street side door of the Old First Dutch Reformed Church on the Park Slope. In between, he probably went for a haircut nearby on Seventh Avenue. We sat on little chairs. Likewise the teacher, Mrs. Krueger of the big bosom, diamonds, mink coat with shawl collar. Apropos of some biblical story, Mrs. K asked us, "… and what is the king's wife called?" The queen. “And what do we call the king’s son?” I piped up, The Jack. As relayed to my father and then to my mother. 

My mother subscribed to the Baptist Missions magazine and expected me to say “A Little Child’s Grace” before meals. Probat, a boy my age in Assam, was part of a missionary community to which she contributed. He and a tree planted in front of our apartment were sponsored in my name. Prayers were copied into the front of her baby book for me to learn. “The Evening Prayer” was drilled into me as a sort of pleading mantra: "I want to be a child that’s good. I want to do the things I should Help me, Father, Help me."  

By the time I was adolescent, I was so indoctrinated that I wouldn’t have declined baptism if it had occurred to me to do so. I came home from school one afternoon and found the local Baptist church minister paying a visit to my mother. They agreed that I had reached – nay, passed — the “age of reason." Thirteen, I think. I was being tapped for horizontal immersion baptism. I attended the classes and on Palm Sunday 1941, despite rubella (German measles was going around school), I took the big dip and then walked home in the cold with my wet hair dangling in the wintry breeze. Inner goddess wasn’t supportive.  

The indoctrination gradually petered out. My adult visits to edifices like Riverside Church in New York, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Todaiji in Nara, and the Duomo in Florence would be based solely on architectural and historic appeal. A few years ago while having surgery, and somewhat zonked out, I declared loudly “I’m an atheist!” The anesthesiologist stationed at my head was amused; the surgeon was aloof and the acolytes too. I’m probably more of an agnostic.  

Agnosticism claims that existence or non-existence of any deity, religious and metaphysical claims is unknown or unknowable. Atheism rejects belief in the existence of deities, and contrasts with theism, the belief that at least one deity exists. Katharine Houghton Hepburn (1907-2003) declared “I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other.” 

Religion in the United States is characterized by both a wide diversity in beliefs and practices, and by a high adherence level. A majority of Americans report that religion plays a "very important" role in their lives, which is unique among developed nations. According to recent surveys, 83% of Americans identify with a religious denomination, 40% state that they attend services nearly every week or more, and 58% say that they pray at least weekly.  

Belief in God varies widely across nations and cultures. It grows with age, and it is highest among older adults. The NORC (National Opinion Research Center) has issued a report based on a comprehensive, international study of belief in God, with data coming from 30 countries. Researchers asked questions to determine: people’s range of beliefs, from atheism to strong belief in God; their changing beliefs over their lifetime; and their attitude toward the notion that God is concerned with individuals. The largest increases in belief in God most often occur among persons who are 58 years of age and older, suggesting that belief in God is especially likely to increase among the oldest groups, perhaps in response to the increasing anticipation of mortality.  

The NORC study suggests it is possible that people change their beliefs over time. Belief in God is strongest among Catholic societies, especially in the developing world, again with highest levels of belief held among the elderly. International surveys about the depth of people’s belief in God reveal vast differences among nations, ranging from 94% of people in the Philippines who said they always believed in God, compared to only 13% of people in the former East Germany. In the United States, for instance, 54% of people younger than 28 said they were certain of God’s existence, compared with 66% of the people 68 and older. 


Berkeley, California NEWS: 

Beginning July 1, 2012, the Berkeley Paratransit Program will be changing its eligibility requirements. After July 1, anyone over age 80 or East-Bay Paratransit-certified will be eligible for services, regardless of income. Seniors age 70-79 who are at or below 30% of Area Median Income (approximately $1,660.00 per month for a single person) will also be eligible for services. To apply or for more information, call 510-981-7269.  


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Be sure to confirm. Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events and deadlines that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. pen136@dslextreme.com.  

