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Berkeley's New Council Majority and the Shelter Game

Carol Denney
Wednesday December 14, 2016 - 05:07:00 PM

As you enter Berkeley's old City Hall where the council meetings are held you'll find people tucked away on cardboard in the alcoves of the entryway and curled up nearby under the bushes.

You'll meet even more people lounging in the well-lit first floor seating, especially in hard weather. There may be a serious - and intentional- lack of shelter beds in Berkeley, but there's no lack of empty, well-lighted spaces. The public buildings are full of them and if you add the commercial spaces yawning all over town there are tons. The LLCs which own them will wait decades if they must to replicate pre-2008 rental and lease rates no matter how many people pile up on the street or how many businesses go bust looking for reasonable commercial rates.

It isn't just about profit. It's about power. And right now the new majority on the Berkeley City Council looks like a bunch of clowns trying to find the right phrases to cloak their willingness to do almost the right thing and almost enough to imitate change without having to actually make any.

Except for Cheryl Davila. District 2's representative's soft-spoken, clear dissent on taking a Homeland Security grant requiring an $80,000 buy-in by the city for a less-offensive-looking bullet-proof van which even its promoters admit is just a facade change is simply common sense. But it looks heroic next to the backbone-free group next to her on the dais, which stumbled all over itself trying to say Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter at the same time without sounding like, well, politicians on the spot.

It was the same with the "emergency" homeless measures colliding together under Item 39; more committees! more study! But somehow very little clarity about the raids on homeless people's tents. 

District 5 Representative Sophie Hahn to her credit, pointed out the selective nature of the raids on the group known as First They Came for the Homeless, noting that city staff had created a "linkage" between some nearby vandalism and the group without bothering to have any evidence connecting them or making any criminal charges. This is notable because First They Came for the Homeless has been gratuitously "relocated" in the freezing pre-dawn darkness over and over again suffering injuries and losing property in a valiant effort to highlight that "offering services" in Berkeley has no connection to housing. 

Nobody really needs lockers for their property if they have a place to live. Nobody really needs a shower van if they have their own bathroom, even one down the hall. Nobody has to cart around town to the hot meal programs very often if they share a nice kitchen or can plug in a microwave. 

Berkeley's thirty-year unwillingness throughout the Hancock-Bates era to provide adequate shelter and low-income housing was calculated; if you're willing to accept "services", you can end up in a shelter in Richmond at which point you're technically a Richmond resident and don't qualify anymore for housing services in Berkeley. 

But the downside is you might be liable, as the town of Boise was, for citing people with no place to go for simply being there. This has prompted some towns to hold a few shelter spaces empty just to be able to prove in any court case that there was an empty bed that night for the "service-resistant" person who didn't manage to find it. 

We should worry when District 7 representative Kriss Worthington presses the point of wanting shelter beds available for people "whether they go there or not." He did this repeatedly last night at the December 13th Council Meeting without insisting on language protecting people from the middle-of-the-night raids for simply existing in a public space, an obvious and ominous omission. 

The city manager's office knows how to handle tent-dwellers who hang around in public parks; surround them at 5:00 am, block off the streets, prohibit sympathizers from assisting with belongings, drag them into custody if they don't move fast enough, and pile their belongings haphazardly in an open-air pile under a loose tarp in the rain. Oh, and then brag about how much money they spend on "homeless services." 

Tomorrow, Thursday, December 15th, the annotated notes from the Berkeley City Council meeting will be available for those who want to bulldog around in the detail of a policy so confusing new Mayor Jesse Arreguin actually asked City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley, when she stated that she needed "explicit direction", for her suggestions. 

I could have missed it, but I only remember hearing Councilmember Davila asking for a friendly amendment that "the raids will stop" in a room full of people begging the council to stop hounding people hop scotching all over town trying to find a place to rest. In the meantime, those of us with an eye on city hall are clear about one thing; the Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA), the most powerful lobby in town, continues to appear to have the only voice that matters. 

"Getting people off the street" has a pretty friendly ring in most people's minds until you discover that it couples up nicely with the DBA's philosophy that public spaces should only be for the wealthy, the well-dressed, the shoppers, and a jail cell for everybody else. The current council, with a couple of notable exceptions, seemed poised to salute the status quo of middle-of-the-night raids on the poor unless we take the more secure road to political change by de-funding the million-dollar DBA and demanding that all new housing and all vacancies be used to address our very real housing emergency. 

# # #

In sickness and in health...

Steve Martinot
Wednesday December 14, 2016 - 05:00:00 PM

It is not often that I get stopped in my tracks, staring at a huge specter of "WTF" hanging over the world. I mean, jaded as I am, it is rare that something takes my breath away. But I just saw a report by a health practicianer on the health conditions of the homeless encampment, the one that keeps getting kicked around by the Berkeley police department from MLK to Fairview to Adeline to Kittridge to Center to Fairview to Adeline, etc. It contained long lists of ailments that pertained to a short list (a dozen or so) of people. Pulmonary disease, asthma, cardiac hypertension, blood in the urine, chronic diarrhia (producing dehydration), type 2 diabetes, hepatitus C, mobility issues (living with extreme neuralgia, arthritis, and the after-effects of artificial joint implants), and PTSD.

Is that how half the world lives, that half below the poverty line? Have I heard right that in the US it is only 40%?

My jaded side says “sure, that is to be expected when forced to live on the street.” Once one is thrown there by circumstance, because the economic demands of ordinary life are out of reach and psychologically marginalizing, even though one learns to survive, there are costs. It is well-known that living on the street, like being sentenced to indeterminate periods to solitary confinement in prison, is productive of severe mental health issues. What is unfathomable is that though these health conditions are evident, perhaps in the medications people have with them, or the certifications of their conditions by medical doctors, or the prosthetic devices they need to use, or their hobbling gait, their relative immobility, that these have become reasons for eviction from their encampment and the communality that helps them survive. And I use the term "eviction" precisely because it does not pertain and yet it does.

To ignore these conditions, whether by the police who break up their encampment communities, or by those who applaud such actions, signifies a desire that these condition only get worse. I’m not sure I know how to grasp a consciousness that can say to others, “I desire that your illness gets worse.” 

Here’s an example. A number of homeless people in Berkeley suffer from Type 2 Diabetes. And some of them are insulin dependent, not all. That means they must use a syringe to inject the insulin when needed. It is imperative that they do this with a fresh, clean needle each time. Given the difficulties presented by homeless life, and life in combat with a disease like diabetes, sometimes the needle caps are not disposed of well. The needles are; of that one must take special care. There is no evidence of needles being treated carelessly. But when the needle caps are found by members of the authorities (and even the city recognizes that it is not needles that are found, but needle caps), they are transformed into evidence that there is intravenous drug use going on. And this charge of drug use is then imposed upon the entire community in the encampment, and used as a rationale for breaking up the encampment. In the course of such an operation, people’s property is seized, and confiscated. Thus, these diabetics lose the ability to treat themselves, and face emergency conditions. It is a process designed to make their condition worse. 

When the media is told that the police or sanitation workers find needles (not evidence of needles), it uses that to denigrate the entire community as nothing but druggies, and applauds the police assaults. Nothing is ever said about the fact that hard drug use, as well as alcohol, are barred in the community. Mums the word on the fact that they collect their own trash, and dispose of it themselves. (The alleged "tons" of trash that the police find is property that is needed for survival.) Nothing is ever said about the principles upon which this intentional community of the homeless has formed, brought together because their communalism enhances their ability to survive. If they have formed themselves itself into a self-regulating community, it is because they are, for themselves, their last recourse in a society that seeks to destroy them (by constant harassment, constant eviction, and policies to make their health worse by whatever means). 

In sickness or in health? Are the homeless the poor beaten wife who gets thrown to the floor by her abusive husband so that she can see the dust that she didn’t clean up in the house, and so he can feel like a “big man”? Do those who attack them, and don’t want high school students see that the homeless exist, feel like “big men”? 

We know the history of collective punishment. We know the kinds of society that fostered and even relished it. It doesn’t happen all the time. It only happens in societies that have become something that makes me shudder when I think of it. Do I have to go into that? 

Collective punishment is a violation of international law. It was written into the founding treaty documents of the United Nations because of the horror that filled the air and people's hearts in the wake of what was discovered in 1945. Yet, today, in the wake of the “war on drugs,” collective punishment has become standard operating procedure. In the 2014 demonstrations against police killings, demonstrations that called for justice for Michael Brown and Eric Garner, if one person broke a window, the entire demonstration was declared outlaw, and broken up with many people arrested and injured. That had nothing to do with drugs. But it was the “war on drugs” that gave the police in every city the impunity to do what they wanted, and established popular support for it because it was the police and they were in the “front lines” against drugs. 

If a grandmother, living in public housing, lets her grandson stay with her, and unbeknownst to her, he had been cited during a drug bust at a party months earlier (though released in the absence of evidence), and he was discovered at his gransmother’s apartment, she would be evicted (without recourse). No one committed a crime, and this gandmother gets thrown on the street. It is a form of vicarious responsibility. 

Vicarious responsibility is a minor version of collective punishment. If a police officer shoots at a car because the driver will not stop when commanded to do so by the officer, and the shot happens to kill the car’s passenger, the driver will be charged with murder under vicarious responsibility. 

There is a social sickness in this. Perhaps it is what allows the authorities to look at the illnesses that homelessness creates as cause for punishing them. The flip side of collective punishment is the side that says that the government bears no responsibility for the survival and well-being of its citizens, or its constituents, or people in general. We heard that first from the elder Bush regime (though it had already been in effect for a while). Each person’s survival is wholly up to themselves. 

I cannot let that idea go by without mentioning one extreme irony that lives in its shadow. Each person’s survival is up to themselves, yet they still do not have the legal right to commit suicide. Suicide is illegal. It is so illegal that a cop will shoot a person to death to prevent them from committing suicide. In 2012, I counted three incidents in which this occurred that actually made the media. It is such an oxymoronic situation that the police had to find a euphemism by which to refer to it. They came up with the expression, “suicide by cop.” The person’s death is okay if imposed by the authorities, but not okay if self-administered. In either case, abjuring the psychological trauma that leads to suicide is to ignore the hopelessness that accompanies life in a society that can only think in terms of eviction – to which prison is an adjunct. 

Most people who threaten suicide do it as a statement to others that they are in serious emotional trouble. It is a call for help that only sometimes gets answered. There are others who seriously intend suicide. They generally do so in secret, where they won’t be disturbed. They will then be discovered later, after having gone through with their decision. 

Have I now added "suicide" to the list of diseases given at the beginning of this article? No, I have not. The term "suicide" here is simply the mirror image of the sentiment expressed by the police, and those who support their assaults on the homeless community, that they wish them dead (the logical result of making diseases worse). 

What characterizes the homeless community is that it knows how to take care of itself. It has intellectual resources from within that when brought together, amount to an abode without walls. That is why they form encampments, so that they can look after each other, having only themselves to trust and fall back upon. They are living up to that historical tradition that when people are sick, or in dire straits, the community in which they are members will seek to care for them in one way or another. 

To send the police, with their criminalization projects, is not to seek solutions but to prevent them. Well, that is partially incorrect. It prevents all solutions to the problem except three, the death, imprisonment, or exile of the homeless community. When the "authorities" say that the encampments must be broken up and dispersed, they are saying “our job is to herd these stateless people toward their death.” They are stateless because they have no government to defend them against the assaults of the government, whether the city administration, of the police, of the government in Washington that abjures all responsibility except that of permitting collective punishment. 

Berkeley Mental Health Commission to hold hearings on $8 million budget

Allison Levitsky (BCN)
Tuesday December 13, 2016 - 11:38:00 AM

City officials in Berkeley are fielding public input this week on an $8 million budget to bolster mental health services in the city. 

The city's mental health commission is accepting feedback until 5 p.m. on Thursday, city spokesman Matthai Chakko said. 

At 7 p.m. that evening, the commission will hold a public hearing on the plan at the North Berkeley Senior Center, located at 1901 Hearst Ave., before submitting it to City Council for approval next month. 

The budget update would use $8 million in funding from the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), a state law approved by voters in November 2004 that places a 1 percent tax on every dollar of personal income over $1 million, Chakko said. 

Currently the city provides a range of programs including outreach, assessment, referrals and treatment. The costs of existing programs are included in the $8 million budget. 

