Full Text



Press Release: BatesGate: Mayor’s Mistakes Censor Free Speech (UPDATED)

From the Office of Councilmember Kriss Worthington
Thursday July 12, 2012 - 01:20:00 PM

(Berkeley) – After sixty (60) residents testified and sang in opposition, Mayor Tom Bates forced a vote on the Anti-sitting ordinance without debate from council. The next day, there was a press conference where members of the public and City Council stated what they would have said if the Mayor had not stopped them from speaking. See list of Mayor’s mistakes below.


COALITION! Was this a transformative moment in history? Numerous residents attending in regards to other important items on the July 10 agenda experienced or observed mistakes or mistreatment on their issues at the same meeting. West Berkeley residents, small businesses and artists were present to advocate for changes to the West Berkeley Project. South and West Berkeley residents were in attendance to advocate for a fair share of the Watershed Bond to advocate for the discontinuation of flooding of their homes and businesses. Environmentalists were attempting to reduce the pollution of Aquatic Park and the Bay. Taxpayers were concerned about how many bonds and taxes, and how many millions they would have to pay. None of these issues received the amount of support they deserved. There was much conversation amongst the public in attendance, and seemingly increased recognition that since we are all being mistreated, perhaps we all could work together and possibly get better policy results. Some of the public speakers even made reference to patterns amongst the issues. 


DIVERSITY: The public comment reflected an astounding display of the diversity of Berkeley. There were Black, White, Asian, Latino, Native American, and mixed race speakers. There were senior citizens, reflecting the Gray Panthers opposition. There were high school, college, and graduate school speakers including ASUC Senators expressing the Cal student government’s 18-1 vote against a sit lie law. There were attorneys questioning the legality of the proposal and expression of the ACLU’s opposition. There were disabled residents concerned how this would hurt them. There were homeless residents giving gripping personal stories of their struggle to make ends meet in order to survive. There were experts who are homeless service providers who indicated that giving poor and homeless people an arrest record would be a barrier to care, and limit poor people’s chances to get services or jobs. There were gay, straight, lesbian and bi speakers, including a gay leader pointing out that a disproportionate number of homeless youth are from foster homes, escaping abusive or violent homes or disowned because of their sexual orientation. There were official City Commissioners from the four commissions that have voted to oppose a sit lie law (Community Health Commission, Housing Commission, Mental Health Commission and Peace and Justice Commission.) 



Mayor’s Mistakes  


    When protesters were singing, the Mayor should have asked one of the many police officers present to give a warning to stop singing or leave the room so the meeting could proceed. Most protestors would have sat and listened. A few may have gotten arrested as civil disobedience against criminalizing the homeless.
  2. POOR MEETING PLANNING: With multiple controversial agenda items the items could have been split into two meetings, therefore no one would have to wait until 11 pm to speak. A larger, spacious room is available one block away that could have easily held all the people at Berkeley City College.
  3. ALLEGED BROWN ACT VIOLATION: The Mayor and four Council members are alleged to have discussed in the back room how to get this voted on tonight.
  4. ALLEGED BROWN ACT VIOLATION: members of the public were denied a chance to speak before the motion was allegedly vote on.
  5. SUPRESSING FREE SPEECH OF COUNCIL MEMBERS: Three Members of the City Council pressed their buttons to speak but were not called upon to speak.
  6. COMPROMISE NOT CONSIDERED: No Council member was allowed to make a substitute motion, even though Jesse Arreguin had presented a well researched written proposal that was accepted at the same time as the Mayor’s new proposal.
  7. The Mayor introduced a revised version that Council members and the public were not allowed to see in advance.
  8. DISRESPECT TO COMMISSIONS: Four Commissions have voted to oppose a sit lie ordinance, including one which also specifically opposed this new version. They were not given respect and their proper seat at the table in the front of the room and were relegated to speaking from the crowd.
  9. DISRESPECT TO COUNCILMEMBERS: When Council member Max Anderson was verbally attacked by a Council member, the Mayor failed to step in and declare that a Council meeting is not the place for that. (Fortunately Max spoke up and defended himself.)
  10. FAILURE (TWICE) TO ALLOW PUBLIC COMMENT: The Mayor failed to ask if there were any additional speakers in line before rushing the vote. Also failed to ask for public comment on items not on the agenda.
* The Mayor mismanaged the meeting to the extent that there is question as to whether the vote is legitimate. 


“As a homeless mother with three small kids, our survival required us to sit on sidewalks to perform and ask for money. To make sitting illegal is unnecessary and undermines our civil liberties and rights to survival.”  

--- Janny Castillo, Former Homeless Single Mother 


“This ordinance will have devastating effects on day laborers. They depend on sitting in commercial districts to earn their livelihood and this measure would criminalize that behavior and lead to deportation.” 

--- Alejandra Alas, UC Berkeley Student 


"From its beginning in backroom deals to last night's travesty of a vote of questionable legality Mayor Bates and the proponents of this ban on sitting conspired to do everything possible to prevent public input and democratic discussion. They know the level of outrage their proposal is generating. Now, I think they've gone too far. I think they cooked their own goose.” 

--- Osha Neumann, Attorney and Civil Rights Activist 

“It is critical to hear the voices of the youth who have been showing up in large numbers at City Council meetings only to be told that there is no room in the council chambers. If the youth get to this podium they are often told to keep their comments short. This is clearly a violation of their freedom of speech” 


--- Boona Cheema, Building Opportunities for Self-Sustainability 


Press Release: Downtown Berkeley Association Inaugurates New "Musician's Corner" in BART Plaza

From Shifra de Benedictis-Kessner
Thursday July 12, 2012 - 11:02:00 AM

(On Friday, July 13, 2012, The Downtown Berkeley Association is inaugurating the Downtown Berkeley Musician's Corner, a community performance area for acoustic music in BART Plaza. The Musician's Corner will showcase the rich and diverse musical cultures in Berkeley with performances by both established and emerging local musicians in the heart of Downtown Berkeley. A space dedicated to enhancing the vitality and welcoming environment in Downtown Berkeley, the Musician's Corner will engage the community and reinforce the role of the plaza as important public space serving the surrounding residential, retail and office communities. Many of the daily 11,000 BART riders and Downtown pedestrians will enjoy this cultural gathering spot with performances by both established and emerging local musicians, and linger and explore the surrounding shops, restaurants and award-winning cultural venues. 

The DBA invites all musicians to SIGN UP HERE ONLINE or in-person at the Welcome Kiosk in BART Plaza for a time slot ranging from 1 to 2 hours. The DBA does not compensate performers, but they are free to "pass the hat" for donations, subject to City regulations. 


The Musician's Corner is sponsored by the Downtown Berkeley Association, a nonprofit membership organization and the Owner's Association for the new Property-Based Business Improvement District (PBID), and is part of the new Downtown Berkeley "Taste, Create, Experience - it starts here" marketing campaign. 

Jazzschool Musicians playing at Musician's Corner
Jazzschool students perform at the new Downtown Berkeley Musician's Corner
More Musician's Corner photographs can be found on the Downtown Berkeley Flickr site.  




New: Fire Causes Power Outage for Berkeley, BART

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Wednesday July 11, 2012 - 11:02:00 AM

A power outage that left over 7,000 PG&E customers in Berkeley without power and closed the downtown BART station last night was caused by an underground fire, officials said. 

The fire was reported at 5:30 p.m. in an underground electrical vault in the 1800 block of University Avenue, Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said. 

About 7,100 residents and businesses in Berkeley lost power, and the downtown BART station was forced to close, with trains running through the station but not stopping. 

The BART station reopened about two hours later, at 7:32 p.m., according to BART. The interruption caused delays throughout the evening on the Richmond to Fremont line. 

PG&E spokeswoman Jana Morris said that PG&E crews were able to slowly restore power to the affected areas, restoring power to BART at around 6:50 p.m. and eventually completely restoring power at 7:09 p.m. 

The affected streets also included Dwight Way, Telegraph Avenue and Piedmont Avenue, Morris said. 

Dong said that insulating rubber for the electrical wires in the underground vault caught fire, and quickly burned itself out.  

The fire also caused a manhole cover to blow off the street and land 10 feet away from the hole, Dong said. PG&E was called in to assess the damage. 

Firefighters responded to multiple fire alarms set off by the outage and reports of people stuck in elevators, but no injuries were reported.

New: Compassionate Sidewalks Plan

By Councilmember Jesse Arreguin
Tuesday July 10, 2012 - 04:50:00 PM


  1. Direct the City Manager to convene a working group of representatives of City Council, City staff, the Homeless and Police Review Commissions, and other stakeholders, such as business owners, homeless persons, attorneys representing homeless clients, students, and service providers to develop a Compassionate Sidewalks Plan to specifically focus on:  

A. Enforcement of existing laws and how it can be improved 

B. What new laws are needed, if any? 

C. Consideration of community-appropriate standards of behavior and maintain a common commitment to enforcing those behavior-based standards 

D. How we can create more affordable housing, to create a path to self sufficiency? 

E. Where is there a gap in services and how can we improve the delivery of existing services and/or provide additional services? 

F. How we can expand or improve the effectiveness of the Ambassador program? 

G. What can we do to improve the safety and vitality of our commercial districts? 


  1. Request that the City Manager, Chief of Police and City Attorney look at existing quality of life laws and explore whether laws need to be modified to ensure more effective enforcement. Explore employing a behavior-based enforcement approach to existing laws, not necessarily focusing on whether someone is sitting on a sidewalk, but whether they are engaged in an activity that substantially interferes with other people’s use of the sidewalk and public safety. It is important to not criminalize essential functions of daily life and focus on specific behavior that is disorderly and may pose a threat to public safety.

Explore amending B.M.C. Section 13.36.015 (Stationary Dogs/No Lying) to: 


a. Prohibit stationary dogs at one specific location for more than 4 hours, except for guide dogs, signal dogs, or service dogs, as provided by state law; and 

b. Whether to require stationary dogs to be muzzled after a 2 hour period 


Explore the enforcement of existing city laws relating to regulating objects on sidewalks. 


Employ warnings prior to any issuance of a citation issued for nonthreatening behavior in the public space that does not pose a danger to public safety to try to achieve voluntary compliance. 


  1. Referring to the Budget Process a request for year round funding for the YEAH youth shelter.

  1. Direct the City Manager to:
a. Explore the creation of free lockers/storage space for the homeless, requiring that individuals wishing to use storage space voluntarily agree to allow their items to be checked for weapons or drugs and that perishable items are not allowed to be stored. 


b. Explore expanding the Host Ambassador program to other commercial districts in Berkeley and the possibility of having late evening Ambassadors, including the funding needed to expand the program. 


c. Encourage the hiring of licensed mental health clinicians to accompany Ambassadors in their patrols. 


d. Explore the Community Policing Policy and Walk the Beat strategy which would have been established in San Francisco under Proposition M (copy attached) and look at how we can increase police foot patrols in commercial districts. 


e. Modify City rules to allow businesses to sell merchandise on city sidewalks. 


f. Look at how lighting can be improved on Telegraph Avenue and in other commercial districts. 


g. Explore amending the Zoning Code to allow businesses to stay open later. 


h. Re-open the public restroom behind 2180 Milvia Street, allowing it to stay open during the day and evening hours. 


i. Explore how we can increase the number of public restrooms Downtown and on Telegraph Avenue. 


j. Explore in all of Berkeley’s commercial districts the installation of benches, parklets and café seating, the resources needed to install more seating and open space. 


k. Explore access to 24/7 emergency housing/shelter and respite/recreation facilities for use during the day. 


  • Bring back to Council a staff analysis in response to the Council referral on the establishment of a vacancy registration fee for commercial property, with options for Council to decide which tools to use to deal with vacant storefronts.

5. Direct the City Manager to provide a report to Council on existing resources to fund affordable housing for the homeless population, and how we can modify existing policies, such as the Housing Trust Fund Guidelines, to prioritize funding for affordable housing with supportive services, housing for transition-aged youth and other people who are homeless and extremely low income.  



On June 12th, City Council voted to draft language for the November 2012 ballot that would amend the municipal code to prohibit sitting upon a commercial sidewalk. The issue was contentious with more than 90 members of the public participating in over 2 hours of public comment; comments reflected concern for both the impact of anti-social sidewalk behavior on small businesses and their patrons, as well as the far-reaching consequences of the proposal on the chronically homeless and indigent. 


As the tough economy heightens the visibility of the homeless, there has been a proliferation of local “quality of life” measures that criminalize “acts of living,” such as sleeping, eating, sitting, or panhandling in public spaces. The current “anti-sit” proposal is a part of that unfortunate trend that seeks to minimize the visibility of the street homeless through law enforcement. Such an approach compounds, rather than addresses the underlying causes of the problem, contributing to a costly “revolving door” that perpetuates homelessness (“Searching Out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness” 7). 


As a pioneer in the rights of all people, it is incumbent upon Berkeley to find a finely-tuned alternative that is behavior-based and well-researched so that it better balances the needs of all parties. An “anti-sit” law would simply sweep an intractable problem off the sidewalks, but while other communities have reacted in frustration, we should remain resolved in our compassion and unrivaled capacity to find thoughtful solutions –that’s Berkeley at its best. 


Far-reaching and consequential, the implications of “anti-sit” demand more in-depth research and discussion than is currently provided. The issues of homelessness are incredibly complex and any proposal addressing street homelessness requires an in-depth understanding of the demographics of the homeless, the causes of homelessness, existing law and practices, and an evaluation of similar proposals, among other things, if it is to be effective and successful. 



According to a memo from the City Manager’s office, Alameda County conducts a point-in-time homeless count every odd year and the City of Berkeley participates in that count. However, we do not get Berkeley-specific data from the biennial count unless we contribute extra funding to increase the size of Berkeley sites that are sampled. The last year the City of Berkeley obtained city-specific data was 2009. 


As of 2009, the number of homeless individuals in Berkeley totaled 680, while the County totaled 4,341. Though the County total decreased slightly to 4,178 in 2011, it is not clear at this present time if Berkeley’s homeless population has also decreased, particularly when it is widely agreed upon that homeless youth are vastly undercounted (“State of Homelessness in America” 1). Additionally, the numbers do not distinguish between “sheltered” and “unsheltered” homeless, a differentiation that will be elaborated in the next section. 


Moreover, homeless numbers tend to lag behind unemployment and poverty indicators; according the a report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, homelessness is projected to increase by 2% over the course of the next year as the lingering effects of the recession and constant budget cuts continue to aggravate deep poverty levels (“Increases in Homelessness on the Horizon” 4). 



Who are the Homeless? 

Salient to the discussion of “anti-sit,” is the concept of “street homelessness,” which is comprised of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless who inhabit public spaces during the day. Those experiencing street homelessness can be primarily classified into two categories based on access to shelter. Those categories include: 


1) The “unsheltered homeless,” who are those living on the streets, in cars, abandoned buildings, or other places not meant for human habitation (“Searching Out Solutions” 6). Roughly 4 in 10 homeless individuals fall into this category (“State of Homelessness in America” 10) and many unsheltered homeless are chronically homeless individuals. 


2) The “sheltered homeless,” are those who reside in nighttime-only shelters but are unable to avoid occupying public spaces during the day (“Searching Out Solutions” 6). 


“Street homelessness” affects people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and geographies and they are characteristically diverse, though racial and ethnic minorities are overrepresented among homeless individuals (Kuhn & Culhane, 1998). They range from the recently or chronically unemployed to aged-out foster children and run-aways. They range from domestic abuse victims to veterans. They include temporary or transitional homeless individuals to the chronically homeless, who suffer disabling conditions, such as mental illness or chronic substance abuse. 



Causes of Homelessness 


Decades of scholarship strongly suggest a close historical relationship between homelessness and broader economic conditions, such as wages/income distribution, employment rates, housing burden costs, foreclosures, access to health insurance, etc. Additional structural risk factors also contribute to homelessness, such as the level of individuals “doubling up” in housing, the rates of people discharged from prison and young adults aging out of foster care, and social policies regarding marginal populations. Shockingly, the odds are 1 in 6 that young adults aging out of foster care will experience homelessness (“State of Homelessness in America” 2, 29-30). 


Individualized factors also play an important role, often in combination, in the causes of homelessness, such as mental and physical health, substance abuse and addiction, childhood experiences of family stability, sudden increases in expenses and/or decreases income, etc (“Causes of Homelessness” 3-6). 


However, the debate over the causes of homelessness can often pit structural versus individual factors as the dominant modes of explanation. According to Dr. Paul Koegel, a nationally recognized researcher in mental health, substance abuse, poverty and homelessness, these modes are interrelated and cannot sufficiently explain homelessness without the other (“Causes of Homelessness” 2). Both sets of factors interact to create homelessness: structural factors create the conditions of pervasive homeless and individual vulnerabilities mark those who are most susceptible to structure-induced problems “that leave a given person less able to compete for scarce social and economic resources and thus elevated risk for homelessness in a structural context that makes homelessness inevitable” (“Causes of Homelessness” 6). 


In this view, it is fallacious to primarily attribute street homelessness to personal predilections, which enables one to wrongly discount a homeless individual’s situation and to “blame the victim.” Surely, street homelessness is unacceptable, but that is a reason to address the underlying issues and offer assistance rather than citations. Accountability is better applied to conduct rather than condition



Current Homeless Services and Programs 

The City of Berkeley’s commitment to the homeless is laudable –it provides generous services at levels and rates higher than that of most other municipalities. In FY 2012 alone, the City spent more than 2.8 million dollars on various programs and services that assist homeless individuals and families, ranging from shelter services and rehabilitation programs to employment assistance and homelessness prevention (See attached Memo re: Homeless Programs). Unfortunately, our generosity has been unable to accommodate all of our homeless population and their needs. 


According to a memo from the City Manager’s office, City funds emergency shelter for up to 50 people during severe weather and has provided motel stays for 49 families and 20 individuals last winter. Additionally, nonprofit organizations operate all the emergency shelter and transitional housing in Berkeley. The beds provided by nonprofits are as follows: 


135 year round emergency shelter beds 

70 seasonal (winter) seasonal shelter beds 

163 transitional housing beds 


Though there were 680 homeless individuals at last count residing in Berkeley, only 418 individuals can be theoretically accommodated with existing shelter at peak capacity during limited times of the year, and that the City can provide at least additional shelter assistance for 49 families and 20 individuals as evidenced by last year. In total, 438 individuals and 49 families can be assisted at one time during extreme weather in the winter. 


In the context of the “anti-sit” proposal, which would prohibit sitting or lying in a commercial district from 7am to 10pm, Berkeley only has 5 daytime drop-in resources, as identified in the City Manager’s memo, to serve as respite and assistance for homeless individuals. Those centers include the Boss Multi Agency Service Center, the Berkeley Drop-in Center, and the Women’s Daytime Drop-in Center, among others. The cumulative capacity of all 5 daytime sites is not immediately clear, but it is doubtful that the facilities can accommodate all the street homeless residing in Berkeley at any given time. Theoretically, homeless individuals residing in Berkeley have public parks, residential neighborhoods and some churches also available for respite to avoid “anti-sit,” though those may not be the intended destinations accounted for by proponents of “anti-sit.” 



Rationale Behind “Anti-Sit” 

The impetus of the “anti-sit” proposal lies in the current down economy and declining sales, though proponents contend that the presence of the homeless, particularly problematic individuals, exacerbate the economic downturn by discouraging patrons from frequenting local businesses. Unfortunately, history is replete with examples of “scapegoating” classes of individuals during times of economic hardship –most recently with undocumented immigrants in the United States, despite evidence that unauthorized immigration rates have been sharply declining since before the Great Recession and overall population has subsequently decreased (“U.S. Unauthorized Immigration Flows Are Down Sharply Since Mid-Decade” 1). 


That there is a relationship between homelessness and the state of the economy, it is generally accepted that the prevalence of homelessness is indicative, rather than causal, of an economic decline. However, the foundation of “anti-sit” is based on the supposition by proponents of a correlation between the anti-social behavior associated with some of the street homeless and a degree of decline in local economic activity. In fact, this supposition is referenced multiple times in the findings contained in the drafted “anti-sit” ordinance, such as homelessness having caused a “loss of patronage” and that patrons “increasingly choose not to conduct business in Berkeley commercial areas, but instead go to other cities where the shopping areas are perceived to be safer, cleaner and generally more hospitable (See Item 28 on the July 10, 2012 City Council Agenda). 


The economic decline felt by local businesses has been experienced globally and can be largely explained by the 2008 Financial Crisis that led to a significant decline in consumer wealth (“The US Financial and Economic Crisis” 7). An October 26, 2010 report to City Council by the Office of Economic Development corroborates this point by stating that “the retail downturn in Berkeley occurred from the same factors that affect the whole country: people who are unemployed or underemployed have been forced to cut back their expenditures.” 


Additionally, the recent decline seen by many local businesses is neither confined to, nor worse in commercial districts in Berkeley with a visible homeless population. In fact, steeper declines have been seen in other commercial districts with virtually little to no visible homelessness, according to sales tax information provided by Economic Development (2009-2010 Sales Tax Geographic Area Summaries). To the extent that the presence of homelessness has negatively affected local business is not supported by a review of sales tax data. 


For example, the Downtown and Telegraph Districts are the two areas with the majority of the visible homeless population, yet the both districts were the largest sales tax generators, with the exception of the large West Berkeley Plan Area. While the growth of revenue was mixed throughout the city, the Downtown saw a 2.3% increase and Telegraph saw a -3.4%. By comparison, other districts with relatively little to no visible homeless have seen larger decreases –most notably, North Shattuck and Solano, which are considered more “upscale,” with respective decreases of -4.5% and -5.0%. Moreover, in the year ending March 2008, Downtown and Telegraph experienced the lowest decline in retail sales of any other district in Berkeley (Economic Development Report Oct. 2010). The sales tax data suggests that the presence of homeless individuals is a marginal factor, if one at all, amongst a larger set of interacting factors that determine the economic outcome of our commercial districts. 


