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Members of the UC Berkeley police ascend the stairs of a former university laboratory on Berkeley Way as part of the Sept. 12 exercise that was part of Urban Shield, the largest Homeland 
          Security drill in the country.
Ali Winston
Members of the UC Berkeley police ascend the stairs of a former university laboratory on Berkeley Way as part of the Sept. 12 exercise that was part of Urban Shield, the largest Homeland Security drill in the country.
 

News

Brazen Room Robbery At Clark Kerr Campus

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday October 01, 2008 - 02:05:00 PM

A pair of brazen bandits staged a “hot prowl” heist at UC Berkeley’s Clark Kerr campus early Tuesday morning, climbing in through an open kitchen window to rob a pair of students. 

According to a UCPD crime alert, the victims called police at 12:51 a.m. to say they’d just been robbed. 

The suspects, two tall, solidly built young men both wearing hooded garb, slipped in through the open window. 

Once inside, the first suspect walked into the bedroom where the two 18-year-old male residents were sleeping while his accomplice waited in the hallway. 

Inside the bedroom the gunman flipped on the light and slammed the door, aiming his gun at the hapless students while he “demanded a lap top,” according to police. 

While he was collecting the computer from one student and demanding the wallet of the other, the accomplice in the hallway repeatedly opened the door to urge his partner to pick up the pace so they could flee. 

The pair left the suite, this time by the front door, and “were last seen fleeing CKC on foot,” police report. 

One suspect wore a puffy black jacket with a fleece-lined hood and a red-billed baseball cap, while the other was wearing a red hoodie and toting a yellow-and-black backpack, police said. 

Police asked anyone with information about the crime to the campus police investigators at 642-0472 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or 642-6760 after hours.


Teenage Bank Bandits Busted

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday September 30, 2008 - 11:01:00 AM

Two boys, ages 13 and 14, and their 18-year-old companion were arrested by Berkeley Police on Friday after their were caught staking out a Shattuck Avenue bank. 

According to a campus police department crime alert, Berkeley police officers were summoned to the Mechanics Bank branch at 2301 Shattuck Ave. after a caller reported suspicious persons lurking in the area. 

Police arrived to find two people hiding in the bushes and a third “casing the bank.” 

City and campus police gave chase where the trio bolted, nabbing two of them close to the bank and the last moments later hiding in a Durant Avenue garage, 

Officers recovered a 12-inch knife, a fake firearm, a ski mask and a duffel bag, and the university police report that the trio admitted they had been planning a bank heist. 

All three were taken into custody.


Was McCain A Key Player In Point Molate Casino?

By Richard Brenneman
Monday September 29, 2008 - 04:23:00 PM

Is Republican presidential nominee John McCain the key player in the behind-the-scenes maneuvers which may turn the East Bay into California’s first urban gambling resort? 

Sunday’s New York Times featured a major investigation of the ties of the Arizona senator and his staff to the gambling industry, closing with a look at his role in the controversial billion-dollar casino planned for Richmond’s Point Molate. 

Initially opposed to the spread of tribal casinos into cities, McCain changed his position after the Guidivlle Rancheria Pomo band briefly hired Wes Gullet, a Phoenix-based lobbyist, the Times reported. 

Gullet had met his spouse while working on McCain’s staff, and had managed the Arizonan’s 1992 Senate run, was a ranking aide in his unsuccessful 2000 presidential try, and is currently serving as deputy campaign manager for the senator’s presidential run, the paper reported. 

In 2005, McCain had led the opposition to granting the Lytton Band of Pomos a permit to conduct full-scale Las Vegas-style gambling operations at their Casino San Pablo—something not cited in the Times story but reported in these pages at the time. 

The Lyttons had bought a struggling card room operation and sought to turn it into a 2,500-slot machine full-scale gambling resort, but McCain charged the tribe had acquired the casino “the wrong way” and vowed to fight the federal law passed in 2000 that would have granted the tribe an exemption from federal gambling statutes. 

Six months after McCain announced his opposition, the tribe installed 500 slot-like high-speed bingo machines—legal under federal law—and abandoned their plans for a full-scale gambling palace with the still-forbidden slots and table games of a Las Vegas casino.  

While McCain was stifling one tribe’s plans, he was boosting those of the Guidivilles. 

Developer James B. Levine, a Berkeley entrepreneur who had made his fortune in the toxic waste cleanup business, had joined with the Guidivilles, enlisting the help of a powerful Republican who had close ties to both McCain and the Clinton wing of the Democrats.  

Levine said Monday that he hadn’t seen the Times article, and said he would comment Tuesday after reading it.  

Former Maine governor and Clinton Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen became a partner in Levine’s Upstream Point Molate LLC. He was also the best man at McCain’s wedding in 1980, the Times reported. 

Point Molate was a U.S. Navy refueling station located on a stunning section of shoreline near the foot of the Richmond San Rafael Bridge. And while the City of Richmond had bought the base for $1 under terms of the federal Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1988, cleanup is still underway under the supervision of the Navy and conducted by Levine’s former firm, LFR Inc. (for Levine Fricke Recon) of Emeryville. 

While Gullet told the Times he was hired to advise a tribal administrator on his congressional testimony, the newspaper reported that a lawyer for the Guidivilles said the tribe hired McCain’s ally and sometimes staffer Gullet “to insure that Mr. McCain’s overhaul of the Indian gambling laws did not harm the tribe.” 

The Arizona senator introduced his legislation in November 2005, though it eventually failed to pass. 

But, the Times reported, McCain then pushed Department of the Interior staff—who oversee tribal affairs including the approval of new tribal reservations created for gambling operations—to rewrite the rules on casinos. 

Former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Carl Artman told the Times, “Senator McCain made it clear it was one of his top priorities.” After the new guidelines were in place, the department denied the casino applications of 11 tribes—but not that of the Guidivilles. 

And while McCain’s efforts were successful in derailing the full scope of the Lyttons' plans for San Pablo, installation of the fast-paced bingo machines proved a bonanza for both the tribe and the city, thanks to a Master Services Agreement between the city and the tribe. 

While San Pablo had been struggling financially as the poorest of Contra Costa County’s cities, and officials had been debating dissolving the city’s incorporation and handing the reins of government over to the county, the revenues from the machines sent the city’s share of cash flowing. 

While the city reported receiving $2.96 million in business license revenues in fiscal year 2004-2005, the installation of the machines in the second month of the following fiscal year sent revenues up to $7.42 million for 2005-06, $9.5 million for 2006-07 and an estimated $9.95 million for the year just ended. 

The casino now accounts for more than half the city’s general fund revenue and a town once facing bankruptcy and dissolution has been able to move forward with a wide range of public services, including $4 million in its current budget for a first-time homebuyer program.  

It was the promise of just such benefits—along with jobs for the city’s struggling African American community—that led Richmond City Councilmembers to endorse two proposed casinos, Levine’s Point Molate and the Sugar Bowl in unicorporated North Richmond, a project of the Scotts Valley Pomos backed by Florida sports and casino entrepreneur Alan Ginsburg. 

A municipal services agreement with the Sugar Bowl developers was ruled invalid earlier this month by a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge who said that the city violated state law in approving the accord without first conducting an environmental impact review. 

The 20-year pact would give the city $335 million to provide road improvements and emergency services for the casino. 

A separate environmental review under federal law is already underway for the Sugar Bowl, while Levine and the Guidivilles are preparing both state and federal environmental reviews for the Point Molate project. 

 

McCain’s money 

The Arizona senator has raised nearly twice as much from the gambling industry as his Democratic challenger, raking in $260,025 to Barrack Obama’s $132,633, according to the OpenSecrets.org website and reprinted by the Times.  

While OpenSecrets.org reported that Obama had the larger share of tribal gambling contribution, accounting for $56,100 of his total compared to $5,000 for McCain, the Times report that the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe gave McCain his second largest donation from the gambling section 

Seven of McCain’s top 10 gambling sector donors are Nevada-based casino operators, with MGM Mirage at the top with $108,450. The other two tribal donors gave just $8,000 each, according to the Times. 

For both candidates, gambling donations were a small segment of total contributions, according to OpenSecrets.org. Retirees were McCain’s top contributors, with $23.5 million, compared to $23.2 million for Obama. 

Lawyers were at the top of Obama’s list, with $24.1 million, compared to $7.96 million McCain got. 


Cody’s Books Former Employees Charge Bookstore With Contract Violation

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday September 29, 2008 - 04:16:00 PM

Two former employees of the now-defunct Cody’s Books have filed a complaint with the state Labor Commission alleging that the bookstore violated its contract with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) by not paying its workers paid time off when the store closed down in June. 

Rick Valentine and Lawrence Davidson, both longterm Cody’s employees, said company officials had ignored their repeated requests this year for paid time off, telling them that the company had no money. 

Four more former employees at Cody’s backed up their claims and three of them charged the company with not paying them paid time off as well. 

According to the contract between Cody’s Books and SEIU 1020, the paid-time-off program provides for time off for short absences including vacation time, holidays, short term illness, emergencies, religious observances, preventative health care or for personal reasons. 

Unused paid time off could be paid to eligible employees at the end of the year or rolled into the following calendar year at the option of the employee up to a maximum of 120 hours. The contract states that employees will be paid all unused accrued paid time off under their current pay rate upon termination. 

Both Valentine and Davidson complained they were frustrated with SEIU’s unwillingness to answer questions about their problem. 

Sarah Sherburn-Zimmer, SEIU representative for Cody’s employees, told the Planet that Cody’s was in violation of a labor contract since it decided not to declare bankruptcy. 

Sherburn-Zimmer said that attorneys representing Cody’s had told SEIU that the company was in the process of declaring bankruptcy on June 20, the store’s last day, and had not informed the union that it had later decided against bankruptcy. 

She said that SEIU only learned about Cody’s decision during an interview with the Planet last week. 

“It was a shame that the paid time owed to employees wasn’t paid,” she said. “They outright lied to us. They told us that employees should cash their checks that very afternoon they were closing since they wouldn’t be good after they went bankrupt. They told us they didn’t have cash on hand to pay the paid time off and that we would have to fight under bankruptcy law for that money.” 

Sherburn-Zimmer said repeated phone calls to Cody’s former manager Mindy Galoob were not returned. When reached by the Planet, Galoob declined to comment saying that she was no longer employed by Cody’s. 

Sue Tircuit, who worked at Cody’s for almost 17 years, said that she also never received any of the more than 200 hours of paid time off that Cody’s owed her. Tircuit’s pay record show that Cody’s owed her 183 hours of paid time off as of March 30. 

“At the last meeting they said that we were not going to receive paid time off and apologized,” said Tircuit, who took Internet and phone orders at Cody’s and worked at the register. “Not much help when you have to pay bills. The union should have done something about that. But nobody’s talking about it. It’s a done deal. We paid all those union dues and nobody stepped up to the plate.” 

Cody’s—which owed money to a number of schools, libraries and public agencies when it shut its doors for good on June 20 due to dwindling sales—liquidated its assets in August to pay off a bank lien. 

Robert Kidd, an attorney representing Tokyo-based Intercultural Book Company (IBC Publishing Inc.), which owned Cody’s at the time of its closing, told the Planet in August that the bookstore was not declaring bankruptcy because “it wouldn’t benefit anyone.” 

Kidd confirmed Thursday that Cody’s had still not filed for bankruptcy and denied knowing anything about the unpaid paid time off. 

“If they went bankrupt they would have to pay off secured creditors first,” Sherburn-Zimmer said. “But since they didn’t go bankrupt they have a contractual obligation with employees at Cody’s.” 

Calls and e-mails to Cody’s CEO Hiroshi Kagawa of IBC were not returned. 

Cody’s, which closed its flagship store on Telegraph Avenue and branches in Fourth Street and San Francisco in recent years, moved to Shattuck Avenue in April. Founded by Pat and Fred Cody 52 years ago, Cody’s was sold to Andy Ross in 1977 and expanded to Fourth Street and San Francisco under him. 

Ross told the Planet that Cody’s was losing a significant amount of money even before it opened its San Francisco store because of stiff competition from online book businesses. 

After closing the Telegraph store in mid-2006, Ross sold Cody’s to now-defunct Yohan Inc., a Japanese book distributor whose president was Kagawa. According to an article in Publisher’s Weekly, Yohan—a 55-year-old company which was 6.5 billion yen (around $62 million) in debt—declared bankruptcy on Aug. 1. 

The article said IBC, which was founded in 2003 and was a part of Yohan until it broke loose in fall 2007, was unaffected by the bankruptcy and currently owns Berkeley-based Stonebridge Press, which was previously owned by Yohan. 

IBC’s website (www.ibcpub.co.jp) lists Kagawa’s wife Kyoko Kagawa as a member of its executive board and shows that the company has a capital of 30 million yen (around $286,530). Kyoko Kagawa refused comment when she was reached by the Planet in Tokyo Tuesday and directed all inquiries to her husband. 

When the Shattuck Avenue store closed down Kagawa issued a statement saying that “his current business was not strong enough or rich enough to support Cody’s.” 

Valentine, who joined Cody’s in 1995 and said he worked in maintenance, purchasing, delivery and “everything else that anybody didn’t want to do,” alleged that Cody’s owed him approximately 270 hours in unpaid paid time off, which he said translated to almost $4,671. 

“You should close the store when you have the money for paid time off and severance,” he said. “You don’t close the store by having a meeting and closing the door. I put a sign on the clock saying ‘where’s my PTO’ and they refused to tell me.” 

Davidson, who was with Cody’s for three decades working at receiving and returns, alleged that Cody’s owed him around 154 hours of paid time off as of June 19th, a day before the store closed for good. 

“I had worked in every department, I was even manager at one point and I never received paid time off,” he said. “I don’t believe any of the employees got paid time off. They gave us our last pay check and that was it. Yet, it’s in the contract, it’s something we worked hard for. It’s a matter of principal. I find it extremely unsettling that everyone is sympathizing with Cody’s saying ‘poor Cody’s’ when in reality Cody’s stole from its employees. Let the City of Berkeley know how awful Cody’s treated its people.” 

Valentine said Cody’s managers held meetings every week before the store closed assuring employees that the store would remain open until December. 

“We asked them about the low stock and why we had discontinued the gift certificates and we never got an answer,” Valentine said. 

“There were all these lay offs and very few books on the shelf,” said Davidson, describing the last few months at the bookstore. “Then suddenly we have this meeting the morning of June 20 when the management apologized to us and handed us our checks. We were all so shocked I don’t think I looked to see if we got our paid time off.” 

Sherburn-Zimmer said the union had been waiting for the two employees to file wage claims against their employers since they had been under the impression for more than two months that Cody’s had filed for bankruptcy. 

“Under bankruptcy, the employees have to file the paperwork,” she said. “But since Cody’s is not bankrupt, it has freed our hands. We can file wage claims, go to the labor board and take other actions.” 

Records obtained by the Planet of the paid time off Cody’s owed its employees as of March 30, nearly three months before the store closed down, show that the company owed at least eight of its 18 employees more than 100 hours of paid time off. 

Cody’s owed two employees—including Valentine—248 hours each, and three more employees more than 90 hours each. 

Patrice Suncircle, a former bookseller at Cody’s, said the store owed her more than 40 hours of paid time off. Records obtained by the Planet show that Cody’s owed her 48 hours of paid time off as of March 30. 

“All I know is that none of us ever received our paid time off,” said Suncircle, who has worked at Cody’s for nearly two decades. “I know I had paid time off because they put it up by the wall clock. They gave us our last paycheck on our last day and said there would be no paid time off. And I never went back. There wasn’t anybody to contact.” 

Ross said he sympathized with the workers but added that getting the money from Cody’s would be tricky. 

“The claim is against Cody’s and Cody’s is gone,” he said. “Unfortunately, Cody’s demise was very slow and painful for me and the employees. My experience when I was there was that the only choices we were given were bad choices. I am sure people were entitled to their paid time off, but it’s difficult. Most of the money Cody’s got from liquidating went to the bank.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dellums Proposes Layoffs, Fine Increases, And Possible One-Day Shutdowns To Cut Oakland's Deficit

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Saturday September 27, 2008 - 10:28:00 AM

With the nation's attention focused on the national credit crisis and President George Bush's proposed $700 billion bailout package, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums released his proposals to address Oakland's fiscal crisis, a $37.5 million shortfall in the 2008-09 budget. 

Dellums is proposing $13 million in revenue increases and $15 million in staff cuts and fund transfers, as well as saying that the remaining $10 million deficit could be closed either by a once per week city business shutdown or 120 additional layoffs. The mayor said he is not proposing reneging on his promise to fully staff the 803 Oakland Police Department uniformed positions by the end of the year. "We made a promise at the beginning of the year and we're going to keep it," the mayor said. 

Among the proposed revenue increases would be hikes in parking meter rates, parking citation fines, and street sweeping citations. 

The mayor is also proposing that a separate $5 million deficit in the city's Landscaping and Lighting Assessment District Fund be closed by eliminating 46 budgeted staff positions, including 34 staff layoffs. 

At a standing-room-only Friday afternoon press conference packed with media representatives, anxious city workers, and at least two City Councilmembers, the mayor spoke for 35 minutes on the budget details, without any documentation in front of him, leaving little doubt about the depth of his involvement in the budget process. Acting City Manager and mayoral budget director Dan Lindheim stood nearby, but did not speak, and only once briefly came over to the mayor to give him any information. Dellums has been facing charges in some media outlets, particularly by San Francisco Chronicle East Bay columnist Chip Johnson, that he has not been "fully engaged" in his work as mayor. In addition, local developer Phil Tagami last week called for the mayor to begin turning in a time sheet, charging that the mayor was not regularly turning in a 40 hour week. As if to answer those charges, Dellums interrupted a back-and-forth dialogue he was having with Council Finance Chair Jean Quan over a barrage of budget number details, stepped away from the podium, tapped his head, and said, "I don't have any notes. I've got it all up here." 

While the mayor's budget adjustments have been made in close consultation with Councilmembers and city staff representatives, the proposals will be formally presented to Oakland City Council on September 30. Under Oakland's City Charter, the council will have the final say on how the budget will be structured. 

"I can sum up our situation in one sentence," the mayor said. "Oakland is living beyond its means." Dellums said that his administration inherited "long-term, systematic, historical structural problems with the budget," including carrying over fund liability deficits for year after year. 

"We all know the stories about emergency requests coming into the city for $2 million for some program or other and the administrator saying there's no money in the budget," Dellums said, "and then the administrator going back and working the figures and then-just like magic-coming back in a week with the $2 million." 

"But we've only been robbing Peter to pay Paul," the mayor said, saying it was borrowing from future budgets to pay for current needs. "This cannot continue to happen. We've got to stop engaging in this 'magic.' 'Magic' is what got us into this problem. There is no 'magic.' It's all over." 

The mayor said as soon as the current budget deficit problem is addressed, he will move forward in the next budget cycle with proposals to end the city's process of carrying over structural fund deficits. 

A spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union, which represents many of Oakland's city workers, said the union was "concerned about the lack of city service delivery based upon the limited alternatives suggested by the mayor. We have other alternatives that don't necessarily limit city services." The SEIU representative said the union would present those alternatives to the mayor and the Council following the formal presentation of the mayor's proposal to Council on September 30. 

During his press conference, Dellums said he welcomed "creative options and alternatives" from staff, and hoped that any differences could be worked out in a public process including staff, the council, and the administration. "We want this process to go forward with flexibility, collaboration, transparency, and inclusion," the mayor said. 

 


City Tells Thai Temple, Angry Neighbors To Reach Middle Ground

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday September 26, 2008 - 04:02:00 PM

Fans of authentic Thai cuisine must wait till Nov. 13 to find out if the city will allow Wat Mongkolratanaram to continue to serve Sunday brunch or ban it. 

After more than three hours of public debate and testimony, during which Berkeley Thai Temple supporters outnumbered their opponents three to one, the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board decided to ask both sides to do more of the same: mediate. 

More than 100 people packed the City Hall Chambers on Thursday to testify for or against year-round weekend festivities at one of Berkeley’s oldest religious institutions, which was recently found to be in violation of its use permit. 

Members of the Bay Area Thai community waved signs saying “Eat, Pray, Compassion” on the Old City Hall steps. 

When the temple’s monks asked the zoning board to approve a Buddha sanctuary in April, a group of neighbors charged the temple with running a restaurant business, a claim they backed up by pointing to rave reviews on Zagat and Yelp.com. 

Temple volunteers explained that sharing food with the community in exchange of donations was an ancient custom in Thai culture and in some cases the only way for Buddhist priests to earn their living. 

Investigations into the neighbor’s allegations by city officials revealed in June that the temple had repeatedly exceeded the frequency of events allowed by its permit. Neighbors turned up the heat at that point, asking the city to bring a stop to the weekend crowds, noise, trash and parking dilemmas. 

After hearing both sides of the debacle, the zoning board asked the respective parties to settle their disputes through mediation. 

Victor Herbert of Seeds Community Resolution Center, formerly the East Bay Community Mediation, arranged three discussions between the parties and, although some ideas were exchanged at these meetings, a compromise on the frequency of the Sunday brunch was not reached. 

Members of the Thai temple requested the zoning board Thursday to allow them to serve Sunday brunch throughout the year, explaining that they were ready to cut back on hours and reach some kind of a compromise with their opponents. 

“The temple has been ignoring its use permit for 17 years,” said zoning Commissioner Bob Allen. “I need to know why we should trust a group which has flagrantly violated the zoning code and treated us like they are above the law just because they are a religious institution.” 

Commissioner Jesse Arreguin acknowledged the violation but stressed that the temple’s willingness to scale back on their crowds and hours was a step in the right direction. The temple now starts cooking at 8 a.m., three hours later than its earlier schedule, and serves food from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., instead of 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Arreguin also emphasized the importance of a California Environmental Quality Act review on the project, explaining that noise, traffic and environment studies might be crucial factors in determining whether the temple’s Sunday operations were a detriment to the neighborhood. 

“Use permits were set up to protect the neighbors,” said Commissioner Sara Shumer. “I have a hard time seeing a restaurant in a residential neighborhood on a weekly basis. Sunday is a day when people are out using the yards.” 

John Taylor, a neighbor, described the Sunday activities at the temple as a “tolerated inconvenience” and suggested that the Sunday brunch be moved to an alternate location. 

Komson Thong, president of the Thai Association of Northern California, told the board that proceeds from the weekend fund raisers went towards subsidizing costs for students who came to the Thai temple to learn Thai, mediate and dabble in other cultural programs. 

“Berkeley has been a good home for the temple just like the temple has been a good home for Berkeley,” Thong said. “Our programs will not be able to continue without the subsidies. Buddhist monks are not allowed to work outside the temple.” 

Thong stressed that the temple had put up “no parking signs” around the neighborhood and allowed visitors exclusive access to the Any Mountain parking lot a few blocks down. 

He added that 2,300 signatures had been collected in support of the Sunday activities, out of which more than 800 were from Berkeley. 

Second generation Thais recalled spending their most memorable moments the temple, which they said had helped them connect to their Thai heritage. 

“Today we are blessed to have so many Thai restaurants around us,” said a young Thai-American. “But when my parents came to Berkeley this was one of the first places where we could find Thai food. A lot of the Thai restaurants in Berkeley were started by people who came here.” 

Some neighbors who complained against the Sunday operations said they weren’t against the temple per se but were frustrated by the trash, noise and parking problems it brought to the area. 

“Clearly they serve a purpose within the community but they have gotten by with a free pass,” said Celeste Fikiri, a neighbor who asked the city to conduct a traffic study. 

The board told Herbert to conduct a mediation between the two sides and see whether the temple was ready to come to a compromise—some sort of ‘a middle ground”—with its neighbors. 

One neighbor described the brunch as ‘good karma,’ another called the temple ‘a microdot of peace,’ and many echoed the sentiments of a young Thai man who supported the Sunday cooking, saying: “That’s what we do. We are Thai, we make food.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Backlog Forces Commissioners To Double Up Planning Meetings

By Richard Brenneman
Friday September 26, 2008 - 04:01:00 PM

Berkeley planning commissioners are working on two parallel projects that will reshape the city center—the new Downtown Area Plan and the proposed route and configuration for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). 

Commissioners have to finish their own proposed revisions to the downtown plan and hand their version to the City Council in February, which has meant the commission has been meeting weekly instead of the normal routine of twice a month. 

The plan’s chapter on access will be the focus of the commission’s meeting on Oct. 1, starting at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 

The second downtown plan meeting for the month will follow on the Oct. 15, where members are scheduled to finish their work on the sustainability chapter and take a look at implications for the plan’s chapter on land use in light of the proposed Climate Action Plan. 

Next up, on Oct. 22, will be the plan’s housing element. 

The chapter on land use—in many ways the regulatory core of the plan—is up for consideration on Nov. 12. 

The City Council must adopt the plan before the end of May or face a loss of some of the mitigation payments UC Berkeley agreed to pay the city to settle a lawsuit that threatened to delay the university’s plans to build more than 800,000 square feet of off-campus construction in the downtown area. 

At the same time councilmembers consider the commission’s revisions, they will be examining the original plan, which was prepared over a two-year period by a specially appointed citizen committee that also included current commission members James Samuels, Patti Dacey, Jim Novosel and Gene Poschman. 

The BRT project promises the installation of a speedier bus line between the downtown BART station in Berkeley with one of the two BART stations in San Leandro (either downtown or Bayfair).  

The timing of the BRT project is much less certain given that three cities must each come up with a proposal for the shape of the service within their own city limits, with Oakland—the locus of the longest section—yet to begin serious planning. 

Only when the citizens have crafted their so-called locally preferred alternatives (LPAs) can the fourth agency and ultimate operator of the system, AC Transit, prepare the environmental impact report that it must approve before work can begin. 

A fifth variable is the Berkeley electorate, which will decide Nov. 4 whether it wants to be the decider when it comes to turnings thumbs up or down on the LPA. If voters pass Measure KK, the LPA would be subject to the electoral process—though the question of whether the vote would require a special election or could be consolidated with a regularly scheduled election is still undetermined, planning staff told commissioners Wednesday night.  

In the interim, the city Transportation Commission is also weighing in on BRT, and workshops to gather more commission and public input will be held in coming months before both commissions. 

BRT is nothing if not controversial, raising worries especially along Telegraph Avenue, where business owners have expressed concerns about loss of trade should on-street parking be eliminated to accommodate dedicated BRT-bus-only lanes and residents have said they fear increased traffic on side streets and loss of neighborhood parking spaces. 

And if buses and downtown buildings aren’t enough, planning commissioners will be taking on a revision of the city general plan’s housing element starting next year, their own role in reviewing the draft Climate Action Plan, the continuing work of reshaping zoning ordinances for West Berkeley and—if Commissioner Larry Gurley has his way—taking up the long-delayed plan for South Berkeley. 

For more information on BRT, see www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=27038 

For more on the downtown plan, see www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=832 

For more information on the Climate Action Plan, see www.berkeleyclimateaction.org/ 

And for information on the West Berkeley “project,” see www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=10764 


BRT Proposal Raises Questions, Fewer Answers at Commission

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 05:54:00 PM

Planning commissioners Wednesday confronted what Chair James Samuels called “a chicken/egg problem”: How to define a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route without knowing its full impacts. 

The controversial proposal from AC Transit would create a new bus route from Berkeley to San Leandro—running (possibly) from Berkeley’s downtown Bay Area Rapid Transit station to Bayfair BART. 

But, as the report from city transportation planners Beth Greene and Kara Vuicich made clear, a great many questions remain unanswered, especially when four different governments are involved. 

While the project belong to AC Transit—a public agency with its own elected board drawn from both Alameda and Contra Costa counties (the A and C in its name)—the cities of Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro must all sign off on the final plans. 

Add to that the facts that Oakland has barely begun its evaluation of a preferred route and the possibility that Berkeley voters could force any route in the city to be subject to a public referendum, then toss in strong local objections to some of the transit agency’s ideas and the future become cloudy indeed. 

BRT is a system which backers say will provided fast, reliable transit—especially if buses are granted dedicated lanes between stations within no more than a quarter mile of any point along its route. 

Proponents say it’s a way to get people out of their cars, reducing planet-warming greenhouse gases. 

But foes say that any reductions in emissions would be minimal, while portraying the concept itself as a Trojan horse for developers who could build denser developments than currently allowed by municipal zoning laws. 

In Berkeley, the final plan proposed for the location and particulars of the route will be decided by the City Council after examining recommendations from the Transportation and Planning commissions and city staff. 

Samuels offered the basic conundrum facing the city: “In effect, AC Transit will provide us with some information on some LPA (locally preferred alternative), but they can’t do that until we vote on some specific scheme.”  

Only then will the agency analyze the impacts of the LPA. 

Commission secretary Jordan Harrison said stakeholder meetings would also be held to discuss project impacts, with the LPA then modified to reflect community concerns before returning to the commission for its recommendations before bring the final LPA to the City Council. 

Then, and only after Oakland and San Leandro settle on their own LPAs, will AC Transit conduct a detailed analysis of the entire package, for the project’s final environmental impact report (EIR). 

 

KK, variants 

But another monkey wrench to the transit agency’s plans could come from Berkeley voters, who will decide Nov. 5 on Measure KK. 

That ballot initiative would remove final say on the city’s LPA from the council’s hands and place in the ballot box, giving voters the decision on whether to accept or reject it. If the council rejected the LPA, no vote would be needed, said Greene. 

“Can you change the LPA if we decide on a route we like better?” asked commissioner Patti Dacey. 

But senior planner Alex Amoroso said that while the analysis might look at variants of the LPA, selecting a significantly different route—say from the current main line down Telegraph Avenue to Adeline Street/Martin Luther King Jr. Way-- “would be a whole different ball of wax.” 

Key decisions will involve the route BRT would take from Telegraph Avenue to the downtown BART station, whether or not to have dedicated BRT-only lanes, lanes used by both BRT and regular bus lines or no dedicated lanes at all. 

Other questions involve the spacing and location of stations, raised platforms where passengers with prepaid fares could quickly board and exit the buses. Locations are critical for evaluating station impacts, Greene said. 

Commissioner James Novosel said that members of the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee had been presented with much more detailed information about the physical appearance of the BRT proposal and asked for detailed sections of the proposed configuration along Telegraph and Shattuck Avenues and Bancroft Way. 

Staff was able to provide an AC Transit digital animation of selected segments, featuring an articulated bus that one commissioner quipped looked as long as a train. 

 

Density rules 

Dacey said she was concerned about the potential impacts of two state bonuses that allow builders to exceed height and mass limits in local codes. One, the state density bonus, is automatic, but the second and more controversial Transit Oriented Development bonus applies only when an area is so designated by local government. 

Dacey said she was concerned whether or not the bonuses would be additive or mutually exclusive, but none of the staff was able to provide an answer. 

The transit-oriented designation could apply to the area around stations, significantly increasing density under legislation designed to reduce driving. 

Commissioner Gene Poschman has been a frequent critic of the designation, citing studies that show car ridership may not drop in the designated areas. 

A proposal to designate the Ashby BART station as a transit village sparked furious neighborhood opposition and was eventually dropped. 

But Greene said the presence of BRT stations is likely to make the surrounding areas more attractive to developers because the facilities are permanent, unlike ordinary bus stops which can be readily changed. 

Investment in station infrastructure, she said, would increase property values. 

Teresa Clarke, who was sitting in as an interim commissioner, said she would like any BRT proposal to include a listing of opportunity sites for station development. She also questioned the need for dedicated lanes on Telegraph, but said they were needed for the downtown loop section of the route. 

Samuels said staff should also recommend whether stations should be located in the center of the street or in curbside locations. 

Poschman said he wanted to see more detailed information about how BRT would impact the city’s Climate Action Plan, which is now headed to the commission. 

Another concern is just what impact the BRT stations will have on residential parking, with Dacey concerned about the effects on the Willard neighborhood. While AC Transit has called for new spaces to replace those lost because of BRT, commissioners said they wanted to knew where the new spaces would be located and how readily accessible they would be to the neighborhoods which would lose parking. 

“AC Transit hasn’t said,” said Vuicich, “but we need to look at it on a block-by-block level.” 

Janet Stromberg, sitting in as an interim commissioner, said that she was concerned that projections called for a 164-car increase in traffic on College Avenue, with a decrease of 800 on Telegraph. 

“College is already incredibly impacted, and to add more cars there seems crazy,” she said. 

 

UC use 

And while College Avenue traffic was one consideration, another was the relationship between BRT and UC Berkeley. 

Samuels said, “There is a perception among some people that BRT will mainly benefit UC, but I don’t know where than comes from.” 

UC planner Billy Riggs attended Wednesday night’s meetings along with members of a university planning class. 

University policy calls for housing students either within a one-mile walking distance of campus or a 20-minute public transit ride, and Riggs said BRT was unlikely to cause students to move to Oakland. 

Anna Ostow, one of the students herself, agreed. “I bike and live really close to campus,” she said. If BRT expanded the 20-minute radius deep into Oakland, “I probably wouldn’t live there, but it’s an interesting thought.” 

“Our student population lives mostly within walking distance of campus,” Riggs said, with 70 percent walking or biking to their classes. 

But BRT service could make a difference for faculty and staff, he said. 

Another student said BRT wouldn’t make a difference for him unless the housing at the other end was significantly cheaper. 

