The Week

Are Berkeley Police looking the other way as sleeper-liers go public downtown on eve of big council debate on the mayor's proposed sit-lie ban?
Ted Friedman
Are Berkeley Police looking the other way as sleeper-liers go public downtown on eve of big council debate on the mayor's proposed sit-lie ban?


Flash: BART Tube is Open Again

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Thursday June 14, 2012 - 04:41:00 PM

BART service through the Transbay Tube resumed late this afternoon after an early morning three-alarm fire near the West Oakland station closed the tracks between the East Bay and San Francisco, a BART spokesman said. -more-

Updated: BART Tube Still Closed, May Open at 4

By Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News Service
Thursday June 14, 2012 - 01:39:00 PM

BART service between the East Bay and San Francisco will resume later than originally estimated this afternoon, Assistant General Manager Paul Oversier told the transit agency's board shortly after 12:30 p.m. -more-

Flash: Transbay BART Shut Down Because of Fire

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Thursday June 14, 2012 - 09:58:00 AM

BART's Transbay Tube between Oakland and San Francisco has been shut down this morning due to a three-alarm fire at a construction site near the West Oakland BART station, officials said. -more-

New: Berkeley Council Votes to Put Bates Anti-Sitting Ordinance on November Ballot

By Bay City News
Thursday June 14, 2012 - 09:43:00 AM

After a lengthy debate, the Berkeley City Council voted 6-3 early Wednesday morning in favor of putting a measure on the November ballot that would prohibit sitting on sidewalks near businesses during daytime hours. -more-

Berkeley Man Ordered to Stand Trial for Liquor Store Shooting

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Thursday June 14, 2012 - 09:46:00 AM

A 19-year-old Berkeley man has been ordered to stand trial on a murder charge for the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Devin Lee Whitmire outside a Berkeley liquor store on March 29. -more-

Obstreperous Berkeleyans Getting in Their Lying Before Council Sit-Lie Hearing

By Ted Friedman
Tuesday June 12, 2012 - 08:46:00 AM
All that was left of a "riot" more than an hour earlier, Tuesday, at Constitution Square downtown. "Spokesman" is fourth from left.

A downtown worker noticed ten sleep-liers-in downtown Berkeley at 8:50 a.m. Monday on his way to work. Some were asleep in or beneath sleeping bags, the worker noted.

I photographed two liers-in at 4 p.m.

Lying is illegal; it's sitting that is being added to a new measure to be debated at City Council Tuesday.

Are police laying off on the eve of the council debate over sit-lie, which is the must attend political event of the year?

And what is going on downtown? -more-

Elderly Pedestrian Dies After Bicyclist Hits Her

By Laura Dixon (Bay City News)
Thursday June 07, 2012 - 04:36:00 PM

An elderly pedestrian died after being struck by a bicyclist in El Cerrito on Wednesday, according to the Contra Costa County coroner's office.

Mary Smith, 92, of El Cerrito, died from head injuries she suffered in the collision, a deputy coroner said Thursday.

The collision occurred around 5:30 p.m. at the intersection of Arlington Boulevard and Brewster Drive in front of Arlington Park, El Cerrito Fire Battalion Chief Dave Gibson said yesterday. -more-

Berkeley Murder Charge Dismissed after Witness Fingers Another Suspect

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday June 08, 2012 - 10:53:00 PM

A murder charge against an 18-year-old Berkeley man for the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Devin Lee Whitmire in Berkeley in late March was dismissed this week after a dramatic courtroom moment in which the prosecution's key witness said the man wasn't involved in the shooting. -more-

Councilmember Wozniak: City of Berkeley is Negotiating with Unions about Future Pensions

Letter from Councilmember Gordon Wozniak
Friday June 08, 2012 - 02:33:00 PM

Editor's Note: This letter from Berkeley City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak was received by a citizen who had asked councilmembers what they were doing about the city's pension obligations:

The City is attempting to reduce its pension obligations by negotiating with its employee unions. Because public pension rights are enshrined in the State Constitution, they are very difficult to modify. Basically, State law says that once you are hired, the public pension system in effect at that time applies. Retroactive changes to public pensions are not allowed, unless they increase benefits to employees. Retroactive decreases to public pensions are not allowed by state law, which is the result of a State Proposition that was voted in by the public. To change public pensions would require a new State Proposition. -more-

Berkeley Bowl Make-over Bowls Over Shoppers; Who Moved Our Cheese?