Last, the notion that the homeless are a major factor in many Berkeley residents shopping in other cities is entirely unsubstantiated. As acknowledged by Economic Development, some residents shop in neighboring cities due to retail sales becoming increasingly concentrated in large formats that cannot be accommodated by our infrastructure and zoning (Economic Development Report Oct. 2010). The abundance and ease of parking in neighboring shopping districts has also been generally accepted as a large factor. It bears noting that the neighboring City of Emeryville, known for its “big-box” retailers, has seen massive declines in retail sales tax generation since the recession (“A City That Shopped Till It Dropped,” NYT). Over the span of 2007-2009, Emeryville experienced over a -13% decrease in sales tax generation from retail and food services while Berkeley experienced a decrease less than 9% (2007-2009 Taxable Sales By City, Board of Equalization). 



Existing “Sidewalk” Laws 


The City of Berkeley has existing Disorderly Conduct laws and other applicable laws that are directed toward the anti-social behaviors cited as problematic and a threat to public safety on the sidewalks of commercial districts. Below is a selected summary of local laws relevant to anti-social sidewalk behavior with enforcement comments: 


California Penal Code Section 647c – this section states that any person who “willfully and maliciously” obstructs the free movement of any person on any street, sidewalk, or other public place or on or in any place open to the public is guilty of a misdemeanor. This is the law that generally governs obstructing streets and sidewalks in California. In order for law enforcement to cite someone for violating this law they need to determine that it is not only “willful” but also “malicious”, “willful” when applied to the intent with which an act is done or omitted, implies a willingness to commit the act. “Malicious” is defined as someone wishing to vex, annoy, or injure another person, or an intent to do a wrongful act. The requirement of malicious in this section supplies necessary criminal intent. So one simply cannot just willfully obstruct the sidewalk, but there has to be a criminal intent. Someone who is obstructing a sidewalk simply because of they are homeless is not sufficient grounds to cite under 674c. If someone is repeatedly obstructing the sidewalk or is obstructing it in a way that clearly creates a safety hazard, then the police can use this section. 


However, this section does permit counties or cities to “regulate conduct” upon any street, sidewalk or other public place, thus allowing for local governments to adopt their own standards regarding obstructing sidewalks and behavior on public sidewalks. 


BMC Section 13.36.010: Obstructing free passage of persons or vehicles in public ways prohibited when. You cannot “intentionally” stand, sit or lie in or upon any street, sidewalk or crosswalk so as to prevent the free passage of persons or vehicles 


Ultimately as long as an individual is not blocking an entrance to a building or significantly disrupting pedestrian traffic one may sit on a sidewalk. 


BMC Section 13.36.015: Creation of accessibility on commercial sidewalks- Related restrictions: This code section establishes restrictions on stationary dogs and persons lying on public sidewalks in commercial districts between 7 am and 10 pm Monday through Saturday and 10 am and 6 pm on Sundays and holidays. 


No person can lie upon a commercial sidewalk or upon any object on such sidewalk 


No more than two stationary dogs are allowed within a ten-foot area on a commercial sidewalk, except for guide dogs, signal dogs, or service dogs. 


For restrictions on stationary dogs, the law requires that the police inform the owners of the ordinance requirements on the number of stationary dogs and giving them an opportunity to voluntarily reduce the number of dogs. 

Additionally this law requires that a warning be issued prior to citing for violating the ordinance. 


BMC Section 13.36.020: Obstructing entrance to or exit from public or private buildings: No one can “intentionally” stand, sit or lie, on or at any driveway, entrance or exit of a church, hall, theater, place of public assembly, store, business plant, industry, private residence or private property so as to prevent the free passage of persons or vehicles. 


Additionally, California No Trespassing laws allow the police to enforce at the request of the owner, either through a verbal request, or through “No Trespassing” signs posted in the entrance, as well as in visible locations on the property. 


Aggressive solicitation 

BMC Section 13.37.020  

Infraction to solicit persons for money 1. In a manner that coerces, threatens, hounds or intimidates the person solicited, 2. Within 10 feet of an ATM after a warning. 


Laws prohibiting placing objects on sidewalk 

The City has various laws which regulate what objects may or may not be placed on sidewalks. The Traffic Ordinance prohibits the placement of objects on sidewalks unless authorized. Tables, chairs, and umbrellas may be placed on the sidewalk under certain circumstances and subject to obtaining a permit. Newsracks are permitted in certain areas Downtown if a permit is obtained and are regulated in other commercial areas as well. Street vending table are permitted under the Street Vending Ordinance. The Zoning Ordinance also regulates what types of objects may be placed on private property adjacent to the sidewalk. 


BMC Title 20 and Section 20.16.010.A states that “No sign, poster, placard, card, sticker, banner or other device calculated to attract attention of the public shall be posted, printed, stamped, stuck, or otherwise affixed or upon any public sidewalk, crosswalk, curb, lamppost, hydrant, tree, utility pole, any fixture of the fire alarm or police alarm system of the City, except for legal notices…general advertising placed on bus shelters…except for ground signs as Permitted in Section 20.16.190. 


A-Frame signs or sandwich board signs are prohibited in Berkeley during specific times of year. 


BMC Section 14.48.020 generally prohibits a person to place or cause to be placed on sidewalks or roadways anything which will “obstruct, restrict, or prevent the use of any portion of such sidewalk or roadway…” 


This law could be interpreted as prohibiting any objects not expressly permitted by the City on any portion of a public sidewalk. So even if someone has one backpack and it is not in the middle of the sidewalk, Police under this code section have the discretion to cite someone for placing objects on the sidewalk. 


There are exceptions for deliveries, newsracks, public telephones, sidewalk seating, and free speech tables. 


Placing tables on sidewalks outside of businesses to sell goods is prohibited., unless you have a street vendor permit. 


Public Drunkenness laws: 

BMC Section 13.36.070 and 13.36.075 prohibits public consumption of alcohol. Violations can be cited as a misdemeanor or infraction.


California Business and Professions Code Section 25620 prohibits open alcohol containers near parks. 


California Penal Code Section 647(f) prohibits being drunk in public. It is illegal to be in any public place under the influence of alcohol in such a condition that you are unable to exercise care for your own safety or the safety of others, or to interfere with, obstruct or prevent the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way. 


Criminal Loitering: 

There are laws prohibiting Criminal Loitering, loitering for drug related activities (California Health and Safety Code Section 11352) 


No-smoking law: 

BMC Section 12.70 prohibits smoking in most public places such as restaurants, bars, enclosed public places, outdoor public places, parking garages, work areas, 25 feet of an entrance, 25 feet of a bus stop, as well as sidewalks in commercial zones. 


Amplified Music: 

BMC Section 13.40.070 requires a permit. 

State Penal Code Section 415(C) relates to unreasonable noise 


Disturbing the Peace: 

Penal Code Section 415(3) prohibits the use of offensive words, the words must be inherently offensive words, directed at a specific person, and likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction. Anyone violating this section is guilty of a misdemeanor. 


Dogs in Public: 

In addition to BMC Section 13.36.015 prohibiting more than two stationary dogs, BMC Section 10.04.090 prohibits dogs running at large, except if they are under voice control within 6 feet. BMC Section 10.04.030 requires dogs to be licensed. BMC Section 10.04.140 requires removal of feces, except if the person is visually impaired or disabled. BMC Section 10.04.170 relates to vicious dogs. 


Litter/Human Waste 

BMC Section 12.40.080 prohibits littering of garbage and state Penal Code Section 374.4 prohibits public urination and defecation. 


Sleeping in parks: 

Most City Parks are closed between 10 pm and 6 pm, making it illegal for anyone to be in a city park after that time and therefore illegal to sleep in a park. 


Sleeping on private property: It is illegal to lodge on private property unless you have the permission of the owner. (California Penal Code Section 647(j)) 



Implementation of Existing Law 


I recently participated in a police ride-along in the Telegraph/South Campus area to get a better sense of how these laws are enforced on the ground. I observed how BPD enforces laws on obstruction when people are sitting on the sidewalk. People can sit in the part of the sidewalk in between the sidewalk and the curb where tree wells are located. State Penal Code Section 647c states that someone has to “willfully and maliciously” obstruct the sidewalk. If someone, despite being warned repeatedly, refuses to move and is creating a “significant disruption to pedestrian traffic” and an unsafe situation, or based on his or her behavior it is clear that the person is intending on disrupting pedestrian traffic, then they are acting with malice and can be cited. From what I observed, most people sitting down did not rise to the level of obstructing the sidewalk and moved after being warned. 


Though some “sidewalk laws” have a limited application, such as “intentional” obstruction, there are helpful laws to address common anti-social sidewalk behavior that are relatively easy to enforce, such as littering, smoking, and having belongings on the sidewalk (BMC 14.48.020). In fact, BMC 14.48.020 is structured is a similar manner as the proposed “anti-sit” ordinance, triggered by an easily identifiable violation (objects obstructing any portion of the sidewalk), though a warning prior to enforcement is not legally required as in “anti-sit,” though it is customary practice. 


Ultimately, what I came away with is that our existing laws are being enforced, and enforced in a way to discourage disorderly conduct, to ensure the free flow of people on sidewalks and to protect public safety. Nevertheless, we should continue to look at how existing laws are enforced and whether laws need to be changed so that we can address the many issues related to problematic street behavior. Using warnings to ensure voluntary compliance appeared to be an effective tool in getting people to comply with laws. 


However, the findings contained in the “anti-sit” ordinance proposal assert that effective “enforcement of such laws…is infeasible, because it would require a level of police presence and resources that are not available, and would divert public safety resources from more serious crimes.” If such a claim can be accepted for the sake of example, the question inevitably rises: if there are not enough officers and resources to enforce the current law regarding possessions on the sidewalk, among others, how will the enforcement of “anti-sit” be any different? 


Since possessions on the sidewalk are nearly as ubiquitous as sitting, the truth is that “anti-sit” will be enforced with virtually little to no more frequency than an existing, nearly identical law. In short, current laws exist that are no less effective than the proposed “anti-sit.” However, rather than being targeted and behavior-based, “anti-sit” needlessly and broadly criminalizes a necessary life-function. The new law will not, in and of itself, improve enforcement and will require an increase in dedicated resources if its enforcement is to exceed current results. 



“Anti-Sit” Laws 


Unfortunately, the trend of criminalization of the homeless is not slowing; from 2006-2009, cities across the US have seen a 7% increase in laws prohibiting “camping” in particular public places, an 11% increase in laws prohibiting loitering and increases in anti-panhandling laws (“Homes not Handcuffs: the Criminalization of Homeless in U.S. Cities” 10-11). In 2010, San Francisco joined the ranks of Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, Seattle, Portland, and Palo Alto, among others, in enacting some version of an “anti-sit” ordinance, despite heated debate and public protests over what many considered to be a violation of the civil rights of one of the most vulnerable populations. 



Constitutionality of “Anti-Sit” 


While the proposed initiative states that it will be enforced in a constitutional manner, by its very nature, the proposed “anti-sit” law is unconstitutional. 


First the measure is written in a way that is narrowly focused on a specific population of people – the homeless. 


Throughout the findings it talks explicitly about the “homeless, mentally ill, and other disadvantaged residents”. It describes the $2.8 million dollars in services for the homeless that the city funds annually. It also states that public spaces have become inhospitable because of “groups of individuals, often with dogs, have taken over sidewalk areas in those districts” “obstructing pedestrian access, intimidating pedestrians…” “These encampments also result in litter, debris and waste”. There are already a number of laws to deal with obstructing the sidewalk, intimidating and harassing individuals, and littering, which can be enforced to deal with problems resulting from encampments. 


It continues to talk about “encampments” and states that “Although state and local laws address various specific problematic behavior … enforcement of such laws to an extent sufficient to reverse the trend described above is infeasible, because it would require a level of police presence and resources that are not available, and would divert public safety resources from more serious crimes.” That statement is a good reason why we should not adopt an “anti-sit” law. While it will be on the books, ultimately without creating more affordable housing and helping connect people to housing and services, we are not going to solve the problem but instead push people to different parts of the city, whether they may be other commercial districts or even residential neighborhoods. It would also would take our Police away from addressing other crimes, thereby affecting public safety, and would require significant resources in terms of police time, and the jail and prison costs if the individuals end up receiving warrants and become arrested. The financial implications have not even been discussed or quantified and are not described in the ballot question or City Attorney’s Analysis of the proposed measure. 


The findings which describe the legislative intent of the measure, specifically state that the purpose of this measure is to deal with the homeless, mentally ill and disadvantaged persons who sit on sidewalks and create encampments on sidewalks. 


The way the measure is also crafted, includes a number of exemptions that exclude situations in which the non-homeless would sit on the sidewalk, such as “A public bench or bus stop”, city permitted events like “Off the Grid”, and sidewalk seating at restaurants, while allowing the homeless to be cited for sitting on the sidewalk. 


Also stating that the law will not be “applied or enforced in a manner that violates the US Constitution or California constitutions” when by the way it is written it likely violates the constitutions, is absurd. Also since its overt purpose is to be enforced to deal with homeless individuals, it appears that it would be unconstitutional in how it would be applied. 


It appears that the measure facially is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment since its overt purpose is targeted enforcement and the removal of particular people, based on economic and housing status or their perceived offensiveness, independent of any criminal wrongdoing, and would not ensure equal protection under the law. In the City of Chicago v. Jesus Morales (199 527 U.S. 41), Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the court that freedom to remain stationary in public “for innocent purposes is part of the “liberty” protected under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. We have expressly identified this “right to remove from one place to another according to inclination” as “an attribute of personal liberty” protected by the Constitution. 


Moreover there are laws already in place to deal with obstructing sidewalks and problematic behavior. Any criminal behavior can be addressed separately. 


Alms begging is a state constitutionally protected activity in California, as found in Jack Carreras v. City of Anaheim (1985 768 F.2d 1039). An “anti-sit” law would most likely have a disproportionate impact on panhandlers, given that panhandlers frequently sit as part of their expression of supplication. In Berkeley Community Health Project v. City of Berkeley (902 F.Supp 1084) the US District Court Northern District California found Berkeley’s anti sit/lie law to be unconstitutional. Numerous laws in Cincinatti (Clark v. City of Cincinatti), Salida, CO (Case No. 97CR62, Colo. Dist. Ct. 1998), and Portland OR (Oregon v. Kurylowicz) have had laws prohibiting sitting and lying thrown out in court on the same constitutional grounds. 


Additionally, Berkeley’s proposed anti-sit initiative could be found unconstitutional Eighth Amendment grounds of Cruel and Unusual Punishment. In most cases, people do not sit on sidewalks with malicious intent and those that do have malicious intent typically are engaged in other methods to “vex, annoy or injure”. 


In Florida v. Earl L. Penley (276 So.2d 180 Florida Second District Court of Appeal), the court found: 


“We find that there is a marked similarity between this ordinance and most vagrancy legislation in that both provide for punishment of unoffending behavior…the ordinance here under scrutiny draws no distinction between conduct that is calculated to harm and that which his essentially innocent.” 


In Jennings v. Superior Court the court stated “the welfare of San Francisco, if jeopardized at all by obstructers of the sidewalk, is jeopardized only by those who act with malice.” Sitting, absent other criminal activity, is an innocent activity. If someone is sitting in a way to deliberately obstruct the sidewalk, after being warned, then that is a criminal act and they can be cited. 


In Jones v. City of Los Angeles the Ninth Circuit found that “Whether sitting, lying or sleeping are defined as acts or conditions, they are universal and unavoidable consequences of being human”. While the Jones decision was depublished it was not depublished for any flaws in legal reasoning but due to settlement between parties. 


These cases illustrate how a legal challenge to the proposed anti-site law could find the law unconstitutional. Additionally, it is duplicative of existing laws already on the books. 



Efficacy of “Anti-Sit” 


The passage of “anti-sit” by San Francisco, our neighbor across the Bay, provides a unique opportunity to analyze its implementation and preview its likely impact in Berkeley. Earlier this year, the City Hall Fellows in San Francisco released a report titled “Implementation, Enforcement and Impact: San Francisco’s Sit/Lie Ordinance One Year Later,” which documented the implementation of the law in the Haight, which is considered “ground zero” for issues of street homelessness. 


Unsurprisingly, the report found “anti-sit” to be ineffective. 90% of the citations issued were to repeat violators of the law, and more than half were issued to just four individuals. “Anti-Sit” disproportionately impacted the chronically homeless individuals who suffer from serious mental, health and/or substance abuse issues and more than 85% of citations were issued to individuals over 30 years of age –generally not the transient youth cited in much of the debate leading up to the passage of “anti-sit.” Additionally, the report found that 58 percent of merchants in the Haight said that the number of homeless in front of businesses remained the same or even increased since passage of the law. 



Costs and Consequences of “Anti-Sit” 


While the background report for the proposed Anti-Sit initiative lists the financial implications as $26,000 for placing the measure on the ballot, the actual real costs of implementing the measure have not been quantified and are significant not only financially, but also morally. 


There are costs to the City in terms of police time spent enforcing the law, arresting individuals who have outstanding warrants, and going to court, which most likely will involve the use of overtime. The more police spend time enforcing an anti-sit law means that less time and resources are available to focus on more serious crimes. 


People who are homeless most likely do not have the resource to pay hundreds of dollars in fines for sitting on the sidewalk. While the law is written to allow community service as an option for the first citation, the more times an individual is cited the more money they have to pay in fines. If people cited do not pay fines they would have to appear in court, and if they fail to appear (which most likely would happen) a bench warrant would be issued and they would have to serve time in jail.  


Additionally, if an individual is cited multiple times they could face a misdemeanor, which would most likely require serving time in jail. If individuals have to serve jail time there are costs involved with arresting and booking inmates as well as court costs. Our jails are already impacted due to the approval last year of Realignment legislation, which requires counties hold more inmates. Having to make room for individuals cited due to quality of life crimes will further impact our jails and create additional costs to Alameda County’s budget. 


So there are real costs in terms of police time, Mobile Crisis staff time, if needed, staff time involved in education about the new law, and court and jail costs, with very little to be gained from enforcing this law. 


That is not even including the costs of having to defend the law in court since it most likely will be challenged. If the City loses, we not only would have to pay for all of the time spent defending the law, but also pay attorneys fees and possibly damages. At a time when our city has faced multi-million dollar deficits, putting the city in a position of liability is not a wise or responsible course of action. 


The impacts of the anti-sit law on the homeless in accessing services are also significant. Criminalization measures make it more difficult for service providers to stay in contact with homeless individuals and establish a relationship with homeless individuals. Additionally, if individuals have outstanding bench warrants for failure to appear or for misdemeanors they would be ineligible for a variety of cash assistance and social services, which they need. An anti-sit law would further alienate an already marginalized segment of our population and would make matters worse in trying to get people out of homelessness. 


An anti-sit law will not solve the underlying causes of homelessness and will result in significant costs to the City. It will create a revolving door that will push people out of the streets and into the criminal justice system. 


Statistics from the Lewin Group show that in nine cities (San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles etc) that the amount of money spent per person in placing people into Supportive Housing or Shelter is significantly less than putting people in Jail or in Hospitals. Supportive Housing or shelter is critical in helping get people off the streets and cheaper than enforcing laws and putting people in jail. 


Despite the ineffectiveness of criminalization measures, the number of communities across the country who have instituted anti-homeless laws is growing. According to statistics from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless, there have been increases in laws throughout the country over the past 6 years. 


This trend towards cities adopting criminalization measures led the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness to release a report “Searching Out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of the Homeless”, which outlines a number of strategies that would be more affective at addressing homelessness such as: 

  • Developing “Housing First” Permanent Supportive Housing
  • Ensure 24-hour Access to Emergency Shelter
  • Create Street Outreach Teams and Provide Safe Havens
  • Countywide Collaboration through Education, Volunteerism and Donations
  • Improve Access to Mainstream Benefits for Persons Experiencing Homelessness

The United States Conference of Mayors at its June annual meeting adopted a resolution “Supporting Searching Out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness” 


Specifically the Mayors Conference resolution stated “that the U.S. Conference of Mayors affirms the value of USICH commends its initiatives to support mayors as they work to end homelessness in their cities and urges its members to review and adopt the recommendations in the report”. 


The main finding of the report is that criminalization measures are ineffective strategies to solve homelessness, and that cities should work towards creating shelter, housing and services to help move people out of the streets and into stability. Unfortunately, the proposed Anti-Sit law completely ignores this reality and instead is pushing a divisive, redundant and ineffective approach to solving a complex social problem. 




There is no ethical, legal or practical justification for the proposed Anti-Sit law. While it stems out of frustration over the state of our commercial districts and the uncomfortable nature of seeing people on public sidewalks, it is a last resort attempt to solve a complex social problem with an overly simplistic, blunt appraoch, and ultimately will not get people off of our streets, but will make it more difficult for homeless individuals to get the assistance they need to get out of the cycle of poverty. It criminalizes rather than confronts the problem. It is also redundant since we already have existing laws to deal with obstructing sidewalks and problematic behavior. Here are some of the reasons why the proposed Anti-Sit law is bad public policy: 


  • Structural factors such as economic conditions (wages/income distribution, employment races, housing costs, access to health care as well as people discharged from prison and aging out of foster care play significant roles in creating homelessness, which often exacerbate individual factors such as mental and physical health, substance abuse and addiction, family stability etc. This creates a situation where a person is less able to compete for scarce social and economic resources and has a higher risk for homelessness. It is wrong to primarily attribute street homelessness to personal choice. The root causes of homelessness are lack of access to housing, economic challenges, and personal and health challenges. The only way to lift people out of homelessness is to provide access to stable housing and services to help move them on a path to self sufficiency.

