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UC Berkeley Student Accused of Filming Women in Co-Ed Dorm Showers

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Thursday May 15, 2014 - 01:44:00 PM

A 19-year-old University of California at Berkeley student has been charged with six misdemeanor counts of invading privacy for allegedly shooting several cellphone videos of women showering in dormitories in recent months, campus police said. 

Jason Do was arrested earlier this month in connection with two incidents at the Maximino Martinez Commons residence hall, according to university police. 

The first incident occurred shortly before 11 a.m. on March 15 when a woman who was showering at the dormitory looked up and saw two hands holding a cellphone above her shower stall, police said. The woman screamed and heard the suspect run away, according to police. 

The second incident happened at about 10:30 p.m. on April 2. The same woman was showering in a co-ed shower when someone entered the shower stall next to her but didn't turn on the water, police said. 

The victim looked up and saw a cellphone being pointed at her from the next stall. She screamed and the suspect fled the bathroom, according to police. 

University police said they conducted an extensive investigation and ultimately determined that there were "multiple victims" of Do 

Police said they arrested him on suspicion of unlawful peeking with an electronic device.

Flash: Berkeley Group to Petition for Minimum Wage Ballot Initiative (Press Release)

From Berkeley Citizens for a Fair Minimum Wage
Wednesday May 14, 2014 - 05:56:00 PM

Our group, Berkeley Citizens for a Fair Minimum Wage, will deliver a notice to the Berkeley City Clerk at 10 AM Thursday, May 15th. This action will begin our petition campaign for a ballot initiative establishing a new Berkeley Minimum Wage at $15/hour, along with annual CPI-adjusted increases and paid sick leave. 

Our decision is the result of the Council’s May 6th action, which we found to be woefully inadequate for the needs of working people.  



Carla Woodworth, Former Berkeley City Councilmember 

Ying Lee, Former Berkeley City Councilmember 

Margot Smith, Berkeley Resident 

Marty Schiffenbauer, Berkeley Resident 

David Fielder, Berkeley Resident 


Mark Numainville May 15, 2014 

City Clerk 

City of Berkeley 

2180 Milvia Street 

Berkeley, CA 94704  

Dear Mr. Numainville: 

The group Berkeley Citizens for a Fair Minimum Wage has decided to put before Berkeley voters a meaningful minimum wage and paid sick leave ordinance utilizing the initiative process according to Berkeley City Charter Section 92(4). Our decision is the result of the City Council’s May 6th action, which we find woefully inadequate for the needs of working people.  

In order to ensure a mutual understanding of the procedural requirements, we would like to schedule a meeting with you in the near future. After this meeting, we will submit to you a “Notice of Intent to Circulate” a petition addressing the following specific issues: 

1. Establishment of a new minimum wage for all Berkeley workers commensurate with a more realistic assessment of what those workers need to survive in our local economy. This new Berkeley Minimum Wage will be set at $15.00 per hour no later than January 1, 2017. 

2. Adjustment of the new Berkeley Minimum Wage by a CPI-driven COLA annually following its initial establishment. 

3. Inclusion of guaranteed paid sick leave by employers for workers at a pro-rata amount commensurate with employment. This is specifically intended to ensure that employees are not forced to work while sick to retain their jobs. 

We look forward to working with you as we pursue this effort to improve the quality of working life in Berkeley. 





Carla Woodworth, Former Berkeley City Councilmember 

2335 Parker Street #2 

Berkeley, CA 94704 



Ying Lee, Former Berkeley City Councilmember 



Margot Smith, Berkeley Resident 



Marty Schiffenbauer, Berkeley Resident 


David Fielder, Berkeley Resident 


cc: Mayor Bates and City Councilmembers

Forward of "Minimum Wage Betrayal by the Berkeley City Council! We're ready to fight back!" (Public Comment)

By Rob Wrenn
Wednesday May 14, 2014 - 06:08:00 PM

Below is an e-mail I received from Nicky Gonzalez Yuen via Credo Mobilize. I urge people to turn out to the Council meeting, as he suggests, to protest and to ask the Council to reconsider the higher minimum wage suggested by the Labor Commission. And please contact the mayor and your council member.

In San Francisco, the minimum wage rose to $10.74 on Jan. 1 of this year. A poll shows that a sizeable majority of San Francisco voters support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which would take place by 2017 under a measure proposed for November's ballot. In Oakland, activists have been gathering signatures for a Nov. measure that would raise the minimum wage to $12.25 next May.

Yet our City Council rejected all the good work done by the Labor Commission, and with Bates, Maio and Capitelli leading the retreat, agreed only to go to $10.75 an hour, and not until 2016. Clearly they listened to the special-interest pleading of Berkeley's Republican-minded Chamber of Commerce. It appears that we have a majority of Corporate Democrats on our City Council, who are ignoring the difficult situation of low-wage workers in an area with soaring housing costs. I have no doubt that if it was put to the voters, a $15 minimum would pass easily in this city. Maio is up for re-election this year and she should be held accountable for how she votes on this issue. 

