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The Hills Emergency Forum shows on its website this map showing the overlapping zones of Berkeley Hills fires in the 20th century.  The 1991 Firestorm is the large red area at center, and the 1937 Fire is the pinkish tongue extending eastward from it.
The Hills Emergency Forum shows on its website this map showing the overlapping zones of Berkeley Hills fires in the 20th century. The 1991 Firestorm is the large red area at center, and the 1937 Fire is the pinkish tongue extending eastward from it.


New: 1937 Oakland/Temescal Fire Foreshadowed 1991 Conflagration In Oakland/Berkeley Hills

By Steven Finacom
Monday September 24, 2012 - 01:22:00 PM
This map from the September 27, 1937 Oakland Tribune, shows the fire area; it was published while the fire was still burning eastwards.   Highway 24 now runs up the “New Tunnel Road” route that crosses the map, to the Caldecott Tunnel (shown as “Western Portal of New Tunnel” on map).   Lake Temescal at lower left.
This map from the September 27, 1937 Oakland Tribune, shows the fire area; it was published while the fire was still burning eastwards. Highway 24 now runs up the “New Tunnel Road” route that crosses the map, to the Caldecott Tunnel (shown as “Western Portal of New Tunnel” on map). Lake Temescal at lower left.
Although now seamed by freeways that didn’t exist in 1937, the area burned in 1937 retains many of the characteristics present during the 1937 Fire.    The red “A” indicates a general location for the reported start of the fire, which then burned northeast uphill into what is now the North Oakland Regional Sports Center complex and a network of streets and adjacent wildland.  It reached the steep hill lands above the Caldecott Tunnel, which was nearly completed, but had not opened, in September, 1937.  Many of the streets were there in 1937, but with not nearly the number of homes shown today (image from Google satellite maps).
Although now seamed by freeways that didn’t exist in 1937, the area burned in 1937 retains many of the characteristics present during the 1937 Fire. The red “A” indicates a general location for the reported start of the fire, which then burned northeast uphill into what is now the North Oakland Regional Sports Center complex and a network of streets and adjacent wildland. It reached the steep hill lands above the Caldecott Tunnel, which was nearly completed, but had not opened, in September, 1937. Many of the streets were there in 1937, but with not nearly the number of homes shown today (image from Google satellite maps).
The Hills Emergency Forum shows on its website this map showing the overlapping zones of Berkeley Hills fires in the 20th century.  The 1991 Firestorm is the large red area at center, and the 1937 Fire is the pinkish tongue extending eastward from it.
The Hills Emergency Forum shows on its website this map showing the overlapping zones of Berkeley Hills fires in the 20th century. The 1991 Firestorm is the large red area at center, and the 1937 Fire is the pinkish tongue extending eastward from it.

September 26 / 27 is the 75th anniversary of one of the five largest wildfires of the 20th century to burn the west side of the Berkeley Hills. Scorching at least a square mile of land south of today’s Highway 24 and the Caldecott Tunnel, the fire burned for more than a day and threatened both Oakland and Berkeley residential neighborhoods.  

In Oakland, a few houses burned and scores of residents fled. When firefighters thought they had the fire beaten, water shortages helped it take off again in the middle of the night. If the same area burned today, hundreds of homes would be destroyed, as they were in the same area in the 1991 Firestorm. 

In Berkeley, volunteers turned out in the middle of the night to rush to the fire lines and prevent the resurgent blaze from spreading north into the hills and reaching the University town. 

Despite the drama and extent of those events—including a two-AM city-wide alert that roused Berkeley residents—1937 is largely a forgotten fire. It is certainly recorded in lists of major conflagrations in the East Bay, but doesn’t seem to have a historical presence otherwise. It’s far overshadowed in living memory by the 1991 Oakland Firestorm, and in history by the 1923 Berkeley Fire. 

There are some interesting and sobering parallels between 1937 and 1991. In both events, the fire began on a hot Fall Saturday southeast of Berkeley and billowing smoke was visible to spectators at a Cal football game in Memorial Stadium. Each blaze seemed to be under control on Saturday, but flared to dangerous activity again the next day.  

There were two crucial differences, however. First, in 1991, Diablo winds blew off the ridgeline, sending the rejuvenated fire on its destructive course downhill into Oakland and Berkeley. In 1937, although the temperatures were high, what wind there was came off the Bay and apparently nudged the flames into the still-undeveloped hills and away from the lower elevations. 

Second, the hill areas of Oakland were still sparsely developed in 1937. If a fire burned the same area today as in 1937, hundreds of homes would be within its footprint. As it was, there were fears of considerable property destruction 75 years ago, and scores of families fled their homes—some of them newly built—with few or no belongings. 

(This article is not comprehensive, but simply an attempt to sketch out, primarily from contemporary newspaper reports, what happened in 1937. It’s not a full history of that fire, by any means. There are presumably more detailed and illuminating public records and personal accounts that could be located by someone with more time for research.) 

Fire weather 

Heat blanketed the Bay Area and temperatures had climbed above 90 degrees that Indian Summer Saturday, September 25, 1937, as tens of thousands flocked to California Memorial Stadium to watch the Golden Bears battle St. Mary’s. “Football fans…sweltered in their seats, and as the gridmen chased the pig-skin, their playing suits became soaked with perspiration”, the Oakland Tribune said.  

(The Golden Bears would defeat St. Mary’s 30-7 that day, finish as Pacific Coast champions with a 10-0-1 record, field 4 All-Americans, and end the season ranked #1 nationally. It was also the last time California won the Rose Bowl, beating Alabama 13-0.) 

In San Francisco it was the hottest day of the year—88 degrees. A 48-year-old Berkeley man died, apparently of heatstroke, in Oakland. Many sought relief at Lake Temescal where, due to the gifts of civic groups, swimming was free for the first time that year. A 19 year-old Oakland man nearly drowned there Saturday, venturing into deep water while trying to swim across the lake. Scores watched while a lifeguard pulled him from the water and a fire department “inhaler crew” worked for half an hour to revive him. 

Fire Begins 

Not far to the east of the Lake, more potential disaster was brewing. A bonfire fire was started “near a home at 707 Mountain Boulevard early Saturday afternoon,” the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported the next day. The Oakland Tribune initially reported it as “of undetermined cause, apparently near the home of Police Inspector Jesse Jackson, at 6019 Pinehaven (sic) Road,” a location that’s actually rather far to the southeast from the likely site. 

In following days, the cause and address were further muddled. 52 year-old W.K. Driggs was arrested for not getting a permit to start a rubbish fire behind a house he had rented at 6064 (sic) Mountain Boulevard, the Tribune reported. The Tribune said “the fire got away from him and spread up a canyon, he explained, before he had any opportunity to call firemen.”  

(The address given in the arrest article may well have been a mistake, since the 6000 block of Mountain Boulevard is, today at least, far south near Mills College. And 6019 Pinehaven seems too away from the starting point; that claim may reflect a reporter contacting a usual source in the Police Department. Sorting through the articles, an address on the uphill side of the 600 or 700 block of Mountain Boulevard would seem most likely as the vicinity of the initial ignition.) 

Whatever the starting point, the fire ran uphill to the east and north into steep, dry, wooded, slopes and canyons. It “spread fanwise through numerous gullies and reached up to Broadway Terrace and Skyline Boulevard about midnight Saturday”, the Tribune said. The articles don’t mention much wind—a key, and fortunate, circumstance. 

Oakland firemen reached the blaze “shortly before 3 pm” reported the Tribune. “During the first six hours the fire had burned across the western edge of the Pinehaven district, up Broadway Terrace to a point just below the Skyline Boulevard, and back down another Canyon to the west.” 

“An abnormally high temperature which combined with the heat of the flames to leave the fire-fighters sweltering, and the difficulty of getting water into all of the hill areas, hampered the crews all during the afternoon and evening.” 

The fire initially burned through “a sparsely settled area of the Pinehaven district, and this fact, coupled with the aid by volunteers, had prevented a conflagration that might have engulfed scores of expensive homes (Oakland) Fire Chief Lutkey said” in the Oakland Tribune that Sunday morning. “Acre upon acre of brush and trees, including eucalyptus that sent a pungent pall of smoke pouring over much of Oakland, was burned over in the fire.” 

On Saturday, “the first outbreak of the flames…sent heavy clouds of smoke and flame high into the air so that the billowing flame-tinted black clouds were easily seen by spectators at the…football game,” the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported. A public announcement was made at Memorial Stadium that Berkeley firefighters should report to the department.  

In Berkeley, the hot temperatures and towering columns of smoke would have reminded thousands of residents of the disastrous conflagration they had witnessed just 14 years earlier in 1923, a fire that destroyed some 600 buildings and burned from the North Berkeley ridgeline to the edge of Downtown. 

Residents flee 

Meanwhile, in Oakland, “families fled their homes in fear” the Tribune said. “Others who sought to save their belongings were ordered out by firemen.” Five homes were “blackened on Upper Broadway Terrace”. Houses were damaged or burned in the 3000 block of Ruthland Road, and the 5500 block of Gwin Road.  

(Newspaper accounts variously listed two, three, four, or five houses destroyed, and more than 50 endangered. The discrepancy may have been from early reports that included damaged homes or those that looked like they would surely burn. Three houses destroyed was the number given in the last article I could find, nearly a week after the fire when an accurate account, presumably, would have been available.) 

“Scores of residents of the area left their homes empty-handed, too excited to gather up any of their belongings; others snatched up pet animals, blankets and cash.” “Those who rushed from their homes found vantage points on nearby hills to watch the progress of the fire, which at times crept slowly through brush and at other times leaped from treetop to treetop.” Other residents searched empty homes to release animals—including dogs and rabbits—from the path of the fire. 

Mrs. Maeguerite Risley of Farralone Way gave the Tribune an eyewitness account, describing how her extended family fled a gathering. “When the fireman rushed up the hill and told us that we would have to get out right away as a draft was shooting up the canyon, the whole four generations crammed into our sedan and we drove about two miles away where we stood on a hill and watched the fire creep up toward our home…we could see the fire creep right up to our back door. “ 

“Meanwhile the firemen had connected up hoses and were playing the water on our house. Even so the roof of the houses caught…and all the window panes facing the west, from where the fire came, were cracked by the heat. We said goodbye to our home and tears were streaming down the cheeks of my mother…” Their house, however, apparently did survive. 

Mrs. C.F. Humphrey of Broadway Terrace told the Tribune she was busy with house work and “glanced at the fire occasionally over a period of an hour before I realized our home was menaced…I rolled up a pile of blankets and placed them in the car as I thought that I might have to sleep out tonight. I took my silverware and some private belongings and also did not forget to take along ‘Skipper’ my little canary bird.” She also watched the fire from a nearby hill, saying, “…the blaze skipped from tree to tree, until in a few moments it was within a half block of our house.” Her home survived also. 

Fifteen firefighters on Gwin Road were surrounded by the fire on Saturday, but escaped. Hundreds of feet of hose laid across the hillsides burned. At various times the fire threatened the big P.G. and E. power substation and related high voltage lines near Lake Temescal, and office buildings around the west portal of the as-yet-unopened Low Level Broadway Tunnel (today’s Caldecott). 

“An abnormally high temperature, which combined with the heat of the flames to leave the fire fighters sweltering, and the difficulty of getting water into all of the hill areas, hampered the crews all during the afternoon and evening” on Saturday. 

Fire resurges 

Finally, after dark and after more than six hours, the flames seemed abated. But, anticipating a possible flare up, the Berkeley fire department had stationed watchers and run an emergency telephone line “from the fire switch board to a point near the west portal of the tunnel on the old Tunnel Road.” 

