Full Text



Tours of Harold Way Project Impact Area in Berkeley on Friday and Sunday (Event)

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Thursday August 27, 2015 - 10:13:00 AM

There will be two walking tours of the area impacted by 2211 Harold Way on Friday and Sunday of this week. Included in the walking tour will be a review of the project plans. If you have not looked at the architectural plans and/or walked the area, this is an opportunity to understand what's proposed. 

The starting point is the corner of Martin Luther King Jr Way and Bancroft Way in front of Washington Elementary School. On Friday, if you drive, there is free parking in the neighborhood. 

Tour of Harold Way Project Impact Area 

Friday, August 28, 11:00 am.  

Sunday, August 30, 11:00 am.

New: Claims in Application for 2211 Way Are Not Correct, According to Surveyor

Charlene M. Woodcock
Wednesday August 26, 2015 - 01:20:00 PM

an open letter to members of the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board

1) My concern is with the ongoing effort of the developers of 2211 Harold Way to downplay the height and volume of this proposed building and the failure to provide story poles to demonstrate its dimensions. Every architect's drawing and certainly the model brought to the ZAB, DRC, and LPC meetings show the proposed building to be about the same height as the Great Western and Wells Fargo buildings and thus in keeping with the DAP height limits.

However, it is obvious that an 18-story building is by necessity taller than a 12- or 14-story building, the height of our existing tall buildings downtown. Given this puzzle, and the repeated statements in the 2010 Measure R and the Downtown Area Plan that our existing tall buildings are 180 feet, I asked a surveyor to give us precise measurements for those buildings, since their height dictates the height of any new tall downtown buildings.

The result shows that they are indeed more than 10 feet shorter to the roofline than the proposed 2211 Harold Way building.See the surveyor's letter here. 

2) I hope during the 8/27 6 to 7 PM working session on this project that the developer will explain why the Use Permit #13-10000010 application fails to include the 1958 addition to the landmarked Shattuck Hotel/Hink's building, the postal annex? The entire block is landmarked and the three additions are interconnected. 

3) The ZAB needs to clarify for the developer the distinction between Significant Community Benefits and the mitigation of a detriment. The proposal to demolish the economic and cultural magnet that anchors our downtown, the Shattuck Cinemas (which sell 275 to 300,000 tickets per year), is a detriment that is only inadequately mitigated by his new plan to include 10 screening rooms, many of them in the deep basement with fewer seats than the theaters now have. The July 30 Berkeleyside quotes Penner as follows: "Penner agreed to add the theaters, but told the city of Berkeley that the inclusion should count as part of the project’s 'significant community benefits.'" 

Press Release: More Gentrification, Displacement in Bay Area Forecast

By Kathleen Maclay, UC Berkeley Media Relations
Wednesday August 26, 2015 - 04:16:00 PM

The San Francisco Bay Area’s transformation into a sprawling, exclusive and high-income community with less and less room for its low-income residents is just beginning, according to UC Berkeley researchers who literally have it all mapped out.

The interactive Urban Displacement Project map, released today by a Berkeley team, indicates the displacement crisis is not yet half over, as rising housing prices and pressure on low-income residents to relocate to the outer suburbs accelerate. 

Canal area of San Rafael San Rafael’s Canal area comes under examination as gentrification and displacement pressures affect the neighborhood. (Images courtesy of the Urban Displacement Project) 

The project, headed by UC Berkeley researcher Miriam Zuk and city and regional planning professor Karen Chapple, is the product of nearly two years of community-engaged research looking at gentrification and displacement, and involving dozens of local nonprofit organizations and regional agencies. The project is funded by the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission and California’s Air Resources Board to determine the effect of transit and other public investment on displacement, and to search for ways to ensure future housing affordability. 

Key research findings, which Zuk and Chapple say offers lessons for other regions across the country where housing prices are skyrocketing, include: 

  • In 2013, more than 53 percent of low-income households lived in neighborhoods at risk of or already experiencing displacement and gentrification pressures, comprising 48 percent of the Bay Area’s census tracts.
  • Neighborhoods with rail stations, historic housing stock, an abundance of market-rate developments and rising housing prices are especially in danger of losing low-income households.
  • Despite continued pressures and much anxiety, many neighborhoods that expected to be at risk of displacement — such as East Palo Alto, Marin City and San Francisco’s Chinatown — have been surprisingly stable, at least until 2013, the most recent year with available data. This is likely due to a combination of subsidized housing production, tenant protections, rent control and strong community organizing.
What about my neighborhood? 

“Using our online map allows residents, neighborhood groups and governments to assess where their neighborhoods — or those next door — are in terms of the risk and actual occurrence of gentrification and displacement,” says Zuk. 

New Mission District homes The modern look of new homes is becoming common fare in San Francisco’s Mission District. 

The Urban Displacement Project zeroes in nine neighborhoods in six Bay Area counties that were selected to represent the region’s diverse geographies and neighborhoods in different stages of displacement and gentrification: 

  • San Francisco’s Chinatown, which has survived decades of housing pressures, managing to preserve affordable housing through strong community organizing and planning
  • The Mission District (San Francisco), known locally as the epicenter of gentrification and displacement because much of its industrial land is turning high-end residential
  • San Jose’s Diridon transit hub (Santa Clara County), with its stops for Caltrain, Amtrak, VTA light rail and bus lines, as well as a planned stop for a BART extension and high-speed rail is a hotbed for pricey development
    San Jose station Many transportation improvements in the Bay Area are in the pipeline, and Berkeley researchers are looking at policies that enhance transit and housing options. 

  • Oakland’s MacArthur BART (Alameda County), a scene of rapid demographic and physical change linked to a revitalized Temescal commercial district, proximity to affluent neighborhoods and transit access
  • Redwood City (San Mateo County), where active redevelopment is paying little attention to affordable housing for its low-income workforce
  • San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood (Marin), an “immigrant gateway” for families first from Vietnam and now from Latin America
  • Marin City (Marin), protected by a large public and subsidized housing stock but the focus of fear of gentrification due to proximity to high-income neighborhoods and limited land that can be developed
  • East Palo Alto (San Mateo) risks losing its reputation as “an island of affordability in a sea of wealth”
  • Monument Corridor (Contra Costa), an immigrant gateway in Concord, was hit hard by the recession and is primed for higher-income residents
Early-warning tool 

The Urban Displacement Project map also serves as a regional early-warning system at the census tract level, with classifications ranging from not losing low-income housing to advanced gentrification and advanced exclusion of low-income housing. 

With the click of a mouse, map visitors can zoom in for micro and macro views of communities to learn the percentage of renters in an area, how many households are low-income, the median household income and its changes in recent years, the housing stock age and other data. 

While neighborhoods such as San Francisco’s Mission District are often targets of public outcry about gentrification and the negative influences of the tech industry, Zuk and Chapple find even affluent communities that have pockets of low-income housing are in jeopardy. 

Concord home Concord’s Monument area is primed for change, according to Berkeley researchers. 

For example, some neighborhoods in the Peninsula and South Bay communities of San Mateo and Mountain View have lost nearly a quarter of their already small low-income communities over the last decade. 

And east of the Oakland hills, the researchers say, Concord’s Monument corridor is being primed for gentrification, putting an estimated 37,000 mostly low-income residents, who are often undocumented and uncounted in official tallies, in jeopardy. The area’s vacancy rate jumped from 3 to 9 percent between 2000 and 2013, and the researchers say landlords may prefer to leave units empty instead of paying maintenance costs or waiting for the market to rebound. Meanwhile, developers can buy in the area cheaply, rehabilitate units and still turn a profit. 

Regional can trump local 

Subsidized housing and tenant protections such as rent control and just-cause eviction ordinances are the most effective tools for stabilizing communities, say Zuk and Chapple, yet the regional nature of the housing and jobs markets has managed to render some local solutions ineffective. 

“Even if San Francisco, Berkeley and East Palo Alto protect their renters, that won’t ease displacement pressures on the communities next door, which are experiencing the same housing market dynamics,” says Chapple. 

Oakland’s MacArthur neighborhood has seen dramatic shifts in its composition over the last 30 years. In 1980, 14 percent of residents had a college degree, and in 2013 the number reached 38 percent, a trend the researchers say is due largely to newcomers moving in, drawn by lower rents and more public transportation options than elsewhere in the region. 

