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New: What is the California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee, and What Are They Doing in Berkeley?

By Thomas Lord
Thursday November 01, 2012 - 09:50:00 AM

The Moore (District 2) and Capitelli (District 5) campaigns for city council have received support, in the form of mailings and on-line advertising, from an independent expenditure committee known as CREIEC: The California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee. 

Who is that committee and why are they spending over $38,000 on behalf of these two Berkeley City Council candidates? 

CREIEC is controlled by the California Association of Realtors. It spends money on local and state issues and races in California. This year it has spent about $5 million dollars campaigning. 

CREIEC funds come mostly from outside sources but also from individual donations of California Association of Realtors. Contributions are solicited by the "Realtor Action Fund" ("RAF"), also operated by the California Association of Realtors. 

CREIEC major donors include the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors Fund (controlled by the National Association of Realtors), several large financial institutions, and most recently a large donation from the Democratic State Central Committee. 

When it comes to supporting local candidates, RAF has this to say about itself: 

"RAF supports and/or opposes candidates for elected office who understand, or don't understand, REALTOR® Issues. Given California’s ongoing state budget shortfall, 2012 will be another contentious year. Your support is needed to continue preserve C.A.R.’s ability to fight for you [California Association of Realtor members]!" 

The California Association of Realtors Executive Committee adopted, in 2008, its position on affordable housing. They define affordable housing as "affordable workforce housing" and, as Realtors, are concerned with "[creating] a path towards `affordable home ownership' for the workers of California." 

Accordingly, they oppose "restrictive regulatory policies, such as rent control" and favor policies such as "flexible zoning", "innovative local planning" [whatever that might mean], and "density bonuses".

New: Councilmember/Realtor Capitelli and the Police Chief’s $500,000 House Loan from the City of Berkeley

By Zelda Bronstein
Wednesday October 31, 2012 - 09:35:00 AM

On November 10, 2009, Laurie Capitelli joined the rest of the Berkeley City Council in approving the appointment of Michael Meehan as the City’s new police chief, effective December 13, 2009. The resolution of approval authorized “a housing assistance loan of up to $500,000 for the purchase of a residence within the City of Berkeley”.

In 2010 Chief Meehan moved into a home in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood in north Berkeley. I assume that he used his $500,000 loan from the City to purchase that property, which sold for $1,185,000. The seller used an agent from Northbrae Properties; the buyer used Red Oak real estate agent and Berkeley Councilmember Laurie Capitelli. 

The official website of the National Association of Realtors states that when it comes to commissions, “most areas have a standard percentage that agents expect to receive” and that [t]his amount usually is 6 percent of the sales price.” The website also explains that every “real estate agent must work for a real estate broker”; that both the seller’s and buyer’s agent are paid by the broker for whom they work; and that “generally the agent and the broker split the commission that is paid to the seller’s and buyer’s broker upon the sale of the house.” Commonly, the listing broker shares the commission with the buyer’s broker, though the split is not always equal. 

If the commission on the Meehan house was 6 percent of the sales price, it would have been $71,100. If Northbrae and Red Oak split the commission equally, Red Oak would have received $35,550. Laurie Capitelli is a Red Oak Realty Partner. If Capitelli didn’t personally pocket part of the $35,550—or whatever Red Oak received—the business in which he is a principal did. 

It would appear that part of the $500,000 “housing assistance loan” approved by members of the city council went toward paying a real estate commission to a member of the city council. 

Full disclosure is called for, immediately. 

Zelda Bronstein is a former chair of the Berkeley Planning Commission, a former president of the Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association and a resident of District 5. 



Updated: Real Estate Committee Pays for Mailers and Ads for Berkeley Council Candidates Moore and Capitelli

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday October 31, 2012 - 08:19:00 AM

On October 29 the California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee, based in Los Angeles, filed two Supplemental Independent Expenditure Reports with the City of Berkeley documenting expenditures of close to $20,000 each made on behalf of incumbent candidates for the Berkeley City Council Darryl Moore and Laurie Capitelli. 

The spending was funneled through the Associated Campaign Consulting & Election Services, LLC, of Washington,DC. 

For Moore, the cumulative spending amount, for online ads and two mailers, was $18. 350. 

For Capitelli, the cumulative total was $19, 750, also for mailers and online ads. 

Independent expenditures committees are allowed under Berkeley election law to spend on behalf of candidates as long as the candidate does not control or approve the expenditure. 

The form offers no information on exactly what the money was spent for. 

Calls to M. Iqbal Bholat, whose office is at the Los Angeles office of the California Association of Realtors, who is listed as the organization's treasurer, have not been returned. 

UPDATE: Bholat's office referred me first to Lars Skjerping, identified as the poltical director of the Berkeley Association of Realtors (BAR)... When contacted, he professed no knowledge of the BAR's contributions on behalf of Moore and Capitelli. The L.A. office then referred us to Sally Dunker, the executive director of BAR, who was unable to take our call this afternoon. 

THURSDAY UPDATE: Dunker told the Planet that the decision to support the two candidates was made by a committee of the local Association's board of directors, but she declined to give me the name of the commitee members. She said the basis for their decision was that the chosen candidates have supported private property and property owners in the past. Councilmember Laurie Capitelli is himself a realtor and a partner in Red Oak Realty. Darryl Moore has endorsed the landlord-backed TUFF slate of candidates for Berkeley's Rent Board.

New: Worthington Slams Berkeley City Management of Two-Week Voicemail Outages

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday October 31, 2012 - 11:32:00 AM

Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington today criticized city leaders for what he said was their poor response to problems with the city's voicemail system the past 13 days. 

Worthington said the problem has meant that Berkeley residents haven't been able to leave messages with council members during much of that 13-day period, unless someone was in the office to take calls and messages. 

He said the problem began the morning of Oct. 18 and there were intermittent issues until last Thursday, when the system crashed completely until it apparently was fixed early this afternoon. 

"It was consistently off for six days," Worthington said. 

He said, "It's amazing that we're having this problem in the technological center of the world, with the most tech-savvy people." 

Worthington said, "The city should not have hundreds of unanswered phones." 

He said the city should have provided council members with tips for dealing with the situation, such as setting up a call-forwarding system or emailing constituents with an alternate phone number to use while their voicemail system was down. 

"I think the public deserves better," Worthington said. 

He said he sent an email with an alternate phone number to about 15,000 people in his district but he doesn't think other council members did anything like that. 

City of Berkeley spokeswoman Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said, "The intermittent outages were caused by a faulty piece of equipment and because our telephone system is about 20 years old it took a few days to locate a replacement part." 

She said, "The city is in the process of moving to a new voice over Internet protocol phone system for all 42 service locations" which was authorized by the City Council on July 17. 

Clunies-Ross said, "We are sorry for the inconvenience this caused our residents and our staff and appreciate everyone's patience."

New: Who Manages the Economy Better, Republicans or Democrats? (News Analysis)

By Arthur I. Blaustein
Wednesday October 31, 2012 - 09:57:00 AM

Most Americans have one eye on the nation’s economic crises and the other on the presidential election. And they are asking themselves, “Are the Democrats or the Republicans better for the economic health of the country as well as for my own financial well-being?” That is the defining question of this election. 

A businessman who voted for Bush twice and Obama in 2008, told me, “The goals of Barack Obama’s social programs—particularly health care, education and the environment—seem good. But I’m worried the Democrats can’t manage the economy as well.” 

Many voters agree, and a recent poll shows that an overwhelming majority (70 percent) cite the economy as their top concern. For years the pollsters have found that most voters believe the Republicans do better with the economy. I’ve heard the businessman’s basic point—that the Democrats have better social policies but the Republicans are better managers of the economy—more often than I’ve heard Judy Garland sing “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” But is it true? Don’t count on this question being examined and answered in a full, open and honest debate. 

Thirty-two years ago—with the election of Ronald Reagan—we entered an entirely new phase of presidential politics. The focus since then has been who can raise the most money and package the best media image, rather than who can demonstrate the most competence and capacity to govern. Our country’s political, economic and social life has been reduced to a battle of 15-second sound bites and 30-second commercials—most of them negative attack ads—with results reported like a football score. TV news has turned democracy into “duhmocracy.” 

Fortunately, we don’t have to depend on campaign slogans or advertising bucks to frame the debate. We can look to the record. Here’s the Economic Sweepstakes Quiz. The rules are simple. Guess which president since World War II did best on these eight generally accepted measures of good management of the nation’s economy. You can choose among six Republicans: Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bushes I and II; and six Democrats: Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama. (No peeking.) 

  1. The highest growth in the gross domestic product?
  2. The highest growth in jobs?
  3. The biggest increase in personal disposable income after taxes?
  4. The highest growth in industrial production?
  5. The highest growth in hourly wages?
  6. The lowest Misery Index (inflation plus unemployment)?
  7. The lowest inflation?
  8. The largest reduction in the deficit?
The answers are 1.Harry Truman, 2.Bill Clinton, 3.Lyndon Johnson, 4.John F. Kennedy, 5.Johnson, 6.Truman, 7.Truman, 8.Clinton. In the Economic Sweepstakes, Democratic presidents trounce Republicans eight times out of eight! 

If this isn’t enough to destroy the myth that economy has performed better under Republicans, the stock market has also done better under the Democrats. The Dow Jones Industrial Average during the 20th century rose 7.3 percent on average per year under Republican presidents. Under Democrats, it rose 10.3 percent—which means investors gained a whopping 41 percent more. And the stock market during George W’s two terms took a nosedive while it recovered handsomely under Obama. Moreover, since WWII, Democratic presidents have increased the national debt by an average of 3.9 percent per year and Republican presidents have increased it an average of 10.3 percent. During the same time period, Democratic presidents produced, on average, an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent; Republicans 6.4 percent. That’s the historical record. 

What about economic policies over the past 20 years? The Clinton administration presided over the longest peacetime economic expansion in our history. The national debt was reduced dramatically, the industrial sector boomed, wages grew and more Americans found jobs. How did the Bush-Cheney team fare? In their eight years, we experienced the weakest post-recession job creation cycle since the Great Depression, record deficits, record household debt, a record bankruptcy rate, and a substantial increase in poverty. We went from being the nation with the biggest budget surplus in history to becoming the nation with the largest deficit in history. 

When Obama took office in January of 2009, this was the America that he inherited from Bush—one that was reeling from the economic fallout from the Great Recession and the worst environmental disaster in our history; a housing mortgage meltdown, with families losing their homes; skyrocketing health-care costs; unacceptable levels of unemployment and underemployment; and an aging and broken infrastructure. If this were not bad enough, local governments, states, and cities—some close to bankruptcy and others already bankrupt—were faced with massive layoffs of teachers, police, firefighters, and human-service professionals. These were hard times, and a growing majority of Americans have been telling the pollsters, for the past twelve years, that “our nation is headed in the wrong direction” and that “their children will be the first generation to do worse than their parents.” 

Bush and his economic team allowed the banks, Wall Street wheelers and dealers, and real estate speculators to drive the country into near-bankruptcy. And when Obama proposed economic stimulus legislation to get us out of this financial ditch; the Republicans in Congress opposed it and complained about the size of the tow truck. From the first day Obama took office Republican leadership in Congress dusted off their old Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” buttons and purposefully and cynically obstructed any effort by Obama to get the economy back on the right track and to create more jobs. 

In spite of this political reality Obama’s critics—in the media and the Republican Party—never let up attacking and blaming. They behaved like we live in the unreal world of television commercials, where a problem gets resolved in sixty seconds. You buy a new car and mysteriously, the guy or gal of your dreams suddenly appears. You switch stock brokerage firms, and you suddenly make a bundle of money. You take a pill, and all your sexual problems are resolved. All this happens with the snap of a finger. In the real world, especially politics, nothing works that way. There are no quick or painless fixes. I am reminded of an admonition from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: “Judge us not by the heights we have achieved but by the depths from which we have come.” Considering the absolutely dire circumstances of the economy and the total opposition of the Republicans, Obama has done a better than decent job. His American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—the economic stimulus package—spurred economic growth, created and saved 2.6 million jobs and prevented the unemployment rate from climbing to over 12 percent. 

What is downright frightening is that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan seem to still believe that an unregulated free market will solve America’s economic problems. They want to privatize Medicare and water down Social Security. They want to return to the very same failed “trickle down” economic policies of Reagan and both Bushes. 

In 1980, Bush I called supply-side policies “voodoo economics.” But he embraced these “trickle-down” policies in order to become Vice-President and then President. 

Reagan’s and both Bushes’ royalist economic policies were failures—fool’s paradises built on the sands of borrowed time and borrowed money. The consequences were staggering debt, industrial decline, shrinking wages, six painful recessions, increased poverty and structural unemployment. The reckless Reagan-Bush-Bush spending and borrowing brought us to the brink of social chaos and economic catastrophe. 

With Romney and Ryan, (as Yogi Berra observed) “it’s déjà vu all over again.” Just like in “The Wizard of Oz,” when we finally get to see who is operating the smoke puffing machine, we find a consummate pitchman. If his overall Etch A Sketch campaign policies are dictated by holding a finger to the wind, the economic policies of the Wizard of Bain defy the basic rules of math and gravity. When you get beyond the smoke and mirrors it is essentially the same economic game plan of George W. Bush: cut taxes and reduce regulation to jump-start the economy. It’s the new-old “trickle down” potion; and as grandpa always said: “snake oil sells but it doesn’t cure.” Beyond that, Romney’s deficit reduction scheme, tax plan, and proposal for creating 12 million new jobs are all based on vague pledges and bogus numbers that are seemingly plucked out of thin air. 

So, while the Romney-Ryan ticket composes hymns to patriotism, rugged individualism, “trickle-down” economics, “staying the course” on Bush’s tax cuts and family values, they are also embracing the very economic policies that both undermine the middle class and subvert the security of American family life. American families need less pious rhetoric, and more policies geared toward a healthy economy, secure jobs, decent health care, affordable housing, quality public education, renewable energy and a sustainable environment. 

Romney seems unable, or unwilling, to grasp that the government has an important leadership role in this. In fact, providing tax giveaways for the rich and for corporate America is the only policy that seems to energize Romney and the Republicans in Congress; while Obama has pledged to repeal those very same giveaways. And contrary to the G.O.P. rhetoric, 90 percent of Americans—people making under $112,000 a year in individual income—would pay less taxes under Obama’s tax plan. Moreover, according to research from Professor Larry Bartels of Princeton, real middle class wage growth when a Democrat is President is double that of when a Republican is President. 

With four years of Romney continuing Bush’s failed policies, we could well wake up one morning on “the economic endangered nations” list. Deficits and debt could strangle our economy for the next generation, and all but the wealthy will have a tough time making ends meet because of a shredded social safety net. On the other hand, Obama has demonstrated a willingness to confront these painful realities. On overall economic policy, he offers qualities indispensable to genuine leadership for America—patience, fairness, candor, and vision. At this critical time we need an administration that understands and believes in coherent, comprehensive and equitable policies that promote sustainable and healthy economic growth—and, on that count, Democrats have a winning record. 

In this election, our nation is facing a brutal political struggle for control over the levers of power. This struggle threatens democracy as we know it. Not only does Obama face the political challenge of repairing our struggling economy and strengthening our social structure, but he must also overcome the hostile attacks and raw power of an unholy alliance—the Republican Party, the Tea Party, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, the brothers Koch, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck. This juggernaut has unlimited amounts of private and corporate cash to oppose Obama’s and the Democrats’ policies, thanks to the Roberts-led reactionary 5-4 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case. And they are determined to bust Obama. The stakes are very high in this struggle, as it gets to the core issue of the very role of government in a democracy. The right-wing Axis of Greed cannot be allowed to destroy the safety net that protects the economic security of 98 percent of Americans. This safety net prevents our nation from being turned into a “banana republic,” where a plutocracy pulls all the strings. 

The naked truth is that the Republican Party has been pandering to, colluding with, and exploiting the most regressive and antisocial tendencies in our national character. It is undermining trust in the ability of the one force—government—that has the potential to balance, secure, and protect the freedoms and liberties of all our people and to balance public and private interests. A vital and healthy federal government is indispensable to the well-being and sovereignty of a self-governing people. That is, after all, what democracy is all about. Without this protection, whole segments of our society—especially those who can least afford it—will give up hope and become more frustrated and alienated, and this can only serve to further polarize our discourse and undermine the very social fabric of our communities. 

Abraham Lincoln was a Republican who advocated the opposite of the contemporary notion of private interest for selfish personal gain being peddled by today’s Republican Party. Lincoln reminded us that our primary task as a nation should be to continually teach and re-teach American political and social history. He was deeply concerned lest we forget the pain and struggle that are so much a part of our unique historical experience. For Lincoln, there was no higher calling than that of striving to preserve a public liberty that would promote the common good. 

Our political and civic history provides us with a commonsense vision of the American Promise—one that the founding fathers and Lincoln understood—that calls for justice, freedom, equality, and opportunity. We may forget or deny our historical legacy, but we cannot change it. The uniqueness of our nation is that the “noble experiment” was a quest to enhance the human condition, enrich democratic values, ensure the general welfare, endure against adversity, and preserve our national resources. 

