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Protests in San Francisco, Oakland after Garner verdict

Sara Gaiser/Scott Morris (BCN)
Wednesday December 03, 2014 - 10:54:00 PM

Market Street in San Francisco has cleared and traffic resumed following a protest in response to a New York City grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died while in a police chokehold restraint. 

The protest in San Francisco, in which protestors staged a "die-in" at Powell and Market Streets, blocked traffic for more than an hour.  

In Oakland, hundreds of protesters gathered near the corner of 14th Street and Broadway at about 5 p.m. this evening, chanting "Justice for Eric Garner," only about 10 days after massive protests in the city began over a similar grand jury decision in Missouri. 

In the Missouri case, a grand jury chose not to indict police Officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing 18-year-old Michael Brown in August.  

In the New York case, a grand jury today declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for using a chokehold that led to Garner's death. 

In Oakland this evening protestors marched down Broadway and were stopped by a line of officers in riot gear before reaching police headquarters. They then moved through downtown, with smaller marches converging on the main protest, and down Broadway to the Piedmont Avenue business district area.  

Some protesters hold signs that read "I can't breathe," evoking Garner's words as he was choked by Pantaleo. Garner's arrest and death were captured on video. 

"We got a lot of issues we need to handle. They're killing us and it's not just black people it's all people of color, " Satima Flaherty, 27, said to the gathered crowd. "They're killing us back to back and they're laughing at us -- it's a mockery." 

As of around 9 p.m. remaining protestors had reportedly gathered again near Oakland City Hall.  

Protests have been held nationwide since Brown's death against the use of lethal force by police officers, particularly against black men. 

Similar protests went on for three days last week following the Missouri grand jury's decision. About 2,000 people participated on Monday with smaller crowds gathering on Tuesday and Wednesday. Oakland police made a total of 169 arrests as freeways were blocked, fires were set, windows were broken and businesses were looted.  

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee issued a statement today expressing outrage at the grand jury's verdict and calling on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate. 

"We cannot allow the senseless murders of black men to continue," Lee said. "These tragedies have been happening for many years," she said.  

"But the recent high profile cases of injustice for the families of Eric Garner and Michael Brown have and should spark a national debate and long overdue action to address the structural and institutional racial biases in our nation." 

Oakland City Council member Desley Brooks also issued a statement today saying that today's "collective outcry against injustice" comes from an expectation that everyone deserves an environment that is "safe and conducive for the pursuit of happiness, as our Declaration of Independence promises. 

"I'm proud to call Oakland home," Brooks said. "I'm proud of the deep-rooted culture here that always calls for justice and fairness and the protection of all of our citizens."

New: UC Berkeley police seek information re campus vandalism, theft suspects

Andrew Dickey (BCN)
Wednesday December 03, 2014 - 11:01:00 PM

Officers are seeking the identities of two suspects who vandalized and stole from a University of California at Berkeley building last month, university police officials said. 

Police responded to reports of vandalism and theft at Haas Pavilion at 11:21 a.m. on Nov. 16, according to Detective Harry Benningson. 

Video surveillance captured images of the two suspects at 2:25 a.m. that day. 

The suspects cased for unlocked doors, removed a fire extinguisher, emptied its contents on the main event floor and dropped the extinguisher, causing damage to the wooden floor, Benningson said. 

The suspects also stole two video cameras, UC credentials and a scarf, which they were seen wearing on camera. 

Anyone who spots these suspects or has information about their identities is asked to contact UCPD at (510) 642-4909 or (510) 642-6760.

New: Two suspects in Grizzly Peak robbery arrested for Oakland crimes

Jeff Shuttleworth
Wednesday December 03, 2014 - 10:56:00 PM

Two of three suspects in the armed robbery and kidnapping of a couple sitting in a car at an overlook in the Berkeley hills on Thanksgiving have been arrested for similar crimes in Oakland, University of California at Berkeley police said today. 

Police said the victims, a 26-year-old woman and a 23-year-old male, were parked at a dirt turn-out on Grizzly Peak Boulevard around 2 a.m. last Thursday, sitting in their vehicle looking out toward the Bay, when three suspects approached them. 

The suspects, two of whom were armed with guns and one with a baseball bat, demanded money, campus police said. 

The victims didn't have any money, so one suspect got into their vehicle and ordered them to drive to an ATM while the other suspects drove behind them in a second vehicle, according to police. 

The victims took money out at an ATM and gave it to the suspects, who then left the area. 

The victims, who are not affiliated with UC Berkeley, were not injured. 

The suspects' vehicle is described by police as a 2005 orange and gray Honda Element. 

UC Berkeley police Lt. Eric Tejada said two of the suspects have been arrested by Oakland police for similar crimes in their city but one suspect remains at large. 

Tejada said police believe the two suspects were involved in the incident on Grizzly Peak in Berkeley but haven't yet formally arrested them for that incident or turned the case over to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office for charges. 

Tejada said police have reason to believe that the suspects committed additional crimes in the Berkeley and Oakland hills last Wednesday night and early Thursday morning and are asking other people who may have been victims to come forward. 

Campus police said people who have any information about the Grizzly Peak incident or any other similar incidents should call Detective Brendan Tinney at (510) 642-6760.

New: Man Found Dead in Berkeley Park Identified

Bay City News
Tuesday December 02, 2014 - 11:20:00 PM

A man who was found dead at Aquatic Park in Berkeley on Sunday afternoon was identified by an Alameda County coroner spokeswoman today as 51-year-old Gary Baker. 