New strategies 

Given the extensive need for affordable housing, the researchers caution the public and decision-makers against thinking that the region can build its way out of the problem by only producing market rate units, recommending the development of new policies to preserve housing affordability and increase the number of affordable units. 

East Palo Alto rally Community activists in East Palo Alto have rallied on behalf of affordable housing. 

In East Palo Alto, a community known for its activism, city officials in 2014 eased restrictions on secondary dwelling units to try to address housing pressures. And all 21 jurisdictions within San Mateo County joined forces for a countywide housing plan update along with impact fees for new commercial and residential development to support affordable housing. 

“Our research shows some new strategies that can help stabilize communities and keep them affordable,” Zuk says, noting that the tools involve ways to produce and preserve subsidized units, and to promote community organizing. 

In addition to working with a range of community organizations, the researchers also based their findings on data from the U.S. Census, county tax assessors and real-estate transactions, as well as interviews and field observations. 

The researchers conducted their neighborhood case studies in collaboration with seven community-based organizations to ground the technical analysis in real-life experiences. Two technical advisory committees comprised of local and statewide stakeholders provided oversight. 

See maps and reports on the Urban Displacement website.

New: Berkeley's Progressives: Fighting to Make Gentrification Even Worse

Thomas Lord
Wednesday August 26, 2015 - 03:57:00 PM

Berkeley has an affordable housing crisis.

Berkeley's progressive politicians are making gentrification worse and setting the city up for a dismal future.

We need new and much better thinking than affordable unit requirements and in lieu fees. 

A Case of Gentrification Gone Wrong 

Once upon a time there was a very successful cultural center next to a major university. 

Theater, music, cinema, museums, and an excellent public library were all present. Working class family residences surrounded the core: closely packed but of good quality. 

Jane Jacobs described this special place, the Oakland district of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, in 1961: 

"Oakland contains the Pittsburgh symphony, the civic light opera, the little-theater group, the most fashionable restaurant, the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, two other major clubs, the main Carnegie library, museum and art galleries, the Historical Society, the Shriner's Mosque, the Mellon Institute, a favorite hotel for parties, the Y.M.H.A., headquarters of the Board of Education, and all the major hospitals." 

In the years that followed, the University of Pittsburgh sought to greatly expand both its footprint and its enrollment. 

As in Berkeley's downtown, a wave of speculation drowned the Oakland district of Pittsburgh. The working class was driven out and one by one, so were most of the cultural amenities. 

There, in that Oakland across the country, gentrification produced student overcrowding in a degraded housing stock: highly profitable stuff with a permanent set of guaranteed renters with little choice but to squeeze in and pay through the nose. 

Here is how one commenter on city-data.com aptly described the scene by 2013: 

"[T]ake a stable, lower-middle class neighborhood which is on the fringes of an expanding university. Students begin to trickle in. Over time, nuisance student rentals cause more and more regular people to leave. Historic housing is chopped up into apartments by slumlords. Any sense of community vanishes, as people only live there for a few years. The local commercial district has a brief flourishing, but everyone over the age of 22 realizes they have better places to hang, meaning it's nothing but cruddy restaurants catering to undergrads and a few shady liquor stores. 

Even given the transformation into a student slum, the housing prices are much higher. Rental prices, on a square foot basis, are far higher as well. But in every other way, this "desirable" neighborhood is a worse place now." 

Gentrification is only about increasing rents, not making nice places to live. 

What is Gentrification? 

Very simply, gentrification is the process of shoving the working class aside: breaking up working class communities in order to make room for real estate speculation. 

The middle class and the poor are forced out through evictions, mortgage resets, skyrocketing rents, and the loss of viable economic opportunity. 

In the case of Berkeley: a once-diverse and entrepreneurial local economy of trades and crafts gives way to a sterile and homogenized culture of increasingly corporate restaurants and chain-stores. 

Non-rich senior citizens lose social networks of support and housing security. 

Young people find no perch to raise a family. 

The promise of easy speculation drives the process. The razing and rebuilding, the redevelopment, the flipping: all of these catch fire. The promise of easy returns give land owners and mortgage lenders every incentive to move the people along. 

What Gentrification is Not 

In popular imagination gentrification creates a kind of utopia, albeit an expensive one. 

Yes, less wealthy people may be displaced as it is sometimes put with exaggerated gentleness. Nevertheless, the story goes: new investment improves the housing stock and an influx of wealthy residents naturally produces a vibrant street-level economy to serve the new masters. 

Alas, that's a bunch of malarkey. 

The promise of easy, speculative returns leads landlords to cast aside the working class for a quick buck. Nothing says the quick buck has to leave behind a playground for the rich. Gentrifiers can just as easily build the next student ghetto. 

Remember that Library Gardens, to name one example, actively fought against affordable housing requirements. By the time the dust cleared everyone believed, however briefly, that Berkeley had gained 176 units of modern posh. What a surprise to learn, tragically, of poor maintenance, over-packed students, and unsafe conditions. 

How Berkeley Progressives Make Things Worse 

I take it as a given that Berkeley's more progressive politicians (think, Anderson, Worthington, and Arreguin) generally wish to resist and oppose the negative aspects of gentrification. 

Progressives believe communities should not be swept aside; the working class should not be forced out of their homes; a diverse and robust economy should be preserved. These are progressive values. 

It's too bad, then, that our progressives all call for new development, all call for a limited number of set-aside "affordable units", and all want to see a few extra dollars go into the housing trust fund. 

The Progressive platform in Berkeley is a recipe for accelerating gentrification, not curing it. 

How so? It's simple: 

First, even the highest proposals for in lieu fees or affordable units are hopelessly low. With each new building under these terms, the proportion of affordable housing in Berkeley falls. 

Second, this disastrous platform puts progressive politicians in the position of wanting and cheering on speculative development - for in no other way can these politicians claim to have done anything for affordable housing. 

Instead of protecting individuals and communities threatened by gentrification, instead of protecting the economic and cultural fabric of the city, our progressive politicians have put themselves in the business of selling permission slips to gentrifying speculators! 

What is to be done? 

See part 2 of this article.

New: Will Your Neighborhood Gentrify Next? (Public Comment)

Elisa Cooper
Wednesday August 26, 2015 - 02:22:00 PM

Are telephone poles in your neighborhood plastered with signs offering easy cash if you sell your house now? Has the house on the corner been flipped three times in the last year? Do you live in terror having to move in the current insane rent environment? Did a “Starbucks Effect” bomb just drop on on your neighborhood?

If so, your neighborhood might be suffering the effects of gentrification.

If you’re still disoriented and confused and not sure if your neighborhood is suffering from the effects of rampant property speculation, U.C. Berkeley researchers have developed an app for that

Just zoom in to the San Francisco Bay Area Gentrification and Displacement Map to see if low income people are being exiled from your neighborhood and the area is losing demographic diversity. 

If only there were a cool tool to *stop* the gentrification and displacement.

Councilmember Arreguin Proposes Berkeley Ban on Tobacco Sales to Youth under 21

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday August 25, 2015 - 09:46:00 PM

Berkeley City Councilman Jesse Arreguin proposed today to ban the sale of tobacco to youths under 21, saying there's been an alarming increase of underage tobacco use, including a large jump in the use of electronic cigarettes. 

Arreguin said if the City Council passes his plan next month, Berkeley would join Healdsburg, New York City and the state of Hawaii as the only government agencies to bar such sales. 

Currently, it's legal in California to sell tobacco products to youths who are over the age of 18. 

Noting that Berkeley banned the use of e-cigarettes in public places earlier this year, Arreguin said, "Berkeley has been a leader in fighting smoking and increasing the age for buying cigarettes would be another step." 

He said that according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the use of e-cigarettes by high school seniors has risen from 4.7 percent in 2011 to 17.2 percent in 2014, an increase of more than 250 percent. 

Arreguin said that although e-cigarettes are perceived to be less harmful than traditional tobacco products, they're no less addictive and represent a gateway to conventional cigarettes. He said almost half of adolescents who have never smoked a traditional cigarette but use electronic cigarettes say they plan to smoke a cigarette. 

Arreguin also said nearly 90 percent of smokers begin before the age of 18. 

He said, "That's why we have to do everything we can to prevent our youths from getting sucked into such an addicting, life-threatening habit." 

