Full Text



The Truth about Maps Showing the Effects of SB827

Thomas Lord
Tuesday October 09, 2018 - 01:29:00 PM
Transit Priority Project Eligible Areas
Transit Priority Project Eligible Areas
SB827 Map
SB827 Map

A recent op-ed and comments, published on Berkeleyside.com, make outrageously false claims about a map that I shared with a number of people in January of 2018. The op-ed and the comments use these falsehoods in an attempt to influence the upcoming vote for District 8 City Council Member.

I thought it might be helpful to provide the truth. In part, this is because the voters of District 8 should not be misled by the Berkeleyside op-ed. In part, it is because the falsehoods in the Berkeleyside piece are about me, personally.

Some background: SB827 is a bill introduced into the state Senate on January 3 by Scott Wiener, and with our own Senator Nancy Skinner listed as one of two principal coauthors.

The purpose of the bill is to over-ride certain local land use powers in geographic areas the bill identifies as "transit rich". In such areas, the bill would exempt eligible projects from local limits on residential density, floor area ratio, parking requirements, design standards that might otherwise limit the number of units (for example Berkeley's requirement that bedrooms in apartment buildings have windows), and certain height limits. To be eligible, a project would be required to provide a very small number of so-called affordable units.

When the bill first came out, Senator Wiener's office conspicuously failed to provide maps of the geographic areas that would be impacted. Housing activists quickly noticed, however, that the geography impacted by SB827 would be nearly identical in effect, at least in this region, to Transit Priority Project Eligible Areas, as defined in California Public Resources Code Section 21155.1.

That was helpful because the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) had recently prepared a map of those Transit Priority Project areas. That is the map you can see in Berkeleyside. I have included a copy of it here. I have also included a copy of a map that MTC made later, for SB827 specifically. You can see for yourself that, indeed, the Transit Priority Project Eligible map and the SB827 map are nearly identical. (See also the editorial "SB 827 (Skinner, D-Berkeley) will destroy local land use control", Berkeley Daily Planet January 6, 2018 -- three days after SB827 was introduced.) 

The MTC map we circulated in January 2018 was extremely helpful to housing activists scrambling to understand the bill's impacts. This allowed us to organize statewide, quickly and effectively. The conclusions we drew from that first map have been vindicated by every successive refinement of the mapping, including some recent noteworthy analysis released by the Urban Displacement Project at UC Berkeley. ("SB 827 2.0: What are the implications for Bay Area communities?", Miriam Zuk, Ian Carlton, Anna Cash; published October 1, 2018.) 

So, what about Berkeleyside? 

In the article "Opinion: In District 8 race, Candidate Mary Kay Lacey distorts City Councilwoman Lori Droste's position" (October 8, 2018) the headline writer provides this subtitle: 

Lacey has been showing Elmwood residents a fake map that exaggerates where "high-rises" would be permitted with a new state law and is saying (falsely) that Droste supports it. 

The map is not "fake". Nor was it, as the op-ed itself twice claims, "fabricated". Berkeleyside published these outrageous assertions - and a picture of the map with my name attached, without the slightest fact checking. 

In the comments, Tor Berg (who I replaced on Berkeley's Housing Advisory Commission), asserts that I prepared the map for the Housing Advisory Commission. I did not. I provided a snapshot of the map to the Berkeley Daily Planet and others. 

Tor Berg correctly notes that, months later, the MTC released an SB827-specific map - but he omits that the January map was also by the MTC, and that it did a good job of providing the earliest understanding of the geographic impact of SB827. 

Seeing how the op-ed has misrepresented even the map I would counsel skepticism about the charges levied at Mary Kay Lacy (candidate for Council, D8) or the defenses offered of Lori Droste (incumbent Council Member, D8). 

I do know this much: In January 2018 the Housing Advisory Commission wrote to City Council suggesting that they quickly (time was of the essence) study SB827 and consider endorsing against the bill. In April, though the bill had by then stalled (for now!) in committee, a majority of City Council voted in opposition of the bill. Among the noteworthy abstentions, however: Councilmember Lori Droste.

Smithereens: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Tuesday October 09, 2018 - 09:46:00 PM


The Trade War between Washington and Beijing may have claimed an unusual victim—a Chinese automobile. China had been planning to introduce its first automobile to the domestic US market by the end of this year. The ongoing tariff battle between the two argumentative world leaders (a case of "He-Said-Xi-Said"?) has likely derailed the US debut of China's new SUV, which would now cost much more, thanks to White House tariffs.

Recently, Beijing signaled its intention to change the name of its new made-for-America vehicle. It was originally named the Trumpchi GS7. (According to London's Daily Mail, "Trump" means "best" in Chinese while "chi" stands in for "China.")

Suggestion: If Beijing really wants to rankle Mr. T, maybe they could attach a bigly bulldozer blade to the front and call the van a "Muellermobile." 

Tales from the Berkeley Boatyard 

I recently found myself at the Berkeley Marine Center—the Marina haven where vessels are hauled out for maintenance and repair. Bottoms need to be scraped and repainted and this is where it happens. I was pleased to learn (from one of the resident workers) that the BMC is an "eco-boatyard," a rarity on this or any other coast. (All pumps converted to provide renewable RD99 diesel fuel.) 

Boat-owners are an eclectic sort. One of the boaters whose vessel was undergoing maintenance that day happened to be Stephanie Hollyman, a retired mainstream journalist and the author of the 1988 book, "We the Homeless," a collection of photos Hollyman compiled while crossing the nation's backroads in a car over the period of many months. 

Another boater turned out to be an audio engineer named Richard Page. When we exchanged names, he replied: "I know your name. I taped you about 20 years ago." 

Page's company, Conference Recording (www.conferencerecording.com) has been around so long that its catalog includes "32,585 recordings from 1,387 conferences." That day, Page was looking forward to recording a performance of 'Requiem for the Homeless" with the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra, the Berkeley Women's Community Chorus, and First Church Berkeley Choir. 

Derailed: The Long, Strange Trip of the OAT BART Parts 

Another interesting boatyard personality was a gentleman whose name and occupation must remain secret in order to share his inside story of aquatic chicanery involving—would you believe it—local mass transit. 

Here's the tale: The elevated metal tracks built to connect the Coliseum BART station with the Oakland International Airport were manufactured by a steel plant in China and shipped across the Pacific to the West Coast. Like most commercial vessels, the Chinese ship made stops at three West Coast ports—San Diego, Oakland, and Seattle, in that order. 