"At last Tuesday's Berkeley City Council meeting, our movement was betrayed and the Council dealt a major blow to the minimum wage movement. 

At Raise the Wage East Bay we’re angry and ready to fight back! 

But first, for those of you who were not there, we wish to provide the following brief report of the council meeting: 

At its May 6 meeting, the Berkeley City Council betrayed the low-wage workers, progressives and economic justice advocates who have been working for over a year to pass a Minimum Wage Ordinance for Berkeley. After repeated promises over a 2 month period to support raising Berkeley’s minimum wage to at least $13.34, at the last moment Council Member Laurie Capitelli reneged and led the charge to derail the whole effort. 

At a certain point in the meeting, it seemed as though we might still win, with Mayor Tom Bates signaling that he would vote for the compromise measure we had worked out to raise the minimum wage to $15.02 by the year 2020 and thereafter index it to inflation. If we could have kept the mayor's support, we still would have had the 5 votes we needed to win. 

But then, Council Member Linda Maio spoke in opposition, turning the tide and lending support to the absurd argument by the Chamber of Commerce that they had not yet had enough time to contribute to the debate. The shameful truth was that the Chamber had stonewalled the process since the beginning, barring the chair of the Labor Commission's Subcommittee on the Minimum Wage from attending their meetings, discouraging its members from meeting with City Council Members who wanted to talk with them about their business problems and never once making any other proposal or suggestion for action other than "No." To us, it looks like the Chamber never intended to make a proposal of their own because their primary goal was to stall and sabotage. And they got exactly what they wanted. 

Mayor Tom Bates then switched sides and led a confused stampede in which the Council, on an 8-1 vote, adopted a minuscule increase in Berkeley's minimum wage that is barely 75 cents better than state law already requires. The measure they passed has no provisions for health insurance, paid sick days or even adjustments for inflation. 

This cannot stand. The Council will meet again on Tuesday May 20 at 7 PM for a second reading of this extremely weak ordinance. Please show up. Please contact your City Council and Mayor to demand a living wage now. The Council meets at the Old City Hall building, 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. Mayor Bates' phone number is: 510-981-7100. 

Even better: get involved in building this movement. Our coalition is meeting this coming Thursday May 15 at 6:30 PM in room 51 at Berkeley City College, 2050 Center Street. 

Join us. Fight back!" 

Berkeley Police Rescued Two Men in Fire

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Friday May 09, 2014 - 11:20:00 PM

Three Berkeley police officers made a daring rescue of two men who were trapped by a fire near the University Avenue off-ramp to Interstate Highway 80 in Berkeley Wednesday afternoon, the Berkeley Police Association said. 

Up to 100 recycling bins in a storage enclosure where homeless people had been camping burned in the fire, which was reported at 2:41 p.m. 

It sent heavy smoke into the sky that was visible throughout the city and threatened to damage the overpass and a nearby lumberyard, Berkeley fire officials said. 

The fire was first noticed by Berkeley police Lt. Andrew Rateaver, who called for backup and detectives Melissa Kelly and Ana Baber arrived to assist, police association president Sgt. Chris Stines said today. 

"I could hear a man screaming and he was locked inside a chain link fence where the fire was roaring out of control," Kelly said in a statement today. "We couldn't get the gate open and had to reach u nder the fence to rescue the man and get him away from the burning fire." They pulled the man -- an amputee who is missing a leg -- through the fence to safety, Stines said. After the fire was out the man was able to recover his wheelchair. 

The flames rose 12 feet in the air and the officers saw another man trapped in the enclosure. The officers managed to pull him through a gap in the fence with the assistance of a passerby, Stines said. 

Firefighters contained the blaze within about 18 minutes. It did not spread beyond the recycling bins but left a mess of burned plastic behind, Acting Fire Chief Gil Dong said Thursday. 

"When you get all that plastic that's burni ng everywhere, it limits our ability to recover evidence," Dong said. 

He said it was not yet clear if the fire started with a campfire, smoking materials or something else. 

California Highway Patrol officials said the fire impacted traffic on nearby Highway 80 and the University Avenue off-ramp was shut down. The off-ramp had reopened as of 5 p.m. and was undamaged by the fire. 

The fire was near the location of a five-alarm blaze that caused $9 million in damage last month to a warehouse shared by three Berkeley businesses -- The Wooden Duck, Import Tile and Joshua Tree. 

That fire was eventually determined to have been accidental.

Car Plows Through Apple Store Window on Berkeley's 4th Street; Merchandise Stolen

By Laura Dixon (BCN)
Friday May 09, 2014 - 11:17:00 PM

A suspect drove through the glass windows of an Apple store in Berkeley early this morning and made off with store merchandise, police said. 

Officers responded around 2:50 a.m. to a report of an alarm at the Apple store at 1823 Fourth St. and found a car inside the store surrounded by glass debris, according to Berkeley police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats. 

By the time they arrived officers found the car empty and "signs of prowl inside the business" but no suspects, the spokeswoman said in an email. 