Arreguin said alcohol is deemed to be dangerous enough to require that buyers be at least 21 and he thinks tobacco should be considered equally "as dangerous to personal health and to the health of others." 

Citing statistics from the nonprofit group DoSomething.org, Arreguin said studies have found that nearly all first use of tobacco takes place before high school graduation, about 1.5 million packs of cigarettes are purchased for minors annually and about 30 percent of teen smokers will continue smoking and die early from a smoking-related disease. 

He said a high percentage of people who buy cigarettes for minors are between the ages of 18 and 20 so he thinks increasing the age for purchasing cigarettes will make it harder for young people to get them, even if it still wouldn't make it illegal for minors to smoke. 

The idea is to decrease access and consumption of tobacco, Arreguin said. 

In addition to increasing the age for buying traditional cigarettes, the proposed ordinance would raise to 21 the age for the sale of e-cigarettes and paraphernalia, he said. 

If the ordinance is approved, stores that sell tobacco products to youths under 21 would lose their tobacco retail licenses and be subject to fines, Arreguin said. 

The Berkeley City Council will consider Arreguin's proposal at its September 15 meeting.

New: Thieves Smash UC Berkeley Police Chief's SUV to Steal Gun, Badge

Scott Morris (BCN)
Monday August 24, 2015 - 05:33:00 PM

A gun stolen from University of California at Berkeley police Chief Margo Bennett's SUV as she jogged at the Point Isabel Regional Shoreline in Richmond on Friday morning was not secured except being in the locked SUV, a UC Berkeley police lieutenant said today. 

In addition to the loaded gun, Bennett's badge and official laptop were also stolen from the unmarked police Ford Escape. The gun was not stored in a safe and did not have a trigger lock, UC Berkeley police Lt. Marc DeCoulode said. 

The burglary was reported at 8:17 a.m. Friday in the parking lot near the Mudpuppies dog grooming business, park officials said. Bennett had gone for a jog and returned to find a rear window of the SUV smashed. 

In addition to the badge, loaded gun and department-issued laptop, a diamond ring, an iPad, a cellphone and her police identification were stolen from the car, East Bay Regional Park District spokeswoman Carolyn Jones said. 

DeCoulode said department-issued computers are typically password-protected but would not say whether there was sensitive information stored on the computer. 

"She's rather upset," DeCoulode said. "It just shows that anyone can be the victim of a crime so if anyone sees suspicious activity we hope they will report it."  

Auto burglaries are common at East Bay shoreline parks, where easy access from the freeway lets thieves get in and out of the parking lots quickly, Jones said. Such burglaries are most common in the Berkeley Marina. 

Police recommend not bringing valuables to parks if possible, and otherwise to keep them out of view. They also recommend putting valuables in the trunk of the car before arriving at the park as thieves may be watching people arriving. 

The department works to cut down on burglaries of park visitors by regularly patrolling parking lots, having maintenance staff keep an eye on things as well, and maintaining foliage around the lots to limit hiding places, Jones said. 

Anyone with information about Friday's burglary or who sees suspicious activity at the lots has been asked to contact East Bay Regional Park District police dispatch at (510) 881-1833.

Berkeley Ecology Center Employee Freed by ICE

Sara Gaiser (BCN)
Wednesday August 19, 2015 - 03:56:00 PM

A Berkeley Ecology Center employee who had been detained by immigration authorities has been released because the agency has not been able to obtain travel documents from the Chinese government, officials said today.  

Daniel Maher, 41, has run the recycling program at Berkeley's Ecology Center for the past decade. 

He was detained by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in June for deportation in connection with felony kidnapping, robbery and firearms convictions dating back to the 1990s.  

Immigration officials had previously detained him in 2000 after he served his seven-year sentence but released him in 2001 after they were unable to obtain travel documents from the Chinese government for him.  

ICE officials said he was detained again this year after they were advised they might now be able to obtain a travel document for him.  

"As a convicted aggravated felon, Mr. Maher remains an enforcement priority based on his criminal history," ICE officials said in a statement. They said that his current release is under an order of supervision requiring him to report in to ICE periodically.  

Ecology Center officials and Berkeley community members have rallied in Maher's support, staging protests outside ICE's San Francisco Office and filing lawsuits challenging his detention. More than 3,000 people have signed a petition calling for his release. 

Maher's attorney, Anoop Prasad of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice Asian Law Caucus, said last week that Maher came from the Macau region of China to the United States as a toddler, and became a permanent U.S. resident in 1977.  

Maher grew up in the U.S. and when he was 20, he was arrested and convicted of felonies related to an armed robbery. He served seven years in prison followed by over a year in ICE custody, Prasad said. 

When he got out, he began working as a recycling sorter in Hayward and from there was hired as a manager at Ecology Center, where he was later promoted to director of recycling.

Updated: Berkeley Library Book Cuts Spark Petition

Rob Wrenn
Friday August 21, 2015 - 03:59:00 PM

UPDATE: Save the BPL Books has started a MoveOn.org petition directed at the Board of Library Trustees and the City Council entitled Librarygate: Stop Senseless Destruction of Berkeley Public Library & the Director's Cover-up. The petition asks for an immediate independent investigation and asks that the Library Director be suspended or fired. As of 8:45 a.m., 477 people had signed. The petition can be found here: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/librarygate-stop-senseless?source=c.em.mt 

Upwards of 70 people rallied today in front of the entrance to the Main Library in downtown Berkeley to protest the "weeding" of over 39,000 books, CDs and other items from the library's collection and the treatment of librarians who have raised questions about the wisdom of current Library Director Jeff Scott's approach to this process.

Those in attendance were urged to return to the Main Library on August 26 at 5:30 p.m. to rally again before the August 26 meeting of the Board of Library Trustees which begins at 6:30 p.m. During the Closed Session portion of this meeting, the Board will evaluate the performance of the library director, who started work in November, replacing Donna Corbell who resigned on October 3. 

Comedienne Marga Gomez portrayed the library director in a brief guerrilla theater "dramatic reenactment of the mistreatment of Berkeley librarians". In her role she dismissed various concerns about weeding raised by "stunt double librarians" while shoveling weeded books into a wheelbarrow. 

These stunt double librarians later appeared with tape covering their mouths to call attention to what retired librarians involved in the protest say is an effort to keep current librarians from speaking up. At the rally, speakers referred to a "hostile work environment" and said that current and former librarians have faced threats and insults for questioning the process of weeding books. 

District 7 council member Kriss Worthington called for the Board of Library Trustees to initiate an independent investigation immediately to consider how many laws were broken by the library director in his handling of the weeding and the protests it has generated. 

Worthington stated that there is evidence that the director knew on July 23 that over 39,000 items had been deleted but continued to claim after that date that only 2274 items were involved. He also raised the issue that books were removed without being offered to the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library who could have sold them to raise money for the library. 

A number of retired librarians, including Pat Mullan, formerly head of the library's Art and Music Department, have called attention to the fact that 39,140 books and other items have been removed from the library's collection. This includes 13,850 "last copies". You can find a list of the last items, now no longer part of the library's collection here: 

Books that haven't been checked out in three years, even if there is only one remaining copy, have been removed from the library's collection with only at best cursory consideration of their value to the collection according to members of Save Our Berkeley Public Library Books. Art and Music materials are weeded after 7 years; large print books after 2 years. 

Where in the past, over 30 librarians with different areas of expertise were involved in the process of buying and weeding books and other items, weeding and acquisition is now assigned to only two managers with four helpers. 

In a post on Berkeleyside on August 4, Director Scott was quoted as saying that the retired librarians who have raised questions about the weeding are "making wild claims" and are engaged in a "disinformation" campaign. But it seems to this writer, that far from making wild claims, they have been calling attention to real problems. Former library staffer Roya Arasteh's estimate that books have been removed at the rate of 5000-7000 a month, far from being a "wild claim", has proven to be an accurate estimate, while Mr. Scott has more recently admitted that his estimate that only 2274 items had been weeded was not correct. 

For more information about Save Our Berkeley Public Library Books, visit their Web site: http://savethebplbooks.org 

Save the Berkeley Public Library Books is also encouraging people to attend the next regular meeting of the Board of Library Trustees Meeting on Weds Sept. 9 at the South Branch of the library at 1901 Russell Street (at Martin Luther King) at 6:30 p.m. People are encouraged to arrive at 6:15. 