The caution was merited. Water pressure dropped for Oakland firefighters. “Lack of water caused by exhaustion of reservoirs in the hill region hampered the fire fighters”, the Tribune reported. “Residents who sought to wet down the roofs of their homes found they could not get enough pressure to do so.” 

“…water gave out in the Pinehaven reservoir”, the Gazette reported. “It was then necessary to pump water in relays from lower areas. Three inch mains…gave only 25 gallons of water a minute despite the capacity of the fire engines to pump 1,000 gallons a minute.” 

Hoses connected fire engines over a route of about half a mile to reach the danger area on upper Broadway Terrace. The Tribune said “the fire was believed under control at 9 pm” (the Gazette said 7 pm) “but it was just after that that the wind increased and the blaze began crackling rapidly through pine and fir toward the intersection of Pineneedle Road and Upper Broadway Terrace.”  

Berkeley mobilizes 

“The blaze suddenly gained impetus shortly after 1 o’clock…” in the morning the Gazette said. “When the flames jumped across Skyline Boulevard and leaped high out of control in renewed activities shortly after midnight Saturday night, (Berkeley) Assistant Fire chief John Eichelberger, in charge at the look out station…flashed a warning to Fire chief George Haggerty. All off-duty firemen—50 in number—were immediately roused from bed and rushed to cut off the new outbreak. Three water wagons and one Berkeley fire engine also were sent to battle the fire.” 

“They halted a wall of flame as it tried viciously to leap the old Tunnel Road and spread out in the dry timber back of Berkeley, but… the flames spread fanwise eastward, out of control.” The city put an emergency plan into effect, and Chief Haggerty threw a switch at 2:06 am, Sunday morning. 

Berkeley residents were thus awakened in the midst of the night by the “shrill scream of the siren” mounted atop Berkeley’s tallest downtown building, the American Trust tower at Center and Shattuck (it’s now the Wells Fargo Building).  

Installed in the aftermath of the 1923 Berkeley Fire, the siren was intended to alert emergency workers that they were needed. It had apparently only been used once before, just to summons off-duty firemen for the 1933 Oakland Hills fire.  

When it sounded again in 1937, the call was more widespread. “Volunteers and city employees began flocking to the city corporation yard at Santa Fe Avenue and Allston Way. There city trucks, loaded with tins of water and wet sacks, were ready to rush them to the battle area,” the Gazette reported. 

“Including the 50 off-duty firemen, a total of 249 Berkeleyans responded to the disaster alarm. This however, according to (Fire) Chief Haggerty, does not include the many unofficial volunteers—Berkeley residents who made their own way to the fire lines.” 

The city responders included “city employees from the sanitary bureau, the park department, recreation division and off-duty police officers.” They were augmented by 70 youths from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp in Wildcat Canyon. 

Another 400 to 450 volunteers from the American Legion assembled at the Veterans Memorial Building downtown and the Key System interurban railroad “had also volunteered to send out a force of more than 200 men, if needed.” 

They apparently weren’t. “The swarm of workers first rushed into the hills had already set backfires and isolated the flames in many areas”, said the Gazette the next day. “City Manager Hollis R. Thompson, who had watched the fire fighters in the hills throughout the night, expressed satisfaction today after the smoothness with which Division A of the disaster plan had operated” the paper added.  

Thompson had only one criticism he relayed to the paper. “Persons interested in the cause of the siren blast seriously hindered both (police and fire) departments by making telephone calls immediately after the siren sounded. I appeal to Berkeleyans to discontinue this practice, or at least to withhold their calls to the police and fire departments for a reasonable length of time after the siren is used.” 

Final hours 

Although many of the Berkeley volunteers were released by 7:00 am Sunday morning, the fire was not extinguished until 9:30 on Sunday night, 31 hours after it began, the papers said. “Backfiring and work in isolated fires in small clumps of brush and trees ended the firefighting last night in the region of Old Tunnel Road,” the Tribune reported the next day. “The latter work was regarded as more or less minor, the heaviest fire having been during the early hours of the morning.” 

And well after the fire was supposedly out, there was a flare-up in drifts of pine needles along a hill road that had to be suppressed.  

For some of the Berkeley municipal employees who had responded in the middle of the night to help fight the fire, the workday didn’t end with the fire danger. That Sunday, parks employees headed up to North Berkeley to participate in the opening of the Berkeley Rose Garden, which coincidently lay along the edge of the 1923 Berkeley Fire zone. 

And quite possibly for Berkeley’s fire fighters, it seemed a week of no rest for the weary. At 1:07 am on the night of September 27/28, they were dispatched to deal with a new middle-of-the-night wild lands fire behind the California School for the Blind (now the University’s Clark Kerr campus). A second alarm was called less that half an hour later. 

“Running up a gulch near Stonewall Road, the blaze quickly spread through approximately an acre of eucalyptus trees and flames leaped high into the sky as a layer of dead leaves, more than a foot deep under the trees, added to the fury of the fire,” the Gazette reported in its edition of the 28th. “Apparently started by a cigarette tossed from a machine by some motorist on Tanglewood Road, the fire actually occurred in Oakland, just across the Berkeley line, but the local department responded first because of the inaccessibility of the area from Oakland.”  

Firemen had to “drag heavy hose lines through the brush and hill area. Several homes in the section would have been endangered by flying sparks had they not had fireproof roofs…Smoldering stumps and hot embers flared up again shortly before noon, but were quickly extinguished.” 

That same day—Tuesday—the City Manager, in his reports to the City Council, included the following statement:  

“That at the fire in Oakland last Sunday morning a portion of the City’s Disaster Preparedness Plan was brought into action and that various City groups responded with great efficiency and got into action without delay; that last Friday a meeting on the Disaster Preparedness Plan had been held in the Council Chamber to renew and refresh their memories and that the Plan worked with great smoothness and efficiency; that the fire might have been very disastrous if a heavy wind had been blowing. He (Manager Hollis Thompson) commended the employees of the Bureau of Parks of the Recreation Department, Garbage Department, Bureau of Streets of the Public Works Department, Fire and Police Departments, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company, and the East Bay Transit Company who all worked so effectively.” 

The Council minutes record, “On motion of Councilman Hoyt, seconded by Councilman Gaines, a resolution was adopted commending the various groups on their efficient work in controlling the fire.” 

(It seems petty, in hindsight, that Berkeley would officially commend all those departments and businesses with no mention of the Oakland Fire Department that bore the brunt of fighting the big fire, but perhaps the Berkeley resolution only listed those in Berkeley, and intended no slight.) 


Even before the fire was fully extinguished, finger pointing began among public agencies. “Fire Chief William G. Lutkey, of Oakland, blamed the spread of the flames on the lack of water and declared the fire water service in the foothills entirely inadequate,” the Gazette said. 

The East Bay Municipal Utility District responded with a detailed rebuttal in the Oakland Tribune the day after the fire. “John S. Longwell, chief engineer and general manager…said shortage of water was ‘in no way a contributing factor’ in the loss sustained in the week-end fire. Men and equipment of the district, he said, played an important part in fighting the fire.” 

“Longwell said: ‘A large part of the area is not subdivided and contains no streets and no roads and of course no water mains. The part along Broadway Terrace is served by the Pinehaven No. 1 storage tanks at elevation 1,150, having a capacity of 300,000 gallons. This is the mains storage for the area and is supplied by pumps fed from a lower storage system. At no time during the fire was the storage in the tank below 120,000 gallons and much more water was available. A small tank at elevation 1,350 above the Skyline Boulevard serves a few houses too high to be reached from the 200,000 gallon tank. This tank holds but 40,000 gallons and is provided to supply domestic water to the higher area. This is the small tank referred to as going empty, and is of course not designed for supplying water in large quantities, as this is taken care of by the larger tank. However, the 40,000 gallons in this tank was used and did effective work while it lasted. 

Additional storage is provided on the west side of the canyon, in which the fire took place from a 100,000 gallon tank at elevation 1,350. Water from this tank supplies the west portal of the Broadway Low Level Tunnel, and here also water was available at all times during the fire.” 

“Fighting fires such as this one, in a brushy and wooded country with steep slopes, differs materially from fire fighting in the business and residential sections. Backfiring, together with the use of specially designed portable fire trucks equipped with water tanks, is used effectively’, he concluded.” 

Longwell gave credit to the CCC crews and an EBMUD fire truck for work at the upper end of the fire area “near Grizzly Peak Boulevard and above Skyline Boulevard.” 

EBMUD board secretary T. J. Roberts added that Lake Temescal could be used for a back-up fire fighting water supply “if the city financed reservoirs and piping.” 

The public sparring between agencies seems, from the limited evidence of the newspaper articles, to have involved some apples and oranges assertions. EBMUD was probably right in listing the aggregate water available in the area and noting that there weren’t big street mains available in areas that hadn’t been built up, but the key argument made by the Oakland Fire Department was that three inch lines couldn’t supply enough for the pumpers to effectively use once the upper reservoir went dry.  

At that point—when the fire was far uphill—the amount of water in tanks at lower elevations wouldn’t have mattered much, since a precarious system of hoses and pumpers had to be cobbled together to bring it up in insignificant quantities. 

Uncertain size 

As with many wildfires of the now-distant past, the area burned in 1937 is ambiguous. Most lists you’ll find, on-line at least, say the 1937 fire burned 700 acres, or slightly over a square mile. That would make it the fifth largest recorded fire in the East Bay hills in the 20th century. 

The area shown on the Tribune map—which went to press while the fire was still burning—seems to show the fire running close to a mile uphill, as the crow flies, and a narrower zone from north to south.  

But the newspaper articles at the time reported anywhere from nine square miles (initially estimated by Oakland’s fire chief in the Tribune on Sunday) to an astonishing 14 square miles (the Gazette). On Monday, however, the Tribune added “estimates of the area burned varied from two to nine square miles.” 

This all bears some scrutiny. When I researched the 1923 Berkeley Fire several years ago, it was clear that the standard accounts of its extent focused mainly on the burned area within Berkeley city limits, and may well have left out additional large acreages burned in the undeveloped hills further to the south and east, after the Diablo winds died down.  

Something similar may have been the case with the 1937 fire. In addition, in the massively folded topography of the hills the difference between “square miles” on a flat map and actual acres on the tilted ground can be considerably different. Finally, with fires that burn grassland and brush, even the passage of a single winter / spring seasonal cycle can obliterate obvious traces with new greenery and growth. 

Quickly forgotten 

However big the fire was, with so little loss of buildings, life quickly resumed in Oakland. The fire story went from a front page-wide headline in the Tribune on Sunday the 27th and a page of dramatic pictures, to a one-column aftermath article the next day to…almost nothing, apparently.  

Other news quickly took over, including coverage of the death of San Francisco banker William H. Crocker who reportedly left a million-dollar estate, and a Downtown Oakland parade for native son and tennis champion Don Budge (that year Budge won Wimbledon singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles, the U.S. Open, and a share of the U.S. Davis Cup victory.) And Oakland also commemorated National Fire Protection Week, which focused on home preparations and conventional structure fires. 

A final footnote to the fire story came on Friday, October 1, less than a week after the blaze began. W.K. Driggs, the music teacher employed by the W.P.A. who had accidently started the fire, was given a suspended sentence of “a $100 fine or 20 days in jail.”  

Oakland Police Judge Chris Fox imposed an actual effective penalty of 120 days of probation, noting “probation was granted because he was confident Driggs did not set the fire deliberately and that he was aware of the mental suffering Driggs had undergone.” Fox “indicated that severe penalties will attach in similar cases in the future,” the Tribune reported. 