Among other things, the proposal would allocate an additional $819,613 to the $2,954,198 renovation of the Adult Mental Health Clinic. According to the proposal, the additional funding would allow the clinic to be environmentally sustainable. 

The proposal would also allocate an additional $150,000 to expand and relocate the Berkeley Creative Wellness Center, a socialization program for adults with significant mental health problems that currently operates less than 15 hours a week in the South Berkeley Community Church. 

The Annual Update would also allocate $10,000 annually to an already-approved $100,000 project to add seven permanent housing units at the McKinley Family Transition House. 

In addition, the proposal would double the $10,000 in flexible funds for a mental health team to help clients with housing, clothing, food and transportation. 

Residents wishing to provide feedback can contact Karen Klatt, the city's mental health coordinator, at (510) 981-7644 or kklatt@cityofberkeley.info.

Berkeley Chamber Opera Shows What Great Things a Small Opera Company Can Do

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday December 12, 2016 - 12:48:00 PM

In two performances, Friday, December 9, and Sunday, December 11, at Berkeley Hillside Club, Berkeley Chamber Opera did itself proud, offering first-rate singers and musicians in Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues). Featuring two outstanding principals, mezzo-soprano Liliane Cromer as Romeo, and soprano Eliza O’Malley as Juliet (Giulietta in Italian), this, of course, is the Romeo and Juliet story, loosely based on Shakespeare’s great play. Set in Verona during the 13th century, a time of strife between Guelphs and Ghibellines, two warring political factions, this opera pits two families, the Capulets, who are Guelphs, against the Montagues, who are Ghibellines. Juliet, a Capulet, is secretly in love with Romeo, a Montague. But Romeo has had to flee Verona in exile after having killed the brother of Juliet in battle.  

After a brief, urgent prelude the opera opens with a chorus of Capulet followers who have gathered at dawn at the Capulet palazzo. Tybald (Tebaldo in Italian), sung here by tenor Patrick Hagen, tells everyone that Verona is threatened again by the Ghibellines. Young Romeo is leading an army set to invade Verona. However, Romeo is also sending an envoy to offer terms of peace. Lorenzo, sung here by bass-baritone Don Hoffman, is a friend to both the Capulets and the Montagues, and he advises the Capulets to give serious consideration to this envoy’s offer of peace. Capellio, Juliet’s father, sung here by bass-baritone Paul Cheak, declares that his son’s death at the hands of Romeo must be avenged, and Tebaldo vows to wreak vengeance on Romeo. Capellio offers his daughter Juliet’s hand in marriage to Tebaldo and orders preparations for a wedding this very evening. Lorenzo, knowing of Juliet’s secret love for Romeo, begs for more time because Juliet is ill. Lorenzo’s plea, elegantly sung by Don Hoffman, is summarily rejected. 

Romeo now enters incognito, disguised as the Montague’s envoy. Sung by French-born Liliane Cromer in a trousers-role, Romeo offers terms of peace. Let Guelphs and Ghibellines share Verona, he offers, and bring their feud to an end with the marriage of Romeo and Giulietta. Liliane Cromer, who was a late replacement for Elizabeth Baker, who was forced to withdraw because of illness, turned out to be a phenomenal discovery. Though she has sung often with Bay Shore Lyric Opera in Capitola, and occasionally with Verismo Opera, I had never heard her before. She possesses a full-voiced, plangent mezzo-soprano, with a timbre not unlike that of Joyce DiDonato, who recently gave a stunning concert in Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. Liliane Cromer was utterly convincing as an ardent Romeo. The offer of peace, however, is rejected by Capellio, who informs the envoy that Giulietta will wed Tebaldo this very evening. Without revealing his true identity, Romeo promises that Guelph blood will flow in the ensuing battle. 

Act I, Scene 2 takes place in Giulietta’s apartments, where she learns of her father’s decision to give her hand in marriage to Tebaldo. A lovely viola solo played by Ellen Ruth Rose serves as prelude to Giulietta’s first aria in which she laments her plight and longs for the return of Romeo in “O quante volte.” As Giulietta, soprano Eliza O’Malley was at the top of her game, offering elegant bel canto phrasing with a shimmering, silvery sheen. It is truly rewarding to see Eliza O’Malley come into her own with the Berkeley Chamber Opera, a company she founded in 2012, where she serves as Artistic Director and can exercise quality control in all areas, something she had not been able to do previously in her long stint singing with Verismo Opera. The results, as this production of Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi attests, are quite extraordinary. For this production, Ms O’Malley not only cast excellent singers, she also chose veteran Jonathan Khuner to conduct the 10-piece chamber orchestra. Directing chores were given to Ellen St. Thomas, and costumes were designed by Barbara Lim. In short, Eliza O’Malley assembled a high-quality team of colleagues who demonstrated a high degree of artistic teamwork in bringing this opera to the public.  

Lorenzo secretly brings Romeo to Giulietta’s apartment, and the lovers embrace each other in joy. When Romeo begs her to elope with him, however, Giulietta refuses, declaring that she is ready to die for Romeo but cannot betray the trust and honor of her father. Romeo, abashed at Giulietta’s refusal, flees in anguish. Act I, Scene 3 is set in the courtyard of the Capulet’s palazzo, where the imminent wedding of Giulietta and Tebaldo is celebrated. Romeo enters in disguise and tells Lorenzo he has a thousand armed men ready to attack. Romeo has come to plead once again for Giulietta to escape with him. Lorenzo advises against further bloodshed. When Giulietta appears in her wedding dress, Romeo urges her to flee with him. This time, she seems to agree. But before they can leave, Capellio and Tebaldo arrive to confront Romeo, and a quintet full of mixed emotions ensues. As the scene ends, Romeo escapes alone, without Giulietta. 

In Act II, Scene 1, Lorenzo tells Giulietta that Romeo is safe. He tells her of his plan. He has prepared a potion that will put her to sleep. Everyone will believe that she has died. They will place her in the family tomb. Lorenzo will secretly conduct Romeo to her side. In a lovely aria, Giulietta denies fear of death but doubts the potion’s efficacy. She only drinks it when she hears her father approaching. Having drunk the potion, Giulietta pleads for pity from her father, who remains obdurate.  

In Act II, Scene 2, a beautiful clarinet solo played here by Nora Adachi serves as prelude to Romeo’s uncertainty over Lorenzo, who has failed to meet Romeo as planned. Tebaldo appears, and Romeo and Tebaldo engage in a martial duet in which they each vow to kill the other. As they begin to do battle, a funeral dirge interrupts them. They are each aghast to learn of Giulietta’s apparent death. Tebaldo exits, leaving Romeo alone in his grief. 

The opera’s final scene takes place in the Capulets’ family tomb, where Giulietta has been laid to rest, covered only by a shroud. Romeo arrives to mourn his beloved. Though he believes her to be dead, he speaks to her. In the aria “Deh! tu bell’alma,” Romeo begs Giulietta to allow him to join her in heaven. He drinks poison from a flask he carries with him. He is already beginning to feel weak from the poison when Giulietta awakens from her potion-induced sleep. The lovers share a brief but heartfelt duet before Romeo dies in Giulietta’s arms. Overcome with grief, she stabs herself with Romeo’s dagger. Capellio rushes in only to find his daughter dead. “Killed by whom?” he asks. Even his followers cry, “By you, pitiless man!” as the curtain falls.  

This production of I Capuleti e I Montecchi was an unqualified success. In every aspect – singing, orchestra, staging, costumes, acting – this production demonstrated what great things a small opera company can do. Let us hope we can expect many more wonderful productions from Berkeley Chamber Opera. 




New: Election Wrap-Up: Arreguin, Progressives Won Big in High Turnout Berkeley Election. (News Analysis)

Rob Wrenn
Saturday December 10, 2016 - 11:27:00 AM

The election of Jesse Arreguin as mayor, along with the election of Ben Bartlett, Cheryl Davila and Sophie Hahn to the City Council, was a major victory for progressives. It restores a progressive majority that split and fell apart as Mayor Tom Bates moved to the center and adopted a more moderate stance over the course of his fourteen years in office.

In an eight candidate race, Jesse defeated his opponent, now former District 5 councilmember Laurie Capitelli, by a 49.1% to 32.1% margin in first choice votes. With ranked choice voting, he crossed the 50% threshold when second choice votes of Naomi Pete, Mike Lee and Bernt Wahl were counted. 

Jesse Arreguin is the fifth person to be elected mayor in Berkeley since municipal elections were moved from April in odd-numbered years and consolidated with the state’s general election in November. The first November mayoral election in Berkeley, in 1982, resulted in the re-election of then mayor Gus Newport. Newport’s successors were Loni Hancock, Shirley Dean and Tom Bates. 

Since 1982, this was only the third mayoral election without an incumbent seeking re-election. Jesse’s margin of victory this year. 17%, was larger than in either of the two previous no-incumbent elections, which took place in 1986 and 1994. 

Arreguin won six of the city’s eight council districts, losing only in District 5, Laurie’s home district, and in District 6, which is made up of the Northside and the Northeast Berkeley hills. Amazingly, Arreguin only lost District 6 by 58 votes, 42.6% to 41.9% 

In some ways, this election was similar to other hotly contested mayoral elections in Berkeley dating back to 1982 or before. The same basic voting pattern can be seen. As in previous elections, the more moderate candidate, in this case Capitelli, did better in the hills than in the flatlands or close to campus, while the more progressive candidate, Arreguin, did better in majority tenant and student areas and in areas with lower median incomes such as South and West Berkeley. 

This pattern can be seen in every mayoral election from 1982 when Gus Newport won re-election over Shirley Dean, to 1994, when Dean defeated Don Jelinek in a runoff, through 2002, when Tom Bates defeated then incumbent mayor Shirley Dean. 

What is different and most startling about this year’s results is Capitelli’s poor performance in the flatlands districts. Capitelli did very poorly in South and West Berkeley, and in student areas. He won only 21.5% of the vote in District 3, which includes the heart of South Berkeley and only 22.8% in District 2, the southwestern part of the city, with precincts on both sides of San Pablo. For West Berkeley as a whole, the area west of San Pablo, he won only 22.7% of the vote. 


Mayoral Elections Berkeley, 1982-2016 













Jesse Arreguin  








Laurie Capitelli  








Kriss Worthington  








Wahl, Gould, Runningwolf, Lee, Pete  









Tom Bates  








Kriss Worthington  








Jac McCormick  








Wahl, Jacobs-Fantauzzi, Runningwolf  









Tom Bates  








Shirley Dean  








Runningwolf, Jacobs-Fantauzzi, Jolly  









Tom Bates  








Zelda Bronstein  








Zachary Runningwolf, Christan Pecaut  









Tom Bates  








Shirley Dean  








John Patrick Boushell  









Shirley Dean  








Don Jelinek  








Robert Krumme, Jon Crowder, Delacour  









Don Jelinek  








Shirley Dean*  








Micahel Delacour, William Anderson  









Loni Hancock*  








Fred Weekes  








Michael Delacour  









Loni Hancock  








Phil Polakoff  








Fernandez, Pete, Delacour, Brenner  









Gus Newport  








Shirley Dean  








Tod Mikuriya, Plunkett, Pete, Greenspan  






  • won December runoff election.
In 1982, local elections were consolidated with November state and national elections; local elections had been in April of odd-numbered years. After 2006, mayoral elections took place in presidential election years. Ranked choice voting began with the 2012 mayoral race 


Votes for Berkeley Mayoral Candidates by Council District 2016 




















District 1  


4311 50.7%  























District 2  


























District 3  


























District 4  


























District 5  


























District 6  


























District 7  


























District 8  
















































































W. Berk 


























Students: results from seven consolidated Southside precincts and one consolidated Northside precinct. These precincts include most UC dorms, a large majority of fraternities and sororities, some student coops, and numerous apartment buildings, a large majority of whose residents are students. This does not include all student voters by any means as students can be found in many other precincts in Berkeley but this includes areas where students are most concentrated 


West Berkeley: all precincts west of San Pablo 

Previous moderate mayoral candidates, like Shirley Dean and Fred Weekes, have lost Districts 1, 2 and 3, but never with such a poor showing. In the past, the more moderate candidate could expect to get at least a third of the vote in District 3 and a higher percentage in Districts 1 and 2, which have a higher percentage of homeowner voters. Shirley Dean even won Districts 1 and 2 by small margins when she first ran for re-election in 1998. 