Several laptops and iPhones were stolen but police have not received the complete list of all the items taken, Berkeley police Sgt. Jennifer Louis said. 

Police said it appears the suspect intentionally drove the car into the store in order to burglarize it. 

Investigators are attempting to gather surveillance footage from the store. 

No suspect description was available and no arrests had been made as of 11 a.m., Louis said. 

An outgoing phone message for the Berkeley Apple store just after 11 a.m. said the store was closed. The next nearest Apple store is located in Emeryville.

Union Files Safety Complaint About UC Berkeley Worker's Death

BY Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday May 09, 2014 - 11:23:00 PM

Union leaders said today that they've filed a complaint with the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health about the death of a custodian at the University of California at Berkeley on April 7.

Leaders of American Federation of State Local and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents 22,000 service and patient care technical workers at the 10 UC campuses, said 45-year-old Damon Frick fell from a 20-foot lift at the International House on campus on April 7 and died days later from the injuries he sustained. 

In its complaint, the union alleges that UC Berkeley violated the California Health and Safety Act and failed to comply with its own health and safety policies. 

AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger, who is a fellow service worker at UC Berkeley, said in a statement that the accident that caused Frick's death "was an entirely preventable tragedy and UC must be held accountable."  

Lybarger said, "We have been sounding alarms for years about the hazardous working conditions and skyrocketing injury rates faced by UC service workers, those who do the most physically demanding labor at UC." 

The union says the university's incident report says Frick was "working from a lift platform to clean window sills approximately 20 feet above the ground in Chevron Auditorium" when the lift, which is more than 30 years old, became unstable and tipped over. 

According to the union, there was no spotter present when Frick was on the lift. 

The union said that while Frick's supervisor required him to perform the dangerous lift work, it wasn't part of his original job description. 

It alleged that the university has since failed to produce any records demonstrating that the lift equipment Frick was operating had been properly maintained, or whether Frick had received any hands-on training related to its proper use. 

AFSCME Local 3299 said it has also filed a formal grievance with the university, demanding that it cease and desist from assigning workers "abnormally hazardous tasks" and conduct a campus wide review of all hazardous duties performed by AFSCME-represented workers to ensure that employees are properly trained and informed of their health and safety rights. The grievance also seeks to ensure that all equipment has been properly maintained. 

The union said Frick's family is pursuing a wrongful death claim against the university. 

UC Berkeley officials weren't immediately available for comment on the union's Cal/OSHA complaint.



Sign Up Now for Berkeley Ballot Measures, or Forever Hold Your Peace

By Becky O'Malley
Friday May 09, 2014 - 01:07:00 PM

All right, the initiative petitions for measures to be placed on the November ballot are down to the wire. This weekend will see the last big push to qualify measures to be offered to voters for their approval. The hysteria among certain members of the Berkeley City Council has reached fever pitch—they’re SHOCKED, SHOCKED that voters, finally fed up with a do-nothing legislative body, seem to be taking matters into their own hands.

Mayor Tom Bates has used his official voter-funded newsletter to play Paul Revere. In a recent “Bates Update” he claimed that the Green Downtown initiative would “cripple the voter-approved downtown plan”. Actually, the reverse is true.  

The initiative is backed by Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, Zoning Adjustment Board Commissioner Sophie Hahn, longtime Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Austene Hall and a wide spectrum of members of civic groups, including Save the Post Office, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and a variety of labor organizations. Far from crippling the downtown plan, the measure if passed would turn the downtown plan from promise into reality, adding numbers, details and penalties to vague language, a job the council majority has cheerfully let slide after the enabling measure passed.  

Green Downtown requires public benefits from developers taking the Green Pathway, a concept which in theory would allow developers added density and height in return for doing something extra for the public good. For example, they would have to actually build affordable housing units and not just pay into the Housing Trust Fund, and they would have to include family-size units among them. They'd have to include bike parking and pay into an open space fund. 

It also restores portions of Berkeley’s Landmark Preservation Ordinance that have been weakened in the downtown. It would restore the due process that was eliminated with a procedure known as Request for Determination. Neighborhoods in the Buffer Zone around downtown and the Historic District would be protected by a requirement that new buildings near them be no closer than 50 feet. 

Click here for a summary of the provisions provided by the sponsors. 

The second important proposal comes in two parts, and requires two petitions to be signed.  

One petition taxes large for-profit landlords on windfall profits related to vacancy decontrol. It exempts a variety of landlords, including those with duplexes, those with properties built before 1999 (under rent control), and those with financial hardships. The tax money goes into the General Fund. 

The second petition requires that the General Fund give 3 million to the Housing Trust Fund annually. However, it can be suspended in a fiscal emergency. 

Click here for the proponents’ explanation. 

It’s not only Tom Bates and Laurie Capitelli who are inveighing against the populist view of direct democracy which has been a feature of California since the days of Upton Sinclair and before. It’s true that recently it has been abused on the state level by big-bucks corporate interests, but on the local level it’s still a valuable tool. But whether you plan to vote yes or no on any initiative or referendum, lobbying to keep them off the local ballot is not the answer.  

