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Re 2902 Adeline: A Letter to Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board Members

Elisa Cooper
Tuesday November 01, 2016 - 01:02:00 PM

It was clear by the end of the 10/27 ZAB hearing regarding 2902 Adeline that most of the commission members had forgotten pertinent testimony. No one remembered the fraudulent parking studies submitted by Realtex; the uncertainty over how the community-driven Adeline Corridor plan would affect the "wide street" (the commissioner who rhapsodized about "infinite height" also seemed unaware of the South Berkeley Plan); the Terner Center Calculator which shows the project can pencil out at 4 stories so anything above that is pure profit; or the fact that tenants had been evicted so Realtex could option a residential property and extend their commercial mixed-use development down a severely parking-challenged residential street.

The Commission substitutes appointed by Councilmembers Droste, Moore, and Maio also may not have realized that there was a track record of Realtex political favors in play: from circumventing campaign contribution limits to attempt to oust Councilmember Worthington in 2014 to a $10,000 no-strings-attached gift timed to get the Habitot Children’s Museum out of the way of Mark Rhoades’ Harold Way deal, and their major donor support for Wozniak's PAC to promote Measure T1 ($100 million in “political machine” money for the General Fund). Needless to say, if Realtex does flip the property as they have a history of doing, it will be the Councilmembers, and not the hapless ZAB substitutes who will be accountable. 

What I would like to address is ZAB Chair Pinkston's claim that she had read "all the literature" and that it all pushes building market-rate development everywhere. Even the White House Development Toolkit Pinkston cited states that the purpose of boosting market-rate development at the regional level is to alleviate the burden on low income communities of color: "...new development tends to be disproportionally concentrated in low-income communities of color, causing displacement and concerns of gentrification in those neighborhoods, raising market rents within neighborhoods experiencing rapid changes while failing to reduce housing cost growth region-wide." (pg. 9) Even this paean to market-rate housing admits that upzoning is a direct cause of displacement. A direct cause of displacement IS a detriment as far as ZAB decisions are concerned. The very next paragraph refers to studies from the Bay Area which show how the displaced families increase the carbon footprint of the Bay Area because they have to commute to work from Antioch or Modesto. That's why I appended that study to my own ZAB letter. 

I did not go into Karen Chapple’s work on micro-scale gentrification, because I expected the Urban Planning and Policy graduates that attended the meeting to discuss the concept of Equitable Transit-Oriented Development. Chair Pinkston should also be familiar with Chapple’s work since she is a colleague who sits on the Planning Commission. Chapple’s classic Mapping Susceptibility to Gentrification: An Early Warning Toolkit. It states, “Researchers generally agree that new transit investment will bring higher property values to the surrounding area (except in the immediate vicinity of the transit station). This could spur a process of gentrification, which will be beneficial to some – but not to those who cannot bear rent increases and are forced to leave the neighborhood.” (pg. 4) Chapple’s recent work has "found a significant positive relationship between transit investment, gentrification, and displacement." (Case Studies 2015, pg. 8). The same work celebrates community organization and activism as having a positive effect on affordability. 

If I had been allowed to finish my own comment, I would have been able to save Chair Pinkston some embarrassment over her evident non-familiarity with what our major transit planning agencies are currently saying about displacement as a Transit-Oriented Development detriment. 

BART's 2016 Transit-Oriented Development Policy includes a Regional Land Use Vision that "seeks to link household affordability with access to opportunity....and aim for a District-wide target of 30 percent of all units to be affordable with a priority to very low (<50%), low (51-80% AMI} and/or transit-dependent populations." (pg. 2) Increased low income housing was what the ostensibly “NIMBY” neighbors were asking for in the community benefits package drawn up by East Bay Community Law Center. 

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Plan Bay Area 2040: Understanding Displacement in the Bay Area admits "disadvantaged communities may fail to benefit from these [market-driven] improvements if gentrification leads to displacement of low-income or minority residents, or if new development does not provide more housing choices and improved job opportunities to existing lower-income or minority residents."(pg. 2). The MTC suggests "addressing land speculation and wild swings in housing costs that impacts neighborhood stability (for example, by carefully considering the amount of up-zoning of an area at any one time)." (pg. 5) The MTC itself plans on "(M)aking One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) funding partially contingent on...adoption of local policy interventions, in areas where there is a high risk of displacement." (pg. 6) Oops, it looks like Berkeley is going to miss out on a pot of money that it could use to address the Housing Crisis if the City writes an honest application! 

The Association of Bay Area Governments also weighed in with Addressing Displacement in the Bay Area (2015). ABAG confesses that "Any regional effort to support collaboration requires consideration of the diverse needs and pressures faced by each jurisdiction."(pg. 8) Further, ABAG asserts "(O)ur task as a region is to ensure that PDA's [Priority Development Areas such as the Adeline Corridor] can grow in a way that is envisioned by each jurisdiction while allowing longtime residents to remain in place if they choose."(pg. 9) Rather than hoping the market will fix the Housing Crisis at some "regional" level, ABAG recommends that cities, "Leverage local resources to support programs such as the Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing (TOAH) fund, and to incentivize local policies that address displacement."(pg.10) Perhaps Chair Pinkston also missed the part of the East Bay Community Law Center's proposal that identified local social impact investors that could collaborate with market-rate developers like Realtex to provide affordable housing. What a sad pickle of missed opportunities. 

Just in case Chair Pinkston really hasn't read the literature she claims to have read, she might have at least listened to the guidelines the City of Berkeley agreed to follow when it applied for the Adeline Corridor planning grant. As I mentioned in my testimony, MTC/ABAG's PDA Elements & Guidelines that supplemented the application packet requires an Affordable Housing and Anti-Displacement Strategy "(t)o limit or prevent displacement in the area, the strategy should identify how non-subsidized affordable housing units in or neighboring the plan area may be impacted by plan build-out. The plan should describe existing preservation policies to maintain neighborhood affordability and additional zoning changes or policies needed." (pg. 7) Applicants were supposed to consider goals such as: 

  • No net loss of affordability in the plan area
  • Total number of affordable units, by income level, that will be accommodated in the plan area
  • Target for percentage of total units that are affordable
Other guidelines were: 

  • Demonstrate consistency with the jurisdiction’s Regional Housing Need Allocation and the sites and policies identified in the Housing Element (pg.7)
    Side note: Berkeley’s RHNA numbers for 2015 were 23% Very Low Income, 21% Low Income, 4% Moderate Income, and 89% Above Moderate Area Income. The 2016 HUD AMI is $97,500 for a family of 4 and $68.300 for a single person.
  • Identify policies that will be used to preserve or add affordable housing (pg. 8)
  • Identify policies that will be used to avoid displacing existing residents (pg. 8)
How did Eric Angstadt, the former Director of the Planning Department handle the Affordable Housing and Anti-Displacement Strategy part of the application? He promised that the City "makes use of all affordable housing strategies available under current law." If the City can't even deny a developer *discretionary* use permits and waivers worth a million dollars each for a property-flipping scheme to encourage Realtexto negotiate for low income housing, how can City staff claim it "makes use of all affordable housing strategies"? Is the City Manager prepared to admit to the MTC that since the City is apparently institutionally incapable of letting the community shape the plan as required, staff fudged the truth apparently just so the Planning Department could get their hands on more consulting-hiring money? 

As I stated in my testimony, the Adeline Corridor Plan project manager, Alisa Shen, reported to the Planning Commission on 10/21/2015 that the result of the community input process of what is ostensibly a community-driven plan was that our community overwhelmingly, far beyond any other point, called to "(P)reserve neighborhood character and diversity with an emphasis on affordable housing and maintaining social and economic diversity of the neighborhood." At the ZAB meeting a considerable part of the local community came out to reiterate their priorities. Yet somehow members of SF BARF from Oakland and a few signed FORM LETTERS finagled by Realtex were put on equal footing so that they were allowed to hijack what ABAG/MTC promised would be a community driven process. Perhaps the lowest point was when a Google employee, who probably lounges on the Google bus all the way to work, boasted about his car-free lifestyle right after half a dozen local children of color gave heart-wrenching testimony about how gentrification had affected their lives. How did ZAB miss that this Google employee is exactly the kind of carbon-footprint-hypocrite that has been displacing their families from Berkeley? 

Despite Chair Pinkston's frankly tunnel-visioned denial of the facts about displacement as a detriment in Transit-Oriented Development, I do appreciate that at least one of the ZAB members - I believe he was a substitute - gave the community credit for wanting housing development on the site instead of projecting anti-development boogie men on a well-meaning group of people whose commitment to confronting the housing crisis within their own community is worthy of respect. 

I know accusing someone of being a racist in Berkeley is the equivalent of calling someone "Hitler" on an online forum, but ZAB might also want to look at the disparate ways it treats the "community context" detriment in North and South Berkeley. I wonder whether the difference between four and six stories would be dismissed on the other side of the "red line". Why aren’t the BARFers out demanding Transit-Oriented Development around the North Berkeley BART station? Could it be because their sponsors Councilmembers Bates, Capitelli, Wengraf, Maio, Droste, and Moore have decided to sacrifice South Berkeley to appease the vested interests of wealthier constituents in North Berkeley?

Berkeley Mayoral Forum on Wednesday night

Berkeley Neighborhoods Council
Monday October 31, 2016 - 10:07:00 AM

The Berkeley Neighborhoods Council will be hosting a Mayoral Forum on WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 2nd from 7:30-9 pm at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. 

The forum will be moderated by Alex Savidge, member of the KTVU Channel 2 news team and Berkeley native, and will be broadcast live on BCM TV (Berkeley Community Media). 

Participants will be Jesse Arreguin, Laurie Capitelli & Kriss Worthington. 

The theme of the forum will be “Balancing Preservation and Growth: Development and Our Neighborhoods” 

The participants will be asked 3 questions (see below), followed by questions from the audience. 

This is your last chance to see the candidates together before we vote on November 8! 

Please tell your fellow Berkeleyans. 

The three questions: 

1. Berkeley has the top-ranked public university in the world; the single largest partnership of seminaries and theological graduate schools in the country; a high school that has produced world-famous musicians, artists, actors, athletes, authors, scientists, and activists; a world-renowned culinary culture; and a unique architectural style defined by the likes of Bernard Maybeck, Julia Morgan, Walter Ratcliff, and other notables. 

As mayor, what will you do to protect the cultural and historic nature of our city, while making Berkeley attractive and vibrant for young families and providing much-needed housing for the students of our famed educational institutions?