In District 7, the student supermajority district south of the UC campus, Capitelli won only 13.6%. In eight of the most heavily student precincts, seven of them north of Dwight on the Southside and one in the Northside, precincts with dorms, coops, fraternities, sororities, and apartment buildings with few non-student tenants, he got only 9.8%, while Arreguin got 65.2%. Students have always favored more progressive candidates but never by margins like these. No major candidate for mayor since 1982 has ever gotten so small a percentage of the student vote. 

Sanders Endorsement Helped 

Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Arreguin is one reason for his huge margin over Capitelli among student voters. In the same eight student precincts, Sanders won 78.8% of the vote in the June California presidential primary. 

71 of the 72 precincts that voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary voted for Arreguin over Capitelli in November. In addition, Arreguin won 3 of the 31 precincts that went for Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders won Berkeley with 54.4% of the vote to 45.2% for Clinton in June, with few students casting votes as the semester had ended. Had the election taken place before the end of the semester, Sander’s margin would certainly have been larger. 

There were Bernie supporters who backed Capitelli, councilmember Linda Maio being one example, but certainly most of Bernie’s supporters in Berkeley supported Arreguin. The two candidates both appealed to younger voters in particular. 

The division in the Democratic Party between more moderate Democrats like Clinton and more progressive Democrats like Sanders is the same kind of division that’s found in Berkeley which is a Democratic Party stronghold, where a very large majority votes Democratic in state and national races and where the vast majority are left of center by national standards. But while Berkeley is united in its dislike of Trump, who only got 3.2% of the vote here, it is still divided between progressive and less progressive or more moderate Democrats, with the city’s small minority of Green Party members lining up on the progressive side. 

In Berkeley, relative moderation tends to correlate with income. The city’s wealthier neighborhoods such as the hills above Claremont Ave in District 8 and the Northeast Berkeley hills in District 6 are the most consistently moderate in their voting behavior. District 5 north of Eunice and Hopkins, including areas like Thousand Oaks, where median homeowner household incomes are well above $100,000 a year are also in the moderate camp. In districts 1, 2 and 3, homeowners have more modest incomes, and there are substantial tenant populations, especially in District 3. These areas favor progressive candidates by and large. Districts 4 and 7 have large tenant majorities, with lots of students and younger voters especially in District 7. They have been reliably progressive and have been represented by council members from the progressive end of the spectrum since election of council members by districts began in 1986. 

A High Turnout Election 

Beyond the Sanders endorsement, another contributing factor to Arreguin’s 17% margin over Capitelli was high turnout. This year, 65,430 ballots were cast in Berkeley, a 78.1% turnout of registered voters; in 2012, it was 60,559 ballots cast and a turnout of 73.7%. Turnout was also way up compared to the 2014 gubernatorial election when only 40,301 votes were cast here; a 50.4% turnout of registered voters. Higher turnout elections generally mean more tenant, lower income, and student voters. In District 3, which comprises South Berkeley and part of the LeConte neighborhood east of Shattuck, this year a total of 7627 votes were cast for mayoral candidates, up from 5763 in 2012. Some of this may be due to changes in district boundaries resulting from redistricting after the 2012 election, and to population growth, but most of it results from higher turnout and greater interest in the mayoral election. Blank voting, voting for no one for mayor, was down substantially. 

This is the first mayoral election without an incumbent in the race since mayoral elections were moved to presidential election years. Between 1982 and 2006, the largest number of votes cast for mayoral candidates, was 48,407 in 1982. This year almost 59,000 votes were cast for mayor. This larger electorate is good for progressives. 

Student turnout this year was relatively low, with only 4,898 ballots cast in District 7, the student supermajority district, while ballots cast in other districts ranged from 7089 in District 4 (downtown and central Berkeley which also has a substantial student population) to 10,497 in District 5. Nonetheless student turnout this November was much higher than in the June primary, when many students had left for the summer and much higher than in 2014, with no presidential election. In District 7, turnout was 1,812 in the June primary, and 1,805 in 2014. Turnout was also higher in core student precincts than in 2012. 

Turnout was also higher in District 5, which Laurie Capitelli represented on the City Council for 12 years. But in District 5, where in the past a moderate candidate could expect to win big, Capitelli this year only beat Arreguin by 49% to 40% margin, with Jesse winning the area south of Eunice and southeast of King Middle School. Arreguin’s vote margin in District 3, his best district, was 2621 votes, a lot more than the 878 votes by which Capitelli carried his home district. A precinct added to District 5 as a result of redistricting had previously been in District 4; Arreguin had won this precinct in his last contested Council race. 


The Other Candidates 

Kriss Worthington, who has represented District 7 on the Council for 20 years, also ran for mayor. He didn’t do much campaigning, and sent out no mailers, but participated in candidate forums, and ran some ads in the Daily Californian in the final days of the campaign. In his ads and at public events he called on voters to use ranked choice to vote for both him and Arreguin. He won 8% of the vote, doing best in District 2, where he got 11.6%, and worst in District 5, he got only 5%. 


Finishing fourth with 2.9% of the vote was Ben Gould, a UC graduate student, who is now running for the District 4 seat vacated by Jesse Arreguin. Gould concentrated his campaigning in District 4, where he won 4.6% of first choice votes. Other candidates were Bernt Wahl, Zachary Running Wolf and Naomi Pete, all of whom have run before and Mike Lee, “the Old Bum for Mayor”, a homeless activist involved in homeless encampments in Berkeley. Together the bottom five candidates won 10.7% of the vote. 

These five did best in Districts 4 and 7 where they totaled respectively 14.2% and 15.5% of the vote. The Daily Californian ran front page profiles of all the mayoral candidates and this publicity may have contributed to their relatively strong showing in precincts with a lot of students. By contrast, in District 5, only 5.9% voted for one of the bottom five. 

While there have always been minor candidates in Berkeley mayoral elections, ranked choice voting seems to encourage more people to run. There were 6 candidates in 2012, the first mayoral election with ranked choice and 8 candidates this year, the largest number to run for mayor in at least the last four decades. 

As far as their second choices, most people who voted for the bottom five candidates, did not vote for either Arreguin or Capitelli as their second choice; their votes went to one of the other candidates or they didn’t give a second choice. It seems that a lot of people who voted for minor candidates didn’t like the choice of Arreguin and Capitelli. Of those who did choose one of the two major candidates, more favored Arreguin than Capitelli. Kriss Worthington’s second choice votes never had to be revealed at any stage of the vote count, so who got his second choice votes is not available, though it seems reasonable to assume that Arreguin would have got most of them. 

Why Did Jesse Win? 

This analysis is mostly about where Jesse won his votes and how this election compares to previous elections. I’ve suggested that the Bernie endorsement and high turnout played a role. 

No surveys or exit polls were done, to my knowledge, to ask voters about their reasons for choosing Jesse or Laurie. 

The City did do a survey in March of this year to assess whether voters would support various ballots measures then under consideration. The survey found that affordable housing was the number one issue that people in Berkeley were most concerned about. In this survey, 64% said they thought that things in Berkeley were going in the right direction, while only 19% said things were on the wrong track. In national surveys, wrong track has been getting 60% of more. 

Even if most Berkeley voters have a generally positive view of their city and think that the city does a good job providing services, there was evidently some dissatisfaction with the way that things were going. A mayoral candidate from the Council majority with the support of a majority of his fellow councilmembers was defeated by a member of the Council minority, and defeated by a historically large margin. 

One other group that did surveys in this election year was the Berkeley Property Owners Association sponsored group that supported Measure DD and opposed Measure U1, the measure that increase the business license tax on larger landlords to fund affordable housing. 

In a message sent out by e-mail, Berkeley Property Owners Association president Sid Lakireddy stated that “our polling research showed that the electorate was really ticked off by new development in Berkeley. In fact, that number was around 72 percent.” Their polling led to the many anti-U1 mailers that stressed that U1 exempted newly developed housing from the tax increase for a dozen years after occupancy. As Lakireddy goes on to say: “The goal was to associate Measure U1 with new development in the minds of the voter.” But widespread concern about affordable housing identified in the city’s survey and support for funding for affordable housing prevailed over any concern about a temporary exemption for developers. 

While new housing development in downtown and on commercial streets has been happening in Berkeley since the late 1990s, the pace and scale of development has increased in recent years. Rents being charged for new market rate units in these housing developments have also risen, with one recently completed building asking $4400 or $4600 for two-bedroom units on their Web site. New development has also been impacting local small businesses with some, like University Ace Hardware, being forced to find new locations. There seems to also be growing concern about displacement of lower and middle income people, a concern reflected in the formation of Friends of Adeline in South Berkeley. 

It’s not surprising that voters with concerns about the impacts, and doubts about the benefits, of all this new development would favor Arreguin over Capitelli. This development has largely been taking place in traditionally progressive council districts, though with proposals for demolition and new development on Holy Hill, development is now an issue for District 6 residents as well. It would be a mistake, though, to conclude that most Berkeley voters are no-growth supporters, who don’t want more development. It’s more a question of what kind of development and for whose benefit. 

Other factors that played a role in Jesse Arreguin’s electoral victory: 


  • Jesse Arreguin raised over $110,000, which, while it was less than the $140,000+ raised by Capitelli, was enough to enable to him to communicate his message and endorsements to voters.
  • Independent expenditures by the National Association of Realtors Fund in support of Laurie Capitelli , that totaled over $71,000, probably did him more harm than good with the suggestion of special interest support.
  • The Arreguin campaign was a grassroots campaign with lots of voter contact via knocking on doors, and phone calls. It also made use of mailers and social media. The level of campaign activity and voter contact was vastly higher than in any recent election. You would have to go back to 2002 or earlier to find an election with such high volume of campaign activity.
  • In addition to Bernie Sanders’ endorsement, Jesse Arreguin secured a wide array of endorsements that probably helped to overcome some voters’ concern about his relative youth. He was supported by the Sierra Club, by most Democratic Party clubs as well as by Alameda County Democratic Party, by most labor unions, by student groups, by local media such as the East Bay Express, known for its coverage of housing issues, by the Daily Cal and, as a second choice after Kriss Worthignton, by the East Bay Times. He was also endorsed by two of the mayors who have served Berkeley since 1980, Gus Newport and Shirley Dean. It was a major coup for Capitelli to win the endorsement of Robert Reich, a popular figure in Berkeley. He also benefited from the endorsement of Nancy Skinner, who won 69% of the vote in Berkeley in her successful campaign for the 9th District State Senate seat being vacated by Loni Hancock, who also supported Capitelli. Interestingly, incumbent Mayor Tom Bates’s support for Capitelli was not emphasized in Capitelli’s mailers.

Campaign Contributions 2016 Election  


District or Measure  


Candidate or Position  


Total contributions  

























































Disrict 2  
























District 3  






























District 5  


















District 6  
























Rent Board  


CALI Slate tot.  






Fair Berk tot.  























Source: compiled from forms filed by candidates here: 


Total Contributions are amounts reported through Dec 31, 2015, 

if any; plus amounts reported through Oct 22, 2016; plus amounts 

reported after Oct 22 on Form 497 contribution reports, if any. 

Ben Bartlett loaned himself $10,000; 

Al Murray loaned himself $20,000. 





Independent Expenditures Berkeley November Election 2016 


Independent Expenditure Committee  



Supporting or Opposing 





National Association of Realtors Fund Support  


Laurie Capitelli  

Darrry Moore 

Stephen Murphy 

Susan Wengraf 










Berkeley Police Association  



Laurie Capitelli  

Stephen Murphy 








Berkeley Working Families  


SEIU Local 1021 primary source of contributions for this committee. 





Jesse Arreguin  

Kriss Worthington 

Ben Bartlett 

Leah Simon Weisberg 

Christina Murphy 

Alejandro Soto-Vigil 

Igor Tregub 

Laurie Capitelli 














Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition  




Judy Hunt, Nate Wollman  

Judy Hunt, Nate Wollman 

Sent mailer 11/2 




not reported 


Berkeley Firefighters Association Local 1227  


Susan Wengraf  

Sent mailer 



not reported 


Source: http://nf4.netfile.com/pub2/AllFilingsByIndependentExpenditures.aspx?id=155112022 


NOTE: there were mailings by the Firefighters and by the Berkeley Rentai Housing Coalition that reported on the City’s Mass Mailing Index and received by voters but not reported with the other independent expenditure filings. Mass Mailing Index here: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/Elections/Election__Mass_Mailings_Index.aspx 


Everyone’s a Progressive 

People are always pointing out that by national standards almost everyone in Berkeley is on the left end of the political spectrum; we could all be considered liberals and progressives. The City’s March Community Survey found that 34% of respondents considered themselves, “in terms of local politics”, to be progressive, while 34% considered themselves to be liberal, and only 22% responded “moderate”. 