My anonymous source recalled how he had watched the ship's arrival at a port in Oakland. He stood on the pier and looked on as the conspicuous long steel rails were lifted into the air to allow the containers to be moved off the ship. 

After this work was done, the metal rails were carefully replaced atop the remaining containers and, to the observer's surprise, left the port—taken back out to sea, undelivered. 

He remained mystified by what he had seen until a rare coincidence revealed what had transpired. Sometime later, while driving north to do some maritime work in Seattle, he spotted an approaching convoy of large tractor-trucks heading south. From a glance, he knew immediately what they were carrying—the missing steel rails for the BART-to-OAK shuttle system. 

Rumor has it that an agreement had been struck with the Teamsters Union to first have the shipment delivered to the port in Seattle and then pay to have the rails trucked back down to the Bay Area for installation—a costly 856-mile, 15-hour drive. 

Salesforce Mystery Solved 

Update on a previous item: Thanks to some helpful sleuths at the San Francisco Chronicle, we can confirm that the letters racing around the huge lighted display inside the new Salesforce Transit Center are, indeed, poems. The shortest poem lasts 20 seconds while other "poems" can go on for 90 minutes. The longest poem (by Edith Arnstein Jenkins) takes five hours and 20 minutes to screen. (The Transit Center must be anticipating some long delays.) 

Here's another option for the Transit Center to consider: borrow some words from Grant Faulkner, the Berkeley-based cofounder of 100 Word Story

Brett Kavanaugh's Supporters in Russia 

In a bizarre crypto-conspiratorial twist, Brett Kavanaugh—Donald Trump's controversial Supreme Court nominee—has reportedly received a boost from the SVR, Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service. The news broke in a Russian-linked website (WhatDoesItMean.com) that claims to represent the work of a band of secretive Russian nuns, the Sisters of Socha Fall. 

On September 17, their website posted the first of a series of reports attacking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the former classmate who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. 

According to the Russian-sourced intel, the whole controversy is nothing more than another Deep State plot designed to topple Putin's favorite political poodle. It must be said that the Socha Fall crew excels in connecting dots. (More often than not, the wrong dots, but they are great dots.) According to http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index2659.htm>this September 17 report, they went looking for grime and they hit pay-dirt. 

Did you know that Ford's father, Ralph G. Blasey, Jr., handled black money operations for the CIA? Did you know that Dr. Ford's Undergraduate Internship Program at Stanford is linked to the CIA? Or that the individual who started the program, psychiatric professor Dr. Frederick T. Melges, was a key player behind the CIA's notorious MK Ultra mind-control experiments? Did you know the collapse of the Western banking system in 1982 was only averted when the CIA redirected vast sums of Colombian drug money into the US to keep Fort Knox afloat? And, in a subsequent report, Dr. Ford is linked to Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, and General Dynamics. It's a miracle that George Soros' name never crops up. 

Radio Ads that Comply and Defy 

A current radio spot for the Juul—a smokeless, multi-flavored e-cigarette that resembles a thumb-drive—features a closing word of warning: "Juul is for adult smokers. iI you don't smoke or vape, don't start. Nicotine is addictive!" 

Good advice since "Juuling" can lead to cancer. 

The warnings began to appear in print and broadcast ads in June after Juul Labs' CEO vowed that the San Francisco-based company wanted "to be part of the solution in deterring minors from ever trying Juul." 

The company pledged to spend $30 million on ads to warn children and young adults about the dangers of vaping. But there is an odd (and borderline sinister) twist to the Juul ads now being broadcast. 

The "closing warning" is followed by a moment of silence and the voice of a different male announcer who asks: "Did you just hear that previous announcement?" The question is followed by a dismissive laugh and the observation that "you might be skeptical." The commentator then goes on to explain that the mint-, mango- and cucumber-flavored vape-sticks offer a "refreshing" experience and concludes by urging listeners to "Give Juul a shot!" 

So what we seem to have here is a single ad that has been designed to sound like two separate ads—a case of complying in effect while defying in fact. So, let's give Juul a shout. 

Meanwhile, the California Department of Public Health's Tobacco Control Program has been hyping the dangers of vaping with eye-catching placards placed atop gas pumps around the Bay Area. One placard from StillBlowingSmoke.org flashes the message: "Thousands of Flavors. Same Addictive Nicotine. E-cig flavors make tobacco addiction easier than ever." Another gas-stop placard from FlavorsHookKids.org shows a carton of Vanilla Caramel labeled "Vaporfi Bites" alongside the warning: "This Is Not Ice Cream. It's Flavored Tobacco." 

WarSpeak Watch 

American culture is awash in images of brutality and violence. Our cultural tilt towards command-and-control attitudes is expressed so often in our language that we barely notice it. As a result, WarSpeak shows up in the strangest places. 

The UNIFY International Peace movement recently called for millions of Earth-dwellers to stand up for peace by sitting down to pray—on September 23, all around the world, whenever the local clocks strike noon. The event was part of a three-day (Sept. 21-23) "global synchronized meditation." 

The event's promotional video asks what we could accomplish with the $1.7 trillion that the world wastes on war every year. But the message is muzzled by the video's militarized language. Note the highlighted wording in Unify's message which invites participants to "unleash the fury of organized dance parties," and "Take aim at your neighbors with radical acts of compassion like buying someone a cup of coffee or providing a meal . . . ." 

"At a time when fear & hate threaten to divide us, it's up to the people to come together under the banner of peace, compassion, and joy and ignite a peaceful revolution . . . . Go to Unify.org now to enlist . . . . & receive your first mission." 

Here's the video: 


Download an App and Fight for Peace 

In related news, Search for Common Ground (www.sfcg.org), an apparently good-hearted group based in Washington, DC, hopes a downloadable app can create a "global social movement and [mobile] game that forges action (oriented) heroes." 

The stated goal is to "search [for] and end violent conflict" but the name of the downloadable app is "Battle for Humanity" (www.Battle4Humanity.com). Gamers are invited to "conquer violence, hate, and injustice in real time and in real life. Once a mission is complete, gain points by uploading the proof (a picture of the heroic deed)." The reward comes in the form of "a custom 'Battle Filter' and pre-populated hashtags, connecting you with other heroes around the globe." 

SFCG notes that conflict is inevitable but "violence is not" and explains how they work with people on every continent to "end violent conflict" by helping adversaries to "act on their shared interests in order to build a sustainable peace." 

