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Press Release: Final UC Report on Protests and Policing Released

From University of California Office of the President
Thursday September 13, 2012 - 12:34:00 PM

The final "Response to Protests on UC Campuses" report was released by the University of California today (Sept. 13).

The report from UC General Counsel Charles F. Robinson and UC Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher F. Edley Jr. includes 49 recommendations and synthesizes months of inquiry into best practices for handling demonstrations, civil disobedience and free-speech issues related to protests throughout the 10 campuses of the UC system.

The report is online at http://campusprotestreport.universityofcalifornia.edu/

After incidents involving police and protesters at the Berkeley and Davis campuses last November, UC President Mark G. Yudof directed Robinson and Edley to identify best practices and make recommendations for future responses to demonstrations and civil disobedience. 

Among the key areas covered in the final report recommendations are increasing communication between management teams and stakeholders, actual management of incidents by administration members and the campus police, training and, in some cases, the creation of new policies. 

Robinson noted that most of the recommendations are within the authority of individual campus leaders and the UC Police. He said any changes in systemwide policy would be subject to the standard consultation processes with campus and system administration, students and the Academic Senate. 

Upon release of the final report, Yudof announced that Lynn Tierney, associate vice president for communications in the UC Office of the President, will assume a one-year assignment leading the systemwide coordination of activities resulting from the report. 

Tierney will work across departmental lines throughout the UC system to coordinate training and implementation of other recommendations, he said. 

Prior to joining UC four years ago, she spent virtually her entire career working as a communications and community liaison expert for various public safety organizations, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police, the New York City Fire Department and the Federal Aviation Administration. 

As deputy fire commissioner for the City of New York, she managed the agency's regulatory and community relationships, and created specialty-training programs for both the members of the service and the community organizations in the neighborhoods they served. 

The research conducted by the Robinson-Edley team included hundreds of hours analyzing current policies and literature on speech, demonstrations and use of force by police; interviewing scores of stakeholders within the system and experts from across the country, and holding town hall meetings to solicit input and reactions from several campuses. 

The first draft of the report was distributed broadly during a public comment period that began May 4 and ended in early June. Hundreds of detailed comments were received from UC police commands, each UC campus, student organizations, faculty, alumni, parents, residents, the general public and advocacy organizations. Many comments led to report revisions including adding additional context, clarification of scope, focus on civil disobedience and clarification about recommendations regarding police use of force. 


Fire at Berkeley Duplex Causes $700,000 Damage

By Bay City News
Monday September 10, 2012 - 07:59:00 PM

A two-alarm fire at a two-story duplex in Berkeley this afternoon caused an estimated $700,000 in damage and displaced seven residents, according to Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong. 

However, Dong said no one was injured in the blaze, which was reported at 2:27 p.m. at 3107 Sacramento St. and was controlled at 3:18 p.m. 

He said it appears that the fire was accidental and was caused by the improper disposal of smoking materials. 

The blaze caused $600,000 in damage to the building's structure and another $100,000 in damage to its contents, Dong said. 

The fire threatened a separate structure in the rear of the property but it was controlled before it reached that structure, according to Dong. 

The displaced residents will receive housing assistance from the American Red Cross, he said.


Fiancee of Chilean Man Killed in Berkeley Asks Public to Help Find Killers

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday September 12, 2012 - 12:42:00 PM

The fiancée of Adolfo Ignacio Celedon Bravo today marked the second anniversary of his shooting death in Berkeley by asking people to come forward to help police find and arrest his killers. 

Amber Nelson, 29, said, "This is not a hopeless case. The only thing that's missing is a little more evidence." 

Sept. 12, 2010, was Celedon's 35th birthday and he and Nelson were planning to get married in the near future. They had met in Chile, where he was from, in February 2008 when Nelson was vacationing there.  

Celedon, nicknamed "Fito," moved to Berkeley a short time later while Nelson was completing her dual master's degrees in architecture and landscape architecture. 

Nelson said today that on the day of the shooting they had planned to get up early to visit places in the Bay Area that he had never seen because they didn't own a car. She explained that they normally got around by bicycle but she had rented a hybrid car for their sightseeing venture. 

But at about 3:41 a.m. that morning, Celedon and Nelson were walking home from a party when two robbers attacked them at the corner of Adeline and Emerson streets, a block away from the Ashby BART station and several blocks from their home. 

Berkeley police said that during the robbery, one of the suspects shot Celedon and one of them punched Nelson. Paramedics transported Celedon to a local trauma center, where he was pronounced dead. 

Police said the two suspects were described by witnesses as black males between the ages of 25 and 35. They said the suspects fled in what was described as a dark older model sports utility vehicle. 

There is a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect or suspects responsible for Celedon's murder. 

The consulate general of Chile in San Francisco said in a statement, "This crime has a high priority and is a sensitive matter of concern to the Chilean government. We request the community and witnesses of this assassination to provide to the Berkeley police any piece of information that could be helpful to solve this investigation." 

The consul said it hopes for a prompt solution "so that the family of Adolfo can achieve the peace they deserve." 

Standing today near the spot where Celedon was fatally shot, Nelson said, "Fito was a lover of life and was always smiling and loved the entire world. He wanted to change the world for the better." 

Nelson said, "True justice would be bringing him back and rewinding time but that can never happen." She said, "The next best thing is to put this to closure" by arresting and prosecuting the people who killed him. Nelson said, "I want to be able to focus on the wonderful memories I have of Fito and not this horrible tragedy." 

Berkeley police said anyone with information about the fatal shooting should call their homicide unit at (510) 981-5741 or their non-emergency line at (510) 981-5900. 

They said people who want to remain anonymous can call Bay Are Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477. 


New: Chronicle Covers Up 'Green-on-Blue Deaths' in Afghanistan

By Gar Smith
Saturday September 08, 2012 - 10:21:00 PM

On August 13, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the tragic death of US Marine Capt. Matthew Manoukian. The Chron cited a Pentagon report that claimed the Los Altos Hills native was killed "while conducting combat operations" in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Chronicle reporter Henry K. Lee should have questioned the Pentagon's account. 

The Chronicle inexplicably repeated a misleading Associated Press report that Manoukian and two other marines were killed "at a police checkpoint." This should have raised a red flag: Were the marines killed "in combat" or at a "police checkpoint"? 

Had the Chronicle tried to resolve this inconsistency, it would have discovered the truth: Manoukian and two other marines (Staff Sgt. Sky R. Mote, 27, of El Dorado, Calif., and Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Jeschke, 31, of Herndon, VA) were shot and killed after sitting down to share a meal with an Afghan colleague in his home — a situation that would not typically be characterized as "conducting combat operations." 

The Military Times correctly reported that all three Marines were "shot by an Afghan policeman." Sangin district of chief Mohammad Sharif, told the Associated Press: [T]he shooting happened at a police checkpoint after a joint meal and a security meeting." 

Somehow the Chronicle apparently missed the AP's earlier story — filed on August 10 — in which it was reported: "An Afghan police officer shot and killed three US Marines after sharing a meal with them before dawn Friday and then fled into the desolate darkness of southern Afghanistan, the third attack on coalition forces by their Afghan counterparts in a week." (These killings brought the yearly count of coalition soldiers killed by their Afghan partners to 31 – a nearly three-fold increase in so-called "green-on-blue" killings over all of 2011.) 

According to AP reporter Kay Johnson, the district chief and the Taliban each identified the killer as an Afghan National Police officer named Asadullah who had worked closely with the Americans, "helping the Marines train the Afghan Local Police." A Taliban spokesman subsequently claimed that, shortly after the killings, Asadullah joined the Taliban insurgency. "Now, he is with us," Qari Yousef Ahmadi said. 

A 70-page report prepared by US Army behavioral scientists in 2011, suggests that such killings are likely to continue to increase as the US occupation of Afghanistan is set to enter its 11th year. The Army investigation warned that many Afghan security personnel see American troops as "extremely arrogant, bullying and unwilling to listen to their advice." They also accused the Americans of a lack of concern for Afghans' safety, a lack of respect for female privacy and a lack of basic civility — routinely addressing Afghans with denigrating slurs. 

The report found the situation is deteriorating on the US side as well, with American troops accusing their Afghan counterparts of "pervasive illicit drug use, massive thievery, personal instability, dishonesty, no integrity." 

Responding to the troubling increase in green-on-blue violence, NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Gunter Katz insisted: "We are confident that those isolated incidents will have no effect on transition or on the quality of our forces." 

Shortly after Katz issued his optimistic assessment, two men wearing Afghan army uniforms shot and killed a US soldier in Paktia province (wounding two others in the process). Two days later, two well-armed Afghan soldiers attempted to murder a group of NATO troops near a base in eastern Afghanistan. 

In misreporting the circumstances surrounding the death of Matthew Manoukian — a dedicated soldier and a gifted young man who was preparing to leave the Marines in 2013 to pursue a career as a lawyer — the Chronicle has muddied the record. Readers are left to wonder: Was this simply an instance of poor reporting or was it an intentional effort to cover up another troubling incident of green-on-blue violence? If the latter, the Chronicle owes Captain Manoukian's family an apology for distorting the truth and, in so doing, dishonoring the record of three US Marines. 


New: Unfunded Liabilities And The New Berkeley Police Contract (News Analysis)

By Shannon Brown
Saturday September 08, 2012 - 10:51:00 AM

The city has published a draft of its proposed three-year contract (we are currently in year two) with the Police Union. Unfortunately, the draft does not include all the demographic and actuarial information that is necessary for a complete understanding of its terms, but some analysis is possible and useful.  

The new contract highlights three changes: the creation of a second-tier pension plan for all new hires; an increase in the employee contribution from both existing employees and new hires; and the replacement of a (taxable) supplemental retiree income plan by a (non-taxable) retiree health insurance premium assistance plan.  

In the new second-tier plan the age of retirement eligibility for new hires will increase from 50 to 55. Everything else stays the same. Savings are estimated at “1.8% of covered payroll and roughly $1 million over 10 years”. Since police salary and benefits are currently about $53 million per year ($530 million over 10 years), saving $1million over 10 years will contribute very little to improving the city’s finances. Presumably, this reflects the limited turnover and, thus, few new hires that are projected for the next ten years. And it is probably why the City Auditor said that “most of the cost-saving won’t kick in for a long, long time.” But, it is not certain that this change even then will save money - it could actually increase costs. 

This might happen because the new second-tier plan doesn’t change the annual contribution required to fund a pension (promised to be 3% of salary per year) — it only extends the date at which retirement can begin and, thus, creates the possibility of five more years of contributions and five fewer years of payments to retirees. But the possible savings could be negated by increases in cost resulting, for example, from the city having to pay higher pensions due to the higher salaries that employees may earn during the extended five year period. The net effect of the changes cannot be evaluated without access to the actuarial facts which have not been made available to the public. 

Also, it must be kept in mind that this is a three year contract and that savings projected over the next ten years (even small ones) may not materialize. A two-tier pension system may not be politically sustainable since rewarding people differently for the same work is not a winning recipe for harmony and morale in the workplace. When times get better, the pressure to eliminate the less favorable system would probably be irresistible, especially if it saves very little money. 

The second change the contract proposes is to increase the employee contribution by 1.5 % in year 1 and to 3.0% in year 2 and, presumably, thereafter. This is supposed to save the city $1.5 million over the three years of the contract. Again, compared to an expenditure of about $159 million in salaries and wages over those same three years, that is a very small amount.  

The third change is the elimination of the taxable supplemental income plan by a non-taxable retiree health insurance premium assistance plan. By switching to a non-taxable benefit program both the police and the city are getting more benefit from the same expenditure. This change has been under discussion for many years and its accomplishment represents a win/win outcome for all. 

But some of the details are not clear. Will the changeover to the new benefit be mandatory or voluntary for all? What will happen to the $55 million of unfunded liabilities in the existing plan as of 7/1/2010? What will the city’s contribution actually be? (In the past it has been a dollar amount equal to the two-party Kaiser monthly medical premium, even if only one person is involved.) The new contribution will apparently be capped at the lesser of the Kaiser rate or 6.0% per year. But medical premiums are projected to grow slowly over the next two years, so it is doubtful that the 6.0% cap will be meaningful. The new plan allegedly will save $14.5 million over 30 years. Again, we are projecting 30 years of savings based on a 3 year contract. But, in any case, this is a miniscule amount of money considering that something like $1.5 billion of salaries and wages will be paid to the police in those same years.  