Until June 30. Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Friday, Noon - 5:30pm; Saturday, Noon - 4:30 P.M. Kala Gallery, 2990 San Pablo Avenue: Visions from the New California. The Visions from the New California award is an initiative of the Alliance of Artists Communities and is supported by the James Irvine Foundation. Each year the awards program celebrates six outstanding California visual artists from diverse communities. The awardees are artists whose work may as yet be unfamiliar to a wide audience, but whose compelling visions help define California. Free. 510-841-7000.  

Until August 31. Environmental Education Center in Tilden Regional Park. North End Central Park Drive. Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 A.M.-4:30 P.M. Tilden Exhibit Celebrates Conservation Successes. Art exhibit celebrating the successes of conservation in the region, state and nationally. Show features works by 60 artists portraying plants and animals no longer listed as endangered species due to conservation efforts. The exhibit calls attention to the successful strategies of land managers, volunteers and rangers throughout the state and local parks. Includes both two-dimensional and three-dimensional works, including pastels, watercolors and oil paintings, as well as carved sculptures and mixed-media creations. Some of the featured species include the brown pelican, the tiger salamander, the salt marsh harvest mouse, and tule elk. Exhibit sponsors include the East Bay Regional Park District and the Merritt College Environmental Management and Technology Dept. Free. www.ebparks.org 

Until Sept. 2. Berkeley Arts Festival Gallery presents a new exhibition of the work of creative visual artists. Robert Brokl, paintings/prints. Mark Bulwinkle, painted steel screens. Art Hazelwood, linocuts. Roberta Loach, prints. Mari Marks, encaustic paintings 2133 University Av. Free. 510-644-6893. www.berkeleyartcenter.org 

Until Sept. 29. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 1-4 P.M. Joanna Gewertz Harris, Ph.D, Bay Area dancer, dance historian and author of Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing 1915-1965, will discuss the history of East Bay performers, choreographers and pioneers of today’s dance community. The exhibit explores dance in the East Bay and includes a video by Margaretta Mitchell, an interview with Frank Shawl, and archival footage of Hanya Holm. Jeanine Castello-Lin and Tonya Staros, Co-Curators. Wheelchair accessible. Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center St. Free. 510-848-0181 

Saturday, June 2. 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Semi-annual Book Sale. Books sold for 50 cents each. 510-524-8378 or berkeleylibraryfriends.org

Monday, June 4. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. An evening of knitting, show and tell, and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Wednesday, June 6. 12 Noon-1 P.M. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Public Library.  

2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, June 6. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Also August 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.  

Thursday, June 7. 3:00-5:P.M. At the Rockridge Library in Oakland, 5366 College Avenue. 51A, 605 bus lines stop in front of the library; walk 5 blocks south from Rockridge BART station. "Explore Your Future" workshops for people age 50+, sponsored by Coming of Age: Bay Area (a national nonprofit initiative.) 4-session series of classes. For Coming of Age members, the charge is $49 for all 4 sessions; for nonmembers, it is $89. But becoming a Coming of Age member is free, and people can sign up on the website at www.comingofage.org/bayarea and get the discounted rate for the workshop and other activities. Meet with a group of people and a skilled counselor to really think about and envision your next steps. 888-308-1767 or 415-474-7787. 

Thursday, June 7. UC Botanical Garden. Tour and Open House – first Thursday of every month. Parking is limited. Docent-led tours for groups are not available on Free Thursdays. In order to minimize the impact on the plant collection, ensure the safety of visitors, and to provide your group with the best educational experience groups larger than 18 students (+3 chaperones) on our “First Free Thursdays” not admitted. See http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/education/tours.shtml for group admission information. Free. Event Contact: garden@berkeley.edu, 510-643-2755. 

Fridays, June 8 – July 27. 3 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Super Cinema. Explore a different theme or genre in film each month. June: Satirical Cinema. June 8: Waiting for Guffman. Free. 510-981-6241. Also, June 15, 22, 29 and July 6, 13, 20, 27.  

Saturday, June 9. 2-4 P.M. Meet Dora Sorell, Holocaust survivor, author of Tell the children. North branch Library, 1170 The Alameda, Berkeley. 510-981-6250.  