And on Saturday, October 2 , “the first autumn rain fell in the Bay Region,” just a sprinkling, actually. The short wrap-up article in the Tribune about the weather mentioned fallen power lines, and potential damage to crops from Niles to the Central Valley. There was no mention of the beginning of the end of the fire season. 

(Steven Finacom is the current President of the Berkeley Historical Society where he co-curated an exhibit on the 75th anniversary of the 1923 Berkeley Fire in 1998.) 

For more resources: 

The author wrote about the 20th anniversary of the 1991 Firestorm here: 


The website of the Hills Emergency Forum, a consortium of agencies with fire fighting and prevention interests in the Berkeley Hills, has good information on local wildfires and fire prevention. http://www.hillsemergencyforum.org/

Space Shuttle Passes Over Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Friday September 21, 2012 - 10:15:00 AM
The NASA Shuttle as seen over Berkeley
Mark Coplan
The NASA Shuttle as seen over Berkeley

Wow! I just glanced out my window and saw the retiring space shuttle, mounted on the back of a big plane, passing over my head. Very moving, much more than I'd expected.

Mark Coplan forwarded some great pictures with this comment:

"The historic flight of the NASA Shuttle to its final resting place where millions will be able to see it passed over Berkeley today. It was an awesome sight from the roof of the new Berkeley Unified School District Administrative Offices."

Campaign for McLaughlin Park
on State Parks Commission Agenda
for September 28

By Patricia Vaughan Jones,Executive Director, Citizens for East Shore Parks
Friday September 21, 2012 - 03:32:00 PM

Naming parks after people adds a human element and story to open space. Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP), a shoreline advocacy nonprofit, has spearheaded a campaign to rename Eastshore State Park as McLaughlin Eastshore State Park after San Francisco Bay champion and citizen volunteer Sylvia McLaughlin. The proposal will be on the agenda of the California State Parks Commission on September 28.

CESP is committed to this campaign because Sylvia McLaughlin represents the many citizen volunteers who worked to preserve the San Francisco Bay shoreline. Sylvia McLaughlin is co-founder of CESP and Save the Bay and she was instrumental in establishing the Eastshore State Park. CESP was founded in 1985 as a result of Santa Fe Railroad’s proposed fill and development on the Berkeley shoreline. CESP brought shoreline advocates together to stop this development, preserving the land that became the Eastshore State Park. 

The Eastshore State Park runs 8.5 miles through five cities from the foot of the Bay Bridge in Oakland to just north of the Point Isabel Regional Shoreline in Richmond. 

CESP has worked on the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park campaign for more than two years. The first milestone in the renaming campaign was when ACR 55 (Skinner) was passed by the State Assembly in 2011. ACR 55 recommended that the CA State Department of Parks and Recreation implement the name change. But, the Department never acted. 

CESP and McLaughlin Eastshore State Park supporters are now looking to the State Parks and Recreation Commission to take action at its September 28 meeting in Santa Monica, CA. 

The Commission meeting agenda is available to view on its website at http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=27190. 

In the meantime CESP continues to gather support by letter, resolution and email and the list of supporters continues to grow. Current supporters include all cities through which the park runs. The cities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Oakland, and Richmond, as well as Alameda and Contra Costa Counties have passed resolutions of support and more than 600 individuals have shown support by letter, postcard and petition. 

CESP will share the community’s enthusiasm for honoring Sylvia McLaughlin at the State Parks and Recreation meeting on Sept. 28. CESP is calling on individuals, businesses and organizations to show support for McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. Please call the Commission at 916/653-0524 or send email and letters of support to: State Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Caryl Hart and to State Parks Dept. Interim Director Janelle Beland, c/o CESP at: director@parks.ca.gov, lnastro@parks.cca.gov, eastshorepark@hotmail.com. Or send a letter to the State Parks and Recreation Commission c/o CESP at P.O. Box 6087 Albany, CA 94706. 


Ashby BART Station in Berkeley Closed Due to Person Under Train

Tuesday September 25, 2012 - 07:43:00 PM

Berkeley's Ashby BART station is closed this evening because a person was under a train there, according to BART. 

The station remained closed as of about 7:15 p.m., according to a BART dispatcher. There is no estimate when the station will reopen.

New: Grey Panthers Host Berkeley Mayor Candidates in Forum

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Wednesday September 26, 2012 - 10:21:00 PM

The Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers’ monthly meeting filled the North Berkeley Senior Center large meeting room with reporters, photographers, and senior citizens-elders-boomers on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 afternoon. Maggie Kuhn —she who contended that “Power should not be concentrated in the hands of so few, and powerlessness in the hands of so many”— would have been pleased with the turn-out and how the Meet the Candidates for Berkeley Mayor forum was conducted.  

The event had been noted in the Panthers September Newsletter and the Planet’s Election Section and Senior Power column. It began almost on time. Panthers Co-Convenor Margot Smith greeted the goodly crowd, and Moderator George Lippman of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission checked that the sound amplification was working well (much appreciated by everyone, including this 86-year old, hearing-impaired reporter) and then clarified the procedure.  

Opening statements, questions provided on cards by audience members, and concluding questions were addressed by mayoral candidates Jacqueline McCormick, Kriss Worthington, Tom Bates, Zachary Running Wolf, and Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi (left-to-right on stage) as they presented their positions and discussed their visions for Berkeley. 

Four areas of questioning provided the framework of concerns of senior citizens and disabled persons: housing, transportation, city Council meetings, and positions on Measures S and T. (Seniors’ health was not specified, but their transportation and housing undergird their health.) There were too many “you guys,” but what can you do.  

Tom Bates pushed his having been Berkeley Mayor for ten years, dropped names several times, and pointed to school system successes. Kriss Worthington pushed his sixteen years on Council. Zachary Running Wolf refreshingly named names of two developers who should be penalized—Ali Kashani and Patrick Kennedy. Jacqueline McCormick noted developers must contribute to the Housing Trust Fund. In the budget discussion. She was first to point out that social services for seniors have been cut back by 57%. Service center and parking citations management were identified several times as problems.  

A question card from the audience confounded Section 8, the Berkeley Housing Authority (i.e., Authorities I and II) and so-called affordable housing, to which an entire forum could be devoted. The possibility of CVS opening in the old, now vacant, Andronico’s Market location on Telegraph Avenue was mentioned; likewise, construction of a student dormitory next to Stuart Pratt Manor on Durant Avenue (senior/disabled housing now being rehabilitated).  

Beginning in June 2012, an invitation has been included in each Senior Power column: All candidates for election are welcome to share statements of their accomplishments and plans vis a vis senior citizens and elders. Individual invitations were also sent to candidates for Berkeley Mayor and City Council.  

I have received one statement, from Sophie Hahn, candidate for City Council, District 5. None of the other mayoral and councilor candidates has provided a statement. What might be concluded from this? Several things, possibly… depending on one’s reading interests, politics, income, and demographics. And of course, depending on any regard you may or may not have for a Senior Power column. Or, is it possible that thirteen candidates consider that they have no accomplishments and plans vis a vis senior citizens?  

Of fourteen candidates for Mayor and Council memberships, apparently there is one who is concerned with seniors’ health, housing, transportation. She is not running for the office of Berkeley mayor. Three are: Kriss Worthington,Tom Bates and Jacquelyn McCormick.  

Helen Rippier Wheeler is the Planet's "Senior Power" columnist. 





Press Release: Celebratory “Sitting Olympics” To Highlight Measure S Concerns
Berkeley celebs headline Sept. 30 “Starry Plough Olympiad 2012”

From Christopher Cook
Wednesday September 26, 2012 - 06:07:00 PM

Adding colorful levity to the campaign season, the coalition Berkeley Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down/No on S is hosting an “Olympic Sitting Competition” Sept. 30 to dramatize the “absurdity” of outlawing sitting on a sidewalk. 

The “Sitting Olympiad” is open to the public and features well-known Berkeleyites Scoop Nisker, Selma Spector, Karen Ripley, Dr. Mozzarelli, Kris Welch, Gary Hicks, Martin Hickel, Hali Hammer, Carol Denney and other “highly trained competitive sitting athletes” going head to head (or butt to butt) for the gold in a spirited and unique competition. 

The event begins with a short film, “The Definitive History of the Misunderstood Sport of Competitive Sitting,” before featuring the live Olympic Sitting Competition. The public is cordially invited to participate, “with the understanding that competitive sitting requires dedication and training to avoid injury,” as event organizer Carol Denney put it. “Join the games! Go for the gold!” 

The No on S coalition includes numerous Berkeley merchants, city councilors, social service organizations, faith leaders, the ACLU, National Lawyers’ Guild, and many community leaders throughout the city. 

When: Sunday, Sept. 30th, 4-7 pm 

Where: The Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley 

Benefit For: Berkeley Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down Coalition/ No on S 

($5 - $50 sliding scale) 

Press Release: Bookmark and Share Curb-Sit and Kiss-In Protest Against Anti-Sitting Law-- Re-Creation Of Barack And Michelle Obama's First Kiss While Sitting On The Sidewalk

By B Sofer
Wednesday September 26, 2012 - 12:05:00 PM

What: Obama wedding anniversary eve first date re-creation, “Curb-Sit” and “Kiss-In”

When: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 6:30 PM

Where: On the Curb of the Berkeley City Council meeting, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way

On the eve of Barack and Michelle Obama's 20th wedding anniversary, citizens of Berkeley will be re-creating the First Family’s first date and first kiss, exactly as they did, while sitting on the sidewalk and sharing ice cream. If measure S, (the sidewalks for the merchants, not the homeless measure) passes in the November election, this re-creation would be illegal on the Obamas 21st anniversary.
A plaque placed outside a strip mall in the Hyde Park neighborh
The protesters were inspired by the dedication, in August, of a plaque commemorating that first kiss, on a 3000-pound granite marker at the location where their first kiss occurred.

The photo is from Zimbio

There will be a signing of an anniversary card, urging the Obamas to come out in opposition to this awful law.

That first kiss occurred in 1989 when Pres. Obama was a Harvard law student working as a summer associate in the law firm where Michelle Obama was an attorney. Their first kiss occurred while they were sitting on the sidewalk in front of what is now a Subway sandwich shop. The president said in a February 2007 interview in Oprah's "O.", magazine, " On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate." 





New: Vote No on Alameda County Measure A1 (Opinion)

By Laura Baker,East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society
Wednesday September 26, 2012 - 10:29:00 AM

The East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society is a member of the organized opposition to the Oakland Zoo's county-wide parcel tax measure, Measure A1. We are one of the signers to the argument against the measure that appears in the voter pamphlet. This measure is not what the zoo is claiming it is--all about humane animal care. It's about getting Alameda county taxpayers to foot the bill for the big ridgeline expansion and 34,000 sq. foot visitor center, restaurant, and office complex that zoo management insists they will be building on unspoiled Knowland Park, Oakland's largest park and an area of amazing plant and wildlife diversity. There is another side to this measure besides the cute animals that the zoo displays to divert attention away from the real issues. 

The project was approved by Oakland with no clear source of funding, despite numerous requests from the public for more information at City Council meetings. Clearly, the zoo executives were counting on friends on the county Board of Supervisors to put this on the ballot, and now they want to deny that they want to use the money to pay for the expansion, despite the fact that the measure clearly uses the word "construction" and "expansion" and is so broadly written that they can use it for virtually anything. 

Voters who take the trouble to peer behind the deceptive title of the measure will discover that the proposed ordinance would turn the private non-profit zoo board (East Bay Zoological Society) into a taxing authority with none of the open government provisions that guarantee transparency to the public in how their money is used. The EBZS has a privately selected board, and it does not have to abide by the California Public Records Act or the Brown Act which regulates access to public meetings. Zoo management claims that the hand-picked citizens oversight committee that would be appointed would provide adequate accountability, but the committee would simply be asked to confirm that the zoo is spending the funds according to the expenditure plan which gives carte blanche to management to spend the money any way it wants. 

