The Week



Reducing Gun Violence in Schools

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond
Thursday February 15, 2018 - 03:01:00 PM

As a parent of two public school students, I am heartbroken for the families who lost their loved ones yesterday in Parkland, Florida, and for everyone who has been traumatized by so many school shootings this year. And I am angry, because I have so little faith in our Republican-controlled Congress and President to do anything to address the crisis of gun violence in our country. -more-

Should You Celebrate Valentine's Day?

Harry Brill
Wednesday February 14, 2018 - 07:43:00 PM

The exact origin of the Valentine's Day holiday is vague. But what we do know is that around February 14th, the Romans celebrated a holiday in which the Emperor executed two men who were both named Valentine. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church. -more-

Press Release: Celebrate the Year of the Dog with One of Your Own
All dog adoption fees waived on February 17th and 18th, 2018

From Matthai Chakko, City of Berkeley Information Officer
Wednesday February 14, 2018 - 07:37:00 PM

Celebrate the Chinese calendar's Year of the Dog with a pooch from Berkeley Animal Care Services - and we'll waive all adoption fees this weekend! -more-

New: Draft of Revised Community Benefits Resolution for Meeting Tomorrow in Berkeley

Monday February 12, 2018 - 08:57:00 PM

This will be discussed at the meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, February 13, at the Berkeley City Council Chamber in the Maudelle Shirek Old City Hall, at 9:30 a.m. -more-

The Hollow Men

Sharon Hudson, former Berkeley resident
Sunday February 11, 2018 - 10:34:00 AM

I wish to thank Mr. Steve Martinot for his sad and all-too-true commentary on so-called public comment at council meetings and similar rituals (“The Ideology of Silencing,” 1/31/2018). Those who participate in public meetings, are, indeed, the hollow men of political discourse, and so, “in this last of meeting places / We grope together / To avoid speech…”

When I was active in Berkeley politics, I frequently participated in the specious process Mr. Martinot so aptly describes and decries. The ironies abounded. For example, the more important the issue, the more truncated and trivialized the public comments. And, decision makers cannot by rule respond to comments—how insane is that? If anything, they actually should be required to respond, thereby engaging in dialogue, gaining more information, or at least demonstrating that they are listening. The public speakers often know far more about the issues at hand than anyone on the council, and yet they are treated as if their heads are as hollow as those they speak to—or at. In fact, decision makers should be ashamed to participate in such a process, which makes mockery of democracy and humiliates their constituents. -more-

Response to Steve Martinot's Characterization of Disability

Jack Bragen
Monday February 12, 2018 - 08:35:00 PM

Mr. Martinot, you are confused about what constitutes a disability, and you are uninformed about psychiatric disabilities. -more-

Wiener's SB 827 Claims Debunked by SF Planning Department Report

Zelda Bronstein
Monday February 12, 2018 - 08:00:00 PM

At Scott Wiener’s February 3 town hall in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood, I was startled to hear the city’s state senator say that his controversial new bill, SB 827, co-sponsored by Senator Nancy Skinner and drafted by California YIMBY Executive Director Brian Hanlon, was all about fostering the construction of the “missing middle”—“small to mid-sized apartment” buildings that are three to five stories tall with “maybe 8 to 20 units.”

Wiener told the packed house that during his first seven years in San Francisco, he lived in such a place on Collingwood Street in the Castro. “It was a four-story building—probably forty feet,” with nothing on the ground floor “and then three stories,” each with two units. “That’s what we’re talking about”—the sort of buildings, he said, that you see in the Sunset, the Richmond, and Noe Valley, as well as in the Castro.

Four days later, Wired posted a story in which Wiener made the same claim:

The goal, Wiener says, isn't Hong Kong–style high-rises. It's what housing advocates call the “missing middle,” things like side-by-side duplexes, eight-unit apartment buildings, six-story buildings—a building form even San Francisco built plenty of in the early 20th century.