This year both major candidates were calling themselves progressive, with Laurie Capitelli talking about his “progressive leadership” in mailers and the Berkeley Democratic Club, even though it couldn’t bring itself to endorse Measures U1 and X1, talking about “progressive results”. 

Jesse Arreguin was criticized by opponents for presenting information online that compared his record to Laurie Capitelli’s on issues like the minimum wage and affordable housing. This was seen as negative campaigning. Yet these differences, which parallel differences between Clinton and Sanders at the national level, are important. Take the minimum wage. Just as Sanders made raising the minimum wage to $15 a key issue in his campaign from the beginning, while Clinton took a more moderate position at least until the Democratic Convention, so in Berkeley, Arreguin led on the minimum wage and Capitelli joined in voting for a $15 wage only at the last minute when it was too late to remove competing minimum wage measures from the ballot. There were also real differences in willingness to use city funds for affordable housing even if both candidates agreed that affordable housing was important. 


City Council 

District 2 

The biggest surprise in this year’s local election was the defeat of three term incumbent Darryl Moore in District 2 in Southwest Berkeley. Moore finished first with 39.7% of first choice votes. Challenger Cheryl Davila, who had been Moore’s appointee on the Human Welfare and Community Action Commission, came in second with 31.0%, followed by community activist Nanci Armstrong-Temple with 29.3%. When Armstrong-Temple’s second choice votes were allocated, 59% were for Davila and 21% for Moore, with 19% making no second choice. This brought Davila up to 51%. 

Nanci Armstrong-Temple had actively encouraged her supporters to cast the second vote for Davila. She had also given Davila a campaign contribution of $50. Some supporters campaigning door to door in District 2 urged voters to “vote for the two women.” 

Darryl Moore was only the third incumbent to lose a City Council election since district elections were approved by the voters in 1986. The last time was in 1996, when District 2 incumbent Mary Wainwright lost to Margaret Breland and when District 7 incumbent Carla Woodworth lost to Kriss Worthington. 

Moore won a plurality of the first choice vote in all the precincts east of San Pablo, but lost to Davila in two precincts west of San Pablo, one of which was Davila’s own precinct, which she won 48% to 31%. 

Moore was endorsed by the Sierra Club, by the county Democratic Party and by labor unions and by five other City Council members. He reported campaign contributions of $33,674, which included $2500 from labor union PACs, and also included contributions from developers, such as Richard Robbins of Wareham Development and Patrick Kennedy, and contributions from landlords connected with the BPOA, despite his support for Measure U1, which the BPOA was strongly against. The money he raised helped to pay for two mailers. 

By contrast, Cheryl Davila reported raising $12,977 and Nanci Armstrong-Temple $10,182. Neither reported sending out mailers but relied on signs, door to door campaigning, and e-mail. The National Association of Realtors Fund also spent money for Moore, but as with other candidates they supported, these independent expenditures probably did him more harm than good. Both Davila and Armstrong-Temple were endorsed by former mayor Gus Newport and Council member Max Anderson. Armstrong-Temple was also supported by the Berkeley Tenants Union, Berkeley Citizens Action and the Berkeley Progressive Alliance. 

District 3 

Ben Bartlett won with 57.1% of the vote, followed by Deborah Matthews with 20.8% and Mark Coplan with 20.3%. A fourth candidate, Al Murray, received 1.8% of the vote. Bartlett won a majority of the vote in every precinct. His vote was lowest in Mark Coplan’s home precinct in LeConte where it was 50.3% for Bartlett and 33.9% for Coplan. Bartlett’s best precincts were also in the LeConte portion of the district east of Shattuck. The precinct bordering Shattuck, where neighbors have been fighting Doten Honda’s planned move to the old Berkeley Bowl/Any Mountain site, gave him 65.7% of the vote. And he won, with 62.3%, the one precinct with a sizable proportion of Cal students, located in the northeast corner of the district. 

Bartlett raised the most money, reporting $39,107 in contributions, followed by Matthews with $25,292 and Coplan with $10,865. Bartlett loaned himself $10,000. Both Bartlett and Matthews sent out mailers. Instead of expensive conventional yard signs Coplan had supporters display distinctive pennants, and Coplan himself knocked on a lot of doors. 

Matthews was endorsed by Laurie Capitelli, an endorsement of questionable value given how poorly Capitelli did in District 3. While she did better than Capitelli in 3 precincts, for the District as a whole she got 1478 votes compared to 1639 for Capitelli. She also had the support of Councilmembers Moore and Wengraf and of the politically moderate Berkeley Democratic Club. 

Bartlett was endorsed by outgoing council member Max Anderson who had represented the district for 12 years. He also had the endorsement of council members Arreguin, Worthington, Moore and Droste, making him the only Council candidate to get endorsements from members of both the old Council majority and old Council minority. Bartlett also had a wide array of organizational endorsements including the Sierra Club and Friends of Adeline, a group that Bartlett was active in which was formed when the City initiated the Adeline Corridor planning process. He was one of the council candidates endorsed by the Berkeley Progressive Alliance, Berkeley Citizens Action and the Berkeley Tenants Union at a joint endorsement meeting in April. The other council candidate endorsed by those groups that won this year was Sophie Hahn. 


District 5 

Sophie Hahn was elected by a 62.4%-37.6% over Stephen Murphy, a planning commissioner, who had the backing of outgoing District 5 City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli. This was Hahn’s third try for the District 5 Council seat. She lost to Laurie Capitelli by a 52%-48% margin in 2008 and by 54% to 46% in 2012. This year Hahn swept the district winning every precinct. She did particularly well in her own precinct and in precincts in the southern part of the district; one precinct in that area had previously been in District 4 until redistricting in 2014. 

She also ran ahead of mayoral candidate Capitelli, receiving 5810 votes, while Capitelli got 4771 votes from District 5 voters in the mayoral race. The backing she received from progressives, including Jesse Arreguin, did not seem to do her any harm in this historically moderate-voting council district. Capitelli’s backing of Murphy did not seem to do him a lot of good as he received only 3495 votes. 

The District 5 race was this year’s most expensive council race. Sophie Hahn’s campaign committee raised $73,225, which is the second largest amount ever raised by a Council candidate in Berkeley, exceeded only by George Beier, who raised and spent over $100,000, much of it his own money, in his unsuccessful attempt to defeat Kriss Worthington in District 7 in 2006. Hahn was able to send out a dozen mailers. 

Stephen Murphy had fewer donors and his committee raised $48,954. The Berkeley Police Association and the National Association of Realtors Fund together made independent expenditures totaling over $34,000 in support of Murphy, so total money in support of his candidacy came to about $83,000. As with Capitelli, the independent expenditures may have done more harm than good. About $8000 of the Berkeley Police Association PAC money came from developers, including West Berkeley Investors LLC, which gave $6000 and individual developers like Patrick Kennedy, who gave $1000, which is more than the $250 he was able to give directly to candidate Murphy’s own committee. 

District 6 

Incumbent Susan Wengraf was re-elected with 58.3% of the vote, defeating Fred Dodworth, who got 29.1% and Isabelle Gaston, president of the Northeast Berkeley Association, who got 12.4% Dodsworth won one precinct, the main student precinct in the southern part of the district near campus that includes student coops and the Foothill dorm, and topped 40% in two other Northside precincts. Susan Wengraf won the Northeast Berkeley hills precincts by large margins. 

Wengraf ran well ahead of Capitelli in the District, winning 4344, while Capitelli won 3364 votes for mayor there. Fred Dodsworth knocked on a lot of doors. He was endorsed by progressive groups and elected officials, the kind of endorsements that have historically not carried much weight in District 6. Isabelle Gaston sent a series of small mailers that called into question Susan Wengraf’s record on budget issues and that called for fiscally responsible leadership. 

Susan Wengraf raised over $48,000, a bit more than double what her two opponents together raised. The National Association of Realtors Fund and the Berkeley Firefighthers’ union both made independent expenditures to support Wengraf, adding to her financial advantage. The amount spent by the Firefighters has not been reported on the City’s Web site. 

Rent Board 

The CALI slate, backed by progressives, easily defeated the FAIR Berkeley slate backed by the Berkeley Property Owners Association’s Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition. There were 115,980 total votes for the four CALI slate members, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Leah Simon Weisberg, Christina Murphy and Igor Tregub. There were 34,386 total votes for the two FAIR Berkeley slate members, Judy Hunt and Nate Wollman. The CALI slate swept 84 of 108 precincts and swept seven of eight Council districts; Judy Hunt finished fourth in District 6, the only district not swept by the CALI slate. Hunt and Wollman finished first and second only in two precincts, one in the northeast Berkeley hills, the other in the hills above Claremont Ave. 

The CALI slate was, like Jesse Arreguin, endorsed by Bernie Sanders and that no doubt helped to boost their vote total. Igor Tregub, who lost his seat on the Rent Board to Judy Hunt in 2012, got 25,991 votes this year, up from 16,659 in 2012. Judy Hunt’s vote also increased from17,930 in 2012 to 20,721 this year, but that left her more than 5000 votes behind Tregub, who finished fourth on the CALI slate. While there were only six candidates for four seats on the ballot this year, down from eight candidates in 2012, undervoting this year was down. The average voter cast 2.3 votes up from an average of 2.1 votes in 2012. Failure to field a full slate of candidates no doubt contributed to the margin of defeat of the landlord-backed slate, but Judy Hunt was only supported by 32% of those who cast ballots and it’s doubtful that any additional slate members would have been able to do much better. 

The CALI slate’s win is impressive when you consider that they raised only $30,536 and did no citywide mailing. The opposing slate members also raised relatively little. The Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition spent an unknown amount on a citywide mailer for Hunt and Wollman, but it was sent out in the last week of the campaign, when many had already voted by mail. Hunt and Wollman were also endorsed by the Berkeley Democratic Club which also endorsed Christina Murphy and all three were included in the Club’s citywide mailers. Murphy, who won 39,406 votes citywide, finished first in Districts 5 and 6 and the BDC endorsement no doubt was a factor. 

Citywide, the BDC endorsement didn’t help much this year. All their endorsed candidates for Berkeley offices were defeated except for Murphy, Susan Wengraf and the two incumbent school board candidates who did not face significant opposition and who were also endorsed by progressives on the Council. The BDC failed to take a position on progressive local measures U1 and X1. This election saw the emergence of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, which backed Sanders in the June primary, as the city’s most active and influential Democratic club. 

Alejandro Soto Vigil finished first with 30,297 votes and was the top vote getter in Districts 1,3,4, and 7. Leah Simon Weisberg was a close second with 30,286 votes, and finished first in Districts 2 and 8. 

Local Ballot Measures 

The only real contested measures on this year’s ballot were Measures U1 and DD. No ballot arguments were filed against Measures AA, E1, T1, V1, W1, X1, and Z1, and all passed easily. X1, which establishes public financing for future Mayoral and Council elections, passed with 65% of the vote. Its limits on contributions will mean less expensive Council races in the future. Identical ballot arguments were made against Measures BB and CC, the two minimum wage initiatives, after proponents of both measures reached a compromise that led to the Council’s adoption of a $15 minimum wage effective in 2018 along with sick leave. Both measures, nonetheless, got about a little over one-third of the vote. Passage of W1 means that after the next Census, redistricting of City Council district boundaries will be done by an independent commission. Passage of AA means that owner move-in evictions of families with school age children cannot take place during the academic year. Passage of Y1 gives the vote to 16 and 17 year olds in future school board elections. 