  • Despite a count of over 680 homeless in Berkeley, only 418 individuals can be theoretically accommodated with existing shelter at peak capacity during limited times of the year. During winter months up to 438 individuals and 49 families can be accommodated in a shelter, which still leaves a gap in which a large number of homeless people cannot access shelter. Berkeley only has 5 daytime drop-in resources, their cumulative capacity is unclear. Also the youth shelter at YEAH is only open during the winter months, so young people on the street, including youth who have aged out of foster care do not have many places to go. There is also a significant shortage of housing with social services in Berkeley. Despite the fact that we spend 2.8 million a year in services, there are clearly significant gaps, and we do not have enough places for people to go.

  • There is no economic correlation between homeless people sitting on the sidewalk and the decline of our commercial districts. There are a variety of factors that have had an effect, such as the current recession and less disposable income, square foot rents, and changing retail needs. According to statistics from the city’s Economic Development Office, Downtown and Telegraph, two of the commercial districts which have the largest concentration of homeless individuals, have seen some of the highest rates of sales tax revenue in the city.

  • We already have many laws on the books to deal with obstructing sidewalks and problematic street behavior. The fact that they are enforced and problems still remain suggest that we need to fine-tune and improve the way we enforce these laws and that enforcing laws alone will not solve the root causes of homelessness. Adopting a redundant, ineffective law with serious consequences is a step back, not a step forward.

  • An anti-sit law would likely be found to be unconstitutional and would be declared invalid. It would also violate people’s constitutional rights.

  • The costs to the City of Berkeley in enforcing an anti-sit ordinance are significant and the costs to the homeless to have to pay citations, serve jail time and likely as a result be denied cash assistance and benefits is significant and will have only make matters worse, not help solve homelessness.

  • Existing sit laws have been shown to be ineffective at getting people to stop sitting on the sidewalk. We already have existing laws to deal with obstructing sidewalks and problematic behavior.

Ultimately, passing an Anti-Sit Law would require the city to spend significant resources with very little measurable benefit; it would further marginalize an already alienated segment of our society; and would not help people break the cycle of homelessness. We need to work together as a community to come up with constructive solutions that will improve people’s lives, not push divisive proposals. My proposal seeks to bring together stakeholders to talk about these very real problems and work together to develop solutions. Homelessness and the problems of people sitting on our sidewalks is not going to be solved through sound bites and cynical political proposals, but through dialogue and a real commitment to working together and investing in housing and services. It is my hope that this proposal can serve as a starting point for discussion, but we should not rush into putting this divisive and redundant measure on the ballot, and instead do what is right, and take the time to work to seek long term, positive solutions. Berkeley has a long reputation as a compassionate city, a city where we respect everyone, regardless of their status, and where free expression is permitted. By moving forward with a thoughtful alternative we can be proud of, we can continue to reflect the values of our community and make Berkeley a model for how we rise to the occasion and not back down from confronting homelessness. 



Unknown, some staff time 



Jesse Arreguín, Councilmember, District 4 981-7140 




  1. 2009-2010 Sales Tax Geographic Area Economic Summaries
  2. “Searching Out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness.” United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. 2012
  3. Berkeley Police Department Training and Information Bulletins #188, 228, 262, 268, and 276
  4. “Costs of Serving Homeless Individuals in Nine Cities.” The Lewin Group. Nov. 2004
  5. “Implementation, Enforcement and Impact: San Francisco’s Sit/Lie Ordinance One Year Later.” City Hall Fellows. Mar. 2012
  6. Text of San Francisco’s Measure M, “Walk the Beat”



  1. “Searching Out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness.” United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. 2012
  2. “State of Homelessness.” National Alliance to End Homelessness. Jan. 2011
  3. “Increases in Homeless on the Horizon.” National Alliance to End Homelessness. Sep. 2011
  4. Koegel, Paul et al. “Causes of Homelessness.” Homelessness in America. 1996
  5. Passell, Jeffrey and D’Vera Cohn. “U.S. Unauthorized Immigration Flows Are Down Sharply Since Mid-Decade.” Pew Hispanic Center. Sep. 2010
  6. Baily, Martin Niel and Douglass J. Elliott. “The US Financial and Economic Crisis: Where Does It Stand and Where Does It Go From Here?” The Brookings Institute. June 2009
  7. Stone, Brad. "A City That Shopped Till It Dropped." New York Times. 20 Dec. 2008
  8. “Homes not Handcuffs: the Criminalization of Homeless in U.S. Cities.” National Coalition for the Homeless. July 2009
  9. “Costs of Serving Homeless Individuals in Nine Cities.” The Lewin Group. Nov. 2004
  10. Kuhn, R. & Culhane, D.P. “Applying cluster analysis to test of a typology of homelessness: Results from the analysis of administrative data.” American Journal of Community Psychology, 17(1), 23-43. 1998.

New: VIDEO: SCOTUS ACA Health Care Decision Panel at U.C. Berkeley

Monday July 09, 2012 - 10:53:00 PM

If you happened to miss this juicy panel at UC Berkeley dissecting the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on health care, watch it here. Via Brad DeLong, here's the schedule of distinguished speakers.

John Ellwood: 00:55 Jesse Choper: 15:00 Steve Shortell: 30:30 Brad DeLong: 45:50 Ann O'Leary: 55:30 Ann Marie Marciarille: 1:07:33 General Questions: 1:19:40 


If you don't have time to watch, read a transcript here.

New: ACLU Opposes Anti-Sitting Measure: Letter to the Berkeley City Council

By Alan Schlosser, Legal Director
Monday July 09, 2012 - 06:19:00 PM

I am writing on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU). Today the Berkeley City Council will be presented with an anti-sitting ballot measure proposal. The ACLU opposes this measure as an infringement of civil rights and civil liberties. and calls on the members of the Council to reject it.

There are already numerous ordinances in the Berkeley Municipal Code that give the police power to confront people who are engaged in disruptive street behavior. There are ordinances prohibiting the obstruction of sidewalks and entrances to buildings (BMC §13.36.0I0; BMC §13.36.020), the solicitation of illegal drugs (BMC §13.36.090),and aggressive panhandling CBMC §13.37.020). The presence of all of these laws against the activities that are actually disruptive calls into question the need for, and purpose of, a law against sitting. It may be that the presence of a panhandler sitting on the sidewalk upsets some people in the business community, who feel it adversely affects their business. But that is not a constitutionally permissible reason to use the police power of the state to get certain people out of sight. Just as the vagrancy laws in the Depression were ultimately found to be a constitutional affront, Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 15G (1972), so laws that make the innocent act of sitting a crime are a mean-spirited and constitutionally questionable response to today's challenging economic climate. 

An anti-sitting law criminalizes an innocent activity. The proposed measure's provisions are sweeping, and even with the exceptions, would encompass a broad spectrum of behavior that no one would anticipate the State would punish. Yet everyone knows that persons in certain neighborhoods and persons who look a certain way are not going be punished if they sit on the public sidewalk or at the curb. Rather, the very purpose of the law is to give the police unfettered discretion to target a very small minority of those who violate its terms--the young, the poor, the homeless, and other marginalized groups. In other words, the unstated but clear modus operandi underlying such a law is that its enforcement will be highly selective and discriminatory. 

Further, this law burdens the First Amendment right of freedom of speech. While the Ninth Circuit in Roulette v. City of Seattle found that a sit/lie law was not unconstitutional on its face, the Court recognized that such a law is unconstitutional if it is applied in such a way to unnecessarily limit free speech activities, 97 F.3d 300 (9th Cir. 1996). Street activities like playing music and panhandling are clearly protected free speech activities, The fact that Berkeley is requiring them to he engaged in while remaining standing will create burdens and obstacles for those seeking to engage in such expressive activities on the public sidewalk, especially elderly and disabled persons. These provisions would be subject to a legal challenge, much as similar provisions were challenged by the ACLU of Northern California in 1995 in Berkeley Community Health Project v. City of Berkeley, 902 F, Supp. 1084 (1995). 

Since San Francisco enacted its own Sit/Lie law, the consequences of this type of legislation has become clear. As detailed in a City Hall Fellows report* released in March, the law there has not resulted in directing homeless people to needed services and support. Instead, it burdens many homeless, chronically ill people with citations they cannot pay. 

This law is a step backwards. It is attempting to move a certain class of persons out of sight rather than provide services and support for those persons. I urge the Berkeley City Council to not rush this proposition to November's ballot, and instead allow time for more community input and consideration of alternative measures. 

* Implementation, Enforcement and Impact: San Francisco's Sit/Lie Ordinance One Year Later, City Hall Fellows, March 2012. Available by request to pgallota@cityhallfellows.org.

Press Release: Arreguín to Offer Alternative to Sit-Lie Ordinance

From Anthony Sanches
Monday July 09, 2012 - 05:14:00 PM

Where: Steps of Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Berkeley, CA

When: Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 at 6:30pm

As Berkeley City Council considers moving forward with the contentious Sit-Lie ordinance dubbed “Civil Sidewalks,” they may have an alternative to bridge the political divide that has widened after weeks of heated debate.

After exhaustive research and consulting with stakeholders, Councilmember Arreguin will be introducing his comprehensive report and Compassionate Sidewalks proposal tomorrow at City Council with hopes that it would head off an expensive ballot measure. 

“Sit-Lie would simply sweep an intractable problem off the sidewalks, but while other communities have reacted in frustration, we should remain resolved in our compassion and unrivaled capacity to find thoughtful solutions –that’s Berkeley at its best. We shouldn’t waste money punting a needlessly divisive issue to the voters when we can come together and adopt a proposal now that will help those in need and make our sidewalks accessible to everyone.” 

The report will be made available tomorrow morning at 10am at vivajesse.com/compassionatesidewalks.pdf


By John Curl
Friday July 06, 2012 - 12:47:00 PM

Copyright © 2012 by John Curl. All rights reserved.

This is the fourth 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. This excerpt discusses his campaign funding, lobbyists, and his own laziness. You can also download a Full PDF. of the entire article.

To fund his career in the Assembly, Bates cobbled together sources that coincided as much as possible with his areas of involvement and concern: “in the end it was primarily union money and some interest groups.” He favored areas where there were few political downsides. Environmental groups, consumer protection, civil liberties, and women’s rights were easy, particularly in Berkeley. Public employees unions brought large numbers of feet to his campaign mobilizations. His supporters included the trial lawyers and the highway patrol. “Some people give money just because they want to have access.” He worked out a somewhat mechanistic paper-rock-scissors hierarchy of issues. “If I run into a conflict between environment and, say, labor, I would choose the environment.” He generally supported whatever organized labor supported, particularly government unions, but apparently more because he needed them as backers than because he believed in the cause. “There was occasion when I thought that maybe I should vote with the employer. But it would have to be a pretty strong case for me to switch because it’s like, Why am I alienating my friends unnecessarily? I mean, if it’s real important, I would switch.” 

Bates thrived in that world. He assigned his staff to thread the intricacies of the agencies of the state bureaucracy “to establish relationships to figure out who the power players were.” He liked to be on the winning side, and figured out what positions to take to be on that side. 

He learned to play political games by the Sacramento rules. “The legislature isn’t, the assembly is not a great deliberative body… in my twenty years, I changed my mind on the floor maybe ten times.” He would confer privately with lobbyists and people in the industry involved, make real decisions behind closed doors, and relegate the public processes as just for show, window dressing: “the hearings become, and the various legislative debates become, secondary.” He would later bring this back room process home to Berkeley when he became mayor. 

* * * 

He continued to raise funds from small donors, but that did little more than pay for itself. “I tried to have some kind of a barbeque, some kind of small person’s fundraiser and maintained a list of small donors. You would raise some money, but it wasn’t a significant amount of money. And then they would have receptions of various kinds in Sacramento where they’d invite the special interests and lobbyists to come, you know, to breakfast or a cocktail party. So that you serve some, maybe five or ten dollars worth of drinks or something, and you would charge maybe $500 to get people to come. In order to get lobbyists to come, it’s a game that’s played, which is you send them an invitation. And this is a lobbyist who now comes before the committee, talks to you about various issues. They receive the invitation to the event, and then they send it to their client, whoever that might be. It might be anywhere from a car company to a chemical company. There are probably 500 lobbyists in Sacramento, and most of them have a number of clients… So they get the invitation, then they decide who they want to invite, if their client would participate. So what would then happen is that in order to leverage their clients’ interests, generally speaking, they’d wait for the legislator to call them. And when the legislator calls the lobbyist, in that phone call, the ethics are very clear. You cannot talk about any business that that lobbyist has before the legislature… In order to be effective, to get people to come, you have to do calls. And then, you know, you could hang up that call, and then call back on another phone that would be a state phone—the campaign phone had to be a private phone—and talk about business that they might have. I mean, it’s sort of like a game that’s played.” 

* * * 

Whenever possible, he took the easy way out. “Over the years I got lazy… I could still get overwhelmingly elected… I hired a staff person…who was a genius at getting press… I did less and I was in the press more… [A] lot of these stations didn’t have news broadcasters. They would actually pick up feeds from services. The state assembly… actually hired a person who did radio feeds… and then send them to like a hundred and sixty stations, or something. Because they didn’t have any staff of their own, they got this feed from this service that they basically ran, this unfettered news. So, it was very good… They didn’t have the news members on their staffs anymore at the various stations, radio stations and television. And they got it free.” 

* * * 


It has been said many times that in California the dominant force has always been real estate development. The California Democratic machine is largely funded by the deep pockets of real estate developers. While Republicans tend to be more the corporate party demanding “no regulations,” mainstream Democrats are pro-development but with regulations. Berkeley is not really any different. Cities need revenue and—due to Prop 13—one of the only ways they can get it is through development. Local politicians need revenue for their campaigns, and many of them get it the same way 

The big commercial property owners and developers are of course the major players. Locally they are organized primarily through the Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA), and the Chamber of Commerce. The university is actually one of the biggest funders of the Chamber. Apart from UC, the downtown property owners may be the most powerful force in town. Although some downtown stores and buildings are shuttered, to a certain extent that is due to the owners’ joint decision to not lower rents to market rates. The invisible hand appears to be handcuffed by the very forces which laud it as the foundation of our society. 

Back in the heyday of BCA and Mayor Gus Newport, the developers funded the opposition ABC-BDC. Then when Hancock was mayor, some of them began to come over to progressives. But in the 1980s and ‘90s progressives weren’t worried about satisfying them; with Bates there has been a quantitative change. Political campaigns are expensive, particularly contested campaigns, and it is not easy to fund them through $10 and $20 contributions. A mayoral campaign back in the 1990s cost around $120,000, and surely more today. But Bates does not have to worry, because his core constituency is developers and big property owners, and they fund his election campaigns. 


John Curl is the author of For All The People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America, with a foreword by Ishmael Reed. 


Berkeley: City, UC Leaders Say They Don't Want Armored Vehicle

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday July 06, 2012 - 10:30:00 AM

The cities of Berkeley and Albany and the University of California at Berkeley said Thursday that they will no longer seek a federal grant of more than $160,000 to buy an armored vehicle. The police agencies of all three public entities recently banded together to seek a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for an armored vehicle that they would share and would be housed at the UC Berkeley campus. But the proposal came under scrutiny at two Berkeley City Council meetings in late June at which council members said they wanted more information about the vehicle. 

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said Thursday that the proposal to buy the armored vehicle was "almost a fait accompli" before the City Council learned about it and credited Berkeley Copwatch, a volunteer police watchdog group, for filing a Public Records Act request that brought it to light. 

"It should have been vetted and brought to our attention and it's very upsetting that that didn't happen," Bates said. 

Bates, Albany Mayor Farid Javendal and UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said in a statement that, "Law enforcement's interest in obtaining a vehicle that would protect officers during situations involving oncoming gunfire, or to rescue victims during such situations, such as occurred at Oikos University in Oakland a few months ago, is understandable." 

But they said that after the planned acquisition came to the attention of campus and city officials, "Campus administrators evaluated the proposal and concluded that such a military-style vehicle is not the best choice for a university setting." 

Bates said, "We are concerned about the safety of our citizens and our police officers, but this approach is not in alignment with our values and we don't believe it is needed." 

He said the three public entities are notifying the Department of Homeland Security that they are declining the grant. 

Bates said he doesn't think the city of Berkeley or the university would need an armored vehicle very often and if they did they could obtain one from nearby cities that have them, such as Oakland and San Francisco. 

He said he, Javendal and Birgeneau "are united in our opinion that we don't need it and we don't want it."

New: Pro-Tenant Slate Chosen for Berkeley Rent Board

Tuesday July 10, 2012 - 10:05:00 AM

According to the official website of the Berkeley Rent Board convention, which took place on Sunday, four official candidates were selected in a close vote: 

"Almost 200 ballots were cast in the overflowing meeting room of the downtown Berkeley library this afternoon, after 7 very qualified and engaging candidates spoke and answered questions. 

"The top 4 vote-getters are (in alphabetical order): 

Asa Dodsworth 

Judy Shelton 

Alejandro Soto-Vigil 

Igor Tregub 

"These 4 will run as the progressive pro-tenant slate in November 2012′s election. The other 3 candidates, Audra Caravas, Patti Dacey, & John Nguyen, were very impressive and hopefully they will pitch in and help elect the pro-tenant slate in this important election." 

A form of ranked-choice voting was used to determine the endorsees. Since the original vote count totals for the fourth place on the slate were very close, separating three of the remaining candidates by only two or three votes, a recount was done to make sure that ballots were correctly tallied.

Press Release: Caltrans to Spend the Summer Re-Paving Ashby/Tunnel in Berkeley

From Caltrans
Friday July 06, 2012 - 10:15:00 PM

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will begin a construction project which involves resurfacing State Route (SR)-13/Ashby Avenue, from Hiller Drive west to San Pablo Avenue, in the City of Berkeley. 

As requested by the City of Berkeley, Caltrans will perform all construction activities, which include grinding and resurfacing Monday through Friday, during the daytime hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nighttime work will be limited to digout repairs at the intersections of Ashby Avenue & Telegraph Avenue, and Ashby Avenue & Shattuck Avenue. All final striping for the project may be done during daytime and nighttime hours. 

The project is expected to begin in mid June 2012 and is anticipated to be completed by early fall 2012. 

Prior to and during all construction activities, posting of NO PARKING signs will be displayed in areas where work will take place. Portable, changeable message signs will also be placed approaching the work zone to warn motorists of any expected or unanticipated delays along SR13/Ashby Avenue, prior to the beginning of the work. 

The first stage of the work will be on the Tunnel Road Section and proceed towards San Pablo, with the intention of completing all construction along Tunnel Road as early as possible to accommodate City of Berkeley emergency responders as we head into the fire season. Additionally, it is Caltrans desire to avoid potential conflicts that could occur during the City’s sewer lining project, between Adeline and San Pablo Avenue. 

It is the Department’s desire and commitment to minimize potential disruptions and inconveniences during this time, while making safety our top priority. Caltrans will inform the public of all scheduled and unscheduled construction events and closures. Additionally, a website will be available to provide the public with the most current updates on this project. 

Please contact Caltrans Public Information Officer, Gregory Townsend, at (510) 286-6115, for any questions you may have regarding this project, or other projects within Alameda County. 

Motorists should allow for extra travel time through the construction zone, and are reminded to be alert for workers and "Slow for the Cone Zone”. Caltrans appreciates your patience as we work to improve the highways. 

For more information:

Berkeley's Fiery 4th and More

By Ted Friedman
Friday July 06, 2012 - 11:35:00 AM
Hats off; hand on heart in Lamorinda July 4th
Ted Friedman
Hats off; hand on heart in Lamorinda July 4th
Wars come and go in Orinda. 4th of July 2012.
Ted Friedman
Wars come and go in Orinda. 4th of July 2012.
Everyone wants to drive a tank in Orinda, but try it here. July 4th, 2012.
Ted Friedman
Everyone wants to drive a tank in Orinda, but try it here. July 4th, 2012.
Lost and found on 4th. This little girl was re-united by police with her mom. Both did a lot of crying. July 4, 2012, Orinda.
Ted Friedman
Lost and found on 4th. This little girl was re-united by police with her mom. Both did a lot of crying. July 4, 2012, Orinda.
Money shot. Fireworks at Berkeley pier, 4th of July, 2012.
Ted Friedman
Money shot. Fireworks at Berkeley pier, 4th of July, 2012.
Back in Berkeley near Berkeley pier, a carnival atmosphere, diversity. July 4th, 2012
Ted Friedman
Back in Berkeley near Berkeley pier, a carnival atmosphere, diversity. July 4th, 2012
Cesar Chavez Park at Berkeley Marina, where we sought shelter near tent, right. Concessionaires dismantle bungee jump.
Ted Friedman
Cesar Chavez Park at Berkeley Marina, where we sought shelter near tent, right. Concessionaires dismantle bungee jump.

While covering the 4th in Orinda, we learned that Orinda, Moraga, and Lafayette have informally merged into Lamorinda. The three bedroom communities, which, in recent years have tried to establish town centers may now have decided there's strength in merging, but the merge is just a demographic construct.

On July 4, the three burgs spoke as one.

What did they say? That people love tanks and U.S. flags, honor their war veterans, and remove their hats and cover their hearts over "the Star-Spangled Banner." Their three-town fete offered a community directory to the soul of a chunk of conservative Contra Costa County.

Parade spectators and participants wore their flags on their sleeves, while baring their souls.

Spawned by a half century of "white flight" to the burbs, Lamorinda flaunted its civic clubs, schools, and veterans groups.

Five hundred Lamorindians cheered the 10 a.m. parade. Too early for Berkeleyans?

Back in Berkeley, we watched a murky day threaten the view of fireworks at the Berkeley Marina. Past haze over the bay has deterred some Berkeleyans from the fiery spectacle by the bay. Berkeleyans may have been deterred, as well, by pushy crowds. 

It was cold and windy, as we arrived at the Marina by bike, threading our way through tiny holes of thousands of pedestrians, who hogged the bike lanes on foot. We successfully fought the urge to blurt, "get the ef out of the way, m-efing tourists." 