What’s really missing here is straight talk: the urban form fostered by SB 827 would be much taller and denser than anything comprised of eight-unit, six-story apartment buildings. -more-

Getting Our Priorities Straight

Kelly Hammargren
Monday February 12, 2018 - 01:35:00 PM

On Tuesday evening February 13, 2018 Berkeley City Council is set to approve the City Manager’s request for $550,000 for a conceptual design and feasibility study for a one block plaza on Center Street between Oxford and Shattuck. Somewhere in the budget there is supposedly $250,000 for open space improvement. That doesn’t even cover the cost of the design and study and certainly doesn’t cover the cost of actual construction. Put that in context. There can be found some multiple of millions of dollars for a plaza, but there isn’t “identified” funding to keep the homeless shelter at Premier Cru (10th and University) open past April 15th as Mayor Arreguin declared at the January 30, 2018 City Council meeting. -more-

Progressive Groups Endorse Price for Alameda County D.A. and Beckles for A.D. 15

Berkeley Tenants Union
Monday February 12, 2018 - 01:37:00 PM

Thank you to those who attended yesterday's joint endorsement forum with Berkeley Progressive Alliance and Berkeley Citizen Action. Approximately 150 people showed up to listen to candidates from the Assembly District 15 and Alameda County District Attorney Races.

There are two candidates for District Attorney: Nancy O'Malley and Pamela Price. Price received 80% of the vote, well above the 60% threshold needed for endorsement.

For the Assembly Race, ranked choice voting was implemented where members can vote for up to three of the nine candidates. After the first round of voting, Jovanka Beckles received 59% of the vote, far more than any of the other candidates. After votes were redistributed in the second round, Beckles received the number of votes needed for endorsement.

Congratulations to Pamela Price and Jovanka Beckles on receiving our endorsement! -more-

Important Issue

Romila Khanna
Monday February 12, 2018 - 08:40:00 PM

Are we ready to accept the demise of Democracy? It seems that we have stopped thinking about the impact of public policies on the most needy population. -more-

New: How President Trump Encouraged Peace In North And South Korea: A Layman's Conjecture

Jack Bragen
Monday February 12, 2018 - 08:38:00 PM

The following is what I get from occasionally watching the news, and I think the conclusions I draw are reasonable ones, in the absence of any special knowledge or expertise… -more-

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: A Dangerous Turn In U.S. Foreign Policy

Conn Hallinan
Tuesday February 06, 2018 - 01:52:00 PM

The Trump administration’s new National Defense Strategy is being touted as a sea change in U.S. foreign policy, a shift from the “war on terrorism” to “great power competition,” a line that would not be out of place in the years leading up to World War I. But is the shift really a major course change, or a re-statement of policies followed by the last four administrations? -more-

Pelosi's a Leader

Robert Cheasty
Monday February 12, 2018 - 01:45:00 PM

Representative Nancy Pelosi's ability to lead and legislate is denigrated primarily by those disagree with her stands on issues. -more-



Dance with the One
That Brought You

Becky O'Malley
Saturday February 10, 2018 - 04:26:00 PM

So, it’s been a bit over a year since the more-progressive-than-thou majority assumed their seats on the Berkeley City Council. District 4 Councilmember Jesse Arreguin became mayor, and shortly thereafter Kate Harrison was elected to fill the last months of his council term. This might be a good time to remind all of these well-meaning folks about how they got where they are today, just in case they’re tempted to attribute their electoral victories exclusively to their personal charms.

First and foremost, what brought together a remarkable coalition of unlikely bedfellows to form their electoral majority was general distaste for the way the previous majority, headed by former mayor Tom Bates, had sold out Berkeley to rapacious for-profit developers.