But the serenity of this overview is shattered by the language in the invite to join this hand-held contest to secure global peace—language that seems to have been chosen to appeal to a military-minded American audience. Here is a sampling: "Let the Battle begin!" Prepare for "Operation Wage Peace" by entering a "Battle Zone" where you can "fight against violence, hate and discrimination" and "enlist" to "fight for humanity" by putting "power in play" and entering "Beast Mode" to become "a new breed of warriors" who are "brave, kind and bold." 

Note: This information was based on a version of the game that was being beta-tested earlier this year. 




Updated: Who, What, When, Where and Why to Vote on November 6 if You Vote in Berkeley

Becky O'Malley
Monday October 08, 2018 - 04:57:00 PM

UPDATE: OOPS. We inadvertently left off the endorsement for the 15th Assembly District: JOVANKA BECKLES.

The countdown to Election Day begins in earnest today.

Here are the key dates:

Today, October 8, 2018, is :

  • First day for early voting for the November 6 General Election
  • First day for mailing vote by mail ballots
  • First day to pick up will call ballots
Last day to register to vote for the November 6 General Election Is October 22.

Last day to request a vote by mail ballot for the November 6 General Election is October 30.

Last day to request a will call ballot for the November 6 General Election is November 05.

From an odd combination of an abundance of caution and a certain amount of bourgeois sentimentality, I usually prefer to walk into my neighborhood polling place at the firehouse. You never know what might happen between now and November, do you? Still time for an October Surprise, isn’t there?

But god willing and the creeks don’t rise, many readers will probably be turning in their ballots starting now, and they probably won’t want to change their mind later in the month. So we should get on with the inevitable business of endorsements. 

I’ve never been comfortable telling other people how to vote, so I just settle for telling them how I plan to vote, and let them make up their own minds. 

The principal way I decide how to vote is one I learned from my mother, who was an early member of one of the groups formed in the 1950s to return citizen control to California politics, the California Democratic Clubs. The movement has had its ups and downs since then, but I still find membership in the right local autonomous Democratic Club is a good way to find out what the right choices are on election day. 

This is increasingly important now that we have the insane Top Two primary system. No longer can you hope to use party affiliation as a rough guide to who you might vote for. Right here in the 15th Assembly District we have two self-defined Democrats both claiming my vote. 

In the last decade or so (since 2004) the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club has been my go-to information source at election time. It was founded (I was at the first meeting) by a yeasty assortment of Old Lefties launching de novo into electoral politics, experienced civil rights and anti-war activists, labor leaders, feminists…all the usual suspects. It has developed and maintained a scrupulously fair and very complicated endorsement system involving candidate speeches and elaborate ballots. 

I go to the endorsement meetings, most of the time. Even if I don’t go myself, my confidence in the decisions club members vote for is based on my confidence in the integrity of a high percentage of club members, many of whom I know as effective progressive activists in various arenas. And also, of course, I trust them because they mostly agree with my own preliminary choices. 

This year, I’ve decided to take the novel route of simply publishing Wellstone’s endorsements on Berkeley elections to save myself some work, because I agree with them. There are some races, notably A.D.15 and a couple of the Berkeley City Council slots, that I think deserve more comment because they've gotten remarkably nasty. That will be forthcoming in the near future, but meanwhile, don't believe everything you read. 

However, if you’re one of those people who like to be first out of the gate, if you want to vote RIGHT AWAY, you can’t go wrong with these choices: 


Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club Endorsement Results from the August and September 2018 Meetings 


Wellstone members heard and questioned candidates on Sunday, August 26, and Thursday, September, 27, 2018, examining their track records and positions on important local issues and state propositions, such as Prop 10, which would lift rules hampering local cities from adopting rent control. 

In some Oakland, Berkeley, and special district races, the club voted to endorse challengers with a stronger progressive voice rooted in grassroots politics than incumbents have provided. 

In some city races, in addition to endorsing candidates who received a supermajority of votes, the club used a process to recommend second choices for the ranked-choice ballot in November. These are candidates that a majority of the club considered worthy of support, as well. 





  • 13th Congressional District: Barbara Lee
  • U.S. Senate: Kevin De León
  • Governor: Gavin Newsom
  • Lieutenant Governor: No Recommendation
  • Attorney General: Xavier Becerra
  • Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
  • State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond
  • State Board of Equalization, District 2: Malia Cohen
  • Treasurer: Fiona Ma



  • Berkeley City Council, District 1: Igor Tregub
  • Berkeley City Council, District 4: Kate Harrison
  • Berkeley City Council, District 7: Rigel Robinson endorsed. Ces Rosales recommended for second place on ballot.
  • Berkeley City Council, District 8: Mary Kay Lacey
  • Berkeley School Board: Ty Alper, Ka’Dijah Brown, Julie Sinai
  • Berkeley Auditor: Jennifer Wong
  • Berkeley Rent Board: Soli Alpert, James Chang, Paola Laverde, Maria Poblet, John Selawsky



  • Berkeley Measure O: Bond for Affordable Housing. General obligation bond for affordable housing. Allows up to $135 million in bonds to fund very low-, low-, moderate-, and median-income housing. YES.
  • Berkeley Measure P: Progressive Real Estate Transfer Tax. Raises the transfer tax on property sales valued at $1.5 million or more from 1.5% to 2.5% to fund homeless services. YES.



  • Peralta Colleges Board, Area 3: Corean Todd
  • Peralta Colleges Board, Area 5: Cindi Reiss
  • AC Transit Board Director At-Large: Dollene Jones