In sum, it seems like the new Police contract will do very little to address the problem of unfunded liabilities in the Police Pension Plan (Calpers). These were $124.8 million on 6/30/2010 (most recent data). It would be a shame if this were so, as the police contract is often a model to be followed in the other employee contract negotiations. But more worrisome is the thought that this failure to make more progress with the Police may indicate that the city is unwilling to deal effectively with the problem of unfunded liabilities in all the city’s pension and retiree benefit plans which, collectively, amount to about $520 million. And compounding this problem is the Calpers practice of over–estimating the rate of return it can earn and the resultant underfunding of current obligations. If the city government is unwilling to take up the difficult task of fixing these problems, Berkeley may be in for some hard times. This is so, because, starting next year, the new GASB reporting rules will require the city to report unfunded liabilities much more like bonded obligations. This may well affect Berkeley’s bond ratings and ability to borrow money.


Where in the World is West Berkeley? (News Analysis)

By Toni Mester
Friday September 07, 2012 - 04:32:00 PM

At a League of Women Voters meeting, convened in late July to discuss the West Berkeley Project and other ballot measures, a member asked for a definition of West Berkeley. Where exactly is West Berkeley, she wanted to know, west of Sacramento or San Pablo Avenue? The location matters, because when it comes to real estate, geography is fate.

For the purposes of the master use permit ordinance, now known as Measure T, West Berkeley refers to the manufacturing zones (M zones) west of San Pablo Avenue. The ordinance, a revision of the 1993 West Berkeley Plan, relaxes zoning restrictions there to allow for 75 foot buildings of greater mass (floor area ratio) on sites of 4 acres or more and permits new uses like R&D, biotech labs, offices, and denser residential development.

Mayor Tom Bates and other supporters of the measure say it will bring jobs and revenue while opponents believe that the up-zoning will spur land speculation and degrade existing homes and businesses. The environmental report commissioned by the City found that the main impacts will be worsening traffic congestion including ten failing intersections or freeway ramps. 

These conditions will affect the nearby fifty block residential area that is a mix of small apartments buildings, duplexes, and single family homes, many of them historic houses that date back to the 19th century when the area contained small farms and light industry. It’s common to find the shafts of old wells in backyards. 

University Avenue divides the residential areas that lie between 6th Street and San Pablo Avenue into the Rosa Parks district to the south and Ocean View to the north. They are the most diverse neighborhoods in the City, still working class to the core despite a steady pace of gentrification. The outcome on Measure T will have a profound effect on the more than 7200 people who call West Berkeley home. 

The 2010 census shows that the median income of West Berkeley households is estimated at $45,169 in contrast to Berkeley as a whole at $58,617 while the mean is $64,710 compared to $88,216 city-wide. The median indicates the figure where half of the households have a lower income and half higher, and the mean is the arithmetic average. Half the households in West Berkeley live on incomes less than $45,169. The percentage of families living below the poverty level is 10.5%, compared to 6.7% for the entire city. 

The city-wide figures include lower income areas, which skews them downwards. Comparison with representative residential tracts in wealthier areas of the city shows a sharper contrast. The income levels in south and west neighborhoods are roughly similar, but the income disparity widens to the north. A typical hills district reveals a median household income of $109,018 with an average of $138,805 while a flatlands area in the vicinity of Sacramento and Cedar shows a median of $85,645 and an average of $112,632. 

In Berkeley, income rises with elevation. 

 

Who lives in West Berkeley? 

The area west of San Pablo Avenue is comprised of three census tracts, the most populous being Rosa Parks with a total of 2,794 at the last count, followed by Ocean View with 2,685. A surprisingly large number of people (1,756) reside in the manufacturing zones, many in live-work dwellings, and a small community of 113 live aboard boats at the marina. 

The ethnic mix is diverse with 45% white, 22% black, 11% Asian, a smattering of other groups and 26% Hispanic/Latino spread across the races. In the decade between the last two census counts, West Berkeley lost 429 African Americans, about 21% of its black population, similar to reductions in other integrated neighborhoods. This trend has not generated the public discussion it deserves. If Berkeley wants to retain diversity, officials should address the economic pressures on the African American community that can only increase if Measure T is approved. 

What has caused the black exodus? An initial investigation, including word on the street and discussions with realtors, officials, and affected families reveals a combination of determining factors. The foremost is historical. With the aging and death of home owners who immigrated from the South to work in the shipyards and related industries during World War II, families have sold their homes to cash out on the increase in value, using the money to pay off medical and other debts. Some elders have moved to smaller rentals. Many families are relocating to Hercules, San Pablo, Richmond, and other outlying cities where they can buy a larger and newer house for less than the price of their old Berkeley cottage. 

Some African-Americans, like others, got caught in the jaws of the 2008 financial crisis, losing jobs and forcing them to give up houses that had second mortgages incurred to make repairs and meet other expenses. Faced with foreclosure, they sold. As lending ceased, other owners, saddled with deteriorating properties and no available capital, have sold to flip artists who buy low, renovate, and sell high for a considerable profit. 

West Berkeley properties are in demand. A beautifully restored 1906 large craftsmen with a bungalow in the back on Tenth near Channing recently sold for $815,000 an astounding $141,000 above the asking price. The house had been the home of an African-American family who moved to the city of San Pablo. It’s no wonder that realtors roam the streets, knocking on doors. 

The City benefits from these transactions through the property transfer tax, which dropped precipitously between 2007 and 2009 but is on the rise again. The tax is 1.5% of the sales price, a volatile but important revenue source that the current city budget predicts will top $10 million by next year. In addition to other economic benefits from development, the City has a vested financial interest in raising land values. 

The proposed zoning changes are not yet responsible for real estate trends in the residential neighborhoods, where existing demand has been driving prices up for decades. But some observers and business owners, like Dan Baker of Polyseal Industries, complain that speculation has already begun in the manufacturing zones. The critical determinant in commercial real estate valuation is the “highest and best” use. The more you can build, the more the underlying land is worth. The uses that generate the greatest income are office, market-rate housing, and lab space, with Emeryville as the model. 

Some factors remain constant for all of West Berkeley, and as they say in the trade, the top three are location, location, location. 

 

Bull’s Eye West Berkeley 

Both the promise and the problem of West Berkeley lie in its central location within the network of Bay Area roadways. It’s a driver’s dream or nightmare. Living here, I can get to Point Reyes or Pescadero Beach in less than 90 minutes, San Jose, Mill Valley or Danville in 45 if traffic allows. When I first moved to West Berkeley 33 years ago, I used to commute by car to many places in San Francisco. As traffic worsened, I consolidated my destinations, and now I only take transit to work. 

It is traffic that clouds the horizon of potential development and the environmental impact report (EIR) of the West Berkeley Project that belies its promise of smart growth. After spending more than $200,000 on the EIR, which includes an exhaustive traffic study, most of the City Council has chosen to completely ignore its dire findings. The significant and unavoidable impacts total 33, and 23 of them are traffic, mostly unacceptable delays at intersections and freeway interchanges that include dangerous back-ups into the I-80 mainstream and spillovers onto arterials like San Pablo and Ashby Avenues. Ignorance is bliss or as T.S. Eliot wrote, “human kind cannot bear very much reality.” 

Instead the Mayor and his supporters continue to beat the drum for growth and envision an idealistic future scenario in which clean bio-technology labs blossom, its worker bees happily crowd into compact 600 square foot apartments, everybody walks or takes public transit, and West Berkeley thrives like a green and tidy mini-Copenhagen or Manhattan. 

This is not what the EIR projects. Between now and the time they cast a vote on Measure T, the citizens of Berkeley should actually read the study they paid for, at least the summary of the CEQA findings, and then they can echo the words of Leonard Cohen, “get ready for the future: it is murder.” 

In reality, the traffic on the four mile stretch of I-80 through Berkeley is the thickest congestion in the Bay Area, and it’s only going to get worse, with or without the West Berkeley Project. The State does not have the money to build much needed new interchanges at University and Gilman. There is no way to adequately improve the congestion on Ashby Avenue, which like San Pablo is a State highway, short of widening it by first taking private homes by eminent domain, and nobody has the money for that. 

In contrast to what a League of Women Voters officer told me, families do not want to live in tiny apartments like they do in Manhattan, a person by the way who lives in a 2500 square foot single family home in the hills valued over $1m. Families want to live in houses, and because they do, commute traffic from the suburbs into West Berkeley will increase with development. The African-American exodus has contributed to this flow because many have kept their jobs in town as well as church and other social connections. 

Public transit is poor in West Berkeley, especially east-west. The buses on University and San Pablo do not run to the suburbs, and BART shuttles, though important, only provide service for those commuters who live near BART stations. 

West Berkeley cannot be built like Manhattan or even like our own downtown because it lacks an underground system of transportation. The risk of creating dense housing in West Berkeley is that nobody can predict or dictate where its residents will work. The centrality of the location attracts drivers who need to reach multiple work destinations: carpenters, salespeople, actors, artists, consultants, and independent contractors of all kinds. 

The census tells us that almost 1500 West Berkeley residents commute by single occupancy vehicle for an average of 25 minutes. The geography of the East Bay– like the conflicted Middle East at the crossroad of continents – insures that this number will only increase with development. 

West Berkeley is a target, but not a moving one. It is a fixed bulls-eye within waves of ever-widening and worsening traffic, and the impacts of that traffic will be felt by residents with few financial resources to fight back. 


Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley.


Planning Commission Special Workshop On MUP Community Benefits to Be Held on Wednesday

From WEBAIC
Friday September 07, 2012 - 12:38:00 PM

Three consecutive weekly meetings on master use permit community benefits for West Berkeley have been scheduled:

1. Sept. 12 - Planning Commission Special Meeting – Workshop On MUP Community Benefits
2. Sept. 19 - Planning Commission Public Hearing On MUP Community Benefits
3. Oct. 3 - Planning Commission MUP Community Benefits Discussion

The Community Benefit Concept: The concept of municipalities requiring developers of large-scale developments to return ''benefits'' to the community is well established across the country. In the case of West Berkeley, the Master Use Permit, as compared to the existing, underlying zoning, gives developers the potential ability to build higher and more massively, to have greater lattitude in allowable uses, and to request reductions in required parking. These entitlements are expected to provide significantly greater profits for developers taking advantage of a Master Use Permit. The logic of Community Benefits says that the City is entitled to require a developer to return a percentage of this greater, MUP-facilitated profit to the community in the form of ''benefits'', either through fees, programs, or other on-the-ground methods.
 

A Brief History – The West Berkeley Project Master Use Permit & Community Benefits: During the Planning Commission's West Berkeley Project deliberations, WEBAIC and community requested that community benefits be specific and mandatory. Although the Commission addressed the topic, they ignored this WEBAIC/community advice and never seriously examined the issue, such as looking at what other communities require of their developments. The result was the Commission's passing of weak and vague benefits language that could be easily interpreted by a Zoning Adjustments Board (the deciding body on Master Use Permits), to mean whatever it might choose. This was a huge red flag, particularly in light of the City of Berkeley's less than exemplary track record in capturing benefits/concessions from developers. And as developers are historically known to threaten cities with pulling their developments unless said city conforms to demands for either concessions or weakening of benefit requirements, clearly defining required benefits and formulas for creating them are especially important if a city is serious about benefits. Whether having a Planning Commission heavily weighted with members with ties to the development/real estate industry played a role in the creation of less than meaningful benefit requirements is a subject worth contemplating for a community serious about balancing its legitimate needs with those of developers.

Council Moves Community Benefits Determination & Implementation In More Positive Direction:
The City Council, in response to testimony from the Alameda County Building & Construction Trades Council, the Berkeley Organizing Congregations For Action (BOCA), WEBAIC, and the community, took a more serious approach to Community Benefits. The community owes a strong Thank You to the Alameda County Building & Construction Trades Council and the Berkeley Organizing Congregations For Action for their strong, pro-active demands before Council that these programs be concrete and enforceable, not phantoms consisting of feel-good words. Council repudiated the Planning Commission's Benefits-Lite approach by passing benefits language that moves issue in a significantly more concrete direction. They passed language that states that the MUP will not go into effect until the Council adopts an ordinance that:

A.) enacts a benefits package.
B.) enacts a formula for determining the value of community benefits that will be required;
C.) creates 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,
D.) enacts 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 that there is community involvement in overseeing provision of promised community benefits.