U1 and DD 

$984,000 was raised by two organizations sponsored by the Berkeley Property Owners Association, which represents the city’s larger landlords. Almost all the money came from large landlords and real estate investors. It was used to both oppose Measure U1, which will raise the business license tax on landlords with five or more units, and to get an alternative measure, DD, which would have enacted a smaller increase in the tax without the exemptions in U1, on the ballot. Money was spent for signature gatherers, polls, lawyers, various campaign consultants, signs, mailers, and doorhangers. These organizations reported making a record 14 mailings to voters. The high volume of mail, the absence of endorsements by elected officials and groups, and the amount of money spent helped arouse suspicions about their campaign against U1. As Big Soda learned in 2014 when it unsuccessfully tried to defeat the soda tax measure, visibly spending a lot of money can backfire and heavy spending against a Council-endorsed measure can become an issue. U1 was unanimously endorsed by the City Council and only one elected official, Judy Hunt, who lost her bid for reelection to the Rent Board, endorsed the alternative measure, DD. 


Tax Measures 

Berkeley voters were in a generous mood this year and approved both renewal of the parcel tax for schools at a higher rate, and new infrastructure bonds by big margins. The School tax, Measure E1, finished with 88.9% of the vote, a record high level of support for a local tax. Ten years earlier, the tax, originally adopted in 1986 to address the impact of Prop 13, passed with 79.7% of the vote. Measure T1, the bond measure for infrastructure garnered 86.6% support. No ballot argument was submitted in opposition to either measure. 

Berkeley voters also voted 86.7% to 13.3% for the Alameda County Affordable Housing bond which passed countywide by 73% to 27%. 91.4% of Berkeley voters voted for the AC Transit parcel tax and 88.0% favored the BART bonds. 

Press Release: Jesse Arreguin inaugurated as Berkeley mayor

From Stefan Elgstrand, assistant to Mayor Arreguin
Friday December 09, 2016 - 11:46:00 AM

Last night, at Old Berkeley City Hall, Jesse Arreguin was inaugurated as Berkeley’s 22nd Mayor. Arreguin, 32, is Berkeley’s youngest Mayor in over 100 years, and the first Latino to lead the city.

Arreguin ran for Mayor on a progressive platform, with a commitment to tackle the city’s affordability crisis. He was elected on November 8.

During Mayor Arreguin’s inaugural speech, he addressed the outcome of the national election and spoke of the pressing need for Berkeley’s progressive leadership in the years ahead. 

Mayor Arreguin said: “Election Night was bittersweet. While we celebrated a great progressive victory in Berkeley, our nation took a troubling turn. In the coming months and years, while we may face dark times, the light from our progressive city must shine brighter than ever. It is essential for Berkeley to lead, for our city to be a bold, progressive beacon amongst the darkness, for other cities throughout our country and our world.” 

Mayor Arreguin particularly addressed the importance of building more affordable housing, raising local wages, and alleviating homelessness. 

“Together, let us put all of our energy towards tackling our growing affordability crisis,” the Mayor said. “Let’s build more affordable housing so our working families don’t get pushed out of our great city. Let’s raise the minimum wage to a truly living wage, so that nobody who works full time in Berkeley lives in poverty. Let us show real compassion for our brothers and sisters who are sleeping on our streets, and work together to provide a pathway out of homelessness.” 

Arreguin was joined on the dais by a new progressive City Council majority, and after the swearing in, led his first Council meeting as Mayor. 


Jesse Arreguin was elected Mayor of Berkeley on November 8, 2016 and sworn in on December 1, 2016. He is Berkeley’s first Latino Mayor, and at 32, its youngest in over 100 years. 

A Progressive Leader from the Start. 

The son and grandson of farmworkers, Arreguin was born in Fresno and raised in San Francisco. He grew up in a working-class household, where his parents instilled the values of hard work, public service, and giving back. When Arreguin was young, his family was pushed out of their home in the midst of San Francisco’s skyrocketing housing market. The Mayor knows how harmful evictions are to working families, and how essential housing security is for the success of families and children. 

Arreguin was motivated by the social movements of the era: the fight against apartheid in South Africa, for democracy in China, and for farmworkers’ rights across the nation. Experiencing these social movements at a very early age helped him develop a lifelong commitment to fighting for social justice. 

As a youth, Arreguin was also inspired by the life of Cesar Chavez, who taught him that one person, despite all odds, can stand up and make a difference. Chavez became a hero for him, and at age 9, Arreguin helped lead efforts to establish Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco. 

The First in His Family to Go to College, at UC Berkeley. 

Arreguin’s dream was to attend the best public university in the world, UC Berkeley. When first visiting the campus, he fell in love with the city and knew this was where he was meant to be. Despite the odds, he became the first in his family to graduate college. 

At UC Berkeley, he led efforts to increase student housing and invest in sustainable transportation, and fought for the interests of students as ASUC City Affairs Director. After graduation, he made Berkeley his permanent home and dedicated his career to serving the city. 

Over 14 Years of Service to Berkeley. 

For over 14 years Arreguin has served the Berkeley community. He first served on the Housing Advisory Commission, where he helped secure funding for hundreds of new affordable units. 

In 2004, he was elected to the Rent Stabilization Board. As Chair of the Rent Board, Arreguin strengthened renter protections, to help keep families in their homes. 

In 2008, he became the youngest person and first Latino ever elected to the City Council, where he represented Downtown and portions of North Berkeley for 8 years. 

Passed Over 300 Pieces of Legislation that Have Made a Difference. 

As a Councilmember, Arreguin developed a reputation as an effective consensus builder, and had one of the Council’s most effective records, drafting and passing over 300 pieces of progressive legislation. He helped expand affordable housing, establish our city’s minimum wage, and protect our environment. He also co-wrote Berkeley’s Downtown Plan to revitalize the heart of our city, saved our historic Main Post Office, and fought for tenants, immigrants, and our civil liberties. 

Real Progressive Leadership for a Berkeley that Works for Everyone. 

Jesse Arreguin was elected Mayor of Berkeley in November 2016. As Mayor, he is committed to tackling the affordability crisis to keep our city diverse and vibrant, taking on disparities in health, housing, economic, and educational opportunity, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, making our city more environmentally sustainable, addressing homelessness through innovative solutions, strengthening our public schools, and responsibly managing our budget.

Three robberies on Virginia Street prompt Berkeley police warning

Scott Morris (BCN)
Thursday December 08, 2016 - 02:34:00 PM

Residents of North Berkeley have been urged to stay vigilant after a series of three robberies of pedestrians in the last week that might be related to three other robberies in November. 

"Based on the descriptions of the suspects, and the geographic proximity of the crime scenes, detectives believe that the (December) cases are related," police said in a statement. "There is also the possibility that the robberies are related to three cases from November." 

The three robberies in December all happened on Virginia Street between 7 and 11 p.m. The most recent robbery happened on Tuesday, when a couple walking in the area of Spruce and Virginia streets were robbed at gunpoint, police said. 

The couple was approached by two men in their 20s or 30s at about 7:15 p.m. One of the suspects pulled out a gun and they took the victims' phones and backpacks, fleeing east on Virginia, police said. 

A suspect in a similar robbery a few days earlier had been arrested, but was later released without charges because of a lack of evidence, according to police. 

Police had broadcast a description of that suspect following a robbery on Friday. A 27-year-old man was robbed as he was walking home in the area of Walnut and Virginia streets shortly before 11 p.m. 

Two men, one armed with a gun, demanded his backpack and then got into a car and fled south on Walnut, according to police.  

San Francisco police later stopped a similar car and arrested the driver, thinking he was one of the two robbers, but investigators never located any of the stolen property and eventually released the driver. 

Investigators are looking into the possibility that the same suspects are responsible for another robbery a day prior. In that robbery, another 27-year-old man was walking in the area of Virginia and Arch streets at about 8:30 p.m. 

Like the other two victims, two robbers approached them, one had a gun, and they took his property. 

Three other robberies in November fit the same description and happened in the same general area. On Nov. 25, two women, ages 24 and 26, were walking together in the 2400 block of Ridge Road at 7:38 p.m. when two men tried to wrench their purses from their arms. The women wouldn't let go, and eventually the would-be robbers got into a car and fled empty-handed.  

On Nov. 22, a 17-year-old University of California at Berkeley student was walking in the area of Bowditch Street and Dwight Way at 11:20 p.m. when three men snuck up on him and pulled a knife. The student turned over his backpack and the suspects fled.  

On Nov. 15, two suspects grabbed a cellphone from a 24-year-old man as he was walking in the 1500 block of Oxford Street around 11:30 p.m., police said.  

Police did not provide a detailed description of the suspects but advised residents, particularly in the neighborhoods where the robberies happened, to be aware of their surroundings, travel in groups if possible and not to have their phone visible while walking.  

Anyone with information about the cases has been asked to call Berkeley police at (510) 981-5742.

November 8, 2016 General Election Official Results from Alameda County Statement of Vote:
Berkeley and Selected Regional Offices and Measures

Saturday December 10, 2016 - 11:59:00 AM

Mayor First Choice Votes

Jesse Arreguin 28,984 49.1%

Laurie Capitelli 18,957 32.1%

Kriss Worthington 4,730 8.0%

Ben Gould 1,732 2.9%

Bernt Wahl 1,667 2.8%

Zachary Runningwolf 1,606 2.7%

Mike Lee 947 1.6%

Naomi Pete 371 .6%

Mayor Ranked Choice Vote:

Jesse Arreguin 29,499 50.4%

Laurie Capitelli 19,401 33.1%

Jesse went over 50% when second choice votes of Pete, Lee and Wahl were counted. It was not necessary to count second choice ballots of Runningwolf, Gould, or Worthington. 

District 2 City Council First Choice Votes 

Darryl Moore 2,827 39.7% 

Cheryl Davila 2,206 31.0% 

Nanci Armstrong-Temple 2,083 29.3% 

District 2 Ranked Choice Vote: 

Cheryl Davila 3,451 51.3%  

Darryl Moore 3,283 48.8% 

District 3 City Council 

Ben Bartlett 4,048 57.1%  

Deborah Matthews 1,478 20.8% 

Mark Coplan 1,439 30.3% 

Al Murray 129 1.8% 


District 5 City Council 

Sophie Hahn 5,810 62.4% 

Stephen Murphy 3,495 37.6% 

District 6 City Council 

Susan Wengraf 4,344 58.4% 

Fred Dodsworth 2,166 29.2% 

Isabelle Gaston 925 12.4% 

Rent Stabilization Board 

Alejandro Soto-Vigil 30,297 20.1% 

Leah Simon-Weisberg 30,286 20.1% 

Christina Murphy 29,406 19.6% 

Igor Tregub 25,991 17.3% 

Judy Hunt 20,721 13.8% 

Nate Wollman 13,665 9.1% 

Berkeley School Directors 

Judy Appel 39,461 50.8% 

Beatriz Leyva-Cutler 30,116 38.8% 

Abdur Sikder 8,032 10.3% 

Norma Harrison, who has run unsuccessfully before, received 129 write-in votes 

Alameda County Affordable Housing Bond 

A1 YES 456,705 73.3% 

A1 NO 166,320 26.7% 

In Berkeley, 86.7% voted for the measure. 

Berkeley Parcel Tax for Schools 

E1 YES 53,105 88.9% 

E1 NO 6,658 11.1%  

Berkeley Infrastructure Bond Measure  

T1 YES 50,413 86.6% 

T1 NO 7,800 13.4% 

Berkeley Higher Tax on Larger Landlords for Affordable Housing 

U1 YES 43,014 74.9% 

U1 NO 14,389 25.1% 

Landlord Backed Lower Tax Alternative to U1 

DD YES 16,328 29.1% 

DD NO 39,874 70.9% 

Berkeley Council District Redistricting by Independent Commission 

W1 YES 48,209 87.7% 

W1 NO 6,489 12.3% 


Berkeley Public Financing Mayor and City Council Elections 

X1 YES 33,921 64.9% 

X1 NO 18,367 35.1% 

Berkeley 16 and 17 Years Olds Can Vote for School Board 

Y1 YES 38,459 70.3% 

Y1 NO 16,243 29.7% 

Berkeley Approval to Build Low Income Housing 

Z1 YES 44,574 83.3%  

Z1 NO 8,912 16.7% 

Berkeley Amendments to Rent Control Concerning Move-in Evictions 

AA YES 39,332 73.2%
AA NO 14,427 26.8% 

Berkeley Minimum Wage Council Initiative  

BB YES 18,628 34.1%  

BB NO 36,063 65.9% 

Berkeley Minimum Wage Citizen Initiative 

CC YES 18,850 34.7% 

CC NO 35,490 65.4% 

Note: after the City Council unanimously voted to raise the minimum wage so that it would reach $15 in October 2018, and implemented a paid sick leave requirement, proponents of both measures asked voters to reject both measures. 