By Ted Friedman
Friday June 08, 2012 - 01:10:00 PM
New look at South side Berkeley Bowl. Produce is moved-about.

Over Memorial Day weekend, the Southside Berkeley Bowl got made-over to resemble its corporate big brother to the West. Anything Southsiders may have considered homey at the bowl now resembles the sterility of the bowl's mega-market in Berkeley's industrial area. -more-



Consensus, not Contentiousness, is What Berkeley Businesses Need Now

By Becky O'Malley
Friday June 08, 2012 - 10:23:00 AM

Sometimes Berkeley politicians tell more truth than they realize. From the online text of the Tom Bates Anti-Sitting Initiative proposal, up before the city council on Tuesday:

“Given the contentiousness of the City’s past efforts regarding street behavior issues this item requests the City Manager return with draft ordinance and ballot language for Council consideration so the entire issue can be put before the voters for approval.”
If the proposal’s author had looked up “contentiousness” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, he would have found this as the only meaning:

“Contentiousness: an inclination to fight or quarrel.”

Used in an example sentence: “His natural tendency towards contentiousness made him a poor choice for a diplomatic post.”

Could Merriam-Webster have been thinking of Berkeley’s mayor when they wrote that sentence?

The last thing downtown Berkeley, now experiencing a bit of an image uptick, needs is more contentiousness. Do we really want yet another big fight about whether beggars (and also, kids and old ladies and people with bad knees and tourists) are allowed to sit on the sidewalk? -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

New: MSNBC: "Beware, sidewalk sitters: Berkeley is coming for you."

Thursday June 14, 2012 - 09:18:00 AM

In case you might have wondered how the Bates Anti-Sit initiative is making Berkeley look in the rest of the world, check out this MSNBC story, including the comments: -more-

New: First Look at Berkeley City Council's Anti-Sitting Initiative

Wednesday June 13, 2012 - 03:06:00 PM

If you're one of those who cares about the fate of civil liberties in Berkeley, you should take the time to watch these clips from Tuesday's Berkeley City Council meeting. The council's discussion of the Bates Anti-Sitting initiative was one of the most appalling displays of insensitivity and hubris I've seen in my more than 35 years in Berkeley, as well as containing some eloquent progressive oratory. Here's the full item, including public comment: -more-


Odd Bodkins: Dark and Gloomy (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Saturday June 09, 2012 - 10:25:00 AM

Public Comment


Friday June 08, 2012 - 12:51:00 PM

Tea Party's Finished; Fire danger in hills; Yes, consider the source, Steven Donaldson is not "West Bezerkeley" -more-

New: My Letter to City Hall: Help West Berkeley Grow with Citizen Input & Good Governance

By Adolpho Cabral, Rosa Parks neighborhood resident, West Berkeley-District 2
Tuesday June 12, 2012 - 11:07:00 AM

Dear Mayor Bates & City Council members,

Do not vote to accept this current West Berkeley Project re-zoning plan.West Berkeley residents, small businesses & neighborhoods need your help to provide fair & smart growth policy. 7,000 people live west of San Pablo Ave, and their quality of life will be compromised for the benefit of a few large developers. All of Berkeley will be adversely affected by your proposed Amendments allowing large-scale labs & office parks & condo complexes 75-100 feet high. What is proposed is far more intense development than Emeryville, with less protection for residents. All of West Berkeley is threatened, and land speculation is already happening. This is unacceptable.

What you are proposing will adversely impact West Berkeley for now & decades to come: -more-

New: New England Law Student Urges Berkeley Council to Vote Against Anti-Sitting Ordinance--Vermont Would Never Do This

By Branden Cote
Monday June 11, 2012 - 09:09:00 PM

Dear Councilmembers: I am from New Hampshire and I am a third year law student at Vermont Law School. I am committed to serving low-income clients and I have travelled to Berkeley this summer to intern as a homeless advocate. I am writing to you today to urge you to vote no on Tuesday to keep the Mayor’s anti-sitting proposal off of the ballot.