Given that the proposed expansion is currently estimated to cost $72 million and the zoo has been either unwilling or unable to show that it has the money to develop it, it's clear that money from Measure A1 will be used to fund the sprawling project that would pave over 56 acres of prime native plant and wildlife habitat. The cruel irony is that the themepark exhibit is aimed at teaching children how California lost its native species like the wolf, grizzly bear, and mountain lion from habitat destruction, yet mountain lions today make use of Knowland Park which forms an important part of a wildlife corridor. The project would destroy two rare plant communities that are priceless remnants of our natural heritage that should be preserved intact. 

The zoo already receives millions of dollars in annual public subsidies, and they showed a profit of over half a million dollars last year. If they can't afford to care for the animals that they have, as they claim, then why are they planning to double their size and operating expenses with the bloated expansion project? Clearly, something doesn't add up and the public is entitled to know. For more information visit our website at www.saveknowland.org. 

Vote No on A1!

Press Release: Berkeley Mayoral Candidate Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi to Host Green Party Endorsement Celebration at New Campaign Headquarters

Friday September 21, 2012 - 11:45:00 AM

Berkeley Mayoral candidate and Green Party member Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi will host a Green Party endorsement celebration and meet-and-greet on Friday, September 21, 2012 at his new campaign's headquarters located at 1551 University Avenue.

The event will be held on Friday evening, between the hours of 5PM to 9PM, and invited guests and speakers include City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, Rent Commissioner Asa Dodsworth, Adolfo Cabral, Michelle Hamilton and other progressive candidates, community leaders and educators.  

“I am excited about the new campaign headquarters because it allows all of the progressive candidates to come together and hold community meetings” said Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi. “This is a place that is super accessible to Berkeley citizens and will allow everyday people to come and become part of the political process.”

The community campaign headquarters has events scheduled throughout the months ahead, and food and refreshments for tomorrow evening’s event will be provided by several local vendors, and with live performances and DJs spinning music from all corners of the world.

About Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi

Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi is a long-time Berkeley resident, UC Berkeley alumnus, social activist, teacher, artist and a member of the Alameda County Green Party, who believes that Berkeley needs a new generation of leadership with a vision of change and progress.

Jacobs-Fantauzzi strongly believes that the city of Berkeley needs an innovative and genuine leader that is in touch with all citizens, unlike previous mayors have catered only to specific communities, which Jacobs-Fantauzzi believes has resulted in a city divided with stark inequalities in housing, education, safety, and opportunities.

His mission as mayor will be to bring together all segments of the community and to unify different neighborhoods to work together to reclaim the ideals of our city. Jacobs-Fantauzzi is also committed to eliminating the equity gaps in housing, academic achievement, health, safety and technology.

Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi believes that the focus of healthy environments and green practices needs to be inclusive, rather than just in certain neighborhoods. Affordable housing and transportation continue to be a problem for many Berkeley residents, and we need to look for ways to support both owners and renters in making safe housing affordable and to improve transportation to all parts of our city.

MapLight's Voter's Edge: A Graphic Guide to Election Information

Monday September 24, 2012 - 06:16:00 PM

Voter's Edge is the product of MapLight, a non-profit foundation-funded organization which documents political contributions and presents them in an easily accessed online format. Here's their widget which tells you all about California ballot propositions:

And below you'll see the MapLight widget for Berkeley.

We must emphasize, however, that we haven't fact-checked the information here, which is compiled by and for the berkeleyside.com blog under contract with MapLight. Also, in many categories, like "Endorsements", the information is incomplete.

We've taken just a quick look, and have already found one error: Street Spirit's cartoon on Anti-Sitting Measure S does not belong under Editorials in the "Yes" column—they're emphatic opponents, as any Street Spirit reader might guess. Also, Osha Neumann's Public Comment piece, listed under Measure S "No" editorials, is not technically a Planet editorial, though we're proud to host it nonetheless and agree with his opinion..

If you find any other mistakes, please let us know at news@berkeleydailyplanet.com, and we'll post corrections. And if you can supply missing information, please tell us that too.

UPDATE: The Street Spirit cartoon about Measure S has been moved to the "No" column as of Wednesday morning. Please continue to report errors and omissions.

Election Information

Friday September 21, 2012 - 12:34:00 PM

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

Press Release: BCA Endorsement Meeting Results From Linda Godzi 09-16-2012 

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



ENDORSEMENT SPECIAL: Measure T is a Trojan Horse

By Becky O'Malley
Friday September 21, 2012 - 12:09:00 PM

More on the Berkeley ballot measures: for the election-weary among us, it’s hard even to remember which is which. Here’s an easy way to remember why to vote NO on Measure T, courtesy of Wikipedia:

“The Trojan Horse is a tale from the Trojan War about the stratagem that allowed the Greeks to finally enter the city of Troy and end the conflict….After a fruitless 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse, and hid a select force of men inside. The Greeks pretended to sail away, and the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, decisively ending the war….

“Metaphorically, a "Trojan Horse" has come to mean any trick or stratagem that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or space.”

So when you see Measure “T”, think “Trojan” Horse, and vote NO. 

Here’s how it reads on the November ballot” 

Shall the West Berkeley Plan and the Zoning Ordinance be amended to allow development flexibility on up to 6 large sites, each under the same ownership, during the next 10 years, allowing a maximum height of 75’ with a site-wide average height of 50’, and only if community and environmental benefits are provided to West Berkeley? 

It’s bad enough that this ballot measure has been carefully tailored by compliant city council members to benefit a small number of already identified existing large landholders over the next ten years. If that’s not preferential spot zoning, what is? 

The proposed new zoning was concocted in a series of poorly publicized meetings which failed to bring existing businesses and residents together with those who sought these changes for open discussion. In contrast, the existing West Berkeley Plan was adopted after a long series of interactive encounters among stakeholders—which just didn’t happen with this new proposal. 

When the plan finally got to the City Council and the general public was allowed to comment, almost every speaker—businesses, residents, artists, craft workers and others —was opposed. A very few speakers favored the proposal, and almost all of them would benefit financially from the changes. 

But worse is the Trojan Horse feature of the Measure T scheme: in ten years all bets are off, and anyone able to assemble a big enough parcel and/or persuade the Zoning Adjustment Board (commissioners are political appointments made by councilmembers) that some kind of “community benefits” could come out of the deal could build a blockbuster. A relatively small number of projects is mentioned in this year’s ballot measure, but it could turn out to be a Trojan horse allowing speculators in who would consume West Berkeley. 

As you can see from the excellent graphics on the savewestberkeley.org web site, if Measure T passes a wall of high-rise office buildings could replace the thriving West Berkeley mix of small manufacturers, research and development quarters, artists’ studios and homes which now makes the area a great place to live and work. 

Even worse, some of these structures could come right up to Aquatic Park, a waterside jewel already threatened by city neglect and pollution from storm runoff. That’s why important environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Citizens for an Eastshore State Park have been opposed to Measure T. 

This is no way to do planning. Like the other Berkeley ballot measures which Tom Bates and his council majority have foisted on voters for this November, it’s cleverly designed to create a blank check which will enable all sorts of bad outcomes, with no effective public process to control it. 

And what about those supposed future “community benefits” which the measure touts as compensation for harm done? Probably just another classic scam. 

This is nothing new on the face of the earth. In fact, I’ll just quote from two of my favorite classic authors. 

First, there’s the Latin poet Vergil, whose Aeneid, the source of the Trojan Horse tale, I read in high school. 

The line from the epic poem, Equo ne credite, Teucri! Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferenti. ("Do not trust the horse, Trojans! Whatever it is, I fear the Danaans [Greeks], even when bringing gifts.") is the original source of the admonition still good advice today: beware of Greeks bearing gifts. 

The gifts promised in Measure T, the so-called community benefits, could very well turn out to be nothing more than what my other old favorite, organizer Joe Hill, warned about in his classic song: “You'll get pie in the sky when you die”. If so-called community benefits are not signed, sealed and delivered, as they were in the original community-vetted West Berkeley Plan, beware. 

The planning commission is now engaged in fast-tracking a promised enumeration of benefits from re-zoning West Berkeley in a mad rush to justify the Measure T plan before election day, but nothing they come up with will be guaranteed to be deliverable. If I were a betting woman, I wouldn’t want to bet on any substantial benefits coming from the proposed big developments for West Berkeley, at least none which would outweigh the obvious detriments in the Measure T giveaway. 

No one denies that the West Berkeley Plan needs a bit of tweaking to bring it up to date, but there’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water. Voters should not approve Measure T, which is nothing but a giveaway to a few privileged property owners. Instead the whole thing should be handed back to the Planning Commission for the kind of interactive public process that worked so well when the plan was first adopted. 

Just remember T for Trojan Horse, and vote NO on Measure T. To coin a phrase, Berkeley can do better. 


The Editor's Back Fence

Endorsements? Forums? Tell the World!

Monday September 24, 2012 - 08:39:00 PM

Are you a member of an organization that endorses candidates, such as a neighborhood association, a Democratic Club or a political party? Please send us a report of who and what you've endorsed, and we'll post it.

Do you know of a candidates' night somewhere? Let us know about it, and we'll let everyone know.

Here's the email link for all this: news@berkeleydailyplanet.com. Click on it, and write us a letter.

Thanks for participating.


Odd Bodkins: New Arrival (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday September 21, 2012 - 07:45:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Odd Bodkins: Good with a Mop (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday September 21, 2012 - 07:41:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Odd Bodkins: Winnemucca (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday September 21, 2012 - 07:36:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

New: Time Calls for the Great Awakening of the Muslim World

By Ramlah Malhi
Sunday September 23, 2012 - 10:06:00 PM

At this time of distrust and chaos around the world especially in the Middle East the Muslim world needs to remember the time when the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon Him) was stoned in the city of Taif and bled to the extent that his shoes were soaked with blood. At that time Angel Gabriel came to him saying that at Prophet’s one word he had the ability and permission from God to join the two mountains and crush the people who lived between them. What did our injured Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) say? ‘NO’. He showed patience and forbearance because God will help the same people come to the right path. If our most honored and respectable Prophet can forgive the people who caused his blood to stain his clothes and shoes then who are we to take revenge on others? 

The main point of this film and cartoons like it in the past is to provoke Muslims to act in the way that this provocative propaganda predicts. Muslims need to stay strong and even though it is tough it is the way of our beloved Prophet (pbuh). 

It was the same Prophet who said a thousand times to love and care for your neighbors. Then who are we to go burn down embassies and cause a chaos on our streets and be a problem to our neighbors and fellow humans? 

It was our beloved Prophet who told us to love and care for our guests because they are a blessing and honor from our God upon us. Then who are we to murder innocent people such as the US ambassador and diplomats who are guests in the country? 

It was our beloved Prophet who said that even if one is at war he or she should not hurt the plants and the trees. It was our beloved Prophet who said to pick up a banana peel or a stick or any such obstacle from a street that can cause harm to another. Then who are we to block streets and protest by burning others' cars, by abusing others' property, and stopping one from proceeding to his or her work. 

I believe, as a member of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA which wholly condemns the violence in Libya, Egypt, and the Middle East, am not alone in saying that it is upon the Muslim community on the whole to stand up at this hard time to truly portray the true teachings of the Prophet Muhammad when it is hard to do so when our feelings are hurt. This is the time to depict the true teachings and show that all the things that the hateful film and cartoon portray are wrong. 

