A Berkeley man has been sentenced in federal court in San Francisco to 15 years in prison for leading a conspiracy to cultivate marijuana in East Bay grow houses. -more-
[EDITOR'S NOTE: A more detailed response to the Grand Jury's review of the Berkeley Rent stabilization board, along with supporting documents including the full report, can be found here in PDF format.]
The Alameda County Civil Grand Jury has just completed a review of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board’s budget, fees and personnel procedures and issued a Final Report. From the outset of its inquiry, we offered our full cooperation and provided extensive written documentation to support our oral testimony.
Civil Grand Juries can perform a vital role in our modern democracy by reviewing the activities of public agencies and acting as “watchdog” to ensure that those agencies are not abusing the public’s trust. We would have welcomed a critical, fact-based analysis of the Rent Board’s charge under the City Charter: the administration of the Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance. Unfortunately, this Grand Jury missed such an opportunity. Instead, it has issued a report that ignored significant evidence substantiating the effective enforcement and reasonableness of the administration of Berkeley’s rent and eviction laws, choosing to mask a disagreement about what type of rent control law Berkeley should have under the guise of criticism of administrative issues. Even more troubling for a report from a public body is the reliance on inaccuracies, innuendo and “perceived” problems, to give a veneer of plausibility to its conclusions. -more-
Berkeley’s civic downtown is about to be dealt a body blow if plans by the Postal Service to sell the Main Post Office at 2000 Allston Way go through.
The stately building, completed in 1915, is now scheduled to be closed and sold as surplus property.
Augustine Ruiz, a regional spokesperson for the Postal Service confirmed today, in response to an inquiry from the Planet, ”we are in the process of selling the post office. All carrier operations and Bulk Mail operations will move to the Berkeley Destination Delivery Unit (DDU) located at 1150 8th Street.” -more-
Copyright © 2012 by John Curl. All rights reserved.
This is the second in a series of excerpts from John Curl’s long article about Mayor Bates and his effects on the city. The article follows Bates and the progressive movement in city government from its beginnings to today, based on extensive quotes from Bates’ own oral history and interviews with other players in the political events. In this excerpt Bates talks about Rent Stabilization, low-income housing, the homeless, and his role in the change to district elections. You can also download a Full PDF. of the entire article.
Tom Bates’ relationship to the issue of rent stabilization was always reluctant, guarded, and iffy. Although publicly he supported Berkeley rent control, behind the scenes it was a different story. “But rent control is an issue that—it was like a no-win position for me… In retrospect, I came out of the base which supported rent control. The people voted for it, but it was never, particularly, any good issue for me because it was—I mean, I had to defend it in the state legislature. Albeit, my wife was mayor, and, I mean, I had ties with people who supported it, supported rent control. So I wasn’t about to break that. And so, I ended up having to fight fights that I didn’t really choose to fight. And from a political-aspiration point of view, when I looked at one time to running for other offices, it was like a death knell… so it was not a good issue for me politically. In fact, that was—well, we used to say that was our baggage; our luggage was that rent control that we had to carry around with us… It wasn’t like I would fall on my sword for this issue. It was something that sort of like came with the territory. And particularly with my affiliations and association; I mean, it was like, if I would have changed my view on rent control and done something like [State Senator Nicholas C.] Petris did—he switched; it was like, people were shocked that he would do this, that he would make this change, and he had sold out and all this other stuff. So it was very hard; people were just like a litmus test. Death penalty, abortions, rent control. You know what I mean? Dogs off leash. There are some issues you can’t win on, right? This was one of those.” -more-
A woman who died in a fire at a multi-unit Berkeley home this Thursday has been identified as 26-year-old Meredith Ann Joyce, according to the Alameda County coroner's bureau. -more-
A Day In The Saddle, Skirting San Francisco Bay.Off my training, I set off for the Berkeley Marina on my 26-28 lb. mixte. I have always considered cycling the marina a poor alternative to cycling Berkeley's thrill-hills. -more-
Chris Norton died on Friday, June 22, 2012 at his home in Sebastopol, surrounded by loving family and friends. Born June 5, 1950 in Manhattan, New York, to Sylvia Staudt Norton and Charles Norton, Chris was a proud graduate of Stuyvesant High School in New York, attended Amherst College and then moved to Northern California in the 1970's, drawn by the political climate and activism. In 1981 he attended the National Autonomous University in Mexico City where he studied Spanish, history and political economy. He graduated with honors from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Central American Studies in 1983, writing his senior thesis on the rise and fall of General Rios Montt (Guatemala). In 1981, he won the University Presidential Grant to conduct independent research in Central America. -more-