The spokeswoman didn't immediately have information about where Baker lived. 

Berkeley police said officers found Baker after they responded to a report of a man lying motionless on his back in the south side of Aquatic Park at 4:12 p.m. Sunday. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Police said homicide detectives are investigating the case as a suspicious death. 

Berkeley police couldn't immediately be reached for comment today on the status of their investigation into Baker's death.

Press Release: Open University at UC Berkeley Hosts Sproul Rally Tuesday at noon

From: The Open University at UC Berkeley
Monday December 01, 2014 - 11:07:00 PM

On the 50th anniversary of Mario Savio’s famous speech on Sproul steps during the height of the Free Speech Movement, The Open University will be hosting a Speak Out and Rally on Sproul on Dec. 2 at noon.  

Students speakers from various groups including a student-parent from the Village Residents Association, students from environmental coalitions, and more will be speaking. Campus and community workers including AFSCME 3299, Teamsters 2010, and fast food workers from the movement fighting for $15 hourly wage will be speaking. Professors including Khalid Kadir - lecturer in International and Area Studies and Global Poverty and Practice - and Leopold Podlashuc - visiting lecturer from South Africa in the History Department - will be speaking. Community activist Ellen Choi from Movement Generation will be speaking. We will all be speaking out about the tuition hikes. Our voices have power and we will use them to not only commemorate the legacy of the FSM, but also to defend our public education.  

Our movement is not over, and we will continue to speak out against the tuition hikes that have continued to deny Californians the right to an affordable education and against the privatization of our public education. Join us in our fight. 

"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!" - Mario Savio

Berkeley police investigating suspicious death at Aquatic Park

Bay City News
Sunday November 30, 2014 - 09:18:00 PM

Police are investigating the death of a man in his 50's in Berkeley this afternoon as a homicide, police said. 

Officers responded to a report of man lying motionless on his back in the south side of Aquatic Park at 4:12 p.m.  

Police said officers found him deceased at the scene. 

Homicide detectives are investigating the incident as a suspicious death, police said. 

No further information was immediately available.

Election 2014: How Berkeley Voted (News Analysis)
Sharp dropoff in student voting results in record low turnout

Rob Wrenn
Sunday November 30, 2014 - 08:57:00 AM

Only 40,301 ballot were cast in Berkeley in the November 4 election. This is the smallest number in any November election going back to 1980.

Only 50.4% of those registered to vote in Berkeley cast ballots, also below previous lows of 55% in 1980 and 58.9% in 2002. Turnout in Berkeley in gubernatorial elections has typically been 60% or higher since 1980. In presidential election years turnout has been even higher, with a peak turnout of 77.5% in 2008. In that year, 66,703 ballots were cast in Berkeley, 66% more than the number cast this year.

While turnout was down citywide compared to the last gubernatorial election in 2010, when 49,640 votes were cast, a sharp drop off in student voting is responsible for this year's vote falling below the previous citywide low of 41,363 votes in 2002.

Countywide, turnout was only 45.0%, and the Chronicle reported on Monday that turnout statewide was 42%, well below the previous statewide low of 50.5% in 2002.

The drop-off in votes in Berkeley is even more remarkable when you consider that between 1980 and 2010, the local population grew 9%, from 103,328 to 112,580. It has continued to grow since 2010 according the Census Bureau. So the number of people voting was down despite an increase in the number of those eligible to vote.  


Turnout in Berkeley, November Elections, 1986-2014  







Ballots Cast  


Turnout (%)  



























































































































Student Turnout  

The decline in student voting can be seen clearly in the pitifully low vote in District 7, the newly created student supermajority district south of the UC campus. Only 1805 votes were cast there. This represents a turnout of 21.0% of registered voters. The number of votes cast in District 7 is less than half the number cast in District 4, the central Berkeley district, which has a significant but smaller student population, and less than a quarter of the votes cast in District 5, a predominantly homeowner district located east of Spruce and north of Cedar, with few student residents. 

Student turnout has always been lower than non-student turnout in Berkeley, but his year it reached new lows not previously seen in November elections. In presidential elections a lot more students vote than in gubernatorial elections. 2008, the year that Obama won his first term, was a year of record high turnout in Berkeley. That year over 75% voted in two student dormitory precincts, and there was an average turnout of two-thirds in student precincts north of Dwight Way. But even at its peak in 2008, student turnout was below the citywide average turnout of 77.5%. 

Comparing the student vote this year to previous elections, the number of votes cast in seven precincts located north of Dwight Way near campus was down 59% compared to the 2010 gubernatorial election and down 83% compared to the peak-turnout 2008 presidential election. In excess of 85% of the residents of these precincts are students. 

The drop off is student voting was not confined to District 7. Precincts with substantial student populations like the Downtown precincts in District 4 and on the Northside precincts in District 6 also saw a sharp drop in voting that exceeded the citywide drop of 18.8% compared to 2010. In the absence of exit polls or surveys, it's impossible to say whether the students in these more mixed precincts turned out in different proportions to the precincts' non-students, but there is a clear correlation between percent of students in a precinct and the extent of the drop off in voting. 

Redistricting resulted in substantial changes to district boundaries which makes district-level turnout comparisons with previous elections problematic. But it is possible to compare turnout in clusters of precincts that kept the same boundaries. Based on that, the number of votes cast in non-student areas of the city, compared to 2010, dropped by amounts ranging from 10% for four District 5 precincts near Solano and Marin to 16% for five District 4 precincts west of MLK, with groups of precincts in Districts 1 and 8 experiencing drops of 11 or 12%. 