We do have a genuine choice this year. There are fundamental and profound differences in the candidates’ vision of government. Put in its blankest terms: under Obama we’ll have a democracy run as a government of and for the people and remain the land of opportunity; and under Romney we’ll have a government run as a corporation, ruled by and for plutocrats and become a land of opportunists. It’s your choice! 

Professor Arthur Blaustein teaches Community and Economic Development at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent books are Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport… and The American Promise—Justice and Opportunity. He served as chairman of the National Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity under Jimmy Carter and on the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities under Bill Clinton.

New: Former Berkeley Mayor Dean Charges Candidate Capitelli with Violating State Campaign Law

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday October 30, 2012 - 06:25:00 PM

At today’s meeting of Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission, more charges of illegal practices by campaigns for Berkeley’s November 6 election were filed.

Former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean sent a letter to the Commission alleging that the Re-Elect Laurie Capitelli for City Council 2012 Committee violated state law by featuring a photo of a police officer in uniform on a District 5 campaign mailer. Dean said that this is “a clear and misleading violation of State Law California Government Code Title 1, Division 4, Chapter 9.5, Section 3206” which states that “No officer or employee of a local agency shall participate in political activities of any kind while in uniform.”

She said that the photo of the officer pictured on the mailer in uniform and with badge and weapon was “taken on the steps of the City of Berkeley Ronald T. Tsukamoto Public Safety Building” and thus “misleads the reader into believing the officer is a City of Berkeley employee.” A copy of the mailer was attached to her complaint.

The caption under the photo says that “My son has been a police officer …for over 15 years.” Presumably the person in the photo is Capitelli’s son; the mailer does not say where he works. 

Attached to Dean’s letter is a copy of a news article about similar charges filed last February against L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca, who admitted that he broke state law by “making a political endorsement while in uniform.” 

Dean’s letter also charged that Capitelli’s mailer claimed that Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had endorsed Capitelli. She said that “this candidate does not have the endorsement of the SEIU and including that organization as an endorser is fraudulent.” She attached a copy of the SEIU website endorsement list which said that neither candidate in Berkeley’s District 5 race was endorsed. 

This is the same complaint that former Planning Commission Chair Zelda Bronstein filed against the committee supporting Yes on Measure T, which Capitelli endorses. 

The commission decided to postpone until after the election consideration of this complaint, and of another by Planning Commissioner Patricia Dacey charging that a slate mailer organization (SMO), Berkeley Tenants United For Fairness (TUFF), has used a major portion of the $25,000 in large contributions ostensibly given in opposition to Measure U (the Sunshine Ordinance), to finance two mailers supporting four rent board candidates on the TUFF in violation of the Berkeley law which limits individual contributions to candidates to $250. 

The Berkeley Firefighters Union has released a statement re-affirming their endorsement of incumbent Capitelli's opponent, Sophie Hahn, and denying rumors that she's agreed to give them any special consideration in return for being endorsed.

New: Anonymous Email Tip Alerts Police to Potential Bomb on UC Berkeley Campus

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Tuesday October 30, 2012 - 06:22:00 PM

An anonymous tip about a potential bomb on the University of California of Berkeley campus was emailed to UC Berkeley police this afternoon, a UC Berkeley police captain said. 

The tip came in just before 1 p.m. and said that sender had overheard two individuals talking about placing a bomb on campus, Capt. Margo Bennett said. 

There was no specific information concerning time or location, but the tip prompted an immediate check of buildings in central campus, Bennett said. 

At 3:16 p.m. Bennett sent a campus-wide email alert that stated the email to "CalTips" had "no verifiable information" and that "the vast majority of these threats are bogus." 

Bennett said as of 4:30 p.m. nothing suspicious had been found in any buildings. 

Building coordinators throughout campus have been notified to be on alert as the search for anything suspicious continues, she said. 

"We'll be spending the bulk our time through the evening looking through buildings," Bennett said. 

Press Release: [Berkeley Headed for Football Hell]: Friday Night Game at Memorial Stadium

From Mary Kay Clunies-Ross
Tuesday October 30, 2012 - 06:15:00 PM

On November 2, the University of California, Berkeley will play the season’s first-ever Friday night football game. The game will be nationally televised and is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., but please note that parking and traffic congestion will begin much earlier, and Berkeley residents and visitors are urged to plan ahead and take public transportation. 

Although Saturday games also affect parking and traffic, this game will coincide with the Friday evening commute, impacting Berkeley businesses, employees, residents and visitors indifferent ways. City and University officials have been working together to prepare for the game-day impacts on city streets.  

“Whether you are coming to watch the game, coming home to Berkeley, or if you work in Berkeley, we encourage folks to use public transportation as much as possible,” said City Manager Christine Daniel. “And if you’re going to the game, please take one of the free shuttles.” 

October 30 UPDATE: Download a map of Berkeley street closures and parking garages here.  

Football fans who are going to the game are encouraged to visit www.calbears.com/gameday/ for more parking and traffic information. There are shuttle service options from several parking lots outside of downtown, which will make your visit to Berkeley much easier. 



In order to keep streets clear and protect resident parking, there will be parking enforcement in all neighborhoods near campus. Street parking in the immediate vicinity of the Stadium is significantly restricted on game day, and the fine for street parking violations will be double, beginning at $72. 


Residents and visitors should pay special attention to the NO PARKING signs that are posted in the area. The City will enforce parking violations in 2-hour residential parking (RPP), disabled, tow-away and red zones. Message boards reading "Cal Football Game - Parking Fines Doubled" will be placed at four major gateways of the city to warn motorists of the road closures and parking restrictions. 

To increase the effectiveness of the shuttles, some street parking near campus will be restricted. Many City parking garages will be open, with special event flat-rate pricing. For locations of the garages listed below, visit www.CityofBerkeley.info/parking.  



Time Frame 

Parking Rate 

Center Street  

3pm – 6pm 

Flat rate $20 (Less than 2 hrs. pays hourly) 

Center Street  

6pm - closing 

Flat rate $5 

Oxford Garage 

3pm – 5pm 

Flat rate $20 

Oxford Garage 

5pm - closing 

Flat rate $4 

Telegraph Channing Garage 

3pm – 8pm 

Flat rate $25 (merchant validation reduces to $20; less than 2 hrs. pays hourly) 

Telegraph Channing Garage  

8pm - closing 

Flat rate $4 

Traffic and Road Closures 

Traffic control in Berkeley will begin at 3 p.m. on Friday November 2d, and will be a joint effort of the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) and the University of California Police Department (UCPD). The following streets will either be closed to traffic or traffic will be severely limited: 

  • Eastbound traffic on Durant at College will be closed
  • Northbound traffic on Piedmont at Channing Way limited to shuttle buses, emergency vehicles, and drop off for disabled game-goers.
  • The north and south bound lanes of Gayley Road and Piedmont Avenue will be closed except for fire/emergency access two (2) hours prior to kickoff and throughout the game time
  • Canyon Road and Panoramic Way are restricted to resident and emergency access before and during games
  • Stadium Rimway will be closed to vehicles
  • Centennial Drive will be closed to through traffic at Stadium Rimway for three (3) hours prior to kick-off.
October 30 UPDATE: CalTrans resumes resurfacing contstruction along Ashby Avenue from October 29 through November 2, 2012, between the hours of 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Friday, November 2, CalTrans will be working on from Otis Street to California Street. Please view their press release for more information. 

City Offices Closed  

Many City offices will be closed on Friday, November 2 as part of the City’s regular budget reduction scheduling. Although the City’s “Reduced Services Days” are usually the second and fourth Fridays of the month, Nov. 2 was designated a reduced service day to reduce the number of City employees in downtown Berkeley on this day. Visit the Holiday and Reduced Services Web Page for more information about which City offices will be closed. 

New: UC Law Clinic Report Says Sit-Lie Prohibitions Don't Work as Promised by Sponsors

By Bob Offer-Westort
Sunday October 28, 2012 - 08:58:00 PM

Yesterday, the UC Berkeley School of Law Policy Advocacy Clinic released a report entitled Does Sit-Lie Work: Will Berkeley’s “Measure S” Increase Economic Activity and Improve Services to Homeless People?. The answer, in brief, seems to be No: 


At the request of a local coalition of community groups and individuals opposed to Measure S, the clinic conducted an independent analysis to test whether Sit-Lie laws deliver on their promises. Law students reviewed data on economic activity and homeless services in more than a dozen state and national Sit-Lie jurisdictions. They surveyed community organizations, municipal human services and economic development agencies, business groups and police departments; and they consulted local stakeholders about implementation challenges and opportunities. The clinic team said they were unable to find evidence of the purported benefits of Sit-Lie ordinances…  

The report’s key findings include: 


  • No evidence that retail sales have increased in California’s other Sit-Lie jurisdictions relative to their surrounding counties;
  • No evidence that retail sales on Telegraph Avenue and downtown Berkeley have suffered relative to other commercial areas due to homeless people;
  • No evidence that Sit-Lie ordinances have connected homeless people to social services in other cities;
  • No evidence that Measure S will improve services to homeless people in Berkeley;
  • Evidence that implementing, enforcing and defending Measure S against legal challenges will likely be costly to the City of Berkeley; and
  • Evidence of better approaches to increase economic activity and improve services to homeless people in Berkeley.

Bob Offer-Westort is coordinator of the No on S campaign. This article is published on their website at http://www.noonsberkeley.com/  

Rent Board Slate Group Charged with Violating Berkeley Campaign Finance Laws (News Analysis)

By Rob Wrenn
Thursday October 25, 2012 - 03:47:00 PM

A slate mailer organization (SMO), Berkeley Tenants United For Fairness (TUFF), has used a major portion of the $25,000 in large contributions ostensibly given in opposition to Measure U, to finance two mailers largely devoted to support of the four rent board candidates on the TUFF slate that includes incumbent commissioner Nicole Drake. Berkeley law limits individual contributions to candidates to $250. 

A complaint was filed Thursday with Berkeley’s Fair Political Practices Commission by Planning Commissioner Patti Dacey. This complaint alleges several violations of state and local campaign finance laws. 

The complaint alleges that TUFF has violated California Government Code Section 82048.4, which prohibits SMOs from including candidates. 

A Statement of Organization, Form 400, filed with the City by TUFF, lists candidate Jay James as the SMO’s “Officer”. This appears to be a clear violation of the law. 

James, and the other three candidates on the TUFF slate, Nicole Drake, Judy Hunt, and Kiran Shenoy, are listed in the Form 400 as the “Individuals Who Authorize Contents of Slate Mailers”. The complaint says that the TUFF SMO “essentially functioned as a controlled committee for all 4 candidates”. 

The TUFF slate is opposing the Progressive Affordable Housing slate chosen by a convention of rent control supporters this summer. It includes incumbent commissioners Igor Tregub, Judy Shelton and Asa Dodsworth, along with Alejandro Soto-Vigil. 


Contributions from business entities 

The complaint says that TUFF is also violating Berkeley’s election law, the Berkeley Election Reform Act (BERA). BERA prohibits corporations, companies, firms, and other business entities from making campaign contributions to candidates, but the TUFF SMO reported contributions to support TUFF slate candidates from several business entities in its latest Form 401 filing of campaign contributions. (See table below) 

While BERA limits contributions to candidates to $250, there is no limit on how much can be given to support or oppose a ballot measure. 

TUFF has received $19,000 from the East Bay Rental Housing Association PAC. This money was given, according to TUFF’s latest filing, not to support rent board candidates but to oppose Measure U, the “Sunshine Initiative” that would create a new “Sunshine Commission”. 

This PAC also made separate contributions of $250 each to support the rent board candidates. 

Diablo Holdings, a property and asset management company with offices in Berkeley and Alamo, gave $5000 to oppose Measure U. Premium Property Management and Development, located on Telegraph in Oakland gave $1000, also to oppose Measure U. 

In total, $25,000 was raised to oppose Measure U. This amounts to 76% of the $32,920 that has been contributed to the TUFF SMO through October 20, according to the latest TUFF campaign statement, Form 401 filed with the City on Tuesday. 


How was TUFF SMO money spent? 

TUFF has spent $24,891. 92 through Oct. 20, over $21,000 of which was paid to Stearns Consulting in San Francisco. Stearns Consulting in turn spent almost $12,000 of this money to cover the cost of printing and mailing two mailers to voters. 

While 76% of TUFF funds were contributions to oppose Measure U, only 15% or less of the space in the two mailers is devoted to No on U. 

The first mailer is two-sided, 8 ½ by 11 in size. One side, below the address section, is devoted entirely to support of the TUFF rent board slate and criticism of the Rent Board; three quarters of the other side is also in support of the rent board candidates with only one quarter given over to opposing Measure U. 

The second mailer, also double-sided, but with a horizontal rather than a vertical format, also devotes an entire side to support of the rent board candidates and relegates Measure U to a thin strip across the bottom of the other side with 85% of the total space going to the Rent Board candidates even though contributions for their support to the TUFF SMO amount to only 24% of funds received. 

Patti Dacey’s complaint raises this issue, stating that businesses giving money to NO on U “are indirectly making contributions in support of candidates, by supporting a mailer that is primarily focused on supporting Drake, James, Shenoy and Hunt. The No on U statement is an afterthought.” 

Not allocating the space in the mailer proportionally based on the share of contributions that each candidate or measure received effectively allows the rent board candidates to benefit greatly from contributions that are not subject to the City’s $250 contribution limit and to its ban on contributions by business entities to candidates. 

This would set a dangerous precedent if allowed to stand. If business entities with deep pockets want to support a candidate for mayor or council, they could form a SMO to support that candidate and also a ballot measure. They could make very large contributions for the ballot measure and use the funds to produce mailers with only token space given to the ballot measure, and with the lion’s share of space going to promote the preferred candidate. This would obviously undermine Berkeley’s Election Reform Act. 

It would be even worse if candidates themselves could control the SMO supporting them as appears to be the case with the TUFF SMO. 

The complaint to the FPPC also notes that the mailers contain a notice (located near the return address) that says that “Appearance is paid for and authorized by each candidate and ballot measure which is designated by an*”. Yet Kiran Shenoy, with an asterix by his name, did not contribute to the SMO according to the TUFF campaign statements and the statement of his own campaign committee. 


Where is the Money Coming From? 

The vast majority, well over 90%, of the almost $33,000 raised to date by TUFF has come from landlords, or people who are part of property management or real estate firms. While in their second mailer, the TUFF slate claims to be the “tenants slate” that’s not where the money supporting their campaign is coming from. 


Contributions to TUFF SMO to Support Candidates Drake, Hunt, James and Shenoy 










David Arnold  

Property Mgt 







William Fingado  

Sea View Property Mgt 







Wayne Black Landlord  







Jeffrey Du Puy Landlord  







East Bay Rental Housing  

Association PAC 







Ellis Street Properties  







Lower Carlton Propeties  







Kathryn Snowden Parman  

Apartment owner 







Stuart Street Properties  







Claude Zamanian  

Real Estate 






David Meyers  

Property Mgt. 







Hamid Hashemi  

Security Engineers 







Stewart Johnston  

Johnston Medical 







Re-Elect Nicole Drake  







Com. to Elect Jay James  







Judy Hunt  

[her campaign committee] 













Source: compiled from Slate Mailer Organization Campaign Statements Received the City Clerk Dept., City of Berkeley, October 5 and October 23. Filings cover period through October 20, 2012 



Contributions to TUFF SMO to Oppose Measure U 



East Bay Rental Housing Association PAC  







Diablo Holdings  







Premium Property Mgt. and Development  













Source: compiled from Slate Mailer Organization Campaign Statements (California Form 401) received by the City Clerk Dept., City of Berkeley, October 5 and October 23. Filings cover period through October 20, 2012. Note that there were also small contributions of less than $100 to TUFF totaling $430. It’s not reported whether that money was donated to support candidates or oppose Measure U. 





Berkeley Photographer Wins US Stamp of Approval

By Gar Smith
Friday October 26, 2012 - 01:23:00 PM

It's not everyday that you find a table set up atop of the steps of Berkeley's iconic Main Post Office. But it's not everyday that a hometown photographer has his or her work chosen to grace a US postage stamp. 

For two hours Tuesday morning, October 16, airborne artist Barrie Rokeach regaled postal customers with tales of his high-flying passion while treating hundreds of eyes to a splendid collection of aerial photos snapped, collected, and bound into a series of three stunning coffee-table books. 

October is National Stamp Collecting Month and the USPS decided to celebrate the occasion by issuing a special 15-stamp collection of "Earthscapes"—images of urban, agricultural, and natural landscapes as viewed from Cessnas and low-orbit satellites. 

Rokeach's contribution to the 15 selected images is a photo that captures the flaring colors of the Bay Area's salt evaporation ponds. 

Berkeley Postmaster Ray Davis was on hand, joining Rokeach alongside an easel displaying an enlargement of the winning photo. "We're excited to have Barrie Rokeach here to share his story on how he took this inspiring photo," Davis beamed. 