AC Transit Parcel Tax 

C1 YES 384,465 82.1% 

C1 NO 83,766 17.9% 

Combine results from Alameda and Contra Costa counties. 

In Berkeley, YES on C1 received 91.4% of the vote. 

BART Bonds (2/3 required to pass) 

RR YES 994,140 70.6% 

RR NO 415,366  

Combined results of Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties. 

YES on RR received 88.0% of the vote in Berkeley 


California State Senate, 9th District 

Nancy Skinner 236,133 62.2% 

Sandré Swanson 143,573 37.8% 

District is mostly in Alameda County, but includes part of Contra Costa County 

Berkeley only  

Nancy Skinner 39,365 69.0% 

Sandré Swanson 17,696 31.0% 

BART Director, District 3 

Rebecca Saltzman 87,369 56.2% 

Ken Chew 44,498 28.6% 

Varun Paul 16,432 10.6% 

Worth Freeman 7,299 4.7% 

Includes votes from Alameda and Contra Costa counties 

Rebecca Saltzman, the incumbent, won 69.7% of the vote in Berkeley. 

District includes most of Berkeley except South and West Berkeley 

BART Director, District 7 

Lateefah Simon 62,700 50.6% 

Zakhary Mallett 33,885 27.3% 

Will Roscoe 21,196 17.1% 

Roland Emerson 6,168 5.0% 

Includes votes from Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties. 

In Berkeley, Lateefah Simon received 64% of the vote. District includes South and West Berkeley 

NOTE Zakhary Mallett was the incumbent; he was the only BART director to oppose the contract settlement between BART and its unions 

AC Transit District Director, At Large 

Chris Peeples 290,844 62.5% 

Dollene Jones 171,744 37.5% 

Includes votes from Alameda and Contra Costa Counites 

Peeples, the incumbent, received 70.4% of the vote in Berkeley. 

AC Transit District Director, Ward 2 

Greg Harper 63,909 58.9% 

Russ Tilleman 44,648 41.1% 

Harper was the incumbent and won 59.6% of the vote cast in Berkeley 

Ward includes Northside, Southside and Southeast Berkeley east of Telegraph 

Peralta Community College District Trustee, Area #6 

Karen Weinstein 30,429 72.2% 

Nick Resnick 11,499 27.3% 

Karen Weinstein got 76.7% of the vote in Berkeley. 

NOTE: small number of write-in votes in all above contests are not included in calculation of percentages.. Write-ins were less than .5% in all local Berkeley races. 

Numbers compiled and analysis written by Rob Wrenn, December 2016 



Disaster highlights the need for effective regulation in Berkeley

Becky O'Malley
Friday December 09, 2016 - 12:00:00 PM

Even if we don’t know anyone who died in the East Bay’s tragic fire, most of us are one or two removes away from someone who did. Our former employee and friend managed the career of some of the musicians who were lost, for example, and there were many more connections there to people we know. It’s a personal loss for family and friends, and also a loss to the wider society on many levels. I’m told that ushers at U.C. Berkeley’s Zellerbach auditorium were weeping on Friday because one of their number, a young man with considerable charm and many other accomplishments, perished in the flames. 

Inevitably, this event raises once again the question of what is the position of the artist in our society. We give lip service and occasional monetary donations to the concept of valuing the arts, but at least in the tradition descended from Western Europe starving artists have been a familiar cultural figure. In the opera La Boheme, just one example, an author burns his manuscript to warm up his garret which shelters Mimi, dying of consumption without health care, as his housemates, fellow bohemians wring their hands because they’re too broke even to buy food. Somehow, you get the idea that it’s expected that artists will always be paupers. 

In the case of the Ghost Ship disaster, however, it’s important to draw a line between personal decisions that artists still must make to survive in a society which doesn’t appreciate them and the reckless disregard for human life which was exhibited by the owner of the property and, even worse, the huckster lessee who exploited other people for his own profit. The live-work charade which the promoter foisted on people who live in the building he leased was bad enough, but enticing the public to a dance party in an obviously lethal setting from which they could not escape was inexcusable. This is not about the housing shortage, though there is one, or about the shortage of studio space, though that’s a problem as well. 

It’s all about greed and hubris, pure and simple, fueling the excesses of entrepreneurial capitalism—not much different from the proprietors of the factory in Bangladesh where many died in a fire not long ago. It’s comparable to Berkeley’s Library Gardens disaster: the state contractors’ board has just documented the cutting of corners by the builder which created the fatal balcony collapse. And if there was ever a case which demonstrated clearly the need for effective government regulation in a market economy, this is the worst example. 

What are we going to do without it, what can we do about it in Berkeley? I tend to think the laws are already in place here, it’s just the enforcement which is lacking. The field marshal leading the war on homeless Berkeley campers is a guy whose job is supposed to be code enforcement—and yet the Library Gardens victims died on his watch. Something’s wrong here. Now that apparently forward-looking people are in power in Berkeley, priorities need to be changed, and fast. 

For an excellent opinion see: 

Reflection on the Oakland fire

The Editor's Back Fence

Public Comment

Going Forward: An Open Letter to Berkeley's new City Council

Charlene M. Woodcock
Friday December 09, 2016 - 11:11:00 AM

New policies

Berkeley voters have made clear their wish for a change of direction in the governance of Berkeley that will be more attentive to the needs and values of our existing residents and to the consequences of serious income inequality. We see cheaply-built 6- and 8-story buildings going up all over Berkeley. We see our handsome historic buildings downtown demeaned: a garish hotel planned for Shattuck and Center, and the grotesquely oversized 2211 Harold Way project that will demolish the beautifully-designed, financially successful Shattuck Cinemas, a fine example of creative reuse of an historic building. Rather than approve rapid construction of new residential buildings that exacerbate gentrification and serve those who can pay market and luxury rates, we hope now to see the city focus on ensuring housing for our low income residents and middle class families. Berkeley's cultural and economic diversity, its teachers, artists, musicians, and minimum-wage working people, are a highly valued part of our city’s cultural fabric.

The previous council majority’s failure to require cutting edge energy efficiency and resource conservation in the design and construction of the many new buildings now going up is also a factor in the opposition to new development measured in the poll done for the Berkeley Property Owners Association: “Our polling research showed that the electorate was really ticked off about new development in Berkeley. Our political consultants said they never in their combined 100 years or so of running political campaigns had seen anything poll at 72 percent.” (December 2016 BPOA newsletter). 


Jesse Arreguín proposed a number of ways the city can begin to serve the housing needs of its residents. One that can get underway immediately is to inventory poorly-maintained multi-unit apartment buildings that the city could acquire to refurbish and make available under rent control. Inviting proposals from non-profit developers for well-designed, energy-efficient inclusionary residential buildings is another way to begin to address Berkeley’s serious need for low-income and family housing. When there are so few locations for new construction, retrofitting older buildings is the most efficient and environmentally responsible way to proceed. 

The election outcome also makes clear that we want our former amenities to be repaired and returned to use, such as the Willard Pool, the Berkeley Pier, a warm pool to replace the one that was lost at Berkeley High. The Veterans’ Building has a fine auditorium. The retrofitting of that building could provide a community space to be made available to local artists, and theater and dance companies. These are some of the people who are being driven out of Berkeley by real estate speculation or who have had to make do with unsafe and inappropriate live-work spaces, with the tragic outcome that we saw in Oakland last week. 

The election also made clear that we want our parks to be cared for properly. Berkeley’s Aquatic Park provides tranquility and bird habitat, but it is under threat of a large new development and parking lot on the adjacent American Soil Products site. Instead, that property should be acquired by the city to add to the park. Its incorporation into Aquatic Park could come at a later time while its costs begin to be repaid by continuing to lease it for its current benign use. The population of southwest Berkeley in the immediate neighborhood of Aquatic Park has increased significantly with the five new large buildings at University Avenue and 4th Street; that park should be enhanced rather than urbanized. 

Address climate change

We want an informed and effective commitment to rigorous energy efficiency standards. In the face of climate change and the urgent need to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas pollution, the city should immediately revise out-of-date environmental policies and requirements that still consider LEED gold a high standard, to the detriment of city residents when a huge project like 2211 Harold Way is approved. 

To nearly double the size of the Berkeley Center Street Garage when the downtown plan commits to reducing automobile traffic makes no sense; several floors of that already obsolete project could be devoted instead to mixed- and low-income housing. Berkeley needs to do much better in addressing both housing and climate change. In 2020 the state will require net zero energy production for residential developments. We want rigorous energy efficiency and water conservation, and also good design, in all new buildings approved in our city. 

The obstacle to going forward with addressing these needs is lack of funding. However, there are foundations that offer grants to help cities become less wasteful and polluting, improve public transportation, become more suitable for biking and walking, and more supportive of local business and local amenities such as parks. A city staff member or bright, energetic UCB grad student could be directed to search out grants to fund specific projects such as those listed above. A higher transfer tax on residential buildings sold for more than $1,000,000 might be devoted to Berkeley’s low income housing fund. It will be interesting to see the outcome of Portland city commissioners’ vote to tax CEO incomes that are more than 100 times the median salary of their employees. It’s time for innovative solutions to our community needs.

Living Disabled

Lois A. Crispi
Saturday December 10, 2016 - 09:20:00 AM

This article is written solely from my point of view on the lot of the Disabled in Berkeley and elsewhere. However, I believe there are thousands who would agree with me. I am an elderly woman who was born 76 years ago with a serious birth defect. My life expectancy was six years. The hardest part of being Disabled is that one is looked upon as a nonentity. The word NONENTITY is worth repeating. The assistance received when I was born helped minimally at best. It’s not much better today.  

I need physical therapy every day to remain in a vertical position, not the short length of time Medicare decides then allocates. I need a decent cost of living adjustment; everything goes up but my income. The 1 and 1/2 per cent yearly income that some boardroom committee decided is not fine. Some years there is no increase, however, things continue to go up. There is money for every thing else, but not for the growing number of Disabled. We are a wealthy country, what happened, why were we are left behind? It is because no one cares? Perhaps they just want us to go away. Are they afraid they may become like us? The majority of people will become disabled, ability is a temporary state.  

When did the pharmaceutical companies get to raise the prices of drugs to astronomical heights? When did they decide how many pills you can purchase? If you don’t have insurance, the Over The Counter cost for two prescription could be $600.00 for one and $380.00 for another, that’s a one month’s supply. Did some become greedy? Who's tending the store? Where do they think money comes from, the proverbial tree? An important question is, WHEN DID THE INSURANCE COMPANIES GET THEIR M.D’s?  

We all hope to get ahead. This is the fantasy for the Disabled. We know we will not get ahead. What will become of us? The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) gets a C- or less on my report card. There are still places that are inaccessible for me. The ADA was established in l990; they have conquered the too heavy door or the curb on the sidewalk. We need much more. I’m available, I’ve never been asked, “Are your needs being met?” I went to physical therapy in a facility where I was carried up a flight of stairs by two men. 

Disability is no longer limited to crutches and a wheel chair. It permeates the land. It includes women, who are degraded, and what about the immigrants, who is watching out for them? They will become statistics with no identity. There’s the sick and dying who can’t get the medical care they need, have lost their homes and all their belongings. Many have lost loved ones, to say nothing of their minds. The world is disabled, except for the people who run the it. One need not look far to see Disability is everywhere.  

Hopefully. this is to be the first in an article on the difficulties the Disable face every day in Berkeley and elsewhere.

Response to Dan McMullan

Sheila Goldmacher
Friday December 09, 2016 - 11:16:00 AM

I absolutely agree with Mr. McMullan. The city manager's actions seem cause for removal immediately upon the new Mayor's being sworn in. As for the others involved in this ugly action against everything we voted for, those folks should receive damning letters in their employee files and if possible, removed as well, for giving misinformation to the police department. and as for the police department's actions, they too should be condemned for doing such harm and abuse to homeless, disabled people for they too knew that the citizens of Berkeley had voted against the continuance of such behavior on their part. Trump in Berkeley - what a holiday to look forward to.

December Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Thursday December 08, 2016 - 01:56:00 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! 