Why was student turnout so low this year? First and foremost, because it was not a presidential election year. But it was also low in comparison to other gubernatorial years. The absence of any hot races at the top of the ballot may help to explain it. Few people doubted that Jerry Brown would be re-elected governor and he won easily by 60%-40% according to the not quite final count. There was no U.S. Senate race this year which, with control of the Senate being hotly contested, might have inspired more students to go to the polls. This year's relatively small batch of propositions weren't as likely to stimulate voting as more controversial propositions have done in the past such as Prop 8 (anti-Gay Marriage) in 2008 or Prop 187 (anti-immigrant) in 1994. To really know the answer, you would need to survey students about their reasons for not voting. 



Turnout in Berkeley by City Council District, Nov. 4, 2014  


Council Dist.  




Ballots Cast  


Turnout (%)  


































































Only 40,301 Citywide  








8 student precincts  









City Council District 7 

18 year incumbent Council member Kriss Worthington was reelected in District 7 over Sean Barry by a vote of 832 to 662, or 55.7% to 44.3%. 

Within District 7, precincts closest to campus, those north of Dwight Way, had a much lower turnout than those south of Dwight. Consolidated precinct 400/430 which includes part of the LeConte neighborhood south of Dwight and a small piece of the Willard neighborhood had a turnout of 50.2%. Together with Precinct 460, also south of Dwight, it accounted for 43% of all the votes cast in the district, which consists of 9 regular precincts (five of them consolidated) and two smaller vote by mail precincts. 

By contrast, only 12.3% of the voters in consolidated precinct 251/252 voted. That precinct, located east of Piedmont between Bancroft and Dwight, includes numerous fraternities and sororities and apartment buildings. 

Barry defeated Worthington by 11 votes (117-106) in two consolidated precincts comprising most of the area east of College where a large majority of UC's fraternities and sororities are located. Barry also won consolidated precinct 400-430 by 2 votes. It's likely that he won in the Willard portion (precinct 400), where Worthington has not done well in past elections, and lost in the LeConte portion (precinct 430) where he has always come in ahead of his opponents. 

In 2012, voters approved Measure R, which allowed the City Council greater leeway in changing council district boundaries during redistricting, which takes place every ten years after the release of Census data. Effectively, whoever has a majority on the Council at the time of redistricting can gerrymander district boundaries in an effort to reduce the re-election chances for council members not in the majority. When district elections replaced at-large elections in 1986, the amendment to the charter required that new district boundaries necessitated by population changes would preserve, to the extent possible, the boundaries established in 1986. Measure R ended this requirement. 

As part of the deal that won unanimous Council support for the measure, it was decided that no district boundary changes could be made that would result in two sitting Council members being in the same district. So, in District 7, a small piece of the Willard neighborhood (part of the old precinct 400), where Kriss Worthington's apartment is located, was kept in District 7. As noted above, this is the only part of District 7 that had a somewhat respectable turnout this election. Without the requirement that sitting Council members not be put in the same district, District 7 might have had an even larger student supermajority and an even smaller turnout. 

The changes made to District 7 during redistricting that were approved by the Council majority led by Mayor Tom Bates, added the fraternities, sororities and apartment buildings in precincts east of College to the district. A couple of small vote by mail precincts, not big enough to rate a polling place, near the UC campus between Ellsworth and Fulton were also moved into District 7 from District 4. At the same time the Halycon and Bateman neighborhoods south of Ashby were removed as were most of the Willard neighborhood east of Telegraph, a sizable chunk of the LeConte neighborhood west of Telegraph and a Northside precinct with student coops. Relatively few homeowners remain in District 7. 

With its old, very different boundaries, District 7 had a much higher turnout in the last gubernatorial election; 4862 votes were cast in 2010 compared to this year's 1805 votes. However, the old District 7 also had a larger population that any other district in the city because of the Census undercount of students in 2000 and because the University increased the supply of student housing after 2000. 

Census Undercount of Students 

In 2000, the Census Bureau failed to correctly count the students living in the Unit 1 and Unit 2 dorms located in District 7, counting only 68 residents in two blocks with over 2100 student beds. This and other Census errors in counting students led to the addition of a Northside precinct and to other adjustments to District 7 boundaries that added a net number of new blocks because the Census undercount erroneously showed Districts 7 and 8 with fewer voters than other council districts, and districts are required to have roughly equal populations. 

In 2002, City staff estimated that the undercount in student areas of districts 6, 7 and 8 amounted to 4472 people based on a block by block comparison or 1990 and 2000 Census data. Census Bureau responded by adjusting numbers for some blocks, but for every person they added to one block, they subtracted someone from another block, so that the total count was unchanged. Basically they just shuffled people around. 

Further evidence of the 2000 Census undercount can be seen in the 2010 Census data which shows a population of 16,623 people within the District 7 boundaries that were established based on the official 2000 Census data. Based on the 2000 Census, equal population per district in 2000 was 12,843 and District 7's boundaries allegedly encompassed about that many people. So, the data would suggest that between 2000 and 2010, the population within the 2000 Census-based District 7 boundaries had increased by around 3780 people, or almost 30%, which is quite a big jump. While UC did add beds between 2000 and 2010 and developers built some housing as well, there is no way that this could account for the entire population increase. It's clear that in 2010 the Census Bureau found some of the student housing whose residents they missed in the 2000 count. 