One citizen petition circulator whom I spoke to commented that it’s ironic that one reason that Tom and Laurie give for not signing petitions is that initiatives can only be undone by the voters. She pointed out that they and their Council Majority associates placed Measures R(redistricting), S (prohibiting sitting on the sidewalk), and T (West Berkeley rezoning) on the last ballot.  

S and T could have been passed by a majority of the Council, did not need to be initiatives, and the voters turned them down anyhow. S certainly would have made Berkeley the target of a civil rights lawsuit had it passed. 

A new West Berkeley initiative is now in process as a response to the losing Measure T. It appears it won’t make it to the November ballot, but apprehensive West Berkeley residents and business owners will certainly try for a later date, having been thoroughly spooked by T. The draft which has been circulating is in the spirit of San Francisco ballot measures aimed at stopping waterfront projects which are exemptions from that city’s general plan. It would preserve the existing height limits in West Berkeley, unless there were a vote of the people to change them. 

As for R, we are still paying the price for it and will do so until the people can pass a Charter Amendment to correct it. Most recently, the Berkeley City Council blew $30,000 of taxpayers’ dollars instead of compromising with citizens outraged by the gerrymander offered for new district lines. 

Nevertheless, even those losing ballot measures served a valid public purpose. The defeat of S proved conclusively that Berkeleyans still don’t want a punitive crackdown on our problematic homeless population, so the city must continue to pursue better solutions. Measure T put West Berkeley on notice to watch its back, as spot zoning proposals continue to come thick and fast in a desirable location. 

What we’ve learned from the redistricting fiasco is that—at a minimum—the city of Berkeley, like the state of California, needs to have district lines drawn by someone other than those who will benefit from them. Councilmember Arreguin’s proposal for an impartial commission is a good start, though the details still need work. 

Right now, this weekend, though, look around for a circulator and sign those petitions. A good hunting ground is the Saturday Farmers’ Market next to City Hall.  

Final filing day targets are next week, but signatures need to be checked for authenticity before they’re official. You don’t need to decide now whether you plan to vote for these measures in November, but if they don’t get on the ballot you’ll lose your chance to decide. 


Public Comment

Berkeley’s Green Downtown & Public Commons Initiative

From Jesse Arreguin, Sophie Hahn and Austene Hall
Friday May 09, 2014 - 11:18:00 AM

In November of 2010 Berkeley’s citizens approved a “Green Vision” for the Downtown that promised preservation of historic and cultural resources; green buildings and environmental features; affordable and family housing; safe, lively and enhanced public space; good jobs; enhanced public transit; public parking and more.

More recently, in response to threats to privatize public assets such as the Post Office, the need to designate Berkeley’s Civic Center core as an area dedicated to civic and community uses has gained urgency.

This Initiative provides specific provisions to implement Berkeley’s Green Downtown Vision and to preserve our Civic Center as a Public Commons.

Protection for Public, Historic and Cultural Resources & Civic Center Overlay to Preserve the Heart of Downtown as a Public Commons  

  • Creates Civic Center zoning overlay to enhance public, historic and cultural resources at the heart of the Downtown, including Old City Hall, Veterans Memorial Building, Civic Center Park, Downtown Y, Berkeley Community Theater and Central Post Office
  • Uses allowed are Libraries, Courts, Museums, Public Safety, Government, Public Education, Non-Profit Arts/Environmental/Community Service/Historical Organizations, Live Performance Theatre, Public Market
  • Restores Landmarks Preservation Review and provides protections for adjacent downtown neighborhoods

Green Building and Enhanced Environmental Measures: 

  • Bike Parking, Electric Vehicle Charging and Car Share spaces
  • LEED Platinum or Gold (depending on building size) and a high Energy Efficiency rating
  • Environmental practices such as no new net water runoff, depaving of spaces, permeable surfaces, rain catchment and bio-filtration systems, and on-site composting
  • Payment of a Fee to support alternative transportation
  • Funding for the City’s Streets and Open Space Improvement Plan (SOSIP), to enhance green and public spaces

Affordable and Family-Sized Housing:

  • Affordable housing at 20 or 30%, depending on building size
  • Family Housing at 20% in larger buildings (2 and 3-bedroom units)

Jobs and Fair Wages for Berkeley:  

  • 50% Berkeley Hire requirement. If not enough Berkeley workers available, East Bay Green Corridor and then Alameda County workers, and 16% apprentice labor
  • Construction, building & maintenance, hotel and security workers paid prevailing wage

Parking for Residents and Commerce, and enhanced opportunities for Public Parking: 

  • Parking no longer can be waived down to zero spaces - must build at least 30% of the requirement plus all Handicapped, Car Share and EV spaces, plus bike parking
  • Incentives to build full parking requirement and to make spaces available for public parking

Improvements for Parks and Public Spaces: 