  • CA Proposition 1: Veteran and Affordable Housing Bonds. Would enact a $4 billion bond measure for affordable housing and veterans’ housing. Three-fourths of the proceeds would go toward building low-income housing. The remaining $1 billion would provides home loans to veterans. YES.
  • CA Proposition 2: Use previously collected taxes to house the mentally ill. Would allow the state to spend $2 billion in mental health bond money on housing for homeless people. The bond, approved by voters in 2004 in Proposition 63, raised state taxes on the wealthiest Californians to fund mental health programs. A program called No Place Like Home sought to use the funding for permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless people with mental illness. Prop 2 would allow this. YES.
  • CA Proposition 3: Water infrastructure bonds. Would enact a $9 billion bond measure to improve water quality and storage and to repair dams in preparation for droughts. No Recommendation.
    • WHO’S BEHIND IT: A coalition of farmers, environmental groups, and business leaders headed by Jerry Meral, former deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources and a longtime water-project advocate. (Website for YES ON PROP 3 campaign)
    • WHO’S AGAINST IT: The Sierra Club, which opposes building more dams and using state funds for local special water district projects. (Website for NO ON PROP 3 campaign).
  • CA Proposition 4: Children’s hospitals bonds. Would enact a $1.5 billion bond measure to fund expansion and renovation projects at eight private non-profit children’s hospitals, pediatric hospitals operated by University of California, and around 150 hospitals treating children eligible for the California Children’s Services program for serious chronic conditions. Two-thirds of the money would go to projects at hospitals serving low-income families and children with disabilities. The League of Women Voters opposes using a state bond to fund capital improvements at private hospitals. No Recommendation.
  • CA Proposition 5: Transfer of assessed value of current homes. Would let California homeowners who are 55 and older and those with severe disabilities keep their lower property taxes when they move. Under Proposition 13 and subsequent ballot tweaks, 11 counties in California allow older homeowners to transfer their lower property-tax base one time when they buy a home of equal or lesser value. Prop. 5 would extend this tax break to every county in the state, allow it to be used more than once, and also apply it to new property of greater value and to second homes. Prop 5 would decrease funding for public schools and local services. NO.
  • CA Proposition 6: Repeal gas tax. Would repeal the gas tax and vehicle registration fee increases enacted in 2017 to pay for road, bridge, and transit improvements, and would require that any future gas tax or vehicle fee hikes be approved by voters. NO.
  • CA Proposition 7: Extend daylight savings time to year round. Would allow the Legislature to enact year-round daylight-saving time in California by a two-thirds vote in both houses, the governor’s signature, and congressional approval. No Recommendation.
  • CA Proposition 8: Regulate dialysis center prices. Would cap charges at kidney dialysis clinics and require that providers make annual public disclosures on costs and patient charges. YES.
  • CA Proposition 10: Affordable Housing Act. Would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a 1995 law that barred rent control expansion and let landlords raise rents to market rate when property became vacant. Prop 10 would allow cities to extend rent control to single-family homes and condos and impose rent caps in buildings built after February 1995. It would also let cities impose rent control on units that become vacant. YES.
  • CA Proposition 11: Restrictions on rest periods for ambulance workers. Would require private sector paramedics and EMTs to remain on-call during their lunch and rest breaks, despite a 2016 California Supreme Court ruling that found that practice unconstitutional. NO.
  • CA Proposition 12: Farm animal housing standards. Would set minimum space requirements for hens, calves raised for veal, and breeding pigs that are sold commercially. Egg-laying hens would have to be given at least 144 square inches of usable floor space by the end of 2019 and be cage-free with accommodations such as scratching posts and perches by the end of 2021. YES.

Public Comment

Here We Go! Early Voting Starts October 8th.

Russ Tilleman
Monday October 08, 2018 - 12:42:00 PM

I began my campaign for Berkeley City Council District 8 in April, but my reasons for running go back a lot further than that.

Like many people, I started out not being very active politically. I voted and sometimes I donated a little money. I watched the news and tried to pay attention to what was going on. Then things happened that made me get involved. 


In 2005, I watched a young Berkeley woman die from a gunshot wound a block from my house. When the tarp was thrown over her body, I watched her friend running around screaming like I had never heard anyone scream before. Thirteen years later, I can still hear that when I think about it. 

I'm sure everyone who knew the woman or was there when she died was profoundly affected. I felt strange for several days. I'd never seen anyone die on the sidewalk before. 

It should never have happened. 


In 2011, I started driving through the Warring and Derby intersection on a regular basis. It is four blocks from my house but it was off my usual path before then. I noticed that the stop sign for southbound Warring traffic was located 25 feet before the crosswalk. When drivers pulled up to the limit line, the sign was so far behind them that it couldn't be seen. 

I was shocked that the stop sign was so badly placed, especially because a young pedestrian had been killed in that exact crosswalk by a vehicle going that same direction just two years before. I contacted the City of Berkeley and convinced them to move the sign to a place where drivers could see it. 

That sign should never have been where it was. 


In 2013, a friend told me about police in the city she had just moved from shooting her boyfriend to death right in front or her for no good reason. Officers had stopped the two of them while they were walking his dog, because someone claimed her boyfriend had stolen something which in fact had not been stolen by anyone. An officer told him to hand over the knife he had in his pocket. When he did, another officer shot him twice for having it in his hand. 

The officer who killed him had previously been suspended for tasering an innocent high school student in the head out the window of his patrol car, also for no good reason. 

Neither of those incidents should have happened. 


In addition to these deaths, I saw two bicyclists and a pedestrian taken away in ambulances from the Parker and College intersection next to my house, due to three different collisions with automobiles. And a Berkeley police officer threatened to shoot my dog to death after I called about a minor non-emergency issue. Also my house was broken into on two separate occasions over the years and in both cases I had to confront the intruder myself. And the City of Berkeley wasted significant resources on greenwashed projects, when they could have put the same effort into really helping the environment. 

I tried to work with the incumbent District 8 Council member Lori Droste on issues like these, but she wouldn't help me and didn't even seem interested in them. I think she has a different approach to government than I do. I see government as a way for a community to work collectively to solve problems that aren't effectively addressed by the private sector. 

I also believe that the people of this country still hold the real power, we just aren't exercising it. If everyone who lives in the USA contributed around one dollar a month, we could outspend all the lobbyists and buy back our government. 

Americans have been encouraged to believe that it is not their place in life to actively participate in the political process. I felt that way myself until I was forced by events to reconsider. 

If I can change anyone can! And if enough people exercise the power they have, the world will become a better place. 


Our society is facing plenty of challenges. And I believe there are good, affordable solutions to many of these problems. But these solutions aren't being implemented. 

In many cases, our elected officials have more incentives to preserve the problems we are facing than to solve them. Lori Droste has taken campaign money from the Berkeley police union, and now she has voted against police reform. The City of Berkeley congratulates itself for finally finding a semi-permanent location for a homeless shelter. But that shelter only holds five percent of Berkeley's homeless. 

Why don't we... 

...Hold Berkeley police accountable when they beat up innocent people or suppress evidence that leads to a woman being raped and murdered in her own home? 

...Close off a few unneeded blocks of Berkeley streets, like Bowditch next to People's Park, and build inexpensive hangar-type buildings on this valuable City-owned property to permanently shelter all of Berkeley's homeless, many of whom are disabled? 

...Turn Alta Bates hospital into single-payer so everyone in Berkeley has full health coverage and full access to health care, instead of letting Sutter close it down? 

...Put enough Neighborhood Electric Vehicles at BART stations for inexpensive all-day or overnight rental that everyone who wants to can get out of their cars and in to door-to-door transit? 