2. Berkeley’s local politics have been marked by bitter fights between pro-growth and pro-preservation advocates.

How would you change the process, so that we may reach consensus in an open exchange among developers, community members, and the City Council, rather than reaching final decisions through costly, protracted, and divisive court battles?

3. Berkeley residents, from John Galen Howard, through David Brower and Alice Waters, have left their mark on our city and, indeed, on the world. 

If you are elected mayor, and serve for eight years, what would you like to be remembered for? 


Money and Local Elections:
Developers Use Police PAC to Help District 5 Candidate Murphy

Rob Wrenn
Saturday October 29, 2016 - 12:00:00 PM

The Berkeley Police Association PAC, an independent expenditure committee, has now spent $37,443 to send mailers supporting District 5 City Council candidate Stephen Murphy. While most of the money in the police PAC has come from the member dues of police officers, $8000 was contributed by developers: 

  • West Berkeley Investors LLC, Danville, CA $6000.00
  • Patrick Kennedy $1000.00
  • Ali Kashani $500.00
  • Center Street LLC $500.00
The largest contributor is West Berkeley Investors LLC, which gave $6000, an amount roughly equal to the reported contributions of 65 police union members. 

West Berkeley Investors LLC 

Bradley Griggs is listed as the registered agent for West Berkeley Investors LLC. West Berkeley Investors is proposing to develop a 5-story building with 135 units and a 372 space parking garage on the Spengers Parking lot on 4th Street in West Berkeley. The property is a City of Berkeley landmark, West Berkeley Shellmound. 

Developers Patrick Kennedy and Ali Kashani also contributed as did Center Street LLC , one of the developers of the 16-story hotel approved for downtown. 

In addition, unsuccessful Assembly candidate, Elizabeth Echols, who was defeated by Tony Thurmond in 2014, gave $500, and unsuccessful District 8 City Council candidate and former Zoning Adjustments Board member Mike Alvarez Cohen gave $100. 

Griggs, Kennedy, Kashani, Echols, and Cohen had all already give the maximum allowed $250 contribution directly to Stephen Murphy’s own campaign committee. Giving to the police PAC allows them to contribute beyond the $250 limit to support Murphy. Murphy’s opponent Sophie Hahn has over 60% more individual contributors than Murphy and has raised more money for her campaign committee than he has for his. 

In the 2014 election, the police PAC spent over $6600.00 on a mailer in support of District 7 candidate Sean Barry, while also spending close to $3000 on a hit piece attacking incumbent District 7 Council member Kriss Worthington. This year, Sean Barry has received $5000 from the Police PAC as a campaign consultant. 

As previously reported, Stephen Murphy also received $13,018 from the National Association of Realtors Fund based in Chicago. So total independent spending in support of Murphy now totals more than $50,000, second only to the $60,381 in NARF money spent in support of mayoral candidate Laurie Capitelli. To put this spending in perspective, all twelve of the candidates for City Council this year had spent less on their campaigns as of Oct 22 than the amount spent by the police PAC for Murphy. October 22 was the cutoff for the latest required Campaign Disclosure Statement. 

Capitelli, who currently represents District 5 on the City Council, has endorsed Murphy as his successor. More on NARF spending can be found here

Update: BPOA vs. Measure U1 

With the latest filing on the City Web site by the Berkeley Property Owners Association sponsored group campaigning against Measure U1 and in support of rival measure DD, total spending as of October 22 now stands at $877,384, or more than $10 a voter. This is second only to the amount spent in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat the soda tax ballot measure in 2014. The City’s Mass Mailing Index reports that there have so far been 13 mailings of campaign literature against U1, even more than the 8 mailings against the soda tax measure. Measure U1 would tax large landlords and raise $3.5 to $4 million for affordable housing. For more on Measures U1 and DD, see:  

More to Come 

Updates will be provided as additional spending for and against candidates is reported. It’s possible that attacks on certain candidates may start appearing in your mail.

TMI from the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Homelessness

Carol Denney
Saturday October 29, 2016 - 05:17:00 PM

"Every time they evict us we get bigger." - Mike Lee, candidate for mayor. 

It's true. The police sweeps chasing homeless people from one location to another has brought about an intentional community of tents and shared resources on the Adeline corridor which was the subject of a meeting of around 35 city staff, homeless people, city council and mayoral candidates, Chief of Police Andrew Greenwood, Deputy City Manager Jovan Grogan, and interested members of the public at noon on Friday, October 28, 2016 in the old City Hall Cypress Room. Council and committee members Linda Maio, Darryl Moore, Jesse Arreguin, and Laurie Capitelli stated that the purpose of the meeting was to gather information from the community. 

Councilmember Maio asked people to raise hands and take turns, and what followed was an hour and half of profoundly respectful informal dialogue without any particular agenda. Elliot Halperin of the ACLU asked initially where the committee was now, and Maio responded that they now had a comprehensive report of expenditures.[1] 

Mike Lee, mayoral candidate and organizer with the tent village, stated that the top priority of First They Came for the Homeless is "the establishment of a legal encampment." When Maio asked respectfully for detail, he thanked the assembled group for forming the committee and the opportunity for a forum, calling it a "bold step." He went on to say the HUB, or new point of entry project for homeless services, "broken." 

Lee continued that nobody expected to sit forever on sidewalks in front of businesses, but rather expected a serious discussion of a legal campground with guidelines such as the tent village now has; no drugs or alcohol, a good neighbor policy, etc. "We have a proven track record," he said, saying that a legally sanctioned campground permitted under the emergency declaration on homelessness was the top priority. "We're tired of hearing about a 'regional solution'," he said, noting that every city touts a 'regional solution' as an excuse for not taking the lead. 

Mike Zint, another organizer with First They Came for the Homeless, stated that "so far what we've developed is an evolving solution," adding that to make progress they need a secure property. He described a tent village participant with gangrene who needs medical help immediately as one of many people on the street with a panoply of disabilities both mental and physical. 

He described the core organizers as having evaluated some suggested sites, including an area near Aquatic Park where vehicle dwellers could also park to avoid city harassment. "The idea is we don't need money from the city," he stated quietly. "We take care of ourselves." Help from the city could come in the form of port-a-johns and a water source, since Liberty City, the previous intentional tent city, survived on community support. "My biggest goal is to expand this model to other cities," he said, which required only modest cooperation from the city, and could start small and grow "in a controlled way" relying on common sense and peaceful values. 

Maio expressed a concern about the location being remote, which people agreed could be a concern in some circumstances. But many in the room noted that a quiet, natural location without the stress of being swept by police from one location to another was part of healing, and that many people on the street and in their core group have a "sixth sense" about people and great skill in de-escalation of conflicts. Zint noted that addicts would reject such a site, since they would want to be near their suppliers. Peer pressure within such a community, most agreed is very powerful inspiration. 

"We listen to people," added Zint. "Because we are a subculture we operate by different rules. We are very moral, very proper, we won't tolerate bad behavior." 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin asked, "You talked about self-governing. What kind of oversight would there be?" Zint replied that he would not mind the police stopping by occasionally, or even a security camera, or social or medical workers, since none of the core group had medical training and some on the street have medical needs. Mike Lee added, "these are resources that presently exist." Mike Zint suggested that the group wanted to heal the relationship between the homeless community and the police. 

Councilmember Maio asked what would happen if somebody problematic for the group camped just outside the main camp, and received thoughtful observations from many in the group about taking time to observe, to listen, and work with the city on difficulties as they arose. Maio then asked how big is too big, about additional locations, and Mike Zint, who had to leave the meeting at that point, encouraged Michael Diehl and council candidate Nancy Armstrong-Temple (council candidate Cheryl Davila was also in attendance) to help clarify any additional issues to the committee. Several community members spoke, citing the current state of homeless services as untenable. 

Mike Wilson, a local community member assisting the tent village, made a powerful statement by saying, "Is it reasonable to drive people from a location without anywhere to go? Is it respectful to take action against homeless people based on unsubstantiated complaints?" Many in the assembly voiced agreement that there should be a moratorium on police sweeps immediately, since they are pointless, expensive, and cruel. Barbara Brust suggested that there be showers and washing machines nearby, noting that existing facilities are overcrowded and rarely available due to very limited hours. Brust challenged the assembly to come out to the tent village and meet people, saying, "you gotta be in their living room." 

Local community member J.P. Massar offered that he had detailed information on shower trucks, saying "I'm not asking you to solve homelessness. I'm asking you to start solving homelessness," citing Berkeley's soda tax as an example of setting a template for other cities. "Creating a sanctioned encampment is the most minimal thing you can do. But it's something you can do now." 

Councilmember Maio stated "We have to work on several levels," moving Mike Lee to emphasize "we need the police to stop chasing us. I can't feed or heal people while wheeling people around the street. The only thing we need is a location. We have a process that works." He repeated Mike Zint's invitation for those in attendance to come to the tent village location to meet people and see for themselves. 

"Anyone can come?" asked Councilmember Darryl Moore, and he was enthusiastically welcomed. Elliot Halperin of the ACLU noted that all studies indicate the inclusion of homeless voices in any plan is a good indicator of success, and was glad to see that step being taken. Michael Diehl, outreach worker, shared information about a needle exchange benefit at Gilman, and the conversation continued in an respectful, inclusive fashion. Councilmember Maio assured the group that the identification of a legal local campsite was understood to be their top priority along with a cessation of the sweeps. 

Councilmember Arreguin expressed confusion as to whether the declaration of a homeless emergency allowed the city to stop using 647, the municipal code often used to ticket homeless people for "camping", sending up no small amount of eyebrows in the educated crowd. Councilmember Moore asked if minor children were present, and Mike Lee patiently answered that that was a challenge the group had yet to meet. 

Mike Wilson, as the productive meeting wrapped up, shared that the group would love the committee's input and hoped that they would not be expected to have with all the answers, to which the council committee agreed, Councilmember Moore ruefully noting they, too, might be a few answers short. 

# # # 


Updated: Election Back Stories

Thursday November 03, 2016 - 01:24:00 PM

Here are previous Planet articles about the November election:

Election endorsements in the works 10-07-2016

Berkeley Daily Planet Endorsements for the Berkeley City Races Becky O'Malley 10-08-2016

Berkeley Democratic Caucus endorses Jesse Arreguin for Mayor Elisa Cooper 10-08-2016

Endorsements for state ballot measures Tim Redmond, San Francisco Bay Guardian 10-08-2016

Measures and Propositions: Progressive endorsers Margot Smith 10-07-2016

East Bay state Senate District 9: Sandré Swanson Becky O'Malley 10-08-2016

What's beyond Reich's endorsement? (Public Comment) Joanna Graham 10-07-2016

New: About Robert Reich: Things Are Seldom What They Seem!!! Harry Brill 10-08-2016 



Beware: Berkeley's being barraged with dubious election propaganda, and it's only going to get worse

Becky O'Malley
Saturday October 29, 2016 - 01:54:00 PM

It’s the money, honey.