"I almost always fly alone," Rokeach explained, "piloting the airplane as I explore the geography below. But now I'll have the USPS as my co-pilot on my next flight over the salt ponds." With Postmaster Davis smiling nearby, Rokeach added, "It's a privilege to be associated with such a prestigious institution, dating back to 1775, a government service I use every day." 

The Planet asked whether Rokeach had known Baron Wolman, another local photographer who not only chronicled the Sixties rock scene (Classic Rock & Other Rollers) but also climbed into the clouds to capture colors on the Earth's canvas (California From the Air: The Golden Coast). While Rokeach was a fan of Wolman's pioneering aerial landscapes, he confessed, with some regret, that the two had never met. 

One of Rokeach's books carries a cover photo that shows the shadow of his plane as it passes over a low cloudbank encircled by a rainbow-like halo. "That's known as the 'pilot's glory,'" Rokeach explained. It only occurs on rare occasions when sunlight, shadow, and fog meet in perfect alignment. In the course of his years patrolling the skies for amazing images, Rokeach has managed to capture about a half-dozen "glories." 

If you don't want to wait for your next trip to the PO, you can see the entire set of Earthscape images online at facebook.com/USPSStamps (where you can also cast a vote for your favorite image). And for the latest news on all things philatelic, see: Beyond the Perf. 

And Now a Word from Your Postal Service 

With the USPS under sustained attack from political extremists who wish to destroy all vestiges of "socialism" from the American landscape (Privatize Social Security! Education! Medicare!), we cannot think of a more fitting way to end this report than by quoting the boilerplate than accompanied the press release celebrating Rokeach and his winning image: 

The United States Postal Service 

A self-supporting government enterprise, the US Postal Service is the only delivery service that reaches every address in the nation, 151 million residences, businesses and Post Office Boxes. The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.  

With 32,000 retail locations and the most frequently visited website in the federal government, usps.com, the Postal Service has annual revenue of $66 billion and delivers nearly 40 percent of the world’s mail. If it were a private sector company, the US Postal Service would rank 35th in the 2011 Fortune 500.  

In 2011, the US Postal Service was ranked number one in overall service performance, out of the top 20 wealthiest nations in the world, Oxford Strategic Consulting. Black Enterprise and Hispanic Business magazines ranked the Postal Service as a leader in workforce diversity.  

The Postal Service has been named the Most Trusted Government Agency for six years and the sixth Most Trusted Business in the nation by the Ponemon Institute.  

Here's to the USPS and to Berkeley's glorious Main PO Building: Long may they deliver!

"Clean Coal" (First Person)

By Daniel Borgström
Thursday October 25, 2012 - 05:37:00 PM

"Clean Coal." Really? I heard the debate the other night and the president was promoting it. Yes, tell me about "Clean Coal"! My father died of black lung. It was a slow, agonizing death, several years in the making, till at last it did him in. 

Ironically, I never heard the word "black lung" till long afterwards. When I asked him what his puzzling and seemingly nameless ailment was, he'd just say, "The old machinery is wearing out." Finally he died, totally worn out--at the age of 62. That seemed really, really old at the time; I was 16 then. 

He worked in several mines, including some in Alaska, but mostly in the Bellingham Coal Mine. A lot of people are surprised to hear that there was a coal mine up there, but there was, employing as many as 250 men at its peak, and it ran for just over a century, up until 1954, when it finally closed down. 

The entrance to the mine was on the bank above Squalicum Creek, and we'd pass it whenever we drove into town. There was a large superstructure, visible from quite a distance, and my father would point to it and tell me that's where he used to work. By that time he'd saved up money and bought the farm I grew up on. You'd think he'd have been glad to be out of that awful place, but in reality he never really left it. 

There's a song which pretty well sums it up. "Dark as a dungeon, damp as the dew." It goes, "Seek not your fortune in the dark dreary mine. It'll form as a habit and seep in your soul, till the stream of your blood runs as black as the coal." 

Well, that was my father. Although he did well with the farm, built it up and ran it in an efficient way, he just didn't seem to be part of the farming world. To the end of his life, his favorite magazine was the United Mine Workers Journal. I can still see him in favorite chair, reading it. His friends were the guys he'd worked with in the mine, and they were the ones he continued to visit with, hang out with. They were the ones he talked about, and I can still remember the names of half a dozen of them off the top of my head. 

One was a guy my dad used to go prospecting with during the Depression when there wasn't much work at the mine. They had a claim up in the Cascades, on the North Fork of the Nooksack. His partner was Joe Crnich; we used to go to his place a lot. 

Another miner was Tom Skidmore, who'd once been in the Navy. So when I was in my teens and thinking of going in the military I asked him his opinion. But he refused to advise me on it, and he told me why. A couple of decades earlier, back in 1940, two young miners just out of high school, the Starkovich brothers, were thinking of going in the Navy. They asked him what he thought, and he told them his experience in the Navy had been pretty good, and advised them to go for it. So they joined. They were stationed on the battleship USS Arizona, based at Pearl Harbor, and that's where they were on December 7, 1941. Tom seemed to blame himself for their deaths, and he told me he would never again advise anyone to go in the military. 

The USS Arizona remains where it sank, a monument to the sailors who went down with it that day. There should also be some monument to the men who worked in the Bellingham Coal mine. But there isn't. The superstructure over the entrance is gone, and now it's the site of a shopping center. Last time I was there, I looked around for a plaque or something to mark it as an historical location and commemorate the hundreds of miners who'd worked there over the decades. But there was nothing. Nothing except for the miles and miles of tunnels that run beneath the town, and these have caused occasional cave-ins under the streets above. Right in the downtown business district, at the intersection of Holly Street and Railroad Avenue, a sinkhole has reportedly opened up several times over the decades, on one occasion large enough to swallow an automobile. Each time it happens they just sort of paper it over and hope it won't happen again. 

Such cave-ins don't happen often, but given that much of the town is undermined by a network of tunnels, it could potentially happen almost anywhere at any time. It's sort of as though the town itself has a lingering case of black lung. 

Those memories came flooding back to mind after hearing the president touting his support for "Clean Coal." Well, I don't believe there is any such thing as "Clean Coal," and I'm not voting for anybody who says there is. My vote is for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who was arrested for daring to enter within the supposedly forbidden zone around that debate in which only the two corporatist parties are allowed to participate. 

DANIEL BORGSTRÖM is an ex-Marine and veteran occupier at Occupy Oakland. He writes about progressive actions; his website is http://danielborgstrom.blogspot.com/ 

The Berkeley Election in the Planet: Past Issues

Sunday October 28, 2012 - 12:28:00 PM

Are you confused about the upcoming election? Below you'll be able to find all the articles about the November 2012 election that have appeared to date in the Planet, with editorial endorsements at the top of the stack. 


Editorial Endorsement:

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

ENDORSEMENT SPECIAL: Yes on Berkeley Measures U, V, N, O. No on Berkeley Measure M. 09-28-2012

ENDORSEMENT SPECIAL: Measure T is a Trojan Horse 09-21-2012

ENDORSEMENT SPECIAL: Sitting Down Should not be Banned in Berkeley 09-14-2012

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

ENDORSEMENT SPECIAL: Avoid R, and the Rest of the Story 10-04-2012 

Following the Money Behind Berkeley Ballot Measures 10-12-2012

Myth-Busting 101: Street-Sitting Ban Does NOT Work for Santa Cruz Either 10-12-2012 

Berkeley Can Be Better, but Some Voters Missed the Memo 10-19-2012 



News and Opinion

Religious Leaders Speak Out Against Berkeley’s Measure S By Sally Hindman and 52 Signers 10-19-2012 


Complaint Filed with Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission Regarding Yes on T’s Illegal/Fraudulent Endorsements By Zelda Bronstein 10-22-2012 

Berkeley's Asinine Sitting Ban Measure By Michael T. Pachovas 10-19-2012 

Press Release: Solution to Berkeley's Homeless Problem: Number the Homeless (A Modest Proposal) From Karen Able 10-19-2012 

Jody London, Sankofa Academy and the Mysteries of the Oakland Unified School District, and a BILLION (Yes a Billion!) in Assessment Tax Bond Money from B and now J By Robert Brokl 10-22-2012 

Berkeley Measure T's Misleading Ads By Christopher Adams 10-19-2012 

Monsanto & Dupont Spend Big Money to Defeat Prop 37 By Glen Kohler 10-19-2012 

Oakland’s Knowland Park Worth Saving: Vote NO on Measure A1 By Jane Molnar 10-18-2012 

Lies in Political Campaign Material By Tree Fitzpatrick 10-19-2012 

Flash: Planet Endorsements Now Available Online 10-25-2012 

New: Rent Board Slate Group Charged with Violating Berkeley Campaign Finance Laws (News Analysis) By Rob Wrenn 10-25-2012 

New Complaint Filed about Yes on T Campaign in Berkeley By Zelda Bronstein 10-24-2012 

Meeting Attendance an Issue in Rent Board Race By Rob Wrenn 10-19-2012 

Berkeley Mayoral Candidates Star in Neighborhood Forums By Ted Friedman 10-19-2012 

Election News Elsewhere: New York Times Takes Up Sitting Ban 10-20-2012 

Updated: Who's Endorsing Whom and What in Berkeley and Elsewhere By Linda Franklin 10-21-2012 

Election News Elsewhere: Fraud Complaint Filed against Yes on Berkeley Measure T 10-19-2012 

Who's Financing Berkeley Campaigns? A Easy Way to Find Out By Thomas Lord 10-19-2012 

Watch the Berkeley Election on Video 10-19-2012 



Measure T’s Deceptive Mailers Falsely Claim Union Endorsement, Funds for Community Benefits (News Analysis) By Rob Wrenn 10-17-2012 



Measure M: Investing in Streets and Green infrastructure - Providing Multiple Benefits Now and Saving Money in the Future By Larry Henry, Past Chairperson and current Vice-Chairperson of the Berkeley Public Works Commission 10-12-2012 

Can We Elect A President Who Will Help Us All? By Romila Knanna 10-12-2012 By J. Muir 10-12-2012 

Creative Protests Blanket Berkeley By Carol Denney 10-12-2012 

A Curmudgeonly Potpourri by The Occasional Curmudgeon 10-12-2012 

Mayoral & District 3 Candidates’ Night Sponsored by LeConte & Williard Neighborhood Associations 10-12-2012 

New: Yes,the Fiscal Sky May Be Falling: Moody's is Examining Berkeley for a Rating Downgrade By Barbara Gilbert 10-09-2012 

Quakers Oppose Berkeley Measure S By Berkeley Society of Friends 10-04-2012 

Vote Yes on A1 By Dr. Joel Parrott, Veterinarian and Executive Director, Oakland Zoo 10-04-2012 

New: Who's Spending on Berkeley Ballot Measures? The First Filing of Expenditures, and More By Thomas Lord 10-09-2012 

New: Santa Monica has a Plan for Growth and It’s Better than Berkeley’s (News Analysis) By Toni Mester 10-06-2012 

Hometown Online Resources for Berkeley Voters
from The Berkeley Almanac
By Thomas Lord 10-04-2012 

Election Stories in Back Issues of the Planet 10-05-2012 

SENIOR POWER: A Senior Moment By Helen Rippier Wheeler 10-04-2012 

NEBA Holds Two Berkeley Election Fairs and Forums 10-05-2012 

Berkeley's Measure U: $1 million for sunshine? That’s a stretch! And it would still be a bargain! By Richard Knee 09-28-2012 

Measure R: The Name of the Game is POWER by Former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean 09-28-2012 

No on Berkeley Measure T By Sam Greyson 09-28-2012 

Is Three-Term Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates Vulnerable? By Ted Friedman 09-28-2012 

Ranked Choice Voting Comes to Berkeley: How It Works, How to Do It By Lydia Gans 09-28-2012 

Press Release: Cal Berkeley Democrats Endorse 2012 Local Candidates Worthington, Anderson, and Progressive Rent Board Candidates From Sofie Karasek 09-28-2012 

Press Release: Berkeley No on S Campaign Grabs Three Democratic Club Endorsements "Clean Sweep" of 3 Berkeley Democratic Clubs Marks Growing No on S Momentum
By Christopher Cook, No on S coalition 09-28-2012 

Berkeley Mayor and Council Candidates Debate on Sundays From Nigel Guest 09-28-2012 

CENA Candidates' Night is Monday 09-28-2012 

Berkeley For All Candidates' Forum
McGee Avenue Baptist Church in Berkeley, Thursday

Measure S is a Hate Crime By Carol Denney 09-21-2012 

New: Grey Panthers Host Berkeley Mayor Candidates in Forum By Helen Rippier Wheeler 09-26-2012 

New: Vote No on Alameda County Measure A1 (Opinion) By Laura Baker,East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society 09-26-2012 

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 09-26-2012 

Press Release: Celebratory “Sitting Olympics” To Highlight Measure S Concerns
Berkeley celebs headline Sept. 30 “Starry Plough Olympiad 2012”
From Christopher Cook 09-26-2012 

Election Information 09-21-2012 

MapLight's Voter's Edge: A Graphic Guide to Election Information 09-24-2012 

THE PUBLIC EYE:Campaign 2012: Playing the Israel Card By Bob Burnett 09-21-2012 

But of Course, It Could Never Happen in Berkeley--or Could It? By Osha Neumann 09-14-2012 

Letter to Berkeley Mayor and City Council Regarding Brown Act Violations in Placing Measure S on the November Ballot By Michael T. Risher, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California 09-13-2012 

Romney Follows His Own Rules By Bruce Joffee 09-14-2012 

"The Fight for Berkeley's Soul" Sunday Downtown By Ted Friedman 09-17-2012 

Walk will Reveal Problems of Berkeley’s Aquatic Park By Toni Mester 09-14-2012 

Press Release: Berkeley Standing Up Coalition Kicks Off Campaign to Defeat “Sit-Lie” Measure S From Christopher Cook 09-16-2012 

Community Campaign Center Opening 09-14-2012 

Election Information 09-14-2012 

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

THE PUBLIC EYE: Welcome to Romneyland By Bob Burnett 09-14-2012 

ECLECTIC RANT: Making it Harder For Some to Vote: Restrictive Voting Laws By Ralph E. Stone 09-14-2012 

Odd Bodkins: The Terrorist (Cartoon) By Dan O'Neill 09-08-2012 

Whatever Happened To "Republican Women for Choice"? By Ron Lowe 09-08-2012 

An Open Letter to Jacquelyn McCormick and Adolpho Cabral; By Norma J F Harrison 09-08-2012 

Where in the World is West Berkeley? (News Analysis) By Toni Mester 09-07-2012 

New: Unfunded Liabilities And The New Berkeley Police Contract (News Analysis) By Shannon Brown 09-08-2012 

Planning Commission Special Workshop On MUP Community Benefits to Be Held on Wednesday From WEBAIC 09-07-2012 

Election Update 09-07-2012 

THE PUBLIC EYE:Obama vs. Romney: The Popularity Contest By Bob Burnett 09-07-2012 

Odd Bodkins: Fred for Prez (Cartoon) By Dan O'Neill 08-28-2012 

Romney's Vision for the Future: An Uninhabitable Earth By Jack Bragen 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 

Got Free Speech in Berkeley’s Constitution Square? (First Person) By Carol Denney 08-29-2012 

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 

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 

THE PUBLIC EYE: Mitt Romney: The Great White Hope 08-31-2012 

AGAINST FORGETTING: Voter Suppression: The "Schurick Doctrine" and the Unravelling of American Democracy By Ruth Rosen 08-29-2012 

ECLECTIC RANT: The GOP and the John Galt Factor By Ralph E. Stone 08-29-2012 

New: Complaint Filed with Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission Regarding Yes on T’s Illegal/Fraudulent Endorsements By Zelda Bronstein 10-17-2012 

Measure M: Investing in Streets and Green infrastructure - Providing Multiple Benefits Now and Saving Money in the Future By Larry Henry, Past Chairperson and current Vice-Chairperson of the Berkeley Public Works Commission 10-12-2012 

Creative Protests Blanket Berkeley By Carol Denney 10-12-2012 

New: Puppets Come to Council Meeting By Carol Denney 10-17-2012 

A Curmudgeonly Potpourri by The Occasional Curmudgeon 10-12-2012 

New: Sunday Streets Proves Sitting and Business Go Together By Carol Denney 10-16-2012 

THE PUBLIC EYE: Obama vs. Romney: Jobs By Bob Burnett 10-12-2012

The Planet's November 6 Ballot Recommendations

By the Berkeley Daily Planet Editorial Board
Thursday October 25, 2012 - 11:22:00 AM

Below you'll find a list of the Planet's endorsements for the November 6 election. 

State Propositions:

30 Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. YES. Jerry Brown’s Last Chance: badly needed and the best choice if you only vote for one.

31 State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute. NO. Would cripple government at all levels

32 Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute. NO. An anti-union move

33 Auto Insurance Companies. Prices Based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute. NO. Benefits companies, hurts drivers.