The official 2000 Census data shows a drop in the group living quarters population in Berkeley of 5,197 people, from 11,019 to 5,822, between 1990 and 2000, but it's pretty clear that the UC dorms and other student housing weren't half empty in 2000 as the official Census data would suggest. Clearly the population numbers in the 2000 Census for student areas are pretty worthless. In 2003, city staff modified their estimates after reviewing the Census Bureau's response to their estimates of the undercount. They estimated that the 2000 population in Berkeley was actually 106,354. 

The Census undercount of students in 2000 has created the erroneous impression that there was no real increase in population in Berkeley between 1990 and 2000, followed by a big jump from 2000 to 2010. The official Census figures are 

1990 - 102,724 

2000 - 102,743 

2010 - 112,580 

Using the City's 2003 estimate, a more realistic picture of the change in Berkeley's population looks like this: 

1990 - 102,724 

2000 - 106,354 

2010 - 112,580 


Student Candidates 

Students have always been the majority of the District 7 population since the district was created in 1986 when voters approved the switch from at-large to district elections for City Council. But, in part due to lower turnout by students, no student has ever been elected to represent District 7. 

Two students have mounted serious campaigns for the District 7 Council seat. In 1992, William Shie ran against incumbent Carla Woodworth. In 2002, Micky Weinberg ran against Kriss Worthington. In both elections, the student candidates won in the high rise dorm precincts, where most of the voters are freshmen and sophomores. But the two incumbent progressive council members won in other student precincts that include student coops and apartment buildings largely populated by students, many of them further to the south of campus than the dorms. Students in these precincts are more likely to be juniors, seniors and grad students. Many of the students who voted in those elections apparently didn't think that they would be better off with a fellow student as their representative on the Council. 

Will a student candidate have a better chance of winning now that District 7 has a supermajority of students? Perhaps. About half the people who live in the new District 7 live in group living quarters, that is dorms, student coops, fraternities and sororities. A smaller proportion are students living in apartments . Compared to the old district, the student population is probably younger on average, more closely connected to the campus, and less connected to the larger Berkeley community. 

Students can potentially have a large impact on Berkeley elections. To illustrate their potential impact, take precinct 491 in the Southside, located immediately south of campus bounded by Bancroft and Channing and Ellsworth and Telegraph. The Unit 3 dorms with 1240 beds are located there. In addition to this dorm complex, there are some houses and apartment buildings in the precinct with probably a few hundred residents, including a newly built apartment building at Ellsworth and Durant. Making generous allowance for International students and a few undocumented or under age residents, there are probably conservatively at least 1300 people eligible to vote in this precinct. Yet, there were only 896 registered voters this year. Of this number, some no longer live there. Because of high turnover in student areas, the voter rolls for student precincts typically contain the names of some people who have moved. 

In this November's election, only 151 of the 896 registered voters voted. Of this 151, only 125 voted for someone for City Council; only 114 voted for or against Measure S, the ballot measure that ratifies the existing student supermajority district ostensibly created for the benefit of students. 

2008, a presidential election year with a record high turnout presents a different picture. In that year the same area was divided into two precincts, which together had 1573 registered voters (1333 in the precinct with Unit 3), again some of them undoubtedly people who had moved from the area. 889 people voted in that election. They cast 548 votes for Berkeley mayoral candidates and 877 votes for presidential candidates. 

The number of registered voters could potentially be higher still but some students opt to register to vote in their hometown rather than at their near campus address, though, for the most part, and certainly in years when there is an active voter registration effort on campus, it seems that most students register in Berkeley, if they register at all, since that is where they will be on election day and voting by mail is still not common for students. 

As a student supermajority district, District 7 is likely to remain a super low turnout district, because elections take place in lower turnout gubernatorial election years rather than in higher turnout presidential years. This came about when Berkeley voters approved the switch from two-year terms for City Council, with all council seats up for re-election each election year, to four year terms. Perhaps more students will vote if one or more students run for city council in a future election, though in past elections, the presence of a student candidate for City Council did not lead to a big jump in voting in student precincts. 

If the City really wanted to facilitate the election of students to the City Council, a charter amendment to restore two year Council terms would help, since there are probably more potential student candidates who could commit to serving a two-year term than a four-year one. To increase turnout in District 7 Council races, a charter amendment to move the District 7 Council race to presidential election years would do the trick. 

Looking ahead to the next round of redistricting after the 2020 Census, will Berkeley follow Oakland's lead and establish a new independent commission to draw council district lines or will it continue to allow the politically-motivated gerrymandering made possible by the passage of Measure R in 2012? In March of this year, District 4 Council member Arreguin announced that he intended to circulate petitions for a ballot initiative to establish an independent citizens redistricting commission. However, nothing came of this effort. Will it be revived in the coming years? 

Berkeley Council Districts 1 and 8 

In the four candidate District 8 Council race, the precinct results show that Mike Alvarez Cohen, who finished third, was strongly favored in the hills above Claremont Ave., getting 52% and 44% in the two precincts there. He did poorly in the area west of College, much of which was previously part of District 7, finishing last in all but one of that area's precincts. 

Lori Droste and George Beier both did well in the precincts west of College, with Droste winning in the Halcyon and Bateman precincts south of Asbhy and in one Willard neighborhood precinct. Beier, who lives in Willard and has been active in the Willard Neighborhood Association for years, won the other Willard precincts. Droste, who got the most first choice votes and was elected, also won her home precinct located east of College, south of Ashby with 45% of the vote. Jacquelyn McCormick, who finished fourth, won one consolidated precinct comprising the part of District 8 north of Dwight, an area with a mix of students and Panoramic Hill homeowners. 