I’ve been watching Berkeley politics off and on for more than forty years, and I can count on the fingers of one hand (okay, maybe two hands) the number of times the less-financed candidate or ballot measure has won the local election.

A major reason for this is that that most people seem to make their voting decisions on the basis of the elaborate color brochures that flood mailboxes in the last week or so before the election. Now, ten days out from the election, you should starting watching your mailbox for expensively printed phony charges that cannot be easily refuted by their targets at this late date.

In all these years, Berkeley has never had a generally read news source to provide uniform information to all voters. There have been numerous attempts, including ours, to get the attention of Berkeley readers, but they’re stubbornly resistant to knowing what’s going on around them.

A certain class of Berkeleyans, among whom I number many of my favorite friends, pride themselves on reading only the New York Times, which they seem to regard as a badge of their urbanity.

Many even scorn the San Francisco Chronicle, which is admittedly a shadow of its former lusty self. Who would have thought to see the Chron’s front page dominated day after day by huge color photos lifted from the sports section, with only the occasional confused piece on Berkeley in the second section, written by a novice reporter from across the bay? 

( I’m so old that I remember, under the pre-Hearst owners, Count Marco on the front page telling “ladies” how to look sexy, but that’s a story for another day.) 

When the Oakland Tribune, R.I.P., was owned by the New York Times and edited by Bob Maynard, it was actually a real newspaper, but after its 15 minutes of fame it was subsumed into the corporate maw. Now every single daily newspaper in the East Bay has been lumped under the vapid banner of the East Bay Times, which actually has some good reporters, but few Berkeleyans even recognize the name of the publication, let alone read it. 

I’m getting tired of the Land of the Lotus Eaters metaphor for Berkeley, and I bet readers (yes, we do still have a few) are too. But many who Winter in Berkeley and Summer Wherever desperately want to believe that landing here is the apex of a successful career and now all must be well in LovelyLaLaLand. (Yes, Robert Reich and Michael Lewis I’m looking at you now.) 

Don’t nobody never bring me no bad news, said the wicked witch in The Wiz. 

Many of us proudly boast that we’ve sent our kids to integrated schools, ignorant of the fact that the African-American percentage of the population has declined from 30% to 10% or maybe even by some counts to 6%. The only reason our schools are at all diverse is that grandmothers in South and West Berkeley wink at filling out forms which say that their brown-skinned grandkids live here with them instead of in Oakland or Richmond or Antioch or San Leandro. And why shouldn’t they? Meanwhile Berkeley has sprouted a vigorous crop of vigilantes eager to prove with bedchecks that these kids actually go home to Mom’s house in the cheaper suburbs at night. 

Last Thursday night I dropped in at Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustment Board, and oh how I wish I hadn’t. Way too depressing. 

I watched a parade of angry residents of the Adeline corridor, both Black and White and even some Asians, protesting the fact that the City of Berkeley was on the verge of granting numerous zoning fixes to a San Francisco company called Realtex which was hoping to score permits to plop about 50 apartments at 2902 Adeline, almost all very small and very expensive, into a neighborhood which desperately needs affordable housing for families if it’s to continue as a racially and economically integrated neighborhood. 

South Berkeley has had a target painted on it for years because many homes in the community were demolished to make way for BART, leaving some tantalizing open spaces on the map. There’s a sea of asphalt around the Ashby BART station, both the parking lot where the much-loved Berkeley Flea Market meets on weekends and the vast intersection at Adeline and Ashby which is almost impossible to cross on foot if you’re too old or too young. 

Now residents are about to feel the shoe drop--on their heads. Speculators like Realtex are flocking to acquire building permits which they can flip over to new developers before the much-touted Adeline Corridor planning process can be completed. That’s where you start to smell the money, honey, and some of it is sweetening campaign pies in Berkeley. 

Though Berkeley hill-dwellers are sometimes accused of having more money than sense, those who are hanging on by their toes in the Berkeley flatlands are required to have more sense than money to survive. The smart folks in the threatened area have organized themselves as Friends of Adeline, and they were out in force on Thursday, critiquing the Realtex proposal,sadly to no avail. 

Promoters now demand six stories instead of the three for which the site is zoned. They offer a grand total of four kinda-sorta-affordablish units in the building, down from an original promised six. The locals, on the other hand, want more people like themselves to move into their neighborhood, instead of a bunch of yuppies or techies or whatever the latest term of opprobrium for the over-privileged young might be. 

Yes, Virginia, as the plan stands now, the new apartment dwellers are expected to be young enough to ride bikes, and rich enough to park their cars on Berkeley side streets during the week while they bart to plushy City jobs. But these well-off tenants will sooner or later accumulate enough money to move to Danville when they partner up and want kids—you can count on that. 

South Berkeley’s going to get its transit village whether it wants one or not, and its name will be Potemkin. If you want the mythic version of how then-Assemblymember Tom Bates personally invented the transit village concept and codified it into state law, pick up that wet November issue of The Monthly (now a corporate product) which someone probably left on your doorstep, and read the hagiography of the Bates-Hancock partnership which the writer credits for all this. Let’s just say that his whole story is approximately as factual as the whitewashed account of the couple’s personal history, which is providing a good chuckle to oldtimers who were actually around in the steamy 70s when it started. 

Some clever friends of Adeline have followed the money going into this Realtex project and others, and come up with an interesting paradigm of how you become a playa in Berkeley. Since they have no money to defend themselves, they’ve asked me to keep their names off the Internet, which I’ve agreed to do so, but I know who they are and I trust their research. 

Just a few bullet points from what these sources told me: 


  • Even before proposing any Berkeley projects, a number of individual RealTex principals and employees pooled their donations to fund Mayor Bates’ unsuccessful attempt to dump Councilmember Kriss Worthington in favor of an ex-UC student government functionary . This method allows businesses which are looking for favors from Berkeley politicians to circumvent the $250 individual campaign contribution limit—it happens often. Evidence is easily found on the city’s campaign finance website.
  • Russian flight capital may be behind Realtex , since most principals listed on their website seem to be Eastern European and there’s a similarly named company in Russia. Speculation in cities like New York and San Francisco and Vancouver and even little Berkeley are a popular destination for foreign money.
  • Realtex offered an unsolicited $10,000 donation to a non-profit trying to build in the Adeline area. The founder said as much at the Thursday ZAB meeting.
  • Realtex is known to “flip” projects in San Francisco. Here’s a quote from the website of San Francisco Real Estate Trends, Tips, and the Local Scoop: "....with Realtex leading the development charge, don’t be surprised if the 1394 Harrison Street site returns to the market as an approved development site before it actually breaks ground."

Our sources are collecting a lot more information of this type, but they have nowhere to go with it unless a better-staffed news source takes it up. It’s almost certainly relevant for the upcoming election, but the all-volunteer Planet can’t possibly check it all out. 

Unfortunately, in the next couple of weeks Berkeley voters can expect to see a flood of glossy mailed campaign propaganda from murky sources, almost always coming out too late to trace. An example: in 2010 a Planet columnist discovered that a last-minute mailing promoting the first Measure R, the dishonest initiative backed by the Mayor which has been used as the excuse for many dirty developments ever since. She discovered that it was funded by the corporation of Chicago magnate Sam Zell, but that’s long been forgotten—and Zell’s entitled project permit has been flipped at least once but never built. See: Yes on R mailer financed by Sam Zell

I do realize that warning Planet readers, a special breed, to be wary of making voting decisions based on flashy postcards is preaching to the choir. But those who actually want to inform themselves can also get a lot of information from Berkeleyside, especially in some of the reader-written comments, and from Tom Lochner’s reporting in the East Bay Times, which is collected here. 

And our own volunteer news analysts are doing a good job of uncovering the kind of election contributions which are required by law to be reported. In particular, they’ve traced the enormous contributions which the national real estate industry PAC has made to the campaign of Laurie Capitelli, that industry’s choice for our mayor. They’ve monitored the contributions from unions for Berkeley’s very well-paid police and fire personnel to the campaign of their candidate, who is running against Sophie Hahn for Capitelli’s seat, and noted that developers have slipped a bit of sugar into both of those pies. 

Watch this site for more, and if you get a piece of campaign promotion which seems fishy to you, tell us about it at opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com. And please tell your poorly informed friends to read more than the colorful ads before they vote. 



The Editor's Back Fence

Don't miss this: Berkeley: Adeline Corridor real estate sparks global interestv

Tom Lochner
Wednesday November 02, 2016 - 09:37:00 PM

A company headed by a former Moscow redevelopment official has received approval for a mixed-use project in the Adeline Corridor from the Zoning Adjustments Board, as a majority embraced the view that Berkeley needs to build more housing for all income groups, including affluent newcomers from out of town.

Read the rest at eastbaytimes.com . 


New: Don't miss this! Daily Cal endorsements for Berkeley City Elections

Tuesday November 01, 2016 - 10:54:00 PM

Wow, am I impressed! The Daily Cal has endorsed all of the Berkeley Progressive Alliance candidates. And not only do they agree with us, their endorsement essays are very intelligent, well written and well reported. See their editorials here: Berkeley Election

By the way those of us with long memories will recall that when they endorsed Tom Bates' opponents he stole and threw in the trash a bunch of Daily Cals--didn't even recycle.

Will he do this again because the paper rejected his hand-picked successor? Who, by the way, seems not to mention Bates on his campaign propaganda. Will it happen again? Keep an eye on those Daily Cal free boxes near you!

New: Berkeley Councilmembers offer election opinions using city email

Tuesday November 01, 2016 - 06:24:00 PM

Both Councilmember Linda Maio and Mayor Tom Bates have used their city-paid email to solicit readers for their election slates. The latest, from Bates:

"Several people have asked for my recommendations. If you'd like to see my local and Loni's state suggestions, you can contact me at tomhbates85@gmail.com and I'll be happy to send those to you. I cannot send them directly as City officials and staff are not permitted to use constituent email addresses for ballot purposes."

Is this legal? City Attorney Zach Cowan seems to have told them it is, but even though it's one remove from directly promoting candidates with their city mail it adds up to the same thing in my analysis. What is this letter but "using constituent email addresses for ballot purposes"? You'd think they would have learned from Hillary Clinton's unfortunate mismanagement of her own email.

