The Week



Press Release: Newly Elected Berkeley Mayor to give inaugural address to council meeting on Thursday at 5:30

From Stefan Elgstrand
Wednesday December 07, 2016 - 10:34:00 AM

Newly sworn in Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín will provide an inaugural address to the City of Berkeley at his first Council meeting as Mayor. Arreguín is expected to discuss critical issues facing the city, including homelessness and affordable housing, while providing a message of hope and resiliency in response to the outcome of the national election. -more-

New: Preview:
Bellini’s Romeo & Juliet Opera

Previewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:07:00 PM

On Friday, December 9 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, December 11 at 2:00 pm, Berkeley Chamber Opera will present Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi/The Capulets and the Montagues, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The announced cast features two outstanding singers in the lead roles – Juliet (Giulietta in Italian) will be sung by soprano Eliza O’Malley, whose superb interpretation of the difficult role of Cherubini’s Medea I reviewed on May 12, 2014 in this paper; while the role of Romeo will be sung by mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Baker, whose stunning debut recital I reviewed in these pages on October 24, 2016. Tybald/Tebaldo will be sung by tenor Patrick Hagen, Lorenzo by baritone Don Hoffman, and Capellio (Juliet’s father) by bass Paul Cheak. Jonathan Khuner will conduct the chamber orchestra, and I Capuleti e I Montecchi will be staged by director Ellen St. Thomas, with veteran diva Olivia Stapp serving as Artistic Advisor. Performances will be at Berkeley Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, an ideally intimate space with excellent acoustics. -more-

Reflection on the Oakland fire

Tom Butt, Mayor of Richmond
Monday December 05, 2016 - 10:20:00 PM

I am saddened to report that victims of the Oakland Warehouse (“Ghost Ship”) fire included two recent employees of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, Travis Hough and Sara Hoda. I have been informed by District sources that Mr. Hough and Ms. Hoda were among the 36 known victims of the devastating warehouse fire that took place Friday evening in Oakland.

Mr. Hough was an expressive arts therapist at Montalvin Manor and worked with the District through a partnership with Bay Area Community Resources. He served in a similar role at King Elementary during the 2015-16 school year and started as an intern at Helms Middle School during the 2014-15 year. A GoFundMe account has been set up for Mr. Hough and can be accessed at this link.

Ms. Hoda was a kindergarten teacher at Coronado Elementary for the August 2014 through June 2016 before taking a teaching job in Oakland.

This is, ironically, a teachable moment.

As both an architect and a mayor, I am compelled to respond to many comments in the media, social and otherwise, that the root cause of the fatalities was a shortage of affordable housing and studio space for artists, example, “Oakland fire puts spotlight on lack of affordable spaces for artists,” USA Today and “Oakland warehouse fire is product of housing crisis, say artists and advocates,” Oakland Guardian).

I have to disagree. The root cause of the fatalities was that a building owner and a prime tenant were apparently using the building for an illegal and dangerous purpose, putting people in grave danger while making money from it. From news accounts, the building was not approved for residential purposes, and it did not have fundamental safety features like accessible stairways, emergency lighting, fire alarms or sprinklers. -more-

The Oakland Warehouse Fire and the Real Terrorism of Profiteering

Carol Denney
Monday December 05, 2016 - 10:07:00 PM

I feel for Mayor Libby Schaaf trying to navigate the symbolic center of the Oakland warehouse fire which has cost at least 36 lives. But the focus she claims is solely on the grieving families looks a little thin after years of an obvious focus, by developers and city planners, on profit -- at the expense of families and young lives. -more-

Live-Work in Berkeley--selections from the Planet archives

Richard Brenneman
Monday December 05, 2016 - 02:33:00 PM

How live/work buildings in Berkeley's industrial section should be regulated has been the source of continuing controversy, ably covered in the past by Richard Brenneman. Here are a few of the articles that you can find in the Planet's online archives: -more-

"It can't happen here?" (PUBLIC COMMENT)

Larry Bensky,
Monday December 05, 2016 - 10:10:00 AM

Dear Jesse Arreguin and Berkeley City Officials,

As we in the audience began to descend the narrow, difficult staircase into the performance space at LaVal's Subterranean Theater (1834 Euclid Street) Saturday night, news kept being updated on our portable phones. More and more people had died the previous night in the "Ghost Ship" fire; the death toll, by the time our event ended, was over 20, and has since risen to 36.

The event they had been attending was a close relative of the (excellent) performance by the Bay Area Zeta Players that we were watching. Artists of all kinds, and members and supporters of our East Bay creative community had come together as best they could to celebrate their lives, creativity, and connections.

How many of us realized that what had happened a few miles away could quite possibly happen to us, too? -more-

Meet the New "Boss" of Berkeley--
Sorry, Mayor Arreguin, but employees are making policy now

Carol Denney
Friday December 02, 2016 - 01:44:00 PM
Homeless protesters and activists try to recover belongings after an early morning eviction from Civic Center park Dec. 2, 2016.

New Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin was interviewed on National Public Radio this morning saying that while the nation was moving to the right, Berkeley was "moving to the left", and that it was time for "bold action." But you wouldn't know it if you were unlucky enough to be shivering in a sleeping bag on the grass near City Hall at 5:30 am this morning.

About twenty-five city police and city staff evicted the protest group known as First They Came for the Homeless in the early darkness from their small grassy setting without notice or inventory receipts. The streets were completely blocked off on Center Street between Milvia and Martin Luther King. Bystanders attempting to help people with their belongings were threatened with arrest.

Sophie Hahn, inaugurated yesterday as the new representative for District 5, stood in front of City Hall during a press conference about the raid saying, "I'm talking to the people upstairs. I'm not happy at all."

The protesters have received conflicting messages regarding the protest's safety from middle of the night raids. New Mayor Jesse Arreguin had, along with several city councilmembers, explicitly requested that the raids stop during the Thanksgiving holiday. His inauguration yesterday invited speculation that the raids would end with former Mayor Bates' administration.

At the "closing party" for the Caffe Mediteraneum on Telegraph last night, Arreguin told Planet Editor Becky O'Malley that he'd reached an agreement with City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley to allow the campers to remain in place until a better location could be identified. But the City Manager stated today to Health and Human Welfare and Community Action Commissioner Dan McMullan that she was "just following policies that were set earlier." An aide to Mayor Arreguin confirmed that his understanding was that the raids were supposed to have stopped.

Two community members stopped by the group and dropped off large contributions of Seismic Coffee and supplies, saying "stay strong."

At1:30 this afternoon, the former campsite adjoining City Hall was completely closed off with plastic fencing. -more-

The Last Day at the Caffe Med

Steven Finacom
Friday December 02, 2016 - 07:33:00 PM
The Med on its last official night open.

November 30 I went to the last day of the Caffe Mediterraneum. Whether this was the final last day, I’m not absolutely sure. The Caffe has changed hands and was officially closing for remodeling by the new owners, but when I told a friend I was going there for the closing, she said “Oh, the Med has been periodically closing for YEARS!”

People often point to the Med as the first real cafe in Berkeley and the forerunner of Berkeley’s ancient coffee tradition. But although the Med dates to the 1950s and was the local forerunner, the widespread coffee tradition is not that old.

Listen, children, about the early days of Berkeley coffee culture. It has not existed in Berkeley, or the Bay Area, for ever and ever. Back in the ‘70s—oh, so long ago—it was still largely the era of Folger’s, and Maxwell House, and big metal percolators during fellowship hours after church services and community events, even in Berkeley. -more-

New Berkeley Council to take seats at meeting on Thursday at 5:30

Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:33:00 PM

The formal swearing-in of the new Berkeley City Council members will take place next Thursday, December 8, at 5:30 in the evening at the Berkeley City Council chambers at the Maudelle Shirek Old City Hall,2134 Martin Luther King Jr Way ( at Allston Street).

Because of legal requirements, the new councilmembers were sworn in for the first time yesterday morning, as soon as the previous members' terms ended according to the city charter. That action took place before a limited audience of family members and supporters, but the general public is invited to the Thursday event, although seating in the council chambers is limited.

Newly elected Councilmembers are Cheryl Davila (District 2), Ben Bartlett (District 3) and Sophie Hahn (District 5).

Jesse Arreguin is the new mayor of Berkeley. He will be chairing the first meeting with the newly seated city council, which is expected to have a progressive majority. -more-

UC Berkeley student attacked near BART station on November 27

Allison Levitsky (BCN)
Sunday December 04, 2016 - 09:43:00 AM

A student at the University of California at Berkeley is in the hospital after being sexually assaulted while walking home on Nov. 27, campus police said Saturday. -more-

Susan Gaines Dinkelspiel Stern Cerny

Monday December 05, 2016 - 02:19:00 PM
Susan Gaines Dinkelspiel Stern Cerny <br> 1940-2016

Susan Gaines Dinkelspiel Stern Cerny passed away peacefully on December 1, 2016, after a long and brave battle with cancer. Born in San Francisco on September 28, 1940, she lived in Berkeley for over 50 years. A graduate of Dominican High School in San Rafael and UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History, she spent many years as an artist and potter before finding an additional passion in architectural preservation. -more-

Memorial Service for Judith Scherr

Monday December 05, 2016 - 10:08:00 PM

Saturday, December 17th at 11.00 a.m. -more-



Updated: What the hell is going on at Berkeley City Hall today?

Becky O'Malley
Friday December 02, 2016 - 02:26:00 PM

I was just downtown in a car, something I try to avoid, stopped in a loading zone waiting to drop off something for a friend, and Carol Denney’s emailed story about the homeless campers being busted on this cold December morning showed up on my phone.