Mary Struve, a longtime resident of Berkeley, California, died in her sleep on June 17, 2012, in Santa Clara, California. Mary was born Mary Kriger in 1926 in Los Angeles, the daughter of Simon Kriger and Sarah Kerr, but grew up first in the Russian emigre community in Harbin, China and then in the French Concession of Shanghai, where she attended the Public School for Girls. Her family came to the United States in 1938, where Mary graduated from Central High School in Washington, DC, in 1943. -more-
In today’s email: a note from someone named Bruce Mann, earnestly exhorting me to wish Elizabeth Warren a happy birthday. Even though I don’t know the guy, it’s something I’m pleased to do. I was lucky enough to meet her at a Berkeley garden party on Monday, and I’m here to tell you she’s great—just as smart as she seems to be on TV, and even more charming. -more-
The Editor's Back Fence
Five and half months before the election, polls find President Obama and the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, in a virtual dead heat. The reason is the stagnant economy. While Obama holds Democrats, and Romney Republicans, Independents have swung to Romney because they dislike his economic ideas less than Obama’s. -more-
For those of you who have a pond (if I may paraphrase Vita Sackville-West), here’s an opportunity to make a personal contribution to science. The Xerces Society, a nonprofit group that supports the conservation of insects and other invertebrates, has announced a Dragonfly Pond Watch to help document the annual movements of two migratory dragonfly species, the common green darner and the black saddlebags. Both are common and widespread insects, found throughout California, and are easily recognizable even without binoculars. The darner has a particularly felicitous Latin name: Anax junius, the Lord of June. Volunteers are needed to observe a pond or other wetland on a regular basis and note the migrants’ arrival and departure dates (see www.xerces.org/dragonfly-migration/pondwatch for details.) -more-
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a holiday in the United States commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865. Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth is a combination of the words June and nineteenth. While it is a celebration, it should also be a remembrance of race and real estate, part of the dark side of Black history in this country. -more-
I like large print. Large print, large-type, large-font, whatever. Books, newspapers, online publications with typeface or font that accommodate my increased need for visual senior power. -more-
Persons with mental illness are a very misunderstood category of people. From our perspective, the perspective of the person with mental illness trying to live in society, it seems like many of those who are successful people behave toward us as though we were lepers. Even among those who have more understanding, there is always that subtle bit in which we are not being treated as equals or as intelligent, aware people, which many of us are. -more-
Arts & Events
AROUND AND ABOUT OPERA: Three Bargain Opportunities This Weekend: Happy End, Lucia di Lammermoor, Summer Eve
This weekend opera lovers have three great chances to experience opera live and up close. -more-
Berkeley's got a hip new nightclub. It's so hip, in fact, that most people don't know where it's located.
It's called The Monkey House and it's the home of Ira Marlowe, a multi-talented singer/composer The Planet once dubbed "the love child of Tom Waits and Tom Lehrer."
As a way of boosting Berkeley's music and art community, he's converted the front section of his live/work storefront on University Ave. into a cozy performance space, a maroon-walled mini-club complete with a small, well-lit elevated stage and several dozen folding chairs (interspersed with the occasional small wooden table). Earlier this month, he sent out word to a small universe of friends that a special club-warming party was to take place on June 9. By 8PM, the place was packed and the joint was jumping. In order to gain admission, you need a password. (The Monkey House follows in the tradition of other subterranean cultural treasures like Strings, another "secret," word-of-mouth performance space that has flourished for years.) The Planet uttered the magic phrase "Chim-chim" and was quickly ushered into the nicely lit band-cave. The walls are appropriately fitted with lamps that bear a monkey-tail insignia and a large stuffed monkey presides over one well-upholstered sofa. The front walls are adorned with a tangy assortment of Monkeyabilia—graphics, artwork, and circus posters. (An easy guess is that this collection will continue to blossom as fans begin bringing their own Monkey art to add to the walls. -more-
The Magic Flute at San Francisco Opera is a lovely cartoon of an opera which is, in this case, more about the extraordinary designer Jun Kaneko than the work of Mozart. -more-
AROUND AND ABOUT THEATER: Iranian Playwright & Director Bahram Bazai, St. Marks Playreading, A Folkie Bard On Disk ...
Bahram Beyzaie, celebrated Iranian playwright, film and theater director (his play 'The Death of Yazgird,' performed at Ashby Stage eight years ago by Darvag Theatre in collaboration with Shotgun is the best play by a living playwright I've reviewed in the past dozen years), has been in residence at Stanford. Next week, he'll be staging a shadowplay, from his new play 'Jana & Baladoor,' a story of music, myth and the elements, which the brilliant Larry Reed of Shadowlight Productions consulted on, at Cubberley Auditorium on the Stanford campus. Noted Iranian actres Modeh Shamsaie and famous musician Mohsen Namjoo will participate. With the exception by shows at Cal Performances, Stanford and the annual San Francisco International Arts Festival, we seldom have the opportunity to see the work of major artists and companies from elsewhere in the world. Beyzaie is the genuine article; I urge you to make the trek to Palo Alto to see what he has to show us. With Iran being heaped with opprobrium in the news, it's refreshing to have one of its most eminent artists staging a production here. -more-