The group wants the board to "announce and implement a moratorium on rampant weeding". They also want the board to reassess the collection development process so as to include "actual input by all 35 professional librarians, not just two managers and four helpers". And finally they want "Report on Collection Development as Researched by Members of the Public" put on the agenda of the September 9 meeting. 

This writer is particularly appalled by the damage done to the library's collection of books related to labor history by the recent weeding and by the removal of books by authors who are current or former residents of Berkeley. I was surprised that they would delete the standard biography of Harry Bridges by Charles Larrowe. Bridges was leader of the San Francisco General Strike, and of the ILWU, an important West Coast union, some of whose members live in Berkeley. 

Shouldn't someone with some at least passing knowledge of labor history be involved in deciding which books in that field should be deleted? Does it really make sense to let just two people who can't possibly be familiar with the entire collection decide what should be deleted and removed? Shouldn't the library make a special effort to hold on to books by local authors? 


Rob Wrenn is a former Planning Commissioner and a frequent visitor to the Main library. 


Berkeley Police to Watch Alcohol Use

Daniel Montes (BCN)
Friday August 21, 2015 - 03:52:00 PM

With classes beginning next week at the University of California at Berkeley, police are reminding students to be safe and responsible when drinking alcohol.  

The Police Department announced Thursday it would step up enforcement for alcohol-related crimes in an attempt to reduce the number of alcohol-related calls for service. 

This fall, the Police Department will partner with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to conduct enforcement on alcohol-related crimes and to advocate responsible and safe celebrating, police said. 

Together, the two agencies will focus on citing people who posses open alcoholic beverages in public, reducing the availability of alcohol to persons under 21, citing minors who attempt to purchase or obtain alcohol with false forms of identification and over-service of alcoholic beverages, according to police. 

In addition, police will respond to calls involving intoxicated persons in public and will work with Berkeley Fire Department to provide medical treatment when necessary, police said. 

The Police Department will also continue its partnership with UC Berkeley police and begin safety patrols in the neighborhoods surrounding the school. The patrols will run Thursday through Saturday nights, according to police. 

Together, the officers will be enforcing laws related to alcohol offenses, as well as nuisance issues in the areas around the campus, such as large and unruly parties, police said. 

For more information about safe and responsible drinking, students and residents can visit http://uhs.berkeley.edu/psafe/.



Aging in Place in Berkeley, But Not Quietly

Becky O'Malley
Friday August 21, 2015 - 01:34:00 PM

The anonymous illiterati who have nothing better to do than populate the comments section of the newsblogs which accept them have finally found an argument in favor of what they want that is hard to argue with because it makes so little sense.

They’re gleefully identifying those Berkeleyans who favor scrutiny of police actions, who oppose criminalization of homelessness, or who want building projects to be in scale and green, not just fabulously profitable to developers, as being old!

Greybeards. Grey ponytails. Birkenstock wearers. Some of them stout. OMG.

Yes, Virginia, even Santa Claus is an old fat guy with a grey beard. As the young folks are wont to say, get over it. 

In the first place, it’s a disgraceful slander on the young people of Berkeley to say that all civic activists for worthwhile causes are old. One of our three progressive councilmembers is in his twenties, much younger than the average age of his council colleagues. The petition against blocking the view of the Golden Gate from the Campanile was a student effort. Much of the increased attention to the police that evolved from the Black Lives Matter movement has been supplied by young people. 

It is certainly true that when a lot of people turn out to support a cause at the City Council or the Zoning Adjustment Board or the Landmarks Preservation Commission the majority of them skew old, even the ones who don’t have grey hair. I’m as old as the hills, but thanks to an accident of genetics, I’m just now starting to get a few grey hairs. 

Some of my friends, as old as I am, dye their hair. Who knew? Some of my younger friends also both dye their hair and oppose inappropriate building projects. The slur against elderly women used to be “blue hairs”, referring to the blue rinse that was used on white hair in the old days, but these days blue hairs (and also green, red and purple hairs) are more likely to be young. 

The thing is, the same young people who are too busy to waste their time fulminating online are generally also too busy to come to meetings at night. It’s a sad commentary on Berkeley’s current governance that the only way to influence decisions is believed to be to filling the council chambers with lots of sign-waving bodies (or of course making generous campaign contributions, which is what really pays off reliably, and you don’t have to show up). 

At the meetings I’ve been to lately, those having to do with homelessness, police or land use, there have been vanishingly small numbers of people supporting the powers-that-be, but yes, a couple of the five or ten shills who show up do seem to be youngish (under 40). Many more than an equal number of younger people, though, appear in support of progressive ideas. 

In general, however, young people these days who have both jobs and kids have a hard time getting out at night to make their views known at hearings. Nor should they have to—retired people have the time and the energy to exercise social responsibility, and they can do it in their stead if necessary. 

The palpable fear and hatred of older people exhibited by a few of the commenters, particularly where land use is concerned, is disturbing. Planet contributor James Shinn is on to something when he characterizes the Smart Growth ideology as religious in nature. Young people are justifiably afraid of a future in which climate change will be a major threat, and it’s no wonder that they’re looking for a messiah, or a messianic movement, to save them. That’s human nature, and not just in planning theory. 

But I couldn’t help think about these devotees when I saw the story yesterday about the ISIS fanatics beheading an elderly archeologist who refused to reveal the location of antiquities they wished to destroy. That’s an extreme case, but excoriating old people who want to preserve Berkeley’s historic Shattuck Hotel and the cultural assets on its site is somewhere on the same continuum. 

Here’s an example from one grumbler on berkeleyside.com


“Crumbling streets. Homeless magnet. Unfounded liabilities. Excessive compensation.No pools.Closed pier.Decayed rose garden.
These are the bitter fruits of graybeard incompetence. Their intentions may be good but they are terrible at governance. “  

And they didn't even buy you a pony! 


This pathetic litany shows such a profound ignorance of who does what that it’s hard to know where to start. The sense of entitlement is breathtaking. 

In the first place, the people involved with these problems, on both sides, are both young and old, both the do-nothing Berkeley City Council and their vociferous critics who are working for change in Berkeley. 

In the second place, most of the civic assets listed were originally paid for by homeowners now aging in place in Berkeley or by their forebears. Berkeleyans have consistently voted to tax themselves to the greatest extent possible under law to preserve amenities for the younger generation, for the most part cheerfully. 

And when we were young some of us did a hell of a lot, wherever we lived, to make this world that the whiny young are inheriting a better place. I’m sorely tempted to catalog the changes I was directly involved in causing even before I was 40, but in accordance with standards of modesty which we old folks were taught as kids I’ll refrain. 

But there’s consolation in the sure knowledge that if these—how about calling them young whippersnappers in the classic caricature language—juvenile jerks, if they’re lucky, will eventually be old themselves, and we’ll see what tune they sing then. 

Here’s a good one to learn: 


That’s the superhero of my twisted youth, the matinee idol of a certain subset of the disgruntled suburban teenage girls of the late 1950s. In a delicious irony, a couple of weeks ago I watched my granddaughter’s Santa Cruz high school musical, and who should be sitting right behind me but the divine Tom Lehrer himself, accompanied by an attractive but definitely mature woman. 

And you know what? We were all old and gray, but still alive and kicking and full of beans. Tom, I think, is even older than I am, a sophisticated Harvard man when I was still in high school. 

It turns out, much to my surprise, that even when we’re old we’re still the same feisty people that we were when we were young, still hoping to save the world, though not for ourselves any longer, since we won’t be around to enjoy it forever. We haven’t given up, though some would say that’s foolish. 

Last week I was sad to learn of the passing of Julian Bond, my contemporary and another one of the heros of my youth, and also that Jimmy Carter, who has done so much to keep the world safe during his old age (he’s even a generation older than me) has spreading cancer. We all, young and old, would do well to remember some other immortal words of Tom Lehrer, whose generation has (just barely) saved us all, at least, so far from nuclear annihilation: 


I wonder if Senator Shumer is listening? 

And for all you old folks who persist in struggling to repair the world for future generations, even on behalf of the ingrates, you might just check out this weekend's performance in John Hinkel Park, previewed by Ken Bullock in this issue--a cautionary tale. 