If we keep this horrific routine in all the Muslim countries then we are no better than what we condemn. I know that the Muslim world stands by me when I say that if Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was alive at this time he would have never done any protest such as that happening around the world. Then it is upon us to keep his tradition and teachings alive and stop this insanity and show the world that we are the true followers of the most beloved, humble, respectful, forgiving, and respectable man. It is now time more than ever to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) rather than giving into these baits. Muslims need to be an example to others that what these films and cartoons portray is wrong. We need to follow the Koran and the Prophet when it is said for Muslims to walk away from those insulting their faith and pray for them and ourselves."

Measure S is a Hate Crime

By Carol Denney
Friday September 21, 2012 - 12:29:00 PM

"We really, really need this law,” states the literature supporting Mayor Tom Bates’ proposed anti-sitting law. “But we’re not going to use it for six months and even then hardly ever.”

Sound peculiar? It should. Why shouldn’t the city use a law it claims to need so badly? Why all the backtracking and double-speak?

If you know why, then you probably know that nationwide there’s a move to recognize the cost of the peculiar but politically popular temptation to fine poor people for having no money. 

It can tempt even the liberal “progressive” politicians we vote for locally. It certainly can tempt the shopper or voter tired of being panhandled by the same fellow on the same street corner. 

But the cost is brutal. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of court and medical costs follow in the wake of such laws, which rarely manifest in change for either the individual or the community. Jobs, housing, medical care, and recovery services don’t bloom in the wake of tickets which begin as a fine considered minor by some of us, but which turn into bench warrants and huge cumulative fines for people on the streets if they miss an appointment, a court date, or simply can’t pay. 

A creative, healthy community would never take this road. A worn-out, desperate, easily manipulated community would, and often does. 

But Seattle’s anti-sitting law didn’t solve Seattle’s business or homeless problems. Neither did Santa Cruz’s anti-sitting law. Neither did San Francisco’s, as the City Fellows’ Report earlier this year makes clear. 

If our city leaders feel worn-out, desperate, and begin to stoop to manipulative tactics, there’s a better course for us as a community than voting to criminalize the peaceful act of sitting. Let’s replace them with a more clear-headed, fair-minded crew. 

This community has at least one great wealth; a surplus of hard-working people whose interest in and sense of duty toward our community is inspiring. Vote against targeting the poor, and vote for leadership able to recognize that serious problems deserve serious solutions.

Coalition for a Safe Berkeley urges City Council to protect immigrant’s rights in Berkeley, applauds steps towards police accountability

From Diana Bohn, Coalition for a Safe Berkeley
Friday September 21, 2012 - 10:11:00 AM

This Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council approved final wording on the majority of revisions to several Berkeley Police Department (BPD) policies and external agreements. This package addressed mutual aid, memorandums of understanding, surveillance, intelligence activities, grants for police equipment, and how Berkeley will handle detainer requests from ICE. The Council voted on all issues except detainers.  

The Coalition for a Safe Berkeley, a diverse coalition of community organizations that has led a police accountability campaign over the last year, applauded many of the changes, while emphasizing that they did not fully address the community’s concerns. Public comment, along with recommendations from the ACLU of Northern California and a lively discussion of the issues by City Council, led to improvements in some of the policies. 

Included in the changes were ground-breaking limitations on so-called “Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR)”. Unlike other jurisdictions nationwide, Berkeley now requires that there be at least reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in order to submit SARs to the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, a fusion center that collects and stores intelligence with few privacy or constitutional safeguards. The new policy also provided for some review of SARs via the city manager, although the Coalition emphasized that there should be more civilian oversight.  

The updated policy on Mutual Aid encourages BPD to neither request nor provide mutual aid in situations where there is no threat to public safety and requires an annual report on each mutual aid request. Coalition members pointed out that while language increases transparency, it also allows for significant discretion by the police department. Like the new SAR policy, the criminal intelligence policy also increased the level of suspicion required to deploy plainclothes officers, and exempted non-violent civil disobedience from intelligence gathering activities.  

The Council also approved a resolution that will require City Council review of all Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant requests. The community questioned the rationale for the City Manager’s suggestion that only contracts over $50,000 be disclosed and as a result, the Council voted to require that all contracts be disclosed to it.  

Sharon Adams, the National Lawyers Guild representative on the Coalition, said “It’s been a long process, and the Berkeley City Council made a step in the right direction, but it’s not the last step, it’s the first.” While these changes were positive, implementation and oversight will require vigilance. The Coalition will monitor the BPD’s practice to ensure that the policy changes won on Tuesday are not merely empty promises. The Coalition is also looking forward to the Council’s next meeting for a resolution of the one issue not voted on last night: whether Berkeley will comply with requests for immigration holds from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  

Community members expressed compelling concerns about the jail detainer policy suggested by the City Manager. Although the Council had directed that the Santa Clara policy be reviewed and modified as needed for Berkeley, the policy presented for voting did not mirror that policy, and no reasonable explanation was given for the differences. The suggested policy omitted a prohibition on honoring holds for minors, as well as a requirement that the federal government provide reimbursement for the cost of carrying out any hold request. As Adams pointed out, “Berkeley needs to stand by its status as a sanctuary city and protect the civil rights of all community members.” The Coalition speakers stressed to the Council that the proposed policy did not do justice to the immigrant community. The Coalition activists, strengthened by the ACLU’s recommendation, did win one important change: The police chief agreed to remove a provision honoring hold requests for individuals arrested for- but not convicted of or charged with- violent or serious felony offenses. 

The Council agreed to hold over the jail detainer policy until their October 2nd meeting. Claudia Banegas, of FMLN Berkeley, said, “For a moment, the legal arguments and public comments appeared to persuade the Council. At other times, particularly when Chief Meehan spoke, the Council seemed puzzled. At this moment, it is impossible to determine how Council will vote on the Jail Detainers policy. Still, our position is that we demand (not ask), for we are no victims seeking assistance: the complete discontinuation of Secure Communities!" Several of the Council members, especially Linda Maio and Laurie Capitelli, seemed concerned with the deference shown by the City Manager’s proposal to the immigration authorities. Capitelli asked why we have any cooperation with ICE at all, and said that we seem to be creating two different standards of rights, one for citizens and one for non-citizens. Maio stated her concern about turning minors over to ICE under any circumstances. The Coalition calls on community members to communicate their support for a total ban on BPD collaboration with detainer requests, and in particular for the protection of minors from deportation, in keeping with Berkeley’s Sanctuary principle.

New: Administering the left-wing loyalty oath: How the Heatley / Prop 8 imbroglio is Berkeley's disgrace

From the Berkeley Almanac, by Thomas Lord
Monday September 24, 2012 - 08:11:00 PM

A new online site, the Berkeley Almanac, features a lengthy opinion piece on the Berkeley Unified School District's recent encounter with superintendent candidate Edmond Heatley and his critics.  

It can be found here. 


New: DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Japan Vs. China: Smoke or fire?

By Conn Hallinan
Monday September 24, 2012 - 12:03:00 PM

Could Japan and China—the number two and three largest economies in the world—really get into a punch-out over five tiny islands covering less than four square miles? According to the International Crisis Group, maybe: “All the trends are in the wrong direction, and prospects of resolution are diminishing.” 

That the two Asian superpowers could actually come to blows seems unthinkable, but a devil’s brew of suspicion, anger, ham-handed diplomacy, and a growing US military presence has escalated a minor dispute into something that could turn very ugly if someone makes a misstep. 

And so far, the choreography in the region has ranged from clumsy to provocative. 

A few examples: 

On the anniversary of Japan’s brutal 1931 attack on China, Tokyo purchased a handful of islands in the East China Sea—known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China—whose ownership is in dispute. In response, China accused Japan of “stealing” the islands, and anti-Japanese demonstrations and riots broke out in 80 Chinese cities. Several major Japanese companies, including Toyota, Honda, and Panasonic were forced to shut down for several days. 

Amidst this tension, Washington announced that it will deploy a second anti-ballistic missile system (ABM) in Japan, supposedly to guard against North Korea, but which the Chinese charge is aimed at neutralizing their modest nuclear missile force. 

“The joint missile defense system objectively encourages Japan to keep an aggressive position on the Diaoyu Islands dispute,” charges Shi Yinhong, a professor of international studies at Beijing’s Renmin University. Tao Wenzhao, deputy director of United States studies at China’s Academy of Social Science, adds, “It is highly inappropriate and counter-constructive for the U.S. to make such a move at this highly sensitive time.” 

Timing wise, the island purchase and the ABM announcement seem almost consciously provocative, but Tokyo and Washington are hardly the only capitols in the Pacific guilty of inept diplomacy. 

Two years ago China declared the South China Sea a “core interest area,” which means Beijing essentially claimed sovereignty over 80 percent of one of the most heavily trafficked waterways in the world. China also insisted that several island groups—the Spratleys, Parcels, and Macclesfield Bank—were Chinese territory, and it backed this assertion up with ships and even a small garrison. 

Some in China have gone as far as to claim sovereignty over the Ryukyu chain, which includes Okinawa, an island hosting several major US bases, with a population of 1.4 million Japanese citizens. Japan took control of the island group in 1879, but several hundred years earlier the independent Ryukyu Kingdom had paid tribute to China. 

On top of all this, the Obama administration last year announced an Asian “pivot” and beefed up its military footprint in the region, including plans to send 2,500 Marines to Australia—the first time US troops have been deployed on the sub-continent since the end of World War II. 

Not to be outdone, China launched its first aircraft carrier, introduced a new stealth fighter, and is apparently upgrading its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Dongfeng-41. According to the Pentagon, China has 55 to 65 ICBMs and 240 nuclear warheads. In comparison, the US has over 1,000 ICBMs, 1737 strategic warheads, and over 5,000 nuclear weapons. 

Feeling a little nervous? You should be. The tensions are real even though it is hard to imagine countries in the area letting things get out of hand. But when you combine overheated rhetoric with gunboat face offs, a clumsy move, a misinterpreted act, or plain stupidity could spark something that might be difficult to contain. 

So who is to blame for all this sturm und drang? 

Depending on your perspective, the crisis is either triggered by the US and Japan trying to smother a rising rival in a resurgent China, or by Beijing’s aggressiveness in the region creating dangerous tensions. Actually, it is a little of both and a lot more complex than it appears. First, China, Japan and the US are not the only actors in this drama. Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Russia and South Korea all have pieces on the board. 

South Korea, for instance, is locked in a fight with Japan over the Dokdo Islands (called Takeshima by the Japanese). Taiwan and China have a grievance with the Philippines over the Seaborough Shoal, and Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims on a host of islands, shoals, reefs and tiny coral atolls. Japan and Russia are at loggerheads over the Kuril Island chain that Moscow occupied in 1945. 

Nor are issues in the South China Sea the same as those in the East China Sea. In the south the disputes are mainly economic: fishing rights, and energy reserves. In the east, imperial history and the echo of World War II plays an important role. For example, the Senkaku/Diaoyu and Dokdo/Takeshima islands were seized by Japan in its early imperial days, and neither China nor Korea have forgotten or forgiven Japanese occupation of their countries. 

Countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei view the Chinese as heavy-handed bullies who throw their weight around and routinely arrest their nationals for fishing in disputed waters. They would like Beijing to negotiate boundary issues with them as a group through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), while China insists on talking with them individually. This standoff has allowed the U.S. to reassert itself in the region by presenting itself as a “fair broker” (and thus enraging China). 