If I am elected, these are the kinds of things I will be working on, plus doing everything I can to help the residents of District 8 receive proper support from the City of Berkeley. I think we can and should attempt to make some important changes, because things are not going to get better, locally, nationally or globally, unless something changes.

The Case Against Continuing to Pay for the Downtown Berkeley Association

Carol Denney
Monday October 08, 2018 - 12:31:00 PM

Dr. Phil, the affable problem-solving TV host, has a catch phrase he uses when defensive participants exhaust themselves telling him and the TV audience why they do things the way they do. He listens patiently. And then he says, "how's that working for you?"

It's time for Berkeley, and any city with a "business improvement district" or BID, to ask the same question. How's that working for you? Getting anything out of the special tax you're paying to, for instance, the Downtown Berkeley Association to improve your business or community?

Because a recent report from the UC School of Law report examining 189 BIDs suggests that not only is the answer "no", it raises the possibility that BIDs are counterproductive. And it uses the City of Berkeley and more specifically the Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA) more than once as a case in point.

From their inception, the local business improvement districts have lobbied locally and state-wide for anti-panhandling, anti-sitting, and anti-belongings laws and sidewalk restrictions which primarily target the poor. The most recent Berkeley City Council agenda featured just such a new set of "enforcement priorities" from the Mayor for the renovated BART Plaza which was, at least temporarily, withdrawn due to the 9th Circuit's Martin vs. Boise decision and its implications regarding such laws' constitutionality. 

The early United States went to excruciating lengths to allow only property owners to vote and participate politically excluding women and people of color. A property-based business improvement district does the same thing but is not even a pure democracy within those boundaries, since it is board-run and has no discernable oversight in a town like Berkeley, where "ambassadors" aren't fired for assaulting homeless people until public outcry. Election campaign malfeasance and repeated First Amendment and civil rights violations are yawned away by the Downtown Berkeley Association's director and the City Manager overseeing their contract, which continues to focus on counter-productive anti-homeless ordinances and practices. 

Ignorance about homelessness might have been forgiven in the earliest iterations of the business district programs, which grew out of the Main Street revitalization programs funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the late 1970s. The focus was on historic preservation of small towns' main streets, which suffered in competition with malls. 

But Berkeley now knows - and publically acknowledges - that housing is the answer to homelessness. Many of our local unsheltered population work in town, have kids in school, and are stuck on a waiting list for honestly low-income housing, especially since "affordable" housing isn't affordable. 

The irony is that the developers and real estate moguls who profited from the planning atrocities that replaced once-affordable housing with developer profit-at-any-human-cost schemes sit without oversight on the board of the Downtown Berkeley Association or are among the larger circle of previous board members watching happily as self-defined business interests not only come first for the DBA, but come first for a Berkeley City Council swayed by the 501(c)(6) organization's huge $1.2 million budget - all accumulated from fees which downtown businesses and taxpayers who technically own public buildings included in the footprint are obligated to pay

There is provision for a little bit of oversight, such as Section 19; 

(1) If the city council finds there has been misappropriation of funds, malfeasance, or a violation of law in connection with the management of the district, it shall notice a hearing on disestablishment.- Assembly Bill No. 1381, Chapter 871, 1994 

but nobody has seen that legally mandated public hearing on malfeasance yet, even after the DBA's ambassadors' assault, the Measure S campaign financial corruption, and the open bragging about destroying thousands of legally placed community fliers - in the colorful brochure which your tax dollars paid for. 

501(c)(6) organizations can engage in unlimited lobbying. Even political campaign activities are permitted - as long as they are not the organization's primary activity. And nobody is evaluating the DBA. They write their own annual report. They hold an annual meeting. When they blow off your Public Records Act request nobody cares. 

In this way corporate interests - as opposed to small business interests - are not just well-represented in front of the Berkeley City Council and the City Manager - they're in the back rooms where policy is made. Good luck asking such policy to visit the commissions where policy suggestions are supposed to be examined and vetted by interested citizens. I've been asking for years. 

It's time. It's time to recognize that the unaccountable, out-of-control business lobbies enabled by the 1994 legislation which reduced then-inadequate oversight to nothing are pursuing a private agenda. BIDs no longer represent but rather violate community interests. We have no idea what our town would look like, or even vote like, if it hadn't had to weather decades of disinformation about poverty and housing from the publicly funded business improvement districts. Their distortions, their promotions of their own narrow interests at the expense of our shared values is hard to quantify. 

Let's use Section 19 to respectfully request that corporate interests, disguised as small business interests, are well equipped to pay for their own stamps and stationary. And then join with local business interests, community arts groups, and nonprofits to honestly and creatively address community issues together. 


Epilogue of Kavanaugh Saga

Jagjit Singh
Tuesday October 09, 2018 - 11:31:00 AM

Unable to effectively blunt the damaging testimony of Dr. Ford and sensing their beer drinking and alleged sexual predator’s nomination slipping away, Trump and his morally bankrupt posse of bullies went on the attack. At a Mississippi campaign rally, Trump mocked Dr. Ford credulity regaling the crowd with his cruel taunts. Sadly, the FBI investigation turned out to be a complete sham, narrow in its scope with tight parameters established by the White House. It was designed to be a spectacle and fail. Key witnesses were ignored including 2,400 law professors who opposed Kavanaugh’s confirmation. 

The degrading era of Kavanaugh’s service on the Supreme Court lies ahead. Justice Kavanaugh will now join his “twin” Clarence Thomas, both forever tainted by dishonesty, shamelessness and hostility to the welfare and well-being of women. 

The virus of Trumpism is about to infect the Supreme Court for decades to come.

October Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Saturday October 06, 2018 - 06:29:00 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! 


THE PUBLIC EYE:Righteous Anger: Trump and Kavanaugh

Bob Burnett
Monday October 08, 2018 - 12:15:00 PM

The confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh began on September 4th, quickly devolved into a demolition derby, and finally has reached it's ultra-partisan conclusion. Kavanaugh will be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. Republican actions will live on in infamy. And Democrats are united in righteous anger.

This 33 day process established several things. First, Brett Kavanaugh is unfit to be a Supreme Court Justice. At first, many of us opposed him because we thought his views were too extreme -- he will, I'm sure, oppose Roe v. Wade and any other law that lets women make their own health decisions. (And he is a corporatist who will side with corporations, and the wealthy, in cases that pit these interests against working folks.) But, as he we got to know Kavanaugh -- through the determined efforts of Senators like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris -- we realized that he's a liar; that he had lied to Congress (https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/09/five-times-brett-kavanaugh-appears-to-have-lied-to-congress-while-under-oath/ ) And then, because of the courageous efforts of Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and other women, we learned that Kavanaugh had (or has) a drinking problem and, when he drank to excess, assaulted women. 