Additional language states that “The proposed benefits package must... specify the types of benefits, the method
of delivering and guaranteeing these benefits, and their net present value. ...and) demonstrate how the
proposed benefits are a reasonable exchange for the requested changes in development standards...Measures
to mitigate the land use impacts of the proposed project shall not be considered benefits under this Chapter..."

The above language signals that the conceptual framework for requiring, determining, and overseeing the benefits are on a much stronger trajectory than previously conceived by the Commission. It is up to WEBAIC, the unions, faith organizations, and the community to ensure that this language, and the enforcement mechanisms required to translate this language into real, meaningful benefits, comes to fruition at the Planning Commission.
City Council Puts Menu Of Possible Community Benefits Before The Planning Commission:
The Council, on their own and responding to stakeholder concepts, has put ten potential Community Benefits before the Planning Commission for discussion starting September 12: (Underlining by WEBAIC)

1. Retain and provide affordable work space for artists or funds for that purpose.
2. Provide transportation demand management measures consistent with the West Berkeley
Circulation Master Plan Report or funds for that purpose.
3. Provide access to and participation in jobs training programs designed to advance employment
prospects for Berkeley residents, especially those living near or below the poverty line.
4. Provide affordable work force housing in West Berkeley or funds for that purpose.
5. Contribute to environmental improvements at Aquatic Park or other measures to improve
environmental quality in West Berkeley.
6. Payment of prevailing wages for all construction work under the MUP.
7. Provision of privately owned but publicly accessible open space as part of the MUP.
8. Provision of space and or support to childcare providers so that affordable childcare can be provided
to those who need and qualify for it.
9. Require local sourcing of building materials to the extent feasible.
10. Provide benefits or raise funds for programs and initiatives that further goals of the West Berkeley Plan.

Which Community Benefits? On their face, all these potential benefits have points to recommend them, but it is unrealistic to expect the monetary benefits flowing from the MUPs will be enough to significantly fund the entire list. We also must as a community determine whether developers will be allowed to pick and choose, or whether we as a community will determine what are the proper priorities, and whether any benefits rise to such a level of importance that they require mandatory contributions from all MUPs. Additionally, the Planning Commission is not bound by this list, but could consider other benefits arising from testimony.

Another newsletter from WEBAIC addressing our positions on the various benefits and the questions posed above will be forthcoming prior to the Planning Commission's September 12th workshop. Development in some form will continue in West Berkeley, and the upcoming meetings are a critical opportunity for the West Berkeley industrial, artisan, and residential community to weigh in on potential benefits that may be derived from this development. 

Wednesday, September 12th, 7pm, North Berkeley Senior Center - MLK @ Hearst


Berkeley Schools, the Billionaires, and the New Superintendent (News Analysis)

By Thomas Lord
Thursday September 06, 2012 - 10:34:00 PM

Billionaires such as Bill Gates and Eli Broad (pronounced brōd) use charitable donations to school districts, schools, and education professionals to change public education policy nationwide. Berkeley feels its share of influence from these billionaires.

In 2003, the Gates Foundation helped Berkeley High School transition to a small schools model, a policy Gates was aggressively pushing nationwide. Today in 2012, the Broad Foundation has influenced the school district's choice for a new superintendent. 


Contents: 


The billionaires' influence

How does it come to pass that remote billionaires have such intimate influence over Berkeley school policies? 

The billionaires' influence: Bill Gates and the Small Schools Movement 

In 2003, Bill Gates took a turn at reforming Berkeley education policy. Berkeley High School transitioned to a "small schools" model. Money from the Gates Foundation helped to fund and assist that transformation via the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools (now known as the National Equity Project). [Berkeley Daily Planet, November 11, 2003] 

By accepting the money and guidance, Berkeley openly became part of a grand Gates experiment. Gates himself had been impressed by early statistics that seemed to favor small schools. He thought he could help by spreading the smalls schools movement to more districts. Berkeley was one of thousands of districts across the country that made a transition to small schools with help from Gates Foundation money. The rate at which small schools came into existence exploded nationwide; Gates' fondness for small schools was highly influential. [Forbes.com, November 18, 2008] 

In 2008, Bill Gates expressed disappointment that his small schools campaign was not working and withdrew it. [ibid] 

Whether the BHS small school system was an improvement or not (opinions vary), it is in any event a vestige of a billionaire's failed tinkering with public education policy on a grand scale. 

The billionaires' influence: Eli Broad and Edmond Heatley 

Today in 2012, Eli Broad may be the next billionaire to get a turn at influencing Berkeley education policy. The Broad Foundation describes their education reform goals this way: 

Transforming K-12 urban public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition [broadfoundation.org] 

Berkeley's new superintendent, Edmond Heately, is a 2008 graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy. [Broad Center] 

The Broad Superintendents Academy awards fellowships to "talented leaders" (their words). The Academy "prepares [those leaders] to lead large urban school districts, state departments of education and high-growth public charter systems". 

The Academy helps to place its alumni in strategic jobs around the country. Alumni are supported by a network of peers and provided placement assistance. There are "additional [alumni] services and investments for Fellows in particularly high potential roles and locations". [Broad Superintendents Academy (about)] 

Broad and Gates take two different approaches to influencing public education policy. Gates promoted small schools by offering school districts money to make the transition. In contrast, the Broad Foundation trys to influence education policy primarily by placing a network of sympathetic alumni in high level administrative and managerial positions around the country. The Academy was founded in 2002 with the initial aim of installing Broad-trained graduates in 25 of the largest 75 school districts in the country in only two years. [Christian Science Monitor, June 10, 2011] 

Today, the Academy boasts: 

More Academy graduates have served as urban district superintendents than those of any other national training program. Academy graduates have held 87 superintendent roles and 107 cabinet level roles. Thirty graduates are sitting superintendents in large urban systems, and four are state superintendents (MD, RI, LA and NJ). Academy graduates also lead two of the three largest districts in the country (Los Angeles Unified School District and Chicago Public Schools), as well as newly-formed systems that focus on the lowest-performing schools in Michigan and Tennessee. [The Broad Superintendents Academy (program overview)] 

Broad's and Gates' methods of influencing policy differ in how they relate to school district autonomy: Districts joined Gates' small school experiment only if they explicitly agreed to take the money. In contrast, districts can unwittingly join Broad's experiment just by hiring Broad alumni. 

The billionaires' influence: Broad and the job market for school superintendents (a case study) 

An examination of Edmond Heatley's career trajectory gives some indication of how the Broad Foundation has become so influential in the job market, so quickly. Connections to Broad show up with remarkable frequency. For example: 

The Broad Foundation trys to place a network of alumni in high level positions around the country. To that end, the network of Broad Foundation supporters must make themselves a powerful presence in the job market for school superintendents. Heatley's experience sheds some light on how the Broad network creates and maintains its market power. 

The billionaires' influence: Broad's Power Play 

The Broad Foundation's efforts are not limited to placing allies in superintendent positions. There is much more to Broad than just the Superintendent's Academy. 

One arm, The Broad Residency is (in the Broad Center's words) "A leadership development program that places qualified participants into high-level managerial positions in school districts, CMOs [charter school management organizations], and federal/state departments of education." The residency "[...] places talented professionals into management roles in carefully selected education organizations," where they will "report to the superintendent or senior executive of the partner organization". [The Broad Residency (about the residency)] 

The current chief of staff of the federal Department of Education, Tyra Mariani, is a former Broad Resident. Her boss is Arne Duncan who, as Chicago Schools Chief in 2002 accepted money from Broad to begin a (since abandoned) program to recruit and train Chicago principals. [US Department of Education (biographies of senior officials)] [The Broad Residency (network profiles)] [Broad Foundation April 30, 2002 (press release)]  

After Duncan's appointment to the Obama cabinet, the Broad Foundations bi-annual report gushed: 

The election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, as the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned. 

With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments — charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards — the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted. [Broad Foundations 2009/10] 

Another component is The Broad Foundation is the umbrella organization under which the Broad Center, Broad Residency, and the Broad Superintendents Academy exist. The foundation is a grant giving organization but does not accept unsolicited proposals: they'll call you. They write: 

We are continually on the lookout for urban school districts and organizations nationwide that are progressive, led by talented, effective visionaries, and are strategically focused on improving student achievement. Once we have identified a potential investment opportunity, we initiate contact with a prospective grantee organization or individual and invite them to submit additional information.[Bround Foundations education investments] 

The academy and residency are run by The Broad Center. A sense of the Broad Center's heft and reach can be seen in it's large board of directors which includes, among others: 

  • The Honorable Joel I. Klein, Chair
    CEO, Educational Division and Executive Vice President, Office of the Chairman, News Corporation Former Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
  • Jean-Claude Brizard
    Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Public Schools
  • Harold Ford Jr.
    Managing Director, Morgan Stanley
    Former U.S. Congerssman, Tennessee
  • Wendy Kopp
    Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Teach for America
  • Michell Rhee
    Founder and CEO, StudentsFirst
    Former Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools
  • Andrew L. Stern
    Former President, Service Employees International Union
    Ronald O. Perelman Senior Fellow, Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law and Public Policy, Columbia University
  • Lawrence H. Summers
    Charles W. Eliot Unviersity Professor, Harvard University
    President Emeritus, Harvard University
  • Moritemer Zuckerman
    Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, U.S. News & World Report
    Publisher, New York Daily News
[Broad Center (board of directors)]

What to expect

What can Berkeley expect now that the Broad Foundation has come to town? 

What to expect: Edmond Heatley 

Edmond Heatley is, of course, his own man. To say that he will do other than faithfully execute the policies of the school board, or to suggest that he is here on some Broad secret mission would be unfair. For that reason, there is no simple or sure answer to the question of what happens now that, so to speak, "Broad has come to town" in the form of Heatley's selection.  

On the other hand, admirers and critics agree that Broad superintendents generally have a reputation for pursuing the Broad foundation agenda. It is a good guess, at least, that Heatley will work towards similar aims.  

What to expect: The Broad Agenda 

The Broad Foundations' web site provides this one-line summary of their education mission: 

Transforming K-12 urban public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition [broadfoundation.org] 

That describes a familiar education platform in contemporary U.S. politics. Other Broad statements confirm a fondness for charter schools, performance-based pay, increased testing and testing based performance metrics, and so forth. The Broad Foundation is squarely on one side of a variety of modern political controversies about education policy. 

The Broad Foundations' education agenda is fundamentally policy oriented and calls for networking strategies. In other words: 

The agenda is "policy oriented" in that ideological ideals (such as "competition can make public education better") are expressed as policy directions (such as "encourage charter schools"). Broad's activist project is to try to improve education by causing districts to move in certain policy directions. 

The Broad Foundation in their 2011/2012 bi-annual report expressed this policy oriented view this way (emphasis added): 

While schools and school districts are full of talented and well-intentioned people, it is the systems in which they work that form the greatest barrier today to student and teacher success. Archaic policies and practices result in wasteful spending, disempowered teachers who feel overwhelmed and unsupported, and inequitable learning opportunities for many poor and minority students. [Broad Foundations 2011/12] 

Towards that activist aim, the Broad agenda calls for networking strategies: The Superintendents Academy is one tactic for getting Broad-friendly administrators into influential positions, the Broad Residents program another. The network provides a system of mutual support for exchanging career opportunity information, experiences in various districts, program templates, vendor information, and so forth. 

What to expect: Broad boasts 

The Broad Foundation reports: 

2/3 of Academy graduates currently serving as superintendents for 3+ years are outperforming comparison groups in raising student achievement on state reading and math exams, closing achievement gaps and raising graduation rates. [ibid] 

What to expect: Broad critics 

Actual results may vary. Dissent Magazine offered: 

Every day, dozens of reporters and bloggers cover the Big Three's reform campaign, but critical in-depth investigations have been scarce (for reasons I'll explain further on). Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that the reforms are not working. Stanford University's 2009 study of charter schools — the most comprehensive ever done — concluded that 83 percent of them perform either worse or no better than traditional public schools; a 2010 Vanderbilt University study showed definitively that merit pay for teachers does not produce higher test scores for students; a National Research Council report confirmed multiple studies that show standardized test scores do not measure student learning adequately. Gates and Broad helped to shape and fund two of the nation's most extensive and aggressive school reform programs — in Chicago and New York City — but neither has produced credible improvement in student performance after years of experimentation. [Dissent, Winter 2011] 

Three Broad superintendents were placed in Oakland's school district while it was under state control. Charter schools proliferated in Oakland. The East Bay Express' Robert Gammon wrote an article on the theme: 

Meet Eli Broad, a SoCal billionaire who uses his cash and connections to groom Oakland school administrators and keep the district under state control. [East Bay Express, October 10, 2007] 

Gammon wrote 

An ardent charter-school supporter, Broad built his influence through his close ties with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, who also happens to be Vince Matthews' boss. O'Connell, in fact, owes Broad a debt of gratitude. According to campaign finance records on file with the secretary of state, Broad helped O'Connell capture the state superintendent's office in 2002 by cutting a check for $100,000, which put him among the campaign's top donors. 