China, on the other hand, sees the US as surrounding it with potentially hostile allies, shifting yet more aircraft carrier battle groups into the region, and drawing up plans to spend $352 billion modernizing its nuclear weapons arsenal. What China doesn’t want is an arms race with the US, which already out-spends the Chinese five-to-one on defense. But the new US ABM system in Japan will force China to respond. 

While China’s economy is in better shape than that of the US, its growth rate has plunged further than Beijing had hoped, and increased military spending will come at the expense of economic stimulation, energy efficiency, and infrastructure improvement. The Chinese smell a whiff of the Cold War, when the Americans hobbled the Soviet economy by forcing it to divert many of its resources to defense in order to keep up with the US. 

So if the Chinese are feeling a little paranoid these days, one can hardly blame them. 

There are a number of ways the current atmosphere of tension in the Pacific can be defused. 

First, China should back down from its insistence that it will only negotiate boundary and access issues country by country. It is perfectly valid for smaller countries to collectivize their negotiating strategies, and ASEAN would be the obvious vehicle through which to work. That would have the added benefit of strengthening a regional organization, which can then be used to deal with other issues, from trade to terrorism. 

Second, while the US is a Pacific power, it is not a western Pacific power. Putting warships in Beijing’s home waters is asking for trouble, and feeds a strong nationalist current in China. There should be a gradual de-militarization of the region, and a reduction in the number of US bases. And the US has to recognize that ABMs are trouble. They have soured the atmosphere for military reductions in Europe, and they will fuel a military buildup in Asia. The ABM Treaty produced sensible policy until the Bush Administration unilaterally withdrew from it. It should be revived and adhered to. 

Third, provocations like China’s bluster over Okinawa, Japan’s purchase of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, Washington sending 2,500 Marines to Australia, and general chest-beating via gunboats needs to stop. 

On one level it is unthinkable that Japan and China would actually come to blows, a conflict that could draw in the US though its mutual support treaty with Tokyo. China is Japan’s number one trading partner, and Japan is China’s number two partner (the US is Beijing’s first). Polls indicate that the average Chinese and the average American have favorable views of one another. A study by the Committee of 100, a Chinese-American group, found that 55 percent of Americans and 59 percent of Chinese had favorable views of one another. 

It is a different matter with Japan and China, which makes the tension between the two countries much more dangerous. Some 70 percent of Japanese had an “unfavorable” view of Beijing, and those figures are matched in China. The islands crisis has brought out a powerful current of nationalism in both countries. It was the rightwing mayor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishimara, who kicked off the crisis by trying to buy the islands. Rightwing politicians from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have since seized the dispute to bludgeon the current government, and the LDP is likely to win the next election. 

Passions are running high, distorted by bitter memories of the past, and fed by fear and political opportunism. “There is a real possibility that if diplomacy fails, there will be a war,” says Kazuhiko Toyo, a former career Japanese diplomat. 

One hopes this is smoke, not fire. 

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com 

THE PUBLIC EYE:Campaign 2012: Playing the Israel Card

By Bob Burnett
Friday September 21, 2012 - 08:51:00 AM

2012’s presidential contest took another weird turn when Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, appeared on America’s Sunday talk shows to complain the Obama Administration wasn’t doing enough to stop Iran from making an atomic bomb. Netanyahu’s orchestrated appearance was another Republican ploy to corner the US Jewish vote. 

On September 16th Netanyahu said, “the only way to stop Iran [is] for the United States to draw a distinct ‘red line’ on that country’s nuclear activity and declare that crossing it would trigger military intervention.” The implication was that President Obama hasn’t drawn that “red line.” But Obama has with his vow that the US will not allow Iran to acquire an atomic bomb. (The President hasn’t made public the process he would use to determine Iran has crossed the “red line,” but Obama shouldn’t have to reveal this, as it would compromise the US intelligence process.) 

Netanyahu’s calculated attempt to help his friend, Mitt Romney, was part of the long-term Republican strategy to win over Jewish voters.  

When Karl Rove ran the Bush political machine, Republicans strove to diminish four historic Democratic constituencies: voters of color, Union families, trial lawyers, and Jews. Rove thought the key to winning over greater numbers of Jewish voters was portraying the Bush Administration as Israel’s unwavering advocate. His strategy had modest success: Bush captured 22 percent of the Jewish vote in 2004, up from 19 percent in 2000. (McCain got 21 percent in 2008.) For Rove, the faux pro-Israel stance was a political “twofer:” it not only worked well with Jewish voters who saw Israel as their top issue, but it was also effective with conservative Christian voters who saw the sanctification of Israel as a pre-requisite for the Rapture. Republicans have continued down the same path. In June, Rove penned a Wall Street Journal column predicting Obama would lose in 2012 because, “Jewish voters are upset with his policy toward Israel.” 

The second part of the GOP strategy seeks to bolster Romney’s credibility on foreign policy. Romney has tried to portray himself as more aggressive than the President, claiming ”Obama has thrown Israel under the bus.” However, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows that foreign policy is not a big concern for most voters and 50 percent of poll respondents are satisfied with President Obama’s handling of foreign policy versus 36 percent who are not. (A recent CBS News poll found that Obama had a significant edge over Romney when voters were asked which candidate that had confidence in to handle an international crisis.) 

The third part of the Republican strategy is to attract wealthy Jewish donors. Although Jews constitute only two percent of the American population, they have a disproportionate political impact: "Pro-Israel interests have contributed $56.8 million in individual, group and soft money donations to federal candidates and party committees since 1990...In contrast, Arab- American and Muslim PACs contributed slightly less than $800,000 during the same (1990-2006) period." In 2008, Jewish sources accounted for 40-60 percent of Democratic fundraising and 20-35 percent of Republican. That’s shifted in 2012. Romney has been particularly successful attracting Jewish contributors to his super PAC. The most notable Jewish Romney donor is billionaire Sheldon Adelson; Forbes reported that Adelson’s contributions to the Republican nominee “could top $100 million.” 

Netanyahu and Romney have been friends since the seventies when they worked together at Boston Consulting Group. But the Israeli Prime Minister is far from a pawn in the GOP game. Netanyahu’s Likud Party has long benefited from Republican policy. 

In 1996, Netanyahu was Prime Minister of Israel and Ariel Sharon was a powerful ally – Sharon served as Prime Minister from 2001-2006. Netanyahu and Sharon permitted Israeli settlements on the West Bank to more than double – the settler population grew from 140,000 to more than 300,000. The bulk of this growth occurred during the Bush years and Republicans did nothing to stop it

During the last week of May, 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington, and rejected long-standing policy about Israel’s borders with Palestine and Jordan, "it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." Republicans applauded this position. Mitt Romney has endorsed it and Netanyahu’s claim that “Jerusalem must be the capitol of Israel.” 

In Romney’s secret donor speech, he repeated another Netanyahu line, “The Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace.”  

A dangerous situation has developed and it’s surprising that it hasn’t gotten more notice. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to influence the 2012 presidential election by garnering votes for his friend, Mitt Romney. And, Republicans have become staunch supporters of Israel’s conservative Likud Party. As a result, the GOP has abandoned the long-term Israel policy of the United States and its allies – policy that until 2000 was bi-partisan. 

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

SENIOR POWER Step on it…

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday September 21, 2012 - 10:30:00 AM

Powerless senior citizens aren’t likely to make it across the street safely within the engineered-time allotment. The light changes -- where there is a light -- and traffic roars by. They are left stranded in the intersection. On a median if they’re lucky. Which Berkeley intersections and corners without stop-lights are the most dangerous for powerless senior citizens and disabled persons?  

Many people take for granted ability to cross the street in the time allotted. Engineering studies focus on keeping traffic flowing smoothly. A study published in the March 1997 issue of the American Journal of Public Health showed that, of 1,249 people age 72+, nearly half walked at only two feet per second. Eleven % reported having reservations about crossing major streets. 

A recent United Kingdom investigation compared a walking speed of people aged 65+ with a speed compulsory to use a pedestrian crossing (cross walk). Results suggested that people need to travel faster than 1.2 meters per second to make it safely across. Read about it in Age and Ageing (Brits spell ageing with an ‘e’.) On an 80-foot-wide street, a pedestrian should have about 20 to 25 seconds to cross. The researchers determined that 85% of women walked slower than a 1.2 meters per second over a pedestrian crossing. They also detected that 84% of all participants suffered from a walking impairment. 

About this study, my English third cousin, aged somewhere in the mid-sixties, writes from a London suburb, “… usually referred to as a 'pedestrian crossing'. Some have 'traffic' lights which the pedestrians activate allowing them to cross the road and others are the 'zebra' type with black and white stripes on the road where the motorists are obliged to stop but sometimes ignore the waiting pedestrian and don't stop, but this is the exception. Not like in Europe where the motorists ignore the 'zebra' crossings and you take your life in your hands when you attempt to cross!” 


Today, nearly 34 million drivers are age 65+. By 2030, federal estimates show there will be about 57 million — a quarter of all licensed drivers. Baby boomers are expected to hang onto their licenses longer, and drive more miles than previous generations. 

Elderly drivers face different laws across the United States. Thirty states plus the District of Columbia have some sort of older-age requirement for driver's licenses, ranging from more vision testing to requiring seniors to renew their licenses more frequently than younger people.  

Illinois has the toughest older-driver laws. A road test to check driving skills is required with every license renewal starting at age 75 — and starting at age 81, those renewals are required every two years instead of every four. At age 87, Illinois drivers must renew annually. 

In Oregon, licenses are renewed every eight years. Starting at age 50, drivers must undergo vision screening with every renewal. Oregon requires certain health care providers to report "severe and uncontrollable" impairments that may affect driving safety, regardless of age. The state also accepts voluntary reports of possibly unsafe drivers. Those people have 60 days to provide updated medical information or undergo certain testing, before license officials determine next steps.  

Maryland starts eye exams at 40. Shorter license renewals kick in anywhere from age 59 in Georgia to 85 in Texas. In Washington, D.C., starting at age 70, drivers must bring a doctor's certification that they are still OK to drive every time they renew their license. New Mexico requires annual renewals at 75. Last year New Hampshire stopped requiring road tests when 75-year-olds renewed their licenses. The law was repealed after an 86-year-old legislator called it discriminatory. 

Eye tests can make a difference. In Florida, 80-year-old persons renew their licenses every six years instead of every eight, with a vision check each time. A study found highway deaths among Florida's older drivers dropped 17% after the vision test was mandated in 2003. 

California has five-year renewals, and starting at 70 they must be in-person with both a written test and eye check. California has five-year renewals, and starting at 70 they must be in-person with both a written test and eye check. In California, older drivers who fail a regular road test sometimes get a re-test on familiar neighborhood roads to qualify for a restricted license. State traffic researchers expect demand for that option to grow, and are preparing to study if that tailored testing really assures safety. 


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration refers to "the real and growing problem of older driver safety." "Birthdays don't kill. Health conditions do," contends the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab, which develops technologies to help older people stay active. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, when measured by miles driven, the crash rate of older drivers begins to climb in the 70s, with a sharper jump at age 80. Only teens and 20-somethings do worse. The good news: Fatal crashes involving seniors have dropped over the past decade, perhaps because cars and roads are safer or they are staying healthier. But the oldest drivers, those 85+, still have the highest rate of deadly crashes per mile, even more than teens. Too frail to survive their injuries, they are often the victims. 

Traffic challenges change for older drivers, who are less likely than younger ones to be in crashes involving alcohol or speeding. Instead, they have more trouble with intersections, making left turns, and changing lanes or merging, because of gradual declines in vision, reaction times and other abilities, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

The AAA contends that in-person renewals are "the single most effective thing states can do to improve safety." 

How can people tell how they do on the road? The University of Michigan developed an online self-test to help drivers detect safety changes. 