The official results show Lori Droste with 1314 votes (29.2%); George Beier with 1193 votes (26.5%); Mike Alvarez Cohen with 1163 votes (25.8%) and Jacquelyn McCormick with 830 votes (18.4%). In the rounds of ranked choice voting that were necessary since no candidate got 50% of first choice votes, McCormick voters favored Droste, adding to her margin over George Beier. Alvarez Cohen voters favored George Beier but not by enough to overcome Droste's lead. The final ranked choice vote count was 2072 for Droste to 2056 for Beier (50.2%-49.8%). 

In District 1 in northwest Berkeley, 22 year incumbent Linda Maio came in ahead of challenger Alejandro Soto-Vigil in 10 of 12 precincts, winning overall by a comfortable 54.7% to 40.8% margin. The remaining vote went to a third candidate, Merrilie Mitchell. 

Soto-Vigil beat Maio by 9 votes in precinct 970, one of three West Berkeley precincts. (West Berkeley is the area west of San Pablo.) For West Berkeley as a whole, Maio won by 49.2% to 45.6%. Soto Vigil also narrowly won precinct 930, an L-shaped precinct immediately east of San Pablo with a substantial tenant population, bounded on the south by University between Sacramento and San Pablo. 

State Candidates and Measures 

There were no surprises in how Berkeley voted in statewide races this year. Berkeley is still a Democratic Party bastion. Jerry Brown got 95.3% of the vote for governor; Kamala Harris got 93.4% for Attorney General. Tom Torlakson's 81.2% share of the vote in Berkeley in the race for the state's Superintendent for Public Instruction was not as impressive, but was still higher than anywhere else in California. 



How Berkeley Voted  

Selected State, County and Local Races 



Candidate or Measure 











Jerry Brown  

Democrat for Governor 











Kamala Harris  

Democrat for Atty. Gen. 











Yes on Prop 47 CA  

Reduce drug sentences 











Measure BB Alameda Co.  

Transportation sales tax 











YES on D Berkeley  

Soda Tax 











YES on Prop 1 CA  

Water Bonds 











YES of F Berkeley  

Parks parcel tax 











NO on R Berkeley  

Downtown zoning 











Tom Torlakson CA  

Supt Public Instruction 











YES on Prop 45 CA  

Health insurance rates 











YES on S Berkeley  













Berkeley certainly had the highest percentage in the state for Proposition 47, the proposition to reduce penalties for those who commit certain nonviolent and nonserious drug and property crimes. 91.8% voted yes in Berkeley. (San Francisco was 80.1% yes.) Proposition 45, to require the State Insurance Commissioner's approval for individual and small group health insurance rate changes, got 68.9% of the vote in Berkeley, but lost statewide by a 59% to 41% margin. 

Berkeley: Alameda County Measure BB 

Measure BB, the measure to extend and augment the .5% sales tax for transportation, won this time around after a similar measure narrowly fell short of the required two thirds majority in 2012. In Berkeley, the measure won the support of 88.2% of voters. In Oakland the measure had 81.4% supper; in Albany 83.6%.This strong support in the northern part of Alameda County made the difference and offset the weak support in the eastern part of the county. The measure failed to win a majority in Livermore, and fell well short of two-thirds in Pleasanton. 

Berkeley Ballot Measures 

Measure D, to establish a soda tax, passed easily with 76.2% of the vote. It received landslide support of at least 60% in every precinct in the city. And more voted pro or con this tax than voted in any other race on the ballot. Only 1425 did not vote either way, while 1651 voted for no one for governor. The number not voting was higher for Measure R, the downtown zoning measure, with 4156 "undervotes", and for Measure S, the redistricting measure that confirms the current council district boundaries, with 6960 abstaining. 

Measure R was defeated by landslide margins in every precinct. Supporters managed only 37.6% in their best precinct, which was located in a LeConte neighborhood in District 3 between Fulton and Shattuck. 

Measure S, which passed citywide by 63.8% to 36.2%, lost narrowly in 4 precincts, one the Northside student coop and dorm precinct, 2 others in the Southside and one in District 4 west of downtown. Students were divided by the issue with some favoring alternative boundaries for District 7 that would have included the Northside student precinct. Combining the results for eight student precincts north of Dwight Way, including the Northside coop precinct, Measure S won those student areas near campus with 57.4% of the vote. 

Measure F, the increased parcel tax for parks, won with 75.1% of the vote and obtained the required two thirds vote in all but one of the city's precincts, a District 6 hills precinct where it fell short by a single vote. 

Absentee Voting Still on the Rise 

In 2004, 37.2% of ballots cast in Berkeley were vote by mail (aka absentee) ballots . In 2010, it increased to 51.0% and it was 51.7% in the 2012 presidential election. This year, 58.0% of ballots were vote by mail. It appears that many of these were dropped at polling places as most of the absentee ballots this year were counted after election day. 

Students are still much less likely to vote absentee. In eight north of Dwight student precincts (seven from District 7, one from District 6), the percentage voting absentee was only 26%. 