 


New Budget Makes Major Cuts to BUSD’S Cost of Living

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 05:53:00 PM

California’s long overdue state budget signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Tuesday leaves the Berkeley Unified School District’s budget virtually unchanged from last year, but forces it to grapple with the rising cost of living, district officials said Thursday. 

Under the new budget, the district is set to make cuts of $2.5 million, which leave the budget barely balanced and with a loss of almost $2.9 million in general revenue and program reductions. 

“It’s a bad budget and I want to be clear about that,” said district Superintendent Bill Huyett. “The budget’s going backwards but costs are going up. Food and gas prices are increasing everyday.” 

Huyett said the budget will not cut categorical funds, which would leave school libraries and other improvement programs untouched. 

The $143 billion 2008-09 budget—which came a record 85 days after the state began its fiscal year on July 1—will give the district a 0.68 percent Cost of Living Adjustment instead of the district’s estimated 1 percent, Berkeley Board of Education President John Selawsky said. 

“It’s maintaining last year’s budget but we are losing some money,” he said. “The real cost of living [increase] is higher than 0.68 percent. In the Bay Area it’s almost as high as 5 or 6 percent. It’s not something we didn’t expect but we are definitely disappointed. There’s no new revenue. This bare bones budget will reflect on our operations.” 

The school board is expected to announce at the end of October budget ramifications if any, Selawsky said. 

“We are required to do that by law 45 days after the budget is passed,” he said. “But we are not anticipating any reductions. However, I have heard there is talk in Sacramento about mid-year cuts. But nobody knows whether those cuts will actually happen or whether they will be in education.” 

Fears of teacher layoffs in Berkeley public schools because of the governor’s proposed budget cuts earlier this year saw large contingents of parents, teachers, school board members and students pack buses and cars and rally in front of the State Capitol in Sacramento several times. 

Huyett met with Assemblywoman Loni Hancock in Sacramento to emphasize the importance of preserving Prop. 98—a voter approved statute that establishes a minimum level of funding for California schools—which the governor wanted to suspend but the legislature ultimately voted to save. 

Berkeley Unified announced in June that all teachers who had received pink slips in the mail would be able to keep their jobs. 

Selawsky said that he was hopeful that the district’s classified employees would not be laid off either. 

Earlier this month the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees (BCCE) rallied to ask the school board for a cost of living increase which district officials said at that time was difficult to negotiate because of the governor’s overdue budget. 

Huyett said that although the district still had open contracts with (BCCE) and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39 it had settled pay raises with the teachers union and Local 21. 

School board member Joaquin Rivera, who will not be running for re-election during the Nov. 4 municipal elections, lambasted the government for the budget. 

“We finally have a budget which is a horrible budget and all the representatives who passed the budget should be ashamed of themselves,” he said at the board meeting Wednesday. “It’s really pushing the problem to the next year. It does nothing for us. Year after year Sacramento keeps tying our hands and giving us less and less money. We have bills to pay, employees to take care of.” 

In a statement released Tuesday the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said he had directed his staff to distribute funds owned to child care centers and schools. 

“With costs continuing to rise, budgets being squeezed, and the fact that this budget is predicated on uncertain revenues, the signing of the budget brings only temporary relief for local education agencies,” he said. “I urge policy makers to craft a budget for the next fiscal year that includes new revenues that will allow us to truly address the needs of students in our public education system. We must provide funding that will help us increase the achievement of all students, close the achievement gap, and prepare students for success in the increasingly competitive global economy.” 

 

 


Racism Motivated Tree-Sit, Chancellor Tells Donor

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:43:00 AM

“[R]acism against our minority student athletes ... underlies much of the opposition to our student athlete high performance center,” declared UC Berkeley Chancel-lor Robert Birgeneau in a letter sent to two major donors to the school. 

That allegation in a June 27 letter stunned the recipients, Berke-ley residents and long-time university donors and supporters Thomas and Janice Boyce. 

The appearance of the letter, given to this newspaper by a third party, comes as the campus is launching the public phase of a $3 billion endowment fund-raiser, with Birgeneau in the lead. 

The chancellor’s letter followed earlier letters from the couple questioning the university’s handling of the tree-sit protest at the now-leveled grove at Memorial Stadium, as well as the expense of rehiring campus police chief Victoria Harrison. 

Stephan Volker, one of the attorneys who challenged the university’s plans to level the grove to build the four-level high-tech gym and office complex, called Birgeneau’s claim “beyond bizarre.” 

“It seems the university will leave no stone unturned to smear anyone who disagrees with their policies,” said the attorney, who briefly attended the school himself and whose spouse and a son received Cal degrees. 

“Birgeneau went off my list right there,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Betty Olds when told of the chancellor’s allegation. Olds had been a tree-sit supporter and ascended the branches briefly early in the 21-month-long fight to save the grove of coastal live oaks, redwoods and others trees. 

“That was absolutely stupid,” Olds said of Birgeneau’s remark, “And to say that here in Berkeley!” 

The Boyces are dedicated supporters of the university and have donated extensively to the university. Janice Boyce has served on several fund-raising boards, including those for the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive and the Anna Head campus. She declined comment beyond noting that she would like to see the campus devote more of its energies to undergraduate education. 

”The letters speak for themselves,” she said. 

Birgeneau’s letter to the couple did acknowledge that “you have been generous donors to our university.” 

Volker said the allegations of racism against tree-sit supporters seemed ironic, given the fact that three of the final four tree-sitters who surrendered to campus police were Latinos and the very first tree-sitter, Zachary Running Wolf, is a Native American. Native Americans also appeared at the grove repeatedly to support the protest, with more than 100 on hand for one event. 

The correspondence between the Boyces and university officials began on May 6, with a letter from the couple protesting “the compensation shenanigans by the University of California at Berkeley,” including what they de-scribed as the “unscrupulous and perhaps illegal action” in the rehiring of Harrison after her retirement. 

Turning to the tree-sit, the couple said the university had “totally mishandled this protest” by criminalizing the protesters rather than approaching them with respect. 

“Perhaps we should take a few moments to recognize that as we pass out compensation rewards, and enlarge administrative costs, we are making it more difficult to consider people’s legitimate concerns about the University,” they wrote. “Student tuition increases as our library system and our language departments are being cut without giving thought of system waste and distribution.” 

Though the letter was addressed to Birgeneau, Vice Chancellor for Administration Nathan Brostrom responded on May 16, beginning with blaming the press for “numerous inaccuracies”—though none was specified—in reports on the tree-sit and Harrison’s rehiring. 

He wrote that Harrison had retired as associate vice chancellor for public safety and campus police chief on June 30, 2007, but had been rehired immediately because “we needed to ensure continuity in our commitment to campus safety ... due to unusual conditions we face (and continue to face),” while “a lengthy and expensive search for a replacement at that time was simply not a prudent course of action.” 

But the rehiring at an annual salary that reached $194,000 on top of her retirement buyout package of $2.1 million and an additional $552,000 to be paid out over ten years drew fire from state legislators and resulted in a new UC-wide set of standards on rehiring adopted a week ago (Sept. 18) by the Board of Regents. 

While Brostrom said UC guidelines then in effect “suggest retirees work no more than 46 percent of the time,” official policy didn’t mandate the limit, and “I felt it was imperative that we have a full-time police chief,” he told the Boyces. 

The Boyces replied in a May 26 letter that they had been told the 46 percent limit was not a guideline but official policy. 

The real reason for their correspondence, they wrote, was that “as solid alumni, we are questioning the mission priorities of our public university.” 

Brostrom responded in a June 24 letter, reaffirming that the 46 percent figure was not an official policy, and offering to answer their question by phone. He also said he had forwarded their original letter to Birgeneau. 

Then came the letter from the chancellor himself. 

“I understand that you remain dissatisfied with the clear and compelling explanation” Brostrom had provided for the police chief’s rehiring. “I can add nothing more to his response.” 

As for their other concerns, the chancellor wrote, “UC Berkeley is operated with the highest ethical standards by administrators whose compensation is far below that which they would have received at peer public and private institutions” and run, according to “a recent study by one of our private peers,” as “the single most cost-effective major teaching and research institution in the country.” 

In the next paragraph, Birgeneau leveled the racism charge. 

“I am surprised that you advocate for criminal trespassers who use their own feces and urine to harass our staff while, at the same time, ignoring the racism against our underrepresented minority student athletes that underlies much of the opposition to our proposed student athlete high performance center.” 

The final link in the chain of correspondence came from the Boyces in a letter sent to Birgeneau on July 14. 

“Your strong words were rude, condescending, appallingly accusatory, unresponsive to our questions, unbecoming to a Chancellor of the University of California and without precedent,” they wrote. 

Noting their decades-long support of the UC campuses in Berkeley and San Francisco, the couple wrote that “[f]or many alumni, your bullying tactics would be effective. You will not alienate the generations of Berkeley graduates and professors of the stalwart Boyce Family through intimidation. Our campus and its alumni are greater than an individual. Not because of you, Robert Birgeneau, but in spite of you, we remain resolute and loyal to our alma mater. 

“We are not expecting any further response. We have asked MISSION questions you apparently do not want to answer; thus, we are sending copies of our correspondence to others who will be responsive to our concerns.” 

The final item in the letter noted that copies had been sent to UC President Mark G. Yudof, Regent Chair Richard Blum, Attorney General Jerry Brown “and other interested parties.” 

Running Wolf, the first of the tree-sitters, was reached Monday outside Berkeley’s Pacifica radio station KPFA, where another tree-sit began Wednesday morning challenging that station’s policies. 

He said Birgeneau’s raising of the race issue “is reaching really low into the bag. They’re trying to pit colored against colored.” 

Sylvia McLaughlin, a nonagenarian and the oldest of the tree-sitters, whose late spouse served as dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Mining and as first dean of the College of Engineering, said she found Birgeneau’s racism allegation laughable. 

“I don’t care what color athletes are. We just wanted the building to be located somewhere else.” she said.


UC Berkeley Fund-Raising Drive Seeks $3 Billion

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 12:03:00 PM
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announces the fund-raising drive on Friday.
By Richard Brenneman
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announces the fund-raising drive on Friday.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau kicked off the public phase of a $3 billion fund-raising drive Friday, seeking funds for scholarships, campus improvements, faculty salaries, research—and $600 million for buildings. 

Talking to reporters in the conference room at California Hall, Birgeneau said the most critical part of the fund drive will raise $640 million for endowing financial aid for undergraduate and graduate students. 

“We are extraordinarily pleased with how well the community, alumni and friends of the university have contributed so far in the silent phase of the campaign,” said Birgeneau. 

The university wants to raise $1.7 billion over the next years, using the theme “Thanks to Berkeley” to highlight contributions the university has made to the lives of its graduates. 

A primary emphasis will be to raise funds for scholarships for California students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, he said. 

“African American and Chicano American students at Berkeley are disproportionately from poor backgrounds” compared to Caucasians and Asian Americans, he said, comprising about two-thirds of the African American students and “little more than half” of the Chicano Americans. 

The chancellor said he hoped that alumni who had attended in the days when fees topped out at $150 a semester will open their wallets to help pay for the education of students faced with today’s much higher costs. 

And while the university’s state funding has remained relatively constant in the face of recent rounds of budget cuts, Birgeneau said it hasn’t kept pace with cost-of-living increases. 

Part of the funds will come from a $113 million Hewlett Foundation challenge grant announced last September, the largest single gift ever made to Cal. 

“We anticipated it would take seven years” to raise the matching funds, Birgeneau said, “but after one year we already have more than 50 of the 100 shares matched and we are in advanced discussions on another 30.” 

“The psychology is that people love a match,” he said, and the university is looking for more matching grant funders. 

The chancellor said little of the money will come from corporations, rather most funds are derived from individuals and foundations. 

Faculty salaries and support will account for $390 million of the total, with research funding taking another $450 million. 

“In order to have the best faculty and staff, you have to pay higher salaries,” Birgeneau said. 

The university is facing challenges from private institutions like Yale, which has an endowment of $23 million and Harvard, which reported that its endowment has reached $36.9 billion as of June 30, the Boston Globe reported. 

Closer to home, Birgeneau said the funds Stanford receives as interest on its endowment top by $300 million Berkeley’s funding from the state. Stanford reports on its website that the university has an endowment totaling $17.2 billion. 

By contrast, Berkeley endowment stood at $2.9 billion at the end of last year. 

Funds already raised have almost reached the total accumulated between 1993 and 2000, the period of the university’s last major fund-raising drive. 

The Campaign for Berkeley, as the new drive is formally titled, began on July 1, 2005, with the start of the so-called “quiet phase,” and the drive will end on June 30, 2013. 

Birgenau said the name of the not-so-quiet phase, “Thanks to Berkeley,” came after hearing it repeated over and over during consultations with alumni. 

The official kickoff of the new phase was anything but quiet, with the Cal marching band and cheerleaders on hand to inaugurate the drive and the unveiling of a 72-foot-long photo mural in Dwinelle Plaza that features the faces of more than 400 students, faculty, staff and alumni.


Anti-Israel Graffiti Found Near Campus

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:43:00 AM

A poster promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace at an AC Transit bus stop in front of UC Berkeley’s Eshelman Hall has been repeatedly vandalized with anti-Semitic slogans and swastikas, authorities said. 

The poster—part of the “Only in Israel” public awareness campaign launched by San Francisco-based BlueStarPR and sponsored by the Jewish Community Federation and Foundation of the Greater East Bay—has a picture of Israeli Arab soccer star Sowan Abbas calling for coexistence among communities. The poster also gives an example of a soccer team consisting of Jews and Arabs training together in the Arab-Israeli town of Sakhnin. 

Gabe Weiner, a campus coordinator for the Israel Peace Initiative and a former senator of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), said he first came across the defaced poster a couple of weeks ago.  

Pictures taken by Weiner show that the last half of the line “Where in the Middle East Do Jews and Arabs Play Together?” was scratched out and replaced by “Where in the Middle East ‘DO YOU FIND ILLEGAL OCCUPATION’” in bold black letters all over Abbas’ picture. 

“It was cleared up and right after that the second case happened,” Weiner said. “I was on my way to an ASUC meeting on Sept. 17 with a few friends and we were watching out for the poster. We didn’t see anything when we walked into the meeting, but when we left around 11 p.m. we saw it had the swastika equated with the Star of David on it. The words Jews and Israel were also crosed out. We were extremeley angry and upset.” 

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau sent out an e-mail Monday to the campus community strongly condemning the vandalism. 

“Although this hateful act of vandalism was not on campus property and may not have been perpetrated by our members, it is an act deeply hurtful to our Jewish students, and other members of the Jewish community who may have seen it, in this very busy student precinct,” he said.  

A back-to-campus ad by Sears—located across from the BlueStarPR ad—was also tagged with swastikas equated with the Star of David. 

Seven “Only in Israel” posters depicting advancements in solar technology and co-existence are displayed at several bus stops around UC Berkeley and can also be viewed at www.BlueStarpr.org, Pini Altman, deputy director of BlueStarPR, said. 

“At the end of the day Israel is a very tolerant society,” he said. 

“We want people to know that Israel is very progressive when it comes to things like gay rights, women and the environment. When people vilify or demonize Israel, the real facts get lost. If you use anti-Semitic images, you cross the line into racism.” 

Riva Gambert, director of the Community Program of the Jewish Community Federation and Foundation of the Greater East Bay, said that although the organization was saddened by the defacing, it was encouraged by Birgeneau’s call for an open and honest dialogue. 

“If you cross out the word Jew and put a swastika on a sign it’s pretty clear why people would do that,” said Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who represents the neighborhood. “To vandalize someone else’s sign is not free speech. The sad thing is to have had this sort of thing happen in previous years.” 

A Jewish fraternity in Berkeley was vandalized several years ago and had the word “kike” and other anti-semitic slogans scrawled outside it, he said. 

The Berkeley Hillel was also vandalized a couple of years ago. 

“We do not accept this kind of behavior. I wonder if it was done to win the sympathy of the new students on campus,” Worthington said. “But most young people seem quite savvy about all this these days and I don’t think it will work.” 

Worthington said Doug Hambleton, chief of the Berkeley Police Department, had asked his staff to investigate the incident as a hate crime and remain vigilant. 

“We need to be alert and try to catch people in the act,” he said. “In previous years vandalism against a sign was followed up by assaults on people, which included insults about their race or religion. So I think we need to take this seriously.” 

Officer Andrew Frankel, spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department, urged anyone who had witnessed the vandalism to call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers hotline at (800) 222-8477. 

“There are no suspects so far,” he said. “There are no witnesses either so there’s not a whole lot of investigative follow-up. But we offer a reward up to $2,000 to anyone who calls to leave a tip. They can give a name or remain anonymous.” 

John Moghtader, an ASUC senator and president of Tikvah: Students for Israel, said he believed the vandalism had occurred while he was giving a speech rebutting a recent talk by Kifah Shah, an ASUC senator and organizing member of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). 

“She [Shah] was comparing the destruction of the oak grove at the Memorial Stadium with the uprooting of the Palestinians’ olive trees,” he said. “It was a factually incorrect portrayal of history so I made some remarks on the historical connection of Jewish people to the land of Israel.” 

Shah told the Planet that she had merely quoted the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe who referred to the uprooting of the indigenous Palestinian population’s olive trees as “memoricide.”  

“It wasn’t necessarily a speech about Palestine,” she said. “It was a speech about how the uprooting of the oak grove symbolized the ‘memoricide.’ The oak grove was a sacred burial ground for the Ohlones.” 

Shah said that her organization had been unfairly targeted in the aftermath of the vandalism incident. 

“Although we openly condemned what happened at the bus stop, someone wrote ‘SJP: Don’t f... with Jews on the campus anymore’ inside Dwinelle Hall,” she said. “It was really hurtful because we stand for a diverse group of people. We reached out to the Jewish students organizations on campus to work together on hate crime like this. Things are slowly getting polarized.” 

Chancellor Birgeneau called for unity on campus in the wake of the incidents. 

“As a university community that does not condone any acts of intolerance or hate, we must speak out against this anti-Semitic obscenity,” Birgeneau said in his e-mail. “Deplorable acts of hate are the antithesis of a university community. As a center of higher learning we must stand in opposition to such acts and strive to promote a climate of understanding and acceptance for all groups on campus.” 

Jonathan Poullard, the university’s dean of students, sent a subsequent e-mail calling on students to create a safe campus environment. 

Poullard said that in addition to last week’s vandalism, the campus had also witnessed racist speech in Cesar Chavez Student Center recently. 

“Discourse, dialogue, discussion, disagreement and agreeing to disagree are all facets of what makes the principles of education real; however, hate, vandalism, intimidation, threats and violence have no place in our community,” he said. “It is our responsibility to make real our value of inclusion, our value of inquiry and our value of safety for all.”


Community Crime Meeting Reveals Sharp Tensions

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:44:00 AM

Beneath the heated rhetoric and sharp divisions, one fact emerged from a Monday night meeting between Berkeley police, city officials and residents: the desire for a police force that is engaged with the community on a day-to-day basis. 

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 packed the community room at San Pablo Park’s Frances Albrier Community Center both to hear from officialdom and to vent their frustrations in the wake of a pair of murders and a rash of subsequent shootings in southwest Berkeley. 

While many of the complaints fell along racial fault lines, the common thread in the concerns was anxiety about personal safety, with threats perceived both from young men often connected with gangs and the drug trade and from law enforcement officers themselves, viewed with distrust as an occupying force. 

There was a heavy police presence both at the meeting and during the candlelight vigil and march that preceded it down the streets from a sidewalk-side shrine for one of the dead shooting victims on Derby Street near the corner of Sacramento Street to the gathering place in the park. 

But of the seven uniformed police at the front of the room, only one was African American, a point noted by more than one speaker. 

Four city councilmembers attended, though only three—area representatives Max Anderson and Darryl Moore along with Mayor Tom Bates—sat at the speakers table, while Gordon Wozniak watched from the audience. 

The immediate cause for Monday’s meeting was the exchange of gunfire on Derby Street in the opening minutes of Thursday morning that left Kelvin Earl Davis, a 23-year-old Berkeley man, mortally wounded along the curbside and 42-year-old Oakland resident Kevin Antoine Parker dead nearby behind the wheel of his wrecked car. 

Berkeley Police Chief Douglas Hambleton said the department’s “very strict policy” barred the release of detailed information about the results of an ongoing investigation, but Lt. Andrew Greenwood offered some details both about the double killings and the shootings that have followed. 

Greenwood said police had arrived at the scene within three minutes of the first 911 call, and that upwards of 40 officers responded in the early phases of the case. 

“Our sense is that these two people were the focus of an attack. That essentially defines where we’re at,” he said. 

Three hours later, a neighborhood house was hit by at least one bullet.  

“We are unclear whether it was purposefully hit,” he said, or whether it was struck incidental to another event that may have been happening on the street. 

The next shooting followed at 10:15 p.m. Thursday night, when a woman taking out the trash from her residence across the street from the scene of the double murders was shot in the abdomen. Though seriously wounded, she is expected to recover, Greenwood said. 

More than 20 officers responded in that incident, with the first arriving within two-and-a-half minutes of the first call, he said. The target in that incident may have been the crowd that had gathered around the memorial where Monday night’s march began. 

Yet another shooting followed at 9:04 a.m. Friday in the 1400 block of Russell Street. Greenwood said no one had yet come forward to offer information about that shooting. 

 

Citywide crisis 

“This is a citywide problem,” said Max Anderson, who represents western South Berkeley. “In the early part of the ‘90s there was a fire in the hills that was threatening our community,” he said. “Now there’s a fire in the flatlands that’s threatening out community. We need to extinguish that fire. We need to find some solutions.” 

“We want to take back the streets,” said Moore. 

“Two homicides is two too many,” said the mayor. “We also can’t tolerate not being safe on the streets.” 

Hambleton said the department is “trying to make the city as safe as possible” by adding additional patrols and overtime to patrol the area while encouraging officers assigned to other areas of the city to come to the troubled neighborhoods when they need to spend time writing their reports or when otherwise able to spend time in the area. 

The chief said that because of “the direct connection between violence and drugs,” the department has 13 officers and support personnel assigned to the department’s drug unit and has been implementing neighborhood watch programs. 

One strong area of divisions emerging from the public discussion was the response to the impromptu memorials that are erected along the streets in the wake of shootings. The tableaux that result often feature empty liquor bottles and gang graffiti, and Hambleton said he was also concerned because of drinking that occurs among those who gather at the site. 

Police policy is to order the removal of the objects after 48 hours if they’re on public property—or sooner if complaints arise. “But we don’t have jurisdiction over private property,” he said, adding that police had recently worked with property owners over several memorials in the area. 

While some in the audience urged a strict no-memorial policy, others agreed with a woman who called out, “We need our memorials!” 

One 12-year resident of the same block that had seen the two murders and the shooting at the memorial said she had attended a very similar meeting five years earlier, called after a neighborhood boy “was shot off his bike.” 

“Each time there’s a meeting, there’s this great promise there’ll be extra police,” she said. She said she was also concerned “because there’s drug dealing going on all over Sacramento Street,” with no police action even though both officers and community members are aware of it. 

But another man said police “just don’t treat the young men with respect,” adding to the officers on hand, “Don’t be racist pigs.” Still, he said, he had seen “a lot of progress” in police attitudes. 

While much of the discussion followed racial lines, there were no hard and fast rules, as indicated by the remarks of two African American women who spoke in succession. 

The first, who identified herself as the aunt of one of the murder victims, said she had been repeatedly harassed by police, as had her nephew, telling officers, “I blame you all for my nephew’s death.” 

But she was followed by another woman, also African American, who said, “Nowadays we are afraid of our own children.” 

Angry shouts and loud applause punctuated the meeting as speaker after speaker rose to address the crowd, and at one point Bates literally tried to call “Time out! Time out!” 

One of the most poignant comments came from a young African American man who said he had been raised in a house police designated a crack house by a mother who was hooked on the drug. Describing himself as a “terror” during childhood, he said he was rescued by the mother of a classmate—“a white lady from the Berkeley Hills.” With her help, he said, he had turned his life around, graduating from high school with honors and going on to win a psychology degree from Tuskegee. 

And the one clear consensus from the meeting was the call for a police presence that was constant, trustworthy and familiar—and not just a surge dispatched to fight the emergency of the moment, as well as the need for a deeper and ongoing communication between members of a deeply divided community struggling with the specter of rising violence. 

Berkeley has seen so many homicides this year that police press releases have stopped offering a year-to-date total. 

In the years since 1998, the highest number of homicides for the city until this year was logged in 2002, when seven people died at the hands of others. The lowest number was recorded in 2001, with a single homicide listed by the FBI. The total for 2007 was five. 

The 2002 figure had been matched by the end of May—or exceeded by one if an officer-involved fatal shooting is added to the total. There have been three murders since. 


Off-Campus Hazing Escalates at Berkeley High

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:44:00 AM

It’s called the case of the “Freshman Fridays” at Berkeley High: seniors tossing eggs at ninth-graders when they leave school or sports practice, sometimes hitting them in the face. 

Oldtimers refer to it as an “unfortunate tradition,” but most victims and their parents call it assault. 

The sudden rise in off-campus hazing this fall prompted Berke-ley High School Principal Jim Slemp to send an e-mail to the community on Sept. 15 advising students to remain alert when they leave campus or simply stay put at school during lunch. 

“The number of incidents of older students hazing freshmen by throwing raw eggs at them on Fridays seems to be on the increase off our campus,” Slemp’s message, sent out on the district’s e-tree, said. “Parents should be aware that hazing is not tolerated on the Berkeley High campus. Unfortunately, we do not have control over what happens off campus ... I have addressed the student body at Berkeley High on this issue. Our security officers are alert to the problem.” 

School officials, Slemp’s e-mail said, had heard reports of students “being egged” on Shattuck and Solano avenues and Marin Circle. 

“We also have no influence over students from other schools—such as those from Albany and Piedmont high schools who were recently caught by the Berkeley Police throwing eggs at our students,” Slemp wrote. 

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Andrew Frankel told the Planet he was not aware of hazing incidents off campus, involving either Berkeley High students or those from different schools. 

“This is the first I have heard of it,” he said. “The sergeant in charge of youth services hadn’t heard of it either. One of our patrol officers might have taken the students back to the school and maybe that’s why we never heard anything. We don’t have a policy for incidents like this. We deal with them on a case-by-case basis. But we will definitely investigate it if it involves physical abuse.” 

Piedmont High School Princi-pal Randall Booker said he did not know that his students were involved in hazing incidents directed at Berkeley High students. 

“The first time I heard about it was when someone alerted me to Slemp’s e-mail,” he told the Planet on Friday. “I asked him to forward me names of the students who were caught, but I haven’t got anything so far. I did get a call from Berkeley High’s Dean of Students Alejandro Ramos but he wasn’t able to provide any names either.” 

Booker said he had not heard of any hazing incidents at Piedmont High since he took over as principal six years ago. 

“It’s a small school and people know each other,” he said, explaining that the high school had a population of 800. 

Calls to Slemp, Ramos and district superintendent Bill Huyett for comment were not returned. 

Mark Van Krieken, president of the Berkeley High Parent Teacher and Student Association, said the problem worsened last fall, and in some cases included victims that were beyond freshman year. 

“Last year around this time there was a huge increase,” he said. “Kids were going after the freshmen on Fridays. Eleventh-graders were going after the 10th-graders. This year it seems to have jumped up again. At least one 10th-grader has been attacked multiple times when he comes out of cross-country team practices. There are kids hanging outside to get at him.” 

In his e-mail, Slemp directed students and parents to call the campus intervention officer or the Berkeley Police Department to report future incidents. 

Multiple postings on the Berkeley Parents Network complained about the incidents and called on school authorities to take action against it. 

“My daughter is a new freshman at BHS, and she reports that ‘how to avoid eggs’ is the major topic of conversation,” wrote “Disappointed in BHS.” 

“What a waste of time and energy,” the parent wrote. “Sounds to me like unnecessary hazing, adding to the general stress caused by unresponsive counselors and incorrect schedules. Also, an egg was thrown at me once on a Berkeley street (I’m an adult) and it really hurt. Berkeley High administrators should crack down.” 

Another parent wrote that while her son occasionally indulged in private “food-throwing hijinks” with his friends at high school, “organized humiliation targeting specific people” was bullying. 

“Look at the lessons these senior bullies are teaching,” she wrote. “That it’s OK to target specific people for ridicule and exclusion, it’s OK to act like a thug if you are in a superior position, and if a superior targets you, you have to take it.” 

Berkeley Board of Education chair John Selawsky said he had witnessed students getting egged. 

“It was just last week,” he said. “The egg ended up on a car. But it’s not just this year or last year, It’s been going on for years. But it’s hardly harmless. On some level it can be viewed as an assault. Students suffer because of this.” 

The mother of a Berkeley High freshman, who wanted to remain anonymous because she feared retaliation, said someone threw a raw egg at her son while he was getting off the AC transit Bus 65 on Grizzly Peak. She said that she was frustrated that just because the incident happened on a public bus the district says its hands are tied and can’t respond. 

“There was egg all over his pants,” she said. “My son just said it was another example of inhumanity. My husband and I think it’s assault and bullying.”


Council Tackles Condo Conversion, Wood Smoke and Recreation Fees

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:45:00 AM

It was a busy, eclectic night at Berkeley City Hall Tuesday, with the Berkeley City Council moving forward on a range of issues, including changing the city’s condominium conversion mitigation fees, establishing citizen nuisance wood smoke abatement procedures, and raising recreation fees. 

In addition, the council halted further consideration of blanket deferrals of building permit fees for new construction in the city, while asking staff to come back with recommendations for possible deferral of sewer hookup permit fees. 

The thorniest issue was condominium conversion, where the council considered a complicated staff recommendation for revisions in the amount of fees charged to convert dwellings to condominiums, as well as the process by which those fees are determined.  

The purpose of the condominium conversion fee—set by the council in 2005 at 12.5 percent of the sale price of the unit to be converted—is both to help the city add back affordable rental housing that was lost in the condominium conversion, as well as to give the city a share in some of the windfall accrued by new condominium owners for the raise in property values caused by the conversion. 

There was general agreement among the council, staff, and residents speaking at the meeting that the current conversion fee is probably too high and that the city approval procedures are too complicated. Staff said, for example, that there are five different possible condominium conversion fees for duplex owners, and that the current procedure sometimes requires applicants to go back as far as 10 years for financial documentation, a process one staff member described as “difficult.” But there was little agreement on how much to charge, or exactly what parts of the procedure to streamline or change. 

“There is absolutely no community consensus on the fees,” Acting Berkeley Housing Director Jane Micallef told councilmembers on Tuesday. “Some thought the current fees were too low, some thought they were too high.” 

And while representatives of the Berkeley Rent Board said that they were “generally in agreement with staff’s approach,” representatives of Housing Opportunities for Everyone (HOPE) were not. 

In a letter to the mayor and council included in the agenda packet, HOPE’s David Wilson said that “despite explicit direction from the council” in December 2007, “and assurances to the public, staff has refused to analyze the conversion fees charged by the city, and has now proposed changes that would actually increase these fees for owner occupants and tenant buyers.” In his letter, Wilson told the council that staff’s proposals “should not be acted on until staff has done the impartial fee study.” 

And one Berkeley resident, who said he was currently going through condominium conversion, suggested the fees be cut down to as low as 1.5 percent from the current 12.5 percent 

Though no one on the council suggested reducing fees that low, councilmembers had similar mixed feelings about staff’s suggestions. 

Councilmember Linda Maio suggested a fee reduction from 12.5 percent to 10 percent—larger than Capitelli’s 8 percent proposal—but lost on a 5-3 vote (Darryl Moore, Laurie Capitelli, Betty Olds, Gordon Wozniak, and Bates voting for 8 percent, Maio, Max Anderson, and Kriss Worthington voting for the 10 percent fee). 

With Bates suggesting that he “didn’t know if 8 percent is the correct figure. I might go lower, depending on how this works,” council also approved an annual review of the conversion fee to see its effect and to analyze the financial situation. 

That was not enough for Olds, who complained several times that councilmembers had no idea of the effect of the fee amount, and were “pulling figures out of the air.” At one point, Olds even evoked the late Councilmember Dona Spring, saying that council had passed the 12.5 percent conversion fee amount only at Spring’s insistence. It was not immediately clear what that had to do with Tuesday night’s deliberations. 

And Anderson said he was hoping a decision on the entire condominium conversion issue could be delayed until input was solicited from a wider range of Berkeley residents. 

Noting that only a handful of residents showed up to talk at Tuesday’s meeting, and that the staff report indicated only 11 persons (including applicants, consultants, and representatives of tenancies in common) showed up at a June 18 special hearing on the proposals, Anderson said he wanted to see more tenants and tenant representatives weigh in on the issue. “There are people in this city who can’t afford a TIC (tenancy in common) or a home purchase, and depend on us to keep a stock of affordable housing,” Anderson said. “I’d like to hear from groups like the East Bay Community Law Center. I’m in favor of striking a balance between affordable housing and assisting in raising home ownership.” 

But Anderson conceded he did not have the votes for a delay, and did not make a motion to attempt it. 

In the end, with Worthington and Anderson voting no, the council agreed to submit for staff consideration several issues suggested by Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, including cutting the conversion mitigation fee to 8 percent, putting aside some of the funds for first-time homeowners assistance. 