AAA and AARP offer websites with similar tools and links to driving courses: http://seniordriving.aaa.com/ and http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/transportation/driver_safety/ Some senior centers provide space for AARP training.  


Driving gets more dangerous with age, but older adults may be more vulnerable while walking on the sidewalk than behind the wheel. Pedestrians age 70+ are five times more likely to die from being hit by a car each time they go out than those age 21-29. But elderly drivers were no more likely to die on the road than those in their twenties. The real issue isn't really safeguarding older drivers, --it's making the road environment safer for pedestrians. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is a U.S. non-profit organization funded by auto insurers, established in 1959, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. One safety option suggested by IIHS is modification of traffic signals to give pedestrians a three-second head start while crossing the street by keeping intersection lights red in both directions. That would theoretically delay drivers making right turns into crosswalks.  

There’s been a shift recently in both the U.S. and the U.K. toward more demanding license renewal processes for older adults. As eyesight and cognitive abilities decrease with age, older adults are often assumed to be more dangerous on the road than younger drivers. But research suggests that is not so. In one U.S. study, researchers found male drivers were less of a risk to other road users at age70 than they were at 40. (Apparently research gender bias is universal.) 

Introducing traffic islands and giving old people more time to get across the road at pedestrian crossings might actually save more lives than tightening license restrictions.  

Older adults accounted for 37% of all pedestrian deaths in 2009, according to results published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Crossing the road is particularly risky for older adults who are unable to judge speed and distance very well. Because older adults are often frail, they are also more likely to die of their injuries if they are involved in an accident. 

Nationwide, people age 65+ make up 13% of the population but represent about 22% of pedestrian deaths. Eleven percent of Berkeley’s 2010 population (112,580) are age 65+. 13% of U.S.A 

Seniors need more time, crossing the street and on earth. 



Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) has introduced a bill that would increase federal supports to millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people through the Older Americans Act (OAA.) The OAA is currently up for reauthorization and includes no mention of LGBT older adults. Among these proposals for the OAA are amendments that would specify LGBT older adults as a population in "greatest social need," permanently establish the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging which provides LGBT cultural competence training to aging providers around the country, a proposal to increase funding for research and programs aimed at LGBT elders, a proposal to require long-term care ombudsmen to collect and analyze data relating to iscrimination against LGBT older adults in long-term care settings, and a proposal to enhance reporting requirements from area and state agencies on aging on their services to LGBT older adults. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs benefit called Aid and Attendance and Housebound Improved Pension and known as A&A can cover the costs of caregivers in the home (including sons and daughters who are paid to be caregivers, but not spouses) or be used for assisted living or a nursing home. The benefit is not insignificant: up to $2,019 monthly for a veteran and spouse, and up to $1,094 for the widow of a veteran. Of the 1.7 million World War II veterans alive as of 2011 and in need of caregiving assistance and thus eligible, only 38,076 veterans and 38,685 surviving spouses were granted the A&A benefit that year. 

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. 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. 12:15-1 P.M. 60th Annual Noon Concert Series. UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. THE NICE GUY TRIO. Darren Johnston, trumpet; Rob Reich, accordion; Daniel Fabricant, bass. Darren Johnston: I Can See Infinity From Here; Ducci Calypso; Tiny Gods; Simple Life; Apples. Duke Ellington/Rex Stuart: Boy Meets Horn. Rob Reich: See Ya. Trad. Romanian/Rob Reich: Gelem Gelem/Unicycle Cocek. Free. 510-642-4864 

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.  

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

Thursday, Sept. 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.  

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

Friday, Sept. 28, 12:15-1 P.M. 60th Annual Noon Concert Series. UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. JAZZ IN THE BREEZEWAY The Berkeley Nu Jazz Collective, fresh from a studio recording session, performs original compositions written by each ensemble member. Buoyant grooves, lyrical melodies, and a dose of humor make this perfect music for a sunny afternoon. Free. 510-642-4864. 

Sunday, Sept. 30. 10:30 A.M. – 2 P.M. Fall Plant Sale. UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. , Berkeley. A wide variety of plant offerings will appeal to everyone. Specialize in regionally- appropriate, Mediterranean-climate plants including California natives, and plants from South Africa, Australia, the Mediterranean region, and South America. Also, the exotic and unusual. 510-643-2755 

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. 

Monday, Oct. 1. 6:30 p.m. : "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61Arlington Avenue. enjoy an evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and some help will be provided. Free. 510-510-524-3043. 

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. 

Thursday, Oct. 4. 7 P.M. Japanese American Internment: Lesser Known Stories. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue.. Free. 510-526-7512 

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

Thursday, Oct. 11. 7 P.M. A panel discussion and screening of the documentary film, "Blossoms & Thorns: A Community Uprooted." This video recounts the struggle and resiliency of local Japanese American nursery growers who were forcibly removed from their homes to barren, desert incarceration camps during World War II. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. Free. 510-526-7512 

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 

Saturday, Oct. 20. 2 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Japanese American Internment Camp Panel Discussion. USF Professor and editor, Brian Komei Dempster, and 4 former Japanese American internment camp internees. As part of the California Reads program, USF Professor and editor Brian Komei Dempster and four former Japanese American concentration camp internees will share their first-person accounts of this time period during World War II. Mr. Dempster is the editor of Making Home From War: stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement and From Our Side of the Fence: Growing up in America's Concentration Camps. Free. 510-524-3043.  

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, Oct. 31, Nov. 7, 14, 21, 28. 12 noon-1P.M. Playreaders at Central Library, 2090 Kittredge. Read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. Free. 510-981-6100 

Thursday, Nov. 8. 7-8:45 P.M. Café Literario at North branch Library. 1170 The Alameda, Berkeley. Facilitated book discussions in Spanish. November title: Marcela Serrano’s Diez Mujeres. Free. 510-981-6250 

Thursdays, Nov. 8 and 15. 6-7:30 P.M. Lawyers in the Library @Claremont Library. 2940 Benvenue Ave., Berkeley. Free. 510-981-6280 

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

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.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Creating And Maintaining Self-Respect

By Jack Bragen
Friday September 21, 2012 - 12:21:00 PM

Many people who are "helping professionals" in the mental health treatment system do not believe that persons with mental illness are their equals. This is a message that gets delivered repeatedly to persons with mental illness: "You are something less"-less of a person, less intelligent, less competent, and, less worthy of self respect. 

There are some counselors who would try to pick apart my statement and analyze it as though it were a symptom. He or she would say, "What is it specifically that makes you feel that way?" And then whatever answer gets delivered is further analyzed. The tendency of therapists putting us "under a microscope" instead of being accountable, is one of my pet peeves. 

Self-respect is a thing you can give to yourself that no one else can give you. It is created and maintained by having self-talk that supports it. In some cases, psychosis or depression can interfere with the blossoming of self-respect. However, I believe the thoughts that support it are at a deeper level of a person's existence than are the symptoms of mental illnesses. I believe self worthiness runs very deep. 

Self respect provides the will to pick oneself back up after being knocked down. It allows you to defy people who openly (or subtly) doubt you and put you down. It allows someone to get angry at one's abusers. It allows a person to believe, through confidence rather than through evidence, that they can accomplish something. 

Self respect and believing in oneself, or their absence, are self-fulfilling prophecies. A track record of achievement or of overcoming adverse circumstances, are useful but not essential. A person could live half of one's life as a habitual victim, but could one day get tired of that, and could decide to be more confident. 

I've met a counselor who believed I was unable to bake a cake from a cake mix without supervision. I've met others who doubted me in other ways. I was told that I had grandiose beliefs about my intelligence. What is the evidence that I am average? I passed an informal version of the test for Mensa. I took another aptitude test at Department of Rehabilitation, and, rather than give me the results, I was told that the evaluator had suddenly become ill. 

A certain amount of defiance goes along with respect for oneself. 

There is such a thing as having too much of this self respect, which includes being arrogant and perhaps overconfident. That once described me. I created enough problems for myself because of my arrogance that I have backed off from that since. Yet, I continue to pick myself back up after being knocked down, although now, perhaps, a bit more slowly.

Arts & Events

New: MUSIC: UpSurge! Farewell Concert at Freight & Salvage for Founder Raymond Nat Turner

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday September 25, 2012 - 11:18:00 AM

"The power of poetry, the pizzazz of jazz" ... UpSurge! jazz and poetry ensemble will be performing a "NY Goin' Away Gig" for their founder, poet Raymond Nat Turner, this Friday at 8, Freight & Salvage in downtown Berkeley. 

Turner, a thoughtful, genial man, spoke about the group he started 22 years ago, its influences, the relationship with Oakland and the East Bay, and moving to the Big Apple after so many years based in the Bay Area—as well as what UpSurge! will play on Friday. 

UpSurge! began with Turner fronting a small combo with his poetry (as a solo performer, he once opened for James Baldwin), soon after joined by fellow poet Zigi Lowenberg, originally from Queens. "The concept comes really from an experience I had when I was a teenager. My mom ran a youth center down in LA, which became the nucleus of the Southern California branch of the Black Panther Party. She hired Panthers as the assistant director for the Federal Anti-Poverty Program. Her take was always to expose young people to what there was out in the world, with no limits, no barriers, no red lines—everything, including martial arts—and Mao Tse-Tung's Red Book! She took us on a lot of field trips, once to the LA County Museum for an outdoor concert by the Ornette Coleman Trio. It was so mesmerizing, those three men outdoors, creating all that music. As a kid, I thought that would have taken a big ensemble." 

The "early incarnations" of the group included trios of Berkeley High students: "David Bramble, Phillip Byers, David Ewell ... For the first five years when we were rolling, we were working with a bunch of kids from Berkeley High ... Howard Wiley, Geechi Taylor ... I dubbed it The Jazz Factory. It later went to Richard Howard [on tenor saxophone, also producer], Babatunde Lea on drums, Ron Belcher on bass for 14 or 15 years, principals right there.Later, Michael Jones on bass. At the time of our second CD, 'Chromatology' [from Abolition Media; the first CD is 'Hands On Deck'], Ron Belcher wrote 10, 11, 12 tunes involving a piano. I hadn't been in favor of a piano; they vary so much from place to place. Maybe you get an old piano not been tuned in years. But those tunes required piano. We've worked with Dee Spencer, Tammy Hall, Fred Harris, Glenn Pearson ... " 

Another East Bay music figure who proved important was drummer Donald "Duck" Bailey. "When I started out in this area," Turner recalled, "I used to work for Duck. I first saw him perform in LA with Harold Land and Bobby Hutcherson. Then when I went to school up in the Northwest, I went up to Seattle and saw a double bill with Dexter Gordon, who went to school with my father, Chico Hamilton, and Carmen McRae—and Duck was the drummer for both of them. Then found out he'd played with Jimmy Smith for eight years, with Carmen for four ... " 

When Turner came to the East Bay, he saw Bailey play again "at Arizona Bay, a club at the Berkeley marina. he was subbing in. Afterwards, I started talking with him for so long, I helped him with his drums. He gave me a ride ... So I started working for him, setting up his drums, getting the bands booked. I learned a lot from him, like how to be fair—he'd been a sideman for so long, before becoming a leader. Just running with him, I got a chance to meet Stanley Turrentine, Billy Higgins, Billy Hart, Max Roach, Betty Carter, Dizzy Gillespie ... He knew them all, and had worked with all the Philly guys, like Odean Pope. he was definitely a mentor, also like a big brother, not just for art stuff, but also life. And he'd tell it straight. He called me Poet: 'Hey, Poet, it wasn't happening tonight,' he'd tell me. He was really candid. I trusted him. When things were happening, he'd be our biggest booster." 