The Planet has urged me to cut back on the ef-youse. 

Flags, patriotism, and civic identity were less visible at the marina, where as many as 20,000 thronged the bay-side sanctuary, converting it to a state fair of food and trivial pursuits. Police said they were ready for 50,000, and a big police presence showed it. 

The whole mass of merriment came off without a hitch. Spectators were not daunted by cloud cover, having learned from experience that fireworks will shine through. That's why they call them fireworks. 

Fireworks fans came from communities around the bay, most of them huddled near the pier, where they said they could watch Crissy Field, followed by Berkeley's costly pier eruption. A smaller, colder, hardier crowd gathered at the north side of the marina at Cesar Chavez Park, which earlier had hosted kite-flying, bungee-jumping, and an AK-47 replica B.B. gun shoot, forty shots for a fiver. "I just spent $20," the father of two told me, adding, "lucky me." 

We noticed that some visitors might have rented rooms for the night at the Hilton's Doubletree Berkeley Marina to be near the action. After clawing our way out to get back to Berkeley, we understood why a $200 room at the Marina might be worth it. 

We took cover from the cold winds in the shadow of the AK-47 shooting gallery tent, a spot we rationalized would produce hot shots, but may have been picked for its shelter. 

Our accompanying photo-essay tells the story better than words. 

Our South side reporter was eager to return to the natural fireworks in the hood. 








Richmond Does July 3rd Right

By Steven Finacom
Friday July 06, 2012 - 11:25:00 AM
The cavernous interior of the Craneway event center once housed a Model A production line, then tank and jeep assembly during World War II.
Steven Finacom
The cavernous interior of the Craneway event center once housed a Model A production line, then tank and jeep assembly during World War II.
The July 3rd City of Richmond fireworks burst spectacularly right over the adjacent harbor.
Andy Liu
The July 3rd City of Richmond fireworks burst spectacularly right over the adjacent harbor.
The brick-walled pavilion projects at water’s edge.
Steven Finacom
The brick-walled pavilion projects at water’s edge.
Spectators lined the terrace outside the Craneway to watch the fireworks.
Andy Liu
Spectators lined the terrace outside the Craneway to watch the fireworks.
From the terrace, there was a striking view of a full moon rising over Berkeley and Albany Hill in the distance.
Steven Finacom
From the terrace, there was a striking view of a full moon rising over Berkeley and Albany Hill in the distance.
The World War II era Red Oak Victory cargo ship is part of the expansive Bay view from the Craneway.
Steven Finacom
The World War II era Red Oak Victory cargo ship is part of the expansive Bay view from the Craneway.

The July 3rd fireworks in Richmond this year were indeed a nice occasion.

July 3? The City of Richmond has had the happy thought of not directly competing with other local municipal celebrations—especially the extravaganza off San Francisco’s Embarcadero—but staging fireworks on what might be called Independence Day Eve.

It provides a pleasant diversion before a one-day holiday, and if you’re really a fireworks fanatic you can go twice—to Richmond on the 3rd, then somewhere else on the 4th

Over the years we’ve watched the Richmond fireworks from the home of friends in Marina Bay, from the Marina Bay Park at the waterfront, and from Point Isabel Regional Shoreline.

This year, other friends suggested going to the Craneway celebration. What’s that? It turns out to be an indoor concert by the Oakland East Bay Symphony, and other groups, followed by spectacular viewing of the fireworks.

And it’s free.  

The south, harbor side, end of an enormous brick, steel and glass structure—built in 1932 as a Ford assembly plant for the Model A—has been turned into a huge multipurpose pavilion, glass walled on three sides. Since it projects out into the Bay, you look directly across at the skyline of San Francisco, or back to the southeast at Albany Hill and Berkeley. 

Inside, thousands of chairs had been set up in banks facing a raised stage for the performers. Food vendor booths and informational tables dotted the perimeter. We arrived before 7:00 and there was a crowd already, but still plenty of seats, as well as parking ($10 per vehicle) in lots along the approach road. Spectators continued to stream in for the next two hours until the building and the surrounding outdoor spaces seemed entirely filled.  

The Oaktown Jazz Workshop—a group of very talented young performers—was holding forth on the stage when we arrived. At 8:00 the Oakland East Bay Symphony had assembled, and surged into the National Anthem while the crowd rose and sang along. 

A series of mid-century musical pieces followed, recalling the era when the building was part of the vast shipyard and war production industry in World War II. Christabel Nunoo, a talented 17-year-old soprano from the Young Musicians Program at Cal soloed beautifully on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Rosie the Riveter”, and “Lili Marlene”, and much of the audience enthusiastically sang along on “Oklahoma!” and a medley from the Sound of Music. 

Then, during an intermission, many of those inside pressed from the comfortable interior outside into the stiff wind to await the fireworks. A huge yellow full moon was rising over Berkeley and the flag and light-festooned superstructure of the World War II transport, Red Oak Victory, gleamed across the harbor approaches in the other direction. 

The fireworks, set off from the shore just to the east of the Pavilion, were magnificently large and loud, counterpointed by the Symphony playing six John Philip Sousa marches in the background. As the crowd filtered back inside the music switched to a “Wizard of Oz” medley, another sing-along moment. 

It took a while to get out of the parking lot, but the approach road is a direct line back to 580 and right to Berkeley.  

If you go in future years: 

The Craneway Pavilion is at 1414 Harbor Way South in Richmond. Take 580 to the Harbor Way south exit and drive to the end of Harbor Way South. The Pavilion is at the far end of the huge, beige-brown, brick building on your left. There’s parking along the street, and also, for a fee, in adjacent lots. It’s probably wise to go early to get good parking. 

Things to bring: warm clothing (the building interior is comfortable, especially packed with thousands, but expect a stiff, chilly, breeze off the Bay outside); food and drink (some is for sale, but reached only by long lines); a blanket and portable seats, if you like (there are many chairs provided, but lots of spectators set up camp on open areas of the concrete floor), possibly a flashlight, if you end up parked far away. 

If you come early and the fog isn’t in, there are incredible early evening views across the Bay from the areas around the end of the building. And there’s an adjacent visitor center for the Rosie the Riveter Home Front National Historic Park. 

Watch the websites of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, the City of Richmond, and the Craneway Pavilion for announcements of this event in future years. 






No Justice, No Peace: Darryl Moore Appoints Gertz to Berkeley Commission

Wednesday July 11, 2012 - 02:20:00 PM

Just when you think you’ve heard everything about Berkeley politics, something else even more jaw-dropping happens. On the Fourth of July I got an email from a reader with the subject line “John [expletive deleted] Gertz!” (Though the expletive was not in fact deleted—I didn’t know Gmail allowed that.)

His news? Councilmember Darryl Moore has appointed John Gertz to Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission. John Gertz? What planet has Moore, who is running for re-election for heaven’s sake, been living on for the past seven or eight years?

John Gertz, in case any of our readers has forgotten, is one of the key co-conspirators in the campaign to shut down the Daily Planet, ably reported by Richard Brenneman in the paper in 2009. You can read the whole story from the archives here.

In case you weren’t around then, or you need to refresh your memory, here’s Richard’s lead: 


A few East Bay individuals are threatening to bankrupt the Berkeley Daily Planet unless it stops publishing criticisms of Israel’s policies and actions—opinions and ideas they brand “anti-Semitic.”

Some of them have been contacting the paper’s advertisers, urging them to cancel their contracts. One has created a website dedicated to attacks on the paper.

The expressed goal, in the words of an April 21 e-mail from one of them to the Planet’s executive editor, is to make the Daily Planet “reform, or close, or bleed money until you are forced out of business or die broke.”
Well, as many who read this will know, the print Planet is indeed gone, though Gertz and his associates can’t take all the credit for destroying it. But the scurrilous web site he masterminds is still very much alive, still spewing vitriol about the Planet, our family and various Planet contributors, available on the Internet for anyone (including the clueless Darryl Moore) to consume. Click on the link for the Berkeley Daily Planet Watchdog and see for yourself what kind of person Gertz is. 



The site is a breathtaking collection of insane rantings, for example a stinging denunciation of my late father, a tolerant man who had nothing to do with the paper, as an anti-Semite simply because he—graduated from Princeton in 1934

And Gertz is an equal opportunity accuser, attacking Conn Hallinan, well-known journalist, Planet columnist and member of a distinguished California progressive family, on the left flank: 



“Because Hallinan often deals with esoterica and conspiracy theories, it is not easy to know from what political perspective he writes. So we will tell you now and in bold print:  




That’s (A) not accurate and (B) even if it were, so what? That kind of red-baiting is so over in 2012. 



Accusing critics of Israel’s politics of anti-Semitism is another tactic which has lost momentum since 2009. Three years ago it was relatively uncommon to read frank analyses of mistakes that country has made in its dealings with Palestine in the mainstream press, but now—at least in the better publications—writers have considerably more freedom to speak their minds about what some Israelis are up to. And anyhow, as the charts in the Brenneman report show, the Planet has never carried much news or opinion about Israel. 

Even in 2009, a substantial number of Berkeleyans and others, some Jewish and some not, were brave enough to take out an ad supporting the Planet when it was under attack for John Gertz’s bogus construction of faux anti-Semitism. His hysterical accusations certainly don’t represent Berkeley’s thoughtful Jewish citizens in 2012. 

The Planet is by no means Gertz’s only target—he has been a vindictive fanatic for many years, going ballistic when any possible criticism of Israel is discussed. When the council voted in 2005 to ask for an investigation of Rachel Corrie’s death, he took out after councilmembers who voted to support the inquiry. From an online report at the time: 



“For Gertz, his vendetta over the Corrie vote goes beyond the Peace and Justice Commission. He is focusing on future mayoral elections when two councilmembers who voted for the Corrie resolution, Linda Maio and Kriss Worthington, might run for the city’s top job.  

“The real political objective is that Maio is going down and so is Worthington,” Gertz said in a phone interview, but didn’t specify how he would ensure their defeat. “They refused to rescind their vote on Corrie. That’s it for them. They’re toast.” 



Well, Maio and Worthington are still in office, but they haven’t run for mayor. Maio is even Moore's usual ally in supporting the current mayor's agenda these days. 



What was Darryl Moore thinking when he placed the author of such garbage on the Peace and Justice Commission? Unfortunately, this appointment fits into a pattern of deeply flawed commissioner choices which call Moore’s judgment into serious question. 

The problem became apparent way back in 2005, when Moore appointed to the commission a conservative replacement for the progressive who had been chosen by his District 2 predecessor, the late Margaret Breland. The departing progressive commissioner’s complaint about this can be found here in the Planet’s letters column. 

He appointed his city-paid aide Ryan Lau to the Zoning Adjustment Board, which rules on code violations—and subsequently Lau was exposed as being himself a code violator for constructing an illegal building on his own property. Lau still works for Moore nonetheless, though he’s off the ZAB. 

Yet Moore yanked his appointee Adolpho Cabral from the West Berkeley Project Area Committee because, according to Cabral, he “asked too many questions.” As a result, Cabral is now running against Moore for the District 2 council seat, asking still more questions about the highly questionable proposals for West Berkeley that Mayor Bates and his protégé Darryl Moore are in the process of placing on the November ballot. Moore’s unpopular support for drastic changes to West Berkeley zoning is sure to be a hot campaign issue, since both Cabral and Denisha DeLane, also running in District 2, oppose them. 

More on questionable proposals: On Monday, in one of the first meetings Gertz participated in as a newly-minted Peace and Justice commissioner, he surprised his fellows by his enthusiasm for the Bates Anti-Sitting initiative, which is up for a vote next Tuesday. All of the others, regardless of who appointed them, expressed serious doubts about the value, effectiveness and/or legality of turning sitting on the sidewalk into a criminal offense which could eventually lead to imprisonment for offenders who couldn’t pay fines. When a vote was taken Monday to support sending comments to that effect to the City Council, Gertz abstained when everyone else voted yes. 

Ironically, Gertz doesn’t even live in Moore’s flatlands West Berkeley District 2. He lives on Mariposa Street, firmly situated in the affluent Berkeley hills in District 5. So why did Moore appoint him? 

Money could have something to do with it. Gertz lives handsomely on revenues from the brand trademark of Zorro, which he inherited from his father, an author’s agent who acquired it from the character’s creator in a transaction which was later the subject of a lawsuit by the writer’s heirs. He’d be in a good position to contribute to Moore campaigns, including the current council race, though the amount would theoretically be limited by Berkeley election law. Even more important, however, Zorro Productions, Inc. and John Gertz Productions Inc., the corporations he owns, could contribute to PACs supporting the two Bates/Moore initiatives on the November ballot without limit or disclosure, since the Council has just voted to postpone enforcing newly adopted disclosure requirements until after the November election. 

But simple bad judgment still looks like the best explanation for Moore’s appointment, that or his cozy acolyte relationship with Mayor Tom Bates, who has his own reasons for wanting to curry favor with John Gertz. But Bates might not be in the mix—a useful journalistic maxim is never to attribute to conspiracy what incompetence would also explain. 

It should be obvious to anyone by now that Gertz is both vicious and nutty, a dangerous combination. Everything Moore needed to know about him is a matter of public record—one glance at the dpwatchdog site should have been enough to tell him that Gertz is toxic. Regardless of whose bad idea it was, Moore richly deserves to lose his council seat for appointing the likes of John Gertz to a city commission. 



Perfect Harmony among Berkeley Citizens at Last Night's Watershed City Council Meeting

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday July 11, 2012 - 02:03:00 PM

First, the disclaimer. This is an opinion, not a news report. A couple of the pro-bono reporters who often write for the Planet were at last night’s Berkeley City Council meeting, and they will probably submit reports. Also, there seemed to be a number of reporters from other media in attendance—there’s a good report in the Daily Cal already.

I myself went to the meeting as an advocate for civil liberties, something I’ve been for all of my adult life, from the age of 18 on (and by now there’s a lot of “on” there). When I first came to Berkeley in 1959, Fred Moore was sitting down in front of Hearst Gym to protest what was then mandatory ROTC for all male students, and I was hooked.

(Can you believe that in 1959 all male students at what we then called Cal were forced to undergo compulsory military training, no conscientious objection allowed? We have made a bit of progress since then.)

Fast forward to 2012. Sitting down: an insult to power in 1959, and still making trouble.

Now Berkeley’s formerly progressive Mayor, along with his openly conservative colleagues and a couple of formerly Prog wet noodles who must expect some favors from him, are trying to criminalize the simple act of sitting down on the sidewalk in Berkeley’s commercial districts.

The usual saints came marching in to tell the pols that passing a law to this effect would be…I heard the words illegal, irresponsible, and especially immoral. When they marched, I wanted to be in their number. 

It turns out that actually showing up at a city council meeting is a lot different from watching one on streaming video, as I usually do. For one thing, the video of this meeting seems to have lost its audio after the singing started, so if you were watching at home you might not be able to figure out what was going on. 

Singing, you say? Yes, just when almost all of those lined up to express their opinion about the proposal to put Anti-Sit on the ballot had spoken (everyone but the boss of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce was opposed) folk singer/activists Carol Denney and Andrea Pritchett launched into the rousing anthem familiar from civil rights days and before, “We Shall Not Be Moved”, and the unified audience joined in. 

The three authentic progressive councilmembers (Worthington, Arreguin, Anderson) joined in too.  

(It should be noted here that as the audio started to fade, only one of the three was audible on mike, and while he has a resonant voice, he can’t carry a tune—not mentioning any names of course, but so much for ethnic stereotypes.) 

What was most remarkable about the whole evening was that it was a—well the word watershed comes to mind. The council was supposed to vote on whether to place a bond issue on the ballot. Was it $30 million? 40 million? 50 million? In the confusion that typically marks a Bates-chaired session, who’s counting? 

The stated purpose was streets and watershed—or was it watershed and streets? Max Anderson suggested that there should be specific language in the measure to ensure that persistent flooding in South and West Berkeley be controlled—that would be the watershed part. But as we know, bond measures in Berkeley are treated as blank checks, to be used for whatever the sitting council and/or the staff wants to do with the money after they’ve got it in their hot little hands. (For evidence, see the “restoration” of the South Berkeley Library, now underway on MLK.) The decision was put off until the next council meeting. 

But the real watershed on last night’s agenda was that the diverse audience, some there to oppose the ballot measure asking voters to bless the rape of West Berkeley, others to speak out against Anti-Sit, finally connected the dots. The Anti-Sit people spoke up in support of the small businesses and residents who fear that West Berkeley is being re-zoned for the benefit of the big developers, and the West Berkeleyans realized that Anti-Sitting was yet another move in the lengthy chess match aimed at turning Berkeley over to the large landowners, in this case the ones in the commercial districts. 

There was a clear threat, openly expressed by both councilmembers and citizens, that if the West Berkeley and Anti-Sit measures were sufficiently offensive voters in November might just vote no on everything, even the Streets/Watershed bond.  

At the end of the meeting, everyone was singing along together. 

What actually happened to the Anti-Sit ballot measure? Well, that’s a Brown Act question, isn’t it? The conservative councilmembers fled the scene when the singing started, returning about fifteen minutes later to do something inaudible. All I could hear where I was standing was Kriss Worthington’s repeated request to be allowed to speak on the question before the body, which Bates, as is his habit, shouted down.  

Does the Council have to follow Roberts’ Rules of order? One of our readers sent us a copy of this letter which she wrote to the Berkeley City Attorney: 

Greetings Mr. Attorney,

I was watching the City Council meeting last night when the Mayor illegally cut off council members who requested to speak on the issue of No Sitting and called for a vote. Councilman Kriss Worthington repeatedly challenged this illegal maneuver, but the Mayor proceeded. I would like to add my name to the list of challengers of this illegal action and vote.

Berkeley has a weak mayor system. The mayor is elected at large and is responsible for chairing meetings. Our Mayor has tried to move the system into a strong mayor system and often breaches Robert's Rules of Order. I read a quote today from one of Berkeley's daily newspapers, citing the specific rule that was violated. It follows:

Robert's Rules, Section 42: "The right of members to debate and,
make motions cannot be cut off by the chair's putting a question to vote with
such rapidity as to prevent the members getting the floor after the chair has
inquired if the assembly is ready for the question. Even after the chair has
announced the vote, if it is found that a member arose and addressed the chair
with reasonable promptness after the chair asked, "Are you ready for the
question?" he is then entitled to the floor, and the question is in
exactly the same condition it was before it was put to vote. But if the chair
gives ample opportunity for members to claim the floor before putting the
question and they do not avail themselves of it, they cannot claim the right of
debate after the voting has commenced."

Please overturn the illegal vote and allow council members the rights and privileges accorded in the Rules.

Thank you,

Marcia Poole 

She has a point. But all in all, it was a great meeting. The vocal audience was the very model of what’s best about Berkeley: young, old, every shade of skin and personal style, united in their belief that Berkeley deserves better than it’s gotten for the last ten years under the conservative Bates regime.  

Maybe there’s still hope that the city can be saved. There is an election in November, after all, and I think we’re still allowed to vote.

The Editor's Back Fence

Chronicle Columnist Jon Carroll Helps the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Raise Money

Thursday July 12, 2012 - 09:00:00 AM

One of the prizes at the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce's Friday the 13th fundraiser,

"~A 3 Course Dinner and Wine Pairing with SF Chronicle Columnist Jon Carroll and his wife Tracy Johnston, photographer and author"

We emailed Carroll, usually thought of as a liberal, suggesting that the Berkeley Chamber, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are well known for funding conservative political causes, and he might want to reconsider helping them raise money for more of the same.

His response: "Somebody asked; she seemed nice enough. Thanks for the insight."

His email address, for those who'd like to tell him what they think:


John Gertz Caught on Camera

By Becky O'Malley
Friday July 06, 2012 - 12:23:00 PM

For another delicious view of John Gertz, check out today's blog entry from former Planet reporter Richard Brenneman.


Odd Bodkins: The Funny Story (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday July 06, 2012 - 11:43:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Bounce: A prose is a prose is a ... (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday July 06, 2012 - 11:48:00 AM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

New: People’s Republic of Berkeley Now One-Party State (News Analysis)

by Randy Shaw
Monday July 09, 2012 - 04:49:00 PM

Editor's Note: This article by Randy Shaw, a Berkeley resident, first appeared on the San Francisco online site he edits, Beyond Chron,

Berkeley, California, a city whose local activism made headlines throughout the world, is now arguably the region’s least politically engaged city on local issues. Whereas activists in Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco run candidates and struggle for power, the onetime “People’s Republic of Berkeley” is now a one-party state. It has few contested elections, and incumbents serve until retirement. Despite persistent problem street behavior and declining retail activity along Telegraph, downtown Shattuck, and other core areas, 74-year old Mayor Tom Bates, in office since 2003, faces no serious challengers in November. Berkeley remains a city of great activism on state, national and international social justice issues, but the onetime leftist stronghold has the Bay Area’s most laissez-faire capitalist government, with developers and the University of California charting the city’s course.

Because Berkeley in the 1960’s is the subject of countless books, articles and even a film by that name, the public image of the city as a stronghold of local activism endures. And while Berkeley remains full of activists on non-local issues, the city’s once thriving local political scene has become the local political backwater in contrast to the energetic struggles in nearby cities.

How did Berkeley go from local activist hotbed to sleeping bedroom community? Two key factors.

The Decline in Student Local Activism

I got involved in Berkeley politics while attending UC in the 1970’s. Current Berkeley State Assembly member Nancy Skinner followed the same path, and many local Berkeley activists did as well. But this has since changed for both demographic reasons and due to the school’s transformation into a center not of activist-oriented students but for those with 4.0 plus high school grade point averages majoring in business, engineering, and the sciences.