City Manager Phil Kamlarz said that staff would bring the new set of recommendations back to the council sometime in October. 

 

In other action on Tuesday, the council: 

• Approved on first reading an ordinance setting up a conflict resolution system for residents with complaints about neighbors’ wood smoke. Under the new ordinance, direct neighbors within 120 feet of the source of wood smoke who complained of a problem would be allowed to go through a procedure of mediation and binding arbitration and then, if necessary, litigation in Superior Court.  

Staff said it receives between 30 to 40 complaints each year about problems with neighbors’ wood smoke. 

• Raised fees at City of Berkeley camps—including Berkeley Tuolumne, Echo Lake, Cazadero Arts, and Berkeley Day—to pay for a new online camp registration system and increased maintenance costs due to code compliance issues at Echo Lake and Tuolumne.  

Under the new structure, one-week day camp youth camp fees for Berkeley residents would rise from $99 to $135, while daily family camp fees at Tuolomne would rise from $88 to $96 for adults, $60 to $65 for youth 7 to 14, and $45 to $49 for children.  

Staff said recommendations for fee raises for other Berkeley recreation programs will be submitted later this council session.  


Downtown Berkeley ‘Urban Shield’ Drill Draws Fire

By Ali Winston Special to the Planet
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:47:00 AM
Members of the UC Berkeley police ascend the stairs of a former university laboratory on Berkeley Way as part of the Sept. 12 exercise that was part of Urban Shield, the largest Homeland 
              Security drill in the country.
Ali Winston
Members of the UC Berkeley police ascend the stairs of a former university laboratory on Berkeley Way as part of the Sept. 12 exercise that was part of Urban Shield, the largest Homeland Security drill in the country.

Friday, Sept. 13, was a typical day for residents of 1910 Oxford St. in Berkeley—except for the commotion of a heavily armed SWAT team racing up the back stairway of a neighboring University building on Berkeley Way.  

“It was definitely weird to see that many people mobilized and in full uniform,” said Elise Craig, who lives on the third floor of 1910 Oxford St. 

A radical animals rights group was holding several students hostage in a former laboratory, and the SWAT team was rushing to meet them with guns drawn. Sharp reports of gunfire came moments later—as officers in the parking lot below sipped coffee and bottled water. 

In reality, the operation was one of 24 terrorism-themed scenarios conducted in the Bay Area by 26 tactical teams as part of a continuous 50-hour event called Urban Shield. Hosted for the second year running by the Alameda County sheriff and sponsored in part by Department of Homeland Security funds and corporate sponsors, Urban Shield was billed as the largest Homeland Security drill in the nation.  

More than 1,600 officers from California and the East Coast took part in the scenarios, which included hostage rescue, school takeovers, airplane hijackings, dignitary protection, prison riots, industrial sabotage, and live shooter response.  

Homeland Security drills have become more frequent. On Sept. 23, a large-scale preparedness exercise took place in train stations across the East Coast.  

While a security event as large as Urban Shield was bound to attract media attention, the timing and nature of the operation is conspicuous in light of the Aug. 27 raid on the Long Haul Infoshop by UC Berkeley police. An affidavit filed in Alameda County Superior Court to support a UCPD’s search warrant application cited threats to university researchers who experiment on animals as justification.  

The Berkeley Way scenario, designed by UCPD, has drawn particular criticism. Animal rights activists such as the Animal Liberation Front have destroyed property belonging to animal researchers, as in the Aug. 2 firebombings in Santa Cruz. However, there is no record of the ALF or similar organizations taking hostages. 

“Putting a label on a group is very dangerous,” said James B. Chanin, a local civil rights attorney. “That’s not disaster training, that’s propaganda.” 

Chanin, who was a founding member of the Berkeley Police Review Commission, says there is a history of injecting politics into police training.  

He recalled a Berkeley Police crowd control exercise in the 1970s that involved armed “demonstrators” equipped with shotguns and United Farm Workers banners. The police commission subsequently banned the department from repeating such training.  

In particular, Chanin worries about law enforcement holding incorrect notions about animal rights activists, many of whom are engaging in constitutionally protected activities.  

“If there’s a subliminal message that that’s what these groups do, then it’s inappropriate training,” Chanin said.  

Calls to the UC Police Department for comment were not returned. 

Local law enforcement viewed Urban Shield as an invaluable learning opportunity to hone skills that can be applied to a variety of scenarios. 

“All these are transferable skill sets for the Barricaded Subject Hostage Negotiation Team,” said Officer Andrew Frankel, Berkeley Police Department spokesman. The BSHNT is the Berkeley Police equivalent of a SWAT team. Berkeley police helped staff the Berkeley Way simulation, Frankel said, but did not participate in the planning process.  

Coordinating disparate agencies can come in particularly useful during natural disasters, such as earthquakes. “It does more for natural disaster training than for tactical operations, from our perspective,” said Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a spokesman for the Alameda County sheriff.  

The sheriff’s office is the lead agency during any natural disaster, said Nelson, and Urban Shield provided a chance to gauge their ability to coordinate multiple agencies and test out emergency equipment. 

Corporate sponsors also donated equipment for live-action trials. Blackwater Worldwide, a much-criticized military contracting firm, donated a prototype vehicle to the aircraft hijacking scenario at Oakland International airport.  

Ensuring that the public is aware of such large-scale drills is critical. “Make sure the population doesn’t get terrorized by the exercise,” said security expert Bruce Schneier.  

To spread awareness of Urban Shield, local police departments reached out to homeowners associations and issued press releases prior to the weekend.  

Elise Craig’s landlord posted a notice in her elevator the day before Urban Shield began. Although she became accustomed to preparedness drills complete with role-playing victims and fake blood while living in Washington, D.C., the Sacramento native says the SWAT teams and early-morning gunfire would have caught her off-guard without advance warning.  

“If you didn’t know what it was,” she said, “it would have been really scary.”


UC Berkeley Says Fire Hazard Shut Down CampusLink

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:48:00 AM

UC Berkeley shut down the CampusLink terminals at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union last week because of non-compliance with the fire safety code, university officials said last Wednesday. 

CampusLink provides free Internet access to students and visitors on the UC Berkeley campus year-round through a contract with the university. 

Thomas Spivey, associate director of the Associated Students of the University of California Auxiliary—which operates the student union—said the roll-down fire doors under the stairwell of the student union building, where the CampusLink kiosk is located, were not functioning and posed a serious threat in case of a fire. 

“Our fire marshal inspected the area last week and told us the fire doors were not working,” he said, adding that the terminals had been shut down Monday or last Friday. “The equipment was also in poor repair so I had to shut them down.” 

However, according to an interview with CampusLink CEO Bill Hoyer, two of the nine or so CampusLink computers stopped working in August after which the university shut down all the terminals. 

Hoyer said the company had also sent two representatives around Labor Day weekend to fix the broken computers but the university had turned them away. 

“I am not aware of that,” Spivey said. 

Calls to the campus fire marshal Tony Yuen were not returned. 

Hoyer said during his earlier interview that the university had not provided any explanation about why they were shutting down the terminal but had expressed concern about non-students using the computers and vandalism by the homeless near the kiosks. 

Spivey denied that there had been such concerns. 

“It’s free public access for everyone,” he said. 

According to Hoyer, CampusLink, which has centers in 30 public and private college campuses around the country, has never been shut down during its seven years at UC Berkeley. 

Spivey, who took over as associate director of the Associated Students of the University of California Auxiliary in May 2007, said he had noticed fire safety hazards with the kiosk since he joined. 

“CampusLink was going to bring them into compliance but hasn’t done anything yet,” he said. “It’s too dangerous for our students in its current state. Simply fixing the computers will not address the fire problem.”


Thai Temple Asks Zoning Board to Allow Year-Round Sunday Brunch

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:45:00 AM

Wat Mongkolratanaram will be back Thursday at the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board meeting to request a use permit modification which will allow the Berkeley Thai Temple to serve its disputed yet exceedingly popular Sunday brunch throughout the year. 

The current permit, issued in 1993, limits the 33-year-old Buddhist temple at 1911 Russell St. to serving food only three times annually. 

When the temple’s volunteers approached the zoning board in April for a permit to build a new Buddha shrine, a group of neighbors complained that the Thai Temple was running a commercial restaurant business in the guise of serving meals to its followers, bringing trash and congestion to the area. 

The monks at the temple responded that the Sunday brunch ritual was a centuries-old Thai tradition, in return for which they often asked for donations. 

After investigating the allegations, zoning officials announced in June that the Berkeley Thai Temple had repeatedly exceeded the number of events allowed by its use permit. 

Although no one was able to ascertain just how long the temple had been violating its permit, the board agreed to give the temple a chance to modify the original permit and address neighborhood concerns. 

Board members also suggested mediation, the most recent of which was held on Aug. 6. 

Thai Temple volunteers and Oregon and Ward streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Way residents met with Victor Herbert of East Bay Community Mediation three times since June, following which they came to an agreement only about the entrance to the new sanctuary. 

No common ground was achieved over the frequency of the brunches or the crowds they attracted, Herbert said. 

The temple has addressed concerns of some neighbors about the early morning cooking by starting at 8 a.m. It has also cut down on the brunch hours, starting now at 10 a.m. instead of 9:30 a.m. and closing the food stalls an hour earlier than before, at 1 p.m. 

“It was the best-kept secret in town, or maybe the worst-kept secret,” Herbert said of the Thai Temple’s Sunday festivities. “This is a situation that affects a large number of neighbors, some of whom enjoy the availability of food, and some of whom oppose it, and some of whom may be indifferent. Ours was an attempt to see if there were grounds for mutual accommodation.” 

Among the list of 19 neighbors who signed a petition demanding that the zoning board shut down the Sunday brunch was Tom Rough, whose house abuts the temple boundaries. 

In an e-mail to project planner Greg Powell, Rough quoted from recent reviews of Wat Mongkolratanaram’s weekend brunch on yelp.com, which described “ridiculously long lines” and “super-packed” tables on Sundays, to argue that the temple’s efforts to scale down its operations had been ineffective. 

“The neighbors have complained,” Rough wrote. “They have put forth a good faith in mediation. With the temple’s failure to change their food service sufficiently to satisfy our complaint, the city has a responsibility to act.” 

On a recent Sunday afternoon, more than 50 people were turned away because the temple ran out of pad Thai and mango sticky rice almost an hour before the monks declared brunch officially over. 

The remaining 200 who got to stay squeezed into every nook and cranny possible inside the temple, at times spilling over into the adjacent South Berkeley Library lawns to feast on what some described as “the best Thai food ever.” 

“It would be a shame if it shut down,” said Cindy Hann, who has been coming to the Thai Temple for the past two years from Moraga. “I think the temple is really trying to be a good neighbor.” 

Thai grandmothers in faded gray aprons ladled out soup and red curry chicken to Cindy’s daughter Ellen and then helped 10 other people in less than five minutes. 

In the next canopy, Thai youngsters performed a Thai folk dance in pink and purple sarees, their parents bustling around to applaud their performance. 

Sakchai Himathongkham, a volunteer at the Thai Temple, said there was no way of telling how many people turned up at the temple every Sunday. 

The donations from the brunch sponsored teachers from Thailand who came to the United States to teach Thai and also subsidized tuition for locals who came to learn Thai at the temple school, he said. 

“The cost of airfare alone from Thailand to the U.S. is $1,5OO,” he said. “Then there’s cost of living on top of that.” 

Siwaraya Rochanahusdin, who teaches intermediate and advanced Thai to children and adults at the temple, said a large number of Thai Americans from the East Bay sent their children to the temple school to learn Thai and traditional music and dance. 

“The older generation of Thais who settled in America long ago want their grandchildren to be culturally sensitive,” she said. “They want to speak to them in Thai. We all want this issue to be resolved as quickly as possible. We don’t see it as the neighbors versus the temple. We are all part of the community together.” 

Himathongkham described the temple as a place for people from different walks of life to come together over food. 

“It’s like the Berkeley Bowl or the Saturday Flea Market,” he said. “I think of this as a good opportunity for the city to look at the conditions of an urban neighborhood. To look at how we can come together and work on traffic flow and improving dialogues with each other. There’s a lot of misunderstanding since we speak a different language and come from a different culture. But we are working together to make things OK.”  

The ZAB will meet at 7 p.m. (today) at Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.


Berkeley Double Murder Sparks Police Call for Public Assistance

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:47:00 AM

Police are calling on the public to help in solving the murders of two men who were gunned down early last Thursday on Derby Street. 

The city’s emergency switchboard was flooded with calls minutes after midnight, reporting shots fired near the corner of Derby and Sacramento streets, Berkeley Police Lt. Andrew Greenwood told a public meeting Tuesday night. 

When officers arrived, they found the Berkeley resident Kelvin Earl Davis, 23, mortally wounded along the curbside and 42-year-old Oakland resident Kevin Antoine Parker slumped nearby behind the wheel of his wrecked car. 

Police have declined to speculate on a motive for the killings, and have asked for the public’s help in tracking down the killer or killers. 

Homicide detectives are asking anyone with information about the crime to contact the Homicide Detail at 981-5741 or through the dispatcher’s line at 981-5900. 

Anonymous tips can be made to the Bay Area Crime Stoppers Line at (800) 222-8477. Calls to that number remain anonymous, in part because the service is located in Canada and not subject to the state’s penal code, Greenwood said Tuesday. 

Officer Andrew J. Frankel, the department’s spokesperson, said Greenwood’s appeal hadn’t produced any leads as of early Wednesday afternoon. 

A total of $32,000 in reward money is available for anyone who provides information that leads to the conviction of the shooter. 

The scene of Thursday morning’s shooting was the site of yet another major shooting incident at 10:15 p.m. that night, when a woman was shot taking out the trash from her residence across the street from where Davis’s body had been found.  

Wounded by a single gunshot wound to the abdomen, the injured woman was rushed to an emergency room. Greenwood said she is expected to recover. 

Berkeley’s murder rate has soared in the last year, with killings in 2008 already above any year in the last decade. 

Police and city officials responded to neighborhood concerns with a major public gathering Tuesday night held in the community room at San Pablo Park’s Frances Albrier Community Center, which was packed with a standing-room-only crowd.


Fire Department Log

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:48:00 AM

RVs roasted 

A fire that started in one recreational vehicle spread to a second early Tuesday morning, causing an estimated $10,000 in damage by the time Berkeley firefighters had extinguished the flames. 

Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said a call at 1:58 a.m. reported a fire in a lot in the 2800 block of Eighth Street. 

On arrival, firefighters found the flames had spread to a second RV parked nearby in a towing company parking lot used to house impounded vehicles. 

While the investigation is still under way, the deputy chief said he believes the blaze was caused by an open flame in the first RV.


School District Examines Mixed Results For State, Federal Test Scores

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:49:00 AM

The Berkeley Board of Education recently discussed the 2008 Accountability Progress Report—which provides results from California’s Academic Performance Index (API) as well as the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and Program Improvement (PI)—with district officials at a public meeting in the City Council Chambers. 

Both the API and AYP are based upon the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program and the California High School Exit Exam.  

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires states to improve public schooling for all  

students, schools and districts in California must meet or exceed the following AYP requirements in order  

to demonstrate Adequate Yearly  

Pro-gress: 

 

Participation 

According to a report submitted to the school board by Berkeley Unified School District’s Assistant Superintendent Neil Smith and Director of Evaluation and Assessment Rebecca Cheung, the district met the 95 percent participation criteria for AYP as required by No Child Left Behind for the first time in four years. 

The report shows that 14 of 16 Berkeley public schools met the mandated participation rates for the entire school as well as for every significant subgroup in both English Language Arts (reading and writing) and math. 

Berkeley Arts Magnet missed the 95 percent participation requirement for African-American students in both English and math, the report said, primarily because disabled students who took the test with modifications, as required by their Individual Education Plans, were not counted. 

Berkeley High School did not meet the participation requirement for socioeconomically disadvantaged students in math since it tested only 93 percent of the students. 

 

Proficiency rates 

Although the district’s overall proficiency level looks good, the district failed to have enough members in some of its student subgroups who were considered proficient in English  

 

Language arts or math 

Five district subgroups (African American, Latino, English learners, poor and disabled students) and two subgroups (African American and disabled students) did not meet proficiency levels. 

The AYP target for the percentage of students expected to score proficient or above on state assessments increased nearly 11 percentage points from 2007 and will continue to rise each year to meet the federal requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. 

In 2007 the state standard for performance was 24 percent, which increased to 35 percent this year. In 2009 it will be 45 percent. Under No Child Left Behind, each state defines what it considers to be proficient levels in English-language arts and math.  

Six Berkeley schools (Cragmont, Emerson, Malcolm X, John Muir, Oxford and Washington elementaries) satisfied AYP requirements and Washington exited Program Improvement status. 

Schools, school districts, and county offices of education that receive federal Title I funds and do not make AYP criteria for two consecutive years are identified for Program Improvement status. Such schools are subject to a five-year timeline of intervention activities.  

The Berkeley Unified School District is in its third year of Program Improvement status.  

In addition to the three middle schools (King, Longfellow and Willard) and Berkeley Technology Academy), three elementary schools (Arts Magnet, LeConte and Rosa Parks) are in Program Improvement status. 

Cheung said her department would be increasing support to all Program Improvement status schools. 

“We will be doing targeted enforcement to students,” she said. “This year schools are rewriting their entire school plans.” 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett said that Program Improvement was gradually losing its impact. 

“You hit year five and you look at providing extra support and that’s it,” he said. “So really the No Child Left Behind is starting to fall apart. However, the API continues to be a robust performance. That question about what is going to happen with federal government versus state is coming back and a lot remains to be seen with what the federal government is going to do.” 

 

API 

According to the report, all K-8 schools in the district met the federal AYP API requirement of 620 points. 

Berkeley High failed to receive an API score since it did not meet the 95 percent participation requirement. 

Berkeley Unified received a API score of 760, up 14 points from its 2007 Base API score, showing that the district was progressing toward the target of 800. The API is a numeric index which ranges from 200 to 1,000 with a statewide target of 800. 

Cheung told the board that all district-wide subgroups showed growth on their API scores. 

Socio-economically disadvantaged students gained 33 points from a Base API of 641 to 674 and African American students gained 22 points from a Base API of 597 to 619. English Learner students gained 21 points from a Base API of 649 to 670. 

Five schools have gained more than 100 points and six more have gained more than 60 and 99 points on the API since 2002, Cheung said  

 

Graduation rate 

Berkeley Unified did not meet the graduation rate requirement. The rate for 2008—based on the class of 2007—was 82.8 percent, a decline of 3.1 percent. 

Berkeley High School met the requirement with a graduation rate of 85.6 percent—a drop from the previous year when the rate was 87.5 percent—while B-Tech, with a graduation rate of 43.6 percent—a decrease from the previous academic year’s 59.6 percent—failed to meet the requirement. 

According to the report from district officials, the California High School Exit Exam’s graduation requirements, which went into effect for the class of 2006, might be responsible for the decrease at both sites. 

“In addition,” the report states, “B-Tech has a small student population which leads to greater volatility in percentage calculations.”  


Analysis of Regional Ballot Measures

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:49:00 AM

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District Special Tax Measure VV  

To preserve affordable local public transportation that allows seniors and people with disabilities to remain independent, takes students to and from school, provides transportation alternatives given skyrocketing gas prices, helps residents commute to work and reduces traffic and greenhouse gas emissions by getting cars off the road, shall the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) increase its existing parcel tax by $4 per parcel, per month for 10 years with independent oversight and all money staying local? (2/3 vote required for passage). 

Regardless of where one stands on the Van Hool or the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) controversies, there are two things which Alameda and Contra Costa County residents can generally agree on regarding the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District. The first is that a financially stable bus system is critical to the economic health and the public welfare of the two counties. The second is that in order to remain financially stable, including keeping up with rising gasoline prices and employee health care costs, AC Transit must have an increased flow of revenue.  

With yearly operating expenses rising at four times the rate of revenue in the past three years, AC Transit staff says they are not in danger of missing their revenue projections for this year, but are worried about the next few years. With no chance of increased funds coming from the state, that extra revenue must come from Alameda and Contra Costa county residents. 

Earlier this year, staff and the AC Transit board flirted briefly with the idea of a 25-cent adult bus fare increase, along with increases in passes and youth, senior, and disabled fares. But with board elections coming up in November and the public urging the district to find another way to raise money besides “on the backs of the bus riders,” the district opted instead for a parcel tax. The increased tax generated by passage of Measure VV would generate $48 million a year for AC Transit. 

District officials cautioned, however, that the parcel tax does not take a possible fare increase off the table, and said they would revisit the issue of a proposed fare increase at the beginning of next year. 

Measure VV would create a new $48 per year tax on all real estate parcels in most of Alameda County (don’t be confused by the $4 in the ballot language; as you can see, that refers to the monthly rate). Measure VV also extends the lifetime of the existing AC Transit parcel taxes for six more years (Measure AA passed in 2002, Measure BB passed in 2004), making the entire price tag for all AC Transit parcel taxes $96 per year through June of 2019. 

Voters will probably be considering two issues in the Measure VV vote. The first will be, is the operation of a public bus system in western Alameda and Contra Costa counties worth the added tax hit mandated by the measure? Second, are the various recent charges surround AC Transit management (written up in a series of articles in the Berkeley Daily Planet and the East Bay Express) so serious and so believable that those issues should be cleared up before the district asks the public for any more money? AC Transit is betting yes on the first, and no on the second. 

 

East Bay Regional Park District Measure WW—Extend Existing East Bay Regional Park District Bond with No Increase in Tax Rate 

To continue restoring urban creeks, protect wildlife, purchase/save open space, wetlands/ shoreline, acquire/ develop/ improve local and regional parks, trails and recreational facilities, shall East Bay Regional Park District be authorized to issue up to $500 million in general obligation bonds, provided repayment projections, verified by independent auditors, demonstrate that property tax rates will not increase beyond present rates of $10 per year, per $100,000 of assessed valuation? (2/3 vote required for passage). 

This is an extension of the $225 million Measure AA parks bond passed by area voters in 1988. In a presentation before the Berkeley City Council this week, current East Bay Regional Park District Board Member Nancy Skinner (now the Democratic nominee for the District 14 State Assembly seat) told councilmembers that the proposed tax measure would not increase existing tax rates, but would continue the $10 per parcel rate per $100,000 evaluation currently in effect for the district. Skinner said that $375 million of the expected $500 million to be raised by Measure WW, if passed, would go for park district capital projects, as well as acquisition of additional open space parcels in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.  

District documents anticipate the new money will lead to the acquisition of 34,000 new acres, with 100 miles of new hiking trails. The remaining $125 million of the bond will be spread around to various city and regional parks projects, including $4.9 million earmarked for the City of Berkeley. With the price tag so low, area support for open space so high, and an increasing need for a nearby break from urban pressures, the measure seems as much of a lock as anything on the ballot. In a year of political controversy, Measure WW appears to be one of the few issues that is not generating any opposition.


Commissioners Add Two New High-Rises To Downtown Plan Environmental Study

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:50:00 AM

Berkeley Planning Commission members, missing two of their most outspoken dissenters last week, boosted by 50 percent the number of 120-foot buildings to be included in the environmental study for the new downtown plan. 

While the move doesn’t guarantee that the two additional high-rises would be built, it does ease the approval process by potentially eliminating the need for separate environmental impact reports for the added high-rises. 

Two of the buildings would be located on university-owned downtown sites, with the other four on private property. 

Commissioners are working through the plan, prepared over the course of two years by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee, to have their own proposed revision ready for the City Council, which must approve it by May or risk the loss of some of the university funds promised the city as mitigation for 800,000 square feet of new construction by 2020. 

In addition to the increased number of 120-footers, City Planning and Development Director Dan Marks said the EIR will also include four 180-foot point towers and two 220-foot hotel towers. 

But just because the tall buildings are included in the environmental review, Marks said it is “extremely unlikely” the full number would be built in the plan’s 20-year time frame. 

While DAPAC members had repeatedly resisted staff suggestions that they welcome so-called “point towers” to the downtown skyline, the committee eventually compromised on four 120-foot-tall buildings and two taller hotel towers. A proposal to include two additional point towers failed by a single vote. 

But DAPAC executive director Will Travis, who was sitting in on the Planning Commission as a temporary member along with Teresa Clark, said he hadn’t thought the limit of four applied to the university property, then suggested adding a fifth. 

It was Commissioner James Novosel, an architect who has designed several downtown Berkeley buildings, who proposed adding another, bringing the total to six, with two of them on university property. 

UC Berkeley Planner Jennifer McDou-gall said the university might be interested in the future in locating one high-rise near the intersection of Hearst Avenue and Oxford Street, and said another possible site might be adjacent to University Hall on Oxford. 

“God knows with this economy, but the university could be moving forward with some big project sooner or later and we don’t want it to come as a big surprise” to the community, she said. 

The school is looking for partnerships with commercial developers as well, she said. 

When it came to questions of building massing—how much of the potential volume of the site a structure would occupy—commissioners loosened DAPAC standards for purposes of the EIR, raising by 10 feet, to 85 feet, the height at which taller buildings would have to be stepped back from the lot line to allow solar access to nearby property and for the aesthetics of the streetscape. 

Travis suggested eliminating setbacks and leaving the final building configuration to the design review process, but Marks said that would produce an EIR with “buildings that look like the Great Western building, and I’m pretty sure that in Berkeley, we don’t want that.” 

The Great Western Building—most recently called the Power Bar building—is the cheese-grater-like structure at the southwest corner of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street. 

Commissioner David, himself a former UC Berkeley planner, called a requirement for setbacks at any height below 120 feet extreme, which was music to McDougall’s ears. She said said the school didn’t want any setbacks for its 120-footers, and if the city wanted to prepare an EIR with the setbacks, “it would have to be clear that this was something the university wasn’t going along with.” 

Marks said the plan could be made “a little more flexible”—a phrase repeated several times in the course of the meeting. 

Another source of flexibility, commissioners suggested, could come from reducing the package of mitigations DAPAC wanted from developers as a price for building structures higher than most committee members had wanted. 

The commissioners ultimately approved a study that will include setbacks at 85 feet. 

 

Tackling chapters 

Commissioners finished their proposed revisions of the chapters on housing and health services, then worked more than halfway through the section on environmental sustainability. 

Commissioner Chair James Samuels, another architect, who represented a minority on DAPAC but the majority on the commission, said he was unhappy with a section of the housing chapter that calls designation of the city-owned parking lot on Berkeley Way west of Shattuck Avenue as an opportunity site for building housing for the homeless that also would serve as a demonstration project for green “zero-carbon” building technology. 

“I’m not really sure I agree with going there,” he said. 

Commissioners eventually agreed to make it an either/or site—either a homeless housing and services project or a green demonstration building. 

The tension over DAPAC proposals to require developer mitigations for taller buildings resurfaced when Samuels cited the commission-sponsored feasibility study carried out against DAPAC’s express wish. That study, conducted by private consultants, had concluded that 120-foot buildings weren’t economically feasible, and that only point towers would work—and those only as condos, and then only if the plan reduced the proposed level of mitigations, including fees paid to the housing trust fund in exchange for exclusion from the requirement to set aside units for those unable to meet market rates. 

Commissioner Larry Gurley asked if the plan wasn’t designed to prevent all taller buildings, and Travis said the majority of DAPAC “felt there was something inherently negative about tall buildings,” with mitigations necessary if they were to be approved. 

Samuels said that if commissioners felt the mitigations would have adverse impacts on development of new buildings, “we should say so to the City Council.” 

“I support our chair,” said David Stoloff. “Attitudes toward density need to change.” Stoloff, himself now a developer, said increased urban density was needed to combat global warming. 

“I agree,” said commissioner Harry Pollack, an attorney who often represents developers.” 

But Marks urged the commission not to rely too heavily on the feasibility study. 

“It is time-dependent,” he said, reflecting current but not necessarily future conditions. The study was completed before the current housing finance crisis was fully under way. But he told commissioners staff could include “softening language” for the commission’s own plan draft. 

The commission also sailed through the first half of the environment chapter, from which planning staff had removed large sections, many as “too specific” and others as proposals which should be considered on a city-wide basis and not for a specific area plan. 

Planners will be tackling the downtown plan again at their Oct. 1 meeting, while the proposed city Climate Action Plan will be up for discussion Oct. 15. 

 


Frugal Foodies Learn the Magic Of Cooking on the Cheap

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:50:00 AM

Every Tuesday, J. Moses Ceaser invites 10-20 strangers into his home to join him in cooking a sometimes exotic and frequently delicious vegetarian meal. 

The strangers come from all over the bay to attend Frugal Foodies, a group created by Ceaser in 2005 as an experiment in cooking and building community. Once a week, people gather from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. to learn a little about cuisine, meet new people and enjoy a good, cheap meal. 

“It’s a lot of fun, for $7–10 you can get a good dinner with company,” said Lois Corrin, a Piedmont resident who has come to Frugal Foodies “about 10 times.” 

A recent group contained a 10-year-old, a woman with teenage sons and others from various age groups. After a brief chat and introduction (name, expectation from the night’s meeting, and what you like to do or eat on a hot day), Ceaser divided the attendees into groups, each cooking one or two dishes. 

The night’s theme was foods from countries beginning with the letter U. Dishes included a Ugandan ground nut sauce, a Ukrainian vegetable casserole, an Uzbeki pilaf and coleslaw from the United States. 

The groups tackled the foreign dishes with gusto, slicing vegetables as thinly as possible and browning flour. Ceaser owns no measuring cups or spoons, so guests must learn to spice “to taste” and estimate as best they can, even while cooking foreign food. 

“Part of the challenge on these world cuisine nights is wondering if we should be exposing people to foods that are new to them, that may not appeal to their particular palate,” Ceaser said. “We’ve created wonderful meals, but sometimes not everything blends together.” 

At the end of the evening, before pitching in to clean up, the group sits down to enjoy its handiwork and converse with new friends.  

The magic of the process, Ceaser said, is witnessing how the chaos of 15 strangers slicing and spicing for an unknown recipe turns into a delicious meal with friends. 

To see the monthly calendar of Frugal Foodies meetings in Berkeley and San Jose, visit www.frugalfoodies.org.


Opinion

Editorials

The Sky is Falling But We Still Have to Vote

By Becky O’Malley
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

With the world economy collapsing around our ears and before our eyes, it’s difficult to focus on local level considerations. But focus we must, because the election is upon us. Absentee ballots will be mailed next week. Candidates are amassing war chests and soliciting endorsements.  

It’s not the Planet’s custom to endorse as an institution. This space is where I express my own opinions on all topics, including which candidate I support. When I say “we” it usually means that the publisher and I agree, but that’s it.  

Our staff members, even the sales staff and the every-other-week-for-three-hours proofreaders, have always been free to express their own opinions, clearly identified as such, in print just as our readers are. Sometimes they do. Often they don’t bother. 

Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, what do I think about the Berkeley races? Well, for starters, it’s clear that in Berkeley it’s a whole new ball park. Biggest straw in the wind: The City Council’s retiring matriarch Betty Olds has endorsed BOTH candidates for mayor. She’s always been the stable anchor of what used to be called the “moderates”—people who would be called “conservatives” in a liberal-conservative city. Since we’re almost all at least liberal Democrats here, we’ve made do with progressive/moderate as the descriptive dichotomy.  

What does it mean that Betty has endorsed both current mayor Tom Bates and ex-mayor Shirley Dean? That’s easy, it means that neither one of them is a progressive. But we’ve figured that out already, haven’t we?  

Then again, what might it mean to be a “progressive” these days? This in view of the fact that Olds’ longtime aide Susan Wengraf, running to succeed to Betty’s District 6 seat, was overheard at a candidate’s night describing herself as one, a bit of a surprise to those of us who have seen her in action on the Planning and Landmarks Commissions. (See last week, this space.)  

It seems that now everyone running for any office in Berkeley must be self-identified as a progressive in order to have any chance at being elected. And yet, several former progressives are now passing as moderates. Is this, to coin a word, progress? What Berkeley’s now experiencing is the same kind of homogenized feel-good politics that has managed to bring the nation’s financial system to a grinding halt.  

National digression: It used to be that Republicans stood for a weak federal government and few regulations, and Democrats were the opposite. But old Bill Clinton kicked off the disastrous deregulation spiral that has now resulted in major collapse. “Moderate” or “centrist” Democrats like him deserve a good share of the blame for the current disaster (along, of course, with the Republicans). 

On the local scene, rent control used to be the litmus test dividing “mods” and “progs,” but that’s so over. Rent control is basically dead, done in (with Democratic complicity) at the state level—in fact, it’s so over that one of the tenants who won a major rent control court victory in the past has signed on as one of Dean’s ballot endorsers. Those of us who vote usually describe their decision process in one of two ways. Some say “I vote for the person, not the party,” others “I vote on the issues, not on personalities.” But issues are seldom clearly articulated in campaigns, so it’s important to look at candidates’ records as well as their platforms. 