If you agree that it's illegal, or think that it should be, you might just send your own comments to Mayor Bates at the above address. Or, you could file a complaint with the city's Fair Campaign Practices Commission, which might be addressed in, oh, maybe 2018 or so.

More to come

Friday October 28, 2016 - 09:58:00 AM

As usual, and as time permits, there will be more in this "current issue" eventually, but we're going to post it early before it's really finished, to see if that works. Don't forget, you can always click on "Previous issue" if you have finished reading that one.

Public Comment

Campaign 2016

Arthur Blaustein
Friday October 28, 2016 - 09:57:00 AM

As if the country doesn't have enough problems a new malady has hit the American public--ESD, "election stress disorder" has affected more than half the voters in the nation. According to a new report by the American Psychological Association the symptoms are headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, light headedness and spiking of blood pressure. Small wonder given the sordidness and tawdriness of the past political year. It began with the Republican primary debates, not unlike 8th grade food fights in the school cafeteria and transitioned into "boy talk" in the locker room. And as we head into the final weeks Trump has said the election is rigged and called for vigilantes to monitor voting "in neighborhoods you know where." History will say that this election cycle, like none in our history, demeaned public discourse, denigrated the public good and diminished the democratic process.

As we head down the home stretch I think I can sum up the over-arching stakes in a nutshell. Hillary Clinton is an imperfect person in an imperfect world. She will not lead us into an ascent to heaven but she can prevent Donald Trump from leading us into a descent into hell. And it would serve the nation well for the following groups-- millennials, white male working-class , moderate Republicans, the undecided, and those planning to stay at home on election day-- to reflect upon their choices.  


White working-class voters are supporting Trump because they say they want change. But change can be for the worse as well as for the better. Do they really want to go back to the pre-Obama policies of George W. Bush when the country was on the edge of financial bankruptcy and steeped in two losing wars in the Middle East? Yes, worker wages have been depressed and communities hollowed out but that was because of 25 years of trickle-down Republican economic policies. And the economic and tax policies of Trump are worse than those of Bush--more breaks for the wealthy and nothing for the workers who Trump stiffed. 

Obama took the initiative and tried everything within his power to change that-- to right the wrongs. And what did the Republicans in Congress do? They opposed every one of Obama's proposals that would provide economic opportunity and strengthen the social justice safety net: the economic recovery stimulus package, health care reform, climate change reform, consumer protection reform, extension of emergency unemployment benefits, raising the minimum wage, expanding community development block grants, , immigration reform and affordable housing, among other legislative initiatives. Moreover, they did not even bother to offer any reasonable or constructive alternatives to help the working-class or the middle-class, whatsoever. These are the very same Republicans who ran the country into a ditch and didn’t want to pay for the tow-truck. The truth of the matter is that if folks want real change they'd vote out the Republicans in a do-nothing Congress and replace them with Democratic Senate and House members who want to make the necessary and crucial changes. 

Now let’s examine the “boy talk" on "The Tape" because it sheds some light on the issue of the candidates character and integrity. Trump says it was simply locker room banter. So, in seven months we have moved from 8th grade cafeteria food fights to guys’ locker room bragging. I guess that it’s progress of a sort but hardly the qualities one wants of the leader of the free world. I don't believe him for a minute. Like so much else that he's said in the campaign; facts and truth are irrelevant; he makes things up as he goes along, for convenience. He learned this strategy at an early age from his friend and lawyer, Roy Cohn, (possibly the second most despicable American of the 20th century); who worked as the hatchet man for Senator Joseph McCarthy (arguably the first most despicable). Cohn taught Trump to never admit being wrong and if you're accused you swing back--the best defense is to go on the attack with counter punches 

. Some of his lies-- “After 9/11 Muslims were dancing in the street in New Jersey." "The judge from Indiana in the Trump University case is biased because he's of Mexican-American heritage. The whole "birther movement" over the past several years. Anyone over the age of 12 should have known that this was designed to undermine the legitimacy of President Obama because of his color. It was a pure and simple racist ploy to give Trump some media traction and Fox News something to play games with--over and over-- on the theory that if you keep repeating lies people will eventually begin to believe them. Now Trump says that the election is "rigged" ; the media is out to get him; and he may not accept the results. Blame, blame, blame... To ensure his getting more media attention he now wants to delegitimize the next president. 

The Tape exposed, in a graphic way, the crass, crude, misogynist and vulgar side of Trump the sexual predator. So, what was his response. He huddles together with his two closest surrogates and advisers, Rudy Giuilani and Newt Gingrich, and they come up with a strategy. This Trump Triumvirate--with nine wives between them-- have had lots of experience in dealing with marital infidelity so their plan was to attack Bill Clinton for his affairs and cast Hillary as "the enabler." And assault the integrity of the nine women who came forth and confirmed his sexual aggressiveness. Not an ounce of contrition on the part of Donald . What puzzles me is the response of evangelical leaders who are among his strongest supporters. There is substantial amount of biblical teaching that is concerned with ethical and moral behavior, serving the community, helping the poor and fidelity to family values; and nothing about using a private email server. Yet there doesn’t seem to be many leaders taking leave of their support of him. It was President Franklin Roosevelt who reminded us that, “the sins of the warm-hearted are weighed on different scales than those of the cold-blooded.” Clinton’s transgressions contrasted to those of Trump are akin to failing to pay a fine on an overdue book at her local library. 

Finally, for the past year I have listened carefully to Trump, I’ve watched all the debates, I’ve heard his surrogates and three campaign managers. All of it has reminded me of a passage in “The Heart of Darkness”. Joseph Conrad puts it this way: 

Their talk was the talk of sordid buccaneers; it was reckless without hardihood, greedy without audacity, and cruel without courage; there was not an atom of foresight…. In the whole batch of them , and they did not seem aware these things are wanted for the work of the world. 

These words fit the Trump campaign; they contain the mood and moral nullity of his self-serving enterprise that seeks to tear apart the public good. It is almost as though the thought never occurred to the campaign team that it is impossible for a country to sustain itself, much less mature, on a fare of angry one-liners, re-run ideas, hot-house theories, paranoia and the rantings of a carnival barker. 

Professor Arthur Blaustein taught Community Development, Politics and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He served a Chair of the National Advisory Council under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and served on the Board of the National Endowment for the Humanities under President Bill Clinton. His most recent books are “Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport….” and “The American Promise—Justice and Opportunity.” 

Former Mayor Shirley Dean Supports
Sophie Hahn for City Council

Shirley Dean
Saturday October 29, 2016 - 04:09:00 PM

Dear Neighbor,

I am writing to invite you to join me in supporting an outstanding representative for Berkeley City Council’s 5th District: Sophie Hahn.

I was honored to serve District 5 and the City of Berkeley for 23 years, on the Council and then as your Mayor. I can’t think of anyone better qualified to represent us than Sophie.

Sophie grew up in District 5 and is raising her own family here. Dedicated to core Berkeley values, she has been an effective leader for our schools, libraries and community. On the Zoning Board, Sophie has a reputation for being the most prepared and reasoned member, respectful of the public and fellow Board Members. She cares deeply about the people and neighborhoods of Berkeley.

My support for Sophie is wholehearted, and is based on her exceptional qualities. Reinforcing my choice, I recently learned of her opponent’s history of misconduct, which I believe renders him unfit to serve on the Council.  


Less than four years ago, in a pointed 26-page Appellate Court order, Mr. Murphy was sanctioned for, among other things, “dishonesty,” “aggressive and threatening” behavior, “lack of professionalism” and “incivility.” I am also concerned that so many of his donations come from corporate developers and their representatives. 

Sophie’s candidacy presents an exceptional opportunity for Berkeley to gain smart, visionary and principled leadership. Please join me in voting for Sophie Hahn on Tuesday, November 8th.  


Mayor Shirley Dean

The Erosion of Democracy

Harry Brill
Saturday October 29, 2016 - 05:10:00 PM

Donald Trump has been widely criticized for attacking the foundation of American Democracy because he threatened to refuse to accept the legitimacy of the presidential election. He insisted that the election will be rigged. But like many of his claims, he presented no evidence. However, fraud has invaded other presidential elections. When Bush was running against Gore, voter fraud was extensive. To cite one instance, 12,000 registered voters in Florida, who were disproportionately African American, were purged from the rolls because they were wrongly labeled as felons. There was evidence that the majority of voters in Florida actually supported Gore. To assure a fair election the State Supreme Court ordered a recount. But in a five to four decision the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against allowing a recount of the vote. The close split decision suggests that the court made a political rather than a judicial decision. 

When Kennedy ran against Nixon, the corrupt Mayor Daley and the mafia in Chicago rigged the vote in favor of Kennedy. In fact, Mayor Daley even placed deceased individuals on the voting rolls. The comedian, Dick Gregory, later commented that when he dies he would like to be buried in Chicago so that his vote would be counted! Yet Nixon as well as Gore avoided a major fight because they did not want to publicly raise serious questions about the legitimacy of our voting system.  

More than the political careers of the candidates have been at stake. The fraudulent votes and the silence that has followed represent a major betrayal of the voters and their legal right to expect a legitimate count. 

Moreover, as a result of the efforts of mostly Republican governors, 14 states have adopted restrictions on the ability to vote that will make it much more difficult to cast a ballot. Up to several million of these citizens may be illegally disenfranchised. As a result, candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate could be elected even though they might not have been the choice if all eligible citizens were able to vote. Due to the Supreme Court's decision to vitiate the Voting Rights Act the federal government can no longer veto a state's voting regulations. Aggrieved citizens are now without any effective recourse. 

So rather than focusing on Trump's paranoia of the voting process, wouldn't it be a much better idea to confront the outrageous, dangerous, and illegal decisions of many states to disenfranchise American citizens? And rather than being silent, shouldn't we be engaging in mass protests to defend against some of these totalitarian tendencies? At bottom, voters are being denied the democratic right to choose who should govern. The consequences of being "patriotically silent" is that we increase the odds of witnessing the rapid erosion of democracy.

November 8th , Election year 2016

Romila Khanna
Saturday October 29, 2016 - 05:08:00 PM

We need to pay attention to our Presidential nominees.Republican nominee and Democratic nominee have different views on bringing peace, security and economic stability in the Country. I paid attention to Presidential candidates, their policies and their thoughts on ending terrorists activities etc.I also learned about their public and private life. Secretary Hillary Clinton has done a lot to help the communities to improve their lives. I also believe that who have translated their words into actions are more trust worthy to hold the highest official chair.I believe that there will not be any reason to feel that the most qualified candidate lacks any quality to be the President if elected on November the 8th 2016. 