The billionaire's juice with California's highest ranked educator, in turn, has allowed him to operate what amounts to his own educational experiment behind the scenes in Oakland. 

Broad believes the best way to fix troubled urban school districts is to employ the classic American business model in which a powerful chief executive runs roughshod over a weak governing board. Oakland, under state control, has provided the perfect laboratory. Since the state takeover in 2003, Broad has donated $6 million to the Oakland schools, and the district has been led solely by graduates of his leadership training academy. During that period, nine other Broad associates also have held high-level positions in the district. 


For the Better?

Is the billionaires' influence good for Berkeley's public education policy? 

With so much money and political power you would think the case for the Broad education agenda would be easy to state clearly and convincingly. Yet, the case Broad makes in its own materials is vague (e.g. the importance of "leaders") and ideological (e.g. the emphasis on faith in "competition"). If the goal is to express and execute a clear and clearly winning reform program for public education, Broad has not only failed to achieve the goal but it has meanwhile drawn a lot of criticism for the disruptions and failures associated (rightly or wrongly) with Broad.  

If we understand Broad's goal differently — as a play to accumulate nation-wide influence over education policy to a few hands — Broad's education philanthropy is a smashing success. As a power play, Broad is winning hands down. In that sense, the Broad network's increasing political power is certainly good for the network itself, but it is quite unclear what that means for our schools and, in particular, our students.  

It's hard to say whether Broad will be good or bad for our schools in the long run but it's easy and accurate to say that Broad is going to continue to have a huge impact on public education policy whether for better or worse, including in Berkeley.  

Our public school systems are designed so that, ideally, education policy is determined by a representative democracy. Our school boards set high level policy and the public elects our school boards. In practice, non-political staff have considerable influence over policy both because they are a major source of policy proposals and evaluations, and because staff implement policies.  

Broad's education project exploits that gap between the ideal of public control over education policy and the de facto influence of staff. In a sense, the Broad network is an attempt to sieze the political power of high level education staffers around the country, and use that power to put forward Broad's particular agenda (more testing, charter schools, and so forth). Broad's agenda is pushed in large part not by persuasion, but quietly and through the murky process of filling high level administrative positions in schools.  


Citations

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 9, 2011: "DeKalb superintendent search foiled by job security"  

Berkeley Daily Planet, November 4, 2003: "BHS small schools plans gather new momentum" 

berkeleyschools.net "Superintendent search 2012" 

berkeleyside.com: "What Does Berkeley Want From its new schools head?" 

Broad Center press release, November 19, 2008: "Top education and military leaders graduate from urban superintendents academy" 

Bround Foundations: "Our Approach to Investing: Venture Philanthropy" 

Broad Foundations, April 30, 2002 "Chicago Schools Chief Arne Duncan and National business Leaders Announce Expansion of Drive to Recruit and Train Outstanding Public School Principals in Chicago" (press release) 

Broad Foundations 2009/10 Entrepreneurship for the public good in education, science, and the arts (bi-annual report) 

Broad Foundations 2011/12 Entrepreneurship for the public good in education, science, and the arts (bi-annual report) 

The Broad Foundations: "About the broad foundations" (web page) 

The Broad Superintendents Academy: "About the academy" (web page) 

The Broad Superintendents Academy: "Faculty and Speakers" (archived web page) 

The Broad Center: "Board of Directors" (web page) 

The Broad Center: "Impact of Broad graduates" (web page) 

The Broad Residency: "About the Residency" (web page) 

The Broad Residency: "Network Profiles" (web page) 

The Broad Superintendents Academy: "Program Overview" (web page) 

Clayton Board of Education, March 14, 2009: (minutes, called board meeting) 

Christian Science Monitor, June 6, 2011: "Is the Broad Superintendents Academy trying to corporatize schools" 

Dissent, Winter 2011: "Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools" 

East Bay Express, October 10, 2007: "Eli's experiment"  

forbes.com, November 18, 2008: "Bill Gates and his silver bullet" 

linked.com: (profile for Robert Avossa, Ed. D) 

newtoncitizen.com, February 3, 2009: "School board rejects old search firm" 

noozhawk.com, March 4, 2011: "Santa Barbara School Board puts plan in place to select superintendent by June 2" 

Santa Barbara School Districk K-12: (resume for David E. Cash, Superintendent) 

US Department of Education: "Biographies of Senior Officials — U.S. Department of Education" (web page) 

Washoe County School District press release, April 10 2009: "WCSD Trustees Select Superintendent Finalists" 

Washoe County School District:"Office of Superintendent" (web page) 


Press Release: Public Meeting for Proposed Relocation of Berkeley Post Office to Be Held on Thursday at 11 a.m.

From Augustine Ruiz, Jr., San Jose
Monday September 10, 2012 - 07:56:00 PM

A public meeting will be held to explain the proposal and hear comments on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) proposal to sell and relocate the Berkeley Main Post Office, 2000 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94704. The public meeting will be held Thursday, September 13, 2012, 11:00 a.m., at the City Hall chambers, 2180 Milvia Street, Berkeley CA. 

The USPS is proposing the relocation of the Berkeley Main Post Office retail and Post Office Box service to a yet-to-be-determined location, as close to the current site as possible. If the move is approved, the ZIP Code will remain the same and our goal is to retain all PO Box numbers. 

Plans include moving letter carrier delivery operations to the nearby Berkeley delivery unit. The move of delivery operations will be transparent to customers and will not affect mail delivery to Berkeley businesses and residents. 

The reason behind this proposal is the need to realign USPS infrastructure due to a 20-percent drop in total mail volume over the past few years, which has been caused by a combination of economic conditions and the diversion to electronic communication and business transactions. 

The Postal Service finds itself in a very serious financial situation and is facing possible insolvency. Every opportunity to reduce expenses and generate revenue is being considered in order to maintain universal service to our customers. If the relocation is approved, USPS anticipates selling the Berkeley Main Post Office building and leasing a smaller facility for retail services. 

Written comments are also being accepted until September 28, 2012. Please submit written comments to: 

Diana Alvarado Pacific Facilities Service Office U.S. Postal Service 1300 Evans Ave. Ste. 200 San Francisco CA 94188-8200 # # # A self-supporting government enterprise, the U.S. Postal Service is the only delivery service that reaches every address in the nation, 151 million residences, businesses and Post Office Boxes. The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations. With 32,000 retail locations and the most frequently visited website in the federal government, usps.com, the Postal Service has annual revenue of more than $65 billion and delivers nearly 40 percent of the world’s mail. If it were a private sector company, the U.S. Postal Service would rank 35th in the 2011 Fortune 500. In 2011, the U.S. Postal Service was ranked number one in overall service performance, out of the top 20 wealthiest nations in the world, Oxford Strategic Consulting. Black Enterprise and Hispanic Business magazines ranked the Postal Service as a leader in workforce diversity. The Postal Service has been named the Most Trusted Government Agency for six years and the sixth Most Trusted Business in the nation by the Ponemon Institute. Follow the Postal Service on Twitter @USPS_PR and at Facebook.com/usps


Three Other Towns Eat Berkeley-Albany Solano Stroll

By Ted Friedman
Monday September 10, 2012 - 11:46:00 PM
In the beginning of epic stroll. The Oaks, now dark, may come back as a brew-pub, according to applications posted on the theater door for food and wine permits on behalf of Gordon Properties.
Ted Friedman
In the beginning of epic stroll. The Oaks, now dark, may come back as a brew-pub, according to applications posted on the theater door for food and wine permits on behalf of Gordon Properties.
Berkeley politics at Solano Stroll Sunday. Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi, right, with Josh Wolf, Jacquelyn McCormick's campaign manager, at her booth.  Three candidates are working amicably (though separately) to defeat 10-year Mayor Tom Bates in Berkeley's first ranked-choice mayoral race. City council veteran Kriss Worthington rounds out the list of leading Bates opponents. McCormick can be seen, center left, picking up a vote. Jacobs-Fantauzzi, a hip-hop performer, promoter and scholar hopes to get out the Berkeley youth vote.
Ted Friedman
Berkeley politics at Solano Stroll Sunday. Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi, right, with Josh Wolf, Jacquelyn McCormick's campaign manager, at her booth. Three candidates are working amicably (though separately) to defeat 10-year Mayor Tom Bates in Berkeley's first ranked-choice mayoral race. City council veteran Kriss Worthington rounds out the list of leading Bates opponents. McCormick can be seen, center left, picking up a vote. Jacobs-Fantauzzi, a hip-hop performer, promoter and scholar hopes to get out the Berkeley youth vote.
Old Solano Avenue business diverting strollers into its store.
Ted Friedman
Old Solano Avenue business diverting strollers into its store.
BPD schmoozing. Mobile command vehicle, right, Berkeley Fire truck, left-center. Kid in official looking fire hat, left-center.
Ted Friedman
BPD schmoozing. Mobile command vehicle, right, Berkeley Fire truck, left-center. Kid in official looking fire hat, left-center.
Your life as a yo-yo parolee, as they haul you in and out, and sometime back. Probationers gave out free yo-yos Sun.
Ted Friedman
Your life as a yo-yo parolee, as they haul you in and out, and sometime back. Probationers gave out free yo-yos Sun.
Schmidt's pub, since early 80s shows how local businesses promote stroll. Albany All Stars, an oldies group winding down stroll festivities at 6 p.m.
Ted Friedman
Schmidt's pub, since early 80s shows how local businesses promote stroll. Albany All Stars, an oldies group winding down stroll festivities at 6 p.m.
Stoller down. Her husband attends. An Albany cop re-assured her, with, "it looks worse than it is," and "you look younger than my own mother." Ambulance arrived minutes later.
Ted Friedman
Stoller down. Her husband attends. An Albany cop re-assured her, with, "it looks worse than it is," and "you look younger than my own mother." Ambulance arrived minutes later.
As time goes by, couples can still pop a balloon at the stroll, near San Pablo.
Ted Friedman
As time goes by, couples can still pop a balloon at the stroll, near San Pablo.
Disney up a pole. Disney family-radio booth personnel celebrate the end of the stroll by boosting a co-worker.
Ted Friedman
Disney up a pole. Disney family-radio booth personnel celebrate the end of the stroll by boosting a co-worker.

Some other towns came to town Sunday to stroll Solano Avenue, a guesstimated mob, the population of Berkeley, Albany, and Richmond joined. 

They came by bike and bus, and some played nail-a-parking-space with Berkeley-Albany natives, who live in the vast urban grid defined by twenty block-long Solano Avenue. 

The top of the stroll, at Solano and The Alameda led off with a small ferris wheel and the bottom, near San Pablo Avenue, finished with state-fair midway fare. 

There were bikes galore, enough cops to quell a riot, causes from save the rabbits to adopt-a-bird to save the world. Politicians campaigning, kids complaining, cops schmoozing, a little cafe-boozing, stirring music, classy jewelry and…. 

The food, plenteous, and diverse. In a typical snack-attack we call midway appetite ™ we staunched ours with deep-fried in coconut oil Calamari. And that was just the two-hundred food stalls. Solano restaurants threw open their doors, or served from their front window (Chicago Pizza), or buffet tables. 

Berkeley Police manned a community relations booth, gave away post-its sporting a police pitch. Berkeley fire trotted out a nag with a fire hat and a police sticker affixed to its tired old haunch (risking becoming the butt of horses' ass jokes). BPD rolled out its mobile command vehicle, a quarter block long police station on wheels. 

Interviewed the day before, some Solano merchants said they would stay home. "The stroll's just a place to eat," said one. "It kills our business." Not all Solano businesses agreed, and those were rewarded with customers. 

Although Solano sales revenues are down, reportedly, the lengthy lane is still a "good business neighborhood" said several small-businessmen a day before the event. The avenue is lined with quaint local businesses, some dating back to the forties, or in the case of Andronicos, the twenties. 