  • Funding provided for Streets and Open Spaces Improvement Plan, to implement the existing, well articulated plan for improvements to streetscapes, public life, access, sustainability, and other public amenities.
  • Public Restrooms required in buildings over 75 feet

Funding for Loans to Berkeley Businesses and Entrepreneurs: 

  • Projects required to contribute to Berkeley Revolving Loan Fund, providing capital for loans to small business

Other Provisions: 

  • All community benefits now detailed and included as specific requirements (previously very vague)
  • Expedited review in exchange for electing Green Pathway
  • Maximum height limits in all Subareas remain the same – except that
    • In Corridor (60 feet) and Buffer (50 feet) subareas, previously allowed additional height is removed.
    • In Core and Outer Core, heights remain the same, including 5 previously-allowed taller buildings

Tax the Rich to House the Poor

By Katherine Harr & Jesse Townley, from the Robin Hood Committee
Friday May 09, 2014 - 11:06:00 AM

The most exciting and innovative campaign this year in Berkeley is reaching its first milestone. The Windfall Profits Tax on High Rents measure- which slightly increases an existing fee paid by large landlords- would work with the Affordable Housing Initiative to dedicate at least $3.5 million a YEAR to fund affordable housing in town by boosting the anemic Affordable Housing Trust Fund!

This weekend is the FINAL weekend for Berkeley voters to place BOTH measures on the November ballot. We'll be at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers Market from 10am to 2pm, among many other places. Come on by, sign on, and become a part of history!

What? You want to know what the heck we're gushing about? Read on: 

The Windfall Profits Tax on High Rents will increase the business license tax on landlord investors and speculators by 1.9% – the ballot measure will not raise the tax on single family homes, duplexes, and landlords who live in the building and own less than ten units. The increase will not apply to units rented under Section 8 and the measure would eliminate the existing tax on rents from long-term rent-controlled units. In order not to discourage new construction, it allows a 20 year exemption from the increase starting with initial occupancy of the building. 

This 1.9% tax increase is expected to raise $4.5 million annually for the City’s general fund to start with, rising as units occupied by long-term tenants turn over, as 20 year exemptions expire and as rents continue to rise. The tax cannot be passed on to tenants, since current tenants are protected by the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance.

The Affordable Housing Initiative will require the City Council to set aside at least $3 million annually for the Housing Trust Fund, which is used to develop affordable housing for low-income people either through new construction or acquisition and rehabilitation of existing housing by non-profit organizations. The $3 million set-aside is expected to derive from the windfall profits tax revenue described above. Activists consider passage of the tax measure to be the best means of ensuring that the City can invest in affordable housing without reducing other needed services.

Please join hundreds and hundreds of other Berkeley voters and sign THIS WEEKEND to allow these 2 measures to be on our November ballot.

If you want to volunteer, sign, or get more information, go to http://www.fundaffordablehousing.org , e-mail FundAffordableHousing (at) gmail.com , or call 510-585-FAH1 (3241)

Berkeley City Council Votes for a Flawed Minimum Wage Ordinance

By Harry Brill
Friday May 09, 2014 - 10:12:00 PM

In the year 2000, the Berkeley City Council voted for a living wage law that benefits workers employed by businesses contracting with the city or on Berkeley owned property. The Council on Tuesday (May 6) approved a much more modest, and unquestionably, a rather miserable minimum wage ordinance that extends to almost all workers in Berkeley. Here is all there is to it. There is no minimum wage increase this year. On January 1, 2015 the minimum wage will be $10 an hour, which will be only a dollar more than the State minimum wage law. In January 1, 2016, the minimum wage would rise to $10.75. So it will be two years before it reaches the current minimum wage in San Francisco. No further increases have been enacted for the following years even though the City's Labor Commission, whose members are appointed by Council members, submitted a proposal that would increase the minimum wage by 2020 to $15.25. It also included an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA). 

Although the pressure from the business community was enormous, it was surprising to many and devastating to the Labor Commission that its proposal was completely ignored despite spending a year of hard work drafting the measure. It was especially distressing because the Commission had worked out a detailed agreement with Council member Capitelli, who was charged with the responsibility of reaching a compromise. Despite saying that he is giving his word that the proposal would be voted on with his support on at the May 6 Council meeting, he announced at Tuesday's meeting "I renege". Those words continue to ring in our ears. 

The proposed ordinance submitted by the City Council's own Labor Commission provided additional income to cover health care if it was not provided by employers. This provision was ignored by the City Council. Also eliminated was a substantially higher hourly wage for employees in large businesses. Non-profits are exempted for one year, which include Kaiser and Sutter, whose executives make millions of dollars. 

The Labor Commission's proposal also included annual increases that would have reached by year 2020 $15.25 an hour, and it would include a COLA each year afterward. But the measure that the City Council enacted expires after the January 1, 2016 increase to $10.75. Also, non-profits and government agencies will not be required to pay the minimum wage to young employees who were hired for job training purposes. Sounds innocent enough. But experience proves how such exemptions are often abused by non-profits offering training in name only. In short, many pro-labor provisions of the Labor Commission were omitted and some pro-business features were added. 