Several “it’s time for a change” groups coalesced around the 2016 Berkeley election: -more-

Public Comment

Police Concerns

Chuck Mann, Greensboro, NC
Saturday February 10, 2018 - 04:58:00 PM

You can go online and see police body camera footage from a recent incident in Tennessee. An unarmed driver named Michael Dial was suspected of driving with a suspended license. A car chase ensued. Deputies rammed the vehicle, and tried to run it off the road. Sheriff Oddie Shoupe gave the order to ''take him out by any means necessary including deadly force''. Deputies spun the car around. Then deputy Adam West ''neutralized'' the driver by shooting him in the head. The Sheriff showed up on the scene and body camera footage shows that the Sheriff was more concerned with his patrol cars getting damaged than the life of a person who was suspected of driving with a suspended license. We need Sheriffs and deputies that are more concerned with the lives of citizens than damage to police property. No police officer should have a ''license to kill''. -more-

Discriminating Against Discriminations

Steve Martinot
Sunday February 11, 2018 - 08:56:00 PM

Government ceases to be government when it falls prey to irresponsibility as a form of domination. When it does so, it exhibits a form of disability that one could call "parapolitical" disability. It is sometimes characterized by childishness, and by irrationality. It always reveals a failure to take responsibility for those people who depend on it. -more-

The Nunes Memo and the Democratic Response

Richard Phelps
Sunday February 11, 2018 - 08:54:00 PM

Many people bemoan the fact that the failure to release the Democratic memo is unfair and I totally agree. However, there is a more fundamental problem that is not getting much press, if any.

The fact that a person of interest in the ongoing investigation, Trump, gets to decide what gets released to the public, is a huge conflict of interest. If a judge was a person of interest in a civil or criminal case s/he would never be allowed to rule on any issue in that case. Why is no one screaming about this?? -more-

Kill Off Berkeley's Subcommittee on Homelessness

Carol Denney
Saturday February 10, 2018 - 04:59:00 PM

If you were really feeling generous about the Subcommittee on Homelessness, you would suggest that its forerunner was the Homeless Task Force, the large group of organizers, homeless people, non-profit representatives, and city officials who met for two years before the last election and produced a set of recommendations by consensus, which in this town is a pretty radical act. -more-

Stereotyping The Homeless Equals Blaming The Victims

Harry Brill
Sunday February 11, 2018 - 09:02:00 PM

A proposal I have been making to provide housing for homeless individuals and families involves persuading those who are comfortably housed to make their vacant rooms available. Since there are far more empty bedrooms than homeless persons in the Bay Area, there is really no shortage of housing waiting to be built. The task of matching people is considerable, and would require resources and time. However, to build an adequate supply of low cost housing units, although certainly desirable, will take much longer and will be more expensive. -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE:Pelosi's Marathon

Bob Burnett
Saturday February 10, 2018 - 04:48:00 PM

I like Nancy Pelosi. She's a smart, hard-working, progressive leader. But she’s getting old, so there have been calls for her to step aside. That's why her February 7th, 8 hour 10 minute filibuster is worthy of mention. When it counts, Pelosi still has what it takes. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: It's Okay to be Mentally Ill, But You're Not Allowed to Act Crazy

Jack Bragen
Saturday February 10, 2018 - 04:55:00 PM

An acquaintance with bipolar is having a manic episode, and one of his reasons for distress is that people aren't that kind toward him. They cannot handle his behavior, and some of the people he deals with are downright condemnatory, because of how he is acting. People continue to expect that this person will follow social norms, and will behave in a manner that is accommodating toward them. This man points out the fact that people sorely lack adequate understanding of his problems. And this includes people who really ought to be helpful, such as fellow mental health consumers, and mental health professionals. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Comment on release of controversial Nunes’ memo

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday February 10, 2018 - 05:05:00 PM

The release of the highly-anticipated Representative Devin Nunes’ memo which claims to show the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI abusing their surveillance power, is really just a list of past Republican talking points on Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. -more-

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Feb. 11-18

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Sunday February 11, 2018 - 10:31:00 AM

As usual, the list of City meetings is long and packed, however, there are four meetings that deserve special attention: City Council Regular Session on Tuesday evening, Significant Community Benefits Tuesday morning, Urban Shield Wednesday afternoon and Design Review Committee on Thursday evening.