Public Comment

New: Berkeley Police Must Respect the Right to Observe

Andrea Prichett
Sunday August 23, 2015 - 10:42:00 PM

The whole policy needs to be revised with the help of community input

A new Berkeley Police Department General Order (W-01) issued on July 21, 2015 marks a serious abridgement of the right to observe in Berkeley even though it looks much like a training bulletin that has been around for years. The previous training bulletin on “The Right To Watch­­ (Training Bulletin 91 issued in 1983 and reissued by Chief Meehan) required officers to put the “least possible restriction on citizen observation of police officer conduct.” In the new general order, the language is changed to say that officers should “minimize restrictions on public observation”, but it doesn’t say to what degree they should do this. This change has big implications for Copwatchers in the streets trying to record citizen-police interactions. 

The old training bulletin meant that police were expected to make every effort to accommodate citizen observation of police. The new general order makes it sound like our ability to observe is going to be up to each officer depending on the situation. What in this policy will protect us from officers who claim that there is a threat to safety when really they just want to prevent us from observing? 

The policy also includes some problematic language such as “citizens have the right to observe; photograph and video record the officers from a safe distance.” Copwatch does not believe that it is the officers who should get to decide what is a “safe distance”. There is no legal definition of “safe distance” and, as we have seen numerous times, some police believe that a “safe distance” is farther (sometimes several blocks away) from the scene. There is already a law (Penal Code 148) against interfering with police officers. BPD officers have routinely threatened observers and copwatchers for merely witnessing scenes and have often demanded that observers remove themselves even when no credible threat to safety existed. 

This copwatch video from 8-5-15 demonstrates how the new policy might impact the right to observe and raises many important issues that the PRC and City Council must decide: 


Worst of all, is the third section of the General Order that says that citizens can observe police but that “the confidentiality of the matter being discussed with a suspect, victim, witness, or reporting party is not compromised except with concurrence of the citizen and the officer involved.” This policy suggests that citizens can’t witness a conversation between a cop and a detainee if the cop doesn’t give consent. This is not acceptable and it is not constitutional. BPD needs to get familiar with current legal interpretations. 

Two court cases have been decided by Federal courts that affirm the 1st Amendment protection of our right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances”. The first one was Simon Glik vs. City of Boston. The other case was from ACLU vs. Alvarez coming out of Chicago and challenged the anti-video interpretation of wiretapping statutes. In both cases, the court found that we have RIGHTS that are not subject to the consent of any police officer and we can videotape so long as we don’t interfere. 

The Berkeley City Council and the Police Review Commission must do all in their power to protect the right of all our citizens to watch police and to punish officers who threaten, harass or intimidate people from copwatching and documenting officer conduct in our city. Copwatch organizers are calling on members of the public to read and help to rewrite the new General Order and demand that the Police Review Commission hold a public hearing on this issue. Contact the Police Review Commission at prc@cityofberkeley.info. and demand our constitutional right to observe police activity. 


Andrea Prichett is a founding member of Berkeley Copwatch (berkeleycopwatch@yahoo.com) 


When Smart Growth is Actually Dumb Growth, It's Time to Re-Program

James Shinn
Friday August 21, 2015 - 04:07:00 PM

Sometimes, so-called “Smart Growth” construction of residential, high-rise buildings is not smart at all. In fact, it actually can turn out to be “Dumb Growth”—and in some urban locales, such as much of the Bay Area, very dumb growth indeed. It is a complicated story:

The simple explanation for this comes out of an Economics 101 course—it is a phenomenon called “inelasticity of demand as it relates to price”. In an extremely land-scarce, highly desirable(climatologically and topographically) urban locale such as San Francisco, or even Berkeley, all we do when we build skyscrapers is, in effect, to provide more surface area for habitation in a given square yard of land.

Normally, in land-abundant, modestly desirable urban locales, this increase of supply, in the face of a constant LEVEL of demand for the commodity, will result in declining ability of the sellers of the commodity(in this case real estate) to maintain prior price levels, all other factors being equal. This means general purchasing power affordability levels for all real estate goes up. But what happens, in land-scarce, highly desirable locations, is that the very construction of these high-rise structures in itself creates a new, even more intense “vibe” that makes more and more people intensely want to live there.

Then demand becomes what is called, in economic terms, “inelastic”—it doesn’t go down as prices for the growing commodity stay the same or go up, because buyers are "price-inelastic" in response. They are prepared to pay just about whatever is demanded, just to become one of the chosen few who can say they live in these rarified locales. And, it is not as if the renting or purchasing of this new “land” in these buildings reduces in any way the number of inhabitants living elsewhere in the area. It just means more inhabitants per square mile, more congestion, more gridlock, in part because most of the lower level “worker bees” in these urban locales can no longer afford to live there and are condemned to longer and longer commutes—mostly in cars because of the paucity of effective and sufficient public transport. 

Meanwhile, Bay Area planners are moving ahead with full fervor in implementing what might humorously be referred to as just this latest, in a long series of spiritual, “great awakenings” which have periodically swept American urban planning history—"The Smart Growth Religious Movement”!. Elmer Gantry never had it so good!. Young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, are all listening raptly in the pews—all wanting to be saved from the predicted coming planetary apocalypse—particularly if they are living, or want to live, in highly desirable areas such as the Bay Area. These latest spiritual salesmen, replete with high-sounding credentials from “urban planning” schools, and “distinguished architecture departments”, are peddling this nonsense in boutique cities all along the coastlines of the USA, touting this latest urban planning theory as the panacea for all that ails us. And the big-bucks, high-rise developers are waiting impatiently in the wings, waiting to see if they can take advantage of this phenomenon—while feeling virtuous in the process. All this, when it is absolutely as evident as the nose on one's face that these "high-rise, transit-hub centered” megaliths are producing exactly the opposite effect of what was originally intended, particularly in areas such as San Francisco.. 

Furthermore, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, about 20% of all residential purchases in San Francisco today are by foreign buyers—mostly Chinese. And in some buildings, the absentee ownership runs at 40%. They serve as offshore parking spots for capital fleeing China—as the Chinese economy begins rapidly cooling off. Vancouver is a perfect example of where SF is headed—a new Shenzhen. Also, there are many other “black swans” out there, in addition to a Chinese financial collapse, that could bring all this smart growth development crashing down.. Domestically, Dodd-Frank is a joke—there is less of a wall between commercial and investment banking today than before the crash—and banks “to big to fail" are bigger than ever. The public is more indebted than ever before. The stock market is an expanding bubble based on a lot of froth.. The student loan indebtedness crisis is approaching the bubble level of the last real estate crisis.The tech market has a weaker financial basis than before the 2000 crash. Leading VC figures in the valley are already ringing the alarm bell. We are two thirds of the way through another Bay Area real estate bubble, with legs of maybe two more years. The drought is just beginning to bear fruit in terms of its approaching huge, negative impact on agribusiness in California. Meanwhile, vineyards are crawling up and down the sides of more and more hills all over California, from San Diego county even up into far Mendocino—as if the aquifer will go on forever. The fires have just started. One previous high level official in the CDF noted that the Sierra could now literally burn, almost from one end to the other if conditions continue as at present. And why won’t they? We are increasingly subject to the differential impact of polar precipitation streams, which dump primarily on the Sierra, and El Nino streams, which dump primarily on the Coast range. Climatologists recently are saying to expect more of the latter and less of the former—meaning declining possibility for precipitation run-off that can be harvested. Up on the shores of Clear Lake, most of the forests appear just about dead. This summer’s fires are just the beginning. Wait until next year. 

The overall effect of this disastrous, “smart growth” planning “religion”, which has been filling the pews now for the last several decades in the Bay Area, is presently staring us in the face—everywhere. But, tragically, the public has not yet come to the realization that “the smart growth emperor” quite simply no longer has any clothes! This is typical when people are swept away by a new belief system. It takes a long, long time for the reduction of such cognitive dissonance, because these beliefs are very deeply held, for very emotional reasons.. Maybe, only long-term, on the couch, therapy can be the only real cure for this neurosis! After all, don't we all want to save the planet, and by the way, don’t we all also want to live in more exciting, high-rise, eco-friendly downtowns? How could anyone believe otherwise? The sad reality, however, is that the “Smart Growth Emperor" now truly is wandering around stark naked, and we just have to come to terms with this reality. The solution for generating more housing in high-demand, “inelastic demand" urban locales such as San Francisco and Berkeley, without generating undue excitement or “vibe” in the process, is a steady, even-handed construction of modest, mid-rise, infill and affordable housing units, as necessary. This will best avoid the potential dangers of “boom and bust” urban planning which suddenly creates too much housing, and then is just as suddenly confronted with a market collapse, with its concomitant damage, as we have seen so many times before, and which is ever more likely in the increasingly volatile international economic atmosphere of today. Unfortunately, in the beginning, de-programming of our current urban planning, smart growth belief system may be a bit painful, as is all de-programming-- but in the long run it would be well worth the effort!