The causes of homelessness are the same on each coast, and the resulting downward spiral is one which is hard to reverse. Nobody wishes for a mental or physical disability, aspires to develop a substance abuse problem, tries to get fired, or chooses to be alienated from their pillars of support. All of the homeless clients I have worked with both here and back in Vermont would much prefer the ability to be self-sufficient over the terrible reality and insecurity of being without basic human necessities. -more-

New: Proposed Anti-Sitting Initiative Would Violate Rights of Berkeley Citizens

By Mary Ann Uribe
Monday June 11, 2012 - 09:04:00 PM

My name is Mary Ann Uribe and I live in Berkeley . It has come to my attention the Council will be taking a vote this Tuesday, June 12, 2012 on whether to put the Mayor’s proposed anti-sit ordinance (aka Civil Sidewalk Ballot Measure) on the ballot for November, 2012. The ordinance will prohibit people in Berkeley from sitting on the sidewalk in all commercial zones. I urge the Berkeley City Council to vote NO on this proposal.

As a former attorney of over 30 years I can tell you this type of ordinances have been found by the courts to be unconstitutional as unfairly targeting and trying to criminalize the homeless, young people, seniors, the disabled and people in general. Civil rights law suits are expensive so why invite this type of litigation? This a public sidewalk and a City cannot regulate a public sidewalk in a manner that interferes with the constitutional right of travel of the American people or one that affects the poor, seniors, and the disabled disproportionately. -more-

New: Berkeley City Council Reopens Master Use Permit (MUP) Public Hearing on Tuesday, Plans Vote On Modified MUP Proposals

Sunday June 10, 2012 - 10:31:00 PM

After new Master Use Permit provisions were put on the table at their last meeting, City Council voted to reopen the Master Use Permit Public Hearing on Tuesday, June 12th. The agenda states the intention to vote on the MUP on the 12th but it's unclear whether this will happen. Discussions continue between stakeholders and Council members and provisions continue to evolve into (hopefully) better versions. Whether improved provisions can be considered or must return to staff for another meeting is unclear at this point. What is clear is that public testimony will be taken, the Council will hold a discussion, and the presence of the public is as important as ever. West Berkeley is now the first item on the action agenda, but the extremely controversial proposal to put a prohibition against sidewalk sitting on the November ballot is also before Council Tuesday. A large crowd is also expected for this item and Council can switch agenda items. As we hear about scheduling we'll keep you posted. -more-

Updated: Tuesday's "No-Sit" Motion--
To the Berkeley City Council
Plus a Reply to Mayor Tom Bates' Response

By Beverly Slapin
Sunday June 10, 2012 - 11:03:00 AM

As you all know, these are terrible economic times for most of us. Some of us are a paycheck away from living on the streets, and many of us are not that fortunate.

As the actions of the federal government, along with state and city governments all over the country, tighten the noose around the necks of working and poor people, more and more of us are threatened with homelessness.

Homelessness is a tremendous problem, but the blame cannot and should not be laid at the feet of the poorest of the poor. The move to put an initiative on the November ballot to ban sitting on the sidewalks in commercial districts, such as downtown Berkeley and Telegraph Avenue, clearly targets homeless people. If you pass this motion on Tuesday evening, such an initiative on the November ballot stands a good chance of passing, and poor people will be thrown into the abyss of a citation-warrant-jail-street system that saps their strength and wrecks their health. -more-

Anti-Homeless Groundhog Day

By Osha Neumann
Thursday June 07, 2012 - 04:52:00 PM

A young man is asleep in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk next to the curb on Shattuck Avenue. It's past midnight. The sidewalk is deserted except for a few other young people who are sleeping nearby. A Berkeley police officer drives up and gets out of his car. He goes over to the sleeping man, who looks even younger than his 22 years, and shines a flashlight in his eyes. The man stirs, rolls over onto his stomach, but doesn't wake up. The police officer grabs him--still in the sleeping bag-- and dumps him into the street. The officer then drags the man out of the sleeping bag, throws him up against the police car, and slams his head down on the hood. He keeps the man's head pressed against the hood until he's finished calling dispatch. Then the officer gives the man a ticket for lying on the sidewalk in a commercial zone. The ordinance for which the man is cited only applies between 7 AM and 10 PM on weekdays and requires the officer to give a warning. The man has committed no crime. Except that he's homeless in Berkeley, and likes to sleep in proximity to his friends.