Here’s where that gets me: When Shirley Dean was mayor, I didn’t much like her, and I thought she was wrong (or at least voted wrong) on many issues, including rent control. Since Tom Bates has succeeded her, I’ve come to appreciate how smart she is. Despite being wrong frequently, she’s smart, and that counts. She always read her whole packet and understood what she was voting on, in pointed contrast to Bates, who frequently is lost in procedural thickets at council meetings. Out of office, she’s made some great PR moves: joining the tree-sitters in the branches, doing seriously hard work on the badly needed sunshine ordinance, denouncing more big-box development (even though she once voted for it.) But if she’s re-elected, she absolutely must stop bickering with Kriss Worthington, the other intelligent voice on the council, as she did before.  

Bates is usually summed up these days by a single cliche: He never met a developer he didn’t like. He’s allied himself most of the time with his old-boy cronies: realtor Laurie Capitelli, who usually speaks for the commercial development interests who contribute heavily to his campaigns, and Gordon Wozniak, who usually speaks for the development goals of the University of California, his former employer. Neither ran for office as a progressive.  

Bates has also exploited his lifetime of experience as a Sacramento wheeler-dealer to co-opt three of the other councilmembers formerly known as progressives. One or another of them has occasionally contributed a third or fourth (losing) vote against the Bates machine’s agenda to those of true progressives Worthington and Spring.  

Locally as well as nationally, it’s past time for a change. In District 4, the untimely death of Dona Spring, Kriss’s only reliable progressive ally, has produced a plethora of candidates, several of whom might do a pretty good job. L A Wood, who previously ran against Dona, has served valiantly as a civic gadfly for many years. Asa Dodsworth is a lively young fellow who’s embraced some good causes. N’Dji “Jay” Jockin grew up in Berkeley and gives a good speech, but hasn’t been much involved in local activities as yet. 

The obvious standout is Jesse Arreguin, who has been endorsed by most of Dona’s past supporters. He’s the kind of person Berkeley needs more of. In the first place, dare I say it, he’s young, something badly needed on a council whose average age hovers around 65 these days, though he’s compiled an impressive record of experience in a short time.  

He’s the son and grandson of farmworkers. His first reported political act, when he was about 7, was stumping to have the name of Army Street in San Francisco changed to Cesar Chavez, and he’d be Berkeley’s first Latino councilmember. He was active in UC student politics as an undergraduate, and since then he’s been the main brain and frequent chair for several major Berkeley city commissions, including Housing, Planning and Zoning, as well as the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee.  

Terry Doran, on the other hand, is the Bates machine candidate, a consistent booster for bigger buildings everywhere, both on ZAB and on DAPAC. He would be a disaster on the council. District 4 is where the university’s expansion lust will take its biggest toll, and the last thing it needs is a councilmember lobbying to shove ever more enormous elephants into its crowded residential neighborhoods 

District 5 has been relatively immune from over-development pressures until now. That could easily change: Safeway is on the move, and Solano Avenue is potentially threatened because it could be considered a “transit corridor,” the new frontier for speculative developers. 

In this dicey climate, Sophie Hahn is the second kind of person the Berkeley City Council needs now. Just as Arreguin is the best of new Berkeley, she represents the best of Berkeley’s traditional values, the Berkeley-reared daughter of a professor and a musician. She’s an intelligent woman who’s had an excellent education (Berkeley High, UC and Stanford Law) and a varied, impressive career, including both New York City big firm law practice and local small business. And yes, she’s also a PTA activist, which still counts for a lot even though Sarah Palin is embarrassing. By Berkeley City Council standards, she’s young too, the age of my daughters, though elsewhere she might be considered approaching middle age. 

Her opponent, incumbent Laurie Capitelli, manages to simulate being an amiable non-entity much of the time, but he’s actually a shrewd participant in the real estate industry and a key Bates ally in the quest to bring bigger box buildings to Berkeley. He backed the Bates ordinance which attempted to emasculate the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, now up for referendum vote as Measure LL. District 5 doesn’t need this kind of representation. 

Finally, in District 6, it used to be taken for granted that “the moderate” would always win, and it’s still true, but what does that mean today? Like her retiring mentor, Susan Wengraf has endorsed Tom Bates—will that anger the old-time moderates, or not?  

Opponent Phoebe Sorgen is an attractive, articulate person with commission experience who has been endorsed by a constellation of the national and international stars like Daniel Ellsberg who have made their home in Berkeley. She brings passion and determination to issues of major importance. If I lived in District 6, I’d vote for her—she’d contribute a lot of thoughtful new ideas to the pedestrian-level discussion we’ve gotten from our go-along-to-get-along council lately, and we badly need that. 

 


Cartoons

Total Recall

By Justin DeFreitas
Monday September 29, 2008 - 06:18:00 PM

 


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday September 30, 2008 - 12:28:00 PM

 

 

MISQUOTED 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was clearly misquoted by your reporter in the article about the dispute around the Thai Temple's permits. Part of what you printed is not what I said, does not reflect my opinions and I want to distance myself from this very clearly. 

I never said: “Just a few blocks down there’s gangs and drug dealers hanging about." 

What I said was, "There have been problems with drugs and even shootings in this area and the temple seems to be a peaceful influence." 

I am asking you to clarify this. The difference between what I said and what you printed makes a big difference and I take this very seriously. I never said that there are certain people hanging about somewhere, which is a stereotyping and prejudiced statement that makes me very uncomfortable. I have never seen drug dealers around here and have no idea how to even recognize a gang. 

Therefore please protect the integrity of your journalism and my good name. Especially since I was willing to answer questions for your report. 

Helge Osterhold 

 

• 

RE-THINKING EVERYTHING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I like Mr. Klatt's opinion piece about not having taxes pay for the libraries since most of us have our own libraries and access to or own PCs where all information is available and correct. Since our kids are out of Berkeley schools at the end of this year I don't think I should have to pay for them either. Now that I think of it, we don't use the parks all that much now so maybe we could get out of 

paying for that too. I've never had to call the Fire Department (and I have insurance anyway) so maybe I could do without taxes for the 

Fire Department and just pay when we need them. 

What a wonderful city we'll have—full of purely self-serving and self-satisfied individuals without a sense of community and 

citizenship. 

Bill Newton 

 

• 

MEASURE WW OPPOSITION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just want to correct an error in J. Douglas Allen-Taylor's Sept. 25 article, "Analysis of Regional Ballot Measures." Measure WW is not without opposition. You can check www.noonmeasureww.org to get more details. Measure WW is flawed on many levels, but the crux of the issue is that the East Bay Regional Parks District is a bad steward of the parks it owns, and giving it more money would only fix the pretty dismal state of our East Bay parks. We would be better off raising money for the state parks system, as it is definitely better managed and in more dire need of funds to maintain its vast land holdings. 

J.C. Poussin 

 

• 

EAST BAY PARKS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Contrary to J. Douglas Allen-Taylor's Sept. 25 article, Measure WW faces strong opposition—from local hikers, bikers, and environmentalists like myself who are appalled at the EBRPD's terrible stewardship of the public lands it controls. 

For example, over 85 percent of park "trails" are steep, erosive dirt roads for trucks, not paths for people on foot, bicycle, or horse. Nearly two-thirds of EBRPD "park land" is used for private industrial cattle and sheep production—not conservation or recreation. We don't have a park system—we have a highway system and an agribusiness operation! 

Instead of rewarding the EBRPD's neglect with $500 million, we should instead support our cash-strapped city and California State Parks systems, which does a great job running beautiful parks like Joaquin Miller and Mt. Diablo. 

For more information, and shocking pictures of the EBRPD's destruction of our parks, please visit our website: www.NoOnMeasureWW.org. 

John Grigsby 

Oakland 

 

• 

SIERRA CLUB DOES NOT ENDORSE MEASURE LL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

There has been misinformation circulated that the Sierra Club supports Measure LL, the ballot measure that would change the current Landmarks Ordinance. The Sierra Club has taken no such action and made no such endorsement of Measure LL. The Sierra Club has not taken any position on Measure LL. We ask anyone who has passed along this information in error to officially retract the information that has been given out.  

Kent Lewandowski  

Chair, Sierra Club Northern Alameda County  

 

• 

TEARING UP TELEGRAPH 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Whose brilliant idea in Berkeley city government was it to tear up all four lanes of Telegraph Avenue between Ashby and Woolsey, and leave them torn up for days? The results were chaotic—fine, nasty dust raised by cars on this major traffic artery chokes pedestrians, makes outdoor seating at restaurants impossible, and settles on cars, trees, sidewalks, gardens and homes for blocks around. EBMUD tells us not to use water for cleaning, so the dust stays. Bicyclists have been forced onto the sidewalks. Lack of parking also affects the many businesses along these blocks. 

So why didn't repaving start right away? It should be pretty simple—shut down the street, repave, reroute traffic along Shattuck, and back up on Alcatraz. Or, if need be, repave two lanes at a time. Anything would be better than the dust. Eventually the road was wetted down—too little, too late. 

Aija Kanbergs 

 

• 

A BRT PREVIEW 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Foes and friends of Bus Rapid Transit should have taken a look at Telegraph south of Ashby over the past week or so. They repaved the street and one lane was closed at a time. That's what Telegraph will look like if BRT becomes a reality. And the traffic in Elmwood, Willard, Halcyon and LeConte today is a preview of what is to come. 

Peter Shelton 

 

• 

TO THE ARCHIVES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your Sept. 25 story on Berkeley Thai Temple referred to it as "one of Berkeley’s oldest religious institutions." Correction: Berkeley Thai Temple is only 32 years old and has only spent seven years at its current address. Previously, it had spent 25 years at a different location in Berkeley. My source? An article by Matt Lorenz, "Thai community dedicates temple," in the June 26, 2001 edition of the Daily Planet. 

Check the facts, they may just be in the archives! 

John Parman 

 

• 

SEEKING ADDITIONAL VOICES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to express my disappointment, in relations to Riya Bhattacharjee “Anti-Israel Graffiti” story. 

While I applaud the story's effort to raise awareness about what I find to be an unacceptable choice of images questioning the BlueStar PR advertisement, I was disappointed to find a lack of alternative viewpoints. 

Aside from an unrelated reference to a talk by Kifah Shah, no voices were heard from organizations representing the Palestinian viewpoint. No copy was dedicated to raising awareness of those issues, to presenting the views of those who have concerns regarding BlueStar funding sources, and of the actions of its allies. 

No, I am not pushing for Ms. Bhattacharjee to secure a defense for the scrawling of swastikas. What I am asking for is a story that provides additional context, viewpoints, and explanation behind the language found on the BlueStar PR advertisement with the hope of creating an open, honest dialogue. 

J. Smith 

 

• 

BLIND TO ISRAEL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is in response to the Sept. 25 article about the anti-Israel graffiti: First of all, the article claimed that the ad that was vandalized promoted peaceful coexistence. But in fact, the ad tries to portray the state of Israel in a positive light as a place where equality and integration prevail. 

When China tried to portray itself in a positive light by hosting the Olympics, we thought it only natural for some people to counter the propaganda by protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet. But Israel is our big Sacred Cow—any criticism, no matter how marginal, is heresy, and warrants a front-page article. 

Wake up, folks. Blind support for this sacred cow does a lot of harm—backing a brutal occupation, spending tax dollars to maintain the military machine that the occupation requires, turning a blind eye to the Israeli nuclear arsenal, stifling dissent in this country. 

Helen Finkelstein 

 

• 

UC CONCERNED ABOUT SAFETY? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

UC spokesperson Dan Mogulof often stated that the Berkeley campus' most important concern has been safety. Dan Mogulof must have been speaking only about the trees in the Memorial Stadium grove, not the forest. The Berkeley campus has neglected fire prevention in the forest of conifers and oaks in the ecological area above the oak grove in this most dangerous fire-prone year. 

Year after year UC has done fire prevention in the forest above the stadium. This work includes clearing dry flammable brush. In the mid 1980s UCB performed a control burn. Because of complaints about a control burn starting a fire, UC then began to use goats and individuals cutting grass. But not this year. 

Several residents of the area telephoned UC. One personally visited UCB offices. But no fire prevention actions have been accomplished. There is abundant dead grass growing underneath water-starved trees and immediately next to residential areas. 

UCB says it is concerned about safety? How about some rudimentary fire prevention in this year when so many acres in California have been destroyed by fire? Or does UCB for some unknown reason think that this area is not vulnerable to fire as then Vice Chancellor Dan Boggan told me prior to the firestorm of Oct. 20, 2001?  

Ann Reid Slaby 

 

• 

FREE LIBRARIES 

Editors, Daily Planet 

Ted Vincent, in his letter to the Editor was being somewhat tongue in cheek with his plea to “Scotty” to beam me back to the 14th century, but mainly he ignores my premise about the merits of free public libraries and he has no valid rebuttal to the point I made in my previous opinion piece on the subject of free libraries. Actually, I am somewhat disappointed that there was not a valid rebuttal (at least not published in the print version of the Daily Planet)  

Most of us agree that modern libraries, on their own, have added all sorts of cultural— and not so cultural—enhancements to their original scope of activity. That’s a natural phenomenon in many organizations; every business and institution is constantly seeking growth. That was exactly one of my points. Libraries have expanded their mission way beyond the original intents of offering free printed media in the interest of public literacy. Keeping teaching libraries apart from this discussion, free public libraries presently serve more as a cultural enhancement and an entertainment or a recreational venue. If Mr. Vincent wants to hold, fondle, or smell books—OK! Just don’t expect taxpayers to foot the entire bill for such a peculiar fetish. Lord knows, there are enough tax dollars being spent on libraries already, just look at your tax bill. 

Like it or not, the Internet has shifted the paradigm. 21st century American society is literate and most people agree we get more information that we can handle or want. Those who desire such life enhancements as public libraries offer, should be prepared to contribute at least to some of those costs. 

Mr. Vincent says that “Klatt is anti-public services in general.” I will not dispute the usefulness or necessity most of those public services and entertainment or business activities, whose decline he cites in his list of causes for the collapse of Rome. The cause and effect argument could be debated by Latin scholars ad infinitum. However, I will dispute that rate payers should exclusively pay for “harbors, halls, theaters, libraries” etc., as Mr. Vincent is advocating. Those should be paid for, at least in a substantial part, by user fees. Does he think that he can get a free berth at the Berkeley harbor? or a free latte? I don’t think so, nor should he. 

A one-year unlimited use, library card for $35? Sounds like a bargain to me, given all the marvelous things that our public libraries have to offer.  

Enough is enough! Vote no on bond measure FF! 

Peter Klatt 

 

• 

OAKLAND'S MEASURE N 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The terms of Oakland Measure N calls for the proceeds from the parcel tax to be allowed “in the following proportion: teacher compensation at district-run schools: 85 percent; charter school programs: 15 percent.” 

However, most voters reading the Alameda County Voter Registrar short statement of Measure N in their voter pamphlet will not find any mention of 15 percent of the tax proceeds allowed to charter school programs. 

Alameda County Registrar statement: "Measure N: To attract and retain highly qualified and credentialed teachers for 

Oakland’s District-run public schools, and to support successful educational programs at Oakland’s public charter schools, shall Oakland Unified School District levy $10 per parcel per month ($120 per year) for 10 years with an exemption for low-income residents, mandatory annual audits, an independent citizens’ oversight committee, and all money spent to benefit Oakland Schools and all Oakland students? (Two-thirds vote required for passage).” 

I believe Measure N was written to mislead voters into thinking that this tax is entirely for teachers’ salaries. Furthermore, the short version of Measure N sent to the county registrar of voters was written to hide the fact that 15 percent (approximately $1.8 million yearly) is a tax to support charter schools. 

Oakland taxpayers don’t be fooled; vote No on Measure N and its hidden charter school tax. 

Jim Mordecai 

 

 

• 

BRT SUPPORTERS JUST DON'T GET IT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Rob Wrenn makes a number of obviously true statements in his Sept. 25 commentary (“Why BRT Will Work”). Transit riders generate less greenhouse gases than automobile drivers. Check. Bicycle riders and pedestrians generate even less. Check. “Transit-dependent population should not be treated like second-class citizens.” Check. 

But in his zeal to build a case for Bus Rapid Transit, Mr. Wrenn slips in a “fact” which is not a fact at all: “Where dedicated lanes for transit vehicles are put into effect, transit ridership rises and generation of global-climate-change-inducing greenhouse gases falls.” This has undoubtedly happened in some places. But this is exactly the problem with the BRT plan for the East Bay that I (and others) have been trying to point out for several months. AC Transit's BRT proposals were extensively studied by transportation engineers, transportation planners and environmental planners in a draft environmental impact report. They came to the conclusion that none of the BRT proposals would generate a significant number of additional bus riders. Because BRT does not generate additional bus riders it won't have an effect on greenhouse gases. This, in a nutshell, is the tragedy of this BRT proposal. It will soak up $250 million in precious transit funds and, according to the experts, accomplish nothing. 

Mr. Wrenn and other BRT supporters believe with all their hearts that somehow BRT will generate more transit use. Based solely on this belief they would have us spend $250 million on this project. On the other hand, a team of professionals in the field studied this BRT proposal for several months and came to a very different conclusion—that the number of increased riders would be very small. We might as well throw that $250 million down a hole. Who's a person to believe? 

Finally, Mr. Wrenn you are absolutely wrong in your sweeping generalizations about BRT opponents. Not all of us espouse the “cars-come-first mentality” as you claim. It's just that we aren't blinded by the word “bus” in the title of this proposal. Some of us have taken an objective look at the proposal and have decided there are better ways to spend these transit dollars. 

Jim Bullock 

 

• 

MEASURE KK AND THE DISABLED 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let’s look at what new burdens Bus Rapid Transit’s dedicated lanes will really place on the disabled and mobility impaired AC Transit riders.  

Here's what April Mitchell didn’t bring up in her letter last week touting level boarding of BRT buses: If BRT does away with local bus service, then almost every person, including the disabled and mobility impaired, will have to walk or wheel themselves a good deal further to get to the BRT stations. On average, BRT stations located in the middle of the street will be three to four times farther apart than current local bus stops. That’s a whole lot of extra steps riders will need to take. 

I think we should be asking the mother who’s pushing her stroller and carrying packages or groceries, the disabled person in the wheelchair and the older person walking with a cane or walker, "How many extra blocks are you willing to walk in order to get level boarding?” I expect their answer is “I don’t want to walk farther.” 

There is another aspect of putting the stations in the middle of the street that will cause problems for the disabled and mobility impaired: Each time they get on or off the bus, they must cross a very busy lane of auto traffic at a location with no traffic signal in order to get to the safety of the curb. This is putting people in harm's way so AC Transit can reduce the boarding time at each stop. If the boarding remains at the curb, as it would if Rapid Bus Plus were implemented, then its possible to continue running local service that will stop at all the current curbside stops. It will also mean that people don’t necessarily need to cross busy traffic lanes to reach the curbside bus stop. April is simply wrong when she says that level boarding is impossible at curbside. What we need is ingenuity and design expertise to make it work at a price that we can afford. 

Vincent Casalaina 

 

• 

DISTRICT 4 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Am I the only voter in District 4 who finds it rather shameless that both Jess Arreguin and L A Wood are falling over themselves mentioning Dona Spring as often as possible in there respective campaigns? 

I'd prefer to be represented by someone who can present their own positions and think for themselves. I don't want a councilmember who, before deciding an issue, has to stop and think "now what would Dona do?" 

Frank Greenspan 

 

• 

MORE MISINFORMATION FROM FRIENDS OF BRT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I found Marcy Greenhut’s Sept. 25 letter most interesting. She implies that I claimed that Berkeley is the only city with any portion of BART underground, and states that parts of the Oakland and San Francisco tracks are also underground. 

What I actually said was “That’s why Berkeley alone has BART underground, while the rest of the East Bay has noisy, unsightly BART rails screeching through town.” I regret that I did not specify that Berkeley’s BART is “entirely” underground. (Note: San Francisco in not in the East Bay). 

Oakland’s BART configuration is exactly the same configuration that Berkeley was threatened with in 1964—massive aerial rails through town, except in the central portion. Berkeleyans vigorously rejected this plan, and voted to underground the entire route in 1966. 

Ms. Greenhut continues, “In fact, Friends of BRT membership stands at over 120 individuals, in addition to the entire Sierra Club. . . .” The “entire” Sierra Club? Perhaps Ms. Greenhut should check her “facts.” 

Gale Garcia 

 

• 

DEATH PENALTY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is extremely disappointing that Gov. Schwarzenegger has again vetoed two bills—AB 2937 and SB 1589—that would have helped prevent and remedy wrongful convictions. 

The death penalty is a failed policy for public safety. It does not deter crime and it does not make us safer. 

There is no humane way to kill a prisoner, and since the United States is one of the few remaining democracies that still murder prisoners, including minors, this state should do no less than should join with other civilized nations and immediately abolish the death penalty. 

James Vann 

Oakland 

 

• 

DECONSTRUCTING JOHN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I don’t mean to besmirch the wartime courage and sacrifice of presidential candidate John McCain, but at the same time I do. His 

hectoring accusations that Sen. Obama is “naïve” and that it is a “dangerous world” are not observations or judgments, but a symptom. 

Sen. McCain spent five horrendous years in captivity. Maltreated and tortured with no real hope of rescue, he finally succumbed and confessed to war crimes, and the confession was recorded and broadcast throughout the POW compound. He was also given better treatment than his fellow soldiers because of his father, four-star Admiral John Sidney McCain Jr. At one point, this prize prisoner was offered unexpected repatriation because of the propaganda benefits Hanoi would reap for their generosity. 

It is clear to me as a Vietnam vet that McCain’s subsequent worldview was shaped by the harrowing experience of captivity. When he emerged, both traumatized and relieved, he found himself received as a hero, but one whose heroism was privately colored by shame and guilt as well as pride. 

I served with many brave soldiers in Vietnam, some whose bravery was a spontaneous response to the moment’s plight, and some whose bravery was ingrained in their gut; brave was what they were (and are). Their deeds of bravery were performed and laid aside; they were not the stuff of compulsive retelling and they were not continually revisited as proof of some higher spirit. 

But what of the hero who falters? Yes, this can happen. There are moments of weakness, moments of doubt, even among the brave. But the brave man who falters has no recourse but to be ever braver, to be constantly vigilant and on guard, to be assured that the next time harm comes his way it will be met with unwavering courage. Thus the hero who falters comes to view the world as an omnipresent threat, a challenge and a danger, a pending match for his mettle.  

This then became the lens through which John McCain views the world, first and foremost as a hostile place, colored by menace, predation, and adversity. 

It is not Obama who is naïve. Rather it is Sen. McCain who is bound by the stunted myopia of his long-held trauma. 

This is not an aspect of character that makes him fit for the presidency, a besieged personality that by its own nature holds diplomacy as suspect and leadership as a form of swagger. 

With McCain as president, the world will not be a safer place. 

Steve Seid 

Richmond 

 

• 

LEFT-WING WITCH-HUNT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Although I'm not a Republican, I'm appalled by the virtual witch-hunt of misogyny, lies, and ridiculous rumors by many on the Left toward Gov. Sarah Palin. Although we're all enraged by the horrors of the last eight years, it's still not acceptable to target and bully. If we're now behaving like our adversaries, regardless of the outcome in November, they've won. 

Stacy Taylor 

 

• 

PALIN'S EXECUTIVE EXPERIENCE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Sept. 10, on Fox News, President Bush lauded Sarah Palin's executive experience and said "That's what it takes to be a capable person in Washington, D.C., in the executive branch." Palin too, during her speech at the Republican Convention, touted her executive experience as mayor and governor as a reason why she was a superior candidate than either Barack Obama or Joe Biden, who only have legislative experience. She failed to mention that John McCain, her running mate, has only legislative experience since entering politics in 1982. Just what is this "executive experience?" 

Palin served two terms on the Wasilla, Alaska city council from 1992 to 1996 and then was elected mayor in 1996. She served six years as mayor. Wasilla has a population of about 5,400 residents, which makes it the fourth-largest city in Alaska. To ward off a recall campaign for abrupt firings of city employees, she was forced to hire a city administrator to actually run the city government.  

Palin ran as a fiscal conservative. When she was sworn in as mayor, Wasilla had no debt. When she left six years later, the city had a deficit of $22 million. Palin's performance is much like President Bush's, only on a smaller scale. Under President Bill Clinton, the United States from 1998 to 2001 had surpluses of $692 to $236.2 billion. In eight years, Bush converted this surplus into a deficit of almost $9.7 trillion. With performances like this, both Bush and Palin should be expelled from the fiscal conservatives' club. 

In November 2006, Palin was elected governor of Alaska beating an unpopular incumbent. With a population of about 633,478, Alaska ranks 47th among the 50 states in population. By comparison, San Francisco's population is about 764,976. She has been governor for about 20 months. She is quite popular in Alaska mostly because she used unprecedented oil wealth to give a $1,200 rebate to every resident. Senator McCain praises her as a tax cutter, despite the fact that Alaska has no state income or sales tax. Palin is a good friend of the oil companies; she has strongly promoted oil and natural gas resource development in Alaska, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. By the way, our current vice president is also a very good friend of the oil companies. 

Palin's executive experience and background pales alongside of Obama's and Biden's. It is simply a question of substance over form. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 

 

• 

EXTREMIST 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is as far right as you can get. Palin opposes evolution, sex education, abortion, gun control; does this sound mainstream to you? She opposes universal health care, global warming predictions, abolition of capital punishment and is for abolishing the separation between church and state. 

This is a religious kook right out of the Middle Ages who Republicans have selected for the second spot on their national ticket. Better wake up America—Sarah Palin makes George Bush look like a choir boy. 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City 

 


Letters to the Editor

Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:59:00 AM

TAXIBUS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The solution to the wars about busses, routes, and Bus Rapid Transit is “TaxiBus.” 

Google it and learn a real solution based on an intelligent combination of technology and existing van/taxi drivers. 

It will be opposed by bus manufacturers, the mechanics union, the bus drivers’ union, and contractor’s associations, since it involves none of them in corrupt government contracts. 

Push a dedicated button on your cell phone, select or punch in your destination. Your destination and time of arrival are displayed. Wait three minutes or so and the mini-van pulls up to your door. No money exchanged, it’s billed to your cell account, and it delivers you to your destination with the driver guided by on-screen instructions. There are usually other passengers. 

Security is guaranteed by records of route and passenger. Para-transit is a subsystem. Kiosks handle new members. 

You no longer need a car. Or buses. Or routes with empty buses. Or BRT or light rail. It’s being done. Look it up. 

Ormond Otvos 

Richmond 

 

• 

STANDARD QUESTION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

When the proposed increases—effective within two weeks—in patients’ city clinic fees came before the City Council Sept. 16, it had appeared on the agenda. At the staff table in support were three highly paid city employees presumably prepared to discuss and respond to questions. Not one could provide an answer to a councilmember’s finite query, “What percent of the clinics’ budget do the patients’ fee represent?”—which, by the way, is a standard criterion question used to evaluate charities. Moreover, none offered to get the information and provide it later. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 

 

• 

PALIN AND CENSORSHIP 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In regards to Hansen’s letter, from Minnesota no less: It is he who needs to do some fact checking or read more carefully. 

True as Snopes said: There was no list of books Sarah Palin to be censored. True as Ralph Stone wrote, the librarian was asked three times if she would consider censoring books. Source: Anchorage Daily News (www.adn.com/sarahpalin/story/510219.html). 

Judi Sierra 

 

• 

OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE,  

FOR THE PEOPLE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The last time there was sustained progressive legislation comparable to FDR’s New Deal was from 1966 to 1977, when Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter heeding the advocacy of Ralph Nader, signed into law the following (among many others): 1966 Freedom of Information Act, 1970 EPA, 1970 Clean Air Act, 1970 OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), 1972 Consumer Product Safety Act, 1973 Endangered Species Act, 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, 1977 Clean Water Act. 

However, the Democrats started to go after corporate money during 1980s, with predictable results. The president who reversed much of FDR’s New Deal was a Democrat, President Bill Clinton: 1996 Welfare Reform Act, 1996 Telecom Act which led to media consolidation, 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act which weakened Habeous Corpus, 1999 Banking Reform Act which repealed the Glass-Steagall Act precipitating the current financial crisis, and of course the 1993 NAFTA and 1995 WTO that ravaged ordinary workers and the environment. 

The current Democratic contenders, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, vassals of banking and credit card companies, say they are the “change we can believe in.” 

While Obama and Biden campaign ask you to believe, Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez ask you to think. 

The most powerful way to strengthen our democracy is to study the suggestions and ideas of Ralph Nader and his running mate Matt Gonzalez at www.votenader.org and become a part of the “credible threat from the left.” The alternative, as Gore Vidal ruefully observes, is “the corporate America, which has two right wings.” 

Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez will be at Grand Lake Theater in Oakland Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. 

Akio Tanaka 

Oakland 

 

• 

CIVICS EDUCATION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a recent op-ed, co-authored by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and former Indiana Congressman Lee H. Hamilton (Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 18), the writers decry the lack of civic learning in our society and call for educational proficiency in the elements of our democratic system. They site studies revealing that fewer than a third of eighth graders know the historical importance of the Declaration of Independence and fewer than one fifth of high school seniors are able to explain how civic participation benefits democracy. 

Politics has always been divisive, but in my baby-boomer lifetime, it seems to have reached new heights of hatred, fueling cycles of outrage and tit for tat. This is not healthy. People from all walks of life see toxic politics as reason to wonder why they should care about our government and institutions. 

We can push back against these trends, and not by becoming all warm and fuzzy all the time. We can listen to our leaders calmly, and disagree with them and their supporters respectfully without demonizing them. We can offer opinions about and solutions to current problems without including the acrimony that feeds bitterness and apathy. 

I cringe to see the two presidential candidates starting to sling mud as the election gets closer and the race tightens. Both Barack Obama and John McCain are men of integrity and there are things to admire and support in what both of them stand for. I am cautiously optimistic that whoever wins will model a renewed level of civility and respectful, non-polarizing, discourse in public life. 

Proficiency in civics should be tested right along with math, science and reading. An engaged citizenry needs this knowledge to understand and value the strengths of the republic for which that flag we fly stands. Or the republic will fall and our way of life with it. 

Marilyn McPherson 

 

• 

REMOVE THE ENABLERS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

“This is a crisis of confidence,” President Bush intoned from the Rose Garden, and this time he got it right! Confidence and trust are the fiber of the financial system. People don’t sign contracts if they think they won’t be honored. Lenders won’t lend money if they think the borrower won’t repay. But there are some people who try to cheat the system, who break the trust. That’s why rules, regulation, and enforcement are needed in the marketplace. Most importantly in this era of complex financial products like repackaged “mortgage securities,” truthful reporting of what they are, and what are the risks, is essential for confidence in the market. 

George Bush’s administration, and its enablers like John McCain, have worked to remove market regulation and reduce its enforcement. Their career-long philosophy is to let business operate without government “interference.” As a result, the cheaters took over. They lied on their balance sheets, they misled security ratings, and they created products of deceptive value. Honest brokers couldn’t compete for profits that looked too good to be true, and they joined in. The result, we now see, is a collapse of an untrustworthy market. 

The critical step toward rebuilding confidence in our economy is to remove the cheaters, liars, and thieves, and their political enablers. Responsible government regulation must protect its citizens, and accordingly, the markets themselves. Game over for Bush, McCain, and the Republican administration. 

Bruce Joffe 

Piedmont 

• 

COUNCIL AGENDA, ITEM 11 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Looking at the City Council agenda for Sept. 23, I see an item to reimburse Councilmember Darryl Moore up to $725 for round-trip airfare to the League of California Cities Conference in Long Beach next week. 

Given that the city is seeking to reduce its carbon emissions—for example, through the solar bond financing in agenda item 3—why is Moore flying, which would result in around a third of a ton of CO2 emissions, instead of taking Amtrak, which would reduce emissions by 65 to 85 percent? 

Robert Lauriston 

 

• 

LONG HAUL RAID 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

If you let people use your computer to send vicious threats, you shouldn’t be surprised when the police come to talk to you about it. If these people have a history of violence—say, firebombing occupied houses—you shouldn’t be surprised if the police arrive prepared for a violent confrontation. 

Dick Bagwell 

 

• 

SEA SCOUTS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I appreciate the balanced news coverage in the last 10 months regarding the Sea Scouts case and the molestation charges against Eugene Evans. I am writing this letter after a period of silence, seeing how the court case played itself out. 

I was part of the Berkeley Sea Scouts for about a year. I went on a dozen trips, a few workdays, the weekly rowing practices, and two summer cruises. In short, I had a pretty good idea of how the boat worked and had a working relationship with Mr. Evans. 

While I myself was not a victim of Mr. Evans, I am incredibly disgusted and outraged at his actions. He was our skipper. I looked up to him as my mentor and had many meaningful conversations with him over the year that I knew him. I trusted him to keep us safe on our various trips. This entire situation makes me feel so blind and ignorant. How could I have spent so much time with looking up to a man who proved to be a chronic child molester? It sickens me to even think about the entire experience. 

However, the evidence is clear. This is not the purpose of my letter. The purpose of this letter is to try to tell people in my former scout trip to move on. I sympathize with those Gene helped. I know many people who he has helped and will be forever grateful to him. However, the truth is out. He is a child molester. He abused our trust. To all of you Sea Scouts who adamantly defend Gene, ask yourself: If you were a victim of this abuse, would you want other people protesting the prosecution of your molester? The answer is no.  

So, please, let’s try to move on as a community and move beyond this rhetoric. It is damaging to the entire Sea Scout and Boy Scout Organization to defend a man who is so obviously guilty. 