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:India & Pakistan: The Unthinkable

Conn Hallinan
Thursday December 08, 2016 - 11:19:00 AM

President-elect Donald Trump’s off the cuff, chaotic approach to foreign policy had at least one thing going for it, even though it was more the feel of a blind pig rooting for acorns than a thought out international initiative. In speaking with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Trump said he wanted “to address and find solutions to the county’s [Pakistan’s] problems.”

Whether Trump understands exactly how dangerous the current tensions between Pakistan and India are, or if anything will come from the Nov. 30 exchange between the two leaders, is anyone’s guess, but it is more than the Obama administration has done over the past eight years, in spite of a 2008 election promise to address the on-going crisis in Kashmir.

And right now that troubled land is the single most dangerous spot on the globe. 

India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the disputed province in the past six decades and came within a hair’s breathe of a nuclear exchange in 1999. Both countries are on a crash program to produce nuclear weapons, and between them they have enough explosive power to not only kill more than 20 million of their own people, but to devastate the world’s ozone layer and throw the Northern Hemisphere into a nuclear winter with a catastrophic impact on agriculture worldwide. 

According to studies done at Rutgers, the University of Colorado-Boulder, and the University of California Los Angeles, if both countries detonated 100 Hiroshima size bombs, it would generate between 1 and 5 million tons of smoke that within 10 days would drive temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere down to levels too cold for wheat production in much of Canada and Russia. The resulting 10 percent drop in rainfall—particularly hard hit would be the Asian monsoon—would exhaust worldwide food supplies, leading to the starvation of up to 100 million plus people. 

Aside from the food crisis, a nuclear war in South Asia would destroy between 25 to 70 percent of the Northern Hemisphere’s ozone layer, resulting in a massive increase in dangerous ultraviolent radiation. 

Lest anyone think that the chances of such a war are slight, consider two recent developments. 

One, a decision by Pakistan to deploy low-yield tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons and to give permission for local commanders to decide when to use them. 

In an interview with the German newspaper Deutsche Welle, Gregory Koblentz of the Council on Foreign Relations warned that if a “commander of a forward-deployed nuclear armed unit finds himself in a ‘use it or lose it’ situation and about to be overrun, he might decided to launch his weapons.” 

Pakistan’s current Defense Minister, Muhammad Asif, told Geo TV, “If anyone steps on our soil and if anyone’s designs are a threat to our security, we will not hesitate to use those [nuclear] weapons for our defense.” 

Every few years the Pentagon “war games” a clash between Pakistan and India over Kashmir: every game ends in a nuclear war. 

The second dangerous development is the “Cold Start” strategy by India that would send Indian troops across the border to a depth of 30 kilometers in the advent of a terrorist attack like the 1999 Kargill incident in Kashmir, the 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament, or the 2008 attack on Mumbai that killed 166 people. 


Since the Indian army is more than twice the size of Pakistan’s, there would be little that Pakistanis could do to stop such an invasion other than using battlefield nukes. India would then be faced with either accepting defeat or responding. 

India does not currently have any tactical nukes, but only high yield strategic weapons—many aimed at China—whose primary value is to destroy cities. Hence a decision by a Pakistani commander to use a tactical warhead would almost surely lead to a strategic response by India, setting off a full-scale nuclear exchange and the nightmare that would follow in its wake. 

With so much at stake, why is no one but a twitter-addicted foreign policy apprentice saying anything? What happened to President Obama’s follow through to his 2008 statement that the tensions over Kashmir “won’t be easy” to solve, but that doing so “is important”? 

The initial strategy of pulling India into an alliance against China was dreamed up during the administration of George W. Bush, but it was Obama’s “Asia Pivot” that signed and sealed the deal. With it went a quid pro quo: if India would abandon its traditional neutrality, the Americans would turn a blind eye to Kashmir.  

As a sweetener, the U.S. agreed to bypass the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement and allow India to buy uranium on the world market, something New Delhi had been banned from doing since it detonated a nuclear bomb in 1974 using fuel it had cribbed from U.S.-supplied nuclear reactors. In any case, because neither India nor Pakistan have signed the Agreement, both should be barred from buying uranium. In India’s case, the U.S. has waived that restriction. 

The so-called 1-2-3 Agreement requires India to use any nuclear fuel it purchases in its civilian reactors, but frees it up to use its meager domestic supplies on its nuclear weapons program. India has since built two enormous nuclear production sites at Challakere and near Mysore, where, rumor has it, it is producing a hydrogen bomb. Both sites are off limits to international inspectors. 

In 2008, when the Obama administration indicated it was interested in pursuing the 1-2-3 Agreement, then Pakistani Foreign minister Khurshid Kusuni warned that the deal would undermine the non-proliferation treaty and lead to a nuclear arms race in Asia. That is exactly what has come to pass. The only countries currently adding to their nuclear arsenals are Pakistan, India, China and North Korea. 

While Pakistan is still frozen out of buying uranium on the world market, it has sufficient domestic supplies to fuel an accelerated program to raise its warhead production. Pakistan is estimated to have between 110 and 130 warheads and is projected to have 200 by 2020, surpassing Great Britain. India has between 110 and 120 nuclear weapons. Both countries have short, medium and long-range missiles, submarine ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles, plus nuclear-capable aircraft that can target each other’s major urban areas. 

One problem in the current crisis is that both countries are essentially talking past one another. 

Pakistan does have legitimate security concerns. It has fought and lost three wars with India over Kashmir since 1947, and it is deeply paranoid about the size of the Indian army.  

But India has been the victim of several major terrorist attacks that have Pakistan’s fingerprints all over them. The 1999 Kargill invasion lasted a month and killed hundreds of soldiers on both sides. Reportedly the Pakistanis were considering arming their missiles with nuclear warheads until the Clinton administration convinced them to stand down. 

Pakistan’s military has long denied that it has any control over terrorist organizations based in Pakistan, but virtually all intelligence agencies agree that, with the exception of the country’s home-grown Taliban, that is not the case. The Pakistani army certainly knew about a recent attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir that killed 19 soldiers. 

In the past, India responded to such attacks with quiet counterattacks of its own, but this time around the right-wing nationalist government of Narendra Modi announced that the Indian military had crossed the border and killed more than 30 militants. It was the first time that India publically acknowledged a cross-border assault. 

The Indian press has whipped up a nationalist fervor that has seen sports events between the two countries cancelled and a ban on using Pakistani actors in Indian films. The Pakistani press has been no less jingoistic. 

In the meantime, the situation in Kashmir has gone from bad to worse. Early in the summer Indian security forces killed Buhan Wani, a popular leader of the Kashmir independence movement. Since then the province has essentially been paralyzed, with schools closed and massive demonstrations. Thousands of residents have been arrested, close to 100 killed, and hundreds of demonstrators wounded and blinded by the widespread use of birdshot by Indian security forces. 

Indian rule in Kashmir has been singularly brutal. Between 50,000 and 80,000 people have died over the past six decades, and thousands of others have been “disappeared” by security forces. While in the past the Pakistani army aided the infiltration of terrorist groups to attack the Indian army, this time around the uprising is homegrown. Kashmiris are simply tired of military rule and a law which gives Indian security forces essentially carte blanc to terrorize the population. 

Called the Special Powers Act—originally created in 1925 for the supression of Catholics in Northern Ireland, and widely used by the Israelis in the Occupied Territories—the law allows Indian authorities to arrest and imprison people without charge and gives immunity to Indian security forces. 

As complex as the situation in Kashmir is, there are avenues to resolve it. A good start would be to suspend the Special Powers Act and send the Indian Army back to the barracks. 

The crisis in Kashmir began when the Hindu ruler of the mostly Muslim region opted to join India when the countries were divided in 1947. At the time, the residents were promised that a UN-sponsored referendum would allow residents to choose India, Pakistan or independence. That referendum has never been held. 

Certainly the current situation cannot continue. Kashmir has almost 12 million people and no army or security force—even one as large as India’s—can maintain a permanent occupation if the residents don’t want it. Instead of resorting to force, India should ratchet down its security forces and negotiate with Kashmiris for an interim increase in local autonomy. 

But in the long run, the Kashmiris should have their referendum and India and Pakistan will have to accept the results. 

What the world cannot afford is for the current tensions to spiral down into a military confrontation that could easily get out of hand. The U.S., through its aid to Pakistan—$860 million this year—has some leverage, but it cannot play a role if its ultimate goal is an alliance to contain China, a close ally of Pakistan. 

Neither country would survive a nuclear war, and neither country should be spending its money on an arms race. Almost 30 percent of India’s population is below the poverty line, as are 22 percent of Pakistan’s. The $51 billion Indian defense budget and the $7 billion Pakistan spends could be put to far better use. 


Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedge.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com. 













THE PUBLIC EYE: Donald Trump, Cult Leader

Bob Burnett
Thursday December 08, 2016 - 10:57:00 AM

Donald Trump's unexpected presidential win is best understood as a pseudo-religious event. Trump voters saw November 8th as their last chance to "save" America. Out of desperation they joined the cult of Trump. 

A couple of days after the election, Washington Post writer Chris Cillizza analyzed the exit polls and concluded: "Just 1 in 3 voters said they thought the country was 'generally going in the right direction'... among the two-thirds of people who said things were 'seriously off on the wrong track,' Trump took 69 percent." 

Writing in the Huffington Post, Steve Rosenfeld augmented this analysis: “Six in ten (60%) Republicans and 66% of Trump voters believe the election represented the last opportunity to arrest America’s decline." 

This finding should not come as a surprise; for months national polls have indicated that a majority of Americans see the US headed in the wrong direction. What is surprising is the intensity of these feelings, the desperation. Rosenfeld observed: "A majority (56%) of Republicans and 61% of Trump voters say that the policies of the Democratic Party constitute a dangerous threat to the country.” 

Writing in Press Think, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen observed that running through the narrative of the Tea Party movement, and Trump supporters, has been the notion of "impending tyranny." Rosen asks: "If we credit the observation that a great many Americans drawn to the Tea Party live in fear that the United States is about to turn into a tyranny, with rigged elections, loss of civil liberties, no more free press, a police state… can we also credit the professional attitude that refuses to say whether this fear is reality-based?" 

Many Trump voters regarded the Obama Administration as tyrannical. Since Obama became President, conservatives sought to discredit him and depicted him negatively. Last year a CNN poll asked voters, "Do you happen to know what religion Barack Obama is?" and 43 percent of Republicans responded that the President is a Muslim (another 25 percent were not sure). For several years, polls have indicated that a substantial part of electorate not only dislikes President Obama but also regards him as a threat. 

Donald Trump plugged into this irrational fear and used it as the basis for a cultish political movement. There are five aspects of the Trump cult: 

1.It's based on Trump: Trump is a charismatic leader who uses his personal appeal to fuel his demagoguery. In his Republican Convention speech, Trump said, "I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it." On November 8th, voters weren't attracted to Trump's policies or his competence -- exit polls showed that only 38 percent believed Trump to be "qualified" to be President -- it was his charisma, the belief Trump will "make America great again." 

2. The Trump vision is apocalyptic: Trump paints a dark picture of America -- "we're losing everywhere," "the rest of the world is laughing at us" -- and promises "I alone can fix it." 

Remember that a recent Newsweek poll found: "55 percent of Americans believe the Rapture is real, and a Pew Research Center survey revealed that 27 percent of U.S. Christians believe a related event, Jesus' return to earth, will 'definitely' happen by 2050." A large percentage of voters have an apocalyptic frame-of-mind. (In the Spring of 2016, a prophesy circulated on conservative Christian websites that "Donald Trump is the man God has chosen to lead America.") Trump voters believe America is teetering on the edge of the chasm. 

3. The Cult of Trump is not reality-based: Writing in Press Think, Jay Rosen observed that during the George W. Bush Administration a critical distinction was made between news that was "reality-based" and news that created by those in power; Bush operatives boasted, "When we act, we create our own reality.” 

Rosen continued, "Trump’s campaign was openly intended to distort reality because that is a show of power. Power over his followers. Over the other candidates he humiliated and drove from the race... Trump uses rhetoric to erode people’s trust in facts, numbers, nuance, government and the news media." 

4. It has its own media. The Trump cult has its own media separate from the mainstream media. These sources -- such as Breitbart and Fox News -- don't question Trump. They are not "reality based," they are "Trump based." 