Although snacks averaged from seven to ten dollars a chomp, Andronicos suspended its usual high prices to offer free chilled milk (courtesy Clover Dairies), and 25-cent watermelon slices. 

Even Solano businesses, which were critical of the event praised it for its clean-up. 

"When I come to the shop, Monday, I won't even notice the event was held," one said. 

The clean-up fits well with the theme of environmental-preservation, shared by many info booths. 

At 6:20 p.m. an Albany squad car, its flashing lights ablaze, announced that the event was over (it officially ended at 6 p.m., but continued on for thirty minutes)…"Clear the street." 

"The streets are ours," yelled a bystander. 

And indeed they were from 10 a.m. to 6. Three towns gathered in a mile and a half? 

The cops and I grappled with that notion and the 250, 000 attendance figure, cherished by the event's organizers. 

Suspiciously, that number never varies. 

"if that many showed up, we'd have pandemonium," said one cop. 

Another noted that "we don't count heads but we plan ahead for all contingencies." 

Bottom-line, said a cop, "it was a lot of people." And a lot of cops expecting them. 

Lots of fairs claim to be big, but Solano delivers. 

_________________________________________________________________ 


The Planet's "voice of the South-side," Ted Friedman returned to Solano after a twenty-year hiatus, to see how they mount a fair this big on the greatest business street in the world (?).  


Nature Shows Its Right Angles

Story and photos by Gar Smith
Friday September 07, 2012 - 04:33:00 PM
Gar Smith
Gar Smith
Gar Smith

Gertrude Stein's observation, "There is no straight line in nature," has prompted critics to supply a long list of nature's linear rebuttals—the path of a falling acorn on a windless day, the flat membrane that forms at the merging of two soap-bubbles, the hexagonal walls of a honeycomb, the edge of a crystal, a stand of bamboo. 

But now we have evidence, right here in Berkeley, that there also are "right angles" in nature. 

At least there are when the natural world rubs up against the walls of a city building. 

In late August, workers atop a large structure due east of the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center on Dwight Way in downtown Berkeley, hacked away at some vines that had gained a perch on the building's rooftop. 

The pruning job resulted in a strange and unsettling sight. 

The massive wall of vegetation that had covered the building for decades suddenly lost its grip and tore away from the long, brick wall. It was as if the building had decided to shrug off its winter coat. 

The next day, many curious passersby (not knowing about the role of the workers on the rooftop) speculated darkly that the collapse of the ancient cloak could be linked to climate change and global warming. (August did rack up a string of punishingly molten days, and it did look as if the vine wall might have simply fainted from the heat.) 

But what was left behind was a marvel to behold. After years of quietly and invisibly insinuating its growing branches into the rigid rectilinear niches of the building's wall, the unsecured vines had peeled back to reveal an exact, mirror-image of the structure — like Jello popped from a mold. 

Alas, the mighty vines were wrenched from the soil and removed within a matter of days. But the photos remain as added proof that Gertrude Stein underestimated the powerful agility of nature. 

Yes, Gertrude, not only are there straight lines, there is a right angle there.


Press Release: Berkeley Citizens Action Candidate Endorsement Convention on September 16

From Linda Franklin
Wednesday September 12, 2012 - 11:03:00 AM

The Berkeley Citizens Action Candidate Endorsement Convention will be held on Sunday, Sept 16 from 1:30-5pm at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street at Ashby Avenue. 

Berkeley Citizens Action has played a unique and essential role in progressive politics for the past 45+ years. Select the best office seekers for local, state and national office 

Meet the candidates and hear their ideas, vote to determine who will receive the BCA endorsement. All are welcome. Must be a paid 2012 member to vote, membership payment accepted at the door ($35 annual membership, $10 low income.) 

The following candidates have confirmed their attendance: 

Berkeley Mayor: Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi (Likely), Jacquelyn McCormick (Yes), Kriss Worthington (Yes) Berkeley City Council District 2: Adolfo Cabral (Yes), Denisha DeLane (Yes) Berkeley City Council District 3: Maxwell Anderson (Yes) Berkeley City Council District 5: Laurie Capetelli (Possible), Sophie Hahn (Yes) Berkeley School Board: Judy Appel (Yes), Beatriz Leyva-Cutler (Yes), Norma Harrison (Yes), Tracy Hollander (Yes) California State Senate District 9: Mary McILroy (Yes) California State Assembly District 15: Eugene Ruyle (Yes) AC Transit At-Large: Dolene Jones (Yes), H. E. Chris Peeples (Yes) AC Transit Ward 1: Yelda Bartlett (Yes) BART District 3: Fred Wright Lopez (Yes), Anthony Pegram (Yes), Rebecca Saltzman (Yes) BART District 7: Maria Alegria (Yes), Margaret Gordon (Yes), Zakhary Mallett (Yes) 

The BCA Measures and Propositions endorsement meeting will be held two weeks later, Sunday Sept 30 at the North Berkeley Senior Center from 1:30-5. Join us to discuss the measures and propositions on the ballot for the November election and identify the legislation to be endorsed by BCA.


Election Update

Friday September 07, 2012 - 10:02:00 AM

Here are previous Planet articles with information and opinion about Berkeley’s November election:

ENDORSEMENT SPECIAL: Berkeley Mayor and City Council 09-05-2012

Berkeley Heats Up For the Fall Election Season 08-29-2012

Press Release: Bates and Berkeley Council Violated Brown Act in Measure S Process, Says ACLU in Letter From Bob Offer-Westort, Berkeley Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down; Michael T. Risher, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California: 415 621 2493 09-06-2012

There's Something About Tom Bates (News Analysis) By Ted Friedman 09-01-2012

New: Berkeley Election News in Other Media 09-04-2012

Profiles of the Candidates for Berkeley Office in the November Election From the Berkeley City Clerk 08-28-2012

Berkeley Mayoral Candidates Forum on Sept 26th By Margot Smith 08-29-2012

Election Information: 2012 Berkeley Ballot Measures 08-29-2012

Berkeley's General Election Calendar From the Berkeley City Clerk 08-29-2012

Jacquelyn McCormick for Mayor (Opinion) By Martha Nicoloff 08-29-2012


Opinion

Cartoons

Odd Bodkins: The Terrorist (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Saturday September 08, 2012 - 12:14:00 PM

 

Dan O'Neill

 


Public Comment

New: Berkeley Police Chief and City Manager Flip Flop on Police Department Agreements

By Gene Bernardi
Monday September 10, 2012 - 11:39:00 PM

The Berkeley Municipal Code requires that all terms and conditions of agreements with law enforcement agencies must be presented to the City Council in writing and copies of these agreements be made available to the public at least 10 days before the public hearing. THE HEARING IS SCHEDULED FOR THE TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 18, 2012, 7pm CITY COUNCIL MEETING UNDER ITEM 10a. 

THE QUESTION IS: ARE THE POLICE DEPARTMENT AGREEMENTS IN WRITING OR NOT? 

Of particular concern are the agreements with the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) coordinated with the FBI Bay Area Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) a Homeland Security urban warfare training and equipment program. 

Chief Meehan and City Manager Daniel (CM) in their May 15, 2012 memo to the City Council stated that the “relationship with NCRIC is a general understanding, meaning there is no express agreement, but rather an ongoing relationship”. In their current memo for the upcoming September 18, 2012 Council meeting they have stated “the understanding with NCRIC was reduced to writing in the 2011 MOU Binder…”. 

In their May 15, 2012 memo, the Police Chief and CM state “the Police Department’s relationship with…(UASI) is a general understanding.” But in the memo for the September 18, 2012 meeting it states “the Police Department’s general understanding with UASI was reduced to writing in the 2011 MOU Binder…”. 

The 2011 writings referred to by the Police Chief and CM are one page summaries that leave out important elements of the NCRIC and UASI programs; e.g., the page on NCRIC fails to use the term Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) the core of NCRIC. The Chief’s and CM’s memo for 9/18/12 refers to the NCRIC summary as that of a “general understanding”. Are they not aware that the NCRIC MOU Binder page was revised February 14, 2012 and states it is a Summary of a “Written Policy”? Also, that the UASI 2011 page states it is a Summary of a “Written Agreement”? 

Since the NCRIC and UASI agreements are already in writing these actual signed agreements are what is required to be submitted to the City Council. They don’t need to be “reduced to writing”. They are already written. Meaningful summaries that reveal the purposes and necessity of FBI coordinated Suspicious Activity Reporting and Homeland Security Urban Warfare training and equipment and the actual operational procedures for achieving their purposes must only be submitted IN ADDITION to the agreements themselves. 

Are the Police Chief and City Manager oblivious, or devious, in not acknowledging that NCRIC and UASI programs are written agreements? There are 71 pages of UASI agreements signed by the City and County of San Francisco’s Department of Management, the fiscal agent for UASI grant funds, and by Berkeley’s City Manager. These agreements, the last included expired November 30, 2010, are in a Public Viewing Binder for the 9/18/12 agenda item 10a in the City Clerk’s office. Most UASI agreements appear to have been approved retroactively by the City Council. 

Regarding NCRIC, in the Berkeley Police Department’s attachment 3 to the Chief’s and CM’s 9/18/12 memo, “Subject: Suspicious Activity Reporting…”, we are informed there are guidelines for SARs developed through the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan and NSI (Findings and Recommendations of the Suspicious Activity Reporting) and that further guidelines have been established for reporting, tracking and assessing terrorism-related SARs by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, the ISE-SAR (Information Sharing Environment Suspicious Activity Reporting Functional Standard). Called for are terrorism-related suspicious activity to be routed through designated fusion centers for appropriate vetting and review before sharing nationwide. 

Considering all these profusive Federal guidelines governing SARs, can you imagine the City’s Police Department’s relationship to the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center coordinated by the FBI’s Bay Area Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) is a “General Understanding” and not a written agreement signed by representatives of all the agencies involved? 

Berkeley PD now has three sworn Terrorism Liaison Officers (TLO), up from two in 2011. These officers forward SARs to a TLO Coordinator for review who in turn submits it to the Operations Division Commander. Are the latter positions located at NCRIC, the Regional Data Fusion Center for Northern California coordinated with the FBI’s JTTF? 

The ACLU did a Freedom of Information Act request for San Francisco’s written agreement with the FBI regarding JTTF and received an MOU which indicated their TLO’s are only answerable to their FBI supervisors and may not inform their local PD supervisor of program information without approval of their FBI supervisor. It would seem that Berkeley would have such a written MOU governing its TLOs since the NCRIC coordinated by FBI’s Bay Area JTTF is a regional program. 

Attend the Berkeley City Council meeting 9/18/12, 7pm, Old City Hall, and ask the City Council to NOT APPROVE the NCRIC and UASI programs. Further the City Council must amend its’ Municipal Code so that any future Police Department agreements with such entities be presented IN THEIR ENTIRETY in writing before consideration. 


Gene Bernardi is a member of SuperBOLD and a UC graduate with an MA in Sociology,


New: When in Rome...See How Well They Use Their Post Offices

By Antonio Rossmann
Monday September 10, 2012 - 08:15:00 PM

The four of us are here on sabbatical, the girls having just started school at St. Stephen's yesterday. Just before we left in August Gray Brechin brought our firm and the National Trust together to knock heads on the Berkeley Post Office threat. But rather than litigation, section 106 review, and the like, perhaps our Italian cousins offer a better solution. 

Here in Rome today we filed our application for a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno). The largest share (Euro 107.50 for each of us for six months) of the taxes and fees was for our health insurance. It took me four trips to the post office to get this right, and all four of us had to be present while they processed this most undigitally. 

But here is the beauty of it. The post office keeps people working and historic buildings occupied by selling national health insurance! Let's do as the Romans do and solve two pressing national problems at once. 

P.S. Do the math: US$135 per person for six months' health insurance. 

 


Antonio Rossmann is an attorney with a San Francisco environmental law firm and Lecturer in Water Resources Law at the University of California Berkeley, currently in Rome with his family. 