Is there a brighter side to what happened? I hope so. But unless we can bring considerable pressure to bear, the prospects look gloomy. A ten member committee will be formed whose purpose is to fashion other minimum wage provisions. The committee will include four City Council members, three from the business community, and three representing labor interests. Since labor members are in the minority, It will be difficult to persuade the Committee to improve and expand pro-labor provisions.  

There is no doubt that the majority of the public in Berkeley support a good minimum wage ordinance. And we demonstrated to the City Council the considerable public support by involving large numbers of people in one way or another. But on progressive economic issues, most of the Council members are unsympathetic. This may be surprising to many who think the Council is quite liberal. This is true, but mainly on domestic social issues and foreign policy matters, which it has often addressed. 

So what do we do? We need to do what we can to influence the Committee and then the entire City Council. In the longer run, we need to elect more progressive Council members. And most of all, we must seriously consider taking the referendum route, which generally achieves the best results. Take for example, how eleven states have enacted a COLA in their minimum wage laws. Ten of these eleven States achieved the COLA by referendum. Only in Vermont was it enacted by the legislature. 

Despite the disappointment, I am optimistic. We need to keep in mind that winning major victories often takes a very long while. Meanwhile we have built a social and political infrastructure that is capable of mobilizing large numbers of people and organizing political campaigns. And our credibility quotient is very high. I am certain that our efforts will enjoy a happy ending.

Too Little

By Ted Rudow III,MA
Friday May 16, 2014 - 01:31:00 PM

Thousands of fast-food workers in the United States and around the world are staging a one-day strike today to demand a livable wage. A recent report found fast-food CEOs make 1,200 times as much money as the average fast-food worker, a disparity that maximizes short-term profit while harming worker security and the overall economy. 

"I make $9.40 an hour, so it’s like 35, 40 hours a week. It’s, after taxes, maybe $400 every two weeks. And that’s working double sometimes, going in in the morning and working at night, just not bringing in enough. And we know that these companies make billions in profit. They can afford to pay us better and do better by us and give us a voice on the job. That’s what we’re demanding." 

American democracy isn’t exactly a shining example to the world, as you can see. It's the land of not too much, where some people have way too much and others have way too little. Some people who are trying to wake the world up to the plight of the poor! But the money, materialism and freedom don’t necessarily make it a better way of life. It may be more pleasant and more comfortable, but that’s not always the best place.


THE PUBLIC EYE: Saving the 2014 Election

By Bob Burnett
Friday May 09, 2014 - 11:11:00 AM

Six months out from the midterm election, Democratic prospects appear grim. A ABC News / Washington Post poll found President Obama’s approval rating at a new low (41 percent). 53 percent of respondents said they preferred to have Republicans in charge of Congress, “to act as a check on Obama’s policies.” But there’s still time for Democrats to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. 

Until November 4th, three issues will dominate US political discourse: healthcare, the economy, and global warming. Democrats must seize the initiative in each area. 

Healthcare Democrats must not run away from “Obamacare.” Millions of dollars spent attacking the Affordable Care Act have many voters confused. Dems need to remake the case for Obamacare and emphasize two points: the Affordable Care Act needs to be improved and the attack ads are an example of moneyed interests trying to screw working Americans. 

Despite its rocky start, Obamacare has provided insurance to more than 13 million uninsured. (More than 8 million Americans signed up for insurance through state and federal exchanges.) Besides reducing the growth in US healthcare spending, Obamacare “is projected to cut the national deficit by over $200 billion during its first 10 years and over $1 trillion over the next two decades.” 

A February Kaiser Family Foundation Poll found that the majority of respondents (56 percent) want Congress to keep or improve the Affordable Care Act. (Opinions were divided by Party; with 83 percent of Democrats positive about Obamacare and 62 percent of Republicans negative.) 

Meanwhile, Republicans are stuck on repealing the Affordable Care Act. The recent Paul Ryan budget, approved by the Republican-controlled House, “repeals the President’s onerous health-care law. Instead of putting health-care decisions into the hands of bureaucrats, Congress should pursue patient-centered health-care reforms that actually bring down the cost of care by empowering consumers.” Republicans don’t have a plan while Democrats delivered what they promised. 

Moreover, the campaign against Obamacare is a graphic example of a more sinister development: plutocrats have purchased the Republican Party and are waging war on working families. 

The Economy National Polls have consistently shown that most Americans feel jobs and the economy are the nation’s number one problem. A January Pew Research Poll found that 80 percent of respondents wanted to strengthen the US economy and 74 percent wanted to improve “the job situation.” 

During the Obama presidency the Dow-Jones Industrial Average has more than doubled. There have been 49 months of job growth. 9 million jobs have been added during Obama’s 5 plus years, in comparison with only 1.1 million jobs in 8 years of the Bush presidency. 