34 Death Penalty. Initiative Statute.YES, YES, YES. Saves money, saves lives, avoids errors which can’t be reversed.

35 Human Trafficking. Penalties. Initiative Statute. No position—evidence is unclear.

36 Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute. YES, YES, YES on financial grounds alone, plus humanitarian considerations.

37 Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. Initiative Statute. YES. “Send the chemical companies a message”.

38 Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute. YES. Prop. 30 is better. If voters split their votes between the two, both might lose. Vote for both if you vote for this one at all, but be sure to vote for Prop. 30.

39 Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute. YES, though it probably has some pork in it.

40 Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum. YES. It seems to be working. 

Local Measures:

A1: Oakland Zoo Parcel Tax NO. A boondoggle construction scheme by the Zoo’s unelected board which would Disneyfie a large part of Knowland Park with little or no benefit to the animals.

B1: Alameda County Transportation Sales Tax Increase YES. This will go for both streets and public transit, both in bad shape.

M: Berkeley Streets and Watershed bond NO. Too vague, a blank check—no guarantee it will actually be spent for desperately needed watershed measures. Try again next time. Meanwhile, support Alameda County Measure B1 for transportation needs, including both roads and transit..

N: Berkeley Pools bond YES. This N and O pair, a bond (for repair and construction) and a tax (for operation) of public pools is realistic and specific, scaled back appropriately from the previous attempt at passage. If properly managed, the warm pool could not only pay for itself but be run at a profit. Kids who grow up by the bay need to learn to swim—it’s not just recreation.

O: Berkeley Pools parcel tax YES. See Measure N.

R: Berkeley Redistricting Charter Amendment NO Gives councilmembers the power to shape districts to suit their political goals, could lead to return of gerrymandering. Some are pitching this as a path to an all-student council district, but that’s not guaranteed and might actually reduce student influence on local government.

S: Berkeley Anti-Sitting Ordinance NO, NO, NO—Expensive and ineffectual, does nothing to solve problems of indigent people on Berkeley streets.

T: Zoning for the West Berkeley Plan NO, NO, NO..Spot zoning for 5 big properties, harmful to existing residents and businesses.

U: Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance YES. Won’t hurt, might help.

V: Berkeley FACTS Initiative YES. Won’t hurt, might help. 

Berkeley City Council (Ranked Choice Vote—Choose Three):

Mayor: Kriss Worthington/Jacquelyn McCormick as 1-2 or 2-1, Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi as 3

District 2: Denisha DeLane/Adolfo Cabral as 1-2 or 2-1.

District 3: Max Anderson;

District 5: Sophie Hahn;

District 6, Phoebe Sorgen (write-in) 

Berkeley Rent Board

Berkeley Tenants Convention Candidates: Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Judy Shelton, Igor Tregub, Asa Dodsworth. 


The Berkeley Daily Planet takes no position on propositions, measures or candidates not mentioned above in this document. 

Click here for a printable PDF of these recommendations



The Nose on Berkeley's Yes on T Committee Grows Even Longer

By Becky O'Malley
Friday October 26, 2012 - 01:24:00 PM

Oy veh, as the wise men used to say in my old neighborhood. The election news just gets more and more annoying. A friend quotes her late father, complete with old country accent: “The shtupids, they’re everywhere.” Around the nation and even (or especially) here in Berkeley.

What’s even more annoying this week is how some participants in the political process have taken to making things up. At least in the last debate President Obama called out what’s-his-name on that big whopper about the non-existent apology tour.

Whoppers abound, there, here and everywhere this season. In Berkeley we have the coyly named Coalition for a Sustainable West Berkeley (listed in city filings as Coalition for a Sustainable West Berkeley for Measure T, hereinafter CSWBMT). They’ve been sending expensive glossy products to my house on a regular basis.

As documented here and also on berkeleyside.com, CSWBMT has claimed on a couple of their shiny mailers that they’re endorsed by Service Employees International Union 1021, the union local that represents public employees throughout Northern California.

And that was—a Giant Whopper, Berkeley-style.

How could this happen? Curiosity got the better of me last night, and I dropped in on a special meeting of Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission, where I witnessed a remarkable performance which I might previously have thought could happen only in Chicago. 

Darrel DeTienne is a San Francisco guy who’s a dead ringer for Daddy Warbucks in the old Orphan Annie comic strip. Over the years he has fronted for a variety of developers and wannabes licking their chops over West Berkeley. Now he’s working for the CSWBMT. 

The commission was responding to a complaint about CSWBMT's untrue claim of SEIU 1021 endorsement which had been filed by Zelda Bronstein, a diligent civic watchdog (and Planet contributor) who is currently working with the No on T campaign. It was an informal hearing in which anyone present who wanted to offer information about what happened got five minutes to speak, in order for the commission to determine if it had jurisdiction over the subject matter. Commission secretary Kristy van Herick, from the City Attorney’s office, started off by expressing her doubts about jurisdiction, but the commission chose to hear what everyone had to say before deciding. 

And wow, did they have a lot to say! Bronstein led off with a rapid-fire account of how she’d discovered that the union’s political action committee had actually endorsed No on T despite contrary assertions in the CSWBMT mailer, and further, that a second round of copies of the piece was mailed even after the group had been informed that its claim of endorsement was false. 

And then de Tienne launched into a truly staggering recitation about why he’d made the phony claim in the first place. The gist of it was that he’d sent someone around to “the Permit Center” to round up supporters for his cause, who had persuaded a number of city planning employees to attend a meeting at Au Coquelet café, conveniently located around the corner from the Permit Center, to solidify their position under his guidance. 

His emissary in this mission spoke next—Michael Tolbert, a former planner for the city of Berkeley who’s been retired and living in Napa for the past 10 years. He recounted how he’d rallied his old buddies from the Permit Center to endorse this measure. 

Here I must digress to explain that Berkeley’s Planning Department, which runs the Permit Center, is completely supported by fees paid by those who use their services—in other words, by developers—not by the city of Berkeley’s general fund revenues. Although theoretically as public servants they should be looking out for the best interests of all the citizens of Berkeley, in actual fact they mostly look out for their own jobs. 

More development means more planners: what’s not to like about that? I imagine Tolbert found them easy to convince. 

De Tienne and Tolbert were followed by architect Joe DeCredico, the nominal co-chair of CSWBMT. My sources in Oakland, where he lives, tell me that he’s the guy who recommended Berkeley’s new planning director Eric Angstadt to Berkeley mayor and Measure T proponent Tom Bates. He confirmed the essentials of what his two associates had said. 

In crude terms which they won’t like, what I heard all three of them saying is that they thought the fix was in, and they were Shocked, Shocked, to discover that the Berkeley folks that they’d rounded up to support their cause couldn’t actually deliver 1021’s endorsement. 

In case you think I’m making this up, de Tienne handily provided for the record a complete chronology of how the whole process worked, on which his testimony was based. I didn’t get a chance to read it until this morning, but when I did my jaw dropped even further than it had when I heard his oral account last night. 

It’s appended here for your edification and amusement. 

Here’s just one juicy quote to whet your appetite: 

“9/20/12 Approximately 24 members of SEIU 1021 and Local1 attended a noon meeting at Au Coquelet Cafe Restaurant near the permit center. At that meeting Mike Telbert [sic] and co-chair Deborah Mathews made a presentation on Yes on Measure T and like with the firefighters they conducted a question and answer session. At the end of the meeting Sjdney Coulter, Vice President CSU- SEIU 1021, and Diana Aikenhead , Local 1 Vice President, explained the process of voting for or against an endorsement adding that they would get back to us later in the week or the following week. Mike Tolbert thanked all for attending. After the meeting, Mike and I walked back to the permit center to personally thank Sharon Crosby , Permit Center Manager and SEIU 1021 member, for her support and for allowing the majority of her staff to attend the meeting while she kept the permit center open.” [emphasis added]

Surely this is not the way things are supposed to work in Berkeley? The manager of the Permit Center lets all the employees take off to attend a one-sided presentation by advocates of a political ballot measure? Sounds more and more like Chicago, doesn’t it? 

The final speaker was Peter Albert, the co-chair of SEIU 1021’s political committee. He confirmed press reports that his local had endorsed against Measure T in early September, long before Tolbert and Matthews (a realtor and past chair of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustment Board) held their meeting with Berkeley’s planning staff. He pointed out that SEIU rules don't allow local endorsement—that only his committee, which serves all of northern California, has the power to endorse. 

He said that he’d checked with three of 24 Berkeley departmental union reps to see why they had been listed as supporters of T. One said that his group was opposed, two didn’t seem to know what it was they’d agreed to, and none of them had checked with the rank-and-file before signing on to the Tolbert/Matthews/deTienne proposal after the Au Coquelet gathering. 

And again, when I looked at the material supplied by de Tienne, everything Albert said was confirmed in mind-boggling detail—read it yourself. Even though I’ve been watching Berkeley political shenanigans for at least thirty years, I never expected to see rumors of Planning Department chicanery displayed like this in front of my eyes, backed up by a written confession. 

Time and space problems prevent me from reporting further here on this amazing meeting, and since I hadn’t planned to report on it at all I didn’t even have my notebook with me. There was one very competent and fully-equipped reporter from another publication at the meeting, and I hope she will fill in the blanks in the account before long. Zelda Bronstein, a longtime Planet contributor, will probably have more to say. 

Keep watching this story—it’s only going to get bigger. 

(P.S. The Planet still endorses No on Proposition 32, but we begin to see why it has its supporters.) 


The Editor's Back Fence

Planet Endorsements Now Online

Thursday October 25, 2012 - 10:40:00 PM

Okay, okay, okay, thanks for the emails and the calls asking where the short-form summary was--the last one was from my mother. The organized version of the official Berkeley Daily Planet endorsements can be found by clicking here. And thanks Jesse, Daniella and Mom for catching mistakes even before the Next Issue was officially published.

Public Comment

New: Zoo Executives’ Backroom Deals on Measure A1

By Ruth Malone
Wednesday October 31, 2012 - 09:50:00 AM

Good government requires transparency and open public debate of the issues. The Brown Act was passed in 1953 to address concerns that governing bodies were avoiding public scrutiny by holding secret meetings. In 1968 the California Public Records Act furthered open government by requiring that records be disclosed to the public upon request. When open government is sidestepped and discussions and decisions occur in secrecy, bad public policy decisions may result. The placement of Measure A1 on the November 6 Alameda County ballot reveals how backroom negotiations are employed by politically connected players to try to suppress dissent-- at the expense of good government.

Measure A1 is a 25-year, irrevocable parcel tax measure apparently first discussed by the Alameda County board of supervisors at a retreat meeting on May 8th. However, neither the Agenda nor the Minutes of this meeting, which Zoo executives apparently attended, mention anything about the Oakland Zoo or a parcel tax measure, so the public would have no way to know such a measure was contemplated or to attend the discussion, much less to organize opposition. However, an article in the San Jose Mercury News (an out-of-county newspaper) reported on the tax measure discussion. After reading this article, Friends of Knowland Park repeatedly attempted to obtain copies of the materials discussed by the supervisors. They were told that no one knew anything about a Zoo parcel tax measure.

No mention of the measure ever appeared on any agendas or minutes until the July 24th meeting when the measure was approved for the ballot at the last possible moment, right before the summer recess. Because Measure A1 was likely to elicit strong public opposition, given the fact that the measure allowed the funds to be used to pay for a highly controversial Zoo expansion into unspoiled Knowland Park, it appears that the measure’s proponents hoped to get it on the ballot without opponents’ knowledge, thus increasing the chance that there would be no ballot argument against it. The plan would have succeeded, were it not for that article. (Thank goodness for what remains of our free, independent press!) 

Even before that, we have learned, this measure involved backroom deals. Emails received through a Public Records Act request show that in order to avoid opposition from commercial landlords of multi-unit apartment buildings, Zoo executives Joel Parrott and Nik Dehejia, along with Lew Edwards Group consultant Catherine Lew, coordinated a series of promises to the California Apartment Association PAC to secure their neutrality on Measure A1. The results are that their members—owners of very large apartment complexes-- get preferential treatment, to the detriment of homeowners and small business owners. 

Measure A1 gives a huge amount of tax dollars to a nongovernmental entity that has no publicly elected representatives. It is written so broadly that all the funds can potentially be shifted to further expand the zoo rather than simply sustain it, despite Zoo executives’ claims that Measure A1 isn’t about expansion (for a summary of the relevant parts of the fine print, see www.saveknowland.org). And the public has no recourse if they object to how their tax dollars are spent, for if they do uncover improper spending and take legal action, the Zoo is allowed to use our public tax dollars to defend itself, meaning the public would pay for both sides of the case. 

This isn’t good government—it’s the worst kind of backroom dealing. The public deserves to debate the issues fairly and openly in advance of ballot approvals. Both sides on ballot measures should have full access to the information representatives use in their decisionmaking about whether to put a measure on the ballot. And political cronyism should not be part of taxation at the ballot box. 

Measure A1 isn’t A1, and the public should vote no—if only to send a message that we’re sick and tired of this kind of political shenanigans. 

Ruth Malone is Co-Chair of Friends of Knowland Park, one of five environmental groups signing the ballot argument against Measure A1. She is a former member of the Oakland Public Ethics Commission and a grassroots activist who has lived in Oakland for almost 30 years.

New: Why I'm Voting for Max Anderson

Jane Stillwater
Wednesday October 31, 2012 - 08:14:00 AM

I love South Berkeley's new farmers' market location and look forward to shopping there every Tuesday -- but this last Tuesday? Not so much. Why? Because as I was happily browsing among the vegetables, a campaign worker for Dmitri Belser came up and verbally harassed me.

"Vote for Dmitri," she ordered me at first.

"Er, uh, sorry, but, er, actually I want to vote for Max Anderson..." Wrong thing to say!  

"WHAT has Max Anderson ever done for you!" the campaign worker then spat out, getting all hostile and all in my face. But I bravely persisted in continuing to prefer Max. "HOW can you even think of voting for him!" she then practically screamed. Perhaps I should have lied? 

"Er, uh, I'm voting for him because I know him and like him and realize that, although I have disagreed with some of his positions, I have agreed with most of them -- whereas all I know about Belser is that he is endorsed by Laurie Cappetelli, the developers' friend, who I definitely do not agree with most of the time. 

Thankfully, however, at that point my daughter Ashley came up and dragged me to safety and that was that, except that I was still feeling all put upon and abused by Belser's campaign worker. But later that night, after having time to think about it, I finally realized what Councilman Anderson HAD done for me. He had been instrumental in working out the current arrangements for the South Berkeley farmers' market great new location.

For the record: a message from your firefighters and police officers:

By James Geissinger President, Berkeley Fire Fighters Association
Monday October 29, 2012 - 03:17:00 PM

Time is short now to clear up some misinformation that’s crept into Berkeley’s political scene since the Berkeley Fire Fighters’ and Police Officers’ Associations both enthusiastically endorsed Sophie Hahn for District 5 councilmember

Word’s going around that we’re backing Sophie in return for specific promises that she’s made us (but won’t, in fact, be able to keep). 

There’s simply no hidden agenda. Sophie has undertaken—and pledged to continue—to devote time and effort to understanding firsthand the roles that public safety officers play in our community. That’s all: no promises sought or given. 

Another dubious claim: that firefighters and police officers shifted their allegiance to Sophie because her opponent champions compensation reform—including raising employee pension contribution rates and cutting salaries. 

  • Police Officers have already signed a contract shouldering a greater share (12% of salary) of their own pension costs, and establishing a new, less generous second-tier retirement plan (3% @ 55).
Source: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Human_Resources/Level_3_-__General/BerkeleyPoliceAssociationMOU.pdf 


  • Two years ago now, recognizing that no-one gains from sinking the City further in fiscal quicksand, Berkeley firefighters signed a contract freezing salaries & benefits throughout its 2-year term.
Source: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Human_Resources/Level_3_-__General/BFFALocal1227MOU.pdf 

  • And in any case, recent California state legislation mandates a two-tier retirement system providing even lower benefits than the police contract (2.7% @ 57). The new plan automatically takes effect for public employees—including firefighters and police officers— hired on or after January 1, 2013.
Source: http://www.calpers.ca.gov/eip-docs/employer/program-services/guide-pension-ref.pdf 

Please try to sift the fact from fiction when you cast your vote. Unfounded rumors such as these offend not only the candidate but all of us public servants who support her, too. 

The truth is that no one in District 5 understands the fiscal challenges Berkeley faces in meeting our community’s needs, better than Sophie Hahn. Her track record in the community and our school system proves her ability to bring together all stakeholders in a shared decision-making process, establishing clear priorities firmly based on strong common values. 

We urge you to consider getting to know and voting for Sophie Hahn, District 5 City Councilmember.