I believe that we don’t need endless wars to end our fears of terrorists attacks. These costly wars endless sufferings and loss of precious lives.We have sacrificed so many brave men and women to secure peace and bring harmony but we have failed.The Democratic nominee also believes that there are other ways to create a peaceful environment here and in other countries. 

The two candidates also have different views on improving the lives of people. We must pay attention to their words. Which future president will help the poor and needy? Who will find a way to help those who are struggling to survive.The President must have human caring -a sense of responsibility for all. Let us vote to elect the candidate who will be the responsible, kind and caring for all American.Let the future President represent everyone

New: November Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Tuesday November 01, 2016 - 11:36:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 

New: WRITE IN Norma J F Harrison for Berkeley School Board Director

Norma Harrison
Monday October 31, 2016 - 10:03:00 AM

I have studied ‘education’ for 70 years. I’ve seen over and over the futility of the constant, always unsuccessful reform efforts. We’re still left with school. The reforms do not, cannot! begin to rectify the inadequacy that school is, the role it plays in our singly-minded society directed at continuing our Owners’ profiteering by our labor. 

The problem is school itself. 

I tell people ‘we hate school’; we the faculty, staff, parents, communities … and students. Most people wholeheartedly agree. Some guarantee ‘I loved it’! I guarantee they – as do we all – experience selective amnesia, forgetting the treacheries, unceasing, which they set aside in order to get on with life as permitted. As with jobs, we all accustom ourselves more or less, to our day to day life. We have to accept what’s permitted in order to survive, however wearing or boring or limiting the assignment is. The few of us who’re fortunate enough to have jobs we like, that make sense, are subject to numerous undesirable conditions likely including having to spend too much time there. 

School is to repair us. Its approach is that we’re insufficient, in error; it’s supposed to remediate that. That’s the opposite of ‘educe’, the root of ‘education’. ‘Educe’ means that who comes has content, thinks creatively – as we all do, from the time we’re born. Instead we’re approached as though we need to be taught to think creatively. The attitude instead is that if the student doesn’t agree with the content, they’re not creatively thinking. 

The fact is, we’re all geniuses. Genius is not a genetic factor, hovering parents trying to be sure their child gets a good job, to the contrary. 

We’re all artists. 

We’re all teachers and students all our lives. 

Alienation is defined by our not being permitted to engage our tastes and tendencies. These are stifled by the insistence that we fill classrooms and school desks and offices, instead; that we must be diploma-ed, degree-ed, in order to get some prestige that allows us – maybe! – to get some good position, which is not like changing the street lights’ light bulbs (an esSENtial task! relegated to lesser status!). 

People have long known that a four-hour work week overproduces what we need and like, if the full labor force, that’s everyone, all of us, regardless of age, is permitted to participate in production. Participation in production is what orients us into our communities and into understanding our place in life. It includes feeling around for what to do – together – or alone. It imbues us with self-respect. 

Instead we have to accept what’s permitted in order to survive, including that our Owners bomb us – near and far; including that we resist, yet end up fitting ourselves into the imperium. 

The artificiality of school lessons, classes, is felt as insults by all concerned: students, teachers, and their families and communities, by forcing age-segregated routinization formations in place of self-respecting participation in society. Common Core notwithstanding (same ol’), the classroom presupposes students’ interests, and their abilities. Teachers are to tell themselves as well as the subjects, students and parents, that the lessons are relevant for them, whether they are or not; that the lessons are time-appropriate – in that students’ life, whether the student wants to study that lesson then or not. 

Lessons are externally imposed classroom requirements; – classrooms created as a place for teachers and staff to earn a living, and for children to be warehoused as labor waiting until some artificially determined time to become a full participant in society. 

These deformities have to come under discussion in order for us to begin to grasp together, the direction in which our struggle needs to go. 

Continually expecting that the major aid to our oppression, school, be made useful, has got to be available for discussion; that, and what the choices need to become. 

The choice obviously is us all doing our lives together. Don’t let the system rip our children from us in order to use the formal stamping machine to fit them into it. Don’t let the system force children to be made to believe that school equals work. Don’t make people pretend to do the hammering and sawing of living, cutting milk cartons into house-shapes for some project. Let us ALL DO real work together. 

No failure. 

No tests in anything like the present form. 

Classroom-like study needs to rise in situ. All the skills can be learned doing our work together, not isolated into 8-, 10 years of unlearning how to read, write, calculate. Learning the skills has been cast as needing remediation, instead of happening as the natural accompaniment of any study and work. 

Teaching and learning needs instead to become us working together regardless of age, altogether because of communal and individual need and desire. Work needs to become for all OUR benefit, none for our Owners, the profiteers. 

I offer the opportunity to enable the discussion of how to remove the present binding form and replace it with the living that will allow us all the joy! of education, the joy of work, of actually participating within our communities, not requiring our children to accept the deception that school equals work. 

Read: School Is The Opposite Of Education, a study to release us from our confinement, by Norma J F Harrison, http://njfhar.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/table-of-contents 

Norma Harrison is an Alameda County and State of California Peace and Freedom Party Central Committees member


THE PUBLIC EYE:Why Trump Lost the Debates

Bob Burnett
Friday October 28, 2016 - 09:36:00 AM

The 2016 election has been defined by Hillary Clinton's performance in the three presidential debates. Snap polls indicated she defeated Donald Trump in each encounter. And since the first debate, Clinton's lead over Trump has expanded both in terms of estimates of the popular vote and share of the Electoral College. Clinton's decisive victory was due to her talent and preparation. Trump lost because of obvious defects. 

Trump can't maintain focus for 90 minutes. Particularly in the first and third debate, Trump began normally and then decompensated. Trump lost his composure, grew angry, interrupted Clinton, and blurted insults -- "such a nasty woman." As time passed, his remarks began to ramble and he often lost his line of reasoning. (In the third debate, Trump's response to his first question -- on the Supreme Court -- was to the point; after 90 minutes, his response to his last question --entitlements -- was incoherent.) 

Some say that Trump -- who has made Clinton's health a campaign issue -- has his own health issue: stamina. Trump brags that he only sleeps three or four hours each night. Perhaps his stamina problem is due to sleep deprivation. Writing in the New York Times Timothy Egan argued that lack of sleep explains Trump's behavior, in general: "Sleep deprivation, we know, can make you cranky and temperamental, and throw off judgment. The severely sleep-deprived are more impulsive, less adaptable and prone to snappish decisions, and they have trouble listening to others." 

My favorite psychologist argues that Trump's debate performance is actually a consequence of his narcissistic personality disorder. The psychologist observed that during each debate, Clinton was able to get under Trump's skin, to attack his fragile self-esteem with a series of barbs.  

At the 24 minute mark of the third debate, Clinton clearly unhinged Trump with a remark about immigration: "[Donald] went to Mexico, he had a meeting with the Mexican president. Didn't even raise [the idea of a border wall]. He choked..." At that point, Trump decompensated: he became visibly angry and started to insult and interrupt Clinton. As a consequence, Trump's responses to questions became increasingly incoherent: At the one hour mark, Trump was asked what he would do as President after Mosul falls: "Will you put U.S. troops into that vacuum to make sure that ISIS doesn't come back?" Trump never answered the question. First he argued that the Mosul invasion had been timed to help Clinton and then that it would help Iran. 

Trump did not adequately prepare for the debates. After the third debate, speaking at the Al Smith dinner, Clinton joked: "Donald wanted me drug tested before last night’s debate. And look, I’ve got to tell you, I am so flattered that Donald thought I used some sort of performance enhancer. Now, actually, I did. It’s called preparation." 

In September, before the first debate, The New York Times reported that Trump's preparation was unorthodox: "[Trump] prefers not to do a full-length mock debate, and has no set person playing Mrs. Clinton. He is not using a lectern for mock debate drills... Some Trump advisers are concerned that he underestimates the difficulty of standing still, talking pointedly and listening sharply for 90 minutes. In the primary debates he often receded into the background, and only jumped into the debate forcefully when he was attacked. Some advisers worry that if Mrs. Clinton surprises him, he will be caught flat-footed." Trump's advisers warned him what might happen during the debates but he did not listen to them. 

At the 26 minute mark of the third debate, Clinton observed: "[Donald] used undocumented labor to build the Trump Tower. He underpaid undocumented workers, and when they complained, he basically said what a lot of employers do: 'You complain, I'll get you deported.'" By this time Trump had decompensated and (amazingly) had no response. 

At the 27 minute mark, Clinton asked: "Will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are [hacking] and make it clear that he will not have the help of Putin in in this election, that he rejects Russian espionage against Americans, which he actually encouraged in the past?" Trump equivocated, mumbling Putin "has no respect" for Hillary. She replied, "That's because he'd rather have a puppet as president of the United States." Trump childishly responded, "You're the puppet!" 

Media consultant, Joeel Silberman observed: "The first 30 minutes of the debate suggested that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had actually accepted coaching and was trying to practice self control. Yet, from the beginning, I was struck by his nervous tics, his inability to stand still, his grabbing the microphone, his tight slit eyes, and his turned down mouth... by minute 30, he appeared physically unlikable... Mr Trump’s body and face language was both defensive and bullying." 

In the debates, Clinton needled Trump and he decompensated. There was nothing that Clinton said that Trump could not have anticipated -- tax returns, problems with women, friendship with Putin, etc. If Trump had taken the time to adequately prepare -- Clinton typically took four full days -- then he could have controlled his narcissism and prevented his decompensation. 

Trump chose to not fully prepare for the debates. That's no surprise. One of the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder is "exaggerating your achievements and talents." Trump often brags about how smart he is. 

Before each debate, Donald Trump believed he needed only minimal preparation because he was inherently more talented that Hillary Clinton. The debate results proved otherwise. Trump lost because of his defects. 

ECLECTIC RANT: In fairness, FBI must quickly reveal facts
about newly discovered emails

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday October 29, 2016 - 04:11:00 PM

On October 28, 2016, FBI Director sent a letter to Congress "in connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation." The emails were found on a computer used by Huma Abedin, former deputy chief-of-staff to Secretary of State Clinton, and backed up on her husband's (disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner) computer.  

Putting aside Comey's motives for sending such a letter eleven days before the election and nearly four months after Comey said he wouldn't recommend criminal charges because of Clinton's use of the server, his letter is devoid of facts to evaluate the significance of the emails. The letter uses such phrases as "appear to be pertinent" and "we don't know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails." Comey later admitted that the emails had not been reviewed. For all we know, some, most, or all of these emails are duplicates of emails already reviewed by the FBI. Unfortunately, there is not enough time before the election for the FBI to review the emails and to report to the American people their significance, if any. 