The Sea Scouts is a great organization and I am very happy that former boatswain Mischa Block has taken over leadership of the boat. I wish the boat the best of luck in its future endeavors. 

Name withheld 

 

• 

WATER SHORTAGE? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

We don’t have a water shortage. We have a population surplus. The amount of rainfall in Northern California has substantial variation year to year and from month to month. For example, during January 2008, in the San Francisco area, 25 inches of rain was recorded in contrast to the monthly average of 11 inches. Yet from March to April 2008, we had the driest period since 1879. Rainfall is likely to become even more erratic with climate change. What is not changing is the constant upward pressure of increased population. The average household uses 60 gallons of water per person per day. There were approximately 300,000 new residents in California in 2007, primarily a result of the high birth rate among immigrants. In theory, controlling birth rate should be easier than controlling climate. We should address the so-called water shortage in that light. 

Robert Gable 

 

• 

GOODBYE AND GOOD LUCK 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the unfolding economic debacle, I would like to make some suggestions to the citizens of this country. Cease all mortgage payments forthwith. Those of you who are threatened with foreclosure, refuse to leave your home. Freely squat on any unoccupied property. Next April, pay all due federal taxes to the state instead of the federal government. Resist with all force necessary, any attempts by law enforcement to bully and oppress you further.  

I am a recent immigrant from the U.K. and I am staggered at both the brazen actions of your government and the utter apathy of the population. When are you going to get angry enough to act, instead of moaning into your neckties? You have all had a good laugh for 20 years at the purported failure and collapse of the Soviet Union and socialism in general. How much more evidence do you require before you apply the same judgment to the sacred cow of “free market capitalism”? You worship the slash-and-burn robber barons on Wall Street and continue to labor under the absurd notion that they’re all working to make sure you can retire with dignity. You allow the federal government to act without restraint by wasting your money on bogus wars, failing to take care of the citizens’ health, allowing an irretrievably huge trade imbalance with gross polluters like China, allowing your jobs to be sold out overseas with no remedial action to redress the balance, facilitating tax cuts or non-payment for the super-wealthy and corporations, continuing to pay ridiculous subsidies to businesses which favor their political party, and now the unprecedented bailing out of the supposedly rabidly independent and doctrinaire financial services “industry,” all of whom would start chanting capitalist slogans if such favors were placed elsewhere. This is not to mention the huge amounts of profit these same people have been socking away in the Cayman Islands for decades, largely free of any tax burden.  

This government is pursuing to completion a single-minded policy to bankrupt the public sector to allow it to remove any semblance of social services upon which the majority depend. There is still only a murmur of discontent. Well, I have figured out a solution for myself: I’m going to leave you all to your fate and re-emigrate to another country far from here. Having spent most of my life dreaming of living in this country, now I can’t wait to go.  

Good luck everybody. 

Richard Chorley 

 

• 

SOCIALISM? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

There have been all too many ironic allusions to the anti-big government Bush administration’s intervention in the financial market meltdown as “a kind of socialism.” The use of the word “socialism” in that way distorts any meaningful definition of the word. It harkens back to Mussolini and Hitler calling fascism “national socialism.” The two terrorist dictators used that phrase in order to imply that the merger of finance and corporate capital with the State itself was in the interest of all (i.e. uber alles, you sweat and be exploited, but the State’s aggression will lead to a lot of trickle down profits to ya all—economically, culturally, chauvinistically.)  

They gave “solidarity forever” a new definition under the rubric of working class unity with capitalists in power to increase efficiency and compliance with the machinery of “patriotic” aggressive wars coupled with internal police state oppression. But it’s a big stretch to compare today’s propping up of financial speculators and the stock markets around the world via a trillion-dollar bailout with our public money, to any other definition of socialism. Five million people are kicked out on the street, and there is a growing army of unemployed. These millions get nothing—other than some Republicans trying to kick them off voter roles for not living in the homes they are registered at. Socialism? Certainly under any form of socialist government we’ve seen (fascism not included) the stock markets (particularly the speculation and accumulation of vast wealth at public expense) would either be outlawed or severely restricted to the necessary intercourse of a mixed economy; and housing would be subsidized. This government-ordered 10-day halt to “selling short” in some sectors of finance is a biding-time joke. That’s intervention? Stock markets rebounded firmly on the bailout news because the entire debt of the finance speculators had been forgiven by the taxpayers.  

Moreover, the political class has signaled, for now, that speculative plunder remains generally legal and sanctioned. There are two kinds of “confidence” there, man. It’s a continuation of the theme of years of deregulation. Unless they change a lot of rules and start putting a whole lot of people in jail (but remember Scooter Libby), nothing fundamentally changes—the collapse of worldwide capitalism is slowed but the process remains independent of market confidence because the circulation of trillions of dollars and profitability itself is already so highly dependent upon the marketing of speculation rather than the sales of goods and services.  

Marc Sapir 

 

• 

DOES IT OR DOESN’T IT? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Doesn’t the California state law (Vehicle Code §23123) that went into effect July 1 of this year apply to all drivers including City of Berkeley personnel? 

Friday, Sept. 19 around 9:30 a.m., as I drove toward Solano Avenue southbound on The Alameda, a driver in a City of Berkeley pick-up in the northbound lane—without signaling—made a left-hand turn towards Capistrano. He sliced directly and closely in front of me. Poor driving alone was reason enough to question city driving protocols. 

Worse, the driver was using a hand-held cell phone at the same time. 

Without exception, every day when I am doing errands, I see at least one driver (usually two or three) using a hand-held cell phone. While the law allows for emergency hand-held use, none of the drivers I have seen seem to be in a life-and-death situation. Rather, they appear to be chatting frivolously, oblivious to traffic and pedestrians. 

This law was adopted for a reason: to improve automotive safety. It must be vigorously enforced by law enforcement personnel.  

Barbara Witte 

 

• 

KPFA CRISIS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for your coverage of the multi-faceted KPFA crisis. I first became aware of renewed problems at KPFA a few years ago when Bill Mandel was denied a regular show. Everything I have since heard about the problems of getting community programming and community input into station operations rings true, even leaving out KPFA’s calling the police on Nadra Foster, and subsequent policy updates upholding using the police. For these reasons, it particularly galling to read the letter “Healing KPFA” from management and some staff saying that those concerned about these issues are self-serving. Either this is cynical or delusional, but it’s unacceptable either way. These issues aren’t going away. 

Michael Lyon 

San Francisco 

 

• 

ELECTION FEVER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

A small clarification. Your Sept. 18 editorial, “Election Fever,” quotes Nancy Skinner, candidate for state Assembly, District 14, stating at the Wellstone Club that she has “known Sophie Hahn for five years” and that she has been in conversation with me about substantives issues. In fact, I met Ms. Skinner recently—no more than six months ago—and have only shaken her hand. We have never had a conversation on any subject.  

Sophie Hahn 

Candidate, Berkeley City Council, District 5 

 

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A MODEL PRESIDENT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Which future president will speak up for the poor and the needy? As of now having money is valued more than sharing. Some of us flaunt our wealth while others go to bed hungry. We need a president who can set an example of modest living. We dwell on the one earth. Can we find a way of helping those who are struggling to survive? Let us have a president who sets an example of unselfishness and magnanimity. 

Romila Khanna 

Albany 

 

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NEVER AGAIN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Democratic leaders must take control and demand that fresh, strong economists look at the “financial meltdown disaster capitalism stories” Paulson and Bernanke are selling and they must not allow themselves to be rushed into passing legislation like they did when they allowed Bush to take us into war. 

Any legislation passed must instead directly assist American homeowners who are ultimate victims of the mortgage and housing economic problems facing America, for that is the real and only way to save the banks. 

We are watching leaders of Congress. We remember how they failed us before the Iraq war and we won’t let it happen again. 

John Powell 

San Pablo 

 

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MEASURE KK MISINFORMATION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Misinformation: It does a campaign good. At least that’s what the campaigns of Berkeley Ballot Measure KK and John McCain seem to think. Gale Garcia’s Sept. 18 Daily Planet commentary supporting Measure KK is a case in point. When the truth won’t work, just make it up; and whatever you do, don’t muddy the waters by checking your facts!  

How can we take someone seriously who states, as Garcia did, that Berkeley is the only city in which BART is underground? What is worrisome is that there are people who believe what they see in print, and will believe Garcia because they don’t ride BART. But for those of us who actually use BART, we have traveled in the underground tunnel through downtown Oakland and parts of San Francisco.  

How can anyone interested transportation issues take Garcia and the Measure KK Campaign seriously? This is the woman who collected signatures to get Measure KK on the ballot at the Farmers Market for weeks. 

What about Garcia’s first sarcastic sentence in her piece, that Friends of BRT “membership soars into the single digits.” In fact, Friends of BRT membership stands at over 120 individuals, in addition to the entire Sierra Club, a large membership organization most readers probably have heard of, whose members number into the thousands. 

If you prefer to base your electoral decisions on factual information, as many of us do, you would do well to research Bus Rapid Transit before taking Measure KK supporters’ statements seriously. Here are a couple websites to get you started: www.gobrt.org, www.berkeleybrt.blogspot.com, and to set the facts straight, www.friendsofbrt.org/MythsAndFacts.pdf 

As witnessed in the Republican Party McCain-Palin Campaign, misinformation is a desperate last resort when the facts don’t favor your cause. Berkeley’s Measure KK Campaign must think that’s a smart tactic. Why else would they continue a campaign of misinformation? 

Marcy Greenhut 

 

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TWO-PARTY SYSTEM 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Most people could stay in their homes if their loans were restructured, but this would not make money for the big boys, would it? 

The corrupt two-party system can always find money for a war to enrich its profiteer friends or a bail out that socializes the losses for the hapless taxpayer. 

What about money for health care—the same system for every citizen that they supply for all Congresspersons! 

Mary Bess 

 

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MEASURE KK BACKERS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

There were a couple of opinion pieces responding to my piece about Measure KK, the anti-transit initiative, and they simply show that that the measure’s supporters are in denial about the facts. 

Both responses talked only about AC Transit’s current Bus Rapid Transit proposal. They ignored a point that I made at length: This initiative will apply to any future light rail or BRT proposal. It will cost the city up to $1.2 million for the election on the current project, and the cost is sure to go up on any later projects. Measure KK backers apparently care only about this project, and have not thought about the future of light rail and BRT in Berkeley. 

One response said that, by law, the project in the final EIR must be the same as the project in the draft EIR. In reality, the final EIR gives several alternative routes for three different corridors in Berkeley, and no one knows which alternative the city will choose for analysis in the final EIR. Also, no one knows what mitigations will be in the final EIR to replace removed parking, to protect neighborhoods from spill-over traffic, and to deal with other impacts. Clearly, the final EIR can add mitigations for impacts identified in comments on the draft EIR. Measure KK backers are irresponsible to try to kill this project before we know what its final design is. 

One response compared this initiative with Berkeley’s vote to underground BART. But that measure raised extra money to improve BART, while Measure KK would spend extra money on an election where the voters could only approve or reject Bus Rapid Transit. Only in the unreal world of Measure KK backers could this vote to stop transit be compared with the BART vote to improve transit. 

Finally, one response repeated a lie that measure KK backers have told before: that Friends of BRT has membership in the single digits. In fact, Friends of BRT is a Berkeley group with about 120 members. The current BRT project is also strongly supported by the Sierra Club, which has thousands of members in Berkeley. Here is an even better indicator of public sentiment: A majority of Berkeley councilmembers have already publicly opposed Measure KK, and not a single councilmember has publicly supported it. 

This big lie about the number of members in Friends of BRT shows exactly how trustworthy Measure KK backers are. They have no factual knowledge at all about this number, so they invented a fiction and repeated it over and over again. If they make this statement about Friends of BRT with no factual basis at all, then how can we trust anything they say? 

Charles Siegel 

 

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MEASURE N’S HIDDEN CHARTER SCHOOL TAX 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

If you read the following statement from the Alameda County Voter Registrar you would have no idea that Oakland, parcel tax, Measure N includes a hidden 15 percent parcel tax for charter school programs.  

Alameda County Registrar statement: “OUTSTANDING TEACHERS FOR ALL OAKLAND STUDENTS ACT. 

“Measure N: To attract and retain highly qualified and credentialed teachers for Oakland’s District-run public schools, and to support successful educational programs at Oakland’s public charter schools, shall Oakland Unified School District levy $10 per parcel per month ($120 per year) for 10 years with an exemption for low-income residents, mandatory annual audits, an independent citizens’ oversight committee, and all money spent to benefit Oakland Schools and all Oakland students? (2/3 vote required for passage.)” 

Voters that do not read the long version of Measure N will not understand that 15 percent of the parcel tax will go to charter school programs. Nor would voters reading the title of Measure N, “OUTSTANDING TEACHERS FOR ALL OAKLAND STUDENTS ACT,” be likely to understand that the 15 percent of the parcel school tax is for charter school programs and not for charter school teachers’ pay. The title misleads voters into thinking that all the Measure N tax will go toward teachers’ salaries. 

I believe Measure N was written to mislead voters into thinking that this tax is entirely for teachers’ salaries. Furthermore, the short version of Measure N is written in an attempt to hide the fact that 15 percent (approximately $1.8 million yearly) is a tax to support charter schools. 

Jim Mordecai 

Oakland 

 

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BHA FRAUD 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

For me the question is why the City of Berkeley allows the corruption at the Berkeley Housing Authority to continue—do they worship the almighty dollar for fear of a potential SEIU lawsuit? The city’s bailout rewarded the BHA $150,000 and there is no one minding the shop. Twenty-five million dollars was given to the BHA and a few million of it was squandered. There should be a class action suit against the BHA. 

Diana Arsanis Villanueva 

 

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ALBANY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Do we want Albany to become another Berkeley? 

How could it happen? If we elect people who place loyalty to special interests above first loyalty to Albany. Only by electing three new pro-Albany candidates can we avoid a 5-0 special interest majority with no one who will place Albany’s interests first. 

How do we prevent it? We must change the current 3-2 special interest City Council majority into a 3-2 pro-Albany majority. How? 

1. Defeat Mayor Bob Lieber’s reelection bid. 

2. Defeat his directly elected mayor amendment Measure Y to extend Council terms up to 16 years. Bob could be your mayor until 2020! 

3. Elect three candidates (Peggy Thomsen, Farid Javandel, and Nick Pilch) whose first allegiance is to Albany, not to special interests such as the Sierra Club, Save our Shoreline (SOS), etc. These three candidates support open space and environmental issues but first support Albany’s interests.  

I am asking you to vote against the incumbent majority I helped elect to office! 

I’m shocked that all three I strongly supported are taking Albany in the direction of becoming another Berkeley. They vote as a block about 95 percent of the time. They are now trying to radically change Albany via their directly elected mayor amendment Measure Y. 

Bob Lieber forced Measure Y on to your ballot. Your Charter Review Committee examined and voted against Bob’s measure three separate times because 84 percent of cities Albany’s size use the same system Albany has used since 1927. 

Measure Y creates entrenched 16-year council terms with unlimited outside special interest funding. 

The people who first changed Albany from a working-class to a professional town were Berkeley refugees in the 1960s. They told me that up to the mid-1950s Berkeley was a civic treasure nicer than Palo Alto. But they lost it. 

Why risk Albany? Vote against Measure Y and elect Thomsen, Filch, and Javandel to place Albany’s interests first. 

James D. Cleveland 

 

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ZONING BOARD AND ANTENNAS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

A Sept. 4 letter in the Berkeley Daily Planet, “Zoning Board and Antennas,” revealed a fatal flaw about the City of Berkeley’s meeting procedures. The writer stated: “The ZAB keeps telling the public that they cannot deny a permit to the applicant.” Such a “denial” by the Zoning Adjustments Board, is due to a long-held misunderstanding of the language of federal statutes. 

Explanation:  

It is generally acknowledged that we need an effective “Sunshine Ordinance.” However, there should be a Total Prohibition against “legal fictions”—legal terms that mean other than what is normally meant by words having the same spelling, or by words that are capitalized. Such cunning terms lurk in “State” and federal legislation, and have unsuspected meanings. The Supreme Court warned about such legal fictions as early as 1797, describing them as “very dark notions of law and liberty”— Maxfield’s Lessee vs. Levy, 4 Dall. (4 U.S. 330). 

By the unannounced use of these, the concerned public at crucial meetings (though held in bright natural or artificial light), are “kept in the dark” about the meaning of the FCC’s regulations. 

Two sections of the Telecommunications Acts (both 1934 and 1996), say: “No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission’s regulations concerning such emissions.” 

The Telecommunications Acts define the legal term “State” in this way: ‘“State”—The term “State” includes the District of Columbia and the Territories and possessions.’ However, the word “includes” is “A term of limitation.”—(Ex parte Martinez). Accordingly, the recent case of Sprint Telephony PCS v. County of San Diego (Sept. 11, 2008) upholds the right of local governments to influence “the location, size, design and operating characteristics” of such wireless facilities. 

The “ZAB” (which meets again on Sept. 25), is hereby notified that to NOT reveal the actual meaning or definition of a legal term (such as “State”), constitutes an “obstruction of justice.” This could be knowingly making a false statement with intent to mislead, and—so far—has been what has happened at the ZAB meetings where the Telecommunications Acts are concerned.  

Arthur Stopes, III 

Director, Center for Unalienable Rights Education. 

 

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NO ON TAX MEASURES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

What works in Berkeley? Berkeley is a small city, but it tries to be the caretaker for an entire region. We don’t do a good job of providing city services nor regional services because our city has a limited budget. 

It’s wonderful to share. I’m glad that our library system is so much better than others, that 40 percent of library cardholders are not Berkeley residents. Anyone who has ever had a child at Berkeley High knows that at least one-third of those students are out of district. A couple of years ago, the dog park petition showed that one-third of the 500 weekly users were from outside of Berkeley. Can we afford to keep doing this? Basic services do not get covered, and we are taxed extra for basics. This November, there are ballot measures for extra taxes for the basic services of the library, fire services and parks. 

Our high tax rate has driven away diversity. Young families, especially middle class blacks and Hispanics families cannot afford to live here. It is not sustainable to maintain regional services without regional financing. 

With the upcoming elections in Berkeley, it is time for a full and honest discussion of our tax system. And it has to be grounded in what we can afford. Berkeley taxpayers alone cannot be asked to pay for regional services. If our mayor and City Council want to maintain regional services, then they need to make up the financial shortfalls with regional funding. If they cannot find regional funding, then maybe it is appropriate to rethink how and what we spend our money on, rather than to keep asking for more, and spending more. Taxpayers should not be asked to pay extra taxes for basic services. City government should use our basic taxes in the general fund for fire, libraries and parks. Vote no on ballot measures for taxes. 

Yolanda Huang 

 

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LIBRARIES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Peter Klatt states in his Sept. 11 Daily Planet commentary that he wants to make people pay at the door to use the public library. 

Scotty! Beam Peter Klatt back to the 14th century, before the printing press, back when only a select few ever saw a book. One reason people created public libraries was the belief that everybody deserves to see books, hold them for the tactical experience, soak in their smell of print, and scan the shelves for a panorama of a whole subject and take the best home, for free. Modern libraries have added children’s, music and art sections, as well as shelves for new books, that some peruse to see what they want to buy on the Internet. 

Klatt believes the Internet has made books obsolete. But without books we have only an Internet in its 14th century. A small minority has top-rate Net service. Someday, a revolution may give every human full access at home, yet even then the masses will want books, mags, CDs, DVDs, etc And meanwhile, the library has the printed word and also free access to the splendor of the net at its best—just sign up. 

Klatt is anti-public services in general, as exposed in his endorsement of Barbara Gilbert’s Daily Planet piece arguing against the November ballot measures for public services 

History shows (via Net or print), that the collapse of Rome and the end of ancient civilization marched step by step with the end of its public roads, harbors, halls, theaters, libraries, parks, fire and police departments, water and sewer systems, etc. Peter Klatt and Barbara Gilbert may want to live together in a walled Berkeley hills castle with private firemen and police and a 10-foot Internet screen. But the viewing will be boring, because so few youngsters will be going to school that the needed creativity of youth will be zilch. 

Ted Vincent 

• 

LIPSTICK ON THE BRT PIG 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Charles Siegel, in his current letter to the editor, displays the same lack of analysis and mushy reasoning which has allowed AC Transit’s BRT proposal to get this far. Mr. Siegel claims that I said “the project in the final EIR must be the same as the project in the draft EIR.” What I in fact said was, “What we see in the draft EIR is basically what we’re gonna get. To borrow a phrase from the presidential candidates, AC Transit has four pigs in the draft EIR. They’re gonna put lipstick on one of them in time for the final EIR, but it will still be a pig.” I stand by my statement. 

If Mr. Siegel would like to read Article 7 of the California Environmental Quality Act and then consult with professionals who have prepared draft EIRs (as I have), he will find that I am correct. AC Transit cannot add “significant new information” to the draft EIR once it has been circulated. What will be in the final EIR will be one of the four alternatives that is in the draft EIR, with more details filled in. The sad fact, however, is that all four of the alternatives have already been studied extensively and the studies show that all four would produce no meaningful results. No amount of parking mitigation or neighborhood traffic mitigation is going to change that. Why waste any more time or taxpayer money on this proposal? It should have been DOA a year and a half ago. Let us put this boondoggle behind us and join together to pressure AC Transit to provide real improvements in East Bay bus service. 

Jim Bullock 

 

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MEASURE KK AND OUR  

DISABLED COMMUNITY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In Berkeley it’s possible for wheelchair users to get around town by AC Transit bus, not just paratransit. Thanks to federal law, public transit must be “compliant” with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That has resulted in local buses equipped with lifts that can board and deboard riders in wheelchairs, and it has enabled a greater “mainstreaming” of these more-challenged travelers. 

But that awkward ADA-compliant arrangement is far from ideal. Buses must linger an extra two to three minutes at a stop to accommodate a wheelchair, this causes some disabled riders to feel conspicuous and uncomfortable, as well as creates delays on the route. 

Fortunately, there’s also a higher federal standard for transit systems to meet: universal access. On universal-access transit systems such as BART, passengers in wheelchairs roll on and roll off the trains via “level boarding:” there are no steps and no special lifts, just the means to travel like everyone else. 

Future transit projects in Berkeley—whether Bus Rapid Transit or light rail—are being designed to meet the universal access standard. Transit vehicles stop at stations with platforms 24 inches above street level—the height of a transit vehicle’s doorway—and ramps at the stations enable wheelchair riders to navigate easily all the way onto or off the vehicle. 

Unfortunately, ballot Measure KK would make it much more difficult to implement universal access transit in Berkeley. Universal-access transit systems require elevated platforms, and the elevated platforms only work with dedicated lanes such as BRT employs. Under Measure KK, we’d have to hold a special vote of the people every time we want to upgrade a transit route from ADA-compliant to universal access. That vote would add up to two years to the project timeline—for a project the City Council has already decided is good for the city—and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for mandatory extra “planning” on top of all the planning that already has been done. None of that would result in better decisions, or serve our disabled community as well as they deserve. 

Do we really want to require a special costly vote of the people every time we want to build a new transit project that helps our disabled fellow citizens gain universal access to a bus or tram? If not, please vote No on Measure KK. 

April Mitchell 

 

• 

THE TREE-SITTERS’ HEROISM 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The tree-sitters risked their lives in order to save the trees. Especially at the end, it looked pretty scary. The top of the redwood was so thin it looked as though it could break. On the ground, one young tree-sitter had come down at an earlier time. He chastised himself for not staying up in the trees longer; but we were glad that he was safely on firm ground.  

What they endured in the wind, rain, and freezing cold can only be imagined.  

When the university put up the obscene fences, the sitter’s survival must have been especially difficult. On one of the Sunday afternoons, we on the ground saw this incredibly brave young man dangling from a high lamp-post using a rope to throw the sitters food. The police grabbed the rope and it looked as though the man on the lamp-post would loose his bearings, but the police down below were no match for this agile climber.  

Now, the tree-sitters have to pay bail. They were arrested? This is outrageous! 

Are there people or organizations helping them with their legal fees? Does your newspaper have information on organizations who are helping them? 

What all of the tree-sitters did was a sublime act, whether they were in the trees for an afternoon or a year. 

Harriet Jones 

 

• 

OFFSHORE DRILLING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Children are alleged not to be able to think ahead, but adults don’t have that excuse. Isn’t it obvious that after we exhaust our oil supply, we will be at the mercy of countries like Russia, Iran, and Iraq, that still have plenty of oil? Why do you think we have a “Strategic Oil Reserve”? We need to stop using oil! 

Also obvious is the fact that the more oil we burn, the worse the climate will get, leading to more hurricanes, sea level rise, loss of food supplies (all of our foods are adapted to today’s climate), and loss of wildlife (upon which everything we need depends). 

Offshore drilling threatens our food supply, won’t lower gas prices, and will (as we quickly exhaust our supply) in the long run make us more dependent on foreign oil! 

Michael J. Vandeman 

San Ramon 

 

• 

CLEAN, GREEN ACTIONS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Sept. 21 editorial on green in California reflects the lack of awareness of global crises beyond global warming, and the major Bay Area Coastline Cleanup article that day points to what may soon become a bigger crisis. We are getting ourselves buried in organic wastes and sewage that are polluting waters with germs, toxics and drugs as they get released from those wastes being mishandled often at great cost. EPA has just announced a planned conference on risks of drugs in drinking water showing that controls on organic waste disposal are becoming ineffective. 

But we could eliminate almost all the problems with germs, toxics and drugs in organic wastes by using them in a pyrolysis process that would destroy those hazards and stop wastes from biodegrading to re-emit trapped carbon as carbon dioxide again. I have described the pyrolysis process in several previous letters and commentaries. A big cost reduction for new dumps would accrue as no problems of checking for seepage of germs, toxics and drugs would be eating up money if they have been destroyed. The pyrolysis process can be set up to use several types of energy with much recovered as hot gases that can be passed through a turbocharger and the hot charcoal formed can be passed through a heat exchanger. The charcoal can be buried in old coal mines thereby getting a real reduction in our carbon footprint. 

Recent news reports on waste pick-ups have indicated fines for getting items in the wrong containers. With pyrolysis of organic wastes, all food and food containers (no restrictions on pizza boxes, etc.) disposable diapers, animal poop, all paper products except those with attached metal, most plastics (some may be recycled at low cost) wood scraps, garden clippings and leaves (no dirt) and even separated solids from sewage can be used in the process. Composting is a costly system to recycle trapped carbon back to that unwanted gas and may spread toxics and drugs to pollute water. 

Again, the organic waste mess is an ever-expanding, never-ending crisis that may well bury us directly or via premature deaths from various diseases. Andy Revkin in his DotEarth, New York Times write-up “2.5 billion with no place to go...to the toilet,” March 20, pointed to UN-WHO statement that 700,000 die yearly from diseases associated with improper sewage and organic waste handling.  

I urge government officials to start action on using the pyrolysis process on organic wastes to get escapes of germs, toxics and drugs under control, get some reduction in GHG emissions, and reduce costs considerably for new waste dumps. 

James Singmaster 

Fremont


The Bailout: Obama’s Biggest Test

By Randy Shaw
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

One week before Congress was set to adjourn, and seven weeks before a presidential election that could dramatically change national policies, Wall Street and its media allies have decided to grasp another bag of goodies yet from the Bush presidency: a $700 billion taxpayer bailout of the once high-flying financial services industry. That’s right. The same Wall Street players whose greed created our economic crisis now want the taxpayers to pick up the tab. And like the Republican political operatives who went down to Florida in the days following the 2000 election and created an astroturf “base” opposed to a recount, so is Wall Street drumming up a false hysteria that claims that “regular folks” are demanding the bailout’s prompt approval.  

Barack Obama strongly responded to the Republican plan by setting forth seven principles for a bailout that progressives could support. But some wonder whether Obama and fellow Democrats will stand firm, or simply talk tough and improve the plan around the edges. The answer could reveal much about an Obama presidency, and whether Democrats in 2009 will push for the “change we need” rather than reforms easily won.  

You’ve got to hand it to the folks who pocketed billions of dollars while running the United States economy into the ground: They have never stopped daring to dream. But their latest dream—a $700 billion taxpayer bailout of their debt—is a nightmare for the nation and poses a strong test for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party’s commitment to real change. 

 

The Bailout for dummies 

Rather than try to understand “mortgage-backed securities,” “deleveraging,” or the valuation of potentially worthless debt, the bailout can best be understood as a political strategy by Republicans and their Wall Street allies to maintain control of the nation’s economy despite the Democratic Party’s likely control of the White House and Congress starting in 2009. 

Simply put, this is a power grab. It is a power grab cloaked, as all such moves are, in the language of serving the common good. It is also accompanied by a genuine economic crisis that demands action—but not this week, and not when Bush and his gang will be out of the loop in a little over three months. 

What a remarkable coincidence! In Congress’ last week in session before the November election, the Bush administration and its Treasury secretary from Goldman Sachs has announced that action must be taken NOW! to prevent tens of millions of Americans from losing their jobs, life savings, and life as they once knew it. 

Didn’t we learn after 9/11 about the dangers of capitulating to such scare tactics? 

Why would anyone trust those who got us in this mess to get us out?  

And while the media frames Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as an “independent” oracle of financial truths, he made hundreds of millions of dollars at Goldman Sachs from deregulation, and will be going back to Wall Street in a few short months. 

Why should Paulson be viewed as anything other than a lobbyist for Wall Street? 

 

What if political roles were reversed? 

As the November 1980 election approached, interest rates were at record levels, inflation was raging and there was a pervasive sense of economic crisis. How would Wall Street, the media, the Reagan presidential campaign and the Republican Party have responded if in September the Carter administration demanded passage of a sweeping new economic program, involving spending hundreds of billions of public funds? 

You know the answer. Reagan and the Republican Party would have gone ballistic, and accused Carter of playing politics. 

And the media would have agreed with the Republican framing, and attacked Carter’s motives. 

But today’s media has disconnected the Bush administration’s ideology and political agenda from its bailout plan. The media would have the public believe that these free-market Republicans are only embracing a taxpayer bailout as a last resort, rather than as their last chance to loot from the public trough. 

Republicans would never back a Democratic economic plan on the eve of an election that Democrats were likely to lose. Yet Republicans are asking Democrats to pass a Republican plan just before voters kick everyone associated with the Bush administration out of office; that’s how the Karl Roves of the world define “bipartisanship.” 

 

Test for Obama, Democrats 

The bailout had barely been announced when Obama skeptics like David Sirota criticized the nominee for allegedly aligning with Wall Street, and against “Change.” Obama issued a strong progressive analysis of the bailout in Charlotte on Sunday, and Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have also issued strong challenges to the plan. 

But there is a pervasive view among activists that when push comes to shove, the Democrats cave on tax, finance and budget issues. Barack Obama vowed to be different, and people’s faith in his commitment to change explains why he has created the largest grassroots presidential campaign in the nation’s history. 

The bailout plan puts Obama’s principles to the test. If he continues to demand that any bailout helps homeowners facing foreclosure, limits executive compensation, and addresses the problems of rising gas prices, unemployment, and the economic problems impacting Main Street, his base will be more galvanized than ever. 

But if Obama abandons these principles to show himself a “team player,” or is seen as playing good cop-bad cop with Democrats in Congress, who would pass a bad bill over Obama’s public objections, than the excitement around the Obama campaign will decline. 

Obama and the Democrats gain nothing by rushing to give the Bush administration $700 billion to spend as it pleases. But such support would be like a kick to the stomach to those inspired by Obama’s promise to bring change. 

And it would be foolish politics. Republicans will use Obama’s support of a flawed bailout to accuse him of being a tool of Wall Street, and a false messenger of change. 

Barack Obama is too smart and principled to fall into this trap. And to make sure fellow Democrats join him, call the office of your local representative and tell the receptionist in less than 30 seconds why their boss should oppose the bailout. 

 

Randy Shaw is editor of BeyondChron.org and author of the just released Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century (University of California Press). 

 


In Response to ‘Healing KPFA’

By Shahram Aghamir and Nick Alexander
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:55:00 AM

First of all, we must confess we were a bit puzzled that the authors of the Sept. 18 commentary, “Healing KPFA,” self-identified as “KPFA Staff,” when nearly half the six signatories are actually KPFA Local Station Board members affiliated with the “Concerned Listeners” block, rather than staff members. Furthermore, of the six actual staff signers, five are paid department heads, and not rank and file or unpaid employees. To say the least, a rather skewed sampling of “KPFA staff.” 

Beyond that rather misleading representation, we ask, is it really fair for the authors of this letter (who ostensibly call for “healing”) to use innuendo and the term “opportunist” when characterizing the many dedicated programmers who have courageously taken it upon themselves to discuss the troubling Aug. 20 police incident (a public news event) on the air, both to educate listeners and to bring healing to a traumatized and demoralized staff?  

In addition, quoting from the “Healing KPFA” letter, we see a number of other unfair and divisive characterizations, to wit: 

“And the loudest shouting over the police incident has come from those entrenched programmers at the station who stand to lose the most from a revitalization of KPFA.” 