Progressives often observe that conservatives operate in a different information "silo" than we do. It's more accurate to state that Trump voters operate in an information universe that is not empirical. It is emotional and based upon what Trump says and does. 

5. The cult of Trump is bigoted and angry: Because the cult is based upon Trump's personality, it mirrors his behavior: it sanctions bigotry, bullying, and violence. Donald Trump believes that America's promise is being stolen by a mishmash of Washington politicians, "coastal elites," immigrants, and random undesirables. His followers believe the same. 

Trump's followers don't recoil when he uses Twitter to lash out at a Judge or a Miss Universe contestant or China, because this is behavior the cult has grown accustomed to. This is part of his charisma. For the true believers, Trump "telling it like it is" shows strength. His incoherence shows authenticity. 

Trump's behavior will not change when he becomes President. What America sees is what America gets. Donald Trump, cult leader. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Needs of the mentally ill

Jack Bragen
Thursday December 08, 2016 - 03:26:00 PM

A mentally ill individual in recovery shouldn't have to be burdened with basic survival. Yet, too often, we are. If you look at the picture of what happens to mentally ill people; being thrown into a detention facility, being homeless, living on the lower fringe of income for those lucky enough to have government benefits, or living in substandard or institutional housing, there is something wrong with the picture.  

To get well, a recovering mentally ill person should have their food and shelter be a given, should live in a safe, comfortable, clean, affordable unit, should have people to talk to, and should not have to physically defend oneself from attack.  

We should not have to work for a living. Fortunately, in the U.S., there are SSDI and SSI that can usually be obtained.  

For our housing and income benefits, a mentally ill person must periodically deal with government hoops to jump through, and this can be anxiety producing. However, this is far better than the alternative of not having these benefits.  

Once housed, fed, bathed, and clothed, a recovering mentally ill person is at liberty to focus on recovery. This usually involves a combination of medication and counseling.  

I am not in favor of deep psychotherapy in which the therapist is trying to dig for an underlying psychological cause to the person's illness. This almost never works and usually harms the patient.  

Obstacles to recovery include the difficulty in finding good housing, the difficulty in finding good quality treatment, and the behavior of patients themselves in which housing and/or treatment are sometimes self-sabotaged. Noncompliance with treatment is one example of this.  

Another obstacle to recovery is the lack of quality of life among those who are cooperative. Persons with psych disabilities are not helped in reaching our potential. Often, if we show potential or if we make progress, assistance from the mental health treatment system seems to evaporate.  

Getting meaningful employment or a meaningful volunteer position would help numerous people do better who have psychiatric problems. However, there is a pitfall. I have seen, in past decades, a scenario in which a psychiatric consumer becomes employed in a good job, and then relapses, possibly due to believing we are "cured" and stopping medication, or in other instances due to the stresses of maintaining the position. Or, people have stopped medication because of its hindrance to job performance.  

It doesn't always work out to place a mentally ill individual in a job. Yet, the absence of a job, the absence of volunteer work, and the absence of a legitimate source of gratification are hindrances to recovery.  

Once "survival" has been dealt with, a person will transition to other issues. An entirely new set of emotions will be loaded into consciousness. It becomes possible to have a wide range of feelings, including sadness, longing, or even joy. The individual's spirit has awakened. This is a necessary step in the evolvement of an individual.  

When I read of the closure of Caffe Mediterraneum, it caused me to have an epiphany, even though I am not in Berkeley, I am in Martinez. I recall that my first date with my wife was at "Cafe Romano" a long gone cafe that was once in downtown Martinez, along with Giovanni's Deli, and a few blocks away there was Bertola's, where my wedding reception took place.  

Martinez has been modernized, and in the process has lost its character. There was once a restaurant, a diner, on Main Street called DiMaggio’s, at one time owned by Joe DiMaggio, the baseball star. Doubtless I've set foot on land that Marilyn Monroe also walked on.  

And I think of the fact that the U.S. is returning to an earlier time, but in an obscene way. I would not be able to have these thoughts and feelings were I still dealing with basic survival.  

After all of these years of living within a haze, consisting of medication side effects and of possible neurological damage, I am finding myself within a set of emotions of which I had forgotten. I don't know if I have been helped by the lack of relapses, the fish oil, the never-ending meditation, and the never-ending writing, or if I am just lucky. At the moment, I am not worried about anything, and I don't have aberrations blocking my experience of life. This is good.  

ECLECTIC RANT: Congressman Keith Ellison the frontrunner for chairman of the Democratic National Committee

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday December 10, 2016 - 01:16:00 PM

It is time for the Democratic Party to undergo a fundamental reassessment. The Democrats will shortly choose a new Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman. Hopefully, the DNC will choose wisely as the Democratic Party needs to be re-imagined as less of an insider’s club focused on raising money, more of an advocate for the working-class, and not rest on the current status quo. With a new, reinvigorated DNC and a new presidential nominee, the Democrats can take back the White House in four years. 

The DNC was created during the Democratic National Convention of 1848. For 167 years, it’s been responsible for governing the Democratic Party and is the oldest continuing party committee in the U.S. The DNC plans the Party’s presidential nominating convention, promotes the Democratic Platform, and develops the statement of core principles at the heart of the party. 

Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison seems to be the frontrunner for DNC chairman. Ellison is the co-chair along with Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07) of the Progressive Caucus, the first Muslim elected to Congress, and the first African American to have been elected to the U.S. House from Minnesota. He has already been endorsed by Senators Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, and so far a dozen more members of Congress, including Rep. Elijah Cummings, Rep. Maxine Waters, Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Sen.-elect Tammy Duckworth. He also has support from the United Steelworkers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. 

Before being elected to Congress Rep. Ellison was a noted community activist and ran a thriving civil rights, employment, and criminal defense law practice in Minneapolis. He also was elected to serve two terms in the Minnesota State House of Representatives. 

Ellison diagnosed the party’s recent electoral troubles: “You’ve got to have a vision to strengthen the grass-roots,” Ellison said. “Make the voters first, not the donors first. I love the donors and we thank them, but it has to be that the guys in the barbershop, the lady at the diner, the folks who are worried about their plant is going to close ― they’ve got to be our focus.” 

Already, two of Ellison’s opponents for the top DNC job — former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison — have made the point that congressional responsibilities would dramatically undercut the ability of the next chairman to do the job effectively. I agree that the DNC job should be full-time. Ellison has not said whether he would step down from Congress if he got the chairmanship.  

Clearly, Ellison, Howard Dean, or Jaime Harrison would be a better than Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who had a troubled tenure as DNC chief. 

I favor Ellison for the DNC job mostly because Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have endorsed him and the DNC’s need to have a new face leading the party full-time.

Arts & Events

The Magnificent Seven One:

Mifune Memorialized Magnificently

Gar Smith
Thursday December 08, 2016 - 01:15:00 PM

At the Landmark Shattuck, December 9

It is fair to say that, without director Akira Kurasawa and actor Toshiro Mifune, there would have been no Magnificent Seven, No Clint "Fistful of Dollars" Eastwood, No Dirty Harry, and no Darth Vader.

George Lucas has admitted that Star Wars was inspired, in large measure, by Kurasawa's samurai epics. (Look no further than Darth Vader's Space Samurai costume.) Lucas even tried to get Mifune to play the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first Star Wars film but, when the Japanese legend turned down the offer, the role went to Sir Alec Guiness. (Spielberg had better luck many years later when Mifune signed on for a role in the WWII comedy, 1941, where Mifune co-starred with the likes of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.)

There are two towering legends in Japanese cinema and Godzilla takes second place to Mifune. You wouldn't want to run afoul of either one of them. Toshio Mifune made 27 films in four years, a testament to the grueling task of a contract employee. Mifune and many of his colleagues routinely worked 350 days out of every year. 



It was a special treat to catch a press screening of Steven Okazaki's new documentary on the life and times of Toshiro Mifune— star of Rashomon, Yojimbo, Red Beard, Throne of Blood and The Seven Samaurai—at Berkeley's Fantasy Film building. For once, there was no need to commute to a press event in San Francisco and the local site included a table spread with an abundance of sushi and other locally sourced treats. 

But it made sense. Okazaki (whose films include the Oscar-winning Days of Waiting) is a Berkeley-based filmmaker. Furthermore, the soundtrack for Mifune was edited right here at the West Berkeley studio. Members of the orchestra that created the accompanying music—including a team of Taiko drummers—were in attendance as special guests. Some barely made it, arriving just in time from a drive over the Bay Bridge. 

Although there are a number of film studios in Japan, they are notoriously competitive and they generally refuse to have anything to do with one another. Because there is no spirit of cooperation, the process of obtaining permissions for the use of various film clips took nine months. Okazaki and his crew were unable to get any of the film clips from Mifune's non-samurai roles so we don't get to see any films in which he plays a contemporary rogue, gussied up in a business suit with a well-groomed modern hairdo. 

It took three years to make the film, including months spent waiting to organize interviews with Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg—whose lives are understandably overscheduled. However, Okazaki recalled, as soon as they were approached, both Spielberg and Scorsese immediately accepted the invitation. Onscreen their enthusiasm and admiration for Kurasawa's work is quite clear. 

In addition to the compelling film clips from Mifune's long, swashbuckling career, the film contains many stills that remind us that the bearded, fierce-eyed sword-wielding maniac also was a dashing, down-right, good-looking guy. And all of the aging actresses who stood by his side on the screen during these long-ago days of glory are still clearly enamored of the man. One of the still images (taken by his photographer father) shows Japan's most notorious rogue as you've never seen him before—a baby photo of Toshiro as a chubby infant naked and smiling on a table. 

During an interview with Kanza Uni (still filming fight scenes well into his 80s), the actor sports a fresh Band-Aid on his right arm. Was this wound picked up in the fight scene that immediately precedes the interview? (In this clip, the gray-haired martial artist takes on a ring of much younger warriors in the backyard of a temple.) 

According to Okazaki, serious injuries were not that much of a problem in chanbara films. The fight scenes were as carefully choreographed as dances. Moreover, there was no overt bloodshed. The samurai swords would land blows but they never seemed to cut flesh or even cloth. (Spoiler footnote: According to Okazaki, the huge swords seen splitting the air with such ferocity were never really much of a danger. They were made from bamboo and covered with foil to make them look like metal.) 

There was some hazard, however. In one film, Mifune was targeted to be stabbed in the chest. A wooden block beneath his costume was supposed to offer protection but the attacking actor managed to miss the wood and plunged his dagger deep into Mifune's skin. According to the Okazaki, this wound, while not life-threatening, left the actor with a vivid scar that lasted throughout his life. 

During WW II, Mifune's family had been living in Manchuria but they were called back to fight for the Emperor. We learn that, in the service, Mifune was frequently assaulted by his superiors—because had a "commanding voice" and demonstrated what some felt was a "cocky attitude." And for this he was frequently singled out and forced to stand at attention while being slapped with the soles of an officer's shoes. Mifune refused to buckle in the face of this abuse. It was in the military that the actor learned to grit his teeth and suffer a beating while silently maintaining his dignity. 

Towards the closing days of the war, one of Mifune's duties in the service of the Emperor was to send young boys off on suicide missions. He had no illusions about the fate that awaited them. He would tell the young boys: "Don't bother to say 'bonsai!' for the Emperor," he told them. "Take the time to say goodbye to your mothers." 

During the impoverishment that followed the end of the war, Mifune at one point purchased a blanket so he could cut it up and use the cloth to hand-sew a jacket and trousers. (This suit is still hanging on display in the home of Mifune's grandson.) 

Kurosawa was a demanding director. He insisted that the actors all keep their eyes open during the scene shot in a sandstorm kicked up by a hidden barrage of portable airplane propellers. 

Mifune's surviving coworkers recall his quiet generosity. He was always ready to offered seats to actors, to make sure people had enough food—and was always on hand to refill their sake cups. Others remember how he would stay behind after shooting to clean out the ashtrays on the sets or take time to sweep parking lots clean. 

And here's one more reason to catch Mifune. The film is narrated by Keanu Reeves. Why Keanu Reeves? According to Okazaki, it was the "echoes of Mifune" in Keanu's style. "He showed up on his motorcycle, removing his helmet and signed a contract on the spot with an enthusiastic 'Let's do it!'" Like Mifune, "an independent actor, in charge of his own life and career. No agents required."