Donald Trump is, of course, making hay over Comey's letter, "Hillary Clinton's corruption is on a scale we've never seen before," Trump said at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. "We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office." Trump has said that the FBI "reopened" the investigation giving the implication that a whole new investigation would be conducted by the FBI when in truth, the original investigation was never closed.  

Comey's letter places Clinton in a quandary. The letter was so inartfully worded that Clinton is at a loss to respond to questions about emails she knows nothing about. She forcefully called on the FBI to release the "full and complete facts" about its review. "Voting is underway, so the American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately," Clinton said at a brief news conference in Des Moines, Iowa, adding it was "imperative that the bureau explain this issue in question, whatever it is, without any delay." Likewise both Republicans and Democrats have called on the FBI to quickly reveal more about these newly discovered emails. 

It is only fair that the FBI provide more information in the next several days.  


ECLECTIC RANT:Philippines drug war in brief

Ralph E. Stone
Friday October 28, 2016 - 09:37:00 AM

In his inaugural State of the Nation Address on July 25, newly-elected Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte declared that there were 3.7 million “drug addicts” in the Philippines. But according to a 2015 survey by the Office of the President’s Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), the main drug policy and research unit, the Philippines has fewer than half that many drug users.

Whether the drug problem in the Philippines is as drastic as Duterte makes out, since assuming the presidency of the Philippines in June, more than 3,000 suspected drug dealers and traffickers have been killed in his war on drugs. Many of those executions have been carried out via the Philippine National Police (PNP), who have aggressively worked to locate and punish all individuals linked to the movement of drugs under the president’s new anti-crime agenda. But vigilantes, empowered by Duterte’s rhetoric and call for citizen action, have also taken matters into their own hands, with staggering results. While the PNP have been responsible for approximately 712 deaths, individual citizens have been linked to 1,067.  


Faced with a real or exaggerated drug epidemic and no end in sight, it is not surprising that many citizens found a hero in Duterte, who promised quick results and brought with him a record of no-nonsense anti-crime vigilance. 

But Duterte’s approach is drastic. In addition to encouraging police to crack down hard on suspected drug dealers, the president has also called upon private citizens to do the same. “Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun — you have my support,” he told viewers in a televised speech shortly after his election. “Shoot…[dealers] and I’ll give you a medal.” 

The killings have alarmed rights groups and brought expressions of concern from the United States and the United Nations.  

The Philippine Senate's Justice and Human Rights Committee conducted hearings to investigate the rampant extrajudicial drug-related killings in the country. Senator Leila de Lima, a Duterte nemesis, is a human rights advocate and former justice secretary, has said that foreign intervention was the only hope of putting an end to “state-inspired” extrajudicial murders that have terrorised parts of the population since president Rodrigo Duterte came to power four months ago.  

However, Senator Richard Gordon suspended the inquiry after a heated debate with Senator Leila de Lima. De Lima faced a backlash from Duterte’s supporters, led by Manny Pacquiao, the former boxer, and now a senator. DeLima was ousted as committee chair, then she began to receive death threats. 

Duterte is a Ferdinand Marcos fan. He plans to bury Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, the Heroes’ Cemetery. Many Filipinos believe Marcos does not deserve to be buried in the Heroes' Cemetery. 

Remember Marcos was President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. Citing an armed communist insurgency, Marcos placed the Philippines under martial law on September 23, 1972, during which he revamped the constitution, silenced the media, and used violence and oppression against political opposition, and ruled as dictator under martial law from 1972 until 1986. His regime also became infamous for its corruption, extravagance, and brutality. Public outrage led to the snap elections of 1986 and to the People Power Revolution in February 1986, which removed him from power. To avoid what could have been a military confrontation in Manila between pro- and anti-Marcos troops, Marcos was advised by President Ronald Reagan through Senator Paul Laxalt to "cut and cut cleanly," after which Marcos fled to Hawaii. Marcos was succeeded by Corazon Aquino, widow of the assassinated opposition leader Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., who had flown back to the Philippines to face the dictator. 

What is the future of Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte? Is the country heading toward another Marcos Philippines?

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: "Comfort Zone" Necessary for People with Schizophrenia

Jack Bragen
Friday October 28, 2016 - 09:44:00 AM

People suffering from schizophrenia, depression, or bipolar are not as able to gain benefit from stretching our limits compared to someone not afflicted. The old saying that you should "lift yourself by your bootstraps" should not be generously applied to persons with severe mental disabilities. "Tough love" does not always work for mentally ill people.

It is said that for a number of persons with mental illness, including some suffering from "dual-diagnosis" (which is a substance abuse problem combined with a psychiatric disorder) death may happen before a person "hits bottom."

But today's column isn't really about substance abuse. I am talking about, in general, how people are expected to sink or swim, or where a bird is shoved out of the nest and expected to fly. This strategy shouldn't necessarily be applied to persons with psych disabilities.  


A person with a psychiatric disability may not be as resilient as someone without. A family member believes I am capable of anything because of the fact that I have done a few things that were impressive. Yet, I can not in all situations rise to the occasion when challenged. I have limits and I pretty well know what they are.  

This is not to say that family shouldn't have boundaries. It is not to say that parents should expect nothing and give everything. There needs to be some kind of in-between, one in which someone with a psychiatric disability is challenged, but not to an overwhelming extent.  

Going too far past the psychological, neurological, or other limits of someone with a psychiatric disability could possibly cause lasting damage. It could trigger a relapse of acute symptoms, and/or it could cause the individual to be more impaired in ensuing years.  

For someone with a psychiatric disability, some amount of comfort is a necessity, not a luxury. It is when we are comfortable that we can sift through the thoughts, to figure out which ones are erroneous, which ones are outright delusional, which ones are unnecessary, and which ones are helpful.  

Comfort to me means for example, that I don't have to brave the elements for up to three hours while waiting for a bus in Contra Costa County, a place in which the bus service isn't at all good. Comfort means having an air conditioned apartment and car. Comfort means not having to go without food or medication. Comfort to me means that I don't have to work to survive.  

Persons with psychiatric problems often have corollary medical conditions. Many have hypertension and/or diabetes. In addition, a number of medications make us less able to survive physical hardship, such as extremes of temperature, dehydration, or too much physical exertion. This is especially true of persons with psych problems who are a little bit older. Yet, mishaps due to extreme conditions can definitely happen to young people.  

I have heard of psychiatric patients at the Atascadero facility dying due to a combination of extreme temperatures and being given antipsychotics, which are a class of drugs that may make people less tolerant of hot weather.  

Excessive psychological stressors, excessive stimulation, or too much physical discomfort can cause mentally ill persons to have a resurgence of symptoms of their psychiatric condition.  

Comfort means having safe, peaceful housing, a unit that isn't substandard, and having neighbors who are not assaultive and who do not throw wild parties. It means not being subject to intimidation, whether this is from some branch of the government, some private agency, or an individual.  

When persons with mental illness are put into a situation of "sink or swim" or "being kicked out of the nest" it isn't the same as when done to a nondisabled person. Many of us aren't able to rise to the challenge. In these instances, the results can be dire.  

Recovery can happen when there is an absence of threat, and an absence of physical or psychological hardship. Recovery happens in a peaceful, safe environment. Recovery sometimes happens when we have some time on our hands, in the absence of external demands, allowing us to think, and to gain insight about ourselves, our past mistakes, and about what is needed in order for us to make things better for ourselves.  

Call us crybabies, but mentally ill people require gentler treatment and more help. Yet, oftentimes, the comfort I speak of is absent, and the ill individual suffers as a result.

Arts & Events

Movies in the Margin:
The 25th Annual Berkeley Video and Film Festival 2016

Gar Smith
Friday October 28, 2016 - 03:42:00 PM

It's time, once again, to roll out the red carpet on Addison Street and get ready for six days of Small Screen glory with The Berkeley Video and Film Festival (BVFF), the East Bay's one-and-only, week-long celebration of film and video from around the block and around the world.

As Mel Vapour, one of the visionary EBMC honchos behind this cinematic superfest, recently put it: "What film festival in the East Bay screens the most current and cutting-edge indie cinema? Year after year, it's the Berkeley Video & Film Festival."

The 25th edition of the BVFF opens for business this Friday, offering six full days of films and videos in two distinct sessions—the first runs from October 28-30 followed by another that extends from November 4-6. It all takes place at the East Bay Media Center's intimate performance space in Berkeley's Downtown Arts District (1939 Addison Street).

This year's BVFF features more than 50 indie documentaries, features, film school shorts, experimental cinema and works from Russia, Spain, Hong Kong and Sweden. Filmmakers will be on hand for Q&A's following screenings of The Return (Tribeca Winner), Hearing Is Believing, and Ghost Town to Havana.  




Here is the schedule of films. For more info, go to http://www.eastbaymediacenter.com/ 

Details on purchasing tickets appears at the bottom of the schedule. 

FILM SCHOOL FRIDAYS (Friday October 28

An assortment of outstanding short films from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and other powerhouse indie films. 


GENGHIS KHAN CONQUERS THE MOON Official Trailer from Kerry Yang on Vimeo


7:00—LOST CITY OF TOMORROW (Auden Bui. Drama: 16 min.)  

A cynical human has an unexpected encounter with an android in space. 

7:20—GENGHIS KHAN CONQUERS THE MOON (Kerry Yang. Drama: 17 min.)  

In Genghis Khan's last days, a Wizard sends him to the Moon. His greatest conquest becomes a spiritual clash, between one man's need and the silence of the Universe. 

7:40- LEND A HAND FOR LOVE (John Alan Thompson. Romantic Comedy/Animation: 14 min.)  

Best Film School Animation Award 

Robert Wagner narrates the romance of two lovers who spend more time screaming than they do embracing. 

7:55—HOMEGIRLS (Elizabeth Cirillo. Doc: 21 min.) 

Former gang members Maria and Joselyn attempt to start new lives overcoming the temptations of addiction and street life. 


8:30—TAKANAKUY (Austin Kolodney. Comedy: 11 min.) 

Grand Festival Award—Film School Comedy 

Channeling an ancient Peruvian tradition, a suburban family airs out grievances on Christmas Day with a series of bare-knuckle brawls. 

8:45—WARM SMOOTH MEAN (Jess Maldaner. Drama: 14 min.) 

A young man, troubled by his legendary father's suicide, travels to a small town in search of answers from his father's former bandmate. 

9:00—POKEY POKEY (Jake Zhang. Animation/Comedy: 7 min.) 

A father starts a journey to figure out the best way to protect his son from seeing filthiness of this crime-ridden city. 