While we acknowledge differences of opinion among KPFA staff, we ask this letter’s authors whether they are trying to instigate false divisions along “seniority” lines within the vibrant, strong coalition for fundamental change at KPFA. The “Healing KPFA” authors seem to be trying to create divisions in our struggle without addressing the favorable or unfavorable contributions of so-called “entrenched” staff with regards to “revitalization.” None of the “Healing KPFA” authors have signed our widely embraced open staff letter outlining a desperately needed, prudent and carefully developed vision for new leadership and the revitalization of KPFA. (Visit www.physicszone.org/letter2008/letter.html.) On the other hand, those senior programmers derided as the “loudest” by the “Healing KPFA” letter did sign our letter. So who should properly be described as “entrenched?” 

Unfortunately, the tragic arrest of unpaid staffer Nadra Foster is but a symptom of deeper problems inside the station or on KPFA’s Local Station Board that the “Healing KPFA” authors have steadfastly refused to address. Indeed, LSB staff representative Brian Edwards-Tiekert did not support a LSB resolution calling on Interim General Manager Lemlem Rijio to reverse her “de-recognition” of KPFA’s Unpaid Staff Organization (UPSO). His close ally, then-LSB Chair and journalist Conn Hallinan, was not eligible to vote. But ally, voting LSB member and Pacifica National Board Chair Sherry Gendelman, also abstained. To be fair, Andrea Turner voted for the resolution, but she has otherwise gone along with the mute response of LSB “Concerned Listeners” to Rijio methodically shifting KPFA’s culture away from collaboration and mutual support, which ultimately culminated in the unnecessary police arrest of Nadra Foster.  

In the eight-point open letter, 80 paid and unpaid staff from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and positions at KPFA are demanding a number of reforms, including fresh new KPFA leadership committed to the following core values: 

1. KPFA and Pacifica network’s mission, which promotes peaceful means to solve conflicts instead of resorting to state force as occurred in the tragic and unnecessary arrest of unpaid programmer Nadra Foster. 

2. Active support and respect for KPFA’s entire staff, including the First Voice Apprenticeship Program and other radio collectives, and no obstruction of UPSO from lawfully holding elections, as well as support for unpaid staff participation in station affairs. KPFA’s Unpaid Staff Organization, which advocates on behalf of the station’s large unpaid workforce and had established grievance procedures for volunteer concerns, was abruptly de-recognized by Rijio in August of 2007 and has not been reinstated, in defiance of resolutions by KPFA’s Local Station Board and Pacifica’s National Board. 

The open letter’s other points deal with new KPFA leadership that works to achieve—instead of blocking—democracy in the station; helps reform KPFA’s program schedule and incorporates interactive media tools; recognizes the need to serve new and younger audiences (In 2006, Rijio outraged many staff when she permanently removed Youth Radio from the air for FCC profanity violations without discussing other possible disciplinary actions with the then-active Program Council, which was also effectively dismantled later, under her watch); allocates resources to support local producers’ needs, including disabled staff; is accessible and impartial in all staff matters; and respects and facilitates the broadcasting of ethnic specials. 

Finally, despite what the “Healing KPFA” authors are trying to suggest at kpfa.org/august20, no one in our coalition is saying do not call the police in extreme circumstances involving bodily harm or willful destruction of property. Falling outside such circumstances is an unpaid KPFA programmer, Nadra Foster, who was allegedly “banned” from the station for apparently disagreeing with a manager who said she could not use the phone or photocopy machine.  

 

Shahram Aghamir is a staff representative on the, KPFA Local Station Board and co-producer of Voices of the Middle East And North Africa. Nick Alexander is a reporter and co-producer for The Radio Chronicles.


Why We Should Save All Trees

By Krishna P. Bhattacahrjee
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

The excellent editorial and the news reports published in the Berkeley Daily Planet on Sept. 17 reminded me, an alumnus of UC Berkeley, of those turmoil years of the 1960s (as referred to in said editorial) when the students fought for their free speech rights. I witnessed how the sit-in demonstrators within the Sproul Hall were thrown out with water jets. And soon Mario Savio, one of the leaders, was arrested.  

The state and the UC Berkeley authorities unleashed their might and force against the harmless students who were only demanding their civil rights. 

I couldn’t imagine that such action could take place in America, a champion of democracy. It was an act of state terrorism against its own people which have taken place in Italy, Germany and in Soviet Russia. 

In your editorial, you mentioned that images of those turbulent years of the 1960s returned when the UC Berkley authorities used the police force to vacate the last remaining tree-sitters. Perhaps the most disturbing act performed by the authorities is to bring in surveillance helicopters to provide cover to tree-cutters and to the scaffolding builders. A war zone was created which has disturbed the local citizens and the students on the campus. Was there a need for creating such a terror? 

The tree-sitters at the oak grove tried their best to protect the trees there, which is the right of all citizens to do in order to reduce environment pollution and to protect the natural environment of the Berkeley hills where buildings have reduced green spaces. Since there are large number of homes on the hills, pollution is ever present there and now fire too is occurring frequently. 

This at a time when the danger of rapid climate change is imminent and coastal cities around the world are struck frequently by hurricanes and are flooded, and with unseasonable rain occurring in South America, Europe and Asia. 

There is a need for all citizens to protect trees and green spaces to mitigate disaster. Under such a situation all trees must be saved at any cost. Mangrove forests are the only means of protecting shores from the mountain high Tsunami waves, as witnessed and claimed by experts. 

The United States is also a signatory to international instruments to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) in order to minimize climate change. Consequently the state needs to save all trees, and if trees are to be cut for any important project of national importance, the saplings of similar and same number of trees are to be planted in advance prior cutting down such trees, as per recommendations of the UN Environment Department.  

Perhaps if UC Berkeley had planted saplings of oak and redwood trees in a suitable location and created an ambient environment to replace those trees which have been cut down, that would have satisfied the protesters and the problem would have been peacefully solved. Alternative ways through discussions must be evolved. 

The UC Berkeley authorities must remember that whatever we create, destroying the environment will have an adverse affect on the environment. The concrete athletic stadium and the supporting buildings will use high energy intensive materials which will create pollution during the construction and during their use. Then there will be hundreds of beer cans, soft and hard drink bottles lying around for days before they would be cleaned; another source of pollution as already been reported. 

Technically speaking, critical earthquake zones must be avoided for the safety of the buildings and their users. Earthquakes do not kill people; materials and debris do kill people. 

It is indeed an unwise decision on the part of the UC Berkeley authorities to select that site which falls on the earth quake zone and on the Hayward Fault. Seismic experts have already indicated that earthquake in Berkeley and San Francisco may occur at any time and all necessary precautions need to be taken from now. 

What is being built today is against the local people’s wishes and against nature’s virtual warning. Only the future will tell about the consequences of such unilateral action against nature and the people of Berkeley. 

 

UC Berkeley alum Krishna P. Bhattacahrjee is director of the Centre for Human Settlements in Calcutta, India. 


Help Needed With Berkeley’s Alcohol Problems

By Sarah Rodriguez’G
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

We were saddened to hear of a student’s death due to the over-use of alcohol on yet another college campus (“Is the Parens Patriae Power Dead at UC Berkeley?” commentary, Sept 18). This is a situation that unfortunately happens far too often in university towns all across the United States. Our culture has led us all to believe that college and alcohol go hand in hand. All one has to do is look at how the density of alcohol outlets increases as you approach the Cal campus. Is this what we want for ourselves, our students, and our community of Berkeley?  

The answer is no, not just for neighbors and parents, but also for our youth. Students for a Safer Southside (SFSS) has worked tirelessly for the past three years to help alleviate some of the problems related to students’ alcohol use near campus. We have made partnerships with many different community members and groups such as Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition (BAPAC), the University Health Services, and the Chancellor’s Student Neighbor Task Force. But there is still much more to be done and we invite all community members to join us in our efforts.  

We cannot leave the work to the police; they have been overwhelmed trying to manage the well-documented situation we now have in Berkeley: massive underage drinking, binge-drinking, alcohol-related assaults including sexual assaults, near-deaths due to alcohol poisoning, and several deaths of youth at alcohol-saturated parties. 

As parents and friends of students, as caring adults, and as concerned neighbors, we must assume responsibility for these destructive norms and begin to change them by requiring the city to pass a comprehensive plan which would reduce alcohol sales to minors and educate the entire community, including students, residents, and the business community. We need a dedicated city staff person to help regulate the legal sale of alcohol. We all have a stake in the health and safety of our young; these horrific deaths due to alcohol are unacceptable. 

The Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition (BAPAC) has presented a comprehensive, prevention-based solution to the City Council, but it has been stalled and weakened. Everyone who is interested in this issue is welcome to a meeting from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4 at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst (at MLK Jr Way). We will present data on Berkeley’s alcohol situation and lead a discussion of the status of the Alcohol Retail Ordinance. We hope to see you there. 

 

Sarah Rodriguez’G is the program coordinator for Students for a Safer Southside, a UC Berkeley student group working to prevent and reduce high-risk drinking in the southside of campus. Karen Klitz is a longtime BAPAC member and a Berkeley resident. 


New Life for Berkeley High’s Original Gym

By Henrik Bull
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:57:00 AM

The old gymnasium at Berkeley High School was granted national and state landmark status as a historic district in January 2008. Earlier, in July 2007, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission landmarked the gymnasium. 

Recently, the Berkeley Unified School District Board, approved the South of Bancroft Master Plan, which would demolish this building and build new buildings over a four-year period. 

Aside from historic preservation, I question the decision to demolish the gymnasium building on the basis of energy, environmental and economic considerations. 

Preservation of buildings can be thought of as the ultimate recycling. Buildings are vast repositories of energy. It takes energy to manufacture or extract building materials, more energy to transport them to the construction site and still more energy to assemble them into a building. If the structure is demolished and landfilled, the locked up energy is totally wasted! The demolition itself uses more energy, and of course, the construction of a new building uses yet more. 

Using formulas produced by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the old gymnasium building of 88,000 square feet, embodies the energy equivalent of 1.12 million gallons of gasoline, and the demolition would create about 7,000 tons of waste, enough to fill 45 railroad cars, which would stretch almost a half a mile.  

Once the old building is gone, the new building would not only require more energy, but would use more natural resources and release more pollutants and greenhouse gases into the environment. Based on recent studies, even if many of the materials are recycled and the new buildings are designed to the highest energy conservation standards, it would take at least fifty years to recover the energy lost in the demolition of such a building. 

 

Results of the study group 

Earlier this year, a committee of 21 volunteers, organized by Marie Bowman and Lew Jones, met at Berkeley High to brainstorm ideas for the adaptive reuse of the old gym and warm water pool. The school district’s program for the proposed construction was distributed and drawings of the old building were made available. The group was divided into three teams, which included several engineers, architects and landscape architects. Many new concepts were generated and the results were incorporated into a report issued by the School Board in April. No action was taken by the Board and there has been no thorough study authorized or undertaken to compare the cost of the new construction with using the old building to house the proposed uses. 

As a member of one of the teams, I was impressed by the soundness and imagination of the concepts generated but have been disturbed that there was no follow-up to achieve a single unified solution to the reuse and rehabilitation of the building. 

 

A new plan 

Because I am recently retired, I now have time available to look further into the rehabilitation of the old gymnasium. In my 50 plus years of architectural practice, I have designed buildings that have included all of the proposed uses; classrooms, gymnasiums, swimming pools as well as renovations of large buildings. 

After analyzing the problem for several weeks, using the plans of the old gym, as well as walking through the building several times, I have developed a plan, which I believe satisfies all elements of the School District’s South of Bancroft Master Plan. Perhaps, more important, I believe it can be completed more economically than building new. 

Additionally, the classrooms and gymnasium spaces would be spacious and flooded with natural daylight. The existing warm water pool would be restored and a proper entrance created. It should be noted that the Richmond Plunge is currently being restored for a fraction of the cost that has been discussed for building a new warm water pool for Berkeley. 

The exterior of the building would be basically unchanged, except for the obvious need for maintenance which has been deferred. Most important, all the proposed uses fit comfortably within the spacing of the original structural system. Only minor structural changes and some seismic upgrades would be necessary. This is key to achieving an economical solution. 

By repositioning the softball diamond, a regulation 250-foot radius baseball field can be accommodated, achieving a better orientation for the players. All of the other outdoor athletic activities in the South of Bancroft Master Plan can be accommodated. Adaptive re-use of this building would satisfy the classroom and office needs. 

It is understood that time and money have been spent in developing the South of Bancroft Master Plan. However, since the gymnasium building is not scheduled for demolition until 2011, there is till time to consider another approach, which I believe, can save money, time, energy and natural resources. It would be a truly green solution. 

The country and Berkeley are on a green mission. Let’s continue on this worthy path. I would like to invite the School Board and their architects to join me in reviewing this new proposal. 

 

Berkeley resident Henrik Bull is the retired founder of BSA Architects.


Berkeley Schools’ API Scores Are Cause for Congratulation

By Michael Mascuch
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:57:00 AM

Berkeley Unified School District students, parents, teachers, administrators, community members, and taxpayers should be commended for their schools’ achievement reflected in the 2007-08 Accountability Progress Report recently released by the state Board of Education. The results tell us that the provisions of Measure A, part of a unique and fruitful partnership between Berkeley schools and their community, are benefiting students. 

Last week the Daily Planet noted that the district scored 760 on its 2008 Academic Performance Index (API), a gain of 14 points from the previous year, bringing it significantly closer to the state goal of 800 (out of 1000). This is good news. However the Planet missed the real story, which lies in the details. It overlooked the fact that all 15 Berkeley public schools for which an API is available posted gains in their individual APIs (the sole exception, Berkeley High, did not receive an API because it did not attain the federally mandated assessment participation rate). All but one of the 15 schools made its API growth target set by the state. Seven schools scored APIs over 800, and four others scored APIs over 780. This is better news. 

The 2008 results indicate continued progress in the district’s efforts to improve student achievement. To get an idea of how far it has come, consider that in 2002 Berkeley Unified had just one school with an API over 800 and a district API of 719. 

But the recent news gets even better. More significant than the APIs of individual schools are the gains made in 2008 by district-wide subgroups. Socio-economically disadvantaged students, which comprise nearly 40 per cent of Berkeley Unified’s student population, gained 33 points, from a base API of 641 to 674. African American students gained 22 points, from a base API of 597 to 619. English Learner students gained 21 points, from a base API of 649 to 670. Hispanic or Latino students gained 16 points, from a base API of 672 to 688. White and Asian students also gained, but modestly in comparison to other subgroups. Eleven of the fifteen individual schools made or exceeded their growth targets for all significant subgroups. Of the four schools that did not, each missed for only one subgroup, and two schools fell just one point short of the target for that group. 

These results tell us that not only is academic achievement improving among the entire diverse student population of Berkeley Unified, but also that the achievement gap between white and Asian students and their peers in other subgroups is narrowing. To a community that has identified closing the achievement gap as a major educational priority, this is very positive news. And it deserves notice. I still hear far too many ill-informed friends and neighbors describe the public school system as a “disaster,” as a colleague of mine said to me just the other day. It simply isn’t so, and the public ought to know, especially because it has elected to be involved in Berkeley schools’ achievement. 

Of course there are various and diverse factors contributing to Berkeley Unified’s ongoing achievement. The many sensitive and dedicated professionals who work in our school system are critical, yet they do not succeed alone. To coin a phrase, it takes a village to educate a child. For those engaged in the process, the truth of this cliché is blatantly obvious. But the public may need reminding of its participation: a major factor in Berkeley Unified’s sustained success since 1986 has been the Berkeley Schools Excellence Project (BSEP). BSEP brought us Measure A, a supplemental tax in support of specific educational goals, which was renewed by nearly 80 percent of Berkeley taxpayers in 2006. 

BSEP is a cause for self-congratulation in Berkeley now for two reasons. First, because it provides some of the resources our educators deem necessary to support the accountability measures and practices (which brought us APIs) that federal and state agencies have recently mandated (since No Child Left Behind, in 2001), but failed to fund. Second, and more important, BSEP’s oversight provisions create numerous ways for education professionals, school parents, and members of the community to work together to define meaningful academic goals—such as closing the achievement gap—and to identify ways of achieving them. The requirement that individual schools form School Governance Councils to develop a School Plan annually is just one such way that has, for me, provided a means to engage in a genuine partnership of diverse people seeking to realize common educational objectives. The process and the product of this partnership have been greatly rewarding: to me personally, as a community-building experience, but best of all, to my children and their peers, as well as to the city in which they work and play. The reward is apparent not merely in my school’s API, which is surely something of which we all can be proud, but more significantly in the manifestation of such rich human intelligence everywhere around us. 

The current results of the Accountability Progress Report confirm what many Berkeleyans (and others) know from our direct engagement with the Berkeley public schools: we are part of a concerned and dedicated community that nurtures its humanity. That by itself is no small achievement, these days. Thank you, Berkeley; as we say at Malcolm X Elementary, “Together we can!” 

 

Michael Mascuch is a Berkeley public schools parent and co-chair of the Malcolm X School Governance Council.


Why BRT Will Work

By Rob Wrenn
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:58:00 AM

I was amused by Russ Tilleman’s Sept. 18 letter opposing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). To bus riders who are frustrated by the absence of good transit and who want something done about it, he gives a Marie Antoinettish response: Let them drive cars. 

He suggests giving the capital funds for BRT to motorists to buy fuel-efficient cars. Let’s forget about improving public transit and encourage people to drive instead. 

There’s a big problem here. The embedded energy in new cars, the greenhouse gases created in the manufacture of a new car, are substantial. Wired Magazine reported that you are better off buying a relatively fuel-efficient used-car than a new, more fuel-efficient Prius hybrid because of the greenhouse gases generated in the manufacture of hybrids. 

When you compare the reduction in greenhouse gases from riding public transit instead of driving to the reduction you get from trading your current car for a more fuel-efficient one, transit wins hands down. This is true with existing buses, and it’s even more true if zero-emission buses are used. Of course, it’s even better if you walk or ride a bicycle. 

Moreover, like Marie Antoinette, Russ Tilleman has a clear class bias. He is blissfully unconcerned about bus riders who have to put up with slow, unreliable buses that frequently don’t arrive at bus stops at scheduled times. In Berkeley and Oakland, along the proposed Bus Rapid Transit route, a quarter or more of the residents don’t own cars. They are dependent on public transit to places they can’t walk too. Some are too young, too old, too infirm, or too disabled to drive. Others work low-wage jobs, doing things that are essential to our economy, but can’t afford to own a car. 

This transit-dependent population should not be treated like second-class citizens. They need better transit. BRT will, without question, reduce bus travel time by giving buses a dedicated lane to travel in. It will, without question, improve on-time performance (reliability) of buses because they won’t fall behind schedule or bunch up as a result of being stuck in automobile traffic. And disabled people who use wheelchairs will benefit for the level boarding at BRT stations; no more reliance on slow lifts that don’t always work. 

Throughout the world, transit vehicles, both buses and trams, that have their own lanes perform better than transit vehicles in outmoded settings where they have to share space with cars. 

Tilleman, more explicitly than most BRT opponents, espouses the cars-come-first mentality that underlies opposition to BRT. The BRT EIR shows that cars will be slowed down slightly during peak travel periods (i.e. rush hour). This minor inconvenience for car drivers is a small price to pay for the substantial improvements in transit service and the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that will come with BRT. 

One of the world’s cities that has gone furthest in implementing dedicated travel lanes for buses is Paris. There were people like Tilleman there too, arguing for the primacy of cars. But despite this opposition, Paris now has a network of dedicated lanes for buses and bicycles, and a new tram system to boot. The result: a measurable reduction in automobile traffic, in pollution and in greenhouse gas generation. Where dedicated lanes for transit vehicles are put into effect, transit ridership rises and generation of global-climate-change-inducing greenhouse gases falls. 

 

Rob Wrenn is a member of the Berkeley Transportation Commission. 

 


Context and Perspective

By Marvin Chachere
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:58:00 AM

This presidential campaign is historic in many respects but as oratory it is not different from others; verbal combat is waged under the dual canopy of context and perspective. 

Context, the environment of communication, always affects a candidate’s meaning; the same word in one context has a different, conflicting and even contradictory meaning in another.  

I grew up in the negro section of Mobile, Alabama at a time when Jim Crow was alive and well. We said “nigger” a lot, referring to one another and people we knew; it carried a strong impact; like a drum beat it punctuated our funning. That environment exists to this day among blacks, young and old, but society is more open than it was and in this larger socially shifting multi-ethnic context “nigger” is abhorrent. The sound penetrates like a stiletto, cuts like a knife; use of the word, especially by politicians, reflects adversely back on the speaker. Public figures may not use the word but must only refer to it as “the N-word.”  

Context affects meaning not only in the political arena but also culturally. Music, because it is extra-linguistic, exhibits a direct impact of context on meaning. Listen to the context Beethoven imposes on an old folk tune, “Hymn to Joy,” in the final movement of his “Choral” Symphony. Or listen to Ray Charles’s jazz-baroque rendition of “America the Beautiful,” our unofficial but musically superior national anthem. And I invite you to listen to the CD “Going Home” (Decca, 2007) where, for example, Morris Robinson (the Jessye Norman of bassos) renders the plaintive gospel lyrics by Dottie Rambo, “He Looked Beyond My Faults,” to the familiar Irish melody “Londonderry Air” (aka “Danny Boy”) backed by jumpy rhythmic percussions. I guarantee you’ll thank me for the referral and you’ll learn the power of context. 

Situational ethics was popular back when I was in college. It meant that a right act could be made wrong by the situation or context, e.g. giving a needle to a heroin addict, and a wrong act could be rendered right by a change in context, e.g. when a parent spanks a child for playing with matches. 

Context affects meaning but not visa versa. 

Meaning also depends and changes according to perspective—the position from which one sees phenomena. Perspective determines, to some extent, what one sees.  

The best illustration I can think of for this fact lies in the realm of democratic governance.  

It goes without saying that the conservative approach differs from the liberal approach and the reason is a difference in perspective. The conservative perspective is based on “rigorous standards…classical education, hard-earned knowledge, experience and prudence”; it springs from “immersion in the best that has been thought and said” (quotes extracted from a Sept. 16 column by David Brooks of the New York Times). 

Liberal governance, by contrast, does not view classical education, experience and prudence as qualifying attributes and although the liberal perspective is familiar with, it is less reverential toward “the best that has been thought or said.” Liberal governance attends more to its extension, enhancement and even-handedness than to its efficiency, it values bold experiment above prudence. 

It goes without saying that the Republican Party of today is not conservative nor is today’s Democratic Party liberal; both are perversions of their philosophical roots and both deny it. This cannot be explained by the often asserted non-sequitur: We live in an imperfect world. The sad fact is that governance in our two-party system bears little resemblance to the Constitution that set it in place. It’s like a fish between two cats. The perspective of the party in power entices it to do anything to stay and the party not in power sees no limit to its efforts to seize power; public interest, as perceived by political parties, takes third place after corporate interest and power.  

 

Marvin Chachere is a San Pablo resident. 


Columns

Economic Outlook: Stop Congress from Giving Away Your Money

By Richard Hylton
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM

In the latest example of privatizing profit and nationalizing risk, the Bush administration has proposed bailing out Wall Street’s investment houses, hedge funds, and all the commercial banks by giving away $700 billion of taxpayers’ money. The total cost of the ad hoc bailout of financiers may eventually exceed $1 trillion. And the administration’s Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, says we must give him the power to use this $700 billion any way he sees fit. And, by the way, Congress has to give it to him right now! 

Well, the billions have added up and now we are talking about real money. Why is it that when these Wall Street guys go into government, they want to do things with public money that they would never consider doing with their own money or even the money of their clients? No oversight, no consequences, and no help for the struggling families on the other end of this Wall Street-made crisis. That’s the Bush plan. 

Call your representatives in the Senate and the House and tell them hell no. Not on those terms. If the people are going to foot the bill for rescuing the banking sector, then we need to get some things in return: 

(1) An immediate cap on executive pay for any company that wants to unload its garbage investments on the public. And we don’t mean a $1 million cap. Think penance, folks. 

(2) An equity stake for the Treasury in any company that wants government bailout money. Why should the taxpayer get stuck with the junk investments and free overpaid bankers to go ahead and make more money for years to come? Some of that future profit should belong to the people. That’s the kind of deal Warren Buffett just got when he agreed to invest $5 billion in Goldman Sachs. Why should the taxpayer get nothing but hope that the crisis will end?  

(3) Relief for the hundreds of thousands of American families who are facing foreclosure and the loss of their homes. Whose money are we giving away, again? What have the regular folks at the other end of the financial markets crisis gotten in terms of help from the government? Bupkis! Use the resources of the Treasury to help struggling American families. 

(4) Enhanced unemployment benefits for those who have lost their jobs. 

(5) Major investments in America’s infrastructure to generate new jobs and stimulate our economy. 

(6) And, finally, bipartisan oversight and limits on how the Wall Street guys who usually run the Treasury are allowed to spend that $700 billion. 

Take the time to call your Congressperson and any members of the House Financial Services committee and the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee. Demand that they demand these provisions in any bailout package. This may be one of the most important phone calls you will make this decade. Really. 

 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (202) 225-0100; Rep. Barney Frank (202) 225-5931; Senator Christopher Dodd (202) 224-2823 ; Rep. Maxine Waters (202) 225-2201 ; Rep. Brad Sherman (202) 225-5911; Rep. Joe Baca (202) 225-8671; Rep. Jackie Speier (202) 225-3531; Rep. Gary G. Miller (202) 225-3201; and Rep. Edward R. Royce (202) 225-4111. 


Dispatches From The Edge: Dangerous Crises in South Asia

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:52:00 AM

If most Americans think Iran and Georgia are the two most volatile flashpoints in the world, one can hardly blame them. The possibility that the Bush administration might strike at Teheran’s nuclear facilities has been hinted about for the past two years, and the White House’s pronouncements on Russia seem like Cold War déjà vu. 

But accelerating tensions between India and Pakistan, coupled with Washington’s increasing focus on Afghan-istan, might just make South Asia the most dangerous place in the world right now, a region where entirely too many people are thinking the unthinkable. 

At the heart of this crisis is a beleaguered Pakistan, wracked internally by economic crisis and deep political divisions, fearful of India’s burgeoning military power, and pressured by Washington’s growing alarm over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.  

When the New Delhi government accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) of being behind the recent bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, it revealed what journalist J. Sri Raman calls a “secret war” between the two nation’s intelligence agencies. The Indians charge the ISI of being behind a string of bombings in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Jaipur, while the Pakistanis accuse India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Intelligence Wing (RAW), of encouraging a separatist movement in Baluchistan and undermining Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan. 

The two countries have fought three wars since the 1947 partition, and came perilously close to going nuclear during the Kargil incident in 1999. In the latter flare-up, separatist guerrillas backed by the Pakistani Army, attacked Indian troops in Kashmir, leading to a bitter 11-week war. According to Bruce O. Riedel of the National Security Agency, Pakistan began arming its nuclear warheads, and only pressure from the White House got Islamabad to back down. 

There are elements in both countries who have long considered “the unthinkable”—nuclear war—quite thinkable. When Pakistan-sponsored Kashmiri separatists attacked the Indian parliament in December 2001, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India’s right-wing BJP prime minister, told the army to prepare for a “decisive victory,” setting off a round of arrmagedon saber rattling. 

Pakistan’s General Mirza Aslam Beg, former Pakistani army chief, said that Pakistan “can make a first strike, and a second strike, or even a third,” and dismissed the consequences that such an exchange would inflict on both populations. “You can die crossing the street, or you could die in a nuclear war. You’ve got to die someday anyway.” 

The talk on the Indian side was no less hair-raising. India Defense Minister George Fernandes said that “India can survive a nuclear attack, but Pakistan cannot.” Indian Defense Secretary Yogendra Narain said, “A surgical strike is the answer,” and if that fails, “We must be prepared for total mutual destruction.” 

A U.S. intelligence analysis of a war between India and Pakistan found it would kill up to 12 million people immediately and injure seven million more. A National Resource Defense Council study projected that more than 22 million people would absorb lethal doses of radiation, and another eight million would be seriously irradiated. 

Part of the problem about “the unthinkable” is that while leaders in both countries talk quite openly of fighting a nuclear war, the populations of both nations are largely in the dark over the potential threat. A BBC poll found that the Pakistani public has an “abysmally low” understanding of the threat, and that for most Indians, “the terror of a nuclear conflict is hard to imagine.” 

The Bush administration has ratcheted up the tension with its proposed nuclear deal with India. Under the so-called 1-2-3 Agreement, the United States would supply India with nuclear fuel for its civilian program, despite the fact that India refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. The deal would allow India to divert its own meager domestic uranium supplies to its nuclear weapons industry, whose factories would remain “off limits” to inspection. 

In a July letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, Pakistan warned that the 1-2-3 Agreement “threatens to increase the chances of a nuclear arms race in the subcontinent.” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Khurshid Kusuri, told the Financial Times that if the pact is approved by the U.S. Congress, “The whole nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will unravel.” 

India has a “no first-use” policy, but Pakistan refuses to sign such a pledge, in large part due to the superiority of the Indian military, a superiority that grows day by day. India will import over $30 billion in arms over the next five years, including modern fighter planes, helicopters, tanks and warships. The Indian Air Force is currently the world’s fourth largest.  

Pakistan simply can’t match those figures. Its economy is smaller, and it has been hard hit by rising fuel and food prices. Inflation is close to 15 percent, cooking gas is up 30 percent, and wheat is up 20 percent. According to a June 2008 survey, some 86 percent of Pakistanis are finding it increasingly difficult to afford flour on a daily basis. Pakistan currently spends 35 percent of its budget on the military. 

Pakistan’s newly elected and deeply divided government is also confronting intense U.S. pressure to halt the cross-border movement of Taliban fighters into Afghanistan. 

“The situation on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border presents a clear and present danger to Afghanistan, Pakistan, the West in general, and the U.S. in particular,” U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden told Congress in March. 

Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, U.S. commander in Afghanistan, says, “I don’t believe we can get to the right outcome in Afghanistan as long as these militant sanctuaries [in Pakistan] exist.” 

But Islamabad has been increasingly unwilling to play spear-carrier for the Bush administration’s “war on terror.” Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the Guardian that it is “unacceptable that while giving peace to the world we make our own country into a killing field. If America wants to see itself clean of terrorism, we also want our villages and towns not to be bombed.” 

The United States has sent dozens of armed drones across the Pakistan border to attack Taliban leaders, many times killing civilians in the process. According to Pakistani officials, U.S. helicopter-borne commandos crossed the border Sept. 3 and killed up to 20 people.  

The current government was elected on a platform of making peace with the Taliban, and, in any case, attempts by the Pakistani Army to occupy the frontier have failed rather disastrously. That is hardly surprising. As British General Andrew Skeen noted during the colonial period, “When planning a military expedition into Pashtun tribal areas, the first thing you must plan is your retreat. All expeditions into this area sooner or later end in retreat.” 

Even Washington’s allies recognize that the increasingly strident calls by Washington and the Afghan government to close off infiltration from Pakistan are impossible. “You cannot seal borders,” says British Defense Minister Des Browne. “We could not seal 26 miles of border between the north and south of Ireland with 40,000 troops.” The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is over 1,000 miles, much of it consisting of formidable mountains. 

While the White House and NATO are pushing for a military solution in Afghanistan, a recent study by the Rand Corporation, a think tank associated with the U.S. Navy, found that politics, not bombs, is the solution for terrorism. According to Rand, only 7 percent of the 648 terror groups it studied were defeated militarily: “There is no battlefield solution to terrorism. Military force usually has the opposite effect from what is intended.” 

Some in Pakistan’s current government seem to have reached the same conclusion. “We have to talk to the Taliban,” says Asif Ahmed, a member of parliament from the secular Pakistan People’s Party, the largest vote getter in the last election. “There is no peace in Pakistan or Afghanistan without it.” 

Many Pakistanis worry that war in the tribal areas could ignite a movement among Pushtuns on both sides of the border for an independent “Pashtunistan.” Pushtuns make up between 15 percent and 20 percent of Pakistan’s 165 million people. 

Islamabad also worries about increasing Indian influence among Afghan-istan’s non-Pushtun groups, and the possibility that Pakistan could lose its “strategic depth” in the region, a place to fall back to if they are overwhelmed by an Indian conventional attack.  

The United States has long tried to rope India into its efforts to offset growing Chinese power in Asia. Washington has stepped up arms sales to New Delhi, increased joint military training, and is willing to help India increase its stockpile of nuclear weapons. India, of course, has its own bones to pick with China, and still smarts from the shellacking it took in the 1963 Sino-Indian war. But an India powerful enough to help offset China looks very threatening from Islamabad’s point of view.  

The most immediate flashpoint is Kashmir, where heavy-handed Indian troops have killed more than two dozen people and injured hundreds. A miscalculation by either side could be disastrous. The flight time for nuclear-tipped missiles between the two countries is from three and five minutes. 

Every few years the U.S. military conducts “war games” on what the outcome would be to a war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Every game ends the same: nuclear war. “It is a scary scenario,” Col. Mike Pasquarett, who runs the games at the U.S. War College, told the Wall Street Journal. 