Confronting Our Fragile Economy

Harry Brill
Friday August 21, 2015 - 04:09:00 PM

How would the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS) report the following? Simple arithmetic would tell us that If employers convert, say, 1000 jobs into half time positions, the outcome would double the number of jobs even though not even a single hour of work has been added. Yet the BLS in its employment and unemployment reports would interpret this change without explanation as a 100% improvement. Although the new, part time jobs very likely will offer fewer benefits or no benefits at all, anyone reading just the reported numbers, which is only the number of new jobs created, would conclude understandably that things are getting much better. 

But actually eliminating full time jobs to create part time employment is not good news at all. Although the BLS statistics are reassuring, more and more full time jobs are disappearing in favor of marginal part-time and even temporary work. Moreover, the BLS is covering up other dismal labor force developments as well. The real unemployment rate is more than twice the rate reported by the BLS. Particularly serious, the BLS underestimates the long term unemployment rate because discouraged workers are excluded in calculating its count. They have either given up looking for work or are not looking frequently looking enough to satisfy the BLS. As one economist observed, unlike earlier years, when unemployed workers returned to their old jobs, a lot of jobs are no longer coming back. So as the Wall Street Journal recently reported, the number of full time jobs is now lower than it was prerecession peak eight years ago. 

Getting a realistic portrait of the economy is not difficult. The large corporations generally announce their layoffs. For example, Microsoft just announced its plans to eliminate 8700 jobs. In the aggregate, almost 400,000 jobs have disappeared since the beginning of this year. Particularly worrisome, the job loss represents a 34% increase since the same period last year 

Clearly, the reality is that the economy is very fragile. The Economic Justice Committee of The Wellstone Democratic Party's Economic Justice Committee, which I am a member of, has put together a paper spelling out what must to be done. I'll distribute the paper to you when the final draft is completed. Other progressive organizations are drafting similar proposals. 

Most of all, we need to replace the current RAW DEAL that Americans are getting with a NEW DEAL, which would actively involve the federal government in job creation programs, protecting the rights of labor, and assuring a living wage for all working people. Seventy percent of our domestic economy depends on consumer spending. Since the vast majority of consumers are working people, higher wages in secure jobs are indispensible to building a sound economy. Particularly important, special attention must be given to racial and ethnic minorities, whose jobs are less secure, whose income is much lower than the average, and who experience substantially a much higher rate of unemployment. 

Keep in mind that we cannot achieve any of our goals without government intervention. But particularly important, the government cannot enact and enforce our progressive agenda without our intervention. This takes a lot more than making persuasive arguments. Building political power is mandatory. A strong mass movement will create a more favorable electoral ambiance. Also, an effective movement, like the civil rights movement and the earlier labor movement struggles, can exert leverage by making it very difficult for the private sector to do business as usual. 

Conservatives believe that aggressively adopting programs which improve our standard of living is the problem. How wrong they are. It is the solution!

Iran’s Nuclear Deal

Jagjit Singh
Friday August 21, 2015 - 04:07:00 PM

It is gratifying that the longest-serving Jewish member of the House, Sander M. Levin, supports the agreement because it is “the best way to achieve the goal of preventing Iran from advancing toward a nuclear weapon, so making the Middle East and Israel far more secure.” Five Jewish senators have come out in favor. Hardliners in Israel and Iran have much in common. They would prefer never ending tensions and conflict rather than a diplomatic resolution. In a perfect world the US and Britain should be apologizing and paying reparations to Iran for orchestrating the overthrow of a democratically government in Iran. In a declassified document, the CIA acknowledges its role in the 1953 coup which led to the blatant theft of Iran’s oil and decades of terror by the US puppet dictator, the Shah of Iran, which culminated with the Iranian revolution in 1979.  

If the nuclear deal falters the US and Israel will be the losers. The US will remain isolated; there will be no appetite for further sanctions because most of the Western countries have already begun trading with Iran and establishing embassies. US companies will be excluded from such trading privileges. Iran will likely accelerate its nuclear bomb making capabilities and intensify their disdain and hostility towards Israel. They still recall Israel’s role in assassinating many of their nuclear scientists. If you're a supporter of the deal, contact your congressional representative before it’s too late.

Donald Trump, Developer Etc.

Jagjit Singh
Friday August 21, 2015 - 04:11:00 PM

According to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, David Cay Johnston, there are some extremely troubling aspects of Trump’s business activities that are relatively unknown. For example, his most famous building – Trump Tower – was built by A&S Construction whose owners are the infamous “Fat Tony" Salerno, the head of the Genovese crime family in New York, and Paul Castellano, the head of the Gambino family. He employed illegal Polish workers to tear down Bonwit Teller building to make way for Trump Tower. Trump’s personal helicopter pilot, Joseph Weichselbaum, was a convicted major cocaine and marijuana trafficker. He has often been sued by his contractors for breach of contract.  

Trump has often been accused of blatant racial discrimination and used creative ways to avoid paying income taxes. He often brags that he is a skilled negotiator but in actual practice he outsources negotiations to underworld ‘God Father’ people like Nicky Scarfo, the head of the Atlantic City crime family. Trump assiduously avoided the draft much like ‘his cousin’, Dick Cheney. Contrary to his assertion that he is a good manager, Fortune magazine rated Trump’s casino company at the bottom in management competence, worker satisfaction and return on investment. Had the media properly vetted Trump he would have faded rapidly; instead they are focusing far too much on the horse race. 


Bernie vs. Donald: Rebel vs. Insurgent

Bob Burnett
Friday August 21, 2015 - 03:47:00 PM

One of the most fascinating aspects of the 2016 presidential campaign is the rise of two outsider candidates: Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders and Republican billionaire Donald Trump. They’re eliciting support because Americans are fed up with typical Washington politicians. 

Other than being born in New York City, the two men have little in common. During the sixties, Sanders attended the University of Chicago and soon became involved in the civil-rights movement. Trump, who is five years younger, went to Fordham, majored in real estate, and joined the family real estate business. 

After graduation, Sanders, who is Jewish, spent some time on an Israeli Kibbutz and then moved to Vermont. He’s been in Vermont politics since 1971 and identified as a Democratic Socialist. (In the Senate he’s an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats.) 

Since 1971, Trump has been involved in Manhattan real estate development. In 2001 he completed the 72-story Trump World Tower and now owns several million feet of Manhattan real estate. Since 2003, Trump has been a TV personality starting with the reality show, “The Apprentice.” 

It was somewhat of a surprise when Bernie Sanders announced his campaign for President. “A political revolution is coming.” On several occasions Donald Trump had threatened to run for president and it came as a surprise when he actually did. His slogan, “Make America great again,” resonates with a significant segment of the Republican base. 

Sanders focuses on two related issues: getting big money out of the political process and economic justice. He has an extensive track record on both issues. Trump is running as the outsider, suggesting the other (sixteen) Republican candidates are wimps. At the conclusion of the August 6th Republican debate Trump said: 

Our country is in serious trouble. We don’t win anymore. We don’t beat China in trade. We don’t beat Japan, with their millions and millions of cars coming into this country, in trade. We can’t beat Mexico, at the border or in trade. We can’t do anything right… we have to make our country great again, and I will do that.
He provided few specifics. 

Not surprisingly, on the major issues – jobs, healthcare, immigration, Iran, etcetera – Sanders and Trump have diametrically opposed notions. Sanders has several job creation proposals that emphasize increased federal investment in the infrastructure. Trump promises to be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” Trump subscribes to his own form of Reaganomics, a 5-point tax plan that includes repealing estate and corporate taxes, as well as lowering individual, capital gains, and dividend taxes. 

Recently, Sanders said that he wants to replace Obamacare with a Medicare-for-all plan. In the Republican debate, Donald Trump called Obamacare “a complete disaster” and proposed, “a private [health insurance] system without the artificial lines around every state.” 