Finally, when Kavanaugh was asked to defend himself from the Blasey-Ford accusations, he lost control of his temper: "This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups. This is a circus." Kavanaugh does not have "judicial temperament." 

Watching the hearings, millions of Americans came to the conclusion that Kavanaugh is unfit to be a judge. Among these was retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/us/politics/john-paul-stevens-brett-kavanaugh.html

The second thing the Kavanaugh hearings established is that the Republican Party, run by old white men, will say and do anything to win. The GOP has embraced the morality that "the ends justify the means." This shouldn't come as a surprise; after all, the Republican Party decided to invade Iraq because they needed a wining issue for the 2002 mid-term elections. 

What's so disappointing is that the entirety of the Republican Senate -- with the exception of Senator Lisa Murkowski -- has gone over to the dark side. No longer can we find a handful of Senators -- such as the late John McCain -- who, on occasion, were willing to do what's right; who were willing to declare that Emperor Trump has no clothes. The Republican party has lost its moral compass. 

The third thing we learned from the Kavanaugh hearings is that the Republican Party is Trump's Party. Trump pushed through a totally unfit Supreme Court nominee and, in the process, he forced the GOP to submit to his will. With the exception of brave Senator Murkowski -- and for a few minutes Senator Jeff Flake -- no Republican was willing to stand up to Trump. They will not stand up to an unrepentant sexual predator and habitual liar. 

The fourth thing that was established during the 33 day ordeal is that Democrats, and like-minded voters, are angry. The website 538 reported that Kavanaugh was the least popular choice for the Supreme Court in 100 years ( https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/a-final-look-at-where-voters-stand-on-kavanaugh-before-the-senate-votes/) Kavanaugh was supported only by Republican voters. (Overall, women were strongly opposed to Kavanaugh.) 

There's strong feeling about the Kavanaugh confirmation process. Watching Christine Blasey Ford's September 27th testimony, many sexual-assault survivors were re-triggered. They were not pleased with the way the Republican-controlled committee handled Professor Ford -- or Kavanaugh's other accusers -- and they were angered by Donald Trump's mocking Professor Ford on October 2nd. 

As a result of this painful process, Democrats, and their allies, are angry at Donald Trump and his Republican Party. Now they plan to channel their anger into work related to the November 6th midterm elections. The 538 website (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/is-kavanaugh-helping-republicans-midterm-chances/ ) just cited a poll that concluded: "more voters would be angry than enthusiastic if Kavanaugh was confirmed." That confirms what we're seeing on the Left Coast. There's a big money and determination gap between Democrats and Republicans. 

Nonetheless, two incumbent female Democratic Senators were hurt by their opposition to Kavanaugh: Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill and North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp. Their bravery merits support. 

Finally, the Kavanaugh hearings established once and for all that the Republican Party can no longer claim to represent orthodox Christians. Surely no political Party that consistently lies and supports the moral tenet that the ends justify the means, can claim allegiance to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. 

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." On October 6th, 2018, it's the Democratic Party that hungers and thirsts for righteousness. With 30 days of hard work, our quest for righteousness will be fulfilled. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: On Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court

Ralph E. Stone
Monday October 08, 2018 - 12:21:00 PM

It was a sad day when the U.S. Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh, a partisan, intemperate, accused sexual predator, to the U.S. Supreme Court. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s courage, like Anita Hill’s before her, was not enough block his confirmation. Senators Susan Collins and Jeff Flake teased us with the possibility of voting “no,” but at crunch time voted “yes.” And what’s with Democrat Joe Manchin’s “yes” vote?  

With Kavanaugh’s rise to the Supreme Court, we may have lost an important check on Trump’s unbridled presidency. 

Now that Kavanaugh has been confirmed, President Trump, Senators Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley, and the other Trump enablers have, I’m sure, self-satisfied grins on their faces. With this confirmation, no matter what Trump has done, failed to do, or will do, his presidency is a success to them. 

Clearly, Trump and the Republican party care more about a friendly Supreme Court than success in the midterm elections. Neil Gorsuch and now Kavanaugh will be on the Supreme Court for life, whereas if they lose in the midterms, within an election cycle or two, the GOP has a chance to win back control of Congress. Too many voters have short memories. 

Maybe, a Democrat-controlled House will impeach Kavanaugh, but chances of a 2/3 vote to convict in the Senate is highly unlikely. And remember, Supreme Court justices are not required to recuse themselves from cases where they have a perceived conflict of interest.  

Now we know the importance of Russia’s help to swing the election to Trump as well as those nearly half of eligible voters (46.9% of approximately 231,556,622 people) who failed to vote in the 2016 presidential election. 

Let’s at least get out and vote on November 6. 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Predicament of Trying to Adapt When Older

Jack Bragen
Monday October 08, 2018 - 12:36:00 PM

Adapting to changing life conditions is one of the hardest things that people face. It is especially hard for those who have the limitations brought about by living with a psychiatric condition. 

Aside from mental illness alone, antipsychotic medications and the apparent protection of being institutionalized are two more factors that can hinder the ability to adapt. Institutionalization often means that mentally ill people do not have as many or as difficult responsibilities in comparison to non-afflicted people. 

To give you something for comparison, look at people who have been incarcerated in jail or prison for ten, twenty or thirty years. They've learned how to defend themselves in a caustic, horrible environment. But then, when they are finally released, they have no concept of how to function in society. This is one reason that many people keep going back to prison. Some even feel safer and more comfortable there, because that environment, for years, has been the only thing they've known. 

Mentally ill people are often subject to outpatient institutionalization. This is one of the reasons that I have mixed feelings concerning participating in mental health treatment. When we are unaccustomed to dealing with the world in the manner of most adults, it leaves us relatively helpless. 

Because of living on meagre disability benefits for years, many persons with mental illness are financially and legalistically illiterate. Because of not being toughened by the need to work, and instead being softened by therapy, it is a lot harder to adapt when the going gets rough. 

When I depart from my comfort zone of barely leaving Martinez, California, and do something wild, such as driving at nine at night, I might be subject to a panic attack. This is one facet of my agoraphobia. Since I stay home a lot, I need to produce and maintain a lot of psychological armor when I must deal with the outside world. Another way of putting it; I put up an energy field when I go anywhere--which, after a while, becomes depleted. 