Prop 209’s killing of affirmative action made UC Berkeley a campus where African-American students are disproportionately those on the basketball and football teams. Latino students are in numbers far less than their proportion to their presence at other UC schools. The small numbers of Latino and African-American students have made UC Berkeley a much less activist school, recent protests over tuition hikes notwithstanding.

Prop 209’s passage was then joined with UC Berkeley’s transformation into a school typically requiring 4.0 plus grade point averages to get acceptance. UCB has gone from being a farm system for future local political activists to an incubator for those seeking to work in the corporate and high-tech sectors.

Rising Single-Family Home Prices

Berkeley is a case study for a city’s ability to become more upscale without adding any luxury housing, or any new “market rate” condos. It disproves the view espoused by some San Francisco progressives that barring such housing limits or even slows such an upscale trend, which is instead driven by rising demand and a steadily appreciating existing housing stock.

I knew Berkeley was changing back in the 1990’s when one of my new neighbors was a registered Republican. He was the CFO of a large San Francisco law firm and his wife worked at UC Berkeley, which is why they relocated to the city from the South Bay. She told me at the time that her husband did not think he could “handle” living in Berkeley, but was pleasantly surprised. They didn’t live long in Berkeley, but made an enormous profit upon resale.

Increasingly a bedroom community for San Francisco and the South Bay, most Berkeley residents are completely disconnected from, and uninterested in, local politics.

The One-Party State

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Berkeley politics was bitterly divided over rent control and development. Activists saw elections as having enormous consequences, as the progressive Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA) faced off against the more conservative Berkeley Democratic Club (BDC).

I recall the emotional 1979 campaign that elected Gus Newport as BCA’s first mayor, and the passion surrounding Tom Bates’ defeat of BDC’s two-term mayor Shirley Dean in 2002. Dean had backed every major development project proposed for Berkeley, battling progressives who supported innovative economic revitalization strategies and more responsible development.

Bates soon became the candidate of landlord and development interests. Yet he has faced no insurgent opposition from his left -- which lacks an effective political base in local Berkeley politics -- and is primarily opposed by anti-development forces lacking a unified political agenda.

The first casualty of a one-party state is the loss of innovative policies. Berkeley, the city that first banned styrofoam cups, pioneered recycling, diverted traffic from residential streets, led the national campaign for South African divestment, enacted the first Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance and the first California rent control law, has gone into government by auto-pilot.

The bold plans to open Strawberry Creek in downtown, the transformation of Center Street into a pedestrian mall, and other strategies to distinguish Berkeley from other cities have been abandoned. Instead, the Bates government offers yet another "sit lie" ordinance for the November ballot, and looks for ways to expand the tax base by encouraging whatever developers desire to build.

A one-party state also removes grassroots challenges to powerful interests. With few Berkeleyans paying attention to local government affairs, developers and the University now call all of the shots.

Bates’ government via auto-pilot and zealously pro-development stance could be justified if downtown Berkeley had improved during his decade as mayor; but it is remarkably little improved, and once thriving Telegraph Avenue has greatly regressed, a victim of city inaction.

Bates is a symptom of a deeper disengagement and local civic malaise. It would be great if he recognized that the city needed new energy and more innovative leadership and voluntarily stepped aside, but his identity is apparently too tied up with being a politician; it’s not his fault that Berkeleyans seeking a new direction are unable to mobilize to this end.

Few New Faces

Like other one-party states, Berkeley’s politicians and key activists are pretty much unchanged year after year. State Senator Loni Hancock was a two-term Berkeley mayor and former Assembly member from the city; her husband, Bates, represented Berkeley in the Assembly for two decades until forced out by term limits.

Most of those involved in local Berkeley politics are over sixty years of age, having gotten involved before the shifts of the 1990’s away from local engagement. They continue to fight with the one-party rulers over issues like Iceland or West Berkeley zoning, but few in Berkeley are actively engaged in such issues.

Is there another city with a rich activist tradition whose incumbent officials never face tough re-election challenges? Such challenges require a local body politic that cares about what’s happening in their city, a dynamic Berkeley has sadly lost.

To find what Berkeley once offered in the way of local activism one must go to Richmond. The Richmond Progressive Alliance is like the Berkeley Citizens Action of the 1960s, 1970’ and 1980’s, an “outsider” movement that innovates and challenges rather than simply surrenders to entrenched interests.

I wrote in September 2006 that Mayor Bates’ lack of a competitive challenger reflected a “city in twilight.” Twilight has turned to darkness, as the pressing national economic crisis has moved even more Berkeley activists to focus outside local affairs.

New: Please Stop Picking on John Gertz

By Paul Larudee
Monday July 09, 2012 - 04:29:00 PM

The appointment of John Gertz to the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission corrects a gross inequity, just as the appointment of John Bolton as US Ambassador to the United Nations and Daniel Pipes to the U.S. Institute of Peace corrected inequities in those institutions. This is because these institutions have no counterpart. There is no Berkeley War and Injustice Commission, Divided Nations or U.S. Institute of War. As a result, there is no appropriate place to appoint such individuals. For that reason, the only alternative is to appoint them to the existing institutions. 

There have been a few attempts to create counterpart institutions in the past, but they have been rather clumsy. In 1949, for example, the Truman administration created the Defense Department. Unfortunately, it abolished the War Department at the same time. It could have left the War Department in place and created a Peace Department, or created an Offense Department to go with the Defense Department. Because it did not, however, the Defense Department has been doing double duty ever since (and in fact mainly offense). 

Given the lack of fair and balanced institutions in government, however, the only solution is to put the foxes in with the hens. Accordingly, I wish to suggest the appointment of Jamie Dimon as Chairman of the SEC, Bernie Madoff as Secretary of the Treasury and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. 

In the meantime, please give a fair hearing to the credentials of John Gertz. He asks for Israel only the same rights as for the United States: the right to remove or exterminate the existing indigenous population and replace it with immigrants of the right ethnicity. In addition, the U.S. has had two hundred or more years of institutionalized racism, and Gertz asks no less for Israel. Until Berkeley institutes a Racism and Genocide Commission, therefore, I think it is only fair to place him on the Peace and Justice Commission.

New: Censorship in Berkeley: the Daily Cal and the Peace and Justice Commission

By Joanna Graham
Monday July 09, 2012 - 04:23:00 PM

This past spring, an energetic sales rep from the Daily Cal cold-called Rod Driver, a Rhode Island resident who had purchased ad space in the paper once or maybe twice before, during the divestment controversy of 2010. Driver, who runs (the small) Justice First Foundation, duly submitted an ad featuring material taken directly from the website of If Americans Knew, a nonprofit foundation run by journalist Alison Weir which is dedicated to media watchdogging and the dissemination of information about the Israel/Palestine conflict. Unfortunately the Daily Cal ran the ad incorrectly three times. On May 21 they finally ran a free, make-up corrected version

By that time, however, the spring semester staff, which had made the decision to run the ad, had been replaced by the summer staff. The incoming editorial page editor Jonathan Kuperberg and editor-in-chief Stephanie Baer apparently did not like the contents of the ad which they were contractually compelled to run. They dealt with the issue by also publishing two letters attacking the ad, one from Vladimir Kaplan of San Mateo headed “Ad illustrates essence of anti-Semitism, lies” and one from Thyme Siegal, a Berkeley Peace and Justice Commissioner (identified in her Daily Cal letter as such) headed “Anti-Israel ad breaks trust, propagates lies.” Both of these letters contain major misstatements of verifiable facts and both, as even the headings indicate, are defamatory, since in fact the ad is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel (whatever that means), nor does it propagate lies, since, although the ad contains some non-neutral language, every assertion in it is verifiably true. 

Alison Weir learned of the situation almost immediately and submitted a rebuttal to the Daily Cal which Baer and Kuperberg initially refused to publish. Finally, after a great deal of back and forth during which Weir, somewhat unwillingly, rewrote her letter to meet their stated objections, the Daily Cal did publish her second version

As the self-appointed watchdog on Zionist censorship in Berkeley, I wrote an op-ed for the Daily Planet at that time, but after Weir’s letter was published, despite the difficulties and resistance she’d encountered, the matter seemed of too little general interest to deserve comment, so I shelved my remarks. However, other developments over the past month have caused me to change my mind. 

First, Rod Driver, the man who placed the ad, has also submitted a letter to the Daily Cal which so far Baer and Kuperberg, in total disregard of journalistic ethics and with the flimsiest of explanations, are refusing to publish. Second, on June 12, Berkeley Councilmember Darryl Moore appointed John Gertz to the Peace and Justice Commission. 

In her July 6th editorial Becky O’Malley explains the history of John Gertz with both the Peace and Justice Commission, which he attempted to pack (probably successfully) after their vote to support an inquiry into the death of Rachel Corrie, and with the Daily Planet, which he dislikes because of the paper’s policy of publishing (nearly) all letters received, including those critical of Israel. Gertz, along with Jim Sinkinson and Dan Spitzer, methodically and with a high level of threat, went after the paper’s advertisers. In the middle of the Great Recession, they were successful in reducing the Planet’s revenues by a significant percentage. Although their campaign was not the only reason for the demise of the print edition, it was a major factor. 

O’Malley mentions in her editorial that within the past several years, the public space in which to discuss Israel critically has widened considerably. (The fact that she should have to say this in a country in which free speech is constitutionally protected is a testament to both the power and the inherent un-Americanism of the Zionist lobby.) Alas, though, the pall of censorship appears to lie still over Berkeley. 

Consider, one. The Daily Planet, Berkeley’s primary source of news and information on local issues, exists now online only and with far fewer resources. It was destroyed by John Gertz et alia in order to prevent discussion of Israel outside permitted Zionist parameters. 

Two. The Peace and Justice Commission, created by initiative as an interface between citizen concerns on issues of peace and justice and the city council can no longer function as intended because of meddling on behalf of Zionist interests by…John Gertz. 

And three. The Daily Californian, our other source of local news, prints defamatory lies and then refuses to allow the person defamed to respond. Who wrote one of the defamatory letters? Thyme Siegel, Peace and Justice Commissioner appointed by Gordon Wozniak, whose former appointee, Jonathan Wornick, opined he hoped Becky O’Malley would die and e-mailed an anti-Muslim rant to his fellow commissioners. In a Daily Planet commentary John Gertz once stated that his commission packing had consisted of lobbying three city councilmembers. Wozniak’s appointments since indicate that he was one of the (successfully) lobbied. Darryl Moore may be another. 

In my first op-ed on this subject, all those years ago, I compared the Zionist lobby to the all-seeing eye of Sauron, Dark Lord of Mordor. What developments in Berkeley since have shown is how few people it actually takes keeping their eye on possible weak points such as newspapers and city commissions to control discourse almost completely on behalf of Israel. 

Part of the reason this works is that the public, beleaguered by many things, is not making the connections. If institutions like the Daily Planet fail or like the Peace and Justice Commission are deformed, who is to notice that the ultimate reason was protection of the perceived interests of the state of Israel? 

In one way I disagree with O’Malley’s characterization of John Gertz. Yes, he believes many crazy things. But he is not an over-the-top lone psycho. Imagine him and his gang replicated in every city, town, and village in the U.S., all believing the same things and fulfilling the same function. That’s what exists. And that’s why Benjamin Netanyahu can come to the U.S., insult the president to his face, and then get 28 standing ovations in Congress. John Gertz and his ilk are winning. They are winning right now in Berkeley. And they are winning in Washington, D.C. 

This win is not trivial. Behind the U.S. war in Iraq were not oil companies but Zionist neocons working quite openly on behalf of Israel’s interests. Now many of the same people, openly supporting war against Iran, also and even more clearly for Israel’s sake, are on Romney’s foreign policy team. The Obama administration has already been moved far further than it would apparently like in the direction of such a war. Now more than ever the American people need to have free open dialog on this as on all other issues—but John Gertz has waltzed himself onto the Peace and Justice Commission to make sure that at least here in Berkeley we don’t. 

What can we do about this? Well, for starters, please contact Stephanie Baer at the Daily Cal and demand that she publish Rod Driver’s letter. And one way or another, let Darryl Moore know that he’s just made a very bad mistake. 

New: Banned in Berkeley on Berkeleyside

By Thomas Lord
Tuesday July 10, 2012 - 09:47:00 AM

I have been banned from commenting on the site Berkeleyside.com. Twice, actually. There I (formerly) wrote as "Bruce Love" and prior to that as "dasht".

I have gotten praise over the past couple of years from a few fans of my comments there and I have been told there are still more that appreciate my efforts. I am sorry to have to tell those people that I am forced to leave and not return to Berkeleyside. I am driven away for standing up to some of the obnoxious anonymous accounts that have haunted Berkeleyside.

With that in mind, I thank the Berkeley Daily Planet for giving me a chance to announce my second banning, and to explain my absence from berkeleyside.com

I was banned in early July — just in time for July 4th. From one side of the horse's mouth:

From: Lance Knobel

To: Thomas Lord

We try to be thoughtful in the decisions we make about comments.
There are many times where it's not easy to decide, given our bias
towards allowing openness.

I think your recent post suggesting you might take legal action
against commenters (and Berkeleyside?) crossed a line. It could well
have a chilling effect on commenters who worry that someone might
ensnarl them in legal action that could be costly and time consuming. By
no stretch of the imagination is that the kind of comments section we
want to have.

We've exchanged emails in the past about the relentlessness of your
comments. I think sometimes you have interesting points to make. That's
why I've long been reluctant to stop you from commenting on
Berkeleyside. The same is true for some other commenters. But I think
we've reached the stage where either you either take a voluntary break
from commenting on Berkeleyside or we'll endeavor to stop you from
commenting. I know you're technically adept enough to circumvent
whatever we do, but we'll try to keep you out of our comment

If you take a voluntary break — say for the month of July — I'd be
happy for you to return if you can restrain the number and length of
your comments. I hear often from readers who feel intimidated by you in
the comments. You're good at argument, you have many facts at your
disposal, and you too often use that to bully others into submission.
That needs to stop on Berkeleyside.

This is the second time I was banned. The first time was after engaging in a number of arguments in the comments, mainly with Laura

This time, Knobel complains particularly: "I think your recent post suggesting you might take legal action against commenters (and
Berkeleyside?) crossed a line."

He refers to a comment in which I told an anonymous commentator who goes by "The Sharkey" that I felt his behavior towards me had reached a point of giving me reasonable fear for my safety and that I insist he stop —and my warning extended to other, unspecified anonymous accounts. Such a warning is, to the best of my understanding, a required step towards invoking California's cyberstalking laws in self defense. That is why I made the warning. Because I issued the warning, the banning was triggered. I am all for spirited public debate but I am not down for the kind of harassment and intimidation some of Berkeleyside's famous anonymous comments have dealt out. Apparently, Berkeleyside would prefer the conduct of those anonymous accounts to my own comments — so I am banned.

I'll live with that, I guess: Let Berkeleyside's brand stand, in part,for banning me just as they've forced my "brand" to stand for their banning me.

I think it is important I reply to this bit that Knobel wrote:

If you take a voluntary break — say for the month of July — I'd be
happy for you to return if you can restrain the number and length of
your comments. I hear often from readers who feel intimidated by you in
the comments. You're good at argument, you have many facts at your
disposal, and you too often use that to bully others into submission.
That needs to stop on Berkeleyside.

I have commented at length about a select set of issues on Berkeleyside generally taking what I think to be a progressive stance. Those who argue against or complain about me most strongly in public have mostly objected to those positions. I have been in a minority on Berkeleyside for representing progressive views, and so the ban is also in effect a partial suppression of progressive views.

In my comments there I have tried to bring to the table facts, logic,nuance, civility, flourish, and humor. I confess to using facts and logic to make my points. I confess that facts and logic flummox and intimidate some people. 

I don't think it was appropriate to ban me for it but what is done is done: 

In reply—I am insulted by and refuse the condescension of Knobel's offer. You owe me an apology, Lance, not conditions for my return. 



City Council Plans Vote on Tuesday to Put MUP On November Ballot

Friday July 06, 2012 - 11:20:00 AM

After directing staff to return on July 10th with language to place the Master Use Permit section of the West Berkeley Project before the entire city on the November ballot, Council is set to vote on the issue this coming Tuesday. The MUP provisions in all their myriad detail will be on the ballot, but the simple, summary title of the measure (what most people will likely read) states: “Shall an ordinance adopting amendments to the West Berkeley Plan and the Zoning Ordinance to allow additional development flexibility and heights up to 75’ in some areas on a limited number of large sites in West Berkeley, conditioned on community benefits for West Berkeley such as Aquatic Park improvements, open space, affordable artist work space and employment programs and providing for further protections with respect to development adjacent to Aquatic Park, be adopted? YES or NO.”

By placing the MUP on the ballot, Council members supporting this action pre-empt a possible citizen referendum, assure the issue will be decided in the next 6 months, and are able to frame the issue, as seen in the above ballot description. As part of the same item on the 10th, Council will also vote on whether to adopt the MUP Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) and send the issues of Community Benefits, Aquatic Park MUP provisions, and MUP site aggregation back to the Planning Commission. The pdf with the full text of the MUP provisions being placed on the ballot can be downloaded here.


Important Questions For The Council, the Citizenry, and WEBAIC  


WEBAIC has historically refrained from taking positions on electoral matters. Thus far during WEBAIC's existence there has never been a ballot item so directly affecting the zoning of West Berkeley's industrial districts, the habitat upon which our members and constituency depend - the land base WEBAIC's is pleged to maintain in its mission statement. Beyond this issue is the question of what is an effective public policy process that can lead to a successful outcome. If stakeholders haven't been notified of a process directly affecting them, thus denying them the ability to reasonably participate in decisions affecting their lives and property, is that process legitimate and can it claim a legitimate result, especially when significant sectors strongly object to its conclusions? And is it proper to let the entire citizenry decide extremely complicated matters of zoning (hard enought for those deeply involved to understand) that will have relatively minor effects on them, but can have enormous effects on those living and working in West Berkeley, especially when an alternative exists to create concensus by continuing the process with those who had been unaware of it now included?
These are questions all of us must attempt to answer as we go forward. 


MUP Ballot Provision Highlights

Proposed West Berkeley Plan Amendments:  

Two amendments proposed: 1.) Allows sites comprising a full city block under one ownership as of August 1, 2011 to be eligible to become an MUP. Presently the West Berkeley Plan limits MUPs to sites of 5 acres or larger. 2.) Removes density standard of one unit per 1,250 square feet for MU-R property as part of an MUP. The proposed, new residential density standard is the same as San Pablo Avenue’s standard.

Proposed Master Use Permit Development Standard Provisions:

Ownership Requirements To Qualify For An MUP: ''...parcels shall be considered to be in the “same ownership” if the same person or entity has a greater than 50% ownership of each parcel.”

Parking Requirements:
Since the inception of the West Berkeley Project WEBAIC has been working to have the irrational proposal allowing the possibility of a development of hundreds of thousands to millions of square feet to provide no parking. This proposal was finally removed at the last Council meeting and replaced with a proposal to allow a reduction of off-street parking requirements of up to 50%.

Building Heights:
There would be a site-wide average height limitation not to exceed 50 feet. except the height limits would not change on San Pablo, Ashby, or University. MUR heights for property on an MUP could go to 45’ (present limit is 35’) but residential would be subject to a state density bonus allowance that could bring heights to 55-60’. An average height of 50’ on an MUP appears to green light as many as 25-30 towers (almost all potential MUPs are between University and Ashby) near the height of the Fantasy Building (90’). As the MUP height limit is 75’ and allows for screened “penthouses” for equipment on roofs – typically 6-15’ – buildings could present as nearly 90’. This potential result is hard to read as the intent of the West Berkeley Plan’s Large Site Development Section (upon which the MUP depends). This section states that there are a “few” large sites over 5 acres that “may require modification of the uses and development standards” in order to create a “feasible” project.

Lot Coverage:
75% of MUPs could be buildings and parking structures would count for lot coverage.

Residential Uses On MUPs:
Residential uses would not be allowed in MULI, MM, or M industrial districts on MUPs but would be allowed where presently permissible and encouraged – in the Mixed Use Residential District (MUR). WEBAIC strongly supports with this policy.

Permissible Alterations of Development Standards and Permitted Uses – Industrially-Protected Space On MUPs For Industrial And R&D), NOT For Office, Retail, or Residential Use:
As part of WEBAIC’s negotiations to maintain robust industrial and artisan sectors while allowing for a reasonable expansion of R&D, WEBAIC agreed that industrially protected space on MUPs could be allowed to be utilized by “Other Industrial” sectors, including R&D. This is reflected in the MUP provision for “The replacement of Manufacturing, Warehouse, Wholesale, or Material-Recovery activities with Other Industrial uses permitted in any of the zoning districts in which the subject property is located.” It should be understood by Council and staff that this provision was intended to relate to existing “protected space” on MUPs, not just to the replacement of protected “activities”. Thus, space that has been used by Manufacturing, Warehouse, Wholesale, or Material-Recovery activities as of 1996 is under the industrial protections and must be utilized by either these uses of “Other Industrial” uses (including R&D), but is not to be used for office, retail, or residential use.

Allowable Percentage Variations of Uses On MUPs:
As written, a zoning officer could OK the change of use on an MUP from it’s original permit of up to 24.99% with an Administrative Use Permit (AUP). From 25% and above a Use Permit Hearing would be required. With MUPs potentially having over a million square feet on them, changing 24.99% appears to be an enormous amount of discretion to allow with a simple AUP.

MULI Uses Not Allowed On An MUR Portion Of An MUP:
Construction products manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, testing and commercial biological research laboratories.

Referrals Back To The Planning Commission:

Referring the following items back to the Planning Commission for further consideration is scheduled to be voted on by Council on the 10th.