How to Find Out How Your Precinct Voted 

Go to Alameda County Registrar of Voters site. [add link http://www.acgov.org/rov/elections/20141104/ ] Click to open the Statement of Vote in either pdf or xls. Then find the race you are interested in (easier to do in xls). Berkeley precincts come first in the results for each race. Berkeley precinct numbers run from 200100 to 209900. For each precinct, vote by mail results and election day results are reported separately 

U.C. Berkeley Police Investigate Robbery and Kidnapping on Grizzly Peak

Dennis Culver (BCN)
Sunday November 30, 2014 - 09:33:00 AM

Police in Berkeley are investigating a Thursday armed robbery and kidnapping that occurred along Grizzly Peak Boulevard.

University of California police officers responded around 2 a.m. to a dirt turn-out along the boulevard after receiving the report of the robbery and kidnapping.

Police said the two victims, a 26-year-old woman and a 23-year-old man, were sitting in their vehicle looking out toward the bay when three men approached them and demanded money.

Police said two of the suspects were armed with handguns, and the third was armed with a baseball bat.

The victims didn't have any money, so one of the suspects entered their car and demanded to be driven to an ATM while the other suspects followed. 

Police said the victims went to the ATM and withdrew money for the suspects, who then fled in their vehicle. 

The victims, who are not associated with the University of California, Berkeley, were not injured in the robbery. 

The first suspect is described as 5 feet 5 inches tall with a slim build, the second is described as 6 feet 3 inches tall with a medium build, and the third is described as 5 feet 5 inches tall with a slim build and wearing a black beanie-style cap and a red hooded sweatshirt. 

The suspects' vehicle is described as a red four-door "square-type" vehicle. 

Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call the University of California Police Department at (510) 642-0472 or (510) 642-6760. 

Copyright © 2014 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse


The Editor's Back Fence

Better Late Than Never

Sunday November 30, 2014 - 08:55:00 AM

Having slacked off over Thanksgiving, we now think it's time to start over with a new issue, since the old one got so long. We have already gotten a couple of outstanding new contributions. One, more of Rob Wrenn's outstanding election analysis, is here, and the rest will be posted as soon as I have a chance. Keep on checking. A new editorial is unlikely, however.

Public Comment

Clear & Present Danger to Israel

Jagjit Singh
Sunday November 30, 2014 - 09:26:00 PM

A seismic shift is occurring in European capitals increasingly frustrated by Israeli’s intransigence towards Palestinian sovereignty, – building more and more settlements on Palestinian land - and its home demolitions. The European Union has urged Israel to immediately halt its expansionist policies, end its illegal occupation and lift the siege of Gaza. Current Israel policy, driven by right wing ideologues, is fueling much of the intensifying Palestinian rage and the cycle of unending violence. 

Dahlia Scheindlin, an Israeli analyst and pollster, said, “Israel is losing Europe and Public opinion has shifted decidedly against Israel.” There is a growing realization that the soft talk of the US Administration has been an abject failure and must be replaced with European economic sanctions. 

The antipathy towards Israel has heightened after its attack on Gaza last summer which resulted in large number of fatalities of innocent civilians and enormous damage to its basic infrastructure. European leaders fully comprehend that unless the siege of Gaza is lifted, the people of Gaza will live in a perpetual state of suicidal despair. Unlike the US, where images of the attack on Gaza were largely hidden, the Europeans witnessed raw images which reshaped their perception of the conflict. 

If Israel continues on its present course it could seriously jeopardize its lucrative trade with Europe worth about 30 billion euros a year and its tariff-free access to the 28 member states.

Pattern of Abuse

Tejinder Uberoi
Sunday November 30, 2014 - 12:19:00 PM

Predictably the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Wilson triggered outrage in Ferguson and communities across the country who see Brown’s killing as part of a wide-scale pattern of police abuse of people of color. Law enforcement has offered little credible explanation why Brown’s body was allowed to remain on the street for 4.5 hours. There is little doubt that if the teenager had a lighter skin, the outcome would have been different. In an obvious effort to justify the shooting, Officer Wilson described Michael Brown as a raging “Hulk Hogan”. The prosecutor seems to have actively tried for a grand jury result absolving the officer’s actions. This was a show trial aimed at pacifying an angry black community who saw through the charade. 

In sharp contrast to the hyper-vigilant police presence in the predominant white business neighborhood of South Florissant, there was a total absence in the West part of town owned by black businesses. Tragically, every day some black or brown child is subject to the arbitrary violence of the state with little no recourse. In poor neighborhoods, blacks often lament there is little to live for because the odds of obtaining a good life is stacked against them. As President Kennedy observed “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.


Romila Khanna
Sunday November 30, 2014 - 09:28:00 PM

Today's immigration problem will linger on for a long period of time. Even with deportation attempts to return undocumented people to their native countries, many will stay back with their families or friends. I think we may have to spend thousands of dollars to locate them and deport them.  

We have to screen illegal immigrants well, checking their background. All skilled workers who have clean records may be allowed to stay here. Our laws have to be strict and our borders have to be secured and the guards at our borders have to follow the laws of the land. Nobody should be allowed to enter illegally. It is very urgent to take steps sooner rather than later to save us from many unwanted protests and crowded meetings. Let us rethink important issues like immigration now before more problems result due to negligence on our part.


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Wrongful Deaths

Jack Bragen
Sunday November 30, 2014 - 12:17:00 PM

We are dealing with a nationwide crisis in the misuse of power by police officers and by a corrupt court system. I can in no way belittle the crime that was perpetrated upon Michael Brown. It was one of a series of wrongful deaths in which non-Caucasian people have been killed by police and in which there has been little or no retribution by the courts. My sympathy goes to Michael Brown's family, and I believe that any reasonable person should be outraged by this corruption and by this tragedy.