Press Release: Berkeley City Council That Opposed Main Post Office Sale Holds First Public Meeting With Postal Service Representative

From Harvey Smith and Gray Brechin
Friday September 07, 2012 - 12:33:00 PM

The U.S. Postal Service, through its designated real estate agent CBRE, is conducting a fire sale of America’s historic and architecturally distinguished post offices. Built to the highest standards and with the finest materials, those buildings and the New Deal artworks they often contain are the anchor for many U.S. cities and towns. They were designed to educate those who used them and to inspire pride in a universal public service honestly and efficiently conducted, and they are often beloved community landmarks. Many are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

This year, Benjamin Franklin’s successor as U.S. Postmaster Patrick R. Donahoe proposed selling 3700 post offices in order to briefly forestall a fiscal crisis largely manufactured by Congress in order to privatize a vital public service while stripping the public of invaluable assets. 

Without holding any public meetings or consultation with business owners, the USPS announced in June that Berkeley’s century old downtown post office would soon be on the market. The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to oppose the sale and formed a committee to consider options and to seek further information. 

That committee will meet at 11 AM on Thursday, September 13 in the City Hall Council Chambers (2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.) The public will have its first opportunity to ask questions of a USPS representative who will be present. 

“We are watching an epic public land theft in the 21st century like those in the 19th. But now the land is in the heart of America’s cities and towns, and it’s worth a fortune to those who can get it. As in the last Gilded Age, the public is the loser once again.” — Dr. Gray Brechin, Project Scholar of the Living New Deal Project 

Contact Harvey Smith @510-684-0414 or Gray Brechin @ 510-204-9607 

11 AM meeting, September 13 

City Council Chambers, 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way


New: A Letter the Chronicle Didn't Publish:
PG&E Admits Nuclear Power Isn't Needed!

Monday September 10, 2012 - 11:41:00 PM

It is to be expected that PG&E and Southern Cal Edison would collectively oppose SB843 and AB1990 -- two promising renewable energy bills ("Big utilities fight solar legislation," August 28, 2012). Proponents argue that expanding the state's use of clean, unlimited solar power could generate 2 gigawatts of electricity or "roughly the equivalent of two nuclear reactors." 

In response, PG&E's Aaron Johnson contends there's no need for the extra power since California's energy demand is "essential flat in load and has been for several years." 

Johnson's assessment actually provides two compelling arguments for a shift to renewables. (1) It establishes that there is no need to restart the twin San Onofre nuclear reactors (currently offline due to damaged and leaking steam generators) and (2) the 2 GW of new, "unneeded" electricity would allow the state to retire the last two reactors still operating at the quake-prone Diablo Canyon facility. 

Passing AB1990 and SB843 would not only render the Sunshine State more sustainable, it would also foreclose the possibility of California experiencing a future Fukushima -- by becoming "nuke free."


September Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Saturday September 08, 2012 - 05:44:00 PM

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! 


Whatever Happened To "Republican Women for Choice"?

By Ron Lowe
Saturday September 08, 2012 - 02:47:00 PM

Republican convention time and what did I find at a yard sale, a campaign button for a group as extinct as the dinosaurs. A large red, white and blue, stars and strips button with NATIONAL REPUBLICAN COALITION FOR CHOICE on it. 

What an eye opener! There were actually Republican women and men at one time who believed a woman has the right to choose for herself, what to do with her own body; without the interference of anti-abortion zealots looking over her shoulders or Republican males dictating what a woman could or couldn't do. 

Now in the Dark Ages of Anti Abortion Republicanism it would be hard to find a pro-choice Republican woman except in a closet. 

And it isn't going to get any better. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and VP candidate Paul Ryan are both anti-abortionists to the max. 

If Mitt and Paul and their Republican posse get into the White House, Roe vs. Wade, stem cell research, contraception for women, and four decades of women's rights progress will be at the mercy of Republican politicians who have passed the anti-abortion litmus test.


Billionaire Arrogance: Gates, Broad and Public Schools

By Stephen Redmond
Friday September 07, 2012 - 12:32:00 PM

Bill Gates, Eli Broad—what do they have in common? Two things: money and arrogance. The very idea that because a person has so much money they should be permitted by any rational society to meddle in the education system is laughable and dumb. Mr. Gates never finished college and is relative uneducated in a formal sense. Mr Broad... well I don't know. But what I do know is that these 'uberrich' have little expertise or knowledge to improve our schools.  

By the way, despite all the naysayers I have found the public schools to be excellent. All my children have advanced degrees and went to public schools K-12. I have met many if not all their teachers and found them to be dedicated and knowledgeable. I have several advanced degrees and went to public schools. The best public schools and best teachers are found in Finland, a country that adores teachers, pays them well and allows them to use their knowledge and expertise in ways that put us in the US to shame.  

Meanwhile, let's get the billionaires out of our schools and back to their businesses where they apparently are successfully making money. No reason they couldn't put some money into upgrading the school libraries, computer systems or other accessory areas but hands off the teachers, curriculum and wacko ideas about improving teaching and learning. Lastly, let us not have arrogance interfering in the education of our children


An Open Letter to Jacquelyn McCormick and Adolpho Cabral;

By Norma J F Harrison
Saturday September 08, 2012 - 02:44:00 PM

Can you include in your work the need for Berkeley to continue its historical, renowned identification of our problems, not as the personal interest of the local big pooh-bahs, but as the structure of the system that controls what's done, now almost everywhere; enforcement of the power and profit system controlled by our Owners, the people who move the armies around the world to conquer lands and peoples?. These are not only the electeds. These are the people we don't see or know, our aristocracy, now internationally based. 

Imperialism enforces capitalism onto places; weaponized or with treaties, through coercion, through dictatorships - called democracies - throughout the world.  

We cannot overcome their calculated destruction of populations' lives without addressing and converting this structure. Addressing it is telling the truth. Ignoring it is permitting the lie, telling the lie. 

Letting the screamers say we can't talk about forces outside Berkeley is just letting that level of subservience continue gleaning our Owners' leavings, meanwhile starving and killing masses of people everywhere, and leaving Berkeley unable to care well for us all, here. 


Columns

THE PUBLIC EYE:Obama vs. Romney: The Popularity Contest

By Bob Burnett
Friday September 07, 2012 - 04:44:00 PM

At the start of the Democratic Convention, polls showed Barack Obama tied with Mitt Romney. That’s surprising because many Americans do not look favorably on the Obama Administration; they hold the President responsible for high unemployment and trust Romney to fix the problem. Nonetheless, voters expect Obama to win, because he’s more popular. 

The most reliable political prognosticator, Nate Silver, expects Obama to get 50.9 percent of the vote (he received 52.9 percent in 2008) and 305.5 electoral votes (365 in 208). Silver says Obama has a 73.1 percent chance of winning. 

If the President does prevail in November, it won’t be because of the economy. The US is experiencing a weak recovery from the devastating 2008 recession (GDP growth is a tepid 1.7 percent) and unemployment is high (8.3 percent). Even though America’s growth rate is greater than that of Europe (but less than that of China and India), citizens are not satisfied. consumer confidenceis low and recent polls show 62 percent of respondents believe that the US is “on the wrong track.” Not surprisingly, 52 percent of poll respondents believe that Mitt Romney “would do a better job handling the economy and unemployment.” 

Romney hasn’t done a good job articulating his vision for the next four years. In his acceptance speech he presented his minimalist five-step plan to create “12 million jobs”: open all of America to fossil-fuel excavation; initiate an education voucher system; forge new trade agreements; cut the deficit; and reduce business taxes and regulations. 

Fortunately for the President, Americans continue to blame George W. Bush rather than Barack Obama for the bad economy – but the gap is narrowing; more citizens blame Obama now than they did in 2009. Most voters probably agree with San Francisco Chronicle business columnist Andrew Ross, who summarized the reasons the weak economy makes the President vulnerable: the Administration underestimated the depth of the recession and the systemic nature of job loss; the 2009 stimulus package wasn’t big enough; and Obama lost focus on the economy when he shifted his attention to health care. 

Given that the economy is languishing, many Americans place at least some of the blame on the current occupants of the White House, and Republicans are spending millions of dollars dinging Obama, it’s surprising that the President is doing as well as he is. That’s because voters like Barack Obama more than Mitt Romney. 

Although polls differ, most draw the same conclusion as the Pew Research poll that found Romney’s unfavorable rating (52 percent) far exceeded his favorable (37 percent) – Obama’s unfavorable rating (42 percent) was less than his favorable (50 percent). A recent American Enterprise Institute poll helped explain these findings: Americans like Obama because of his character and the perception he “cares about people;” they like Romney because of his business background and the fact he’s “not Obama.” Barack has empathy; he believes in the people. Mitt has a resume; he believes in corporations. 

The candidate that voters liked the most has won the last five Presidential elections. In 1992, this was Bill Clinton (vs. George H.W. Bush), in 1996 Clinton again (vs. Bob Dole), in 2000 George W. Bush (vs. Al Gore); in 2004 Bush again (vs. John Kerry); and in 2008 Barack Obama (vs. John McCain).  

If he is going to prevail on November 6th, Romney has to accomplish two tasks. He has to tell voters what he would do differently than Obama to create meaningful jobs. And, he has to make voters like him. Romney didn’t do either at the Republican convention. He had his chance in prime time to boost his standing but got no bounce from his Tampa convention speech. 

In October, Romney will debate Obama on three occasions. The first debate, on October 3rd, will be devoted to domestic policy. That’s probably Romney’s best chance to convince voters that he is more likable than Obama and has a real plan to create jobs.  

Meanwhile, Republicans will inundate swing voters with an unprecedented media campaign blasting the President. That’s unlikely to convince Independents to vote for Romney but it may disgust them enough to keep them away from the polls (the major thrust of the GOP 2012 campaign seems to be to discourage voters from exercising their franchise). 

Democrats had a successful convention, capped off by Obama’s stirring speech – “I am hopeful because of you.” Next he has to do well in the debates. Finally, on November 6th, Democrats must do a good job getting out the vote. 

Romney can win, but he has his work cut out for him because Obama is more likable. Of the two, Obama is the one Americans would rather sit next to on a plane. Obama’s the candidate with empathy; the one offering a positive vision for the next four years. 

 

 


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Psychotic Depression

By Jack Bragen
Friday September 07, 2012 - 12:50:00 PM

Psychosis is sometimes believed to be an opposite of depression. It is not happiness, but it is sometimes marked by an excessive level of energy, where depression is known for slowness. Medications used to treat psychosis sometimes create depression, and that could be related to why they work. 


In some cases a person's depression is so severe that it creates a "fight or flight" response, and triggers psychosis. When excessively depressed, a person's nervous system starts to regard this as a threat, and this triggers an extreme reaction that opposes the depression, namely a fight or flight reaction and also psychosis. 


On the other hand, sometimes a person's psychosis is negative enough (consists of too many negative thoughts) that it can produce a type of depression. This is one reason why a drug called "abilify" was recently marketed as useful to combat depression. Abilify is an antipsychotic drug, and by cutting down on aberrant, negative thoughts, it may sometimes relieve depression. This is a different approach to dealing with depression than strictly using an antidepressant. Depression is sometimes caused by a lack of neurotransmitters, or sometimes, it is caused by an excess of them. 


For psychotically depressed people, either psychosis or depression can come first and activate the other. Either way, a person is dealing with something that is hard to treat. Their brain is producing symptoms that are at opposite ends of the scale. 


Psychotic depression is miserable to experience. It is a very bad thing that seems to often happen to good people. You may feel hyper and agitated and yet the outlook is gloomy, and everything seems awful. In some instances, you have a lot of energy accompanied by negative thoughts. Yet this high energy doesn't translate into doing work or getting anything useful accomplished-you feel restless like you can't settle down, but doing work is out of the question. If this weren't so, I would say that there was something positive about psychotic depression. The only positive thing I can list about this particular ailment is that it is a good thing once you get out of it. 


(Obsessive compulsive people, a group I don't know much about, seem to be the ones that often get a lot of work done due to their symptoms. I have met two or three small business owners, who are workaholics, who told me that they were obsessive-compulsive.) 


When one comes out of a phase of psychotic depression, one feels more relaxed and at the same time, there is more usable energy to get things done. The good thing about depression is that sooner or later, it usually lets up. The good thing about psychosis is that with treatment, it can subside. 


People with psychotic depression are more prone to suicide than are some others. This is because it contains misery along with high energy. It means that you are miserable enough (and erroneously feel hopeless enough) to make suicide plans, and you have enough energy to carry them out. 


At certain points in my past, I have experienced psychosis and depression at the same time. And I do know, firsthand, that it is an awful type of suffering, one that can't be easily solved. 


If you think you or someone you know has psychotic depression, get that person some help. A doctor can prescribe an antidepressant and an antipsychotic to treat it, or may just prescribe one or the other. Regardless, there is no reason to suffer unnecessarily.