If they sleep on the sidewalk they are given citations for lying down. If they try and make themselves inconspicuous, bedding down at night at the foot of the stairs leading to the library on Kittredge, they're cited for trespassing. They are told to go to Telegraph Avenue or up into the hills. They ask – where can we legally sleep? And no one has an answer. They want to stay together because they are more vulnerable if they are separate, but in a large group they draw attention. Some of them have dogs and some are in couples. The shelters will not take them, and in any case they're mostly young, and in no mood to be regimented.

And yes, these days they sit on the sidewalk on Shattuck, next to the library, mostly minding their own business. They would sit on the benches of "Constitution Square," the wide inviting plaza next to the downtown Berkeley BART station, but they've been run out of there. BART has conspicuously posted a sign warning loitering and begging are prohibited. Begging and loitering are not crimes.

Neither is sitting on the sidewalk, although that would change if Mayor Bates and the commercial real estate interests backing him have their way. The Mayor's put on the Berkeley City Council agenda for its June 12 meeting a recommendation to direct the city attorney to draft a "Civil Sidewalks Ballot Measure" prohibiting sitting on the sidewalk between 7 AM and 10 PM. He wants the measure back from the city attorney by the Council's June 26 meeting so it can go on the ballot in November. -more-

Letter to the Berkeley City Council:
Anti-Sitting Ordinance Would Be a Calamity for Political Freedom

By Jack Jackson, J.D., M.A.
Friday June 08, 2012 - 07:54:00 PM

Honorable City Council Members:

My name is Jack Jackson. I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. I also serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the Homeless Action Center. The advocates at the Homeless Action Center can speak to the counterproductive consequences of the proposed "sit/lie" ordinance for the displaced and dispossessed in Berkeley. I write to ask you to consider the broader political implications of this vote.

The proposed ordinance is quite simply a calamity for political freedom. That sounds hyperbolic, but these ordinances strike at the very heart of a democratic culture: economic activity is valued above all political value; the right of assembly is devalued to a hyper~regulated nothing; the promise of equal protection is made a mockery; and the police are, yet again, empowered and deployed against fundamentally non~criminal behavior. -more-

Open Letter to Berkeley Council Re Anti-Sit Proposal

By Patricia E. Wall, Executive Director, Homeless Action Center
Thursday June 07, 2012 - 04:42:00 PM

Honorable City Council Members,

I am writing to urge you to vote no on the Mayor's proposal to put an anti-sit proposal on the November ballot at your Tuesday June 12th Council meeting. I have been working with homeless people in Berkeley since 1995. Citations and subsequent arrests for warrants for failure to appear on citations impede our work with homeless people. People with active warrants are not eligible for public benefits like food stamps, General Assistance, or Social Security. We spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy helping people access these resources, and they can be wiped out with a single citation for sleeping in public, for having no bicycle license, for having more than a two-dog aggregation on Telegraph, or any of the other many things our clients get cited for. -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE: The Facebook Debacle

By Bob Burnett
Friday June 08, 2012 - 09:56:00 AM

On May 17th, Facebook had its long anticipated Initial Public Offering (IPO). It sold shares at $38 each, giving it a market valuation of $104 billion. For an instant, Facebook was the 23rd most valuable company in the US. The ensuing debacle serves as a metaphor for the US in general.

Facebook is an eight-year-old social networking service that has over 900 million users worldwide. It’s a convenient way to maintain contact with family and friends – for example, to post photos of your new relationship or grandchild or pet.

There’s nothing wrong with Facebook selling stock in order to raise money and compensate its employees and investors. It’s the dream of every entrepreneur to start a company that one day becomes successful, has an IPO, and makes its founders wealthy. It’s the nature of the free market.