New: Support Change: Voting Recommendations

By Tim Hansen, with the help of friends
Wednesday October 31, 2012 - 10:20:00 AM

Many of us feel uneasy about the direction Berkeley is going. We believe it is time for a change. If one looks, the signs are everywhere:

  • Our roads compared to other California cities, rank in the bottom 20%.
  • Our property taxes are among the highest in California.
  • Infrastructure—culverts, storm drains, and underground creeks—is in disrepair.
  • Our top city employees are paid significantly above the state average.
  • Our pension obligations are requiring an ever-increasing percentage of our revenue.
  • For a city our size, we have one of the largest legal departments in the State.
  • Per capita, our city is one of the most sued cities in the United States.
  • We lack a soft-story building ordinance, putting at risk thousands of people should we have a major earthquake.
  • It is much more difficult for us to get a zoning or building permit than in other cities.
  • We have had a steady loss of recreational facilities—Iceland, the warm water pool available to the public at Berkeley High, and Willard Pool.
  • Our city is not open, hiding information about the closing of the main post office and the state of our financial affairs.
It is time to step back, reflect, and step off in a new direction. To this end we recommend the following for Berkeley: 


Mayor: Tom does many things right, but it is time for him to retire. No other Berkeley mayor has served over two terms in a row. Tom is running for his forth. Tom doesn’t recognize the problems we face. He will not release the study commissioned to evaluate the city’s finances. He negotiated a higher pay for the City Manager just before he retired, meaning a significantly larger pension. Because of our financial problems, the city is being considered for a bond downgrade by Moody’s. Tom and the City Council must shoulder responsibility for this. Tom is against the sunshine ordinance (U) and the Facts Initiative (V) which are put forth to help solve our problems. He put forward Measure S, which is an affront to Berkeley’s long standing tradition of upholding the rights of its citizens. Tom is responsible for the loss of Iceland, which the city forced to shut down. If the city was concerned with Iceland’s refrigerant they should have worked with Iceland to correct the problem instead of forcing them to close. Tom’s reelection money is mainly coming from a small group of developers. He has raised more money than all the other mayor candidates put together. Tom doesn’t address the problems we are facing. Instead he is claiming this is “Berkeley at its Best” and pretending everything is ok. It is time to thank Tom for his hard work and move on. It is time for a change. 


For a new beginning, my first choice for mayor is Jacquelyn McCormick. She is smart, honest, dedicated, and hard working. She will make a good mayor. For second and third I am putting anybody but Bates. 


District 2: Darryl Moore has hitched his horse to Tom’s wagon. He needs to be his own person. Darryl supports Measure T (T) saying it will bring jobs. But T will also cost jobs for those businesses that are forced out. In the short run there will probably not be a net gain of permanent employment. Darryl didn’t support Willard Pool staying open and he didn’t support Iceland. It is time for someone new. The other two candidates, Adolfo Cabral andDenisha DeLane, will do well. I would put Moore third. 

District 3: I support Max Anderson. While I don’t always agree with him, he is his own man and understands the problems we face. I respect him for taking a stand against Measure S. 

District 5: I support Sophie Hahn. I had high hopes for Laurie Capitelli, he has done some things well, but overall he is a disappointment. Laurie has been on council eight years. He has had his chance. It is time to move on. Laurie didn’t support Willard Pool staying open and looked the other way as Iceland was forced to close. He opposes Sunshine (U) and the Facts Initiative (V), which I support. He supports the West Berkeley private redevelopment plan (Measure T) which I think is a wrong direction for the city. Laurie’s campaign literature is misleading. He, or his campaign, are telling untruths about his opponent and has even made untrue claims about his list of endorsers. Sophie Hahn supported Iceland while on ZAB, and supports most, if not all, of the measures I believe in. She is smart and is running a good campaign. Sophie understands the problems we face and will do the city proud. 

District 6: Susan is running unopposed however many people are writing in Phoebe Sorgen. 



M – No. General Obligation bond, Streets. As written there are no guarantees that the money will be spent as proposed. The amount is also just a drop in the bucket of the kind of money really needed. It is very poorly written and just doesn’t add up. The city council should have done better. 


N – Yes. General Obligation Bond for Pools. 

This measures is to re-build pools in Berkeley – to bring it back to where it was a couple of years ago with replaced and remodeled facilities; a warm water pool and Willard Pool. Currently there are no public pools south of West Campus. The one built on the Berkeley High campus ten years ago is not open to the public, and the pool at the Y requires a membership, as do those on campus. The mayor and council are behind this, and the fiscal conservatives and money watchers in the city are not. I believe there is a strong community need. It is disgusting that the very people who put this forward are the ones who voted to close the pools in the first place. Now they are seeking another funding source. View it as a necessary fix for poor decision by our existing city council. 

O – No. Special tax to fund operations and maintenance of pools. 

The money should come from the general fund. 

[Editor's Note: A reader tells us that: to vote "yes" for pools you MUST vote "yes" to both "N" and "O". If measure "O" does not
pass, even if "N" is passed, "N" won't go into effect and the pools will not be built. See the city attorney's impartial analysis of N: "This bond measure would authorize the issuance of $19.4 million of general obligation bonds but only if a companion measure to pay for operation and maintenance of those pools is also approved by the voters at the November 6, 2012 election."]

P – Yes. Reauthorizes expenditures of voter approved taxes. 

This is required every four years for expenditures the voters approved but has not been made yet. 

Q – Yes. Modification of the Utility Users Tax. 

Seems reasonable and gives an exemption to low income utility users. 

R – No. Adopt a special redistricting plan. 

District elections should stay as they are or be done away with. There is no reason to substitute one broken thing for another. In the future, we should also consider supporting term limits. 

S – No. Prohibits sitting on sidewalks in the downtown. 

This applies to the downtown only. It would just push homeless elsewhere and do nothing to solve the problems. I believe we need to work to get the homeless the services they need to break the cycle of homelessness. It is a difficult, one person at a time, kind of job. We have cut back on our efforts to get the homeless off the streets and it shows. We should empower the Downtown Host Ambassadors to more effectively deal with this kind of behavior. Using police to enforce a no-sitting law is a waste of resources and is probably not legal. It will lead to another lawsuit. 

T – No. Amendment of West Berkeley Plan to facilitate private redevelopment. 

This is about seven very powerful men verses the people who live and work in West Berkeley. These seven property owners and developers want to see Emeryville move north. Six massive sites to start in the first ten years, and then everything is up for grabs in the area north to south, freeway to San Pablo Avenue. West Berkeley will continue to develop. The question is how fast and how many people will lose their jobs or be forced out. This is just redevelopment with the funding source disguised. It will dislocate families, kill jobs, and destroy neighborhoods. West Berkeley is a vibrant, exciting, wonderful place for many small business and families. It should not be turned into an office park. 

U – Yes. The Sunshine Ordinance. 

Our current city council is goal oriented. They simply ignore procedures when it is to their advantage. In controversial issues, people really don’t like loosing when they feel the rules were not properly followed—so they sue. Not following rules has led to Berkeley becoming one of the most sued cities in the nation. While our city attorney says the ordinance will cost the city 2 million dollars (a made-up amount), I believe it will actually save the city money by reducing the number of lawsuits. This ordinance is needed to force the city to clean up its act. 

V – Yes. City Financial Disclosure Requirement. 

Requires financial disclosure before city can proposes more bonds, taxes, or fees. 

One would think this is a no brainer. Yet Bates, Capitelli, and Moore are against it. McCormick, Hahn and the others support it as necessary for making prudent financial decisions. It is supported by most neighborhood organizations. Ironically, Capitelli voted for a nearly identical measure in 2010 that passed unanimously then was totally ignored. This measure simply makes the city do what it already requires of itself. 

New: Romney's Sense-Defying Proposals

By Jack Bragen
Monday October 29, 2012 - 03:32:00 PM

Having watched Mitt Romney on television including during the presidential debates, I believe he is a good person. It is noteworthy that President Obama and Governor Romney have both been civilized campaigners; and there does not appear to be any real animosity between the two. This is different than how it was when George W. Bush ran, both for election and re-election. The campaigns for and against George W. Bush did not refrain from nastiness, including the time in which the Supreme Court was involved. 

My objection to Mitt Romney being elected president is not about character-it is about his proposals. He wants to increase domestic production of nuclear power, oil, gas and coal. This means more offshore drilling which poses a major threat to the environment should anything go wrong, which it will. This means more strip mining to get to the coal, more dangerous coal mining that puts the lives of miners in jeopardy, and more carbon emissions in our atmosphere which will make our climate hotter. Mitt Romney's agenda does not seem to include renewable energy at all. What is the point of that? Renewable energy is a no-brainer, although unpopular among the oil giants. 

Romney alluded to the idea of transferring Medicare to the states. Whenever something like that happens, the ball gets dropped. The states will inevitably do a poor or no job of filling in the crater left by gutting Medicare, which is the actual proposal of Romney. He talked of cutting programs in order to balance the budget, while increasing military spending and cutting taxes for the rich. This is not hearsay; this is straight out of Romney's mouth. What programs are to be cut? School lunches? Affordable housing? Social Security? 

Where is Romney going to find the money to balance our budget while cutting taxes and increasing military spending? He is either an outright liar, or he is proposing a complete gutting of all programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and anything else that serves as the remaining safety net for people who can't work due to a disability, for people who can't find jobs, and for seniors. Romney's proposals spell a disaster for the most vulnerable among us. 

Mitt Romney is a nice enough man. You can feel the love of the debates all day long. However, electing him is another matter. His proposals make him unsuitable to be President. Vote for President Obama.

New: Vote NO on Measure A1? How could I ask you to vote against Animal Care?

By Anita Wah
Monday October 29, 2012 - 03:29:00 PM

Over the past three weeks, my mailbox has been inundated with glossy flyers and giant postcards exhorting me to vote YES on A1 for Animal Care, the 25-year parcel tax that would benefit the Oakland Zoo. One four-page flyer describes the pitiful state of the zoo’s infrastructure, including “plumbing and drainage systems [that] are over 40 years old” and “leaking reptile exhibits.” A second flyer exhorts me to “Help Our Animals & Kids” and features a handwritten message from Maya, age 10, who likes “going to the zoo” and pleads with me to “help take care of my friend Leonard.” It’s followed by a third flyer with a lovely photo of the majestic lion himself, detailing Leonard’s history of abuse before coming to the Oakland Zoo, and explaining the need for my tax money to buy him “milk & raw eggs.” A giant postcard arrives, with a cute lion cartoon assuring me that A1 will “provide animals with food & fresh water.” By the time the last postcard comes through the door, crying, “Leonard & Sandy Need You!” and reminding me that the money from A1 “Buys Lion treats,” I am wondering whether the folks from the Oakland Zoo inhabit an alternate universe. I can’t imagine how the Zoo could afford this expensive mail campaign when they are so financially strapped that they need a parcel tax to fund basics such as food, fresh water, and plumbing repair. 

Poking around on the internet, the answers started to emerge. Zoo officials, it seems, have better things to do than to plan for the basics. An East Bay Express article describes a massive $72 million expansion planned by the zoo for which (according to a zoo executive) $40 million has already been raised. Of this, at least $19 million is from public funds, including $7 million from a state grant and $12 million from Oakland’s Measure G. They’re so confident of being able to raise the remaining $32 million that they refer to the expansion as a “done deal.” In interviews, they repeatedly reassure taxpayers that parcel tax money won’t be used to fund the expansion. My reading of the measure itself leaves me unconvinced, as it clearly states in section H that allowable projects include “constructing, expanding, remodeling,” and “…the construction of new or renovation of existing…facilities.” However, even if I take their word for it, their priorities perplex me. I learn that that the $72 million expansion project includes a gondola, campground, and a 34,000 square foot complex to house offices, a restaurant, gift shop, and visitor center. While the zoo can fund all of these facilities for the pleasure and entertainment of people, it turns to Alameda County property owners to pick up the tab for the basic functions of animal care and facility maintenance for the next 25 years. What would we think if a public school spent millions of dollars to build a roller coaster on the school playground and begged for a parcel tax to fund books and teachers? If this makes sense, then so does Measure A1. 

So what’s the Oakland Zoo really up to, and what’s behind the staunch support they’re getting from the Oakland City Council and County Board of Supervisors? More poking around on the internet and I found that the answer, as so often is the case, is money. The zoo’s expansion, with its gondola, spectacular hilltop views, restaurant, and new “California-themed” exhibit, is supposed to draw tourists to the Oakland area. An Oakland North article by Ryan Phillips in July of 2011, quotes zoo director of strategic initiatives Nik Dehejia. “[The project] totally changes the face of the zoo, it changes the face of Oakland. It becomes an attraction because there isn’t anything else like this out there.” In the same month, NBC Bay Area reported that the new project was expected to bring $111 million into the Bay Area and also quoted Mr. Dehejia as pointing out that most people “don't understand our economic impact.” Being one of those who didn’t understand, I did the math. The parcel tax is estimated to bring in about $5.5 million dollars per year which (multiplied by 25 years) totals $137.5 million. So we’re spending $137.5 million plus $72 million (the cost of the expansion) for a total of $209.5 million---all to bring $111 million into the area. Yep, Mr. Dehejia, I think I’m finally starting to understand the economic impact. 

Zoo officials are proud of their expansion plan, and love to wax eloquent about it. In the summer/fall 2011 edition of ROAR, the Oakland Zoo magazine, Executive Director Joel Parrott described part of this expansion plan, the California Trail. In his words: “The exhibit---created to tell the story of California’s wild life---will feature once-native animals, including the grizzly and the black bear, the wolf, the mountain lion, and bald eagle.” In the Oakland North article, Nik Dehejia described the gondola ride that will take people to the California Trail exhibit as “kind of taking you back in time to what California was.” Are top zoo officials really so grievously uninformed about our local wildlife? Of the five species named by Dr. Parrott, only the grizzly and the gray wolf are accurately described as “once-native.” (The bald eagle, for example, has six known nesting places in the Bay Area.) Of course, by paving over native wildlife habitat in Knowland Park to build a gift shop, office building, and restaurant, they can help speed the demise of the remaining three species to ensure that they, too, become “once-native.” Dr. Parrott justifies this by explaining to ROAR readers that “getting children interested in being in the outdoors often requires mediated experiences as a gateway. Our goal is to break down barriers to the outdoors and create environments that are a welcoming experience for all children, ” he writes. Strangely, my daughter didn’t seem to suffer from the unmediated quality of her experience when she saw a fledgling bald eagle at Lake Chabot. In fact, she was so excited that we could hardly keep her in the kayak. Perhaps what Dr. Parrot really means is that unmediated experiences, such as exploring Knowland Park with your friends and family, are free and won’t do anything to bring $111 million to the Bay Area. By replacing open, natural animal habitats with closed, controlled ones and providing them with amusement-park-like settings and themes, we can slap a hefty price tag on nature and claim that we’re contributing to the economy. 

My husband, a public school teacher, has sadly watched younger colleagues, including several talented science teachers, being laid off in recent years. We’ve listened to the presidential candidates try to outdo one another in promises to hire badly needed science and math teachers. Imagine our surprise, then, to read that the zoo will solve all our problems. Measure A1, one of the glossy pamphlets promises, will “[P]rovide important science and nature education classes for children who often have none in the public schools.” With the critical need to educate more scientists and engineers, I’d have thought it would border on a regional emergency if “often” there are no science classes in our public schools. But now I’ve relaxed. No science class? No problem! We can just take the kids to visit Leonard the lion, resting assured that Measure A1 is paying for the Lion Treats. 

No on Berkeley Measure S: Sitting on the Sidewalk is a Time-Honored Tradtion

By ChristopheRobin Byers
Sunday October 28, 2012 - 12:21:00 PM

One decision Berkeley voters will be making in the upcoming election is whether to make the simple act of sitting on the sidewalk illegal. Proponents of Measure S say it is needed, because people sitting on the sidewalk in Berkeley’s retail areas are discouraging people from patronizing local shops. They go so far as to suggest this is one of the main reasons why many local businesses cannot afford to hire new employees. I would argue that most of the troubles that both local merchants and the homeless experience have more to do with the current recession than anything else. 

Supporters of the measure say that most people who would be targeted by the new ordinance are in need of help anyway, and that an attempt will be made to direct them to assistance programs before citations are issued. The proposed measure does include a provision to waive citations for those willing to take advantage of these programs. This almost seems reasonable until one thinks about the fact this means participation in a program would be compulsory, not voluntarily. I am uncomfortable with the implications here; thoughts of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World arise. It seems clear that the primary goal of this law is to rid retail areas of homeless people, and helping them is secondary. 

Quite frankly, I find the the vast majority of street people I encounter to be polite, and well behaved. I couldn’t imagine Telegraph Avenue without at least a few of them. Many of them help to entertain passersby with songs or displays of artwork, in exchange for a little spare change. Historically this has been a time honored tradition in urban centers. The sidewalks are public space really; it’s the closest thing we have to the town square of old.it

West Berkeley Thrives as a Manufacturing Ecology

By Bernard Marszalek
Thursday October 25, 2012 - 05:19:00 PM

A house does not make a home. In the same way, only homes make a neighborhood. In both cases, human agency transforms the material into the social. 

But there is more here. It isn’t simply living together that creates a home, but a certain way of living together. The richer the interactions in the house the more it is a home. Living with others can be hell and the only refuge our bedroom. 