9:10—PRISONER (Matthew Edwards. Drama: 21 min.) 

Grand Festival Award Film School Short Feature  

Stranded behind enemy lines, a war-weary American takes a young German soldier prisoner and forces him to lead the way back to safety. 




Mousse trailer from John Hellberg on Vimeo


9:45—MOUSSE (John Hellberg. Comedy: 42 min. Sweden) 

Grand Festival Award in Comedy  

What could be easier than robbing a small tobacco shop on the outskirts of town? The ultimate hit for some fast cash. Mousse is a man of pride and principles and fed up. But what happens when he faces principles different to his own? 

Saturday October 29 


The Ride Trailer from Waylon Bacon on Vimeo


3:45—PRIVY (David Finkelstein. Experimental: 20 min."  

A young women is forced to live with an unsympathetic stepmother, and spends much of her time in an outhouse, escaping into books and her own vivid fantasy life. "PRIVY" uses oblique, poetic language, fanciful images and musical interludes. Based on an improvisation by actors David Finkelstein and Ian W. Hill. 

4:10—LIFTER (Selkin Fedor. Comedy: 12 min. Russia) 

Alexey is a novice sportsman. He is arranging a course of power lifting trainings for his grandfather, who is going to marry shortly. Despite the advanced age of his grandfather, the bride is dreaming of all the wedding traditions. One of them is that the groom must carry her across a bridge. 

4:25—HIVE (Duygu Nazli Akova. Experimental: 4 min. Turkey  

"Hive" takes a look at the unplanned urbanization, which has been paraded under the guise of "urban renewal", Istanbul has been undergoing for many years. This situation is conveyed through the visualization of Marx's Bee and machine metaphor. This video focuses on the worker's conditions, contract labor and urban renewal. 

4:30—THE RIDE (Waylon Bacon. Short Feature: 15 min.)  

A young man accepts a ride from a traveling salesman that goes horribly, horribly wrong. Starring Clinton Roper Elledge, Armen Babasoloukian, and Norma Burgess. Written and directed by Waylon Bacon. Produced by Joel O'Neal and all of our fantastic Indiegogo Backers! 



5:00—GHOST TOWN TO HAVANA (Eugene Corr. Doc: 87 min.) Q&A Follows  

Teen baseball between Oakland, California and Havana, Cuba. 


7:15—HEARING IS BELIEVING (Lorenzo DeStefano. Music Doc: 99 min.) 

Grand Festival Award—Best Music Documentary 2016 

In a world filled with Noise, there is another Sound worth Hearing, and her name is Rachel Flowers. Q&A Follows with Lorenzo DeStefano 


9:45—SARAH SMITH: INTO THE LIGHT (Stacy Poulos. Music Video: 4 min.) 

Take an inspiring journey with Sarah Smith, best adult contemporary artist, as she belts out a heart-felt riveting performance from reflection to healing. 'Into The Light' a song by Sarah Smith and Dermot Grehan. 

9:55—RACIAL FACIAL (Jeff Adachi. Educational: 8 min.) 

Grand Festival Award—Educational Film 

Racial Facial, an award-winning eight-minute film by SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi, shines a bright light on the history of racism in America. www.racialfacial.org 

10:00—SWEET TALK: YOUR TOUCH (Zack Scott. Music Video: 5 min.) 

Sweet Talk, Austin's local rocker band kicks ass with their new Music Video full of broken down cars, creepy Hosts and some good old fashion glam zombies! 

10:05—THE EASTERN SEE: THE FOOL (Zack Scott. Music Video: 5 min.) 

The Eastern Sea, Austin Texas local band, kicks ass with their new music video full of space ice cream, lights in the sky and an alien autopsy date night! Totally sick. 

10:10—A. SINCLAIR: THEY BREED AND SAY HELLO (Zack Scott. Music Video: 3 min.) 

A. Sinclair's, music video where a dude learns the radical horror's of blacking out! Directed by Zachary T. Scott, Cinematography by Taylor Camarot, Staring Sam Stinson. 

10:15—A. SINCLAIR: YOU GOT A HEART (Zack Scott. Music Video: 3 min.) 

A man wakes up to his heart being ripped from his chest. Now he has to get it back! 

Sunday October 30  


2:00—HERE COME THE VIDEO FREEX (Jon Nealon & Jenny Raskin. Doc: 79 min.) 

Here Come the Videofreex starts in 1969. America is undergoing cultural and political revolutions, but you'd never know it by watching TV. Young CBS executive Don West creates a secret project to tell the stories of the counterculture ignored by TV news. He hires a group of young people who have embraced a brand new medium—video. They named themselves the Videofreex and on CBS's dime, they traveled the country in an RV taping footage the networks could never get. Mary Curtis Ratcliff, one of the Videofreex pioneer activists will provide a Q & A following the screening of the film. 

4:30—THE RETURN (Katie Galloway & Kelly Duane de la Vega. Doc: 84 min.) 

The Return depicts the struggles of two newly released former lifers as they deal with restoring relationships, avoiding personal triggers, finding meaningful employment, and managing the mental health problems which had previously contributed to their imprisonment. Q&A Follows  



6:45—LEFT ON PURPOSE (Justin Schein, Eden Wurmfeld, David Mehlman. Doc: 95 min.) 

A feature-length documentary that confronts the growing issues of depression, isolation and aging through an intense character driven story of the relationship between filmmaker and subject. It provides a rare cinematic look at what it means to be a friend to someone in pain. 

Friday November 4 


4:45—ROSIE (Kimberly Vela. Young Producer: 12 min.)  

Grand Festival Award—Young Producer 

This story follows a teen girl through the emotional repercussions of getting an abortion and the healing process that derived from a new friendship. 


Short Films from Columbia College, Hollywood, California 

5:00—1000 WAYS TO BREAK UP (Jon Walkup, Kenneth Beckerdite, Richard Eggly. Comedy: 8 min.) 

A relationship break-up artist travels the country to help couples with problems break up forever. 

5:10—LOST (Jeremy Nielsen, Director and Rebecca Clark, Producer. Drama: 14min.) 

Peter, a mentally disturbed cocaine dealer and lost boy, ends up sleeping with and killing his rival—another of his kind. 

5:25—WHACK THE FOLLY (Peter Zaragoza, Director & Jeremie Jej-Porcin, Producer. Comedy: 29 min.

An offbeat lawyer must overcome his over-indulgent behavior in order to repay a shady businessman known as The 'Shark.' 


Friday November 4 


Short Films From University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts  

6:15—OUT OF THE BAG (Aidan Bradbury-Aranda. Doc: 16 min.)  

A short documentary exploring the ways in which artists are re-appropriating the surplus of single-use plastic bags as their medium to create artworks, with varying intentions: from raising environmental awareness, to expressing the conflict of personal emotions. 

6:30—THE FOG (Ted Martland. Drama: 14 min.) 

An acting class becomes an unexpected battle for a young combat veteran. 

6:45—LIMITLESS POTENTIAL (Philip Bastian & Fangso Liu. Sci-fi: 12 min.) 

In the palm of his hand, a middle-schooler named Bob can generate limitless amounts of energy. One day while getting bullied at school, Bob accidentally blows up a kid. He must escape the cops while learning to understand and accept his power. 

7:00—REAL BOY (Kelly Luu. Drama: 14 min.) 

A disconnected, young boy grieves the tragic loss of his father through a friendship with a child-like robot 

7:15—IN THE BASEMENT (Matt McGregor. Horror: 13 min.) 

A young girl is kidnapped and imprisoned by a man hell-bent on building a family by kidnapping women and forcing them to play into his demented fantasy. But this time he just may have kidnapped the wrong girl. 


7:45—MY CLAIRE (Rajendra Thakurathi. Drama: 14 min.) 

My Claire is about a broken man, who deteriorates after the passing of his wife, who must return to help him move on with his life. 

8:00—SANCTITY (Eric Adrian Marshall. Drama: 17 min.) 

A by-the-book federal agent and his desperate ex-girlfriend struggle with an unplanned pregnancy in a near-future America where Roe v. Wade has been overturned. 

8:20—THE LOTUS GUN (Amanda Milius. Drama/Sci-fi: 25 min.) 

Nora and her best friend and lover, Daph, live an idyllic life in a rugged post-apocalyptic world. When a stranger arrives and Daph disappears, Nora has to go to extreme measures to get back what's hers. 



9:00—BROKE (Heath Davis. Feature: 98 min.—Australia.) 

A disgraced sports star and gambling addict attempts to turn his life around with the support of his number one fan. Starring: Steve Bastoni, Brendan Cowell, and Max Cullen. 

Saturday November 5 


4:50—MONSTER MOVIE (Neil Ira Needleman. Experimental: 21 min.)  

A mash-up salute to 1950s Monster Movies 

5:15—SKETCH (Elgin Jackson & Chase McGaffie. Comedy: 6 min.) 

Just two guys who have nothing going for them but one thing—loving to hate on people trying to make it. 

5:25—THE TIME MACHINE (Lorne Miller. Comedy: 20 min.) 

Woman breaks up with man. Man goes back in time and meets himself. Gets over breakup. 

5:45—SLICES (Larry Barnes. Experimental: 35 min.) 

A series of abstract vignettes. Motion pictures. Each frame is a complete artistic image fused with a self composed and performed electronic music soundtrack 

6:20—My Phenix City Story (Neil Ira Needleman. Experimental: 4 min.) 

Some thoughts about the changing nature of violence over the years—in real life and on the screen. 

6:25—ALL WE DID WAS LIVE (Andrew Schrader. Doc: 20 min.) 

A look in how gentrification in Berkeley and Albany, CA has displaced residents of the former Albany Bulb park, and how they live in the aftermath of their eviction. 


7:00—DOGTOWN REDEMPTION (Amir Soltani & Chihiro Wimbush. Doc: 94 min.) 

Shot over eight years, Dogtown Redemption is not only the intimate story of recyclers in West Oakland but also a journey through a landscape of love and loss, devotion and addiction, prejudice and poverty. Q&A Follows  


9:15—JASMINE (Dax Phelan. Feature: 80 min.) 

On the one-year anniversary of his wife's unsolved murder, a grieving husband (Jason Tobin, "Better Luck Tomorrow") becomes obsessed with a mysterious interloper (Byron Mann, "The Big Short," "The Man with the Iron Fists") who he believes is responsible for her death. Co-starring Eugenia Yuan ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny," "Revenge of the Green Dragons") and Sarah Lian ("Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong"). 

Sunday November 6 


Adi | At The Confluence [Official Trailer] from Joor Baruah on Vimeo


2:00—ADI AT THE CONFLUENCE (Joor Baruah. Documentary: 20 min.)  