Sanders and Trump diverge on immigration. Sanders supports the “pathway-to-citizenship” plan. Recently he said if elected President, “he would push for immigration reform and go even further than President Barack Obama in expanding deportation relief.” Trump has made immigration his signature issue. He promises to deport all undocumented immigrants and “build a wall… to keep illegals out.” 

They disagree on the Iran nuclear agreement. Sanders strongly supports the treaty. Trump calls it “a bad deal… [which would] lead to a nuclear holocaust.” 

They dramatically differ on global climate change. Bernie Sanders is the leading liberal Senator on this issue, calling climate change “the greatest threat facing the planet.” On the other hand, Donald Trump said “global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese so that the United States would not be competitive in manufacturing.” 

These stark differences serve to underscore a significant disparity: Bernie Sanders gets little media coverage while Donald Trump dominates the news. Even though, when they appear in the same venue, Sanders draws bigger crowds than Trump. 

The election polls show Trump leading all Republican candidates with 22 percent of the vote. The latest Democratic polls show Sanders in second plus among all Democratic candidates, with 27 percent of the vote. In New Hampshire Trump leads other Republicans with 24.5 percent of the vote. In New Hampshire Sanders leads other Democrats with 44 percent of the vote. 

In the latest head to head polls Sanders leads Trump by 13 percent. 

On August 15th, Bernie Sanders appeared at the Iowa State Fair and drew larger crowds than either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. The latest CNN poll shows that Sanders has a +7 favorability rating among registered voters; 25 percent don’t know who he is. The same poll shows Trump has a -20 favorability rating among registered voters; only one percent has never heard of him. 

At the start of the campaign season, the conventional wisdom was that Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton would emerge as the Republican and Democratic candidates. Now it appears that Donald Trump, an insurgent, will be Republican nominee. Hillary continues to lead all Democrats but, so far, Bernie Sander has run a better campaign with almost no notice from the press. 

If a miracle happens and Sanders becomes the Democratic nominee, he could beat Trump. 

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




ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Facts of Aging

Jack Bragen
Friday August 21, 2015 - 03:43:00 PM

Persons with mental illness often do not live very long. I have known several who died in their forties or early fifties through natural causes, while others have died, even younger, through suicide.  

Persons with mental illness often have health issues related to psychiatric medications, or due to concomitant effects of behavior created by the illness. For example, it is harder for some persons with mental illness to maintain good dental hygiene; bad teeth affect overall health.  

If we make it to and beyond middle age, we are faced with the same basic facts that affect all forms of life--the organism grows old, deteriorates, and dies. It is almost like a rite of passage, when and if we get to the point where we must face the effects of age. When and if we reach fifty, we probably become more conscious that we won't be here forever.  

What can we do about this? Well, we could try to take better care of ourselves, prevent excessive intake of food, not smoke, and get exercise. This could greatly extend our lifespans. Secondly, we should try to enjoy life under whatever circumstances currently exist. We do not always have the power to change life circumstances for the better. Yet we could mess up our current circumstances and make them a lot worse. Preventing the latter of these is probably a good idea.  

About enjoyment--it can help if we internally grant ourselves permission to enjoy things. If we think everything is awful, and we must fix things before we can be happy, then we are postponing happiness--usually a bad idea.  

When my father (not mentally ill) got older, he began to do things he had been postponing because he didn't know how much longer he would be around. He traveled. He visited relatives on the east coast. And I don't know what else he did, I can't ask him.  

Persons with psychiatric illness have a life expectancy about twenty-five years less than average. I know a woman in her early fifties who is badly crippled, must walk with a walker, and is physically falling apart because, for years, she believed she didn't have to deal with her diabetes. Then I look at myself--I am overweight, and I have other health risks, including a number of risk factors for a heart attack. Yet, so far so good. If I were a millionaire, I would get a tummy tuck and see a personal trainer.  

It can require some amount of bravery to acknowledge that certain things aren't likely to get better.  

From a more accepting perspective, we could view mortality as a safety valve. By this, I mean that nothing lasts forever, not the good things we cherish, or the bad things we dread.  

Unless your name is Nostradamus, you cannot predict the future. I look forward to seeing everything change, and to seeing small miracles and the unexpected. Life is truly a gift, and it would be foolish not to enjoy it.

Arts & Events

Merola Opera’s 2015 Grand Finale

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Wednesday August 26, 2015 - 02:18:00 PM

The War Memorial Opera House was host on Saturday, August 22, to the 2015 Grand Finale of the Merola Opera Program, this country’s foremost training program for aspiring singers, coaches/accompanists, and stage directors. Conductor Antony Walker led the orchestra, and Mo Zhou from China was the director responsible for staging the mixed program of arias, duets, and ensembles from various Italian, French, German, Russian, and American operas.  

Standout performances came from soprano Kathryn Bowden as Amina in Bellini’s La Sonnambula, mezzo-soprano Tara Curtis as Azucena in Verdi’s Il Trovatore, baritone Alex DeSocio as Starbuck in Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick, soprano Amina Edris as Juliette in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, baritone Sol Jin as Prince Yeletsky in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, soprano Madison Leonard as Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel, and a trio of fine singers – soprano Cree Carrico as Antonia, mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon as Voice of the Mother, and bass-baritone Brad Walker as Dr. Miracle -- in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann.  

In Amina’s recitative and aria “Care campagne per me sereno …Sovra il sen la man mi posa” from Bellini’s La Sonnambula, Kathryn Bowden displayed every-thing one could hope for in a Bellini soprano – perfect pitch, an amazing top, and seemingly effortless breath control in negotiating Bellini’s long melodic lines. Only a slight awkwardness in Bowden’s transition from low chest tones to high head tones was noticeable. Mezzo-soprano Tara Curtis was an impressively full-voiced, dramatic Azucena as she sang “Condotta era in ceppi,” her tale of mistakenly throwing her own child into the fire, from Verdi’s Il Trovatore. In a long excerpt from Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick, baritone Alex DeSocio was a compelling Starbuck, singing with great fluency and intensity as he pondered whether to save others’ lives by killing Captain Ahab. As Juliette in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, soprano Amina Edris was superb in the “Nuit d’Hyménée” duet with tenor Christopher Bozeka as an overmatched Roméo. Edris, who was excellent as Norina in Merola’s production earlier in August of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, has plenty of power, a quality that was lacking in Christopher Bozeka’s brittle tone as Roméo. Korean baritone Sol Jin gave a smoothly impressive vocal rendering of Prince Yeletsky’s lovelorn aria from Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. Soprano Madison Leonard was a delightful Gretel paired with mezzo-soprano Nicole Woodward as Hansel in a duet from Humperdick’s Hansel und Gretel. Possessed of a clear, bright soprano, Madison Leonard also displayed fine acting ability. Her fearful facial expressions when lost in the woods at the outset of this duet were entirely believable, and her later smiles of relief came like beautiful rays of sunshine.  

Where staging is concerned, I have one major complaint. What in the world was a birdcage containing only a white candle doing as the sole stage prop for nearly every vocal number in the last half of the program prior to intermission? This bit of staging – the only bit of staging concocted by director Mo Zhou for these five or six numbers – made no sense whatsoever. It was particularly glaring when Toni-Marie Palmertree as Medora in Verdi’s Il Corsaro seemed to pluck the wire ribs of the birdcage while a harp accompanied her aria. On the other hand, bass Scott Russell justly ignored the ubiquitous birdcage as he sang Falstaff’s praise of booze in Nicolai’s Die lustige Weiber von Windsor. However, bass-baritone James Ioelu, who sang an excellent aria, “Ma de’ malvagi invan … Vien, Leonora,” from Donizetti’s La Favorita, toyed with the birdcage and mindlessly extracted the candle from it while he sang. In yet another twist, tenor Michael Papincak, who displayed a strange, cramped vocal tone as Captain Ahab in an aria from Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick, seemed almost flummoxed by the presence of the birdcage. Director Mo Zhou hardly did her singers any favors in this senseless bit of non-staging. 