Sunday, June 10. 2 P.M. Blue Suede Jews. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Local rock historian Richie Unterberger presents lecture/footage of Jewish musicians in the golden age of rock roll, including Bob Dylan, Carole King and many more. 510-981-6100.  

Tuesday, June 12. 1-3:30 P.M. Gay Pride Celebration. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, corner MLK. 510-981-5190.  

Tuesday, June 12. 7-8 P.M. Social Security and Retirement Planning. A seminar on Social Security and Retirement Planning sponsored by West Coast Financial Wealth Management will be held at the Rockridge Branch Library. This is a Free Event. (The Library and the City of Oakland do not endorse products or speakers). Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave. 510-597-5017.  

Wednesday, June 13. 12 Noon-1 P.M. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Public Library.  

2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. 510-981-6100. 

Thursday, June 14. 8:45 P.M. Cafe Literario. West Berkeley Public Library, 1125 University Av. Facilitated Spanish language book discussion. June title: Margarita, Está Linda la Mar by Sergio Ramirez. 510-981-6270. 

Fridays, June 15 – July 27. 3 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Super Cinema. Explore a different theme or genre in film each month. June: Satirical Cinema. June 15: Little Miss Sunshine. Free. 510-981-6241. Also June 22, 29 and July 6, 13, 20, 27.  

Saturday, June 16. 5 P.M. Claremont branch, Berkeley Public library, 2940 Benvenue Av. Melanie O’Reilly will perform original music inspired by Joyce’s writings. 510-981-6280. 

Saturday, June 16. 1-5 P.M. California Writers' Club. A workshop open to all writers. At Rockridge Branch Library, Oakland. 5366 College Ave. Anne Fox, 510-420-8775. 510-597-5017 

Monday, June 18. 7 P.M. Art historian Michael Stehr will discuss Gian Lorenz Bernini, the Michelangelo of the Baroque. He will also present a slide show. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Wednesday, June 20. 12 Noon-1 P.M. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Public Library.  

2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, June 20. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging meeting. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 510-981-5178. Be sure to confirm. 

Fridays, June 22 – July 27. 3 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Super Cinema. Explore a different theme or genre in film each month. June: Satirical Cinema. June 22: The Gods Must be Crazy. Free. 510-981-6241. Also June 29 and July 6, 13, 20, 27.  

Friday, June 22. 1-4 P.M. 2012 Dragon Festival Celebration. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 510-981-5190. 

Monday June 25. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: The Chosen by Chaim Potok. 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, June 26. 3-4 P.M. Tea and Cookies. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100.  

Wednesday, June 27. 12 Noon-1 P.M. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Public Library.  

2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, June 27. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. July’s People by Nadine Gordimer. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, June 27. 1:30 P.M. Gray Panthers. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 510-981-5190.  

Thursday, June 28. 7 P.M. Balinese Dance Performance. The Gamelan Sekar Jaya will give a performance of Balinese dances. The dancers will present pieces that give a taste of the wide range of characters, movements, and moods of this unique dance form. Steeped in the rich culture and traditions of Bali, Indonesia, the audience will have the opportunity to meet the performers and understand the magic of this style of dance. Free 45 minute program provided by the Contra Costa County Library Summer Reading Festival. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. 510-526-7512. 

Fridays, June 29 – July 27. 3 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Super Cinema. Explore a different theme or genre in film each month. June: Satirical Cinema. June 29: Thank You For Smoking. Free. 510-981-6241. Also July 6, 13, 20, 27.  

Fridays, July 6 – July 27. 3 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Super Cinema. Explore a different theme or genre in film each month. July: Our Weeks With Marilyn. July 6: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Free. 510-981-6241. Also July 13, 20, 27.  

Sunday, July 8. 1 – 4:30 P.M. The 2012 Berkeley Rent Board Convention will be held in the main meeting room of the downtown, central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge, corner of Shattuck. A slate of candidates for the November 2012 election will be chosen. Contact: www.berkeleyrentboard.org 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, July 11 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Also August 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.  

Fridays, July 13 – July 27. 3 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Super Cinema. Explore a different theme or genre in film each month. July: Our Weeks With Marilyn. July 13: All About Eve. Free. 510-981-6241. Also July 20, 27.  