Rather than escalating another war, arming India, and pressuring Pakistan, the United States should be pushing for the de-nuclearization of South Asia, peace talks with the Taliban, and a stand-down in Afghanistan. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Undercurrents: On the Army Base Conversion, Oakland Should Pass on Tagami

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:53:00 AM

A little over a year from now, Oakland city staff will recommend—and the Oakland City Council will thereafter make a decision on—the master developer for one of Oakland’s largest and most important development projects in decades: the 108-acre Gateway Project on the old Oakland Army Base. 

As with any project this big, the political maneuvering has already begun, and if you wait until the scheduled June 2009 deadline for city staff making its final recommendation on the developer, it will be a barn-horse-door-already-gone-and-bye kind of a thing. 

How massive and important is the Gateway Project? It is only a little short of doubling the 64-acre Oak-to-Ninth project at the opposite end of the waterfront, which dominated so much of Oakland’s political and development discussion over the past couple of years. It also dwarfs many of the other projects listed on the city’s major development project website—the Wood Street Development Project (29.2 acres) or the MacArthur Transit Village Project (8.2 acres), for example. Gateway is also considerably larger than the other most-publicized city project of our time, Forest City’s Uptown Oakland, which only covers approximately 6.5 downtown acres. 

Only the 183-acre Oak Knoll Project on the old Naval Medical Center Oakland grounds is larger among current major Oakland projects. But there are two significant differences between Oak Knoll and Gateway. Oak Knoll is privately owned, and is planned primarily as a residential project, with a small (82,000 square feet) commercial Village Center. Further, Oak Knoll sits high and tucked away in the East Oakland hills in a residential neighborhood far from the city center. That doesn’t make Oak Knoll unimportant. It just makes it less important than Gateway for the city’s economic future. 

Gateway is city-owned property, so it is the city which will decide the final development plan. Gateway will be commercial/industrial rather than residential, and it sits both on the edge of downtown Oakland as well as astride the entranceway to the city from the Bay Bridge. Along with Jack London Square on the other end, it could become one of the pillars from which all of Oakland’s downtown economy is strung in between. 

So the importance of the Gateway Project to Oakland’s economic is difficult to overstate. 

The competition for the master developer project has been narrowed down to four finalists. One of those developers is a familiar face, AMB/California Capital Group’s Phil Tagami. Mr. Tagami has been lobbying hard for the job, with speculation in some circles that he has already gotten enough City Council commitments to assure him the contract. But Mr. Tagami is not the best developer for this particular project, and if he is awarded the Gateway development contract, it would be a mistake. 

Here are my reasons why I feel that way. You may agree or disagree with my reasoning, as you wish. 

For the last several decades, the mantra about Oakland is that the city is not an ideal destination point for developers. How much of this is because Oakland is actually not an ideal location to develop and how much of it is simply a way for some developers to bleed public subsidies out of the city to entice them to do Oakland projects is a subject for another column and another time. What is generally undisputed is that for many years, Oakland has been something of a development subsidy queen, thinking that we are so ugly that we willing to pass out many freebies to developers as a way for them to take us out on a date.  

This became such a hot and sensitive issue in Oakland that Jerry Brown based a portion of his 1998 mayoral campaign on it, saying that he would end the need for such massive development subsidies by “putting Oakland on the map” with developers. Promises, promises. When Brown’s signature Oakland development project—Forest City’s Uptown—won city approval five and a half years into Mr. Brown’s tenure, it was one of the most highly subsidized Oakland projects in recent memory, netting something over $65 million in city contributions, and counting. 

A June 2004 Oakland Tribune article reporting on Oakland City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee approval of the project and subsidy pretty much spelled out the problem. “For many years the city tried to entice retailers to downtown Oakland, issuing a request for proposals for the Uptown site,” reporter Heather MacDonald wrote. “Finally, in 1998 the city gave up and contacted Forest City, which has redeveloped parts of San Jose and Chicago with success, about a mixed-use project. The city never solicited bids from other companies interested in building a residential development on the site. “ 

Forest City wasn’t picking on Oakland in particular. That’s just what big developers do, when they face little or no competition, and when they have you over a barrel. They take advantage, and squeeze out of you everything the market can bear. That’s simply the nature of capitalism. 

Thoughtful readers will have already seen that this leaves us with something of a puzzlement. If Oakland has such a reputation as an easy mark for developer subsidies, why doesn’t this overcome any developer reluctance to build in Oakland? One possible explanation-and here we get into the area of speculation, since this is not the kind of thing that gets written up in city reports-is that Oakland has a reputation as a “wired” town, that is, a town where development decisions are made not necessarily for their economic benefit to the residents of the city, but because the developer has made the right contacts among the city’s political establishment. It’s called “pay to play,” and whether this speculation is true or not, it’s certainly a part of Oakland’s reputation. In part, that’s what the State Senator Don Perata federal investigation has concentrated on. 

But now comes the old Oakland Army Base and Gateway, and something is distinctly different in the mix. Eight developers put in submissions from the original Request For Qualifications to develop the entire 108-acre parcel, with another five submitting proposals for some portion of the property. That is a far cry from the Uptown Oakland Project—in the midst of the developer-friendly Jerry Brown years and the housing boom-when the city had to go begging for a developer. Among the firms making initial submissions were Prologis/Catellus and Federal Development. Those names may be unfamiliar to you, but they are major players in national development circles, and their decision to ante up in the Oakland Army Base pot was significant enough that the East Bay Business Times—which covers these things for a living—put that fact in their headline in a March 2008 story on the Gateway Project. Oakland had clearly been put on the development map under an Oakland mayor, though that mayor wasn’t Jerry Brown. (Note (in a whisper)): the Gateway submissions happened under Ron Dellums, but I’m not supposed to say that, since every time I mention some fact about something good Mr. Dellums has done for Oakland, I get accused of being a “Dellums apologist” or even a “Black racist”—since both Mr. Dellums and I are African-American, and these days when one African-American says something good about another African-American, it can’t be because there actually is something good, but can only be because it’s those Black Folks sticking to their own kind again—anyhow, I’m not supposed to mention that the enhanced interest in Oakland development evidenced by the Gateway Project is happening under Ron Dellums, so you’ll have to figure that out on your own.) 

Back to the Gateway, and why picking Mr. Tagami’s project would be a mistake. 

Let us assume, for the sake of the discussion, that the Gateway proposals submitted by the four finalist developers-Prologis/Catellus, Federal Development, First Industrial Realty, and Mr. Tagami’s AMB/California Capital Group-are roughly comparable. All of them will promise to revitalize a largely economically barren area of Oakland in one way or another. All of them will promise to bring in increased revenues to city tax funds. All of them will promise to put area residents to work, both in the initial building phase and in jobs created by the new businesses that are created. All of them will be willing to tweak their proposals to accommodate particular city interests. At this point, then, without seeing any of the exact proposals, what is the major difference between them? 

Call it the buzz-creating factor. 

If either of the three major national firms are selected-Prologis/Catellus, Federal Development, or First Industrial Realty-it will create an immediate stir and wave of interest within the nation’s business community. It will send a signal that something different is happening in the Bay Area’s long-overlooked city. It would signal that major national companies are again interested in Oakland, and feel they can do business and make money here. Just as important, it would signal that the old-boys, insider-trader-networking days in Oakland are on the wane, and Oakland is opening its doors to the country and the world for business. Such a signal, if followed up properly, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Businesses come to Oakland because the word gets spread that businesses want to come to Oakland. Look at Emeryville, which was once a seedy saloon-and-prostitute stop along San Pablo Avenue, and is now running out of real estate and in danger of sinking into the bay from the weight of the companies scrambling to get in the door. So goes Emeryville, so goes Oakland. 

And if Oakland chooses Mr. Tagami for Gateway? We may get a good project, with good jobs and increased tax revenues. If we’re lucky—this being Mr. Tagami, after all—we may not get stuck with a lot of cost overruns and after-the-fact requests for city bailout money. But that’s all we will get. Tagami at Gateway will get us no notice in the Wall Street Journal or the other national financial trade papers and websites, only a nod of gray heads and an affirmation around the business breakfast meetings that no unconnected outside company should waste time submitting proposals to Oakland, when the decision is already politically wired in to one of the good-old-boys of the local network. 

On the Gateway Project, Mr. Tagami brings us nothing but Mr. Tagami. And since Oakland already has him, shouldn’t this be a time to reach out for more? 

This is an opportunity Oakland should not waste. 


Green Neighbors: In Praise of the Black Phoebe

By Joe Eaton
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 11:56:00 AM
A black phoebe near its nest at Tilden Regional Park's Little Farm.
By Ron Sullivan
A black phoebe near its nest at Tilden Regional Park's Little Farm.

The black phoebe is an admirable bird in many ways. What I appreciate most about it is its identifiability. No other California bird is anything like it: small, black with a white belly, short crest, upright posture. This is remarkable in a member of the tyrant flycatcher family, many of whose species are cryptic in the extreme.  

Called tyrant flycatchers because they often dominate other birds, they range from Alaska to Patagonia. The Old World flycatchers, superficially similar, are something else again, related to the thrushes. 

The family includes the notorious genus Empidonax—“empids” to birders. Several empid species are almost impossible to separate in the field. Worse, the taxonomists keep splitting them. The former western flycatcher is now two species, the Pacific-slope and cordilleran flycatchers, which pretty much have to be identified by geography. If you’re in California, call it a Pacific-slope; in Utah, call it a cordilleran. 

The Myiarchus flycatchers are almost as bad. I once went to Santa Cruz to see an alleged Nutting’s flycatcher, a Mexican stray, which is very similar to the more northerly ash-throated flycatcher. The most reliable clue to species identity is the color of the lining of the mouth. At one point a dozen or so birders were lined up in the street in front of the house where the flycatcher had chosen to winter, waiting for it to open its mouth. (It did, revealing the proper shade for Nutting’s, but the bird remains controversial). 

Farther south, it’s even worse. Open a Mexican or Costa Rican field guide: pages and pages of flycatchers. More empids, more Myiarchuses, and a bunch of near-identical Elaenias. Costa Rica has the unfortunate bran-colored flycatcher—what kind of name is that?—which resembles a streaky empid. There are a handful of conspicuously gaudy species: the vermillion flycatcher of the Southwest, the scissor-tailed flycatcher of the southern Great Plains, the many-colored rush-tyrant of Argentine wetlands. But they’re the exceptions. Mostly you get variations on drab. 

The black phoebe isn’t colorful, but it is obviously what it is. It’s around all year, and it doesn’t object to human company. All a pair needs is an overhang, manmade or otherwise, for a nest site, and a nearby source of water, anything from a natural pond to a horse trough or fountain. Like robins and barn swallows, black phoebes build with mud.  

Although it’s a flycatcher, its diet, if one California study is representative, includes more native bees and wasps than flies. One black phoebe died after swallowing a honeybee, which suggests that these useful insects are not on the regular menu. Surprisingly, black phoebes are also fish-eaters. A Pasadena bird was observed diving for goldfish, and a pair in Humboldt County nested near a fish hatchery and fed their brood young steelhead and salmon. Blue elderberries are also eaten. 

There are two other North American phoebe species: the Say’s phoebe of the arid interior and the eastern phoebe, which nested in Thoreau’s shed. Breeding and wintering populations of Say’s in central California and the occasional stray eastern create the possibility of a three-phoebe day. Say’s has a brown back, buff belly, and black tail; the eastern is gray with yellowish underparts, and lacks an eyering or wingbars. (Some ornithologists consider the South American population of the black phoebe to be a fourth species, the white-winged phoebe.) 

On a trip through the Southwest, I came to think of the Say’s phoebe as the State Bird of the Middle of Nowhere. When there was nothing moving in the landscape—not a coyote, not a vulture, not an all-terrain vehicle—there would be Say’s phoebes. Like the black phoebe, the Say’s will build its nest in the eaves of a house or barn if it can find one. Understandably, it uses less mud. 

Say’s phoebes nest in the inner Coast Range; I’ve seen them in spring among the rocks and juniper of Del Puerto Canyon, south of Livermore. Migrants from farther north also winter along the coast, from Sonoma County south. 

You may be wondering about Say (the phoebe genus is Sayornis, “Say’s bird,” and the Say’s phoebe is Sayornis saya.) He was a Philadelphian, grandson of botanist John Bartram, and mainly an insect man; he’s been called the father of American entomology. But naturalists were generalists in those days: when Say accompanied expeditions to the Rockies and the Upper Mississipi, he collected and described whatever was around. Along with a lot of insects, he introduced the lesser goldfinch, lark sparrow, and coyote to science. 

But he met a sad end. In 1826 Say traveled with other intellectuals and artists on what was called the Boatload of Knowledge to New Harmony, Indiana, where the British industrialist/philanthropist Robert Owen had founded a utopian colony. The naturalist died there of typhoid fever at age 47. Some Utopia. 


About the House: How Much Wire Do You Really Need?

By Matt Cantor
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 11:12:00 AM

I confess to some iconoclastic tendencies. I’m probably more geek than rebel but I certainly don’t like to run with the pack. One way in which this is true is that I’m a big fan of antique wiring. It might seem obvious that very old wiring systems are inherently dangerous but it ain’t necessarily the case. Some of these are in great shape and can serve your need handsomely and some are either inherently inadequate by design or have been ruined by any of the armies of despoilers that roam the country. 

If you’re buying or living in a 50- to 100-year-old home, you might want to know a little more about how these sysems work and what they look like, so let’s take a look at what’s good about these and what’s not and when and how to make this call. 

I was out inspecting with a bright young homebuyer named Neil last week when we got to the roof and I noticed the main electrical service drop. Neil had told me that he had done a little wiring and I like to play games so I asked him what he noticed about the twisted set of fat wires that swung in from the street to grasp the house along one side of a front dormer. He looked and wasn’t sure.  

I asked him to count the wires and then he got it. There were only two of these big wires, unlike the three that typically come to a modern house. This was all I needed to know to say that he would be needing a major electrical upgrade. 

Now, there is plenty I still had to learn but what I knew at that point was that the house was only receiving 120 volts from the street because there was only a single hot (or energized) wire as well as a single netural wire. Modern systems, some going all the way back to the 1920s but generally around 1940, have two hot wires and one neutral wire or a three-wire service drop. 

The main electrical panel was also quite a sight and I got to see Neil’s eyes get really big in response. It was found at the very front of the narrow crawlspace just behind a slatted, wooden, ventilation grill behind the camelias at the front of the house. The grill had to be pulled out to see it and when we removed the grill, this is what we saw: 

A wooden board had been nailed to a pair of slender boards that attached to the floor joist so that the board hung down below the floor and faced forward to the crawlspace opening much like a control panel. Screwed on to the panel were several separate parts, mostly made of beautiful highly-glazed porcelain.  

First was a fuse mount with just two fuses. These were the main fuses and were rated at 30 amperes or amps, a measurement of power; and was probably about right given the wire size, which determines the maximum safe current levels, and fuses (or breakers) should be set according to this. The wires from the roof had run down to these fuse mounts and, after running through these little safety devices, ran, by exposed, but insulated wires, to an ancient electrical meter that was hung on this board. The lettering on the meter clearly showed its age, which was about 85 years old.  

The style of having visible wires between all these components is one signature of this as, essentially, a prototype. A system in early development. 

After traveling through the meter, the wires carried the power to several more exposed porcelain fuse mounts, also screwed onto this wooden board and then onward to the rest of the house. 

Oops. I forgot one thing. There was a switch. An open knife switch was installed between the first pair of fuses and the meter. This was one of those Dr. Frankenstein switches that has a wooden handle and two long blades that hinge upward and then snug into a pair of prongs to close the circuit. Unlike modern switches, this one has lots of bare metal parts that, if touched, can shock or kill and, like many electrical devices of this time, was forsaken, in favor of safer designs in the years that followed. Nevertheless, there it stood in all its science-fiction glory for Neil to scratch his head at. 

One important notion to get about this system is that it is fused on both sides of the circuit. That is, the hot wires and the neutral wires both travel through fuses. This means that there were twice as many fuses as circuits. When we run our neutral wires through a fuse, which we never do today, having arrested the method in 1928 (80 years ago!), we set up a condition in which a neutral fuse might blow from excessive current, leaving power running all the way though a circuit (and a lamp or a TV or whatever) with no way to get home to the earth. This means that the device (TV, lamp, microwave) doesn’t come on and the circuit appears to be dead. This is bad for multiple reasons but, in my never-humble opinon, the most important is that one might start to fiddle with the equipment, not realize that it’s still energized, and get shocked. Also, when we are the only viable path to ground, shocks can be much worse. This is why I will always recommend that any fused-neutral condition be eliminated in favor of equpiment that is in constant contact the the earth (grounded). 

The board under the house had four fuse holders on the outgoing side, and, as noted above, these were twice the number of circuits. So, this means that there were only two circuits feeding the house’s outlets and lights.  

Now, this is a big issue. For any of you who remember growing up with fuse boxes, you might recall the common syndrome in which one fuse in the house seemed to bear the brunt of the electrical workload and would perenially blow at exactly the wrong time (Thankgiving. Twelve people in the house. First time Cousin Birdie has deigned to come to OUR house). That’s what we’re looking at for this entire house because two circuits is far too little for what will, inevitably, be run off of this system.  

The truth is that people don’t tailor their electrical usage to the capacity of the system. They just plug things in, which is natural. If there are only one or two outlets in a room, they get those funny outlet covers that turn two outlets into four or six. Then they use a few extension cords to reach all the parts of the room and, voila, everything plugs in. End of story, right? 

What happens when we overburden a system like this is that the wires can get much hotter than they should and, at the most vulnerable point, hidden somewhere in a wall where Uncle Richie stuffed in some newspaper to patch a hole, a fire begins. You know the rest. 

Interestingly, many of the houses that have these wiring conditions also lack a compentent source of heat. This results in the use of electric heaters, devices that draw more power than just about anything else we might plug in and, in turn, fires. Oddly, this means that one of the best things any home owner can do for their fire safety is to fix (or replace) the furnace! 

In short, (no pun intended) what many houses are begging for is a system of wider distribution; of many circuits, not just a few. A system of many circuits and many fuses (or breakers) is inherently safer because each part of it is far less challenged than the two at Neil’s house. 

I guess I didn’t get to much of what I like about our early knob and tube systems but trust me, there is a lot to like and we’ll save that for another day. 

Neil will be getting a lot of new wiring, I’m quite sure and I’ll bet he’ll do a lot of the work himself (with a bit of prudent professional oversight). 

If you have an older house and the wiring hasn’t been looked at in a while, it might be a good idea. Maybe, that way you can avoid any unpleasant current events.  

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. 


Arts & Events

Berkeley Video and Film Festival Showcases the Indie Spirit

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 10:16:00 AM
The 17th annual Berkeley Video and Film Festival features its usual eclectic mix of independent cinema, from The Road to Bonneville, a documentary about hot rod racing in the salt flats of Utah, to George Aguilar’s virtual cinema-poems, with avatar Cecil Hervi roaming the world of Second Life, to California King, a simple tale of budding romance in a mattress showroom.
The 17th annual Berkeley Video and Film Festival features its usual eclectic mix of independent cinema, from The Road to Bonneville, a documentary about hot rod racing in the salt flats of Utah, to George Aguilar’s virtual cinema-poems, with avatar Cecil Hervi roaming the world of Second Life, to California King, a simple tale of budding romance in a mattress showroom.

Time and time again we’ve seen the word “independent” co-opted by the very corporate forces the independents claim independence from: “indie” record labels engulfed by a corporate parent; “indie” film festivals that draw Hollywood’s A-List roster to remote Western boomtowns. 

Well, there’s at least one independent film festival that has not only retained its true indie character, but prides itself on a “celebrity-free” environment. 

East Bay Media Center’s 17th annual Berkeley Video and Film Festival starts Saturday at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas in downtown Berkeley, running Friday through Sunday and screening more than 50 films. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. Friday and at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and continue to nearly midnight each night. 

This year’s program features the usual eclectic blend of wide-ranging fare, from student films to experimental short subjects to feature-length films with a high-gloss sheen—all of them truly independent and all of them unlike anything showing at your local megaplex. 

Things get off to an offbeat start Friday with Emma Strebel’s 45-second Self Portrait, an art project she says developed from “a radical intervention to remedy my head lice.” Get your popcorn early. 

Next up is Eli Akira Kaufman’s California King, a surprisingly moving tale of a mattress salesman who uses his lofty position to bed his more attractive female customers. That is, until he meets one that stirs more than his libido. Like a minimalist short story, the 22-minute California King manages to convey much about its characters with little or no background information; we know their states of mind without needing to know the details. It’s a pared-down love story, with no frills and really no surprises; it simply tells a simple story well. 

Another short subject, Attila Szasz’s Now You See Me, Now You Don’t (30 minutes), takes us in another direction entirely with a story that employs a touch of science fiction in a sort of dark parable of marriage and parenthood. When a work-a-holic scientist uses a formula to make his son invisible, he widens the rift between father and mother and child with tragic results. 

Screening between those two short films are two even shorter films, together adding up to just five minutes, but which open up a brand new world of filmmaking. George Aguilar, who created one of the best films in last year’s festival (The Diary of Niclas Gheiler), returns with two examples from his series of virtual films. Aguilar has immersed himself in the online world of Second Life and has used his avatar, an artist-borg by the name of Cecil Hirvi, to create a series of cinematic poems. The first film, Virtual Starry Night, shows Hirvi stepping into a 3-D world constructed by Second Life users based on the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. The second film, First Love of a Borg, consists of camera movements that sensually trace the contours of a metallic sculpture of a ballerina on display in a virtual museum. 

Festival director Mel Vapour may have to put an asterisk behind his “celebrity-free” claim this year when poet Michael McClure makes an appearance Friday night. McClure will be on hand to answer questions following a screening of Rebel Roar: The Sound of Michael McClure, a 34-minute film that features that Beat Generation poet reading his own work and offering perspectives on his contemporaries. 

The festival’s opening night concludes with Fix (93 minutes), a feature by Tao Ruspoli. Shawn Andrews carries the film with a charismatic performance and a devilish grin that conveys love and arrogance and dissipation all at once. The film’s conceit—a cinephile films every aspect of his life, even as he ventures to Los Angeles to bail his drug-addict brother out of jail and get him into rehab—wears thin after a while, as the device of the first-person camera requires that much screen time be spent defending and justifying it. And the technique lends far less sympathy to the characterizations than Ruspoli probably hoped for. But when it works it strikes an almost voyeuristic tone that makes some scenes come to life. 

Saturday’s screenings include two documentaries. The first, Road to Bonneville (60 minutes), follows two hot-rod builders as they trek across the country in their homemade vintage race cars to the salt flats of Utah, spouting homespun, geeked-out hot rod jargon all the way. Documentaries can bring us into close contact with subcultures we might never otherwise encounter, and Road to Bonneville does just that, giving us a glimpse of a unique and highly specialized world. 

Stop the Presses (80 minutes) is another kind of documentary, giving us an extensive cataloging of a vexing societal problem, in this case the slow-motion death spiral of the newspaper industry. Mark Birnbaum and Manny Mendoza traveled the country and conducted more than 100 interviews to produce this examination of the shifting American media landscape and what it portends for the future, for an informed citizenry, and for the First Amendment. It’s hardly news to news industry insiders of course, but it elucidates for the uninformed the ramifications for democracy once the watchdogs have been put down. 

Tate Taylor’s feature Pretty Ugly People (100 minutes) closes out the festival’s second night. An animated prologue introduces us to Lucy, an overweight woman who undergoes gastric bypass surgery and stages a dramatic reunion to surprise her friends with her new body. But while attempting to enjoy the good and svelte life with them on an extended camping trip, a series of encounters with each friend’s dark side shows her that life isn’t necessarily all that better for the trim and fit. 

Also included in this year’s program are two Chilean features. Just to make things confusing, Sabado screens on Domingo, depicting a real-time drama of a marriage that falls apart just as it is about to begin. The film, with the exception of a single edit, appears to be shot in real time, using its 63 minutes to follow a would-be bride as she discovers her fiancé’s secret, confronts him with it, and then concocts a plan for moving forward, documenting it all with the help of a student cameraman. As with Fix, the first-person camera can be trying at times, and again the script and actors are called upon to continually justify its presence, but it adds up to a fun little experiment in cinema verite. 

The best feature film of the festival is also the strangest. Malta con Huevo is another Chilean entry and it’s quirky from the start as Vladimir, a sketchy cad-about-town, wakes up to find that he has somehow jumped ahead in time a few weeks. Yet when he sleeps and wakes again, he’s back where he began, and no one seems to know what he’s blathering about. We suspect early enough that his signature beverage of malt beer and raw eggs is playing tricks on his mind, but soon enough the film takes a stark left turn as a more nefarious and absurd comic-horror plot reveals itself. 

 

BERKELEY VIDEO AND FILM FESTIVAL 

One-day passes ($13, $10 for students and seniors) are available starting Friday at the Shattuck Cinemas box office, 2230 Shattuck Ave. 464-5980. One-day and three-day passes ($30) are available in advance at East Bay Media Center, 1939 Addison St. 843-3699. www.berkeleyvideofilmfest.org. 


Arts Calendar

Thursday September 25, 2008 - 10:02:00 AM

THURSDAY, SEPT. 25 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Traje de la Vida” Maya textiles of Guatemala. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at The Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Gallery and Patio, 103 Kroeber Hall. RSVP to 642-3682. http://hearstmuseum.berkeley.edu  

“Art for Humanity: United Nations Goals” Group show at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave., through Sept. 28. 848-1228. 

FILM 

“Se’wer Ga’labe”/”Invisible Rider” Ethiopian film in Amharic with English subtitles at 5 and 8 p.m. at Grand Lake Theatre, Oakland. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Robert Fisk reads from “The Age of Warrior” a collection of his essays on the Middle East and other topics at 7 p.m. at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, 1781 Rose St. Benefits the Middle East Children’s Alliance. Tickets are $20. 548-0542. www.mecaforpeace.org. 

Cecile Pineda reads from “Redoubt” and “Bardo 99” as part of Ethnic Studies Department 40th Anniversary Author Series at 6 p.m. at 30 Stephens Hall, UC Campus. 642-3947. 

“Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising” A dramatic reading Thurs.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m. at the Justice and Witness Ministry, Plymouth United Church of Christ, 424 Monte Vista Ave., Oakland. Cost is $13 at the door. 654-5044. www.clarencedarrowgaryanderson.com/lucasville.html 

Sixteen Rivers Press 10th Anniversary Poetry Reading at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Ai Weiwei and Uli Sigg Gallery Talk on “Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection” at noon at Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Mark Morris Dance Group “Romeo & Juliet” through Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $42-$94. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Slaid Cleaves at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Jenny Farris presents Cy Coleman at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Evie Ladin & Evil Diane at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

The Blind, Walty, The Soft White Sixties at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 

Speak the Music, beat boxing with Butterscotch, Soulati, Infinite, and others at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

John Seabury at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Ashkenaz Dead Night at 10 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $5. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

The Duhks at 8 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

FRIDAY, SEPT. 26 

THEATER 

“A Visit with Julia Morgan” Miss Morgan appears with the assistance of architectural historian Betty Marvin at 7:30 p.m. at College Avenue Presbyterian Church, 5951 College Ave., Oakland. Minimum donation $10. Benefits the restoration of CAPC’s organ. 658-3665. 

Altarena Playhouse “Bat Boy: The Musical” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through Nov. 1. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Aurora Theatre “The Best Man” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. at 2081 Addison St. through Sept. 28. Tickets are $40-$42. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Rep “Yellowjackets” by Itamar Moses, a Berkeley resident, set at Berkeley High School, Tues.-Sun. at the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St., through Oct. 12. Tickets are $27-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

California Conservatory Theatre “They’re Playing Our Song” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., 2 p.m. on Sat. and Sun. at 999 East 14th St, San Leandro City Hall Complex, near BART, through Oct. 12. Tickets are $20-$22. 632-8850. www.cct-sl.org 

Contra Costa Civic Theater “Witness for the Prosecution” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, through Oct. 19. 524-9132. www.ccct.org  

Impact Theatre “Ching Chong Chinaman” Thurs.-Sat at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, to Oct. 11. Tickets are $10-$17. 464-4468. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “The Petrified Forest” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, through Sept. 27. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Oakland Public Theater, “Before the Dream: The mysterious death (and life) of Richard Wright” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at the Noodle Factory, 1255 26th St., corner of Union, Oakland, through Oct. 5. Tickets are $9-$20. 534-9529. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Shotgun Players “Vera Wilde” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Oct. 19. Tickets are $17-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

FILM 

Berkeley Video & Film Festival Continuous screenings through Sun. at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Ave. Program info 843-3699. Tickets 464-5980. 

“U-Carmen e Khayelitsha” with actor Pauline Malefane and novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o in person, at 8:10 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

EXHIBITIONS 

“And Thus ... Accordingly” Works from found materials by Robert Armstrong on display from 1 to 5 p.m. Fri.- Sun. at Garage Gallery, Berkeley Outlet, 3110 Wheeler St. near Ashby and Shattuck. 549-2896. 

WomensArt.com “real-time” Opening reception at 6:30 p.m. at 4148 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. The show will be open Saturday and Sunday, September 27 & 28 from 1 to 4 p.m. 261-5323. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

African and Afro-Caribbean Performance Conference Fri.-Sun., with speakers and performers including Gerard Aching, Pauline Malefane, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and Tejumola Olaniyan. For details see www.berkeleytdps.org 

Walter Medeiros and S.G. Scott read from their new books at 7 p.m. at Regent Press Gallery, 4770 Telegraph Ave., Oakland.  

Tariq Ali discusses “Pakistan, Afghanistan and American Power” at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Cost is $12-$15. 848-3696. www.kpfa.org 

“Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising” A dramatic reading Thurs.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m. at the Justice and Witness Ministry, Plymouth United Church of Christ, 424 Monte Vista Ave., Oakland. Cost is $13 at the door. 654-5044. www.clarencedarrowgaryanderson.com/lucasville.html 

Larry Nolan reads from his short story collection “Perpetual Care” at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Zahid Sardar and Marion Brenner introduce their new book “New Garden Design: Inspiring Private Paradises” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

“The Jewish Violin” with Donna Lerew, violin and Skye Atman, piano, at 8 p.m. at First Unitarian Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Road, Kensington. 524-5203. www.uucb.org 

Point Richmond Summer Music with Resin 7 and Mucho Axe at 5:30 p.m. outdoors at Park Place in downtown Point Richmond. www.pointrichmond.com 

VidyA, jazz and South Indian, at 8 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $10-$15. 845-1350. www.hillsideclub.org 

Eduardo Peralta and Manual Sanchez, Chilean paya at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Mark Morris Dance Group “Romeo & Juliet” through Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $42-$94. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Tiffany Joy at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Carla Zilbersmith & Her Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Chiwoniso, contemporary Zimbabwean music, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Omar Mokhtari at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Lucy Kaplansky at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $26.50-$27.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Or the Whale, The Mumlers, The Porchsteps at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

3rd Date at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Macabea at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Keyan WIlliams and Jasmine at 9 p.m. at Maxwell’s Restaurant and Lounge, 341 13th St., Oakland. Cost is $10. 839-6169. 

Dave Holland Sextet with Robin Eubanks, Eric Harland, Antonio Hart, Steve Nelson and Alex Sipiagin at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $16-$22. 238-9200.  

SATURDAY, SEPT. 27 

CHILDREN  

“Harvest at the Lake” Native American stories at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259.  

FILM 

Berkeley Video & Film Festival Continuous screenings through Sun. at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Ave. Program info 843-3699. Tickets 464-5980. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising” A dramatic reading Thurs.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m. at the Justice and Witness Ministry, Plymouth United Church of Christ, 424 Monte Vista Ave., Oakland. Cost is $13 at the door. 654-5044. www.clarencedarrowgaryanderson.com/lucasville.html 

Rhythm & Muse spoken word and music open mic, featuring poets May Garsson and Alice Templeton at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St behind Live Oak Park. 644-6893. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Mark Morris Dance Group “Romeo & Juliet” at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $42-$94. 642-9988.  

David Crosby & Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and others in a benefit for Seva Foundation at 8 p.m. at Oakland Paramount Theater. Tickets are $75-$125. 845-7382, ext. 332. www.seva.org 

San Francisco Early Music Society “An Evening with Bach: Music for Spirit, Heart, and Mind” at 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College at Garber. Tickets are $10-$25. 528-1725. www.sfems.org 

Liche Oseguera, Julio Domínguez, Los Camperos de Valles, Artemio Pasadas, Mexican son, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$15. 849-2568.  

Kenny Washington & His Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $15. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Baba Ken & Kotoja at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. African dance lesson at 9 p.m. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Cabaret Night at 7 p.m. at First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St. Tickets are $15. 893-6129. http://uuoakland.org  

House Jacks at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Karen Monté Group at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

David Jeffrey’s Jazz Fourtet at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Charlie Wilson’s War at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

The Revtones, Los High Tops at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Wil Blades Quartet at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

SUNDAY, SEPT. 28 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Atheon” Cosmology-based art by Jonathon Keats opens at Magnes Museum, 2222 Harold Way. www.magnes.org 

“No Boundaries” Art show and music from Sonic Safari from noon to 6 p.m. at Sculpture Garden, 3618 Peralta St., Emeryville. 655-7374. 

FILM 

Berkeley Video & Film Festival Continuous screenings from 1 p.m. at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Ave. Program info 843-3699. Tickets 464-5980. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Roundtable of Music and Discussion with Eduardo Peralta and Manuel Sanchez from Chile, and Liche Oseguera and Julio Dominguez from Mexico, and Fito Reinoso from Cuba, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at La Peña. 849-2568. 