Last night the new mayor told me confidently that he and the city manager had reached a meeting of the minds: no more evictions until they got things figured out. But Carol’s got it right—evidently he, and perhaps also the newish City Manager, are not in charge. I stopped to talk to the activists I know, who were standing around on the corner of Center and Milvia, and I’ve been calling the Mayor’s office since I got home, but all I get is voice mail. To add insult to injury, the new guys haven’t even re-recorded their messages, so it sounds like Tom Bates is still in charge.

The activists had two names for those in charge of the raid this morning: Greg Daniel, whose job used to be code enforcement, and Jim Hynes, Assist. City Manager. They said that about 20 cops were involved.

I hate to sound like an angry taxpayer, but how much in wages did this little escapade cost the city of Berkeley? And who the hell authorized it? Is city staff just giving the finger to the new mayor? Heads should roll, but they probably won't.

Since I can’t get anyone on the phone, I guess I’ll have to go down there to see if anyone’s around. I’m getting too old for this.

The Editor's Back Fence

QUOTE WITHOUT COMMENT:What studies show that Berkeleyans think about the new development here

Sid Lakireddy,President, Berkeley Property Owners’ Association
Saturday December 03, 2016 - 02:03:00 PM

“ …our polling research showed that the electorate was really ticked off about new development in Berkeley. In fact, that number was around 72 percent. Our political consultants said they never in their combined 100 years or so of running political campaigns had seen anything poll at 72 percent." (From the President’s Message in the December BPOA newsletter) -more-

Public Comment

Time for the Grown-ups to Act

Bruce Joffe
Monday December 05, 2016 - 02:18:00 PM

The spoiled brats have the run of the house. They've invited their over-privileged friends to join the party and take what they want while they can. Unsupervised, they are about to wreck our Home of Democracy. It's time for grown-ups in the Electoral College to act, as they were mandated when the EC was written into our Constitution, and prevent this catastrophe. They must elect someone else to be President. -more-

Who Is The Murderer?

Harry Brill
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:55:00 PM

Perhaps you are familiar with the movie "Murder on the Orient Express", which is based on an Agatha Christie novel. The task for the detective, Hercule Poirot, was to determine who committed the murder. The problem we learn is that asking the wrong question yields the wrong answer. Like the title of my article, "Who is the Murderer" is the wrong question. The right question should be pluralized --Who ARE The Murderers. It took a while for Poirot to realize that not one but twelve individuals were involved in what was a revenge murder. When Poirot finally solved the mystery, he made the difficult decision not to turn them in because he concluded that the murderers were justified.

This remarkable and brilliant murder mystery is a metaphor for learning something about our own demise The lives of most of us will be cut short because we are victimized by many murderers. They include a substantial number of the unregulated corporations who in one way or another pollute our environment, poison our food and water supply, and produce many products that jeopardize our health. Indeed, each of us is subject to abuse by many corporate assassins who wield their many lethal weapons.

There is an important difference between Poirot's murderers and the corporate prompted assassinations. The type of murders committed in the Orient Express involve a tangible weapon, which is usually a gun but also a knife. And the impact is generally immediate. Last year there were almost 16,000 such homicides. It is these kinds of murders that we generally learn about from the media. Those who are apprehended typically receive heavy sentences particularly if they are racial minorities.

Corporate crime, by contrast, is far more subtle. The "weapons" that assault corporate victims are not tangible or even visible, and if the victims die as a result, it is not the same day or week but years later. So it is much more difficult to connect in people's minds the cause and effect. Also, except for unusual circumstances, corporate crimes are rarely reported in the media. So we can understand why many Americans are more oriented toward supporting capital punishment than punishing capital. -more-

Fidel Castro

Jagjit Singh
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:51:00 PM

I seem to recall reading a Readers Digest article many years ago which lauded Castro for ousting the brutal US puppet dictator, Batista, with his rag-tag army. -more-

Middle America

Tejinder Uberoi
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 10:03:00 PM

Let Middle America rejoice – the master deal maker is soon to relinquish his palatial home and downsize to his more humble abode, the White House. -more-

Stop the Center st. garage!