This happens in neighborhoods also – houses become bunkers and apartment buildings practically sell themselves as domains of (secure) privacy. A neighborhood populated with only anonymous dwellers is a dull neighborhood. Likewise, an area that’s only a marketplace of businesses on a commercial street is not a neighborhood, but a mall. 

Ideally a neighborhood serves as a locus for its inhabitants to encounter each other purposefully, in community meetings, school activities, sports, and vicariously, in parks, stores, cafes, theatres and, most importantly, on the sidewalks. Geographic setting sometimes defines the neighborhood to the advantage of creating these encounters. But human-made barriers, wide streets, train tracks, even parks often create neighborhood boundaries. Scale is important here also. 

What destroys neighborhoods? Poverty. But also Capital, as in mega-investments, homogenizes space for profit and destroys neighborhoods. By “homogenization of space”, I mean, for instance, space dominated by suburban tract homes and industrial “parks.” The most glaring example of this homogenization of space can be seen from space, that is, flying over the American Midwest, where agro-business and mining have seized vast stretches to manufacture monotonous landscapes. That same dynamic works on a smaller scale everywhere. 

The ambience of a neighborhood, slowly nurtured by its residents, if it suits the moneyed interests of a city, will be pouched for profit. The corporate rot will begin with the commercial district. Beware the neighborhood where Capital sees an opportunity for “development.” 

Every ruse will be used to buy up land, to influence planning officials and pressure politicians with laudatory schemes to enlarge the tax base, increase employment, and develop “green businesses” or simply to “modernize” – which means simply “make room for the rich.” 

Those who object, mainly the residents of the unique neighborhood, but also those who simply enjoy visiting occasionally to enjoy its character, will be tarred with one slander or another. This is exactly what we are witnessing in West Berkeley. A few mega-developers and their supporters in City Hall slander those who inhabit the old working-class township of Oceanview, as it was called before incorporation into Berkeley. 

The major slander, that West Berkeley is a derelict neighborhood in need of vitalization, though its low vacancy rate is the envy of other manufacturing areas in the East Bay, is superseded by their lie that high-tech entrepreneurs, from the bowels of UCB’s labs, are eager to rescue the area from its current blight. This last fantasy has been propagated by the notion that UCB engineers and scientists need space to capitalize their projects. Last year, however, according to the annual report of the University of California’s Technology Transfer Program, only five businesses were developed. And not all necessarily needed the “incubator” space that the developers maintain is in great demand. 

It is obvious that the game played here is “bait and switch.” First you tell the populace that hi-tech is desperate for space, or that green jobs could be created, or whatever sounds seductive, and then after the structures are built they get rented to whomever has the money for a waterside location overlooking the Bay and close to the freeway. 

In the meantime, the “developed” land escalates the value of adjacent real estate and the current tenants – small businesses and artisans, for instance – are displaced and the character of West Berkeley disappears. West Berkeley resembles a manufacturing ecology, with one business purchasing from another, one servicing still others and the whole complex related to the needs of the residents nearby. This network of relationships attracts new businesses all the time. Currently, for example, an innovative project to develop a cluster of small kitchens for start-ups in the food business nears completion. 

The growth of new small industrial spaces occurs at a pace and a scale that blends into the surrounding community, but it is not, of course, at the pace and scale for huge returns. It seems to me that if we endorse a steady state economy in theory, then we should protect it in reality 

Bernard Marszalek is a former member of Inkworks Press, a West Berkeley manufacturer.

Yes on Measure V: Let’s avoid the fate of California’s bankrupt cities

By Priscilla Myrick
Thursday October 25, 2012 - 04:59:00 PM

Recently two major California cities, Stockton and San Bernardino, have declared bankruptcy. Other cities are following suit. Maybe Stockton and San Bernardino needed a Measure V. 

Measure V would require the city of Berkeley to publicly report its financial obligations for the next twenty-year period, including unfunded pension liabilities and bond obligations for capital assets and infrastructure improvements. The measure also requires a report of the yearly expenses needed to meet those obligations. 

Stockton and San Bernardino have turned to bankruptcy to get out of their obligations to bondholders and retirees. When escalating costs exceed revenues, the result is insolvency. Once a city is insolvent, the only solutions are: raise revenues or default on obligations and declare bankruptcy. The result is painful and far-reaching, and, in the end, the entire community pays. How does this happen? 

The largest costs faced by cities are pension and post-retirement benefits for city employees. Many city councils find it easy to promise large pensions in the future because they don’t come out of current cash flow. 

The mayor of Stockton, Ann Johnston, explained that as a city council member she voted for expensive pension measures. “We didn’t have projections into the future of what the costs might be…I learned that you don’t make decisions without looking into the future”… “Nobody gave thought to how it was eventually going to be paid for,” said Mr. Deis, the city manager. A month before his city ran out of cash, San Bernardino’s mayor Pat Morris said in a July 11th video, “This is a revelation by the city manager and the director of finance that with regard to our cash flow…we have insufficient cash flow to pay employees beyond mid-August…” The bankruptcies of both Stockton and San Bernardino were a long time coming but city officials seem to be the last to know. 

The city councils and mayors of both Stockton and San Bernardino appear unaware of the financial state of the cities they represent. They have run their city finances like a teenager with a new bank account--looking at the current balance on the ATM screen and forgetting about the outstanding checks. 

In Berkeley we need Measure V, the “FACTS” Initiative (Fiscal Accountability, Clarity, Transparency, and Sustainability), to make sure that the mayor and city council are looking beyond today’s ATM screen. Measure V requires the type of reporting that a fiscally responsible mayor and city council should be doing all along. 

We need Measure V to promote fiscal accountability, good governance, and help keep Berkeley on a sustainable fiscal course. Vote Yes on Berkeley Measure V. 

Priscilla Myrick is a Berkeley resident and former CPA and chief financial officer

The City of Berkeley's Borrowing

By Ted Edlin
Friday October 26, 2012 - 09:44:00 AM

Ever since the housing collapse the news outlets have been telling us about the bad behavior of people who refinance their mortgages and then take out a larger mortgage at a lower interest rate and take the difference in cash and go on a vacation.  

This behavior has contributed to the underwater housing problem and is currently frowned upon. 

The Administration of the City of Berkeley , with the complicity of a City Council that I am sure doesn't understand, apparently doesn't believe that such behavior will lead to a fiscal problem. Since interest rates have been falling the City has done what appears to be a prudent thing-it has been refinancing it's outstanding Bonds and Certificates of Participation (COP's). 

For illustration purposes let's say the City has a 30 year Ten Million dollar bond issue outstanding with 25 years to maturity. The interest rate is 5%. The City negotiates to issue a new 30 year Twelve Million Dollar Bond and will use the proceeds to pay off the original Ten Million Dollar bond and will take the additional Two Million it now has borrowed and puts it in an account to pay PERS retirement demands for the employee retirement fund. Ever since the housing collapse the news outlets have been telling us about the bad behavior of people who refinance their mortgages and then take out a larger mortgage at a lower interest rate and take the difference in cash and go on a vacation.  

This behavior has contributed to the underwater housing problem and is currently frowned upon. 

The Administration of the City of Berkeley , with the complicity of a City Council that I am sure doesn't understand, apparently doesn't believe that such behavior will lead to a fiscal problem. Since interest rates have been falling the City has done what appears to be a prudent thing-it has been refinancing it's outstanding Bonds and Certificates of Participation (COP's). 

For illustration purposes let's say the City has a 30 year Ten Million dollar bond issue outstanding with 25 years to maturity. The interest rate is 5%. The City negotiates to issue a new 30 year Twelve Million Dollar Bond and will use the proceeds to pay off the original Ten Million Dollar bond and will take the additional Two Million it now has borrowed and puts it in an account to pay PERS retirement demands for the employee retirement fund. 

The City makes sure that the taxes levied to support the Ten Million dollar Bond issue will be sufficient to pay the amortized amounts on the new Twelve Million Dollar bond. The city reasons that the tax paying citizens aren't out anything because they voted for the initial bond and their assessed rate will remain the same. The employees are better off because there is Two Million more in their PERS retirement account. The Council will later think the retirement money demanded by PERS isn't so unaffordable because it has been reduced by the Two million painlessly received from refinancing which the Council has long since forgotten about. 

The city could have reduced the amount owed on the TEN MILLION dollar original issue bond by the two million dollars it received; or it could have put two million into street repair; or the city could also have recalculated the tax rate required to pay the balance due on the bond issue with the new lower interest rate-thus lowering the real property tax bill for all property owners. 

The city has reaped over $14 million dollars in this refinancing scheme during the past several years and not one dime of it has gone to the benefit of tax paying citizens. It has all gone for the benefit of employees similar to the utility tax windfall of several years age. 

This behavior by the City was illustrated about a decade ago when Enron and others raised the electric rates for all citizens of California. The cities reaped a windfall because of the utility users tax proceeds which increased dramatically. Most cities elected at the time to refund the excess tax collected to its citizens on a pro rata basis. Berkeley reasoned that the City's electric bill went up so the excess utility user tax should be used to pay the City's utility bill. Of course the tax proceeds far exceeded the increase in the City's bill. 

The city had the option to lower the assessment rate the taxpaying citizens are subjected to and thus lower their tax bill. The City Fathers and Mothers are always on the side of the employees and against the citizens who they continuously ask to support new bond measures. 

The City makes sure that the taxes levied to support the Ten Million dollar Bond issue will be sufficient to pay the amortized amounts on the new Twelve Million Dollar bond. The city reasons that the tax paying citizens aren't out anything because they voted for the initial bond and their assessed rate will remain the same. The employees are better off because there is Two Million more in their PERS retirement account. The Council will later think the retirement money demanded by PERS isn't so unaffordable because it has been reduced by the Two million painlessly received from refinancing which the Council has long since forgotten about. 

The city could have reduced the amount owed on the TEN MILLION dollar original issue bond by the two million dollars it received. It could have put the money into street repair.  

The city has reaped over $14 million dollars in this refinancing scheme during the past several years and not one dime of it has gone to the benefit of tax paying citizens. It has all gone for the benefit of employees. 

This behavior by the City was illustrated about a decade ago when Enron and others raised the electric rates for all citizens of California. The cities reaped a windfall because of the utility users tax proceeds which increased dramatically. Most cities elected at the time to refund the excess tax collected to its citizens on a pro rata basis. Berkeley reasoned that the City's electric bill went up so the excess utility user tax should be used to pay the City's utility bill. Of course the tax proceeds far exceeded the increase in the City's bill. 

The city had the option to lower the assessment rate the taxpaying citizens are subjected to and thus lower their tax bill. The City Fathers and Mothers are always on the side of the employees and against the citizens who they continuously ask to support new bond measures. 

This kind of behavior brought about the housing crisis and it will bring about a fiscal city crisis. 

This behavior by the City was illustrated about a decade ago when Enron and others raised the electric rates for all citizens of California. The cities reaped a windfall because of the utility users tax proceeds which increased dramatically. Most cities elected at the time to refund the excess tax collected to its citizens on a pro rata basis. Berkeley reasoned that the City's electric bill went up so the excess utility user tax should be used to pay the City's utility bill. Of course the tax proceeds far exceeded the increase in the City's bill. 

The city had the option to lower the assessment rate the taxpaying citizens are subjected to and thus lower their tax bill. The City Fathers and Mothers are always on the side of the employees and against the citizens who they continuously ask to support new bond measures. 

This kind of behavior brought about the housing crisis and it will bring about a fiscal city crisis. 

Ted R. Edlin tredlin@yaahoo.com

New: Election Year 2012

By Romila Khanna
Wednesday October 31, 2012 - 08:17:00 AM

Why are fact checkers not providing accurate information to the public regarding the candidates standing for election? We need to be very careful with our votes on November 6, 2012. If we don’t pay attention to electing the right President at this critical time, we will see the downfall of middle and low-income people. We need a President who speaks for the underprivileged and worries about their access to healthcare. We need a President who supports each citizen’s right to improve her or his situation, particularly through skills training, community colleges and four-year colleges. It is well-known that those who have the skills to make a living are not likely to take up lives of crime. The ultimate wealth of a nation consists of the spirit of all its people. Let’s elect a President who speaks for us all.

“We Can’t Allow the People to Steal This Election!”

By Barb Weir
Thursday October 25, 2012 - 11:12:00 PM

Plucky megacorporations Chevron and American Beverage Association take on powerful grassroots activists Marilyn Langlois and Eduardo Martinez in Richmond, California. 

The right of money to decide elections is being tested in Richmond, California (pop. 105,000), a suburb of San Francisco and Oakland. In a clear rebuke to American-style democracy, millions of dollars from huge corporations may prove inadequate to win the election for the corporate candidates. 

Ben Franklin and Andrew Jackson were appalled. “You would think that those who spread around so many of our portraits on a green background would be the clear choice of the voters. What is it going to take for money to win the respect it deserves? 

The corporations are certainly giving it their best effort. Chevron Oil is spending at least $1.2 million, along with the National Beverage Association, which is contributing more than $2 million, to defeat former mayoral advisor Marilyn Langlois and former schoolteacher Eduardo Martinez, both running for city council. Langlois and Martinez of the Richmond Progressive Alliance have all of $29,000 between them and are therefore being outspent more than 100 to one. 

“If it takes $1000 – even $5000 – to change the mind of just one voter, we are ready to do what it takes for free speech and democratic principles to prevail”, said a corporate campaign spokesperson. 

Nevertheless, the corporate giants fear that their efforts may not be enough, and that the rights of the people of Richmond may outweigh that of money, thanks to the power of grassroots organizing, epitomized by the RPA. They recall that in a similar contest two years ago, grassroots RPA candidates won against vastly wealthier opponents, also backed by Chevron. 

“What country are we in, where massive amounts of cash are not enough to get people to believe what we want and to vote against their own interests?” exclaimed Wirloded campaign manager Layta Saymwa. “You would think folks would have gotten the point after Citizens United. Grassroots organizing is a threat to the rights of money everywhere. We need the political equivalent of Roundup to get rid of it.” 

Saymwa was referring to Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2012), which ruled that money equals free speech and that free speech is for sale to those who can pay for it. “It makes me ashamed to live in a so-called democracy, where money cannot buy elections and my choice does not prevail regardless of how much I spend. Do you know how many of our dollars were sacrificed to win Citizens United? The struggle never ends.” 

“Langlois and Martinez believe they can win by seeking justice, giving power to the people, telling the truth and mobilizing dedicated unpaid volunteers,” said Saymwa. “I’m here to tell you that those heavy-handed tactics won’t work, and our good old American greenbacks will carry the day. Power to the powerful! Defend the corporation! We can’t allow the people to steal this election from us.”

New: The Nobel Peace Prize for War

By Michael Parenti
Thursday October 25, 2012 - 05:29:00 PM

Those who own the wealth of nations take care to downplay the immensity of their holdings while emphasizing the supposedly benign features of the socio-economic order over which they preside. With its regiments of lawmakers and opinion-makers, the ruling hierarchs produce a never-ending cavalcade of symbols, images, and narratives to disguise and legitimate the system of exploitative social relations existing between the 1% and the 99%. 

The Nobel Peace Prize would seem to play an incidental role in all this. Given the avalanche of system-sustaining class propaganda and ideological scenarios dished out to us, the Nobel Peace Prize remains just a prize. But a most prestigious one it is, enjoying a celebrated status in its anointment of already notable personages. 

In October 2012, in all apparent seriousness, the Norwegian Nobel Committee(appointed by the Norwegian Parliament) bestowed the Nobel Peace Prize upon the European Union (EU). Let me say that again: the European Union with its 28 member states and 500 million inhabitants was awarded for having "contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy, and human rights in Europe."(Norway itself is not a member of the EU. The Norwegians had the good sense to vote against joining.) 

Alfred Nobel's will (1895) explicitly states that the peace prize should go "to the */person/* who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." The EU is not a person and has not worked for the abolition or reduction of standing armies or promotion of any kind of peace agenda.**If the EU award looked a bit awkward, the BBC and other mainstream news media came to the rescue, referring to the "six decades of peace" and "sixty years without war" that the EU supposedly has achieved. The following day, somebody at the BBC did the numbers and started proclaiming that the EU had brought "/seventy/ years of peace on the European continent." What could these wise pundits possibly be thinking?Originally called the European Economic Community and formed in 1958, the European Union was established under its current name in 1993, about twenty years ago. 

The Nobel Committee, the EU recipients, and the western media all overlooked the 1999 full-scale air war launched on the European continent against Yugoslavia, a socialist democracy that for the most part had offered a good life to people of various Slavic nationalities---as many of them still testify today. 

The EU did not oppose that aggression. In fact, a number of EU member states, including Germany and France, joined in the 1999 war on European soil led largely by the United States. For 78 days, U.S. and other NATO forces bombed Yugoslavian factories, utilities, power stations, rail systems, bridges, hotels, apartment buildings, schools and hospitals, killing thousands of civilians, all in the name of a humanitarian rescue operation, all fueled by unsubstantiated stories of Serbian "genocide." All this warfare took place on European soil. 