Turner recounted his influences in poetry, too: "Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Amiri Baraka—and, say, [Allen] Ginsberg, too—when he'd come to the Bay, I'd come out and see him; he always had something to say. He broke the conventions of the Academy. I loved that about him. He and Baraka—same generation—brought that out. Those guys are rebels, man. Like Whitman!" 

Looking back at more than two decades of UpSurge! shows—including the Monterey Jazz Festival (with Duck Bailey) and the Panafest in Ghana, West Africa, besides playing at Harvard, Tulane, CUNY and Brown Universities—Turner takes "special pride" in of a couple of performances in Oakland: "In October 2001, when Barbara Lee received death threats for her lone vote against the carte blanche to war ... Ishmael Reed, Maxine Hong Kingston, Danny Glover, Alice Walker were there. We opened the rally in Ogawa Plaza; KPFA broadcasted it live ... And in 2003, the big rally against the invasion of Iraq—we opened that one as well, playing on a flatbed truck in Mosswood Park. Harry belafonte said he'd come out if it was held in Oakland instead of San Francisco. I did meet him, an honor—one of the continuers of the [Paul] Robeson tradition." 

Both Oakland and Berkeley have isued proclamations praising UpSurge! and its contributions, declaring special days to honor the ensemble. 

Turner also mentioned a little bit of what UpSurge! has in mind to play on Friday at the Freight: "A new piece on fracking we did at the Dissident Arts Festival in New York City in August. We broke it out there to feature drummer Darrell Green. I'm leaning more towards the environmental stuff now that's impacting all of us. And we'll do some fun things. We have a request to do 'Oak Town Blues,' a theme song, kind of an anthem—a funny thing; people really identify with it." 

And finally, why the move now—after so many years here—to New York? "For one thing, my son's a professor of education at the University of Massachusetts. I'll be closer to him. But it's been on my mind a long time. I've reached—not a glass ceiling, but saffron, or velvet. I can't go any further. There's a lot more happening there, a lot more opportunity. Being in the right place, a lot more can happen." 

UpSurge! at Freight & Salvage, 8 p. m. (doors open at 7) Friday. 2020 Addison (near Shattuck). $20.50-$22.50. 548-6712; thefreight.org; wireonfire.com/upsurge/ (or on Facebook)

FILM REVIEW: Tears of Gaza: An Apolitical Apocalypse-- Opens September 21 at the Elmwood Theater

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Friday September 21, 2012 - 11:17:00 PM

In a perfect world, I'd like to think Bibi Netanyahu might be required to sit through a screening of Tears of Gaza—and that he would emerge moved by the plight of the Palestinians. Again, in a more perfect world, I would wish that the men who manufactured the bullets, grenades and unquenchable, flesh-searing phosphorus bombs used in Gaza (and elsewhere in the world) would be required to sit through this film—in the company of their horrified wives and children. 

This documentary is an "apolitical" film in that it does not or dwell on the history of a particular regional conflict nor trouble itself with the rationales or strategies behind any particular military action. It merely shows the human consequences of war on a single, trapped and beleaguered civilian population. 

In the broader context, however, the film's very title reminds us that the remarkable footage (captured by numerous photographers and filmmakers on the ground) is a civilian's-eye documentation of Israel's "Cast Lead" attack on Gaza in 2008. 

Because Israel refused to allow any international reporters to enter Gaza during the assault, the ferocity of the attack has remained largely unrecorded and unseen in the West—until the release of this stunning Norwegian documentary. 

Norwegian director, actress and author Vibeke Løkkeberg was moved to undertake this film (her twelfth since 1966) after watching a brief interview with several child survivors of the Cast Lead attack. Løkkeberg explained it was "the short glimpses of children's faces displayed on my TV set, after they had lived through the war" that motivated her to secure funding from The Freedom of Expression Foundation and the Norwegian Film Institute and to undertake the film project, with the assistance of producer Terje Kristiansen. 

"Wars are senseless, destructive, unworthy of mankind," Løkkeberg insists, offering as proof the words of a grieving father, holding the burned body of a child disfigured by the effects of a phosphorous bomb: "What God do these people believe in, who can do this against children? And how can I gather the strength to forgive?" 

The 2011 winner of the Human Rights Award and the Monaco Charity Film Festival, Tears of Gaza has also screened at the 2011 Jerusalem Film Festival, where it was hailed as "an unsettling, gut-wrenching, and simultaneously thought-provoking film." 

Tears of Gaza revolves around several extensive and emotional interviews with three young survivors—Amira, Razmia and Yahya. The interviews and other scenes of Gaza's shell-shocked survivors were shot covertly by local filmmakers working in Gaza over a period of six months. After the footage was smuggled out of Gaza, it took another year for the raw footage to be edited into the final 83-minute-long film. 

This is what war looks like up close, unfiltered by corporate news anchors, uninterrupted by commercials for Charmin Ultra Soft and Febreze air fresheners. That means confronting the visual impact of bodies charred by phosphorous weapons, gaping bullet-caused wounds in bellies and heads, and bullet holes in the bodies of two-year-old children, clearly suggesting that they had been executed at close range. 

Because of the Israeli-imposed blockade on goods and services, when the bombs being to fall, the impoverished residents of Gaza are even less able to defense themselves. There are no ambulances to carry the victims; lacking a fire department, families struggle to save their burning homes with garden hoses. 

Variety praised the "disturbing immediacy and visceral terror" of this powerful film, noting that its message was above politics and "almost purely observational…. The wounded parents carrying maimed children are not in uniform, and the bullet holes in the two-year-olds did not arrive by accident." 

As Tears of Gaza manages to find rare theatrical screenings in select US cities, producer Kristiansen recently offered an observation about the so-called "War on terror" being orchestrated from Washington. According to Kristiansen, "The use of words like 'terrorist,' 'discrimination' and 'democracy' tend to be mantras for justifying the use of violence." 

Tears of Gaza makes it abundantly clear that we've had too much violence. It's time to start focusing on healing.

THEATER REVIEW: 'Our Toes Grip the Edge'--Theatre of Yugen & mugwumpin

By Ken Bullock
Friday September 21, 2012 - 10:19:00 AM

"Artworks don't exist in bubbles, but are constantly in dialogue with other art, even if unintentionally." Which sums up the introductory remarks by mugwumpin co-founder Christopher W. White at 'Our Toes Grip the Edge,' a one evening joint performance with Theatre of Yugen at San Francisco's Z Space in Project Artaud, to allow the audience to "catch a glimpse" of two works-in-progress--one almost ready to be fully staged.  

mugwumpin, one of the most spontaneously creative theater troupes around, went first, with something from a piece they're developing on Prophecy in America for full staging after the New Year. "Not soothsaying, predicting the future, but about the consequences of not living up to promises." An ensemble of five, three women and two men, fanned out across the stage, five chanting while standing in place, eyes raised, as Joe Estlack, another mugwumpin co-founder, moved in dissociated motions and gestures with intensity to one side. One of the women stepped forward to recite a letter to Dr. King from a self-confessed "white girl," but was interrupted by a cell phone call, the others reacting with impatience. As others stepped forward, the focus shifted, new vignettes emerged, with an undertow of humor, the "storylines" and movement both continuous and strangely askew ... Masters of group dynamics in physical theater, mugwumpin constantly bridges the gap between the literal description or gesture and a concept which at once seems to hold it all together, even while it's being humorously ruptured, spilling out further movement, more gestures.  

Mohawk activist-musician Kenny Perkins introduced the fragment from 'Mystical Abyss,' written by Blake Street Hawkeyes co-founder and well-known writer-performing artist John O'Keefe and directed by Yugen founder Yuriko Doi. Perkins spoke of the world--or cosmological--view of his culture, expressed through creation stories--'Mystical Abyss' combines Mohawk and Japanese (Shinto) creation myths in storytelling, music, dance ... "My territory, my surroundings, that's where I come from ... From the opposite sides of the world ... these stories fused ... The shift is coming [later, he'll say "rift"] ... The old ones say one day we'll see trees die from the top." 

Perkins drums and chants, later joined by Narumi Takizawa on Nohkan, the transversal Noh flute, while acrobatic dancers come out onstage, the first two costumed, decorated as fish hawks, then, wide-eyed, "Oh, that's a big woman!" Perkins exclaims, for the Sky Woman, falling, trying to find land in the sea below ... (The dancers are choreographer Jesus Jacoh Cortes, Cuauhtemoc Peranda and Janelle Ayon.) The birds help the woman down where a turtle (Theatre of Yugen's Lluis Valls) serves as an island platform--Turtle Island ... and Yugen artistic director Jubilth Moore, shrouded in what looks at first to be a monk's robe, is an otter, with cunning hand gestures assisting the Sky Woman, while computer graphic animation of fantastic animal forms (by Taketo Kobayashi and Koya Takahashi) swirl around the walls behind the dancers and on their bodies, enveloping the fantastic action. 

Theatre of Yugen, for over 30 years performing here with the foundation of the rigorous classical Japanese theater--Noh and Kyogen--has worked for the past several years on this ambitious collaboration, which will bring Noh actor Masashi Nomura (his father, eminent Noh principal Shiro Nomura, choreographed his movements) from Tokyo to join with the Native American and Japanese musicians in the spectacle of these creation myths, including the Shinto tale of teh Sun Goddess teased out of hiding from a cave by a bawdy performer, the mythic origin of Japan's great performing arts tradition. The performances will be staged September 27-30 at 8 (with a 3 p.m. matinee on the 29th) at ODC Theatre, 3153 17th Street (near South Nan Ness). Opening night (with or without reception): $20-$45; other performances: $17-$30. (415) 863-9843; theatreofyugen.org (which includes a blog on the work's development, On the Bridgeway.)

Around & About Theater: foolsFURY's POSH; Yakshagana in Woodside

By Ken Bullock
Friday September 21, 2012 - 10:17:00 AM

foolsFURY, one of the most original Bay Area theater troupes, specializing in movement and gestural theater, sponsors of the annual FURY Factory theater festival, founded by Ben Yalom over a decade ago, has presented shows in venues like the Ashby Stage ('Monster in the Dark') to acclaim. Their latest is Sheila Callaghan's play, 'Port Out, Starboard Home,' a trip on a luxury cruise ship whose passengers escape their lives at home to descend into a surreal ritual, directed by Yalom, with its final two (of 11) performances this Satuday at 4 and 8 at Z Space (formerly Theatre Artaud), 450 Florida Street (near 17th Street) in the Mission-Potrero, San Francisco. $25-$30. foolsfury.org 

Yakshagana, one of the great ancient (as early as the 11th century) traditional theatrical forms from South India, closely related to Kathakali, will be performed from 4:30-7:30 Saturday, September 29, by Yaksha Manjusha (the only troupe led by a woman, Vidya Kolyur, daughter of a well-known performer), at Woodside High School, 199 Churchill (near Alameda) in Woodside.  

Famous for their extravagant traditional costumes and make-up, similar to Kathakali in some respects, Yakshagana is a dance theater, reenacting mythic stories and scenes from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, displaying mudras, the hand symbols familiar from Hindu visual art and dance, but employing dialogue, versus the silence of the actors (except for stylized cries) in Kathakali. The last time I can recall an Indian Yakshagana troupe performing right around here was at Mills College in the late 70s, introduced by Martha Ashton, who has studied the form and written a book on the subject. It was memorable--and great fun.  

Organized by the Bay Area Yakshagana Association and KKNC. Tickets: $10, $15 & $50. (510) 475-7242; krishnaupadhya@yahoo.com (Information about the troupe, with some photos and a downloadable brochure at the principal's website: vidyakolyur.com )