Nonetheless, President Obama hasn’t gotten credit for getting the economy on track because most of the gains have gone to the top one percent. Although Obama has decried inequality, he probably isn’t the best Democrat to make this point in 2014. Fortunately, Dems have a terrific national spokesperson: Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

Senator Warren was recently voted America’s “hottest” politician. At the moment she’s promoting her new book, A Fighting Chance. Warren’s book was originally titled “Rigged,” a reference to her notion that the US is turning into a plutocracy where the wealthy and powerful benefit at the expense of working Americans. 

Big corporations hire armies of lobbyists to get billion-dollar loopholes into the tax system and persuade their friends in Congress to support laws that keep the playing field tilted in the their favor. Meanwhile, hardworking families are told that they’ll just have to live with smaller dreams for their children.
Most Americans understand the system is rigged. A recent Gallup Poll found that only one-third of respondents believed the current distribution of money and wealth is “fair” and 59 percent felt they should be more evenly distributed. 52 percent felt the government “should redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich.” Warren is in a perfect position to speak for Democrats on this issue and point out that Republicans in Congress haven’t done anything to help working American by, for example, raising the minimum wage. 

Global Warming On May 6th, the latest installment of the National Climate Assessment told a grim story: “Climate change is happening now… it’s actually happening quite rapidly … and the evidence clearly points to the reason we’re getting these changes is because of human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels.” 

The latest Gallup Poll confirms that most Americans believe that global warming is happening. 

This is the third area that differentiates Democrats from Republicans. The President should take the lead to both inform Americans of the threat and to take corrective action by executive order such as, strengthening EPA regulations and blocking oil shale and tar sands extraction and coal mining on federal lands. 

Democrats have a fighting chance to salvage the 2014 election. If they take their case to the voters. If they come out fighting. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Mentally Ill Subculture

By Jack Bragen
Friday May 09, 2014 - 11:16:00 AM

Persons with mental illness can usually relate to each other on a common wavelength. To illustrate this, I will bring up the analogy of my dog and cat. They are of different species, and yet, when the dog was introduced, my wife and I taught them to get along with each other. 

They seem to have nonverbal communication in a language that human beings don't understand. One might expect that there would be a language barrier between dog and cat, but this does not appear to be so. Because they are together and are essentially in the same situation, they relate on their own common level. 

People within the mentally ill population vary across a wide spectrum of functioning levels and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is not unusual for someone with chronic mental illness to have a Bachelor's Degree. There are others who may not have completed high school. 

In my case, I took the California Proficiency Exam that existed in the 1970's and 80's that allowed me to graduate from high school early. I then became mentally ill, but later completed trade school for electronics. After that, I continued learning by becoming self-educated with only a small number of college courses. I have educated myself in writing, in critical thinking, in meditation and in computers. (I have also taken some writing, computer, and meditation courses.) 

Yet, I relate on a common level with mental health consumers who have had less education than I, and with those who have more education. Persons with mental illness tend to have a common bond--most of us having suffered the same hardships. 

Romantic partnerships between two persons with mental illness are not always doomed to fail. In my case, I have been married for seventeen years, which is better than many people who do not have a psychiatric disability. 

Sarcasm is a prevalent trait among mentally ill people. Gallows humor is therapeutic for people who must deal with difficult realities. "Bumming" cigarettes is common, but maybe less so than it was in the past. There is promiscuity among some persons with mental illness, but I suppose the same can be said for people at large. 

People with mental illness have parallel characteristics that might spread by virtue of osmosis. For example, we may feel that we are succeeding in an employment situation, might get a boost of self-esteem from that, and might foolishly believe that we can go off medication. Other similar forms of denial are common, and they lead to the "revolving door" of being in and out of institutionalization. 

I once lived in an apartment complex set aside for persons with psychiatric disabilities. When I moved out of there, and I don't recall my exact reasons for doing so, life was harder for a number of years afterward. But now, looking back on it, the struggle to survive in various situations has made me a better, stronger person. Refusal to be defined by the illness, while at the same time getting the illness dealt with through medication and therapy are two things that can help get someone out of the typical frame of mind of persons with mental illness--and this could be a good thing.

Arts & Events

OPERA REVIEW: Cherubini's MÉDÉE: A Rare Operatic Gem Performed in Berkeley

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday May 12, 2014 - 10:40:00 AM

As a part-time opera critic and full-time opera lover, I have attended some 750 opera performances throughout the world. Yet never until now, and in my home-town of Berkeley no less, have I had the opportunity to hear a live per-formance of Luigi Cherubini’s fabled Médée. The story of this opera is well known in Greek myth, from which source Euripides fashioned a searing tragic drama. Jason, a mainland Greek, has voyaged to the far shores of the Black Sea, to a land called Colchis where the princess Medea, (Médée in French, the original language of Cherubini’s opera), falls in love with Jason, helps him steal the Golden Fleece, and sails off with him, bearing Jason two sons during his long voyage home to Corinth. Once in Corinth, however, Jason is feted by King Creon, who offers Jason betrothal to the king’s lovely daughter Dircé, (Glauce in the Greek tale and so-named in the Italian version of Cherubini’s opera). Jason accepts Creon’s offer and urges Médée to give him custody of their children and accept lonely exile for herself.