However, for me this brings up the wrongful deaths that have been perpetrated upon persons with mental illness, as well.  

Persons with mental illness are often treated brutally by police. Persons with mental illness are often wrongfully shot to death or die while in custody due to excessive restraint or due to the hard conditions of incarceration, such as high temperatures or dehydration. Temperatures in transport vans in the summer may go beyond 110 degrees, and there is no water available. Mentally ill people in custody are targeted for abuse by other inmates. Police often shoot mentally ill people because they believe incorrectly (most of the time) that we are a threat.  

I would take a step further than the protest of unfair treatment of African American people, and I would say that we need a complete revision of law enforcement and of the court system.  

In no way to belittle the injustice perpetrated upon Michael Brown--I also see that when someone with mental illness is wrongfully killed by police, there is no uproar by the public whatsoever. When a mentally ill person (which is also another minority) is killed, why aren't there mobs of fellow psychiatric patients wrecking a town? Perhaps this is largely due to the fact that most mentally ill people are medicated and controlled, and thus to not have the energy or the liberty to get out and demonstrate.  

Secondly, when someone with mental illness wrongfully loses his or her life at the hands of police or while in custody, the mass media often doesn't report it. If you want me to name some names, I'll start by saying potentially me. While I don't have the specific statistics handy, it is very clear that a lot of people with mental health problems are unnecessarily killed by police. A piece that I looked at in KQED News stated that more than half of those killed by San Francisco Police were persons with mental illness.  

Beyond wrongful death, persons with mental illness are dealt with through the court system, and this from the get-go is the wrong way of doing things. Persons with mental illness need help and not handcuffs.  

ECLETIC RANT: Thoughts on the Ferguson Matter

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday November 30, 2014 - 09:20:00 PM

Everyone now knows that on August 9 Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an African-American teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. On November 24, a St. Louis grand jury announced that it was not indicting Mr. Wilson. 

The grand jury is made up of twelve jurors. It takes nine to issue an indictment. This grand jury was made up of 6 white men, 3 white women, 2 African-American women and 1 African-American man. The ethnic makeup of the grand jury is similar to the racial breakdown of St. Louis County, which is about 24 percent African-American and 68 percent white. 

It would be interesting to know how each of the jurors voted, especially the African-American jurors. However, the names of the jurors are secret, as is how they voted. Jurors are prohibited from commenting on a grand jury proceeding. 

There is a saying that if a prosecutor wants it, the grand jury would indict a ham sandwich. However, in cases involving police shootings, grand juries tend not to indict. 

Usually the prosecutor has latitude to choose what evidence will be presented to the grand jury. But in this case, the grand jury was given more latitude in calling witnesses and issuing subpoenas. In most grand jury cases, the prosecutor provides a charge or list of charges for the grand jury to consider. In this case, the prosecutor did not recommend a charge or charges. The person who may be charged usually does not testify, but in this case, Officer Wilson testified for four hours, but without any cross-examination. 

Under Missouri law, grand jury proceedings are secret although evidence from it can be released at a later date. In this case, all evidence and testimony were released after the grand jury decided not to indict. I expect the Justice Department will review the evidence and testimony to see if it will file federal civil rights charges against Mr. Wilson. I also expect the pundits, legal and otherwise, will comb the evidence and testimony and much “expert” commentary will result. For example, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi issued a statement critical of the grand jury’s decision. 

After hearing the grand jury’s decision not to indict, Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother, said, “We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.” 

Alas, a peaceful, non-violent reaction was not to be. Rioting and looting in Ferguson and elsewhere, including the City of Oakland, causing hundreds of thousands dollars of damage and some minor injuries, are not the answer. Ironically, the majority of businesses damaged or destroyed are minority owned.

Expanding medicare to cover all Americans, but not any time soon

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday November 30, 2014 - 12:22:00 PM

Everyone has the right to health, including health care, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Health care is a public good, not a commodity and the U.S. government has a responsibility to ensure that care comes first.

Yet prior to the passage of the Patient Protection Act and the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), 48 million Americans were uninsured. Health insurance has been the main mechanism for most Americans to afford health care. Without health insurance a sudden serious illness like cancer or a traumatic even like a car accident could leave the uninsured with immense medical bills, which is a common reason people file for bankruptcy and can ruin your credit history. Health insurers are required to cover annual checkups and preventive care without a co-pay, which means you are more likely to stay healthy and catch health problems early, when they're easier and less expensive to treat.

ObamaCare seems to be working. Admittedly, this is not a universal view. But as of September 18, 2014, 7.3 million are now enrolled. While the percentage of Americans without health coverage has dropped markedly from 22 percent to 15 percent, that still means 15 percent of Americans are still not covered. Among the uninsured, 44 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34, and 33 percent are Latino. 

Despite the success of ObamaCare, we must plan ahead to provide universal health insurance. According to a Forbes article, the Obama Administration and leading Democrats have signaled that ObamaCare was not a final solution to American health care, but rather a first step toward the ultimate goal of a single-payer system administered entirely by the federal government. And Heaven forbid, according to the article, that would be a pathway to socialized medicine even though it would provide health care to all Americans. 

Perhaps, expanding Medicare to cover all Americans could give the U.S. a single-payer system. In fact, there is a bill in Congress put forth yearly by Representative John Conyers (D-MI), the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act (H.R. 676). The Act "would create a publicly financed, privately delivered healthcare system that uses the already existing Medicare program by expanding and improving it to all U.S. residents, and all residents living in U.S. territories."  