Through a series of encounters with the indigenous Adi people around the old town of Pasighat in the remote Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh on the border of India and China, Adi At the Confluence, portrays the resilience of this unique tribe amidst a confluence of issues related to their land, water and identity. 

2:30—THE GREAT TRANSMISSION (Guna Foundation. Doc: 55 min.) 

The film traces Tibetan Buddhist literature's epic journey through history, and one refuge lama's modern efforts to preserve these texts. It closes with a pressing inquiry into whether Tibet's culture can survive. 

3:30—OCCAM'S RAZOR (Makan Talayeh and Tautis Skorka. Short: 18 min.) 

A series of unexplainable events plague a group of young travelers at an isolated motel in Death Valley in the winter of 1986. 

4:00—MASTERS OF RHYTHM (Eve Ma. Music Doc: 28 min.)  

Q&A to follow 

The music video, shot in Peru, stars three of the world's finest percussionists. They play the Cajon, sing, dance and talk about their rich Afro-Peruvian culture. 


5:00—HEARING IS BELIEVING (Lorenzo DeStefano. Music Doc: 99 min.) 

Grand Festival Award—Best Music Documentary 

In a world filled with Noise, there is another Sound worth Hearing, and her name is Rachel Flowers. 


7:00—The Human Mirror (Marc Nadal. Short Feature: 16 minutes. Spain) 

Based on the real story of a 17-year-old girl with social anxiety having no contact with the outside world. Never leaving her home, she watches the cruelties being reported by the media daily, resulting in a tragically horrific breakdown. 

Purchasing Tickets 

Tickets are available by calling (510) 843-3699 

$15. Saturdays. All Day Pass and 7:00pm and later 

$10. Fridays and Sundays. General Admission 

*$5. *Students, *Elders, *Disabled, All Days, All Day Pass or use the PayPal link on the EBMC webpage. 

Please indicate which ticket day and the amount—with your name and phone number. Your tickets will be held at the ticket window.

Company Town: Celebrating a wild progressive win by Berkeley native over big money politics in the big city

Gar Smith
Friday October 28, 2016 - 08:35:00 AM

Opens at the Rialto Elmwood and the Roxie Theatre on October 28; Opens at the San Rafael Film Center on November 6.

With a testy November election ahead of us, the last thing you might be looking forward to watching would be a documentary about a contentious city election back in November 2015. But don't let that discourage you. Company Town is a sassy, intimate, and engrossing retelling of a David and Goliath battle for control of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors. (Spoiler alert for out-of-towners: This is a "downer doc" with a certified "feel-good" finish.)

Company Town is the work of two award-winning Berkeley-based filmmaker-journalists—Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow. The star of this "little guy"-vs.-the-corporate-Godzillas tale is Aaron Peskin, a Berkeley High graduate. A former SF Supervisor, Peskin rises to the comeback challenge as a pint-sized contender with a gallon-sized wallop. His enemy is the misnamed "sharing economy"—Airbnb, Uber, Lyft—an upstart, entrepreneurial force that has no room for the poor and marginalized.

There's a lot at stake in the race for District 3—a major tourist destination that includes Chinatown, North Beach, Coit Tower, and the asphalt slalom-course known as Lombard Street. District 3 also is a neighborhood plagued by forced evictions spurred by the economic disruptions of Tech Company cash. An unlikely Peskin upset would return the board's progressive majority.




The threat is "tech-sector displacement" is about more than long-time residents losing their homes. As Peskin warns, it's also "a fight for the soul of San Francisco." 

Peskin's competitor Julie Christensen (a decent enough minor politician elevated to the District 3 seat on the Board of Supes thanks to the support of Mayor Ed Lee) admits that "techies" and their masters have become a symbol about "all that's wrong with the City" but then insists: "Technology companies are not an issue in my campaign." If only. 

Christensen calls Peskin "a table-pounding politician . . . in the grandest sense." Peskin sees Christensen as "a parks activist . . . not a social activist." 

Mayor Ed Lee presents himself as a messenger of "collaboration and inclusiveness"—a leader opposed to the kind of "obstructionism" that stands in the way of big business and unchecked development. 

Peskin sees it differently: "The problem is a handful of tech billionaires have decided to invest in politics." 

Standing before roomful of enthusiastic businessfolk, Lee validates Peskin's point. Upon being introduced as "our tech-friendly mayor," Lee gives the crowd a smart military salute—the kind of gesture an Army private is trained to deliver in the presence of a senior officer. 

Mission (District) Impossible? 

San Francisco Examiner columnist Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez (he of the fashionably red-streaked hair) serves as a genial guide to the Mission District neighborhoods where he grew up. Chatting and animated, he guides the camera through the hood, praising the District for its history, its diversity, food, murals. On the other hand, the Mission also hosts the greatest concentration of Airbnb rentals. 

Trotting through some of the grittier blocks Rodriguez heads over to the increasingly up-scale digs along Valencia Street. At one point, he pauses in amazement before one of the new bistros: "Nine dollars for a smoothie? Yum!" 

Calling the Valencia precinct "ground zero for tech workers," Rodriguez stops on the sidewalk to phone a sales rep whose number is listed on a sign posted on one of the newly built high-rise housing developments. As the cameras roll, the rep assures him that 90% of the residents are "Apple and Google, with some Facebook." And, yes, there are several tech-commuter shuttle stops nearby. 

Oh, and the going price for one of these penthouse condos? $1.7-$2.7 million per year. Yum! 

At one point, Rodriguez is rattled almost to the point of tears when a chance sidewalk encounter reminds him of a painful family trauma brought on by the wildfire of evictions that has swept through the city's long-established communities. 

Goodbye North Beach, So Long Chinatown? 

Twilight shots of the district's iconic small businesses—Café Trieste, Café Greco, Molinari's delicatessen—take on a wistful air. Are these generations-old haunts now in danger of being replaced by Starbucks, Whole Foods, and upscale boutiques? The camera turns to the east where—looming over the familiar sites of North Beach—a wall of gleaming corporate skyscrapers dominates the horizon. 

The perfect icon for the rise of urban Technification is the Googlebus. Every workday, fleets of these shuttered, self-important, double-deckers ferry workers from SF to their jobs in Mountain View—ensuring that they remain largely detached from life in the city that serves as their bedroom. 

At a rally of North Beach artists, Peskin meets three locals who were recently victims of owner-precipitated, Ellis Act-enabled evictions. Displacement by gentrification is becoming the new law of the land. Over five years, the City registered 9,000 evictions, many due to the pursuit of short-term rentals. At the same time, median rents for two-bedroom apartments increased 105%. 

The Sharing Economy Isn't about Sharing 

Peskin deftly eviscerates the myth of the "sharing economy" when he notes, "it's an economy, but it's not about sharing." He warns about the clear downside of kicking out local residents in order to transform 2,000 rental homes and apartments into pricey, rent-by-the-day hotel rooms. 

In a compelling film clip, Company Town shows Chris Lehane (a former Bill Clinton advisor) praising Airbnb as a force "so big that no Army could really stop it" and assuring his audience of entrepreneurs: "You are on the side of history!" 

Local Chinatown progressives warn that plans to convert the historic Empress of China tower into a tech office building will unleash devastating ripple effects that will spill across the entire neighborhood. The screws are already being tightened. Families in Chinatown now are getting eviction notices for drying clothes on their balconies, a Chinatown traditional that spans generations and centuries. 

In a telling moment during a Moon Festival parade through Chinatown—lead by Christensen and Mayor Lee—an announcement over a sidewalk PA blares that the event is being "sponsored by AT&T." 

Asked about evictions, displacements and corporate transformation, Christiansen confesses the key question boils down to: "What do we want to save and what is destined to change." 

Company Town illuminates some underappreciated truths. While many of the people who live in SF may not be homeless, they are one-eviction-notice-away from becoming street dwellers. At the same time that the city is being transformed by a growing class of "rent-rich" newcomers, there is a large class of apartment residents who could be classified as "poor renters." The divide between rich and poor extends beyond the public bane of homelessness. There is an "underclass" of renters living marginal lives behind the doors and walls of America's economically segregated cities. 

The battlelines over the District 3 seat are as clear as a red-painted curb. Peskin is trying to defeat a candidate backed by millions of Airbnb dollars aiming to protect a $25 billion investment. 

Christensen claims her vote will not be influenced by corporate money but when the City considers new laws to regulate Airbnb rentals, Christensen warns that such restrictions would make it hard for existing city residents "whose ability to remain in SF is dependent on the extra bit of income they gain from home sharing." 

Supervisor David Campos calls out Christensen during the debate with an impassioned speech that may prompt many viewers to join in the on-screen applause that erupts when he finishes. 

In the end, Christensen casts the swing vote that lets Airbnb off the hook for reporting potential abuses of its home-rentals. 

We Need a Revolution 

Company Town briefly turns its attention to Uber, a company that relies on volunteer drivers so desperate to earn "extra cash" that they are willing to pay fill their own gas tanks and provide their labor without workers benefits. 

As Rodriguez observes, if you have to prostitute yourself to earn enough money to survive as a teacher, a carpenter, or a food service employee, that may be a sign that the real solution should be to address failures of the basic economy. 

Over the past year, a tide of Uber-strikes and taxi-stoppages have paralyzed major cities in the US, Europe, Africa and Latin America. And the resistance to Airbnb continues to mount as well. 

And, in response to the city's refusal to crackdown on Airbnb, citizens placed an initiative onto the 2015 ballot to prevent the kind of illegal, short-term rentals that had proven so lucrative to Airbnb. 

This was the smack-down year for hardball politics. At one point, the Big Money behind Christensen's campaign produced an infamous "Mad Men" TV spot that featured Peskin plunging to his death while a narrator accused the candidate of a litany of abusive comments. (Company Town includes the entire ad, unedited.) 

During the arduous campaign, Peskin is shown walking the precincts, speaking at Chinatown gatherings (accompanied by his dedicated campaign lieutenant, Jeffrey Kwong), standing on street corners trying (and largely failing) to convince self-absorbed millennials to grab one of his political handbills. But he keeps plugging away at it with a tenacity that borders on the transcendental. 

And, in the end, he wins. 

Company Town is a timely reminder about what it takes to win a campaign when you're up against an entrenched candidate with Big Money backing. 

When Peskin finally steps onto the Beach Blanket Babylon stage at Club Fugazi to declare victory, it's a real-life Hollywood ending, well worth savoring. 

How good is it? It's like seeing Hillary beaten at the ballot box by Bernie.