But in this case there was a serious problem with the valuation of Facebook stock. On May 17th Bloomberg Financial Services reported that at $38 per share, Facebook would be “the largest company to go public in the U.S. by market capitalization… Facebook's valuation is worth the combined market capitalizations of News Corp., Time Warner Inc. and CBS Corp.” At its offering price, Facebook was worth more than: Amazon, McDonald’s, Cisco, Comcast, Visa, and Citigroup, among others. On May 17th Facebook ranked in the top 10 of technology companies; Facebook was worth roughly half of Google, the company it is most often compared to.

Then the bubble burst. As soon as Facebook shares (ticker symbol FB) were available to the public, the price began to drop. As of this writing, the stock price is $26.31 and the market value is $56.25 billion. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Bananas Over Fair Trade

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday June 08, 2012 - 10:41:00 AM

The main goal of Fair Trade is to ensure that producers — usually located in underdeveloped countries — treat their workers well and pay them a fair price for their labor, which in turn helps the workers to improve their lives. For consumers, it’s a simple way to choose products, knowing that those who grew or made the products were treated fairly and paid a fair price for their labor. When a product carries a Fair Trade label it means the producers and traders have met standards of the certifying organization. Farmers are audited annually. Thus, sellers agreeing to sell Fair Trade products and consumers buying these products are relying on the integrity and diligence of the certifying organization. And how much extra will a consumer be willing to pay for a Fair Trade certified product—5 percent, 10 percent? -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Teaching Persons with Mental Illness How to Survive

By Jack Bragen
Friday June 08, 2012 - 11:50:00 AM

My father died recently and didn't leave a mess behind for others to clean up. He was caring and considerate of others for the entire 47 years that I knew him. He worked most of his life, supported his family, and was a jokester and a mensch. His death was a shock, and it came far too soon. The kindness and the caring he radiated will be sorely missed. -more-

SENIOR POWER: Elder Abuse 2012

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday June 07, 2012 - 05:30:00 PM

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is Friday, June 15. It’s quite possible, even likely, that it will come and go with little local recognition.

Every five seconds, an elderly person is abused. In 2011, California accounted for 10.6% of elder abuse cases in the United States. Five of California’s 58 counties account for over half of all elder abuse cases. ((Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside and Santa Clara) Alameda County’s 233,823 elderly accounted for 25,827 abuse cases. California's elderly population will have doubled by 2025, to 6.4 million -- a larger growth rate than any other state. -more-

MY COMMONPLACE BOOK(a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader)

By Dorothy Bryant
Friday June 08, 2012 - 10:56:00 AM

“By the time a man is 50, he has the face he deserves.” —George Orwell

“. . . an untidy, preoccupied woman, whose face was beginning to take on the shape of the thoughts and emotions she had lived through, in place of the likeness of heredity with which it had been born.” —Nadine Gordimer, Occasion for Loving (1960) -more-

Arts & Events

EYE FROM THE AISLE: Black at Blue Boys at Berkeley Rep--virtuoso performance, desperate circumstances

By John A. McMullen II
Friday June 08, 2012 - 11:05:00 AM
Dael Orlandersmith

BERKELEY REP offers another fascinating virtuoso performance with Dael Orlandersmith in her original BLACK AND BLUE BOYS/BROKEN MEN. In 90 minutes, she masterfully portrays many characters who were abused as children and their resulting anger and intimacy issues as adults.

Orlandersmith created this show after becoming a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize with Yellowman in 2002.

She switches accents masterfully, gives each character a distinct physical presence and fitting expressive gestures, and her monologues are spellbinding.

Directed by Obie award winner Chaw Yew, the play is a series of interwoven stories that are important to hear to emotionally understand what might seem irrational behavior we encounter or read about. As the twig is bent…and exposure to these debasements could twist anyone. -more-

EYE FROM THE AISLE: Graham Greene’s Travels with My Aunt at MASQUERS--charming, fluid

By John A. McMullen II
Thursday June 07, 2012 - 04:39:00 PM

Travels with My Aunt at the Point Richmond MASQUERS PLAYHOUSE is a charming and fluid enactment of the Graham Greene entertainment novel adapted by British actor/playwright Giles Havergal.

You may recognize the novelist as the author of The Third Man (1949), The End of the Affair (1951), The Quiet American (1955), and Our Man in Havana (1958), all of which have been adapted for film.

If you like droll Masterpiece Theatre comedies, this is your cuppa’. -more-