Yugoslavia was shattered, along with its uniquely designed participatory democracy with its self-management and social ownership system. In its place emerged a cluster of right-wing mini-republics wherein everything has been privatized and deregulated, and poverty has replaced amplitude. Meanwhile rich western corporations are doing quite well in what was once Yugoslavia. 

Europe aside, EU member states have sent troops to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and additional locales in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, usually under the tutorship of the U.S. war machine. 

But what was I to expect? For years I ironically asserted that the best way to win a Nobel Peace Prize was to wage war or support those who wage war instead of peace. An overstatement perhaps, but take a look. 

Let's start back in 1931 with an improbable Nobel winner:Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University. During World War I, Butler explicitly forbade all faculty from criticizing the Allied war against the Central Powers. He equated anti-war sentiments with sedition and treason.He also claimed that "an educated proletariat is a constant source of disturbance and danger to any nation." In the 1920s Butler became an outspoken supporter of Italy's fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Some years later he became an admirer of a heavily militarized Nazi Germany. In 1933, two years after receiving the Nobel prize, Butler invited the German ambassador to the U.S. to speak at Columbia in defense of Hitler. He rejected student appeals to cancel the invitation, claiming it would violate academic freedom. 

Jump ahead to 1973, the year one of the most notorious of war criminals, Henry Kissinger, received the Nobel Peace Prize. For the better part of a decade, Kissinger served as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and as U.S. Secretary of State,presiding over the seemingly endless blood-letting in Indochina and ruthless U.S. interventions in Central America and elsewhere.From carpet bombing to death squads, Kissinger was there beating down on those who dared resist U.S. power.In his writings and pronouncements Kissinger continually talked about maintaining U.S. military and political influence throughout the world. If anyone fails to fit Alfred Nobel's description of a prize winner, it would be Henry Kissinger. 

In 1975 we come to Nobel winner Andrei Sakharov, a darling of the U.S. press, a Soviet dissident who regularly sang praises to corporate capitalism. Sakharov lambasted the U.S. peace movement for its opposition to the Vietnam War. He accused the Soviets of being the sole culprits behind the arms race and he supported every U.S. armed intervention abroad as a defense of democracy. Hailed in the west as a "human rights advocate," Sakharov never had an unkind word for the horrific human rights violations perpetrated by the fascist regimes of faithful U.S. client states, including Pinochet's Chile and Suharto's Indonesia, and he aimed snide remarks at the "peaceniks" who did. He regularly attacked those in the West who opposed U.S. repressive military interventions abroad. 

Let us not overlook Mother Teresa. All the western world's media hailed that crabby lady as a self-sacrificing saint. In fact she was a mean spirited reactionary who gladly welcomed the destruction of liberation theology andother progressive developments in the world. Her "hospitals" and "clinics" were little more than warehouses for the dying and for those who suffered from curable diseases that went untreated---eventually leading to death. She waged campaigns against birth control, divorce, and abortion. She readily hobnobbed with the rich and reactionary but she was so heavily hyped as a heavenly heroine that the folks in Oslo just had to give her the big medal in 1979. 

Then there was the Dalai Lama who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. For years the Dalai Lama was on the payroll of the CIA, an agency that has perpetrated killings against rebellious workers, peasants, students, and others in countries around the world. His eldest brother played an active role in a CIA-front group. Another brother established an intelligence operation with the CIA, which included a CIA-trained guerrilla unit whose recruits parachuted back into Tibet to foment insurgency. The Dalai Lama was no pacifist. He supported the U.S./NATO military intervention into Afghanistan, also the 78 days' bombing of Yugoslavia and the destruction of that country. As for the years of carnage and destruction wrought by U.S. forces in Iraq, the Dalai Lama was undecided: "it's too early to say, right or wrong," said he in 2005. Regarding the violence that members of his sect perpetrated against a rival sect, he concluded that "if the goal is good then the method, even if apparently of the violent kind, is permissible."Spoken like a true Nobel recipient. 

In 2009, in a fit of self parody, the folks in Oslo gave the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama while he produced record military budgets and presided over three or four wars and a number of other attack operations, followed a couple of years later by additional wars in Yemen, West Pakistan, Libya, and Syria (with Iran pending). Nobel winner Obama also proudly hunted down and murdered Osama Bin Laden, having accused him---without a shred of evidence---of masterminding the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. 

You could see that Obama was somewhat surprised---and maybe even embarrassed---by the award. Here was this young drone commander trying to show what a tough-guy warrior he was,saluting the flag-draped coffins one day and attacking other places and peoples the next---acts of violence in support of the New World Order, certainly every bit worthy of a Nobel peace medal. 

There are probably other Nobel war hawks and reactionaries to inspect. I don't pretend to be informed about every prize winner. And there are a few worthy recipients who come to mind, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Linus Pauling, Nelson Mandela, and Dag Hammarskjöld. 

Let us return to the opening point: does the European Union actually qualify for the prize? Vancouver artist Jennifer Brouse gave me the last (and best) word:"A Nobel Prize for the EU? That seems like a rather convenient and resounding endorsement for current cutthroat austerity measures. First, corporations are people, then money is free speech, now an organization of nation states designed to thwart national sovereignty on behalf of ruling class interests receives a prize for peace.On the other hand, if the EU is a person then it should be prosecuted for imposing policies leading directly to the violent repression of peaceful protests, and to the misery and death of its suffering citizens." 

In sum, the Nobel Peace Prize often has nothing to do with peace and too much to do with war. It frequently sees "peace" through the eyes of the western plutocracy. For that reason alone, we should not join in the applause. 


Michael Parenti is the author of /The Face of Imperialism/ and /Contrary Notions/. For further information visit his website: www.michaelparenti.org 



New: THE PUBLIC EYE: Four Keys to an Obama Victory

By Bob Burnett
Monday October 29, 2012 - 03:40:00 PM

Ten days before the presidential election, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are locked in a tight contest. The Obama campaign needs to do four things to pull victory out of the fire. 

Get out their voters: The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds Obama with a five point lead with registered voters; however when only “likely” voters are considered the race is tied with each candidate garnering 47 percent. The battle for the electoral vote is tight – at the moment Obama is averaging about 20 votes more than the 270 he needs to win. 

The election will be decided in the nine swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. To prevail the Obama campaign must have a better get out the vote (GOTV) organization in these states than Romney has. According to Ryan Lizza’s article in The New Yorker the Obama campaign has far more boots on the ground than does Romney. But the swing state Obama workers have to be trained and motivated, prepared to deal with Republican tactics that either disenfranchise Democratic voters or register fraudulent GOP voters. What’s required is a tenacious, ten day, 24/7 effort to get out every last Obama-Biden voter. 

Capture the female vote: There is a pronounced gender gap in the polls, where Obama has a 9 percentage point lead among women and Romney has a 9 point lead among men. Therefore, the Obama campaign must focus on getting the votes of undecided female voters. 

Unmarried women are particularly important. Wall Street Journal article quoted pollster Stan Greenberg, “(unmarried women) make up more than 20% of the electorate, and almost 70% of them went for Mr. Obama in 2008… [They] are the main target the Obama people will be aiming at." The Investor’s Business Daily tracking poll shows a gender gap where Obama has a 10 point lead over Romney among all women. Most of this is due to unmarried women, where Obama has a 33-percentage point lead. 

Part of securing the female vote is campaign mechanics. The Obama organization has to make sure their GOTV operation reaches out to women. But a successful Obama effort requires tailoring their message to women. In the second debate only one question regarded women: “In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace?” Romney punted with a lame remark that when he was governor of Massachusetts, he tried to include women in his cabinet, “women’s groups… brought us whole binders full of women.” Obama directly answered the question and then segued into related women’s issues such as contraceptive coverage in Obamacare and his support for Planned Parenthood. In the third debate there wasn’t a question that directly addressed women, but the President went out of his way to defend women’s rights. And he emphasized his intention to hire more teachers. (Romney stammered, “I love teachers.” Which is probably why most women thought Obama won the debate.) 

In the last several days, the Obama campaign issued a powerful TV ad using Mitt Romney’s own words to frame his position on abortion. Fortunately for the Obama campaign, Republican candidates like Akin and Mourdockkeep saying horrible things about rape. As attorney Jill Filipovic observed, “[Republicans believe] women… don't know their own bodies or their own lives, and cannot be trusted to determine for themselves whether continuing a pregnancy is a good idea.” 

Stay on message: In the third debate, Obama laid out the primary themes he’ll emphasize for the duration: funding education and training, bolstering manufacturing, pursuing a wide range of energy options, reducing the deficit responsibly, asking millionaires “to pay a bit more,” ending the war in Afghanistan, and “nation building at home.” Obama promoted these items in an impressive new TV ad the Obama campaign is running in the swing states. In the next ten days, Obama needs to focus attention on these themes 

Deal with dirty tricks: As expected, the Romney campaign and Republican super PACs are outspending the Obama campaign. But Obama isn’t being swamped and he has more boots on the ground. Even more important, since the final debate Obama has recaptured the momentum

Nonetheless, lurking in the Republican woodwork is the evil hand of Karl Rove. It’s likely that the Republicans will try some dirty trick to recapture momentum. They attempted this with their charge that Obama mishandled the Libyan terrorist attack that killed four Americans at Benghazi. Fortunately, in the second debate Romney bungled what could have been a “gotcha” moment. 

Obama is on track to win. He and his staff know what to do: get out their voters; capture the female vote; stay on message; and, above all, stay cool and deal with last-minute Republican Shenanigans. Now the Obama campaign has to execute. 

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

AGAINST FORGETTING: US Presidential Debate: America’s National Insecurity

By Ruth Rosen
Thursday October 25, 2012 - 05:13:00 PM

Presidential candidates usually frame national security in terms of foreign policy – relations between nations, including their treaties, military agreements, arms sales, foreign aid and military action. But if a President’s most important job is to protect the welfare of his nation’s citizens, then this foreign policy frame is actually a narrow, militaristic, euphemistic way of avoiding talking about our real need for national security. 

The greatest threats to our nation and our people are the growing wealth inequity that stifles economic growth and pushes millions into poverty; our dependence on energy sources that ignite wars and pollute the planet; our lack of universal health care; and a failure to provide educational opportunity for millions of children stuck in low-performing schools. 

In short, national security is about protecting our nation by investing in human capital and providing for the health and education of our citizens. 

Last night, the presidential candidates were asked and answered the expected questions about our military and diplomatic policy toward Israel, the entire Middle East region, the nuclear capabilities of Iran, our growing partnership – and adversarial relationship – with China, defeating terrorists, and who would be the most decisive and thoughtful Commander-in Chief. 

Nearly absent from this debate were the horrifying consequences of a narrow and militarized definition of national security. “Collateral damage,” a term bandied about among defense analysts, is just another way of saying that drones, which both candidates supported, have killed women and children and destroyed families, clans and villages thousands of miles from home. 

And then the collateral damage follows our soldiers home. More of them commit suicide than are killed in combat. They are plagued by memories that turn them into alcoholics and addicts. With brain traumas rampant, spouses no longer have a healthy husband or wife, and their children no longer have a functional parent. Two million children of recent veterans have suffered from elevated levels of depression and learning problems. This collateral damage not only harms those who fight our resource wars, but also scars the women and men who must care for the injured and the children whose lives have been irreversibly transformed. 

And yet, during this entire debate on foreign policy we heard relatively little about the impact of our militarized foreign policy on people’s lives.  

Nor did any candidate expose the many lies that led us to invade Iraq, which have caused so many of these family traumas. Barack Obama has boasted that his administration killed Osama Bin Laden, finally extricated us from Iraq, and has convincingly expressed his concern for military families. Neither candidate, however, conceded that George W. Bush lied to the American people about Iraq, a prolonged war that has caused the ripples of pain and trauma that will go on for decades.  

Mitt Romney tried hard to prove he’s rougher and tougher than Obama, who dared to use the “soft” word of “diplomacy” at the United Nations and would talk with Iran, before bombing it. But in fact, he gradually softened his stance and mostly agreed with all the President’s policies. He truly didn’t want tomorrow’s papers to portray him as a Republican war mongerer. Much clearer was his goal to protect the wealthiest players in the global economy, as well as the so-called “job creators” in the United States, from paying too much taxes.  

What would a real national security look like? This debate never really took place. For starters, we would protect human rights and civil liberties, here and abroad. We would not have warrantless electronic surveillance. Nor would we allow the National Defense Authorization Act that permits the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects—even American citizens--without trial. This is a violation of our constitution and an assault on democracy. The gradual evisceration of our civil liberties makes America less safe, not more secure. In the name of a military national security, we have given up some of our most precious rights and liberties. 

Real national security means education for our children; jobs, homes and healthcare for all our citizens; protecting the health of the planet and leaving a democratic society for our grandchildren. 

To his credit, the President repeatedly talked about “nation building” at home, instead of intervening in other countries’ political affairs. He praised negotiations and sanctions that had avoided wars, and stressed the urgent need to build the America’s economy. If we want to lead, he said, we need to set an example. We stood up for the democratic movements in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt and demonstrated that we believe in democratic principles. He also reminded viewers – repeatedly – that under his administration, American foreign policy views the education of women as the path to peace and prosperity. Without women’s rights, he emphasized, economic development was impossible in developing nations. (Everyone has finally figured out that women’s votes will decide the election.) 

Obama described America’s need for “nation building” in terms of retraining workers, elevating educational standards, and improving math and science so that American students can build 21st century energy sources and advanced manufacturing. One of his foreign policy goals was that of creating a model of democracy and decency for the rest of the world. To lead, he said, we must set an example. 

And does the rest of the world agree with Obama that we have improved America's credibility in the world? 

Yes and no. 

When the United States supported Libya, some people may have felt that the United States is finished with paying dictators for their resources. 

But when a crackpot made a video vilifying the Islamic religion, the immediate fiery explosion of anti-Americanism tells us something that was never debated tonight. America is admired for many of its ideals and innovations, but it takes just one ugly insult for tens of thousands of people to express their true feelings about America’s attempt to control their resources and dominate their region. 

In short, our foreign policy has failed miserably. Obama’s idea of “nation building” within the United States is far more promising that the usual discussion of military policy. National security should be about strengthening our democracy and creating an example that billions of people around the world would like to emulate. Obama genuinely seemed to understand that.  

This is the final article in Ruth Rosen's series of articles for openDemocracy 50.50 on the 2012 US Presidential candidate debates. Click here to read the series

THE PUBLIC EYE: Obama Finds Mojo, Wins Final Debate

By Bob Burnett
Thursday October 25, 2012 - 05:06:00 PM

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney entered the October 22nd presidential debate with different objectives. Obama needed to build upon the momentum from his last debate victory. Romney had to convince voters he is qualified to serve as Commander-in-chief. Obama succeeded because he found his voice. 

It was a reversal of the first debate where Obama was professorial and pensive, while Romney appeared assertive and competent. In the third debate the Republican candidate was the one with the “deer caught in the headlights” expression. 

Obama prevailed because he bested the Republican on each foreign policy issue. The first question concerned Libya and Romney had a chance to blame the President for the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. Instead he rambled. Obama countered with his theme for the evening, “Governor Romney, I’m glad that you agree that we have been successful in going after Al Qaida, but…your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map and is not designed to keep Americans safe or to build on the opportunities that exist in the Middle East.” 

Romney responded weakly and Obama pounced, 

”I’m glad that you recognize that Al Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not Al Qaida… But Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”
Romney claimed that America’s influence in the world had diminished over the course of the Obama Administration. Again, the President attacked, 

“Both at home and abroad, [Governor Romney] has proposed wrong and reckless policies. He’s praised George Bush as a good economic steward and Dick Cheney as somebody who’s -- who shows great wisdom and judgment. And taking us back to those kinds of strategies that got us into this mess are not the way that we are going to maintain leadership in the 21st century.”
Moderator Schieffer asked Romney why he wanted a bigger military and the Republican gave an example, “Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917.” Obama responded with his best line of the night, 

” I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships. It’s what are our capabilities.”
Romney seemed to wilt after this exchange. A few minutes later, the discussion turned to Iran and the Republican said the Iranian leaders saw us as weak, “The president began what I have called an apology tour, of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness.” Obama retorted, “Nothing Governor Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign.” Before Romney could respond, the President continued, “While we were coordinating an international coalition to make sure [Iranian] sanctions were effective, you were still invested in a Chinese state oil company that was doing business with the Iranian oil sector.” 

Romney sputtered Obama had made America weak. Obama responded, “Governor, the problem is that on a whole range of issues, whether it’s the Middle East, whether it’s Afghanistan, whether it’s Iraq, whether it’s now Iran, you’ve been all over the map.” 

Romney’s conclusion was tepid: “[If I am President] we have an opportunity to have real leadership… and continue to promote principles of peace to make a world a safer place and make people in this country more confident that their future is secure.” 

Obama said he would make tough national security decisions and Romney wouldn’t. 