Adapting to change requires neuroplasticity. A person's brain has to be able to change its connections between the neural routes. A person must be flexible. If someone's mind and/or brain is "crystallized" into a set pattern from which they are incapable of departing, then she or he may not be able to adapt. 

If a person, whether they are a psychiatric consumer or not, has the same routine almost every day, and has the same living conditions, for a span of decades, it is not very good for the person's ability to adapt, should things change or become harder. 

If a person has a pattern that is solid, and if they must change that, it can involve a great deal of discomfort. Sometimes when getting free from a holding pattern of this kind, it must be done in relatively small increments. 

Our minds are not just about thoughts, about intellect, or about processing information. The mind is about physical exercise, it is about exploring new things, it is about getting out, going places, and doing things. If you are in a forest, you need your mind. If you are on a deserted island you need your mind. If you are threatened by a person or by a bad scenario, you need your wits. 

If your life doesn't require you to adapt, your brain might weaken. If you get too comfortable for too long, you could mentally lose ground. 

When mentally ill people get older, sometimes a lot of bad things happen. When we get past fifty, for some, the body begins to fall apart due to decades of taking psych medications and living under other unhealthy conditions. These could include a poor diet due to lack of income or the lack of adequate food preparation, could include smoking, could include lack of physical exercise, and could include inadequate self-care. 

When older, there are a lot of things on which we can't rely, that we took for granted until they were pulled out from under us. Such as, we may no longer have parents to help us out of a bad predicament. We may no longer be physically able to move our furniture in case we have to change our place of residence. We may no longer be able-bodied, and thus we are unable to fall back on laborer jobs, should we become desperate for income. 

So, what is one to do about all of this? I am trying to figure that out. I am currently trying to adapt to harder conditions, and I do not know if I will be successful. I'll keep you posted. 

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Arts Calendar

Tom Hunt and Bonnie Hughes
Wednesday October 10, 2018 - 11:09:00 AM

CLICK HERE for a comprehensivve calendar of arts and cultural events in Berkeley and beyond, today and in the future.

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Oct. 7-14

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday October 06, 2018 - 11:36:00 AM

Worth Noting

Election Campaigns are in full swing. The last day to register to vote in California is Oct 22, you can register or check your registration online https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/upcoming-elections/general-election-november-6-2018/ To help with campaigns outside our borders go to Indivisible Berkeley and Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club for information. 


City Council October 16 meeting available for comment. Key items: 11. Another amendment increasing Ghilotti contract for South Cove Restroom Project 14. Low bid by Ghilotti Contractors for Shattuck reconfiguration 17. Installation of cameras at San Pablo Park, 18.&19. Sidewalk regulations 21. Sanctuary Contracting Ordinance, 23. Revised GLA (Group Living), 25. Welcome to Berkeley Signage, 26. a.&b. Home Share, 27. Small Sites Housing, 28. Objects on Sidewalks.


Sunday, October 7, 2018 

No City Sponsored events found 

Monday, October 8, 2018 

Indigenous Peoples Day – Berkeley City Holiday 

League of Women Voters Pros & Cons Environmental Measures, Mon, Oct 8, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 1100 San Pablo Ave, Belmont Village 


Tax the Rich rally with Occupella sing along, Mon, Oct 8, 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm top of Solano in front of closed Oaks Theater, The very first Tax the Rich Rally was September 12, 2011. Occupy NYC began the following Saturday in 2011. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018  

Berkeley City Council Special Meeting, Tue, Oct 9, 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 2134 MLK Jr Way, City Council Chambers, Agenda: Evaluation Pathways Project, Planning Department Service Improvements, Cannabis Regulations and Business Selection Process 


Energy Commission – Subcommittee Fossil Fuel Free and Carbon Sink, Tue, Oct 9, 5:00 pm, 2000 University, Au Coquelet, 


Wednesday, October 10, 2018 

Ad-Hoc Subcommittee on Climate Emergency, Wed, Oct 10, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor, Redwood Room, Agenda: Not Available, check before going 


Homeless Commission, Wed, Oct 10, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Winter Shelters, stop criminalizing unhoused, encampments 



Parks and Waterfront Commission, Wed, Oct 10, 2800 Park St, Frances Albrier Community Center, 

6:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Marina Fiscal Subcommittee 

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Regular Meeting, Agenda: Measure FF, Marina Parking Study, Marina Fiscal issues, Urban Pollinator Habitat, Traffic Circle vegetation, 


Police Review Commission, Wed, Oct 10, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Policy Body Worn Cameras, Lexipol Policies, BPD Response to Aug 5, Protests, Policies BPD audio recordings 


Thursday, October 11, 2018 

League of Women Voters with Berkeley Mayor - Berkeley Measures O&P, Thur, Oct 11, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 2055 Center Street, Bay Area Children’s Theatre Osher Studio 


Community Environmental Advisory Commission, Thur, Oct 11, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library, Agenda: CalPIRG request to ban neonicotinold (bee-killing pesticide), Climate Mobilization Technical Implementation Plan, Lead Paint Resolution, Draft CO2 Label Gas stations recommendations 


Zoning Adjustments Board, Thur, Oct 11, 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm, 2134 MLK Jr. Way, City Council Chambers, Staff recommend approve on all 

1025 Miller Ave – new single family dwelling 

1200 San Pablo – demolish 1-story non-residential building, construct 6-story, 57 dwellings, 44 parking spaces, 

2454 San Pablo – replace carwash and add 2-story administrative building 

1311 Glendale – legalize hot tub, appeal of use permit 

2628 Shattuck – preview, demolish 1-story care facility, construct 7-story mixed use 78 dwelling units, reduce required setback, 


Friday, October 12, 2018 

City Reduced Services Day, check before attempting to access City Services, 981-2489 

Saturday, October 13, 2018 

McGee Spaulding Neighbors in Action, Sat, Oct 13, Potluck Brunch 9:45 am, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, University Village Community Room, Agenda: Neighborhood issues 

Harvest Festival, Sat, Oct 13, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, Cedar Rose Park 

Music in the Park, Sat, Oct 13, 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm, Cedar Rose Park 

Sunday, October 14, 2018 

No City Sponsored Events Found 



The meeting list is posted in the Berkeley Daily Planet under Berkeley Activist’s Calendar 



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



When notices of meetings are found that are posted after Friday 5:00 pm they are added to the website schedule https://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and preceded by LATE ENTRY 


Wish to engage in campaigns to flip Republican Congressional Districts, local, state and national events check Indivisible Berkeley https://www.indivisibleberkeley.org/actions and Wellstone Democratic Club, http://wellstoneclub.org 

Philharmonia Baroque’s All-Mozart Choral Concert

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Tuesday October 09, 2018 - 11:25:00 AM

From Wednesday, October 3 through Sunday, October 7, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale presented concerts throughout the Bay Area of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s early religious music. Included on this program were Litaniae Lauretanae, K. 195, Exsultate jubilate, K. 165, and the Mass No. 15 in C Major, K. 317 “Coronation.” I attended Saturday’s concert at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church.  