After intermission, things got off to a good start with Chinese bass Ming Zhao singing King René’s aria “Shto skazhet on? … Gaspod’ moy yesli grishen ya?” from Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta. Next, the comic genius of tenor Alasdair Kent upstaged mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon’s rendition of a familiar aria from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Later, Alasdair Kent revealed a more serious side in singing the lilting aria, “Horch! Die Lerche singt im Hain,” from Die lustige Weiber von Windsor by Otto Nicolai. Soprano Meredith Mecum ably sang the aria, “Uzh polnach blizitya” from Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. Mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis was joined by Korean baritone Kihoon Yoon in a duet from Mascangni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. And last but not least, the entire group of Merolini joined in singing “Hélas, mon coeur s’égare encore” from Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, bringing the 2015 Merola Grand Finale to a close.

AROUND & ABOUT THEATER: "Free" 'King Lear' at Hinkel Park

Ken Bullock
Friday August 21, 2015 - 03:33:00 PM

Once again, Actor's Ensemble and Inferno Theatre are collaborating on free outdoor theater at the amphitheater at Hinkel Park--the old Berkeley Shakespeare venue--for the final weekends of summer and Labor Day. Last year's stripped-down version of Kleist's 'Penthesilea' was fascinating--and this year, Inferno's founder and artistic director, Giulio Perrone, who adapted and directed 'Penthesilea,' about the tragic love of Achilles and the Queen of the Amazons on the killing fields before Troy, has come up with a condensed recounting of 'King Lear,' rich in movement theater and design, with an intriguing cast, many familiar to East Bay theatergoers. 

"Political pressure, torture and physical violence have corrupted the family values in the world of this play ... layer [twisted] upon layer like a series of Gordion Knots from which nobody can disentangle ... [fin what has to be endured] to understand the difference between true and false words," Perrone says of his take on Lear in the program notes. 

Drawing on his experience of working at the Grotowski Institute in Italy, overseeing the Dell'Arte theater school near Eureka, and working as scenic designer for many different companies, Perrone and his cast--Soheil Alamkhel, Pierson Bishop, Karen Caronna, Jody Christian, Melissa Clason, Paul Davis, Andrej Diamantstein, Adam Elder, Scott Hartman, Karen McLoughlin, Benoît Monin, Michael Needham, Christina Shonkwiler, Tenya Spillman, Vicki Victoria, Susannah Wood and musician Nic Griffin--promise to deliver an intense, very physical fugue of action and words that make up what many consider the greatest modern tragic drama. 

' King Lear,' Actors Ensemble and Inferno Theatre, Amphitheater at John Hinkel Park, Somerset Place off Arlington Avenue, Berkeley. 4 p. m. Saturdays and Sundays through September 6, with a 4 p. m. show on Labor Day Monday, September 7. Free. aeofberkeley.org infernotheatre.org

New Esterházy Quartet Plays Beethoven’s Late Quartets at Berkeley’s Hillside Club

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday August 28, 2015 - 04:23:00 PM

Locally based, The New Esterházy Quartet offered on Wednesday, August 26, at Berkeley’s Hillside Club the first of three concerts dedicated to Beethoven’s Late String Quartets. This series of concerts presents a wonderful opportunity for Bay Area listeners to hear an internationally acclaimed string quartet perform the monumental late quartets of Beethoven’s mature musical genius. Moreover, Berkeley’s Hillside Club, now nearly 100 years old in its present form, having been rebuilt in 1924 after the disastrous fire of 1923, is a small, 100-seat concert hall with excellent acoustics, and it offers the best possible venue for listening to chamber music. I cannot insist strongly enough on this point. Chamber music should not be played in cavernous auditoriums such as Zellerbach Hall, where I happened to hear the Takács Quartet play Beethoven’s Quartet in B-flat, Op. 130 last December. That experience was less than satisfying. (See my review of Dec. 14, 2014 in these pages.) 

This same Beethoven quartet, as performed by The New Esterházy Quartet in their opening concert in the current series, could hardly have been more rewarding. In the intimate confines of the Hillside Club, there was an immediacy and presence that was totally lacking when I sat near the back of Zellerbach Hall for the Takács Quartet. But that was not the only difference. I faulted the Takács Quartet for playing the opening movement of Op. 130 in far too light-hearted a manner. By contrast, The New Esterházy Quartet faithfully rendered all the brooding recollections of sorrow and suffering that underlie Op. 130’s opening Adagio. This is essential, as it fore-shadows the utterly wrenching despair of the work’s fifth movement, the remarkably somber Cavatina. Beethoven’s friend Karl Holz reported that the composer “wrote the Cavatina (‘short aria’) amid sorrow and tears; never did his music breathe so heart-felt an inspiration, and even the memory of this movement brought tears to his eyes.”  

Even in the intervening movements prior to the Cavatina, The New Esterházy Quartet’s interpretation allowed room for hints of the emotional struggles to come. Granted, the work’s second movement, a brief Presto, evokes the simple rewards of joyful music-making. However, the heavy-duty workout required of first violinist Kati Kyme in the Poco scherzoso movement suggests there are underlying issues. More-over, the next movement, designated alla danza tedesca, suggests the melancholy hidden beneath a joyful German country dance, which the composer appreciates but cannot enter into wholeheartedly in a naïve and spontaneous manner, for in his lonely isolation he lacks the sense of community such a country dance presupposes. The tragedy of the ensuing Cavatina, according to J.W.N. Sullivan, is the “yearning for the unattainable, for that close human intimacy, that love and sympathy, that Beethoven never experienced.” 

One would do well to recall that Beethoven’s original final movement for Op. 130 was the monumentally somber and demanding Grosse Fugue (usually listed as Op. 133). Although the New Esterházy Quartet decided to play the alternative finale Beethoven wrote at the urging of his publisher, who wanted something lighter and more accessible than the Grosse Fugue, (which The New Esterházy Quartet will play on Sunday, Aug. 30), the very fact that they had faithfully rendered all the brooding and sorrowful qualities in this work’s first and fifth movements, and had also hinted at the sorrows underlying the intervening movements, made their decision to play the straightforwardly affirmative finale perfectly acceptable, even rewarding. Whereas in the Grosse Fugue Beethoven went back to Bach and the basics of classical music to work out in extremely intellectual fashion the emotional issues underlying the earlier movements of Op. 130, in the alternative finale, marked Allegro, he opted for a more Classical approach that sings its affirmation in a tuneful rondo form. 

Critical response to Beethoven’s B-flat Quartet has generally been mixed. Maynard Solomon refers to it as “the most enigmatic of the late quartets.” Paul Bekker, writing in the early 20th century, found the B-flat Quartet “a suite, almost a pot-pourri, of movements without any close psychological interconnection.” On this latter point I totally disagree. To me, the psychological progression from the melancholy underlying the “alla danza tedesca” movement to the heart-wrenching suffering of the Cavatina offers the hidden key to the emotional issues at stake in this Quartet; and they are issues of loneliness and isolation. This is Beethoven, near the end of his life, looking back in anguish at all his failures to find love, and anguishing as well over the sense of isolation stemming both from his deafness and from the immense distance between his own exalted notion of music and the more pedestrian expectations of his public 

At Wednesday’s Hillside Club concert, the B-flat Quartet was not the only work performed by the New Esterházy Quartet. They opened the program with the first of Beethoven’s Late Quartets, the E-flat Quartet, Op. 127. For this work, Lisa Weiss played first violin, later trading places with Kati Kyme for the B-flat Quartet. Anthony Martin is heard on viola, and William Skeen on cello. The E-flat Quartet is Classical in structure with only four movements. It opens with heavy chords, marked Maestoso, and they are majestic indeed. The opening Allegro unfolds with lilting lyricism, which Joseph Kerman sees as the guiding impulse of this Op. 127 Quartet. The second movement, marked Adagio, opens slowly and offers ornamental variations that transform the original theme into something new. The third movement, marked Scherzo, offers the work’s only contrasting elements as it proceeds in fits and starts, and bumps its way along amidst pizzicato plucking from the first violin and viola. The finale, marked Allegro, opens with an upbeat ‘walking tune’, then offers dance rhythms that border at times on the fantastic. Toward the end, this robust sonata movement undergoes surprising key changes before returning to the home key of E-flat and rounding off this work in exultant fashion. 

The second in this series of concerts at Berkeley’s Hillside Club devoted to Beethoven’s Late Quartets is on Friday, August 28, at 8:00 pm, featuring the A-Minor Quartet, Op. 132 and the Quartet in F, Op. 135. The third and final concert is on Sunday, August 30, at 4:00 pm, featuring the Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, and the Grosse Fugue, Op. 133.