The bill was first introduced in 2003 and has been introduced in each Congress ever since. It got little attention until Michael Moore's documentary Sicko, which focuses on the status of health care in the only developed country without universal health care. The documentary renewed Interest in the Act. The DVD edition of the film includes a segment (Sicko Goes To Washington) promoting the bill. The bill was last introduced in 2013. Govtrack.us gave it a 1 percent chance of passing. And that's being optimistic. 

Someday, perhaps not in my lifetime, the U.S. will finally have universal health care. Hope springs eternal. 

Arts & Events

New: Finnish Conductor Excels with San Francisco Symphony

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Tuesday December 02, 2014 - 10:42:00 AM

Susanna Mälkki, who was recently appointed Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, returned to San Francisco Symphony to lead the orchestra in two performances, Saturday and Sunday, November 29-30. Featured on the program were Béla Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto with pianist Jeremy Denk, Johannes Brahms’s Second Symphony, and a short piece, The White Peacock, by early 20th century American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes. 

The program opened with Mälkki conducting The White Peacock, a five-minute work by Griffes originally performed by an ochestra accompanying a solo dance by ballerina Margit Leeras wearing a peacock outfit. Oddly, The White Peacock’s premiere in 1919 was in a New York City movie theatre, sandwiched between screenings of a Civil War romance drama, Secret Service, and the Mack Sennet comedy Hearts and Flowers. Strongly influenced by Debussy, Griffes infused the score of The White Peacock with a freedom from fixed tonalities and a perfumed exoticism. There are lovely exchanges between orchestra and flute and orchestra and clarinet. On hearing this excellent work, one wished that Griffes, who died in 1920, had lived longer and composed more. 

Jeremy Denk, a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship awardee, performed as soloist with the orchestra in Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto. Bartók, who emigrated to the USA in 1940, wrote his Third Piano Concerto in 1945, the last year of his life, and did not live to hear its premiere in 1946 with the Philadelphia Orchestra. In San Francisco, pianist Jeremy Denk gave a robust interpretation of this vibrant work, and the orchestra seemed inspired by the energetic conducting of Susanna Mälkki.  

Unlike Bartók’s first two piano concertos, which begin aggressively, the Third begins gently, with the piano setting forth a meditative melody over a quiet orch-estral accompaniment. This is Bartók sounding like Debussy. Only here there are hints of Hungarian folk tunes. This opening movement, marked Allegretto, exudes a peaceful and nostalgic bent, ending with a lovely exchange between flute and piano. The second movement, marked Adagio religioso, is in effect a hymn of thanks. (Bartók’s illness was in a temporary state of remission when he wrote this movement.) Jeremy Denk’s piano took the lead in this hymn and the orchestral strings provided the connecting tissue. Midway through this movement, Bartók inserted one of his nightmusic interludes, comprised of twittering birdcalls and the buzzing of insects. This too seems something for which Bartók, ever sensitive to nature, was thankful. When the hymn resumes, the choral song is now in the orchestra and the piano offers the rhapsodic accompaniment. 

The third and final movement, marked Allegro vivace, offers a bright and cheery fugue, interspersed with a sweet dance rhythm with hints of a waltz. Bartók, who welcomed the end of World War II, and happy that his family had safely survived the war, brings his Third Piano Concerto to a vibrant, optimistic close. As pianist, Jeremy Denk gave a spirited performance, with only some excessive head lollings and dramatic head snaps to detract, or should I say, distract, from his excellent playing. As for conductor Susanna Mälkki, she led the orchestra in an energetic interpretation of Bartok’s Third Piano Concerto. Conducting without a baton, Mällki used her expressive hands to shape each musical phrase. 

After intermission, the orchestra returned to play Brahms’s Symphony No. 2 in D-major. Where Brahms’s First Symphony, fourteen years in the making, was an epic, Brahms’s Second Symphony, created in a mere four months, was an idyll. The work opens with three notes in the low strings, out of which primary material Brahms built his entire symphony. From this initial grouping of notes, the com-poser spun out a seemingly endless string of gorgeous melodies, each melody sweeping expansively into the next. There are mood swings in this movement as the music shifts from a sunny disposition to a somewhat cloudy wistfulness, then back again.  

The second movement, marked Adagio non troppo, is a densely concentrated piece of music in which two emotional states are explored, one meditative and searching, the other full of optimism. Under the leadership of conductor Mälkki, the orchestra gave a probing, intensely passionate reading of this movement, revealing all its deep emotional underpinnings. Even more than the first movement, this second movement was, for me, the highlight of Brahms’s Second Symphony.  

The third movement, an Allegretto grazioso, is a lighthearted, almost superficial piece of music, in the middle of which the composer inserts a gaily scampering dance theme. After the pensive probings of the previous movement, this Allegretto grazioso shifts back to the sunny side of life. The fourth and final movement begins, as did the opening movement, with the same three notes, as if calling attention to the extreme craftsmanship that enabled Brahms to build this entire symphony out of very simple primary material. Though beginning in a hush, the finale quickly breaks out in a shout, and the orchestra resolutely explores the clouds that lurk behind even the sunniest skies. Conductor Susanna Mälkki, her hair drawn back in a ponytail, her lithe body arched like a tautly strung bow, launched into the spirited passages of this finale with an electrical charge of energy. And the orchestra, drawing inspiration from her conducting, gave its all. Susanna Mälkki is definitely a conductor with a bright future.