* * *

Just a reminder that my books are for sale on Amazon. They can be located by using the search box in the Amazon website. Or, if you would like, follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=jack+bragen


SENIOR POWER: Oxymoronic

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday September 07, 2012 - 12:29:00 PM

Several serious ‘months’ are designated in September. Healthy Aging Month, for example. World Alzheimer’s Day on the twenty first. Forty-six states celebrate the 5th annual National Falls Prevention Awareness Day on Sept. 22. Grandparents Day is September 9. National Senior Center Month will again be celebrated in some communities. Thirty-eight percent of Berkeley’s 112,580 population are seniors, elders or boomers (2010 Census). The boomer demographic consists of persons born in the postwar years, generally considered in the USA and other Allied nations between 1945 and the early 1960s, when there was an increase in the birth rate following the return of World War II service personnel. 

Some senior centers are now being referred to as “community senior centers” and “multipurpose senior centers.” Seems oxymoronic, but there it is. If a new label lends itself to renting out facilities, it’s an OK thing, but expanding senior center labels while decreasing services is unacceptable and catching: subsidized senior/disabled housing projects’ recreation rooms have become community rooms. 

“Life Long Learning Program Classes Designed for Adults 55+” once mostly taught in senior centers, usually by credentialed instructors, are fewer and now cost $35.00 per class per term. This includes the Frail Elders and the Adults with Disabilities Programs. At a neighbor city’s senior center, there’s a $1.00 “drop in” charge. At another, there’s an annual membership fee. 

Years ago, gerontologist Erdman Ballagh Palmore (born 1930) wrote that “Age-segregated facilities, such as senior centers, discriminate against younger people and therefore are a form of ageism…. It is a kind of positive ageism in that it discriminates in favor of older people. From the standpoint of younger people who are not admitted and who pay most of the taxes that support the centers, senior centers are a negative kind of ageism, or reverse ageism.”  

John Krout, in his “Senior Center Evaluation: A Technical Assistance Guide for Providers of Services to the Aging” (1993), also expressed some unreasonable reasoning. “… several problems exist with the policy of restricting senior centers to seniors: … They waste community resources by providing duplicate facilities for different age groups, which could be served by one facility-- a community center for all ages. They are based largely on the old stereotype that most seniors are frail or disabled, senile, poor, or otherwise in need of special programs. Activities or programs that require older persons to define themselves as ‘old’ or in any way incapable or inferior, are unattractive to most seniors.”  

Such pronouncements serve only as grist for the mill of thoughtful discussion.  

Recognized by the Older Americans Act (OAA) as a community focal point, senior centers have become one of older adults’ most widely used resources because they are designated for delivery of OAA services that allow participants to access multiple services in one place. Compared with their peers, senior center participants have higher levels of health, social interaction and life satisfaction, and lower levels of income. Participants’ average age is 75. Most visit their center 1-3 times per week and spend an average of 3.3 hours per visit. Today in the United States, nearly 11,000 senior centers daily serve 1 million older adults. 

The Alameda County Area Agency on Aging describes a multipurpose senior center as a facility that provides a broad spectrum of services including, but not limited to, health, social, nutritional, educational services and recreational activities for older adults. Most are staffed and open multiple days during the week. There are also senior centers in communities which may operate one day a week or as part of a local church or recreation center program.  

Senior centers offer a variety of programs which may include exercise classes, ballroom dancing, health screenings, legal services, financial planning sessions, 55 Alive Driving classes, computer and other adult education classes, travel trips, and help with applying for benefits and programs available to elders in Alameda County. Some centers have also hosted meetings of such advocacy groups as Gray Panthers, Congress of California Seniors, and Save Section 8. Senior Centers depend on volunteers to augment paid staff, and may offer excellent opportunities to those seeking meaningful volunteer assignments. 

For information, call the AC AAA Senior Information and Assistance program at 1-800-510-2020 or 510-577-3530. If you live outside of Alameda County, contact your local Area Agency on Aging to identify a senior center near you. 

xxxx 

In December 2011, the San Francisco Chronicle published a photo, “Disabled and seniors gathered to mourn, holding a ‘funeral’ for Berkeley's warm-water pool. The much-beloved pool is set to 92 degrees and is used by hundreds of disabled and seniors for water exercises. The pool is scheduled to be demolished.” Since the 1980s, the pool was used by disabled people, seniors and parents with infants through exercise classes offered by the city and Berkeley City College.  

The warm water pool has long been an issue in which Berkeley’s Commission on Disability has been actively involved. For the last 5 years, there has been an ongoing struggle to reconstruct the “warm pool.” Just how much influence Berkeley commissions have is questionable. Some less, some more than others. It would seem that the Commissions on Aging (COA) and on Disability COD) would be of particular relevance to senior citizens. There appear to be three COD vacancies (of eight)—potential appointees of Councilmembers Capitelli, Moore and Worthington. (The Commission roster was last updated on August 28, 2012.)  

The warm water has a soothing effect for people with muscle and joint disorders, and provides a comfortable environment for aquatic exercises -- a critical part of rehabilitation and overall health for people with limited mobility. A warm-water pool is good fibromyalgia therapy because cold water can make muscles tense up. It is especially important in FMS (fibromyalgia syndrome) because many people with the condition cannot tolerate cold. A warm-water pool is kept around 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius), which is several degrees warmer than most heated pools. (92 degrees has also been mentioned.) 

In June 2012 the City Council unanimously approved two measures for Berkeley's November election: a $19.4 million bond measure and $604,000 parcel tax measure on the November ballot that would fund construction and renovation of the city’s swimming pools, to rebuild the Warm and Willard pools and to make needed repairs at King and West Campus pools; and a parcel tax to provide $605,000 annually for operating Warm and Willard pools (which currently have no budget. If passed by voters, the measure would build a new warm water pool to replace the one that closed down in December 2011 at Berkeley High School, renovate the pool at Willard Middle School, and improve locker rooms at King Pool in North Berkeley.  

xxxx  

NEWS 

Is fibromyalgia hereditary? Fibromyalgia is not passed directly from parents to children as are such diseases as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s, and hemophilia. But family studies have found that the odds of having fibromyalgia are several times greater in the immediate families of people with fibromyalgia than in families in which no one has fibromyalgia. These observations suggest that heredity is indeed a factor in causing fibromyalgia. In fact, studies of DNA from family members of people with fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndromes have turned up a number of genes that could help explain why these disorders seem to run in families. Each of these genes plays a role in the nervous system's response to things that hurt, such as pressure and heat. Some of the same genes are also associated with depression and anxiety, which may be the reason why certain antidepressant medications help reduce fibromyalgia symptoms. 

News reports of low-income San Francisco seniors’ struggles, especially in housing, are increasing. For example, "Low-income seniors struggle in S.F.," by Kevin Fagan (San Francisco Chronicle, August 26, 2012). Elsewhere, "Thousands of deficiencies [are being] reported at Louisiana nursing homes," by Alison Bath and Mary Nash-Wood (Alexandria Town Talk, August 27, 2012). 

A new study suggests a link between the month of your birth and your longevity. Persons born between September and November in the years 1880-1895 had about a 40% higher chance of living to 100 than those born in March, researchers from the University of Chicago Center on Aging found. These findings do not prove a cause-and-effect link, simply an association. But they do point to the importance of the environments in which a child is conceived and grows. "Childhood living conditions may have long-lasting consequences for health in later life and longevity,” they say. Why might the month of birth -- or month of conception – have affected how long someone lived at that time? One possibility is that seasonal diseases played a role. 

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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: September, October and November 2012. 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.  

Monday, Sept. 10. 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM Albany YMCA/Albany Library Brown Bag Lunch Speaker's Forum: Dr. Joel Parrott of the Oakland Zoo & President, CEO and Staff Veterinarian of the The Oakland Zoo: a presentation for adults -- with Animals. The forum is co-sponsored by the Albany YMCA and the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. Contact: Ronnie Davis. 510-526-3720 x16  

Monday, Sept. 10. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. As part of the California Reads program, Delphine Hirasuna, author of The Art of the Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946, will speak about her book and the experience of Japanese-Americans during World War II, when they were forcibly removed from their homes and interned in remote locations. Gaman is a Japanese word that has no exact English equivalent-- endurance, patience, persistence, forbearance and dignity in the face of pain, frustration and adversity. 510-524-3043.  

 

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

Wednesday, Sept. 12. 12:15 – 1 P.M. UC,B Noon Concert Series. Hertz Concert Hall.  

Mosa Tsay, cello; Miles Graber, piano. Brahms: Cello Sonata No. 2 in F Major, Op. 99. Emily Frey, voice; Tony Lin, piano. Grieg: Haugtussa, Op. 67. Free. 510-642-4864 

Wednesdays, Sept. 12 and 26. 1:30 P.M. Union City Library, 34007 Alvarado-Niles Road. 510-745-1464. Fremont Main library, 2400 Stevenson Blvd. 510-745-1401. 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 traditional foods can fit into a healthy eating plan, taking supplements and more. Free. 510-795-2627. For information about other Alameda County libraries’ Older Adult Services, contact Patricia Ruscher at 510-745-1491.  

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

Thursday, Sept. 13. 7 P.M. “Effects of the Evacuation Order.” A panel of local residents will present personal stories documenting the unique and diverse impacts of Executive Order 9066 issued in 1942 requiring all persons of Japanese ancestry to evacuate the West Coast. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. Free. 510-526-7512. E-Mail: swoodbur@ccclib.org 

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

Friday, September 14, 12:10-1 P.M. UC,B Elkus Room, 125 Morrison Hall. Musicians and dancers featured at the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention demonstrate their art and speak about their experiences. Guests include cloggers Thomas Maupin and Daniel Rothwell, and father-daughter duo Rafe & Clelia Stefanini. Moderated by Professor Ben Brinner. Jamming under the oak tree on faculty glade follows. Free. 510-642-4864 

Saturday, Sept. 15. 1-3:30 P.M. Making Sense of the American Civil War. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Guest lecturer Professor Ari Kelman of UC Davis will speak on the legacy of the American Civil War and emancipation, and lead one of three simultaneous book discussions scheduled to start immediately after the lecture. Free. 510-981-6241. 

Saturdays, Sept. 15, Oct. 20, Nov. 17 and Dec. 15. 1 P.M. Oakland Public Library Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave. Free. Writers’ Support & Critique Group. 510-597-5017 

Wednesday, Sept. 19. 6:30-7:30 P.M. Author Talk. North branch, Berkeley Public Library, 1170 The Alameda. Author Mani Feniger talks about her book The Woman in the Photograph: The Search for My Mother's Past. Free. 510-981-6250 

Thursday, Sept. 20. 7 P.M. A screening of the documentary film, "Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story," with speakers Karen Korematsu and Ling Liu. Fred 

Korematsu was one of the few Japanese Americans to defy the evacuation order; his arrest led to a Supreme Court case. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. Free. 510-526-7512. E-Mail: swoodbur@ccclib.org 

Thursdays, Sept. 20 and 27. 12 Noon. Literacy Reading Club with Katherine Gee. Practice English conversation at the Literacy Reading Club. Meet other adults, build confidence in your speaking and discuss a good book! Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-745-1480. 


Thursdays, Sept. 20 and 27. 12:15 PM - 2:15 PM Literacy Reading Club with Lisa Wenzel. Practice English conversation at the Literacy Reading Club. Meet other adults, build confidence in your speaking and discuss a good book! Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-745-1480.  

Monday, Sept. 24. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: The Legend of the Fire Horse Woman by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. Three generations of Japanese women are told through the eyes of Sayo, the family's matriarch. Her story takes place both in 1942, at the Manzanar camp, and back in 1902, when she came to America as a bride. Houston vividly re-creates the limitations and loneliness of life in the Manzanar camp. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members welcome. 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesdays, Sept. 25, Oct. 23, and Nov. 27. 3-4 P.M. "Read & Share" Book Club (formerly "Tea and Cookies") Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6100. 

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. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library.  

Wednesday, Sept. 26. 1:30 P.M. Meet the candidates for Berkeley Mayor at a forum at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, corner of MLK. Moderated by George Lippman of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, the candidates will present their positions and discuss their visions for Berkeley. Sponsored by the Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers. Free. Note: This information is derived from the Planet’s Election Section, i.e. it is not included in the NBSC September newsletter calendar. Contact: Margot Smith Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers, 2539 Telegraph Ave, Suite B, Berkeley, CA 94704. 510-548-9696 or 510-486-8010 or GrayPanthersBerk@aol.com.  