Proposed Community Benefits:

The proposal before Council would require any MUP to provide at least one of the following community benefits that deal with either: affordable artist workspace; transportation demand management measures or funds for such; job training for low-income Berkeley residents; affordable work force housing in West Berkeley or funds for such; contribution to environmental improvements at Aquatic Park or other measures to improve West Berkeley environmental quality; payment of prevailing wages for all MUP construction work; providing publicly accessible open space on the MUP; providing space or support for affordable child care for qualifying families; requiring local sourcing of building materials to the extent feasible (WEBAIC suggestion); or providing benefits or funds for furthering goals of the West Berkeley Plan.

The last potential benefit (furthering WB Plan goals) appears overly broad. Plan goals speak to all activity in West Berkeley, some of which require assistance for success, some of which do not. An extreme example that might fulfill this ‘benefit” requirement would be to provide financial assistance or reduced rent to locate Wal-Mart in West Berkeley. an action potentially falling under Economic Development Goal 2, to “Support the growth of regionally oriented retail trade in West Berkeley...”. The intent of the WB Plan can only be understood through an awareness of how the Plan’s Goals were created to work together to achieve a balanced, mixed use economy, where no sector totally dominates and sectors and jobs not “supported” by the market (that could easily be displaced) are encouraged and protected to assure West Berkeley’s continued economic and ethnic diversity. The final, potential benefit (#10 in the staff document) should provide more specific direction.

Additional Referrals Under Community Benefits:
1. a formula for determining the value of community benefits that will be required; 2. a process under which applicants for MUPs are required to demonstrate meaningful attempts to meet and consult with the affected community prior to filing an application; and 3. mechanisms for ensuring that the affected community is involved in evaluation of the adequacy of any proposed community benefits, that community benefits inure primarily to the benefit of West Berkeley, and for overseeing provision of promised community benefits.

Aggregation Referral:
The Planning Commission is tasked with deciding “whether sites that were eligible to be MUPs as of August 1, 2011 should be allowed to increase in size, and if so to what extent and under what conditions.

Aquatic Park MUP Provision Referral To Planning Commission:
These provisions would deal with height limitations, floor area ratios (FAR), setbacks, controls on runoff and site drainage, mitigation measures to avoid or lessen shadowing of Aquatic Park, and protection of significant views of and from Aquatic Park. 


Please Attend:: 


7:00pm, July 10th, Council Chambers - 2134 MLK Way (between Center & Allston)  

All Board the Stand Up for the Right to Sit Down Coalition!

by Carol Denney
Friday July 06, 2012 - 12:37:00 PM

Merchant window space is priceless. Shoppers need to see interesting and enticing items to buy, such as the puppies in the Macys window at holiday time. And political endorsements can backfire for a merchant, costing sales. Which is why it is so impressive that so many businesses have stepped out against the proposed “Civil Sidewalks” law, which would criminalize peaceful sidewalk sitting. 

The businesses and organizations listed below have gone on the record opposing the mean-spirited and expensive effort to target homeless people in commercial districts being put on the ballot this fall by a majority of the Berkeley City Council (opposed by Max Anderson, Jesse Arreguin, and Kriss Worthington). 

If you agree that it’s time to recognize that we can’t police our way out of homelessness and joblessness, you are not alone. Take your shopping and make donations to these supportive businesses and organizations, which agree with you. Thank them for making a common sense stand against the criminalization of homelessness. 

And if you’re a progressive merchant, organization, or resident fed up with scapegoating the homeless, bad policy, and absent leadership, join us at standup4righttositdown@gmail.com . Because the chairapillar is on its way! 


Annaher Grocery (at Dwight & San Pablo) 

Art House Gallery 


Autumn Press 

Bear Basics 

Blondies Pizza 

Café Valparaiso 

Design Action Collective 

East Bay Media Center 

Free Radio Berkeley 

Helly Welly Lamps 

Hippie Gypsy Café 

La Pena 

PM Press 

Rasputin Records 

Revolution Books 

Starry Plough 

Subway Guitars 

Urban Ore 

Youth Spirit Artworks 

On Board- Organizations: 

AFSC Street Spirit 

Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers 

Berkeley Food and Housing Project 

Berkeley Law Chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild (contact: Eve Weissman) 

Berkeley Society of Friends 

Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency 


East Bay Community Law Center 

Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute 

National Lawyers Guild SF Bay Area Chapter 

Peace and Justice Commission 

Youth Engagement, Advocacy & Housing (YEAH) 


New Media, Berkeley and the Wisconsin Recall

By Marc Sapir MD, MPH
Friday July 06, 2012 - 01:53:00 PM

I arrived home from the North Coast July 5 a year older than when I left last week to find in the accumulated mail the pro and con bills on the KPFA recall and the ballots for myself and my wife. My name is there as one of many against the recall. But what I find interesting in the often self-justifying drag downs at KPFA is how little in depth discussion there is about "why" this endless battle occurs. "Why" involves a deeper look at our ourselves, our nation and culture in crisis and without it we just bury ourselves in the personal idiocyncracies. Who believes the local fight is just about Pacifica or KPFA or local personalities? Not me. And certainly not those in the majority (6 of the past the past 7 years on the station board) if one pays attention to how they view politics today. They stake out a claim to a distinct politics--sometimes best represented by the Wellstone Democratic Renewal club's approach. But the fact that KPFA is based here, and that Berkeley has a particular history of political strangeness doesn't help get to clarity either.  

While I was away at the Kate Wolf Music Festival in Laytonville I read a short piece (What Labor and the Left can Learn from Wisconsin) in the July/August issue of Z magazine. It's by Arun Gupta and Steve Horn and you can probably find it on line. What they posit is that the Wisconsin state of affairs which the Republican's mined in the Walker recall isn't just about propaganda and "framing" as Lakoff claims. They say that in Wisconsin it's more centrally about a Rich-Poor Alliance that has a material basis in the inability today of capitalist "democratic" (and Democrat) electoral politics to maintain the form of social democratic governance that addresses the needs of the populace (in Wisconsin it's the rural poor) who backed Walker. Nationally, the public sector workers are the best organized and best off of the working class over these past 3 decades yet the government they work for (under both Parties) wantonly attacks the poor. In other words: "why should some elites (even if they are working class) do well on tax money if I'm getting forever screwed by government?" The Right makes it ideological but ideology isn't at the root of that contradiction. The unevenness in working class rights and the growing gulf between economic strata and "racial" disparities here is what is killing us.  

Extending that analysis I'd point out that major sectors of (us) the North American mostly white upper middle class which includes some people on the KPFA Station Board who probably have a million or three in the bank--continue to be relatively secure even within the US and world capitalist economic and political crisis. These upper strata--reaching from the 1% down to the top 10% of society include many of the well educated, professionals, electronics and defense people, health care people, news managers and anchor people and so on in the millions. These strata, often liberal, operate in the electoral arena with significant local clout (eg. that's how we get Mayors like Tom Bates and Jean Quan who can protect that strata but, having no solutions to Capital's crisis, merely try to co-opt the lower strata). With the level of protection this upper strata still has, why should we expect them to desert the idea of Left-Center coalitions within the Democratic Party, or of a mythical series of potential "progressive" changes through reform of a moribund 2-Party imbroglio bound to Wall Street, or to be too upset with a Democratic Party which, in Convention, promised employees' "right to unionize" by card checkoff legislation and never even brought forth a bill to debate, let alone to a vote in the Democrat majority House of Representatives in 2009 or 2010. No one should be surprised that such an indifferent outlook might favor professionalism at KPFA and a dedication to radio models that are principally didactic more than agitational, more academic than emanating from within communities in struggle for survival. Why should anyone expect our still secure strata of Americans to believe that those who are getting sicker and poorer, thrown out of work and homes, less enfranchised and more tired and beaten up and imprisoned and shot at and deported might best represent themselves rather than be lead by professional activists or professional journalists. (Which is not to say that there is no role for professionals and technical skills. I am a trained professional, after all.).  

The fight over Pacifica and KPFA is not mainly about individual personalities or who is more dishonest or manipulative. That's just too simplistic. It's about class and political direction and what type of new and existing culture our popular media should encourage and enrich. There is a certain irony that some younger members of the paid staff at KPFA are trending toward adherence to an anarchist, anti-Statist brand of socialism while the older paid staff and the Left majority on the Station Board that supports the paid staff are often doing mock battle with organized manifestations of anarchism. Yet the lessons of the Arab spring and the advent of the Occupy phenomena are there to discuss and learn from. So too are the failures of the Wisconsin recall and the failure of the California's Democrat state legislature to pass single payer legislation this year (which they passed twice before) now that there is a Democrat governor whose feet would be put to the fire to sign it. These are the types of issues that underlie infighting at KPFA. Until people come right on out and debate their own vision of what a populist radio station can do culturally and how it can do it while also expanding its financial base in the here and now, the new popular movements in resistance to Capital will lack the full-throated voice in this wilderness that they well deserve and which KPFA was first envisioned to assure. Surely Richard Wolf et al make important contributions to our understanding of this difficult environment, but the voices and the new culture of the people must be heard.

New: Chasing the Red Herrings

By Tracey Rosenberg
Tuesday July 10, 2012 - 10:56:00 AM

This misguided recall attempt has taught me a lot. In my professional life as a public interest advocate, I often sit in rooms with various elected officials. I visit them after they have been besieged by lobbyists from AT&T, Verizon, or Comcast. It's hard to tell them I can't bribe them, threaten them, bully them, I can only ask them to do what is right, even if it means they may lose their elected seat. I am, way too often, met with a bit of a blank stare. 

Only yesterday, a member of KPFA's staff who shall remain nameless, said to me if I "came out with a public statement opposing any layoffs at KPFA, they would tell their friends and listeners to vote no on the recall". That is at least the 10th time that's happened. Folks, I can't do that. 

I don't want to bore you with the collision between dirty politics and idealism. We've all been there. But I want to remind you what happens when service to keep sustainable a struggling institution becomes a public circus. 

Pressure tactics and bullying campaigns aren't pretty. Suggestions that principles can be overcome to "hold onto board seats" are worse. Making examples out of people who stand up to pressure is behavior I attribute to AT&T, not KPFA. So thanks for all the suggestions that I can make this go away if I just stop pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, but no thanks. 

KPFA just had its worse fund drive in more than five years, $631,000 in 25 long days of fundraising with $40,000 of that pledged to Fresno. All 3 major fund drives put together in this past year, after fulfillment, won't pay for the current salary and benefits overhead of $1.85 million dollars a year. What can the station do? Get a bigger credit card? 

Democracy Now pledges dropped 66% year-to-year from May of 2011. Evening News pledges dropped 31% .Letters and Politics pledges dropped 25%. After all the progress the station made last year recovering from disastrous $550,000+ operating deficits in 2009 and 2010, it's looking pretty bad again. And just like two years ago, heads are going under the sand and attack knives are coming out. 

Stabbing people in the back is a juicy distraction from building a road back to sustainability. It didn't help California much to recall Gray Davis, did it? KPFA needs a sustainable base to operate as a community radio station on a budget that is not going to be 4 million dollars a year again for a long time. It can do some amazing things on 3 million dollars a year. Stations all over the country produce remarkable radio and serve as vital community resources on far less than that. Independent media is remarkably resilient as a force for social change and justice. But KPFA cannot do so if it is constantly ripped to pieces in a battle to maintain a cost structure that is too high and has been for years and years. 

It's understandable how we got here. In the excitement after the '99 campaign to move to an internally democratic structure, donations were high, and horror over the occupation of Iraq helped to underline KPFA's importance. When you got more money, you spend more money, Lots of new staff came on-board. From $1.4 million a year in 2002 to a high of $2.2 million dollars a year, an increase of more than 40%. But in the background, membership was starkly declining and by 2009, it had dropped from a high of more than 26,000 people to barely 22,000, no doubt sped along by the economic collapse of the fall of 2008. Collision course. 

When facing a turning point, you can react two ways; blame and avoidance, or finding the opportunities in new challenges. Unfortunately KPFA, and Pacifica has been largely bogged down in the first. Instead of asking the question of “how can we change the world with less resources”, we've been asking the question "whose fault is it that we have less resources?". Wrong question. 

I understand that Brian Edwards-Tiekert and his supporters may feel a bit on the spot. As KPFA's local board treasurer, he was heavily involved in the preparation of budgets for fiscal years 2009 and 2010 that resulted in massive operating deficits of half a million dollars. They blithely projected listener contributions at hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the actual numbers. I remember the discussion of the budget at the local board in the summer of 2009, when he admitted if these optimistic numbers didn't come through, $400,000 in personnel expense reductions would have to happen. The reductions were made 15 months later and he temporarily became a victim of them. I also understand the unhappiness of his former Morning Show then-producer who accepted a severance buy-out, cashed the severance check, demanded her job back, and then filed a massive lawsuit against KPFA when told that was not going to be possible. 

But you can both understand all that and also understand KPFA and Pacifica can't stay in this place forever or we will default on our responsibility to deliver the voices that are unheard and otherwise unavailable to those that need hope and inspiration and renewal. Our role is to facilitate the communication by, for, between and on behalf of the communities most in struggle and resistance and oppression - which essentially is all of us - as the Occupy movement has so eloquently pointed out. 

I don't want to fight. But I also don't want to let a crucial media institution get so bogged down in blame and accusations and charges and counter-charges that it fails to reinvent itself amidst profound economic crisis -- just to avoid that fight. 

So let's see the recall attempt as what it is. A big old red herring.

July Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday July 06, 2012 - 11:53:00 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! 

This Sunday, July 8, 1-3:30 pm at the Berkeley Public Library, Help Me Continue My Advocacy for a Berkeley We Can All Call Home

By Igor Tregub
Friday July 06, 2012 - 10:43:00 AM

I first ran for the Berkeley Rent Board because I felt that everyone in Berkeley deserves a safe, affordable, and habitable home. In my four years on the Rent Board, I have successfully worked to pass a Relocation Ordinance with vastly improved protections, to expand the Board’s education initiatives for tenants and landlords alike, and to successfully advocate for more retrofits of seismically unsafe apartment buildings. In the face of continuing and concerted attacks on tenants’ rights and affordable housing both statewide and locally, I feel that our collective work on these issues is not yet done. Therefore, I have decided to run for a second term if selected by the Berkeley community this Sunday at the biennial Progressive Convention. 

From its inception in 1980, the mission of the Rent Board has been “to regulate residential rent increases in the City of Berkeley and to protect against unwarranted rent increases and evictions and to provide a fair return to property owners. The Board works to ensure compliance with legal obligations relating to rental housing; and to advance the housing policies of the City with regard to low and fixed income persons, minorities, students, disabled, and the aged.” 

As a Rent Board Commissioner and Chair of its Budget and Personnel Committee, I have spent the last four years helping defend, interpret, and enforce the Rent and Good Cause Evictions Protection Ordinances. Over this period, I have developed a close and productive working relationship with our staff and our elected Board. Since 2008, I have introduced several dozen items that have passed the Board (many of them unanimously). I have also been involved on the front lines of multijurisdictional work with the Berkeley City Council and have used this to help effectively shepherd the Relocation Ordinance, Condominium Conversion Ordinance, an increase in funding to the Rental Housing Safety Program, and many others to final adoption. While I have consistently voted in a way that reflects my strong beliefs in the importance of the Rent Board, tenant protections, and affordable housing, I have a working style that is collaborative and focuses on issues rather than personalities. 

With the support of a number of public servants and community partners, I have been able to, in my four years on the Board organize two Seismic Days of Action, which resulted in heightened compliance with the Soft-Story Ordinance for seismically deficient apartment buildings; create the Bay Area Foreclosure Prevention and Resources Workshop for landlords, tenants, and homeowners, which received a Certificate of Congressional Recognition from Rep. Barbara Lee; start two Rent Board internship programs, which has to date given over 20 students and recent graduates to receive public policy experience around affordable housing; lead or participate in dozens of tenants’ rights workshops; facilitate the adoption of four years of balanced budgets and modernization of an aging Rental Tracking System; and work with Councilmember Arreguin on the development and successful implementation of an ordinances that limited the amount of screening fees landlords can charge to prospective tenants. 

If reelected, I would like to focus on three key issues that have dramatically affected the City of Berkeley. In the span of just six months, two apartment fires ravaged the Southside of Campus and left numerous tenants – including several of my friends – without their pets or a lifetime’s worth of belongings. Despite evidence in both cases that the landlords of the two properties let them slide into disrepair and, in one case, did not even replace smoke detectors, all the tenants received from the landlords as compensation was a return of their security deposit. I have been working with the City on an ordinance that will hold landlords accountable for fires that are not the tenants’ fault and stem from documented neglect by the landlord to upkeep the property. Such an ordinance would require landlords to provide compensation for the first few months of rent and moving expenses to tenants as they seek to permanently relocate to a different apartment building. 

I will also begin work on an initiative that could dramatically increase community power. An ordinance that would require landlords to provide to a new tenant a voter registration form in their move-in packet (but absolve the landlord from the responsibility to turn it in to the Registrar) is currently being discussed in several municipalities around the nation, and it would be a great idea for Berkeley as well. 

Finally, I am committed to continue our work together on effective local grassroots outreach, which has already led to successes. Every tenants’ rights workshop, every Rent Board intern, and every Seismic Day of Action has provided one more voice in Berkeley who knows what to do and whom to call if they suffer a loss of habitability in their unit, are not receiving back their security deposit, or discover that the smoke alarm in their building have not been replaced in years. 

In order to continue our work together, however, I need your support. I have pledged to only continue my reelection to the Rent Board if selected onto the Affordable Housing Rent Board Slate at a community-organized convention this Sunday, July 8, between 1 and 3:30pm in the Berkeley Downtown Public Library (2090 Kittredge St. at Shattuck). Any Berkeley resident, regardless of age or whether they are registered to vote in Berkeley, can participate in selecting the four candidates whom they feel are best equipped to advocate for him or her. These candidates, once selected, will run together on the November 2012 ballot. I would be honored to have one of your four votes at this Sunday’s convention and thank you for your support. 

Igor Tregub is a Rent Board Commissioner and potential 2012 candidate. 



THE PUBLIC EYE: Defending Obamacare: 5 Basics

By Bob Burnett
Friday July 06, 2012 - 01:42:00 PM

The June 28th Supreme Court decision that let “Obamacare” stand gives the President, and all Democrats, an opportunity to re make the case that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a good thing. That’s a blessing because many American voters do not understand Obamacare.

The most recent USA Today/Gallup Poll finds Americans evenly split on Obamacare with 46 percent agreeing with the Supreme court decision, 46 percent disagreeing, and eight percent unsure. While Democrats and Republicans divided along Party lines, a slight plurality (45 percent) of Independents approved the ruling.

Nonetheless, many of those who say they do not like Obamacare do not understand it. An April Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll found that only 51 percent of respondents believed they had enough information about how the law would affect them personally. However, when asked their opinion about specific provisions of the law – “the law will prohibit insurance companies from charging women higher premiums than men” – typically a strong majority approved. When voters understand Obamacare they like it. (Even Republicans.)

President Obama, and all Democrats, needs to do a better job of conveying the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Here are 5 points to remember: 

1. Obamacare reflects values not policy. At the root of the healthcare controversy are two different conceptions of America. Most Democrats believe that we belong to a “benevolent community” and work together for the common good; as President Obama has repeatedly said, “It is that fundamental belief: I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper, that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.” Linguists George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling refer to this notion as “The Public,” “everything that our citizenry as a whole provides to all.” 

On the other hand, Republicans believe the US is a collection of rugged individuals, each competing in the free market. Lakoff and Wehling term this worldview, “The Private,” noting “a free market economy depends upon a strong Public.” 

From the benevolent-community perspective government, The Public, is how we organize to get certain things done: build roads, construct schools, and make sure that every American has a minimal standard of living including access to affordable healthcare. From the rugged-individual concept, government is an encumbrance; the Private already provides healthcare for some Americans. 

2. Healthcare is a right not a product. Those of us who believe in the benevolent-community vision of America view healthcare as a right that should be enjoyed by all Americans. Those of us who believe in the free-market vision of America see healthcare as a product; Republican Rudy Giuliani once likened healthcare to a flat-screen TV, “If you want a flat screen TV, buy one; and if you don't have the money, go earn it. If you can't, too bad, you don't deserve it.” 

3. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) regulates insurance companies; it does not regulate healthcare. Obamacare guarantees access to healthcare for all American – except illegal immigrants – by regulating insurance companies. President Obama defended this by observing,

”Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can't get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can't afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or too expensive to cover. We are the only democracy -- the only advanced democracy on Earth -- the only wealthy nation -- that allows such hardship for millions of its people. There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two-year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In other words, it can happen to anyone.”
4. Obamacare will lower insurance costs. The Affordable Care Act will lower insurance premiums for most Americans. First, it requires everyone to have insurance and eliminates free loaders. Second, it requires insurance companies to spend money on services and not overhead.  

5. Obamacare will decrease the deficit. Mitt Romney, and Republicans in general, have spread misinformation about this. However, “in February 2011, the CBO estimated that Obama’s health-reform law would reduce the deficit by $210 billion over 10 years.” 

To summarize the healthcare debate comes down to five points. Two are value drive and three are factual. Obamacare stresses the primacy of the Public over the Private and asserts that healthcare is a right for every citizen. Furthermore, Obamacare regulates insurance companies thereby lowering consumer costs and the deficit. The Affordable Care Act is worth defending. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net 


ECLECTIC RANT: Teenagers and Social Media

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday July 06, 2012 - 01:46:00 PM

Think back to your teenage years. How did you normally communicate? Back in the Dark Ages when I was a teenager, I communicated with my peers face-to-face, by telephone, passing the occasional note in class, and reluctantly, by writing a letter. How do today's teenagers communicate in the digital age? One difference, of course, is that today's "private" communication exchanges can often be seen by the whole world, allowing the chance to comment on the exchange, and creating a permanent record of the exchange. 

A recent survey, Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives, a Summer 2012 Common Sense Media Research Study attempts "to complement existing research with a broad, quantitative snapshot of how U.S. teens experience the role of social media in their social and emotional lives." The survey results are summarized below. 

