The Editor's Back Fence

The Editor's Back Fence

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday May 20, 2008 - 12:20:00 PM

Every week a new experiment...this week, we're trying out a Web-only column of short items. People send us things that are not serious enough or big enough or current enough for a full-fledged news story or a full-dress editorial essay, but are too good to pass up. And increasingly they send us links to good stuff in other Internet locations which Planet readers would like to see.  

This spot (at least this week) will be where to find short takes on interesting or amusing topics between the Thursday print papers. Of course, we expect our readers to contribute most of the items, just as neighbors in the fabled small towns of yore shared gossip over the back fences. Hence the name. 

At first, we thought we should post these on Mondays, but Monday came and went this week. And why not just post them as they arrive? So that's the plan for this week.  

Our goal is to get our on-line readers to check out the Planet Website each and every day, maybe more than once a day, so that they don't miss anything. And it's not just this column....we have something new online—news and columns too—almost every day now.  

Here's just one juicy little item to get the ball rolling. A reader forwarded this invitation: 


Wednesday, May 7th from 5:30 to 7pm
Don Yost & John Norheim
along with co-hosts: ... Mark & Erin Rhoades, Ali
Kashani & Ed Church
Invite you to meet and support Nancy Skinner
At the offices of Norheim & Yost
2332 5th St, Berkeley

Just in case your program doesn't list the names and numbers of all the players: 

Yost and Norheim are the commercial real estate brokers who control most of the listings in beleaguered West Berkeley.  

Mark Rhoades is the former City of Berkeley Director of Current Planning (planning czar), who went through the Planning Department's revolving door to become the business partner of  

Ali Kashani, who was formerly with the non-profit Affordable Housing Associates, but has crossed over to the Dark Side to become an emphatically for-profit developer. 

Mark is also the marital partner of Erin Rhoades, who is also the president of the thinly-camouflaged developers' lobbying group Livable Berkeley. Until Mark left the planning department Erin used her maiden name of Erin Banks in her job with the DCE consulting firm, founded by David Early, which has had a number of lucrative contracts with the City of Berkeley and UC Berkeley. Early was also her predecessor at Livable Berkeley. Presumably Erin used her birth name in an attempt to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest with her husband's job. Caesar's wife, after all, must at least appear to be above suspicion. 

Ed Church is the man behind the attempt to turn the Ashby BART station into a condo-complex, an endeavor which is now on hold because of the huge public outcry which greeted it. No stake has been driven through its heart, or his, however. 

And Nancy Skinner ? She's the anointed candidate of the Bates/Aroner/Hancock organization (never call it a machine, unless you want to get angry letters from old friends) for their successor to the family seat in the California Assembly, and judging from this invitation she also seems to have inherited their developer campaign contributors. Not bad for a beginner. And she's already raised a bundle of money, with more TBD right before the June primary, too late to be reported by the media.  

(Full disclosure: I endorsed Kriss Worthington for the job, long before the B/A/H mantle dropped on Skinner's shoulders.) 


Here's a half hour of comedy viewing for the city council junkies among you. The Acting City Attorney and several of the councilmembers skate right up to the precipice of contempt of court as they fool around with ignoring Judge Frank Roesch's order to rescind an earlier bit of foolishness (he called it "abuse of discretion"), granting extra perks to developer Patrick Kennedy for the notorious Gaia building, now owned by equally notorious rent control foe Sam Zell. The CA wanted to tack on a whole bunch of extra stuff that the Judge had not asked for, but plaintiff Patricia Dacey and her attorney Anna DeLeon finally managed to convince the unwilling members that they might go to jail if they carried on as they were. But you do have to watch the whole episode to get the full nuanced comic flavor. Jump the video to item 11 on the agenda. 


Randy Shaw of Beyond Chron has an excellent analysis of who those "angry working class white voters" who say they won't vote for Obama AREN'T. He says he media are afraid to call a racist a racist. 

---Becky O'Malley