Sunday, September 30. 12 Noon, 2 and 3 P.M. UC,B Dept. of Music Performances at Cal Fall Free for All. 12 Noon: Morrison Hall. 2nd floor loft: Javanese Gamelan under the direction of Midiyanto previews music for the November 7 shadow play; 1 P.M. : Hertz Hall: Davitt Moroney, harpsichord; 2 P.M.: Sather Tower (Campanile): University carillonist Jeff Davis plays the 61-bell carillon; 3 P.M. : Hertz Hall: Marika Kuzma leads the University Chorus and Chamber Chorus. Free. 510-642-4864 

Tuesdays, Oct. 2, Nov. 6 and Dec. 4. 5 P.M. 5366 College Ave. Oakland Public Library Rockridge Branch. Lawyers in the library. Free. 510-597-5017.
 

Wednesdays, 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. 

Wednesdays, Oct. 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 and Nov. 7, 14, 21 and 28. 12 Noon. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6100.  

Wednesdays, 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. 

Fridays, Oct. 5, 12, 19 and 26. 3 P.M. Super Cinema. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6100.  

Thursdays, Oct. 11 and Nov. 8. 7-8:45 P.M. Cafe Literario Berkeley Public Library north branch, 1170 The Alameda. Facilitated book discussions in Spanish. October title: Carlos Fuentes’ La muerte de Artemio Cruz. November title: Marcela Serrano’s Diez Mujeres. 510-981-6250 

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.  

Wednesdays, 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.  

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

Early 20th Century California Art is Focus of Moraga Exhibit Closing Sept. 16

By Becky O'Malley
Saturday September 08, 2012 - 12:02:00 PM

If you love either early 20th century art or the California out-of-doors, you have just one more week to enjoy a delightful exhibit at St. Mary’s College Museum of Art, just a couple of stops through the Tunnel in Moraga. “The Nature of Collecting: the Early 20th Century Fine Art Collection of Roger Epperson” showcases works collected by an East Bay Regional Park ranger between 1984 and his untimely accidental death at the age of 54 in 2008.  

The genesis of his hands-on quest for works created primarily in California in the first third of the past century was Asian-influenced color woodcuts, with especially fine examples of artists like Bertha Lum, William Rice and Berkeley’s own Chiura Obata, whose Telegraph Avenue studio is a Berkeley landmark now threatened by development. 

California plein air painting, landscapes which show the majestic outdoor scenes characteristic of the state’s wide open spaces as well as intimate views of natural settings, form another featured category. An essay by Robert Taylor in the beautiful exhibit catalogue quotes longtime friend Bob Doyle, now general manager of the East Bay Regional Park District saying that Epperson’s “joy in being outdoors” informed his art acquisitions. 

Images of some of the works on exhibit can be seen here 

The museum is open Wednesday through Sundays from 11:00am to 4:30pm. The last day of the exhibit is a week from Sunday, September 16. 

Saint Mary's College of California: 

1928 Saint Mary's Road Moraga, CA 94556, 

(925) 631–4000

 

 


STAGE REVIEWS: Lisa Scola Prosek's opera 'Daughter of the Red Tsar;' Aurora's Bay Area premiere of Kristofer Diaz's play 'The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity'

By Ken Bullock
Saturday September 08, 2012 - 02:35:00 PM

'Daughter of the Red Tsar' 

When the lights at The Thick House on Potrero Hill go up—or rather, when they dim to dreamlike blues—for the final night of 'Daughter of the Red Tsar,' a girlish form is writhing as though fraught by nightmare on a bed center stage, with figures draped in shawls, heads covered, almost shrouded, kneeling downstage ... Down the aisle through the audience another figure in bridal gown processes, and at the head of the bed bursts into exquisite—almost exquisitely painful—high notes ... The young woman on the bed awakes: "I thought I heard my mother's voice," she sings. It's Crystal Philippi as Svetlana, daughter to Joseph Stalin, telling her Nurse (Maria Mikheyenko) about the ghostly appearance of her dead mother Nadya (Valentina Osinski) that troubles her sleep—and much of Lisa Scola Prosek's remarkable—and compact (80 minutes)—new opera about the first meeting of Stalin and Churchill in Moscow, 'Daughter of the Red Tsar.' 

Churchill, the notorious anti-communist—played and sung with gruff ebullience and sly charisma by that ever-adventuresome tenor, John Duykers, is secretly flown to the invasion-beleaguered Soviet Union by a chorus of sopranos, their voices and gestures rising and dipping like wing elevators, to meet the formidable Red Tsar himself, admirably presented by bass/baritone Scott Graff as laconic, pricklish ... Their meeting is heralded by both and on both sides by hesitation, old bitterness—both express their nations' resentments at "going it alone"—suspicion and foreboding. ("I do not like this thing I have to do ... I do not think it will go down well!") Much hinges on whether the Western allies—Britain and the freshly-involved U. S.—will open up a Second Front, taking the onus off the Soviets. (Thomas Prosek's imposing set, dominated by Stalin's massive desk, backed by a huge wall map of Eurasia and the Mediterranean, is the overriding image of the production, with Alexis Lane Jensen's costumes filling out the stage Prosek's design defines.) 

Stalin, too, is haunted by his late wife's specter, which he fends off brusquely. And Svetlana's in love, dallying with Alexei Kapler, a Jewish writer—bass/baritone Philip Skinner singing lushly, with broad romantic gestures—who jokes about the doom of poets in Russia, pantomiming Pushkin's death in a duel while Svetlana giggles. Meanwhile, the kulaks sing of their attachment to their leader—Graff standing on a stool, peering stolidly through a picture frame, dusted by Mikheyenko—who brought them "prosperity, electricity"—and Churchill, first slipping out a mickey of scotch from his dressing gown, wallows in a hotel bath, the shower head held aloft like a microphone by splendid mime Roham Shaikhani as ever-present NKVD chief Beria, appropriately silent—and often drunk, weaving and dancing—throughout. Churchill's approached for the preliminaries by Molotov (Wayne Dexter Wong), a diplomatic wrangle over who will be nice, and the mistake of treating the other "roughly." 

The two titanic national figures finally meet at midnight, Stalin's desk becoming a banquet table—drinks abound ... Meanwhile, Svetlana's beau is "disappeared," interrogated and tortured by the NKVD, his love letters to Stalin's girl (who's next seen gushing over them, sitting on her bed) read aloud and derided. 

The meeting between the two leaders breaks down, from servile toasts to sweeping generalities, thinly-veiled allusions to appeasement ("If they feed the crocodile, the crocodile will eat them last"), cryptic remarks ("a riddle wrapped up in a mystery") and finally caustic reproaches of cowardice and "the Nazis should finish them off; it might be better," all mediated by the two interpreters (who serve also as chorus throughout, picking up the background roles), sung by Natalie S. Moran and Kira Dills DeSura, with rolling eyes as they translate in the ear of each leader, grimacing in turn. 

Abruptly, the two turn away from each other—then Duykers as Churchill equivocates and patronizes: "When I think of all that oil ... We should really start again!" Suddenly, all is charm, compliments, smiles—Svetlana is presented to an admiring Churchill by her proud father, while the emaciated figure of her doomed beau intones from the wings—and the meeting—and opera—end in mutual duplicity, not crocodile tears for all swept away in the storm that sweeps over the world. 

The cast—particularly Duykers, Philippi and Graff, as well as the non-singing but gesturally tuneful Shaikhani—sing and play with elan. Melissa Weaver—who greeted the audience before curtain as a snippy Slavic bureaucratic functionary—has brilliantly stage directed a genuine opera, Scola Prosek's orchestration (steadfastly conducted by Martha Stoddard, chamber orchestra of Emmanuela Nikiforovna, Michel Taddei, Ariella Hyman, Joel Davel, Jerry Kramer and Lisa Sylvester on violin, double bass, cello, percussion, accordion and piano), vocal lines, lyrics and dramatic continuity provide the antithesis and counterpoint, combining in a complex but unified image—what opera is, by definition. 'Daughter of the Red Tsar' marks another—big—step forward for this gifted composer-librettist, whose (now) seven operas mark progress in the operatic form, a crucial element in the development of today's theater. We're lucky to be able to see these premieres locally—and look forward to seeing her next project, again at the Thick House, next year—and undoubtedly seeing 'Daughter of the Red Tsar' again. 

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity' at the Aurora 

"Seriously, they give me a pair of bongos ... " Macedonio "The Mace" Guerra, lifelong Big Time Wrestling fan turned pro himself, leads the audience through the current incarnation of the hybrid sport-as-scripted-spectacle, a natch for theatrical consumption—and incidentally his own "sentimental education" in a bastardized art form and the business deals behind it which essentially require that he keep his mouth shut, as well as his own personal and ethnic bowdlerization ... in Aurora's entertaining Bay Area premiere of Kristoffer Diaz's 'The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.' 

The three-sided audience at the Aurora is treated to a ringside view of the overblown festivities, the actual ring dead-center, backed by twin video screens, the whole theater festooned with flashing lights (Nina Ball's set design). When the spectators (no better word for those of us onlookers) file in, we're greeted by a little warm-up, some preacting by wrestler (and fight director) Dave Maier, who tells us when—and what—to chant and cheer, inviting us to join him for a little fun in the ring ... 

Tony Sancho, in a splendid Bay Area debut as Guerra, handles a sometimes awkward role with grace and affability. The play, though pretty well put together and paced, is essentially a monologue by Guerra, phasing more and more in and out of brief vignettes, jockeying for position with his boss (a feisty, blustering Ron Gnapp as Everett "EKO" Olson, creator of THE Wrestling), the champ and prima donna (a solid Beethoven Oden in the gilded title—and hair—role)—and Guerra's own discovery, Indo-American muslim street hipster Vigneshwar "VP" Paduar (an affable, funny Nasser Khan), who morphs into The Fundamentalist, with Guerra burlesquing his Alfonso Bedoya-inspired bandito-guerilla sidekick, with a compound name evoking Che and Fidel, among others ... finally evolving into the series of fights with the wordless antagonists The Bad Guy, Billy Heartland and crusty vet Old Glory (all played by Maier), to set up The Fundamentalist as the challenger-fall guy for the further apotheosis of Chad Deity. There's a nice light touch—and switch of narrator, from Guerra to VP, in the denouement. 

The play—it somehow manages, more than most spectacles-as-theater to show off a certain amount of dramaturgy—gets to discuss, sometimes act out, questions of race, identity, the image of society in a nation of consumers ... but at moments a spectator has to pause and wonder why, if the modified thrust stage of the Aurora's to become a ring, with the audience its bleachers cheering section, why not something tougher, like Brecht/Weill's 'Mahagonny,' or more "normal" in terms of celebrated play ('Chad Deity' was nominated for a Pulitzer), 'The Grea White Hope'? 

Nonetheless, the Aurora team—including director Jon Tracy, designers Nina Ball, Maggie Whittaker, Cliff Caruthers, Kurt Landisman, Jim Gross—and consultant Dan "Helfyre" (who got in the ring with Maier before the show opening night) and Elizabeth Cadd (THE dancing girl, whose multiple image, whether in bikini top or bhurka, dances acroos the big video screens)—combine to give it their all, acquitting the production well. 

It's an often engaging evening, but—theatrically speaking—I'd call it a draw. 

At the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison (near Shattuck),Tuesdays through Sundays at various times, through September 30. $32-$60. 843-4822; auroratheatre.org


AROUND AND ABOUT THEATER: A Slew of Plays--and a Performance--by James Keller at Live Oak Theater

By Ken Bullock
Saturday September 08, 2012 - 02:29:00 PM

A Hindu flight attendant, a wealthy New York social matron, two aging former seminarians, a dance instructor ...

Some plays are character studies, some plays take a situation and play it out--James Keller writes the rare play that does both. A prolific playwright, who was long associated with the Magic Theatre as well as other venues in the Bay Area, around The States and in Britain, Keller has been producing his own plays and adaptations locally for the last few years with his company, Poor Players, resulting in some of the most engaging theatrical events here in recent memory. Two programs of his short plays, Men Only, directed by Martha Luehrman (an Actors Ensemble of Berkeley member, who has acted in Keller's productions) and Women Alone,