Not surprisingly, the survey found that almost all teenagers in this country have used social media. 

Nine out of 10 13- to 17-year-olds have used some form of social media. Three out of four teenagers currently have a profile on a social networking site, and one in five has a current Twitter account (27 percent have never used Twitter). Facebook dominates social networking use among teens: 68 percent of all teens say Facebook is their main social networking site, compared to 6 percent for Twitter, 1 percent for GooglePlus, and 1 percent for MySpace and 25 percent do not have a social networking site. 

For the vast majority of teens, social and other digital communications media are a daily part of life. Two-thirds of teens text every day, half visit social networking sites daily, and 11 percent send or receive tweets at least once every day. In fact, more than a third of teens visit their main social networking site several times a day. One in four teens is a “heavy” social media user, meaning they use at least two different types of social media each and every day. 

Many more teens report social media use positively on their emotional well-being than a negative one. 

Most teens do not think their use of social media affects their social and emotional well-being one way or the other. But there are some teens who think that using social media does affect how they feel about themselves and their social situation. 

More than one in four teens say that using their social networking site makes them feel less shy and more outgoing; one in five says it makes them feel more confident, more popular, and more sympathetic to others; and 15 percent say it makes them feel better about themselves. By comparison, only 5 percent say social networking makes them feel less outgoing; 4 percent feel worse about themselves, less confident, and less popular after using their social networking site; and 3 percent feel shyer. 

Very few teens think that using their social network site makes them more depressed. Among all teen social network users, only 5 percent say using their social networking site makes them feel more depressed, compared to 10 percent who say it makes them feel less depressed. Even among the least happy teens in the study (the 10 percent of all teens who say they are often sad or depressed and aren't very happy with their lives), 18 percent say using their social networking site makes them feel more depressed, while 13 percent say it lessens their depression. 

In particular, teens think that using social media has helped their relationships. Half of all teen social media users say using such media has mainly helped their relationships with friends, compared to just 4 percent who say social media use has mainly hurt their relationships. Similarly, more than a third say social media use has mainly helped their relationships with family members, compared to 2 percent who say it has mainly hurt them. In addition, a majority of teens say social media help them keep in touch with friends they can't see regularly, get to know other students at their school better, and connect with new people who share a common interest. 

Despite being avid social media users, talking to each other in person is still teens' favorite way to communicate. 

About half of all teens say their favorite way to communicate with their friends is in person. Texting is the next favorite, with social networking, talking on the phone , and Twitter far behind. 

The main reasons kids prefer face-to-face conversations are that they're more fun and that they can understand what people really mean better in person. The main reasons some kids prefer texting is that it's quick and easy; others say it gives them more time to think about how to respond or is more private. 

Some teens think there is a trade-off between social media use and face-to-face communication. A third of teens agree either strongly or somewhat that using social media takes away from time they could be spending with people face-to-face, and 44 percent agree at least "somewhat" that using social media often distracts them from the people they're with when they do get together in person. 

Social media use does affect how some teens interact with one another. Nearly a third of social media users say they've flirted with someone online that they wouldn't have flirted with in person, and 25 percent say they've said something bad about someone online that they wouldn't have said in person. 

Many teens recognize that they and their friends and family are increasingly tethered to their electronic gadgets, and a substantial number express a desire to disconnect sometimes. 

Among teens who own cell phones, 41 percent answered "yes" when asked whether they would describe themselves as "addicted" to their phones (no definition of addiction was offered). Forty-three percent of teens agree strongly or somewhat that they sometimes wish they could "unplug," and more than a third agree at least "somewhat" that they sometimes wish they could go back to a time when there was no Facebook. As one teen commented, "Sometimes it's nice to just sit back and relax with no way possible to communicate with anyone." 

The teens who are most interested in "unplugging" or going back to a time before Facebook are the ones who either are not using social networking themselves or have had bad experiences online. For example, 25 percent of teens who are not currently using a social networking site strongly agree that they sometimes wish they could go back to a time when there was no Facebook, and a total of 54 percent agree at least somewhat with that statement. By comparison, among teens who are currently using a social networking site, just 8 percent strongly agree, and a total of 31 percent agree at least somewhat. In addition, a third of teens who most want to unplug or go back to a time when there was no Facebook say they "often" encounter racist, sexist, or homophobic content in social media (compared to 8-13 percent among other social media users). These negative experiences may be fueling the desire to unplug. 

Some teens get frustrated by how attached their friends and parents are to their own devices. For example, 28 percent of those whose parents have a mobile device say they consider their parents "addicted" to their gadgets, and 21 percent of all teens say they wish their parents spent less time with their cell phones and other devices. Nearly half of teens say they sometimes get frustrated with their friends for texting, surfing the Internet, or checking their social networking sites while they're hanging out together. 

A Summing Up 

Some have suggested that social media is making users more lonely. For example, an article in the Atlantic monthly, Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? , takes this view. This survey disputes that view. Here the survey directly talked with teens about their impressions rather than extrapolating from other data to reach conclusions. The teens in the survey report that they feel social media makes them less depressed, less shy, more confident and generally feel that it contributes to their overall emotional and social well-being. And yet, with all the social media use, they still prefer face-to-face communication.

AGAINST FORGETTING: The 'Obamacare' Challenge to American Individualism

By Ruth Rosen
Friday July 06, 2012 - 11:05:00 AM

Early in the morning, half awake, I heard my husband let out a whooping cheer from somewhere in the house. “I can’t believe it,” he kept saying. Like most of my friends, he—a Director of Public Health— was sure the Supreme Court would never uphold the patient Affordable Care Act (ACA), President’s Barack Obama’s signature effort of his years in office. 

Designed to increase the number of people covered by health insurance, by restructuring the fragmented, expensive and ineffective American health care system, Congress passed this historic—though very imperfect—-bill in 2010. Republicans, nearly apoplectic, argued that the ACA violated the Constitution because it required each individual to buy medical insurance. (If they couldn’t afford it, the government would subsidize the poor). Most legal scholars viewed it as an easy victory for Obama. But clouds began to gather as the Court sounded increasingly skeptical as the case was argued before them. Then, on June 28, 2012, much to the shock of many liberals, the conservative United States Supreme Court ruled that most provisions of the ACA are constitutional. 

Nail-biting days had finally ended. To our astonishment, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. sided with the four liberals on the court, three of whom are women. Finally, after decades in which three other presidents had failed to provide health care for Americans, President Obama had succeeded. 

No, it’s not what I wanted. I wanted Obama’s original “public option” that would have competed with and therefore reduced the power of private insurance companies. For that, however, he could not get legislative support. Many of us wanted to expand Medicare (for those over 65 years of age), or some other kind of single payer system. Best of all, many of us had dreamed of some integrated system that would cover all Americans and reduce our astronomical health costs caused by a private, fragmented, failing health system. 

But the obstacles had been formidable. Senate Republicans spoke ominously of “death panels” and cleverly changed the terms of debate, warning that health care (for the poor and middle class) would cause the “debt” to skyrocket and destroy the American economy. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote , “what was and is really striking about the anti-reformers is their cruelty…it has long been obvious that the opposition’s goal is simply to kill reform, never mind the human consequences. We should all be thankful that, for the moment at least, that effort has failed.” 

Unfortunately, Obama also failed miserably at framing the issue or at setting the terms of debate after Congress passed the legislation. In fact, his greatest failure was limiting his use of the bully pulpit of the presidency to help Americans understand how their lives improve with universal health coverage. 

Anyone in any other industrialized nation would rightfully view all this anxiety about strengthening the safety net with bewilderment. That cruelty is what others should understand when they try to comprehend Americans’ tremendous resistance to universal health care. Thirty million Americans have no medical insurance. They go to emergency rooms for minor illnesses, as well as serious infections or gunshot wounds. They have no primary care doctor and pray that they won’t fall ill or that they won’t lose their employer-paid medical insurance. If you’ve survived cancer or any other “pre-existing condition,” you’ll never get insured again. 

The Affordable Care Act has already changed some of these grotesque health inequities. Parents may now keep their children on their insurance until age 26. Pre-existing conditions are no longer an excuse for excluding children from medical insurance. By 2014, no adult will be denied medical insurance because of such pre-existing conditions—even as minor as a torn rotator cuff, as my stepson discovered. 

But Chief Justice Roberts also inserted a poison pill into his decision when he decided to uphold what is called commonly called Obamacare. He argued that the federal government has no right to demand that the states expand Medicaid, which is the second-rate, last resort, medical care for the very poor. With one judicial decision, he upheld the controversial individual mandate that requires everyone to pay for some kind of insurance and, at the same time, he destroyed what Congress had passed, namely, the right of the Federal Government to demand states to expand coverage for the poor. 

Like many of my colleagues and friends, I spent the day surfing television stations listening to reporters interviewing people all over the country. “Are you happy about this decision?” they asked. My mouth dropped as I heard one person after another say that the government has no right to force people to pay for medical coverage, even though the government will provide subsidies for those who aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid and can’t afford medical assurance. I didn’t hear one person that day who understood that everyone needed to participate in order to spread the risk of paying for those who fall ill. 

Although this is what was shown on television, polls tell a different story. A new Gallup poll reveals that the country is deeply and nearly evenly divided, with 46% of those polled against the Court decision and 46% approving it. Thirty-one percent want the law repealed entirely. 

It’s been clear for some time that only half or less of the country has supported health reform. Poll after poll revealed that Americans seemed troubled, unsure what it all meant, how it would affect their lives. Yet, women and some minorities seemed to comprehend the urgent need for universal health care. One poll noted “that 48 percent of women wanted the Supreme Court to uphold Obamacare as opposed to 39 percent of men. Differences in opinion were also present among racial lines, with 63 percent of black Americans backing Obamacare, with 20 percent opposed; and 40 percent of white Americans support the Supreme Court's decision, opposed to 41 percent who do not.” 

With the Court decision now settled, the real question is why so many Americans are so troubled by the idea of universal coverage. What is it about American political culture that causes the uninsured, the poor, the ill—the most vulnerable people in the country—-to accept the status quo? 

The only way to explain this resistance is to really understand that American political culture. First, there is the subterranean fear of socialism and socialized medicine, left over from the Cold War, and never far from American politics. Mark Neumann, a Republican candidate from Wisconsin, responded to the Court’s decision in words that mirrored other right-wing politicians running for office. He said , “Barack Obama and his team" are socialists in every respect of the word." 

Second, there is the persistent fear of government- run medicine (which this was never meant to be), fueled by stories about Canada and England, that have convinced people they will wait three years for treatment for cancer. Ironically, this fear persists despite the fact that Medicare—a government-funded single pay health system for those over 65—is wildly popular. At one town meeting, a man shouted, “"Keep your government hands off my Medicare." In a letter to President Obama one woman wrote , 'I don't want government-run health care. I don't want socialized medicine. And don't touch my Medicare.” Persuaded by the right-wing that government can do nothing right, they both failed to realize that the federal government funds this single payer medical care for the elderly. 

Third, the poor fear that that they will be forced to pay for insurance they can’t afford. Unaware of the Act’s subsidies to the poor, they fear further expenses if they can currently can get Medicaid for free, which varies by state. 

Finally, there is the peculiar atomistic individualism of American political culture that sees itself as Christian but has been reluctant to create a social safety net that reflects those values. This individualism underlies the effective rhetoric used by Republicans and the Tea Party, which insist that health care reform will take away people’s liberty and freedom. Yes, in crisis, we come together, but for the most part, we are not a country that cares about our brothers and sisters. Those who have insurance, want to keep what they have. They are not terribly concerned that the majority of bankruptcies in this country have been caused by people’s inability to pay astronomical healthcare bills that are taken up by collection agencies. 

Not everyone, of course is unhappy about the Court’s decision. In addition to health care advocates, national organizations that represent seniors, children and families, even significant sectors of the health care industry, have supported health care reform. The American Medical Association , filled with physicians who once opposed any change, as well as hospital associations, have supported the Act because they know the health care system is falling apart. Even the insurance companies are divided—knowing their profits will be squeezed, but determined to prevent a single payer system. 

Obamacare is not perfect. The wealthy will never pay for the quality of healthcare for the poor that they demand for themselves. But for those afraid of losing their “freedom,” new access to health care after 2014 will one day seem like a right, even an entitlement. During the depression, people feared the new unemployment and social security insurance that were passed as part of the New Deal. Over time, these were gradually amended and altered, making them more inclusive. Now Americans take them for granted. 

Yes, battles will continue to rage over the Court’s decision. But what has happened is historic. And that will not change unless the country elects Mitt Romney, who has promised to repeal the ACA, in November, 2012. 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Sneaky Delusions

By Jack Bragen
Friday July 06, 2012 - 10:54:00 AM

As a man who suffers from psychosis, at this point, my illness is under control to the extent that I can go months without having very many "delusional" thoughts. 

Delusions can be defined as erroneous thoughts generated by the psychosis of the mind. In some rare instances, a delusion can turn out to be correct, even though its origin was the symptoms of a psychotic illness. However, inaccuracy is usually one part of the definition of a delusion. Secondly, the beliefs tend to be weird, unusual, extraordinary and often paranoid. 

It is usually not apparent to other people when some amount of delusional thought has taken hold. If no action is taken to deal with the first few delusional thoughts, the delusions can sometimes grow into a "delusional system." This is a somewhat organized group of delusions that form an erroneous belief system. In my case, before I get to that stage I tend to recognize and resolve the delusions before they can multiply. 

When at a low level of delusions, these incorrect thoughts are usually not acted upon. Usually, to affect a person's actions, the delusions must be at a medium or higher level. 

Using percentages to describe this would be a type of guesswork, since we don't have a way of measuring thoughts. In order to affect actions, we could say that delusions must be at ten percent or higher. When delusions reach twenty percent, a person is in danger of a complete relapse. In a complete relapse, delusions might reach as high as ninety percent. 

If a delusional system is allowed to progress, the person can get worse and become fully delusional. By then, the thoughts have lost much of their organization. The false world in which the schizophrenic person lives is almost always inconsistent. 

The progression of getting worse for a person with schizophrenia can be stopped in some cases with an increase in medication and in other cases with cognitive exercises to augment the medication. 

Since I don't keep any of my thoughts a secret from all people, my "mental hygiene" is assisted by airing out the thinking. While there are some things that I wouldn't tell family, I might tell those things to a counselor and vice-versa. It takes work to get to the point where you have no secrets. This does not mean that everyone needs to hear everything. People should be spared unnecessary revelations. 

A typical person with schizophrenia would probably hide a number of their thoughts from others, including many thoughts that are delusional. And this allows the delusional thoughts to multiply. Learning to open up to people takes work-it doesn't happen automatically. Learning to talk about one's delusions requires practice. Before opening up is learned, others may be mystified by someone's behavior and by the fact that they may appear internally preoccupied. The person hasn't revealed the thoughts that have taken hold. 

Opening up is not the only practice that helps get rid of delusions. It is possible to set up an internal scan that works for your mind in much the same way that an antivirus program works on a computer. It starts with giving the mind the instruction to identify and negate delusions. There exist several ways that a potential delusional thought can be pinpointed. 

I have benefited from learning to evaluate thoughts and to engage large areas of consciousness to do so. When the mind is still mostly living in reality, it is possible to scrutinize the thoughts and weed out the inaccurate ones. 

When I became a writer, it helped my thoughts become much more grounded and much more accurate because as a writer I have contact with a group of people (editors mostly) who are grounded in reality. Being isolated is bad for mental hygiene. Being in contact with intelligent people, including via internet, is good. 

While there is no "sanity pill" the medications that exist are able to make the brain function more normally; and this gives more of a choice about what will be believed and how the mind will work. It is up to the individual as a whole person to make the correct decisions as to which thoughts to discard and which ones to keep.


By Joe Eaton
Friday July 06, 2012 - 11:33:00 AM
California halibut: Eyes right! Or is it "Eyes left?"
Robert Hsiao, via Wikimedia Commons.
California halibut: Eyes right! Or is it "Eyes left?"

If you’re ever tempted to take the notion of intelligent design seriously, consider the flounder.

Or the halibut, or the sole (Dover, rex, or petrale), or the small but tasty sanddab. Any member of the Order Pleuronectiformes will do. All living species of flatfish start out life as normal, bilaterally symmetrical bony fish, with one eye on each side of their bodies. Then as they mature, one eye migrates around to join its partner. The side with the eyes becomes the top side; the eyeless side, on which the fish rests on the substrate, the bottom. Sometimes, as in the sanddabs, both eyes wind up on the fish’s left side; sometimes, as in typical soles, flounders, turbots, and the Pacific halibut, on the right. California halibuts swing both ways. In some species the skin of the eyeless side loses its pigment, becoming fish-belly white; the eyed side has a camouflaging pattern that can change to match its surroundings. 

Now, if you were the Supreme Being, is this how you would go about creating a flatfish? What a Rube Goldberg solution! It’s even worse than the famous thumb of the giant panda, which is actually a repurposed wrist bone; the pseudodigit doesn’t move into place after the panda is born. 

It’s not as if this were the only design option, anyway. Before flounders and their ilk made their appearance, as indicated by the fossil record, there was already a perfectly functional flatfish model in the form of the skates and rays. As Richard Dawkins wrote in The Blind Watchmaker: “They are like sharks that have passed under a steam roller, but they remain symmetrical and ‘the right way up.’” When a bat ray is born, it already has a clearly defined top side, where both eyes are, and a bottom side, where its mouth is. Granted, the arrangement prevents it from seeing what it’s eating, but it has other senses that compensate for this handicap. And it’s worked well enough to last more than 100 million years. 

None of which prevented some of Charles Darwin’s contemporaries from using flatfish as an argument against natural selection. “…if the transit was gradual, then how such transit of one eye a minute fraction of the journey towards the other side of the head could benefit the individual is far from clear,” wrote St. George Jackson Mivart in 1871. “It seems, even, that such an incipient transformation must rather have been injurious.” 

Fortunately, flatfish have a decent fossil history, and the evolutionary transition from bilateral symmetry to their present state can be reconstructed—just like the transition from primitive hoofed mammals to whales, or from dinosaurs to birds. 

The most recent piece of evidence came to light in a museum collection in Vienna, in a slab of limestone that formed 50 million years ago when a warm sea covered what is now northern Italy. This, 15 million years after the demise of the dinosaurs, was a time when the bony fish were undergoing serious diversification. Oxford researcher Matt Friedman discovered that the slab contained the well-preserved remains of a flatfish in the making. The fish, which he named Heteronectes (“different swimmer”), had a flattened body like a modern pleuronectid, but with one eye on each side like a conventional fish. 

This was not Friedman’s first encounter with a fossil protoflatfish. 

(Much of what follows is borrowed from an article by Carl Zimmer in the journal Evolution Education Outreach.) Working on his dissertation at the University of Chicago in 2008, he was struck by an illustration of an odd-looking fish called Amphistium, also about 50 million years old. Friedman tracked down an actual specimen and used a CT scanner to reveal anatomical details obscured by the rock matrix. Amphistium had an eye on each side, but one was higher on the fish’s head than the other. As he examined still more specimens, he became convinced that these were adult fish, not juvenile flatfish preserve with the wandering eye in transit. Then came the discovery of Heteronectes, a member of a still earlier flatfish lineage. 

Friedman speculates that the ancestors of Heteronectes had a tendency to lie flat on the seafloor, propping themselves up with their downward-facing fins. They could still see with the downward-facing eye, but not well. Mutations that moved the eye even slightly toward the top of the head were favored by natural selection, eventually leading to the modern two-eyes-on-one-side model. 

Dawkins again, writing 25 years before either of those transitional forms turned up: “The whole skull of a bony flatfish contains the twisted and distorted evidence of its origins. Its very imperfection is powerful testimony of its ancient history, a history of step-by-step change rather than of deliberate design…[E]volution never starts from a clean drawing board. It has to start from what is already there.” 

SENIOR POWER: Get out of the house!

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday July 06, 2012 - 01:27:00 PM

It is critically important that senior citizens get out of the house. Aging is not for sissies. 

A Fountain Valley woman got the idea for Senior Comedy Afternoons after taking her nineties mother to a standard improvisional theater show. Her mother hated it. But senior-geared events catering to this age group presented at least two problems: businesses that do not believe in the senior marketplace, and finding age-appropriate talent. For a few hours at Senior Comedy Afternoon, aging is funny.  

Personally, I don’t find funny the topics that are said to appeal to these southern California seniors—memory loss, spoiled grandchildren, treacherous roadways. There is reportedly no profanity, no raunchy talk, just old-school, G-rated humor for people who say their brand of entertainment is in short supply these days. The show rotates venues: Don the Beachcomber, Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, and the Improv at the Irving Spectrum. For $38.50 a person, they drink spiced tea and enjoy a simple meal of time-tested dishes and ice cream before the show begins.  

Depression, loneliness, isolation are unhealthy. Social media don’t literally, bodily get seniors out and about. But social media are ubiquitously accessible. A PC (personal computer can provide many services.  

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that people younger than 50 use social-networking websites to stay in touch with friends, while people older than 50 use them to connect with family. The number of seniors using social networking websites has risen to 33% of Internet users ages 65+ in 2011, compared with 13% in 2009.  

Retirees who use the Internet regularly are less likely to be classified as depressed, according to a sociology study published in the March Computers in Human Behavior journal because of the connection and sense of community that the Internet provides.  

The Internet is a global system – a network of networks—that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business and government networks, of local to global scope. It carries an extensive range of information sources and services, documents on the World Wide Web (WWW), and the infrastructure to support E-mail.  

Public libraries provide their patrons with Internet access. At the public library in Muncie, Indiana, seniors learn how to create a Facebook account, use its fundamental features, download photos and adjust the privacy settings to make their accounts more secure. The immediacy of Facebook is what attracts them to take the class and create an account. The Fort Bend County, Texas community library instructs patrons in Facebook use. The class is open to people of all ages but most students are senior citizens.  