Sennet Williams
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:48:00 PM

This fall, UC berkeley finally made public that it is working with "Cybertran," a developer of super-safe, fast, low cost and efficient transit technology: UC Berkeley and CyberTran International Join Forces to Help Solve Traffic Congestion and Other Auto-Related Problems | -more-

New: An Open Letter to the New Mayor and City Council of Berkeley

Dan McMullan, For Disabled People Outside Project
Wednesday December 07, 2016 - 02:41:00 PM

Congratulations to those of you newly elected. Please excuse me for getting right down to business but recent events dictate that I let you and the entire council know about recent events that have caused a lot of pain and anguish to those it was perpetrated upon and consternation to the entire community of caring individuals that got out and voted to bring humanity back to Berkeley and fairness, honesty and transparency back to our elected offices. -more-

New: Prosecute the Thieves

Carol Denney
Saturday December 03, 2016 - 10:31:00 AM

New Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin walked around in the days before his inauguration not only making promises he apparently can't keep, his staff says the raid on homeless protesters 5:30 am Friday, December 2, the day after his inauguration, came as a complete surprise to him and to his staff, and claim that they're not sure how to stop it. -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE: Trump’s Puppeteers

Bob Burnett
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 04:56:00 PM

When historians work out the details of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential victory, the most important date is likely not to be October 28th -- when FBI Director Comey announced he had reopened the Hillary Clinton email kerfuffle -- but August 19th when Paul Manafort resigned as Trump campaign director. While Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon replaced Manafort, the real change happened behind the scene when reclusive billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, took control of the Trump campaign.

Who are Robert and Rebekah Mercer? What does their ascendancy mean for the Trump Administration?

70-year-old Robert Mercer is a computer scientist famed for his research in machine-translation algorithms. In 1993 Robert joined Long-Island-based Renaissance Technologies, which became the most successful quantitative hedge fund; Mercer is now its co-CEO. Recently Robert was identified as the largest Republican donor in the 2016 presidential contest. His political giving is directed by his 42-year-old daughter, Rebekah.

Before the Mercers took over the Trump campaign, they funded the unsuccessful presidential bid of Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz suspended his campaign on May 3rd, after losing the Indiana primary, and lost the favor of the Mercers with his July 20th "vote your conscience speech" at the Republican convention. The Mercers renamed their superPAC "Make America Number 1" and shifted its focus to Trump. By election day they had invested more than $15.5 million in the superPAC.

The Mercer's enormous investments in Cruz and Trump reflect the ultra-conservative philosophy of Robert and Rebekah, and give us a good idea of what to expect from the Trump administration. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Filtering the Thinking

Jack Bragen
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:06:00 PM

It would be nice if antipsychotic or other medications simply provided accurate thinking, but this is not so. If medicated, a person subject to psychosis still has to work at it to obtain thinking that is mostly not delusional. This is because antipsychotic medications cause parts of the brain to slow down, allowing the potential for rational thought. However, there is no pill that can automatically provide accurate thinking. A person suffering from psychosis must learn or relearn how to think, and must learn to recognize and discard delusions. -more-

Mixed feelings on Fidel Castro’s legacy

Ralph E. Stone
Friday December 02, 2016 - 07:30:00 PM

The Cuban government will observe nine days of mourning for Fidel Castro. After two days of observances in Revolution Plaza in Havana, Castro’s ashes will be transported across the country to the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba. The final mass and ceremony will take place Dec. 4, and his ashes will be interred in the cemetery of Santa Ifigenia. -more-

Arts & Events

New: Adler Fellows Gala Concert 2016

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Wednesday December 07, 2016 - 10:52:00 AM

In promoting this concert, the San Francisco Opera Center coined the phrase “The Future is Now.” A more apt phrase could hardly be imagined, for this Adler Fellows concert on Friday, December 2, at Herbst Theatre offered singers who seemed ready for great things to come, and whose greatness was already evident in their glorious singing here. This concert opened with the orchestral Prelude to Act III of Wagner’s Lohengrin, which was beautifully performed by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra under the leadership of conductor Jordi Bernàcer. -more-

New: Joyce DiDonato Promotes Harmony Through Music

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Wednesday December 07, 2016 - 10:51:00 AM

On Sunday, December 4 at 3:00 pm at Zellerbach Hall, acclaimed mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato teamed up with Italian period instrument ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro to perform a theatrical program of Baroque arias on the theme of war, peace and harmony through music. A sure sign that this was no ordinary concert came immediately upon entering Zellerbach’s auditorium, for Joyce DiDonato was already onstage, seated behind the musicians’ chairs towards the back, with a dim spotlight illuminating her regal presence wearing a silver-grey gown. Even before the Il Pomo d’Oro musicians filed onstage, Ms. DiDonato was joined by a male dancer, Argentine native Manuel Palazzo , who appeared bare-chested, wearing only a long skirt-like cloth garment belted at the waist. Mr. Palazzo struck several poses downstage left, while Ms. DiDonato remained seated upstage right. Only when the musicians entered and began playing the opening number, Handel’s aria from Jeptha, “Scenes of horror, scenes of woe,” did Joyce DiDonato arise from her chair and stride forward as she began to sing. -more-

Castro Theater hosts A Day of Silents

Justin DeFreitas
Friday December 02, 2016 - 09:28:00 AM

The six programs that constitute A Day of Silents, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s annual winter event, feature some of cinema’s finest and most enduring pioneer artists. -more-