Led by Nicholas McGegan, who just announced that he’ll be stepping down as the company’s Music Director at the end of the 2020 season, Philharmonia Baroque gave a splendid performance of Mozart’s early religious music. Two of the three works presented here were written to be performed in Salzburg’s churches. If, as is well known, Mozart was champing at the bit in the tight-fisted regime of Archbishop Colloredo, you’d never guess it from these devotional works in which Mozart displayed his versatile command of older “ecclesiastical” styles as well as the “brilliant” style of opera and the concerto. Opening the concert was Litaniae Lauretanae, or Loretan Litanies, a work so-named in reference to the Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy. Dynamic contrasts abound in this work, which was most likely premiered in Salzburg Cathedral in May, 1774. The Chorale, led by Bruce Lamott, sings the opening notes of the Kyrie in hushed tones, only to burst forth in the Allegro section. Chorale sections tend to be sung forte, while sections sung by soloists tend to be piano. Soprano Camille Ortiz sang softly and sweetly her solo in the Sancta Maria. Vocal fireworks abound in the Regina Angelorum and Agnus Dei sections. Tenor James Reese nimbly navigated a vocal line that nearly spans two octaves in the former, and soprano Camille Ortiz displayed her impressive range in the latter, especially in a beautiful a capella passage. The hushed closing of the Litanies is entirely in keeping with the penitential tone of the text. 

Next on the program was Mozart’s much loved Exsultate jubilate, a work written in Milan for the famed castrato Venanzio Rauzzini. First performed in Milan on January 17, 1773, Exsultate jubilate shows off the soprano voice most extravagantly. Lengthy passages of coloratura abound, and here Camille Ortiz excelled. If her soft and sweet singing in the Litaniae Lauretanae initially made us wonder if Ortiz possessed the power to do justice to the extreme demands of Exsultate jubilate, any doubt was swiftly erased, as Ortiz lit into the virtuosic running passages of the opening section. Likewise, her a capella singing closing out the opening section was breathtakingly gorgeous. Exsultate jubilate’s middle section offers a lyrical melody that soars above a gentle bass line, with sighing figures in the strings. The work closes with the wondrous Alleluja music repeated endlessly, beautifully sung here by Camille Ortiz. 

After intermission, Philharmonia Baroque Orhestra and Chorale performed Mozart’s “Coronation” Mass in C Major, K. 317. This work was first performed in Salzburg Cathedral on April 4, 1779. It was written by Mozart shortly after his return from Paris, and it shows the influence of his encounter with the famed Mannheim Orchestra, which was known for its highly expressive dynamic contrasts. Here the opening Kyrie is announced by the woodwinds, punctuated by trumpets and timpani, who play forte/piano/crescendo as the chorus delivers an assertive “Kyrie.” Mozart’s music in this Mass displays a sensitive understanding of the text, as is evidenced by the sorrowful Cricifixus and the hushed mystery of the Et incarnatus est. The lovely soprano solo of the Agnus Dei has been identified by scholars as a precursor to the aria “Dove sono” in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Here this solo was elegantly sung by Camille Ortiz. Mezzo-soprano Meg Bragle and Bass-baritone Dashon Burton were excellent in supporting roles. They may not have had much opportunity to sing, but they made the most of what was offered. The Chorale, led by Bruce Lamott, was excellent in the C Major Mass, as throughout the concert; and conductor Nicholas McGegan led the orchestra in a taut, precise interpretation of these early religious compositions of Mozart. 

Silk Road Revisited by Sandeep Das & the HUM Ensemble

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Tuesday October 09, 2018 - 11:24:00 AM

On Sunday, October 7, under the aegis of Cal Performances, world-renowned tabla virtuoso Sandeep Das brought to Hertz Hall the HUM Ensemble, a group of four musicians who performed music that, as the concert was dubbed, spanned from “Delhi to Damascus.” Sandeep Das, who often performs with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silkroad Ensemble, here traced the musical and linguistic interchange between India and Syria. It is indeed a rich heritage, one that includes a Syrian origin of the ancient Indo-Iranian and Indo-European Sanskrit language. Musically, the nod to Syria came in the form of the oud, played here by Syrian artist and composer Issam Rafea, who chairs the Arabic music department at the High Institute of Music in Damascus. The other members of the HUM Ensemble were, in addition to Sandeep Das on tabla, Suhail Yusuf Khan on sarangi, and Rajib Karmakar on sitar. The sarangi is of the same family as the Persian kamencheh. It is held upright and bowed, producing an eerie, often ethereal sound. Suhail Yusuf Khan is from a musical family in India, and he is an eighth generation sarangi player. 

The opening number featured all four instrumentalists, while the second was a solo by Sandeep Das on tabla. Next came a lyrical piece that featured Issam Rafea on oud. In between musical pieces, Sandeep Das spoke engagingly of his search for music that would involve an outreach to the world as a whole. He announced that the fourth piece was dedicated to Yo-Yo Ma, whom he lovingly praised for helping to open his own eyes to the universality of musical language. As Sandeep Das put it, 

“I started out as an Indian musician proud of my national heritage. Then I discovered the universality of music, and I stopped being Indian and became human.” 

One item on the program featured Suhail Yusuf Khan on vocals as well as sarangi. Sandeep Das introduced it by saying it was a traditional Indian song now on the wane in contemporary Indian music, but worthy of inclusion in his group’s repertoire. Another song was introduced as a favorite of Mahatma Gandhi. As much as there is to admire in Sandeep Das’s virtuoso tabla playing, it must be said that the repetitious quality of most of the songs began to grate. Over and over, a song would start out softly and lyrically, then gradually become rhythmically complex as the tabla joined in. Little by little, in piece after piece, there was the same pattern, culminating in a frenetic series of pops, stops, and more pops from the tabla, as the song exploded in a crescendo altogether worthy of Rossini. Often, the tabla was accompanied in these crescendos by jangly upbeat passages on sitar. It became all too predictable. In spite of this reservation, I found Delhi to Damascus an enjoyable, often instructive concert of music rarely heard in the West.