Fridays, July 20– July 27. 3 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Super Cinema. Explore a different theme or genre in film each month. July: Our Weeks With Marilyn. July 20: Monkey Business. Free. 510-981-6241. Also July 27.  

Friday July 27. 3 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Super Cinema. Explore a different theme or genre in film each month. July: Our Weeks With Marilyn. July 27: The Seven Year Itch. Free. 510-981-6241.  

Wednesday, August 1. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Also Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.  

Wednesday, August 22. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Selections from The Bhagavad Gita. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Sept. 5. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Also Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.  

Wednesday, Sept. 26. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Oct. 3. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Also Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.  

Wednesday, October 24. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Troth, by Gregor von Rezzon. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Nov 7. July 11 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. Also Dec. 5.  

Wednesday, November 28. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Sunday Morning, by Wallace Stevens. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Dec. 5. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours.

My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)

By Dorothy Bryant
Thursday May 31, 2012 - 04:19:00 PM

“Biographies of writers, whether written by themselves or by others, are always superfluous and usually in bad taste.” 

—W. H. Auden (1907–1973) 

That about sums it up. A biography of an explorer or a warrior or a performer or a political activist might amuse, inform, and enlighten us. But a writer or artist touches us through her books, paintings, music. All the of rest her life is, at best, just ordinary eating and drinking and minding the kids and going to the dentist, like everyone else. At worst, it may be mean-spirited posturing, gossip, nothing to do with the art which is produced in spite of these human failings. 

An artist might try to let you in on her creative process, but she can’t. S/he can describe and suggest every possible conscious exercise to improve technique. But when s/he manages to sink into the part of her mind where inspiration hides, she enters a dark cave blindly, and takes dictation from an unknown source. It’s futile to ask her to explain that source; she hasn’t a clue. 

That’s why biographical movies about artists fall into romantic clichés like those dreadful movies from the mid-1950s about artists like Gauguin, Chopin, etc. These bio-pics try to answer unanswerable questions, and only give us soap-opera clichés that get between us and the art itself. We must give ourselves up to the art, learn its language, and let it transform us. 


(Send the Berkeley Daily Planet a page from your own Commonplace Book)

Arts & Events

New: Berkeley Library Now Offers Free Museum Passes

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Saturday June 02, 2012 - 02:36:00 PM

Never let it be said that Berkeley and the Bay Area lack attractive venues offering outstanding cultural events -- galleries, museum, art institutes, etc. Starting June 1st, library patrons now have access to free passes to more than 30 area cultural venues. For Berkeley Public Library cardholders, free passes to museums are just a few clicks away. Starting from the Library's website (http:/www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org), patrons can access the DISCOVER AND GO link using their Library card number. From there, it's easy to locate available passes, searching by location or by date. Then reserve, print and go! 

Passes are available for a wide range of venues, ranging from large well-known museums, like the Asian Art Museum and the California Academy of Arts and Sciences to smaller locations, including the Cartoon Museum, Exploratorium, Lawrence Hall of Science and the Oakland Zoo. 

According to Donna Coirbeil, Director of the Berkeley Public Library, "The Library provides free access to the arts and sciences through our collections and our programing, and we're excited to partner with other Bay Area institutions to expand the cultural opportunities available to our patrons." 

Things to Remember: Passes are valid only for a specific date. Passes can be identified by venue or by date. Only two passes can be reserved/checked out at a time. There is no limit to total passes checked out. Some venues allow only one pass per cardholder per year. Most passes provide admission for 2, many provide a family pass, but a few have more restricted offerings, so it's important to read the full offer. 

Current list of participating institutions (more offerings are added all the time). Shown below are just a few of the venues: 

Asian Art Museum Aquarium of the Bay Bay Area Discovery Museum Bedford Gallery California Historical Society California Shakespeare Theatre Contemporary Jewish Museum Oakland Museum of California Saint Mary's College Museum of Art Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 

The list goes on and on. So, clearly, there are many opportunities here to enrich your cultural life and to acquire a bit of "couth" at the same time.