Cherubini’s opera picks up this classical tale at the moment when Médée (or Medea) first expresses her horror at Jason’s betrayal and begins to plot her monstrous revenge against her wayward husband. Performed in Berkeley on May 4, 2014, by a group called The Handel Opera Project, Cherubini’s Médée featured soprano Eliza O’Malley in the demanding title role. The chamber orchestra was conducted by William G. Ludtke; and the fine supporting cast sang in the original French, with spoken recitatives in English.

Cherubini was an Italian composer, born in 1760, who settled in Paris in 1788, where his opera Médée was first performed on March 13, 1797, at the Théâtre Feydeau. Cherubini quickly followed up the success of Médée with a comic opera, Les Deux journées (1800), that also became enormously popular. Critics took note of Cherubini’s harmonic and orchestral richness as well as his highly original style. Beethoven admired Cherubini and considered him to be the greatest of his contemporary composers.

Where Médée is concerned, although its premiere took place only six years after Mozart’s death, Cherubini’s music looks forward rather than back, and prefigures a Romantic like Berlioz as much as (or more than) it reflects the classical influence of Mozart. There is considerable chromaticism in Cherubini’s Médée, and its writing for the title role is notoriously challenging for singers. In fact, so difficult is this role that the opera dropped out of the repertoire until Maria Callas famously re-introduced Cherubini’s Medea (sung by Callas in the Italian version) with live performances in the early 1950s and a famed studio recording in 1957. Callas’s fiery interpretation of the vengeful Medea became an early triumph of the great diva’s career; and the intensity of Callas’s stage presence inspired Italian film-maker Pier Paolo Pasolini to cast Maria Callas in the non-singing role of the lead character in his 1970 film Medea.

In The Handel Opera Project’s Berkeley performance of Médée, the fire-breathing title role was splendidly sung by Eliza O’Malley, who has performed previously with various Bay Area groups such as Verismo Opera, Berkeley Opera, and Oakland Opera Theatre, as well as Capitol Opera, Sac- ramento. When I asked Ms. O’Malley what trepidations she might have had in taking on this notoriously difficult role, she replied as follows. “I knew nothing of this opera when I was first approached about singing the title role. Then when I began studying the score, I found it quite daunting, because the tessitura [or general pitch level] moves rapidly from one register to another in different vocal numbers, and it was generally lower than in the roles like Violetta in La Traviata, Gilda in Rigoletto, and Leonora in Il Trovatore I had previously sung. But the more I studied the role of Médée, the more excited I became about singing Cherubini’s amazing music.” 

To her immense credit, Eliza O’Malley gave a very fine performance, both musically and dramatically, of this enormously difficult role. In the Berkeley cast, Ms. O’Malley was joined by a fine tenor, Brian Thorsett, who sang the role of Jason; soprano Sara Hagenbuch, who sang the role of Jason’s new fiancée, Dircé; baritone Martin Bell, who brought a calm strength to Créon, Dircé’s father and king of Corinth; and contralto Kathleen Moss, who was excellent as Néris, the worried confidante of Médée’s schemes for revenge. Stage director Kimberly James made good use of the limited space available to her, and she used the acting abilities of Eliza O’Malley to bring home the inner fire of Médée as well as her fabled talents as a sorceress when she prepared the poisoned robe that would kill her rival Dircé on her wedding day. Finally, the infamous killing of her own children by Médée as a way of wreaking revenge on their errant father was gracefully carried out offstage and later suggested by ghostlike figures. 

Conductor William G. Ludtke led an orchestral ensemble comprised of two violins, a viola, a cello, a contrabass, two flutes, and a bassoon. Acoustically, however, the small venue at 2601 Durant Avenue in Berkeley was poorly suited for this large-scale, highly expressive opera, which features a spirited orchestral overture, agitated vocal confrontations between Médée and Jason, as well as angry, vengeful solo arias for Médée. Within a small space, with no stage and no orchestra pit, the singers, orchestra, chorus, and audience were all closed in upon one another. Therefore, even with a reduced orchestra, it was difficult to achieve a balance between the singers and the orchestra in such a small, acoustically hard hall. Nonetheless, it is to the credit of conductor William G. Ludtke and his Handel Opera Project that they brought off such a successful presentation of this rarely seen operatic gem. 

Until now, The Handel Opera Project has largely devoted itself to small- scale chamber operas such as Handel’s Rodelinda and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. However, it is heartening that company director William G. Ludtke has now tackled something as musically and dramatically challenging as Cherubini’s Médée. Given their success in this endeavor, let us hope that Maestro Ludtke and his excellent group might consider restaging Cherubini’s Médée in the near future in a larger theatre more welcoming to Cherubini’s adventuresome musical and theatrical expressivity. They have already brought a rare gift to the Bay Area music scene by performing this long-absent opera; and their gift deserves to be seen and heard by a larger Bay Area audience in a venue more conducive to bringing out this opera’s very considerable merits.