Tuesday evening Berkeley City Council items 11, 32, 38, 39 all relate to the homeless – the fence on Adeline, porta potties, homeless encampment, storage at Premier Cru. Take aways from the forum on Homelessness, 0.83% of Berkeley population is homeless, 75% homeless are from the area, there is a direct relationship between the increasing homeless population and rent increases, 97% of homeless want to be in housing. Reality check, Stonefire at University and Milvia listed prices for 2 Bed – 2 Bath are $6360 - $6720. Estimates of the number of vacant/unrented apartments in Berkeley is 1000 -3000 – true number is unknown.

Indivisible Berkeley list of actions you can do from home,

The meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Candidate Forum CA Assembly District 15, Alameda County DA, 2:00 pm – 5:30 pm, 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, everyone welcome to hear candidates, only members of BTU, BPA, BCA will vote for endorsement.

Indivisible Berkeley General Assembly, Sunday, Feb 11, 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm, 1970 Chestnut St, Finnish Hall, General Assembly meeting -more-

Garrick Ohlsson’s Brilliant “Emperor” Concerto of Beethoven

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday February 10, 2018 - 04:54:00 PM

On Thursday evening, February 8, Garrick Ohlsson returned to Davies Hall to perform in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73, with the San Francisco Symphony under Herbert Blomstedt. This concerto, so-called the “Emperor,” marks the culmination and conclusion of Beethoven’s “heroic” style that began with the Third Symphony, “Eroica.” Musically, Garrick Ohlsson and Herbert Blomstedt are well-matched. They have performed together many times over the decades. Still, when onstage together now they seem physical opposites. Ohlsson is a great bear of a man. Blomstedt, now age ninety, and looking a bit frail, though he is still full of energy, is dwarfed by Ohlsson. However, they make beautiful music together. Ohlsson’s rendition of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto is almost a benchmark for all pianists. Likewise, Blomstedt’s attention to orchestral details in this work, his sense of timing and dynamic variations, make Blomstedt’s “Emperor” Concerto almost a benchmark for all conductors. -more-

Stephen Isserlis Plays Haydn’s Second Cello Concerto with Philharmonia Baroque

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday February 11, 2018 - 09:10:00 PM

In a concert series dubbed “Harmonic Convergence,” Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, led by Nicholas McGegan, performed music of Mozart, Haydn, and Frederick William Herschel. If the last named is not familiar to you as a composer, perhaps he is more familiar to you as the astronomer who discovered the planet Uranus as well as many comets. In any case, the main attraction in these concerts, which took place throughout the Bay Area from February 7 through 11, was British cellist Stephen Isserlis, who performed in Joseph Haydn’s Concerto for Violincello No. 2 in D Major. I attended the Saturday, February 10 concert at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church. -more-

Jonathan Biss & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Play Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday February 11, 2018 - 09:08:00 PM

How lucky we are in the Bay Area! This week, in the space of four days, we heard Beethoven’s monumental Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, nicknamed the “Emperor,” performed by two world-class pianists with two world-class orchestras! On Thursday, February 9, I heard pianist Garrick Ohlsson team up with conductor Herbert Blomstedt and the San Francisco Symphony; and on Sunday afternoon, February 11, I heard Jonathan Biss as soloist and director with the St, Paul Chamber Orchestra. What a study of contrasts were the two performances. The Ohlsson-Blomstedt rendition of Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto, as I wrote in the review that was posted here Saturday, was outstanding in its attention to details, and, especially, its attention to dynamics. Jonathan Biss’s rendition, on the contrary, paid little attention to dynamics. It’s not that Biss did not occasionally play softly. He did, though not as softly as Ohlsson. Rather, it’s that the St, Paul Chamber Orchestra rarely played softly, and, here too, never as softly as the San Francisco Symphony led by Herbert Blomstedt. In short, there was little, if any, sense of dynamic contrast in the Biss-St. Paul Chamber Orchestra rendition of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. Instead, Biss and his orchestra thundered throughout this work, hardly ever allowing softer, more delicate moments to appear in the music. -more-