“As Commander in Chief, I will maintain the strongest military in the world, keep faith with our troops and go after those who would do us harm. But after a decade of war, I think we all recognize we’ve got to do some nation building here at home, rebuilding our roads, our bridges and especially caring for our Veterans who sacrificed so much for our freedom… if I have the privilege of being your president for another four years, I promise you I will always listen to your voices. I will fight for your families and I will work every single day to make sure that America continues to be the greatest nation on earth.”
This debate was about who was best qualified to be Commander-in-chief. Romney’s listless manner indicated he did not understand the job. Obama obviously does. With the presidential contest a dead heat, Barack found his mojo at the right time. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: Tasers May Not Be As Safe As Advertised

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday October 25, 2012 - 04:51:00 PM

According to Wikipedia , a taser is an electroshock weapon sold by Taser International, Inc. It uses electric current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles causing neuromuscular incapacitation. Someone struck by a Taser experiences stimulation of his or her sensory nerves and motor nerves, resulting in strong involuntary muscle contractions. Tasers do not rely only on pain compliance, except when used in Drive Stun mode, and are thus preferred by some law enforcement over non-Taser stun guns and other electronic control weapons. 

Tasers are used by more than 12,000 law enforcement, military and correctional agencies in the U.S. and abroad, 

According to Taser International, Inc. , located in Scottsdale Arizona, Tasers or Electronic Control Devices (ECDs) are "used worldwide by law enforcement, military, correctional, professional security, and personal protection markets. TASER ECDs use proprietary technology to incapacitate dangerous, combative, or high-risk subjects who pose a risk to law enforcement/correctional officers, innocent citizens, or themselves in a manner that is generally recognized as a safer alternative to other uses of force. TASER technology protects life, and the use of TASER devices dramatically reduces injury rates for law enforcement officers and suspects." 

But Tasers may not be as safe as the company says. Tasers "can cause cardiac electrical capture and provoke cardiac arrest due to ventricular tachycardia/ventricular fibrillation. After prolonged ventricular tachycardia/ventricular fibrillation without resuscitation, asystole develops." (http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2012/04/20/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.097584.abstract) 

Amnesty International reported () that at least 500 people have died since 2001 after being shocked by Tasers either during arrest or while in jail. 

On May 6, 2011, a team of cardiologists at the University of California, San Francisco announced findings suggesting that much of the current Tasers-related safety research may be biased because of ties to the devices’ manufacturer. Some 96 percent of studies supported by Taser concluded that the devices were “not harmful” or “unlikely harmful.” By comparison, only 55 percent of the independent studies found the devices to be “not harmful” or “unlikely harmful.” 

In addition, researchers () analyzed sudden death data from 50 law enforcement agencies in California that use Tasers. They compared the death rate pre- and post-Taser deployment - analyzing data for five years before each agency began using Tasers and five years afterward and found a sixfold increase in sudden deaths during the first year of Taser use -or nearly 6 deaths per 100,000 arrests. However, after the first year, the rate of sudden deaths dropped down to nearly pre-Taser levels, suggesting that police and others in law enforcement altered the way they were using the devices to make them less lethal. 

At the time of the study, California did not have a state-wide training standard for stun guns, even though they had been used in the state for decades. Taser International, Inc. does provide introductory training. After that, the individual law enforcement agency does supplemental training. The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training sets minimum training standards. But generally, training is on an agency by agency basis and the content of the supplemental training could vary. 

In December 2008, Amnesty International issued USA - Stun Guns In Law Enforcement () urging "law enforcement officials to suspend the use of stun guns pending further research or to limit their use to situations where law enforcement officers would otherwise be justified in resorting to deadly force and where no lesser alternatives were available." In addition, Amnesty International called on "police authorities to put in place specific guidelines, training and accountability systems for CED use and to tighten the guidelines in order to limit the number and duration of shocks allowed." 

Amnesty International's recommendations seem sensible and should be adopted before Tasers are even considered for use.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Diverse Levels of "Functioning"

By Jack Bragen
Thursday October 25, 2012 - 05:34:00 PM

In many of my columns, I admit, I have made assumptions about persons with mental illness. The profile I have used has been of people who are usually not employed, who require daily medication, and for whom living a normal existence is a challenge. For the most part, I have used myself as an example, and as a source of information. I suffer from paranoid schizophrenia as well as a mood disorder. I can't do a lot of the things you might assume "normal" people can do. 

For example, driving in San Francisco: on my best day I could do so if very focused and with a navigator at my side. Secondly, I can't work full-time because I can't deal with the quantity of stress. (Thus, I am dependent on public benefits.) These are but two examples out of numerous things which I have difficulty doing. 

Ancillary to that, I don't know very much about the adult world. I have spent most of my time either alone or in various kinds of institutionalized settings, albeit they have been outpatient. These are deficits thought typical for people with schizophrenia, even those who are relatively high functioning compared to other people with the same illness. 

Luckily, I am blessed with above average technical and linguistic abilities. This is helpful in dealing with people in the "adult world" because it brings more respect than I would otherwise receive. 

However, people with bipolar, especially those with an onset of illness later in life, do not necessarily have the same limitations that I have. (Later onset of mental illness gives a person more time to develop a "normal" identity and life skills before the illness yanks the rug from under their feet.) 

I am somewhat guilty of, in this column, making it seem as if all persons with mental illness are abnormal. 

A research psychiatrist said that most persons who have bipolar are higher functioning compared to most people with schizophrenia. When I am among a group of people with bipolar, I find that many of the people are able to do things that I can't. 

It is not safe for me to assume that most mentally ill persons are less capable than I am. Nor can I assume that most people with mental illness live on public benefits and can't work as a result of their disorder. There are all types of persons with mental illness, and this classification inhabits the entire spectrum of "levels of functioning." 

It is important that people with mental illness have some belief in their ability to succeed at something and have some hope of going somewhere in life. Believing in the stereotypes and applying this to oneself could encourage giving up. I have seen people with mental illness both before and after they have given up on life. The change in personality is very obvious. Upon giving up on life, a person's downslide swiftly follows. 

When I spoke to my wife about this week's column, she added the opinion that calling someone "low functioning" or "high functioning" is insulting. It's like telling a person, "You're very smart for someone with Down's syndrome." 

Stereotypical beliefs held by people at large, treatment practitioners, and persons with mental illness ourselves, are part of the discrimination that we experience. Persons with mental illness are a minority, but one that frequently goes unrecognized. It is still socially acceptable to voice put downs, calling us names like "a psychotic" or, "whacked." 

In fact, there are many people with mental illness in the work force in the U.S. Most are forced to keep their condition in the closet, for fear that this information, if it got out, would cause them to lose their job. If it gets out that an employee has a mental illness, even assuming that the employer doesn't immediately fire that person, their work situation is ruined due to a hostile work environment. This is created by coworkers and supervisors who will pick on anyone who appears vulnerable. 

If someone has a mental illness, one can not assume that they are unable to work, or do the things other people do. My column has focused mainly on persons with mental illness who are in the outpatient institutionalized care system. This is also a group more readily identifiable as being mentally ill, compared to those who hide their illness. The person with mental illness who is "in the closet" and who does not participate in "the system" could be your supervisor, coworker, or could be the owner of the company in which you work.

Arts & Events

Around & About Theater: Last Minute Announcement, One Night Only--Dan Carbone in 'Kingdom of Not' & 'Up From the Ground'--Tonight Only

By Ken Bullock
Friday October 26, 2012 - 02:16:00 PM

Performance artist Dan Carbone will stage a rare performance of his 'Kingdom of Not' & 'Up From the Ground,' weird pieces he describes as "employing live projection by Bulk Foodveyor, puppets, monologues, French Lessons, songs about demon children, demon blackbirds, demon dogs, demon Eskimos and most other popular demon themes, beloved by all peoples." At 'Crack,' 1823 Ninth Street at Hearst, Berkeley (side building to Good Shepherd Church). 8:30. $10/sliding scale. dancarbone.com kingdomofnot.com theretardshow.wordpress.com

Around & About Music: Nancarrow At 100--remarkable Celebration of Composer, November 2-4, UC Berkeley Venues

By Ken Bullock
Friday October 26, 2012 - 02:15:00 PM

"Every time Conlon punched a hole, the world got more interesting." - Robert Willey

Composer Conlon Nancarrow, praised in the most extravagant terms by figures in music as diverse as Gyorgi Ligeti ("the greatest discovery since Webern and Ives!"), John Cage ("Conlon's music has such an outrageous, original character, it's literally shocking") and Frank Zappa ("fabulous ... It'll kill you!"), would be 100 this year--and Other Minds, in conjunction with Cal Performances and the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, is celebrating in style. Nancarrow, who fought for the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War, later moving to Mexico City to escape political harassment, spent decades composing primarily for pianola--player piano--inspired by Henry Cowell. His works are dense, diverse, beyond the capabilities of even four-handed human playing ... His pianolas and piano rolls themselves the realia of his works of art. His music was seldom heard, only recorded once, until Other Minds founder (and former KPFA programmer) Charles Amirkhanian produced several records on the 1740 Arch label in Berkeley over 30 years ago. 

The first weekend of November will see an unusual gathering of Nancarrow's family members, his publisher, the director of a rare documentary film on the composer (which will be screened), specialists in and players of his music, along with Amirkhanian, to witness performances, screenings, discussions of Nancarrow and his work, a dense itinerary of events within a few blocks: from the exhibition opening at Berkeley Art Museum on Friday, November 2 at 5:30, through screenings at the PFA, to the final concert in Hertz Hall, 7 p. m. Sunday, November 4. Prices vary, the highest $30. Plus this Saturday, October 27, there's a gala party at Piedmont Piano in uptown Oakland, with the company of Nancarrowites, performances, hors d'oeuvres, birthday cake and wine--$50. calperformances.org or otherminds.org

Theater Review: 'Richard the First,' a Trilogy of Plays by Gary Graves--Central Works at the Berkeley City Club

By Ken Bullock
Monday October 29, 2012 - 03:35:00 PM

"I need to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where all sins are forgiven!"

Richard Coeur de Lion, The Lionheart ... Richard the First of England, Duke of Aquitaine, of Normandy and Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Anjou, of Maine and Nantes, Overlord of Brittany ... Malek al-Inkitar to Arabic speakers ...

So many titles and monickers, so many legends, from the 12th century, on, legends of his courage and subtlety--and ruthlessness--in war, of his mission as crusader, his capture for ransom on return and supposed discovery by the troubadour Blondel. These legends were taken up again--and added to--by Sir Walter Scott in 'Ivanhoe' and 'The Talisman,' the first linking him with Robin Hood, the second bringing up the old legend of the Ismaili "Assassins" during the Crusades. He's a major player in William Goldman's witty play 'The Lion on Winter,' as one of the scheming sons of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, played in the film by Antony Hopkins ...

Now Gary Graves, co-director of Central Works, has written an ambitious trilogy on Richard, staged with equal ambition--and great verve--by Jan Zvaifler, the troupe's other director. A kind of intimate epic is unfolding in the confines of the City Club where Central Works has been in residence for years, taking its audiences on whirlwind tours of medieval Britain, Europe, the Mediterranean and the Levant, as absorbing an entertainment as any offered by bigger theaters with greater budgets--indeed, more so--or many cinema blockbusters. 

Seeing just the first part, 'Taking the Cross,' a breakneck-paced but perfectly articulated series of vignettes that take Richard from his coronation and the declaration of his mother Eleanor as Queen in his absence, to Sicily in a rescue of his sister Joanna and confrontation with Philip of France, to departure for Palestine, as he must choose between two fiancees ... the greatest impressions are of the acting by the ensemble--especially Joshua Schell's energetic tour-de-force as Richard--and the sheer fun of following the thread of vignettes and tableaus that string the story out like an old-time serial, like a novel that both relaxes and stimulates. 

Milissa Carey carries herself with irony as Eleanor the brilliant schemer, inventor of the Courts of Love; John Patrick Moore plays Philip with ambiguity, protesting he's Richard's friend with a mixture of awe and envy; Megan Trout's the perfect ingenue as Richard's kid sister, the beleaguered Lady of Sicily; Armando McClain puts forth a mighty apocalyptic jeremiad (intercut with Richard's ecstatic recital of his battles) as the hermit Joachim--of Flora, no doubt, the visionary beatified by the Franciscans and the Church for his revelatory sense of history that influenced Dante; and Kathryn Zdan is Rachel, a wandering Jewess, the most mysterious of the cast, seeking out Richard as he travels after the imbroglio at his coronation with Jewish legates from the London community. 

The action's played out under Jeff Wincek's great medieval map of the world, connected with the counterpoint of Gregory Scharpen's brief hits of music and sound, a kind of film score for the montage of scenes. The acting, stage direction and Tammy Berlin's costumes carry the show; no elaborate set design, the hallmark of the bigger theaters, necessary to this engrossing tale. 

The exhilaration of the flow of scenes is also counterpointed by many moments that stand out in tableau--one being the three-way embrace of Philip, Joanna (who's just been promised to him by her brother) and a dejected Richard, turning away from the locked pair, with Philip's hand on his shoulder, as Gary Graves' lights fade ... 

It's a combination of a jolt of medieval history--which, as Graves mentions in the program, has resonance today due to the Crusades--and sheer storytelling, fictionalization, like all previous recountings of this brazen figure's tangled adventures. The actors' accents--excellent here, where in many productions they sap the energy--are a farrago of stage speech, delivered with wit and energy ... A good way to solve the problem of a fast-moving cosmopolitan story of 800 years ago. (Born in Oxford, Richard never spoke English, speaking and writing songs and poetry in Lemosi, the Provencal or Catalan-like idiom of Limousin, and French.) It's a little like what Howard Hawks said William Faulkner told him for the dialogue of 'Land of the Pharoahs': "He said he just didn't know how a Pharaoh would talk!" This, and a few other calculated anachronisms, keep the plot flowing without stiffness, a hard thing in an action-filled historical drama.  

There's plenty of intrigue, war stories, reversals of fortune, changing of sides in intra-familial tiffs that spill over onto the battlefield--a cliffhanger every minute, which Richard, pulling out all the emotional stops, seems to revel in. 

And it's great to see full houses the first weekend for Central Works, a small company that has always done choice work, with taste and a professionality that rivals the bigger theaters, hopefully gaining through this audacious trilogy the popular recognition they've deserved for some time. 

Don't miss 'Richard the Third.' If you're familiar with Central Work's excellence, you'll be pleased at their new scope. If you're unfamiliar with their work, it could be a revelation of what one local little theater company is capable of--worthy of the Lionheart monicker. 

The three parts of 'Richard the Third'--"Taking Up the Cross," "Lionheart" and "A King's Ransom"--play in rotation Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p. m. and Sundays at 5, with two marathons of all three parts on two Sundays, November 11 and 18 at 2, 5 and 8 p. m. There will be a post-show talk-back on Sunday, November 4.  

At the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (between Ellsworth and Dana). $25 online or $25-$14 sliding scale at the door. centralworks.org; 558-1381.

Around & About Theater: Ragged Wing Ensemble's 'Within the Wheel'--Free Performances in Live Oak Park Installations

By Ken Bullock
Monday October 29, 2012 - 03:23:00 PM

"How does death look, taste, smell, feel? What's it like on the other side of the wheel?"

For Hallowe'en, Ragged Wing Ensemble, our local physical theater troupe, is staging their third annual Fall show--again for free--in six interactive art/performance installations in Live Oak Park, continuous performances from 6-8 p. m. (last entry: 7:30) Thursdays through Saturdays until November 3, with a special Hallowe'en show this coming Wednesday the 31. A half dozen more dates left for their innovative, Ensemble-created experience, directed by co-founder Anna Shneiderman, inspired by the Tibetan book of the Dead, using hospice interviews ... Live music, visual design and the immediate physicality of Ragged Wing's dedicated performers. Info at: raggedwing.org including a Virtual Site that expands on the production in process. Live Oak Park, Shattuck at Berryman, a block north of the North Berkeley business district and Gourmet Ghetto.

Nureyev: A Life in Dance

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Thursday October 25, 2012 - 05:36:00 PM

Over the past several years I've attended many outstanding art exhibits at the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park. But none have been as exhilarating as the current show, "Rudolph Nureyev: A Life in Dance." Beautifully staged by Brad Rosenstein, the Museum's curator, walking through the exhibit is an absolute, if exhausting, joy! 

On entering the exhibit, the walls on either side are illustrated with striking images of the dancer in his various, unforgettable roles -- "Romeo and Juliet", "Don Quixote", "Swan Lake" and, of all things, an episode of the Muppet Show. The most thrilling part of the exhibit is a huge photo blow-up of Nureyev dancing in a bare rehearsal hall, taking elaborate, leaping steps over and over. Those of us attending the exhibit were loath to move on. On the other hand, there were room after room with gorgeous costumes in rich velvet and delicate designs by Cecil Beaton to be seen -- exquisite tutus with charming floral touches. 

After all of these inspiring events, we were in need of nourishment -- something admirably solved in the Museum's Cafe. Sitting outdoors was heavenly -- we hated to leave, but the doors were about to close. Here's a reminder: "Life in Dance" ends on February 17, 2013. So there's no excuse for anyone to miss this splendid exhibit!