Not all seniors are ready to join the millions of Facebook addicts. Retired teacher Betty Goodykoontz, 101, of Birmingham, Alabama has owned a computer for several years but doesn’t plan to create a Facebook account. “I am just not interested in all these people and what they are doing,” she says. I don’t have a Facebook account. I don’t have any living family members (Yes, it’s possible.) I am hearing-impaired and rely on email to communicate.  

Facebook is a free social networking service whose website was launched in February 2004. As of May 2012, Facebook has 900+ million active users. The name is derived from the colloquial name for the book given to students at the start of the academic year by some university administrations to help students get to know each other. Facebook allows any users who declare themselves to be at least 13 years old to register and use the site. They may create a personal profile, add other users as friends, and exchange messages, including automatic notifications when they update their profile. Users may join common-interest user groups organized by workplace, school, college or other characteristics, and categorize their friends into such lists as People From Work or Close Friends.  

I asked several other senior citizens whether they have Facebook, and if not, why, and if so, why? Dorothy Bryant responded, “No, I don’t have a Facebook account. The reason—pure lack of interest. Unless I become convinced that I NEED something on the internet, I don’t bother. I’d rather read a book or take a walk, and communicate directly with friends or family than spend any more time than I have to looking at a screen. I’m grateful for the conveniences of email (to my cousins in Italy) and for transmitting articles electronically when required, but I’m grateful that I am not part of the workforce required to sit in front of a computer all day. If that limits my contact with some people who love Facebook, etc., I haven’t become aware of what I may be missing.”  

Margot Gray Panthers Smith has a Facebook account “because I can see my kids, grandkids and greatgrandkids and enjoy their activities and pictures. I don’t use it for politics or other stuff because it is a complete waste of time.” 

It took Sayre Friends of the Library Van Young “a while to start using it (after it became really popular), and longer still to figure out its busily convoluted nuances, but I do enjoy it. I make comments sparingly, but it helps me keep track of what friends and family are reading or are interested in. Infrequently I’ll view a suggested video or download a really wonderful sign or motto or cartoon. And having 3 family babies born within a month of each other, I do enjoy all the baby pictures. But the trick, I have found, is to check Facebook no more than once a day. Anything important, they can call me. Anything detailed, they can e-mail me. Like so many thing son the Web, Facebook can easily become a time and energy sink. One must hold the line.”  

Lenore Waters’ daughters insisted that she sign up for Facebook. “I do use it to catch up on relatives, young and old. At times I will send articles, serious, and funny that I think hey would like. I enjoy my friends’ photos (I, however have no idea how to do this..) I found a second cousin on Facebook simply by entering his name (both his first and last names are unusual). We had an online chat. My daughter who lives in New York City has quite an interesting life. It is much easier to keep up with her via Facebook than to leave messages on each other’s phone. I can keep up with my friends who live quite far away. In many counties, mail is ridiculously slow. The internet is everywhere. I hope this helps people understand that the internet is not a diabolical trap!!!!”  



On June 25, 2012, current and former residents of Creekside Health Care Center in San Pablo, California filed a lawsuit against the facility and its parent corporation, Mariner Health Care, Inc. of Georgia alleging serious and continuing residents’ rights violations. 

The lawsuit, filed by Stebner & Associations, a San Francisco elder advocacy firm, alleges that Creekside does not have adequate numbers of nursing staff to meet resident needs or provide a safe environment. The complaint, filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court, can be read online at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR). Stebner & Associates is at 415-362-9800.  

Medicare compares nursing and long term care facilities based on self-reported information by the nursing home and gathered during the most recent health inspection. This star rating system is for overall staffing hours. A rating of 5 stars is the most a nursing home can get; one star is the fewest. 

Medicare’s website lists Creekside Healthcare Center as an 80-bed, for-profit provider with an incredible Overall rating of 3 out of 5 possible stars; Health inspections 4 of 5 possible stars; Nursing home staffing 4 of 5 possible stars; and Quality measures 1 of 5 possible stars. The fact that Creekside has a 3 (of 5) star rating is indicative of the limitations of the 5-star rating system. Additionally, there are numerous quality of care measures for nursing homes—looking at a facility’s enforcement history, staffing ratios, and staffing turnover, for example. Check CANHR’s website – www.nursinghomeguide.org. Ultimately, obtaining a court injunction against a bad nursing home can be the most effective tool for improving the lives of residents.  

The Contra Costa County Long Term Care Ombudsman is part of the District Attorney’s office, whose website declares that “abuse that occurs within a long-term care facility (such as a nursing home) should be reported to the Ombudsman.” It is my understanding that this Ombudsman has been made aware of conditions at Creekside. “The Ombudsman's office is staffed with specially trained volunteers who promote the development, coordination and utilization of resources to meet long-term care needs.
They are required to investigate reports of known or suspected abuse within long-term care facilities. In a potentially criminal case, their reports can go to local law enforcement and the local District Attorney's Office for investigation and prosecution - or they can go through the Department of Health Services to the California State Attorney General's Office for investigation and prosecution. For more information or to report abuse, call (925) 646-2070.” 

An invitation. Candidates for election are welcome to share statements of their accomplishments and plans vis a vis senior citizens and elders. Please email them to me at pen136@dslextreme.com.  



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 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. Works by 60 artists portraying plants and animals no longer listed as endangered species due to conservation efforts. Exhibit sponsors include the East Bay Regional Park District and the Merritt College Environmental Management and Technology Dept. Free. www.ebparks.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 

Starting Tuesday, June 19. 10 A.M. Class will meet Tuesday and Thursday mornings for 4 weeks. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Victoria’s Legacy on the Island. Judith Lynch (local author, teacher and resident) serving on the City 

of Alameda Historical Advisory Board will provide an overview on Victorian history and culture, highlighting the 19th century buildings of Alameda. Will include 6 slide presentations and 2 walking tours to show you how to recognize architectural details and distinguish among the various styles of fancywork homes that abound here. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. Free. Class limited to 25 participants. 

Fridays, July 6, 13, 20 and 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.  

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. 

Mondays, July 9, 16, 23 and 30. 6 P.M. Evening Computer Class at Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6241.  

Monday, July 9. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Author Talk and Slide Show. Author-naturalist Laura Cunningham will discuss her book A State of Change: forgotten landscapes of California. Cunningham has not only written the text but has also lavishly illustrated this lovely book. She has written and painted a picture of what California was like before European contact. Free. 510-524-3043 

Wednesday, July 11. Also August 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and 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. 

Thursday, July 12. Also July 19 and 26. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. North branch, Berkeley Public Library, 1170 The Alameda. Free. 510-981-6250.  

Saturday, July 14. 12 Noon – 2 P.M. Writers on Writing. Rockridge Branch of Oakland Public Library, 5366 College Av. This workshop is for writers. Australian author-journalist Stephanie Dale will help authors. Authors Teresa LeYung-Ryan, Yolande Barial and Joan Gelfanc will discuss the writing process. Reception and book signing follow. Free. Contact: Artsinthevalley.wordpress.com  

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.  

Saturday, July 14. 1 – 3 P.M. Origami Earring workshop. North Berkeley Public Library, 1170 The Alameda. Learn to make your own origami earrings. Taught by Nga Trinh. 510-981-6250. 

Monday, July 16, 7:00 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. “Author Village Rhythms: African Village Celebration.” Laura Cunningham. Onye Onyemaechi, master percussionist, educator and performing musician, engages students and families in a participatory experience of African Village life. His repertoire involves student participation in African drumming, dancing, songs and stories. Free 45-minute program part of Contra Costa County Library’s Summer Reading Festival. 510-524-3043. 

Thursday, July 19. 12:15 – 2:15 P.M. Literacy reading club, with Lisa Wenzel. Practice English conversation, meet other adults, build confidence in your speaking and discuss a good book. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720. Also July 26. 

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.  

Saturday, July 21. 11 A. M. Free counseling for landlords and tenants. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510- 981-6241. 

Saturday, July 21. 1 – 5 P.M. Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library, 5366 College Av. California Writers’ Club – a workshop open to all writers. Free. Contact: Anne Fox 510-420-8775. Also August 18.  

Monday, July 23. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard. Free. 510-524-3043. Also August 27. 

Tuesday, July 24. 7 P. M. Readers Anonymous book club. Amor’s Towles’ Rules of Civility. El Cerrito Library of the Contra Costa County Library. 6510 Stockton Avenue. Free. 510-526-7512. 

Wednesday, July 25. 1:30 – 2:30 P.M. Great Books discussion group: Reader’s choice. Rosalie Gonzales facilitator. Albany branch, Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720.  

Thursday, July 26. 7 P.M. Down to the bone: Understanding bone health & Osteoporosis prevention. Dr. Lani Simpson will discuss bone density testing and diagnosis, how to build quality bone with nutrition and healthy digestion, and safe exercises. El Cerrito Library of the Contra Costa County Library. 6510 Stockton Avenue. Free 510-526-7512.  

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.  

Thursday, August 2. 12:15-2:15 P.M. Literacy Reading Club with Lisa Wenzel. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Practice English conversation, meet other adults, discuss a good book. Free. 510-526-3720. Also August 9 and 16.  

Thursday, August 2. 10 A.M. Computers for beginners. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6241. Also August 10, 16, 23, and 30. 

Thursday, August 2. 1:30-2:30 P.M. HEALTHY EATING FOR OLDER ADULTS: My Neighbor's Kitchen Table. Nutritionists Mary Collett, MPH and RD, Mary Louise Zernicke, MS, MPH, RD, CSG will discuss the special nutritional needs of seniors, including how our traditional foods can fit into a healthy eating plan, taking supplements and much more. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. Note: This free Alameda County Library program will be presented at 7 libraries. For information about dates and addresses for San Lorenzo, Dublin, Newark, Castro Valley, Union City and Fremont Main libraries, contact Patricia Ruscher, Older Adult Services at 510-745-1491. 

Monday, August 6. 6 P.M. Evening computer class. Central Berkeley Public Library. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6241. Also August 13, 20, and 27. 

Monday, August 6. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. All levels are welcome and some help will be provided. Free. Louise O’Dea, 510-524-3043 

Tuesday, August 7. 7 P.M. ESL Conversation Group. El Cerrito Library of the Contra Costa County Library. 6510 Stockton Avenue. Free 510-526-7512  

Wednesday, August 8. Annual Healthy Aging Fair. Chabot College, 25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward. Free. A wheel-chair accessible BART Shuttle will operate from the South Hayward BART station between 8:30 A.M. and 3 P.M. Transportation will also be available from some senior centers. Contact: Delbert Walker 510-577-3532, Amy Holloway 510-577-3540.  

Tuesday, August 14. 2 P.M. How to self publish, with author Stella Baker. North branch, Berkeley Public Library. 1170 The Alameda. Free. 510-981-6250. 

Saturday, August 18. 1 – 5 P.M. Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library, 5366 College Av. California Writers’ Club – a workshop open to all writers. Free. Contact: Anne Fox 510-420-8775.  

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. Free. 510-526-3720.  

Monday, August 27. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. August’s book is Wilkie Collins’ Moonstone. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Tuesday, August 28. 7 P.M. Readers Anonymous. Book Club. Moshin Hamid’s Reluctant Fundamentalist. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. Free. 510-526-7512. 

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.  

Thursday, Sept. 6. 10 A.M. Computers for beginners. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge Free. 510-981-6241. Also Sept. 13, 20 and 27.  

Monday, Sept. 10. Evening Computer Class. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6241. Also Sept. 17 and 24. 

Thursday, Sept. 13. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Central Berkeley Public Library. , 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6241. Also Sept. 20 and 27. 

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

Wednesday, Nov. 7. 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. 


Arts & Events

New: A Film for Our Times: "Anne Braden, Southern Patriot" in San Francisco Tomorrow

By Carol Polsgrove
Wednesday July 11, 2012 - 09:27:00 AM

Never one to shut up and tend to her knitting, Anne Braden made a place for herself in the history of American radicalism when she and her husband, Carl, were charged with sedition for a buying a house in a white Louisville, Ky. suburb in 1954 and turning it over to a black family. The Supreme Court eventually ruled state sedition laws invalid, but not before Carl served time in prison and lost his job at the Louisville Times.

From then on Carl and Anne worked fulltime for the civil rights movement as field organizers for the Southern Conference Educational Fund. After Carl's death, Anne went on writing, speaking, and marching for her vision of a better world.

Braden could not have asked for better tellers of her story than the filmmakers who pay tribute to her radical life in "Anne Braden: Southern Patriot": Anne Lewis and Mimi Pickering began working together at Appalshop, a media production center in the tiny Kentucky mountain town of Whitesburg, where Pickering is still based while Lewis teaches at the University of Texas. Both have already produced a stream of award-winning documentaries that uncover the seamy side of American life. 

As longtime media activists, they clearly mean us to take their new film as more than historical record. From the screen, Anne Braden speaks directly to us now, in 2012: "The real danger today comes from the people in high places, from the halls of Congress, to the board rooms of our big corporations....." 

Anne Lewis will be present for the San Francisco showing of "Anne Braden: Southern Patriot": 6 p.m. tomorrow, July 12, at 518 Valencia, San Francisco. 




New: San Francisco Silent Film Festival Starts Thursday

By Justin DeFreitas
Tuesday July 10, 2012 - 10:11:00 AM
Pandora's Box
Pandora's Box
Docks of New York
Docks of New York
Loves of Pharoah
Loves of Pharoah

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival returns this week with an eclectic and compelling program of movies from the medium's first golden era. From blockbusters to romance, from comedy to melodrama, from cartoons to documentaries, the festival, as it does every year, showcases the breadth and depth of film's first few decades. 

Below are just a few of the festival’s highlights, followed by the complete schedule. 

The 17th annual festival opens Thursday night with Wings, the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Directed by William Wellman, the plot concerns a love triangle set against the backdrop of the Great War. For the most part, the film hews to the standard romance-and-drama plotline, but it also features some astonishing scenes of World War I dogfights. No blue screens here: Wellman puts his camera in the planes and sends them hurdling, tumbling and diving through the skies to breathtaking effect. Wings features the “It” girl, Clara Bow, along with Gary Cooper and Charles “Buddy” Rogers. William Wellman, Jr. will introduce the film. 

The festival reconvenes Friday morning for its annual Amazing Tales From the Archives program, a free-admission event that spotlights the important work of film preservation. The day continues with a program of foreign films and one rarely seen gem: Mantrap is another Clara Bow vehicle, this one based on a book by one of the decade's foremost American novelists, Sinclair Lewis. 

Saturday morning cartoons start at 10 a.m. with a program of Felix the Cat cartoons. Later in the day the festival presents two of its best attractions: South is the story of Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Antarctic expedition. His ship, the Endurance, was crushed in the ice pack, leaving Shackleton and his crew stranded a thousand miles from civilization. Shackleton and a skeleton crew crossed hundreds of miles of raging sea in small open boats and traversed towering glaciers in order to find someone to help him rescue his men. Frank Hurley was the expedition's photographer, and he created South from his photographs and motion-picture images of the voyage. 

Saturday night features an encore showing of Pandora's Box, which anchored the festival a few years back. Louise Brooks is at her most alluring in G.W. Pabst's German classic. 

Sunday begins with The Mark of Zorro, the first of Douglas Fairbanks' series of swashbucklers. To this point, Fairbanks had played a dapper young man bounding with the can-do spirit of the era in a series of light comedies. With Zorro, he shifted to period dramedy, forging adventurous drama-comedy hybrids that showcased his irrepressible energy and athleticism. Fairbanks served as the model for last year's hit film The Artist. In fact, in the scene where that film's main character sits alone and watches his own movies, he was actually watching footage from The Mark of Zorro. 

Next comes one of the true masterpieces of silent cinema, Josef von Sternberg's shadowy tale of love and violence, The Docks of New York. Sternbreg’s trademark photographic brilliance is on display from the opening shots: Take a look at the expressionist lighting as men shovel coal into a ship's furnace, the bright fire rendering the surrounding darkness all the darker and starkly illuminating the men’s faces, lending the distinct impression that they are serving penance in hell. 

The program concludes Sunday night with festival favorite Buster Keaton in the final great comedy of his career. The Cameraman was Buster's first film after his producer sold his contract to MGM. Keaton went from the casual, comfortable confines of his own independent studio to the biggest and most factory-like of Hollywood studios. MGM was an assembly line — writers wrote the films, directors made them, and actors performed in them. The studio was only interested in Keaton as an actor, not as an actor-writer-director-stuntman. 

They saddled Keaton with a subplot- and dialogue-laden film, but when the project ran into difficulty, Keaton seized the opportunity to prove himself to his new employers. He stripped the film of its extraneous subplots and added his own brand of humor and sight gags, as well his trademark athleticism and stunt work. The result was another in a decade-long string of classic Keaton comedies. In fact, MGM used The Cameraman as a training film for its comedians for years afterward, even wearing the print out from so much usage — indeed, several minutes of footage are still missing from the film for this reason. But MGM conveniently overlooked Keaton's contribution to the film, choosing instead to believe that the result proved that Keaton needed a tight leash, needed to be handed his material and ordered to stick to the script. This was effectively the end of Buster Keaton; having lost his career autonomy, his wife, and his children, he slipped further into alcoholism and indifference, sleepwalking his way through a series of inane MGM comedies before ultimately getting fired by the studio. 

The complete schedule is below. For more information and to order tickets, see silentfilm.org. 


Thursday, July 12 

7 p.m.: Wings (USA, 1927, 141 minutes) 

Cast: Clara Bow, Richard Arlen, Buddy Rogers, Gary Cooper. Directed by William Wellman. 

Accompanied by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra with Foley sound effects by Ben Burtt. Introduced by William Wellman, Jr. 



Friday, July 13 


10:30 a.m.: Amazing Tales from the Archives: Into the Digital Frontier 

Presentations by Andrea Kalas, Vice President of Archives at Paramount Pictures and Grover Crisp, Senior Vice President of Film Restoration and Digital Mastering at Sony Pictures. Accompanied by Stephen Horne on the grand piano. Free admission. 


1 p.m.: Little Toys (China, 1933, 110 minutes) 

Cast: Ruan Lingyu, Li Lili. Directed by Sun Yu. 

Accompanied by Donald Sosin on the grand piano. $15. 


4 p.m.: The Loves of Pharaoh (Germany, 1922, 100 minutes) 

Cast: Emil Jannings, Dagny Servaes, Paul Biensfeldt, Friedrich Kühne. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Accompanied by Dennis James on the Mighty Wurlitzer. $15. 


7 p.m.: Mantrap (USA, 1926, 71 minutes) 

Cast: Clara Bow, Ernest Torrence, Percy Marmont, Eugene Pallette. Directed by Victor Fleming. 

Accompanied by Stephen Horne on the grand piano. 



9:15 p.m.: The Wonderful Lie of Nina Petrovna (Germany, 1929, 115 minutes)
Cast: Brigitte Helm, Francis Lederer, Warwick Ward, Lya Jan. Directed by Hanns Schwarz. 

Accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Live English translation read by Frank Buxton. 




Saturday, July 14 


10 a.m.: Felix the Cat cartoons (USA, 1925–1929, 70 minutes) 

Created by Otto Mesmer and Pat Sullivan. Accompanied by Donald Sosin and Toychestra. 



12 p.m.: The Spanish Dancer (USA, 1923, 105 minutes) 

Cast: Pola Negri, Antonio Moreno, Wallace Beery, Kathlyn Williams, Adolphe Menjou. Directed by Herbert Brenon. 

Accompanied by Donald Sosin, keyboard, with Jim Washburn and Greg Smith, guitar.  



2:30 p.m.: The Canadian (USA, 1926, 88 minutes) 

Cast: Thomas Meighan, Mona Palma, Wyndham Standing, Dale Fuller. Directed by William Beaudine. Accompanied by Stephen Horne on the grand piano. 



5 p.m.: South (United Kingdom, 1919, 72 minutes) 

Directed by Frank Hurley. 

Accompanied by Stephen Horne on the grand piano, with live narration by Paul McGann. 



7 p.m.: Pandora's Box (Germany, 1929, 143 minutes) 

Cast: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Franz Lederer, Carl Gotz. Directed by G.W. Pabst. 

Accompanied by the Matti Bye Ensemble. 



10 p.m.: The Overcoat (USSR 1926, 71 minutes) 

Cast: Andrei Kostrichkin, Antonina Yeremeyeva, Sergei Gerasimov. Directed by Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg. 

Accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra. 



Sunday, July 15 


10 a.m.: The Mark of Zorro (USA, 1920, 90 minutes) 

Cast: Douglas Fairbanks, Marguerite De La Motte, Noah Beery. Directed by Fred Niblo. 

Accompanied by Dennis James on the Mighty Wurlitzer. 



12 p.m.: The Docks of New York (USA, 1928, 76 minutes) 

Cast: George Bancroft, Betty Compson, Olga Baclanova, Clyde Cook. Directed by Josef von Sternberg. 

Accompanied by Donald Sosin on the grand piano. 



2 p.m.: Erotikon (Sweden, 1920, 106 minutes) 

Cast: Anders de Wahl, Tora Teje, Lars Hanson, Karin Molande. Directed by Mauritz Stiller. 

Accompanied by the Matti Bye Ensemble. 



4:30 p.m.: Stella Dallas (USA, 1925, 120 minutes) 

Cast: Ronald Colman, Belle Bennett, Alice Joyce, Jean Hersholt. Directed by Henry King. 

Accompanied by Stephen Horne on the grand piano. 



7:30 p.m.: The Cameraman (USA, 1928, 76 minutes) 

Cast: Buster Keaton, Marceline Day, Harold Goodwin. Directed by Edward Sedgwick, Buster Keaton. 

Accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. 

Preceded by A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès, with live narration by Paul McGann.