“Gods Who Hear Prayers, Personal Piety in Ancient Egypt”with Cindy Ausec, PhD candidate, at 2:30 p.m. at Barrows Hall, Room 20, UC Campus. 415-664-4767. 

Katie Hafner will discuss her new book, “Romance on Three Legs” the story of Glenn Gould’s beloved Steinway, at 2 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Three young pianists will illustrate her talk with recitals of Bach. Free. www.hillsideclub.org 

Julia Morgan’s “Little Castle” The Berkeley City Club, docent led tour from 1 to 4 p.m. at 2315 Durant Ave. 848-7800. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

“Sweet Temptations” Highlights of Berkeley Opera’s upcoming 30th anniversary season at 7 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave. Tickets are $25-$50. 800-838-3006. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Clerestory “Explorations” men’s a cappella ensemble performs music of LeJeune, Gesualdo, Milhaud, Vaughan Williams and Bay Area composers at 5 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Bancroft at Ellsworth. Tickets are $10-$20. 415-331-5544. www.clerestory.org 

“hahn/huhn” performance by Tris Vonna-Michel, in conjunction with the exhibition “Bending the Word” at 3 p.m. at 3 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum Theater, 2626 Bancroft Way. Admission is $3-$8. 642-0808. 

Martha Toledo, songs from Oaxaca, at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $16-$18. 849-2568. 

“Jazz Idiom” Al Young & Charles Robinson at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Americana Unplugged at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Flamenco Open Stage at 7:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Doug Beavers Rovira & Nine “Two Shades of Nude” at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20. 845-5373.  

Calvin Keys, Ricardo Eixoto and Friends, Brazilian jazz at 2 p.m., Tonette Jeanine at 7 p.m., at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

The Ravines at 3 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. 558-0881. 

MONDAY, SEPT. 29 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Poetry Express theme night on “barriers and bridges” at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 

Banned Books: Celebrating the Freedom to Read Readings from the Bible, Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass,” and others, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Library Plaza, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6107. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Trovatore, traditional Italian music, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave.548-5198.  

Classical at the Freight with Jean-Michel Fonteneau and Axel Strauss at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $8.50-$9.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

George Cole, gypsy jazz, at 8 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Downtown Jam Session with Glen Pearson at 7 p.m. at Ed Kelly Hall, Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, 1616 Franklin St., Oakland. Cost is $5. www.opcmucsic.org 

TUESDAY, SEPT. 30 

EXHIBITIONS 

Berkeley Public Library Staff Art Show Works including paintings, collage, ceramics, quilting and knitting, on display through Oct. 27 at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6241. 

Neighborhood Public Arts Project and “External Influences” Works by Peter Foucault opens at the Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Ave. at 25th St., Richmond, and runs through Oct. 31. 620-6772. www.therichmondartcenter.org 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Craig Perez, poet, reads from his new book “From Unincorporated Territory” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Vols String Quartet, "Gems of the Classical Repertoire" at 8 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $10-$20. 525-5211. www.berkeleychamberperform.org 

Gerard Landry & the Lariats at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054.  

Singers’ Open Mic with Kelly Park at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Ben Stolorow, jazz pianist, at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Randy Craig Trio at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Johnny Nitro’s Blues Jam at 7 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Wayne Shorter Quartet at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $60. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays, a weekly showcase of up-and-coming ensembles from Berkeley Jazzschool at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 1 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Alexander McCall Smith, author of “The Very Small Things of Life” at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $20-$32. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

 

 

 

 

 

Michelle Mansour, director of Root Division at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. in Live Oak Park. Cost is $8-$10. 644-6893. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Wednesday Noon Concert, with April Paik & Jessica Ling, violin, Kristine Pacheco & Tovah Keynton, viola, and Kevin Yu & Diana Lee, cello at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Vive le Jazz! at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Winstrong at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Kleptograss, with Eric Thompson, Scott Nygaard, Paul Shelasky, Tom Rozum, and Laurie Lewis, at 8 p.m. at Strings, 6320 San Pablo Ave., Emeryville. 653-5700. 

Tango Parlor at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Tango dance lesson at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Mazacote at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Salsa dance lessons at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Cynthia Tarr, jazz vocalist at 8 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Whiskey Brothers, old-time and bluegrass at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Wayne Shorter Quartet featuring Brian Blade, John Patitucci and Danilo Perez at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $60-$70. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

THURSDAY, OCT. 2 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Walls” Paintings by Joel Isaacson on comtemporary social and political concerns. Reception at 5:30 p.m., artist talk at 6 p.m. at Flora Lamson Hewlett Library, 2400 Ridge Rd. Exhibition runs to Jan. 30. 649-2500. www.gtu.edu 

“Residency Projects, Part 4” Works by Adriane Colburn, Taraneh Hemami, and Leslie Shows, opens at Kala Art Institute, 1060 Heinz Ave., and runs through Nov. 22. 549-2977. www.kala.org 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Dunbar Ogden discusses his new book “My Father Said Yes: A White Pastor in Little Rock School Integration” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

“Punk, Presidential Politics and Art” A conversation between Vail and Jello Biafra in a benefit for the progressive Berkeley Rent Board slate at 7 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7-$10. 525-9926. 

“An Evening of Prose and Politics” with Susan Griffin and George Lakoff at 6 p.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 18. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Roots Natty, Miosotis, Royal Family Show at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Julian Smedly & Alison Odell at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Kelly Park & Friends at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Space Heater, The Sonando Project at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8-$10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

FRIDAY, OCT. 3 

THEATER 

Altarena Playhouse “Bat Boy: The Musical” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through Nov. 1. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Berkeley Rep “Yellowjackets” by Itamar Moses, a Berkeley resident, set at Berkeley High School, Tues.-Sun. at the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St., through Oct. 12. Tickets are $27-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

California Conservatory Theatre “They’re Playing Our Song” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., 2 p.m. on Sat. and Sun. at 999 East 14th St, San Leandro City Hall Complex, near BART, through Oct. 12. Tickets are $20-$22. 632-8850. www.cct-sl.org 

Contra Costa Civic Theater “Witness for the Prosecution” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, through Oct. 19. 524-9132. www.ccct.org  

Impact Theatre “Ching Chong Chinaman” Thurs.-Sat at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, to Oct. 11. Tickets are $10-$17. 464-4468. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Tally’s Folly” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. Tickets are $10. 232-3888. www.masquers.org 

Oakland Public Theater, “Before the Dream: The mysterious death (and life) of Richard Wright” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at the Noodle Factory, 1255 26th St., corner of Union, Oakland, through Oct. 5. Tickets are $9-$20. 534-9529. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Ragged Wing Ensemble “The History of the Devil” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Central Stage, 5221 Central Ave., Richmond, Through Nov. 1. Tickets are $10-$30. www.raggedwing.org 

Shotgun Players “Vera Wilde” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Oct. 19. Tickets are $17-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Lace Comes of Age” Tape Laces from the 17th to 20th Century. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Lacis Museum of Lace and textiels, 3163 Adeline St. 843-7178. LacisMuseum.org 

“Look at me Looking at you” Works by Lauren Odell Usher and Heidi Forssell. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Red Door Gallery and Collective, 416 26th Street, Oakland. 374-0444. 

“Strange Brew” Fantastic and strange art by strange artists, celebrating Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Eclectix, 10082 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. www.eclectixgallery.com 

Eth6 Magazine Issue 3: Contributing Artist Exhibition Reception at 7 p.m. at blankspace, 6608 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. 547-6608. 

Emeryville Art Exhibition Opening reception at 6 p.m. at 5815 Shellmound Way, Emeryville. Exhibition runs to Oct. 26. www.emeryarts.org 

“New Work” Mixed media by JoAnn Biagini, paintings by Catherine Perillo. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Mercury 20, 25 Grand Ave., Oakland. 701-4620. www.mercurytwenty.com 

“Phenomena of Essence” Works by Keira Kotler, Gretchen Jane Mentzer, Laura Paulini and Dianne Romaine. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary, 25 Grand Ave., upper level. Exhibition runs through Nov. 15. www.chandracerrito.com 

“Nature Word ~ Verbe Nature” Photographic silver sun prints by Susannah Hays. Artist reception at 6 p.m. at NoneSuch Space, 2865 Broadway at 29th St., 2nd flr., Oakland. 625-1600. 

“Strictfathermodel” Works by Joseph Essoe Paintings, photographs, sculpture and video. Reception at 7 p.m. at 21 Grand, 416 25th St. at Broadway, Oakland. www.21grand.org 

“Great Wall of Oakland” Illuminated Corridor The lighting of Kahn’s Alley, the entrance to City Hall Plaza bordered by the Oakland Art Gallery and the Rotunda Building, with art, music and film from 7 to 10 p.m. 533-1977. suki@illuminatedcorridor.com 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

La Voz de la Mujer with Dina Omar, a Palestinian-American, Mahina Movement, Las Bomberas de la Bajia at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Mazacote at 5 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Steve Smith’s Jazz Legacy at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Falso Baiano CD release party at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Rebecca Riots at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $1-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Roy Rogers & Norton Buffalo at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

David Kent, Paul H. Taylor & the Montera Mountain Boys at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

The Royal Deuces, The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit, Big Mistake at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Nekita Germaine at 9 p.m. at Maxwell’s Restaurant and Lounge, 341 13th St., Oakland. Cost is $15. 839-6169. 

Paul Baribeau, Good Luck, Fischer at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 

Ben Stolorow at 8:30 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Jerry Kennedy, acoustic soul, at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

SATURDAY, OCT. 4 

CHILDREN  

Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Derique the clown at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

“The Girl Who Lost Her Smile” Performance based on Rumi’s poem Sat. and Sun. at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259. www.fairyland.org 

THEATER 

Stone Soup Improv Comedy at 8 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St. at Telegraph, Oakland. Cost is $6-$9. www.stonesoupimprov.com 

EXHIBITIONS 

“L.A. Paint” Current SoCal painting by eleven artists opens at Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

FILM 

“Love it Like a Fool” a film about Malvina Reynolds, Berkeley songwriter and political activist at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge at Shattuck. 981-6241. 

Jewish Film Series “My Nose” and “Home on the Range: Jewish Chicken Farmers of Petaluma” at 7 p.m. at Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Rd., Alameda. Cost is $10. 522-9355. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Bay Area Poets Coalition open reading from 3 to 5 pm. at Strawberry Creek Lodge, 1320 Addison St. Park on the street. 527-9905. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Francisco Herrera and Jon Fromer, singer/songwriters, in a benefit concert to close the School of the Americas at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison St. 986-0168. 

Eric Hamilton, classical guitar, at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864. www.trinitychamberconcerts.com 

Sandra Soderlund, organ music at 8 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, One Lawson Road, Kensington. Suggested donation $10-$15. 525-0302. 

Nino Moschella, Melina Jones, Do Dat & Isis at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Jazz Express at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Dave Ridnell & Friends, Brazilian jazz, at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Burlesque ‘n’ Brass, featuring Hot Pink Feathers & Blue Bone Express, Orleans-inspired jazz, at 9 p.m. at Café Van Kleef, 1621 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Cost is $10. 763-7711. 

Sambada at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Sotaque Baiano, Brazilian, at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

Jessie Rubin, Sheila O’Toole at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Cascada de Flores at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Howard Wiley: A Tribute to Dexter Gordon, Part Deux at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15-$18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Gateswingers Jazz Band at 4 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836.  

Hoe, The Shelley Doty X-Tet at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $9. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Endless Demise, Parasytic, Untill the Fall at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 

Wayne Shorter Quartet featuring Brian Blade, John Patitucci and Danilo Perez at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $60-$70. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

SUNDAY, OCT. 5 

CHILDREN 

Active Arts Theatre for Young Audiences “How I Became a Pirate” at 2 and 4 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $14-$18. www.activeartstheatre.org 

FILM 

Talk Cinema Berkeley Preview of new independent films with dscussion afterwards at 10 a.m. at Albany Twin Theater, 1115 Solano Ave., Albany. Cost is $20. http://talkcinema.com 

“Taxi to the Dark Side” A film on the torture practices of the United States at 4 p.m. at Townsend Center for the Humanities, 220 Stephens Hall, UC campus. 642-0965. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Poetry Flash with Ellen Bass and Jane Hirshfield at 3 p.m. at Diesel, A Bookstore, 5433 College Ave., Oakland. 653-9965. www.dieselbookstore.com 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Richard Goode, piano, at 3 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $34-$62. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Afiara String Quartet at 4 p.m. at Crowden Music Center, 1475 Rose St. Cost is $12. Free for under 18. 559-2941. concerts@crowden.org 

Sugarspun, indie rock, at 2 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Phil Hawkins CD release party at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Trick Kernan Combo at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Eono Kane, Hawaiian music, at 3:30 p.m. at Temple Bar Tiki Bar & Grill, 984 University Ave. Cost is $12. Reservations recommended. 524-6403. 

Fasmania at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

 


Martha Toledo Sings at La Peña

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 10:01:00 AM

Singer Martha Toledo from southern Oaxaca, Mexico, aptly described as “radiant” and “dazzling,” will perform songs celebrating her native region with guitarists Jose Roberto and Manuel Constancio, with “un flor, un canto y una poesia” by Nancy and Elizabeth Esteva, at “Pura Fiesta!” at La Peña on Shattuck Avenue, on Sunday, Sept. 28, at 7:30 p.m. 

Toledo will also appear at Brava! Theater in San Francisco’s Mission District Thursday at 7 p.m., with a showing of Berkeley filmmaker Maureen Gosling’s Blossoms of Fire, about Toledo’s hometown of Juchitan, and then again on Friday at 8 p.m., as part of “Mexico Norte y Sur,” singing with her accompanists on a bill that includes rare female Nortena conjunto accordionist Rene Pena-Gove and Her Family Band, as well as the Estevas.  

Toledo’s appearances are presented by Accion Latina and Mario A. Munguia, working with Intrepidas Productions, Maureen Gosling’s film production company.  

Gosling, who formerly collaborated with filmmaker Les Blank for 20 years, first met Toledo in 1994 while making Blossoms of Fire with Ellen Osbourne, their celebrated film on the women of Juchitan.  

“Martha was the owner, for more than 17 years, of Bar Jardin, a restaurant we ate at a lot, where we would have a beer with the crew and friends at the end of the day,” Gosling recalled. “Her husband, who ran the ecology center, helped us a lot with arrangements, meeting people ... I really liked Martha, but didn’t know she sang. Then an Italian filmmaker, Claudio Zangarini, was finishing his super low budget feature in San Francisco and, by coincidence, he’d shot it down there—and here was Martha in the film, singing a cappella in the shower and enchanting the main character.” 

Over the years Gosling kept in touch with Juchitan and with Toledo, returning to premiere the film in 2001. (It would premiere in the United States at the San Francisco Film Festival and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.) “There were more opportunities to get to know Martha. And Claudio would bring back news of her and of the community.” 

In 2005, Toledo attended the Congress of Matriarchal Studies at the University of Texas.  

“Not only anthropologists were invited, but also women from the countries studied, to talk about their lives,” Gosling said. “I thought, ‘If she’s in the U.S., I’d love to bring her to the Bay Area.”  

Gosling coordinated Toledo’s visit with screenings of her film, where Toledo answered questions and sang. “I’m not a concert promoter, but I learned a lot through film distribution, and I had my e-mail list.” 

Gosling paired Toledo with a well-known local group, Cascada de Flores, and with guitarist Jose Roberto—a native of Tabasco, who studied guitar in Juchitan and knew Toledo’s repetoire—for successful shows at La Peña and the Mission Cultural Center. Toledo also sang at a folk festival in Fresno and a gallery in Newport, Ore., where a friend belonged to a group of women artists. 

Toledo, who began her singing career late, nevertheless has sung all her life, first accompanying her father at home and casually in neighbors’ homes and at parties, for about 12 years, before moving to her mother’s hometown nearby. “When my father would come home from work, he’d play the guitar,” she said. “He wasn’t really a musician. He’d play by ear. Singing with him was a special relationship between us.” 

After high school, where she had studied with a drama teacher, Toledo wanted to become an actress and study singing. But she married at 17. While she was a restaurateur, she always had strolling musicians, a traditional thing, and sometimes sang informally. A regional record producer, Delfino Ordaz, heard her and offered to record a CD, but Toledo declined. “I wanted to do it,” she said, “but to do it in the right way”—through preparation and voice lessons.  

After the death of her husband, Toledo journeyed back and forth to the city of Oaxaca, where she moved in 2002, studying with an Italian photographer. The two now collaborate on photographic projects, and also have a child together. “She’s a great photograper,” Gosling said. “We hope to have her pictures in the lobby at Brava!”  

Six years ago, after meeting Delfino Ordaz again, “I was ready,” she said. 

Toledo began recording her first CD, “Teca Huiini.” After a long germination, it was released two years ago. It took so long “because I was never happy with it!” Her uncle “gave me a hard time about it, so I decided after two years I had to accept it, like a child with all its defects. If I hadn’t let it go, I’d still be working on it!” 

She now has a second CD and is working on a third, all with Trio Monte Alban, Ordaz’s house band. 

In 2003, Toledo sang for the first time in public, with a slide show she gave in Vera Cruz, pictures for a book she plans to put together on the coming of age and life cycle of women, singing a song about life, “The Last Word,” sung just before burials. Her singing has been featured on two anthologies, “Rain of Dreams” and “Songs of Life and Death,” both of indigenous women singers from around Mexico. She’s playing more shows in Mexico and embarks on a 23-venue tour of Germany in November.  

“Before you do art,” Toledo said, “you have to have something to say. I started with photography, became a singer, and sometimes combine the two. And I like to write, and to experiment with different forms ... to touch the heart of the people. It’s like a gift, something they can keep in their hearts and their spirits, to help them be happier, to light up their day. If I succeed at that, I’m happy.” 

Events info: http://moiicaarts.com/ 

postcard/091208. 

Martha Toledo music video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBDeK-9MeBA. 

Link for “Blossoms of Fire” video:  

www.maureengosling.com. 

“Pura Fiesta!”  

Martha Toledo and guitarists Jose Roberto and Manuel Constancio, with “un flor, un canto y una poesia” by Nancy and Elizabeth Esteva. La Peña on Shattuck Ave. Sunday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m.


Shotgun Players Stage ‘Vera Wilde’ at the Ashby Stage

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 10:03:00 AM

Vera Wilde is a fable about the way society eats its heroes,” Shotgun Players founder Patrick Dooley quoted director Maya Gurantz’s anthropophagic line when introducing Chris Jeffries’ heady musical on opening night.  

Gurantz, founder of Temescal Labs (nee Ten Red Hen) and director of The 99-Cent Miss Saigon and Clown Bible, amplified the analysis in her program notes: “More precisely, how people who lead the fight against society’s restrictions are simultaneously celebrated and destroyed by the people they attempt to change.” 

This cannibalistic fable is deliciously laid out on the Ashby Stage, backed by the angular, vertiginous London row houses—windows like vacant, staring eyes—stylized and etched in black and white by Lisa Clark, who designed the sets for Shotgun’s Love Is a Dream House in Lorin and Bullrusher.  

Like a musical—and humorous—chain letter, Vera Wilde’s predicated on another play, Oscar Wilde’s forgotten maiden run, Vera, or the Nihilists, inspired by the 1878 trial of Vera Zasulich, dubbed “the Mother of Terrorism,” despite her later protests of violent means, who shot Czarist General Trepov and was acquitted of a charge of attempted murder, setting off a spate of reforms—and further acts of provocation. (Zasulich later collaborated on the revolutionary newspaper The Spark with Lenin while in Swiss exile. She followed the Mensheviks in the split with the Bolsheviks, returning to Russia during the 1905 Revolution, dying in 1919.)  

Vera Wilde takes off in a succession of scenes that parallels the lives of these two seekers after scandal, who refitted obloquy as a means for social critique, only to be permanently branded with the stereotype of the headlines. Clever songs and quick production numbers, featuring Brittany Brown Ceres’ spot-on choreography, rise out of and burlesque the storytelling, as when a pained, fur-coated Oscar (played by deft, deliciously arch Sean Owen) looks on while a New York husband-and-wife vaudeville team (Edward Brauer and Danielle Levin), who have bought the rights to Vera, crank it out as a tear-jerker in old melodrama style, while happily trouping through a musical number about their revisions to Wilde’s text. (Vera closed after three days in New York, its only staging.) 

Like a screwy musical docu-drama that parodies its subject, Vera Wilde then jumps the tracks, confabulating its protagonists’ otherwise distinct lives: Oscar steps in as Vera’s defense attorney (Alexandra Creighton as Vera), comparing her to Judith beheading Holofernes in a song and dance: “It’s written in the Bible, but so’s ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’/ This proved that Judith’s act accorded with a higher will”—while at his own trial for immoral behavior, Oscar sees himself, like Vera, as Joan of Arc but with wit, not visions and voices. (His wry shafts bounce off the armor of relentless prosecutor Carson, played by Tyler Kent.)  

This self-deprecatory boisterousness finds its avatar in Gurantz’s ever-active staging and her cast of five troupers’ constant ability to turn on a dime and change character. Dave Malloy’s raggy orchestrations are put across swingingly by a little combo that bubbles along. 

It’s one of the most interesting, exciting shows ever on the Ashby Stage, though Jeffries’ funny, speculative script passively reverts at times to the kind of storytelling it mostly burlesques: A Methuselah of a Lenin (Tyler Kent again) stands for the usual caricature of the opportunist revolutionary, absorbing trite images of other historical figures—and Wilde is regarded too much as the effete dandy of legend, mistaking the mask for the man, merely a gadfly spouting absurdities to cover what he “really wanted to say.” His family background in Irish nationalism is never mentioned, nor how Nonsense proved a via negativa contra the Anglo-Saxon positivism of the British Empire, as nihilism’s denial countered the absolutism of Victoria’s cousin, the Czar. 

Vera Wilde is exhilarating when its players are set loose, becoming theatrical figures more than characters or caricatures—personae, able to give voice and embody (and show the humor of) whole complexes, problems, historical situations greater than self-involved individuals. A perfect mode to show what happens to the willing or unwilling martyr, the person in the news who carries it “too far” and becomes a symbol.  

As Wilde said shortly before his death to André Gide, gently criticizing Gide’s own early self-mythologizing lyric prose, “Promise me that you’ll never, ever say ‘I’ again—because in a work of art, there is no first person.” 

VERA WILDE 

8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 19 at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. $17-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.com.


Books: How Berkeley Changed the World

By Steven Finacom Special to the Planet
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 10:10:00 AM

IT CAME FROM BERKELEY 

By Dave Weinstein. Published by Gibb Smith. $24.99.  

Berkeley’s history is not a joke, but that’s no reason not to have fun telling it.  

Dave Weinstein accomplishes that in his new book, It Came From Berkeley: How Berkeley Changed The World, just out from Gibbs Smith.  

In around 200 pages of article-length essays, each title beginning with “How Berkeley…” Weinstein turns the soil of local history and hits pay dirt—or, perhaps, this being Berkeley, rich, organic, literary compost.  

There are 57 short chapters, telling stories that stand-alone and intermingle. “How Berkeley Went Socialist” (in 1911, that is), “How Berkeley Got Good Taste,” “How Berkeley Invented the Bomb,” “How Berkeley Women Grew Uppity,” “How Berkeley Got Religion,” and so on. 

On Sunday, Oct. 19, Weinstein will give a talk about the book at the Berkeley Historical Society (see sidebar for details, and other local events). 

Although the book ranges from the mid-19th century to 2008, he doesn’t set out to record all of Berkeley history. Rather, he extracts from the past illuminating examples of how Berkeley’s culture, politics, and predilections evolved, and also had a genuine impact on the region, nation, and world.  

He also brings back to public notice some of Berkeley’s more unjustly overlooked historical figures, like William Frederick Badè —Divine, and Biblical archaeologist—and our first African-American legislator, William Byron Rumford. 

Berkeley has indeed had an impact, sometimes even extending beyond the imagination of its proudest citizens. It was the first large American city to voluntarily de-segregate its schools and the wellspring of “scientific policing,” “free speech,” and the wetsuit. The Jacuzzi and the atomic bomb alike had their birth here. 

It’s a rich past: the origins of the disabled rights and independent living movements; conservation and environmental efforts, including the role of Berkeleyans in the Sierra Club, pioneering regional parks, and saving bays and estuaries; listener-sponsored radio, and a multitude of cooperative movements; “Wonder Teams” and world saving religious endeavors.  

Berkeley’s experience with the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942 and checkered history of racial relations, both with Asian immigrants, and African Americans, receive considerable attention as well as the complex controversies and conflicts of the 1960s and ’70s. 

The book is also infused with a very important message to Berkeley’s detractors. No matter how strange and bizarre and out of the mainstream Berkeley seems, a lot has started here that has later resonated, and improved life, elsewhere.  

And Berkeleyans through the generations, Weinstein argues, have struggled for the same things most people, whatever their political persuasion, cherish: good homes, jobs, schools, neighborhoods and neighbors, workable government, a spiritual and meaningful life, a community to belong to. 

“Do Americans believe in individualism, living the good life, and participatory democracy? That’s what Berkeley is all about … This book suggests that, rather than existing outside of America, Berkeley exists at its heart.” 

Those fighting today to once again protect Berkeley’s residential neighborhoods will particularly appreciate Weinstein’s analysis of “How Berkeley Preserved Its Neighborhoods.”  

He writes, “One of Berkeley’s greatest contributions to America is its promotion of neighborhood preservation. The city’s efforts to preserve its neighborhoods through rezoning, traffic-calming, and historic preservation have been much emulated elsewhere.” 

The 1960s exerted such a powerful influence on the image of Berkeley—and lured so many people here—that they are a demarcating line in history that often blinds contemporary locals to the lessons and experiences of Berkeley’s past before the Free Speech Movement. 

Weinstein works expertly on both sides of that divide, as does historian Charles Wollenberg in his Berkeley: A City in History, also published this year. 

A recurrent theme among the essays is that much of what happens in Berkeley now has precedents and parallels in early Berkeley history.  

For example, do Berkeley’s current cultural mavens feel smug that they created a nationally recognized regional theater and are planning for a new Berkeley Art Museum downtown?  

Berkeley’s been there, done that, and before they were born. Cal alumnus and theatrical impresario Samuel Hume and others established a well regarded community theater and art museum here in the 1920s, although they eventually expired in the Depression. 

Do locals pride themselves on how Berkeley became a leader in equal rights in the 1960s and later? They have reason to be proud, but, Weinstein reminds us that, in 1902, there was “a club of 200 suffragists going over in Berkeley,” reportedly the largest such organization for women’s suffrage on the West Coast.  

However, Weinstein is also careful to document the demographic and political changes that have indeed changed the town and distinguish recent eras from the more distant past. From a self-satisfied, and fairly successful, semi-suburban, largely Republican, community, leavened with freethinkers, Berkeley had morphed, by the 1970s, into what everyone understands today as Berkeley. 

This is a transition aptly summed up on the back cover by juxtaposing the popular early 20th century motto of Berkeley, “Athens of the West,” with the current sobriquet, “People’s Republic.” 

“Anyone watching Berkeley, from within or without, understood that it had become Berkeley,” Weinstein writes of the 1970s. “The people it attracted, the people it retained, decided in advance that they were Berkeley people. They were a self-selected bunch. Victims of fate.” 

This is a fun book, but not a shallow one. Weinstein, a professional journalist and skilled writer, has also established himself as a solid local historian. He drew his material from numerous archives and sources, and includes a dozen pages of detailed footnotes. 

Much of what he includes has been written about before, but he presents the material in a fresh and illuminating way. He also respectfully credits other writers and local historians in the text, a welcome difference from those who tend to rewrite history as if they completely discovered it themselves. 

Weinstein has a wry turn of phrase. After describing how the wife of the University of California’s president watched, appalled, as dump trucks poured garbage into San Francisco Bay, and was spurred to organize the Save The Bay movement, he observes, “By 1961, Kay Kerr had seen her fill.” 

And his summing up of the way Berkeley’s most noted eccentric bohemians also tended to be upstanding, hardworking citizens: “in Berkeley, la vie Bohemè kept its voice down.” 

He also has the good journalist’s eye for highlighting the inadvertently odd event, such as the night in 1968 when locals could choose between hearing Timothy Leary speak at the Community Theater or Billy Graham at the Greek Theater. 

The graphics are a bit goofy (that’s typically the work of the publisher, not the author), taking their cue from the cover illustration, a modified 1960s postcard showing Sather Tower surrounded by orange and blue psychedelic swirls. Fonts erupt steroidally, text joggles around captions, illustrations, and small boxes entitled “Places” contain a sentence apiece on where to find or see some surviving aspect of Berkeley history.  

Although I had an opportunity to see an early version of the text, I was surprised and delighted with many of the photographs in the final product, and how they support the written narrative. Unless you’re an archivist (and even then) there may not be many pictures in this book that you’ve seen before. Even familiar sights are illustrated with little-used images.  

There are lots of photos from mid-century through the present, from multi-sport 1940s Cal athlete Jackie Jenson lounging on the beach at Lake Anza, to war worker training at Berkeley High School in 1942, scenes of the defunct Berkeley Co-op, still-thriving KPFA, Berkeley’s second socialist mayor, Gus Newport, leading a protest rally in the 1980s and, yes, Stadium oak grove tree-sitters this year. 

Weinstein has also extracted from older writings, and otherwise garnered, a whole sheaf of great quotes about Berkeley that could almost make up a stand-alone narrative on their own.  

“Some of the residents of the town are frequently annoyed by the impossibility of sleep during the time which the caroling bands (of UC students) spend in their vicinity…” (a Berkeley newspaper in 1879). 

“If Cosmic Religion societies are organized, they will be required to receive their charters from the Berkeley headquarters” (Charles Keeler, poet, activist, failed prophet, and manager of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce). 

“This (1960s Berkeley public school de-segregation) was brought about by the largest master plan committee in the world, I guess…” (School Superintendent Neil Sullivan, unconsciously presaging every Berkeley community planning effort since). 

“In two years the political body unique in the nation, the Berkeley City Council, will have choked its producing citizens to death, just as Vesuvius spewed ash and dust upon the people of Pompeii.” (City Councilmember John DeBonis, 1973.) 

“A pinch-in was also planned for last Saturday on Telegraph Avenue. Just letting the guys know how it feels. Keep alert for news of a ‘pee-in’ planned for coming weeks to protest pay toilets for women.” (East Bay Feminist Newsletter, 1970s). 

I’ll leave you to read the book to discover more. 

This would be a good book to have not only in your home library but in your lavatory. I mean that seriously, not slightingly. Long-time locals and their houseguests alike would benefit from regularly reading in the restroom something edifying, intelligent, and light-hearted. A chapter of “It Came From Berkeley” during each sitting would be a good start. 

Sunday, Oct. 19, Weinstein will give a talk on his new book at the Berkeley Historical Society. 2-4 p.m. Free, with refreshments. Veteran’s Memorial Building, 1931 Center St. 

Friday, Oct. 17, Weinstein will talk at Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary and Garden Arts, 7:30 p.m. 2904 College Ave. 

Weinstein also has a website, www.davidsweinstein.com, with more details about the book, where it can be purchased, and promotional events in and beyond Berkeley. 

Steven Finacom writes periodically for the Planet on local history and feature topics. 


Books: Useful Advice for Building Sustainable Communities

By Carol Polsgrove Special to the Planet
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 10:12:00 AM

THE TRANSITION HANDBOOK: FROM OIL DEPENDENCY TO LOCAL RESILIENCE 

By Rob Hopkins. Foxhole, Dartington, Totnes, Devon: Green Books. 240 pages. $24.95. 

With the rise of oil prices, the movement for sustainability has new wind in its sails. Farmers markets make ever more sense, alternative energy networks scour the territory for small-scale solutions, and even in red states, city councils set up peak oil committees. 

For communities where transformational breezes are stirring, Rob Hopkins’ The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience offers useful advice. 

Based on his own experience as a motivator of “transition towns” in Ireland and England, Hopkins presents strategies for nudging communities to action through a democratic consciousness-changing process. A staged plan for the community’s future emerges from months of conversations, speeches, films, and group discussions on topics from waste to transportation. 

The goal is not isolation but resilience—the ability to survive shocks without going under. “The UK truck drivers’ dispute of 2000 offers a valuable lesson here,” Hopkins writes. “Within the space of three days, the UK economy was brought to the brink, as it became clear that the country was about a day away from food rationing and civil unrest.” 

If more communities could at least feed themselves in a pinch, a country as a whole would be less vulnerable to disaster in a world where insufficient oil supplies twinned with global warming are undermining the global economy. 

While Hopkins joins others in the peak oil movement in believing there is not much time left to make the needed turn, he reminds readers of how quickly British communities learned to feed themselves during World War II. What’s required, above all, is a conviction that things must change. 

The strategies he offers for bringing about that conviction—above all, many guided discussions by many citizens—may seem less likely to succeed in a city like Berkeley than in smaller towns like those Hopkins has worked with. He himself suggests the ideal candidate for a transition initiative would be “market town” of, say, about 5,000. But larger cities can try organizing themselves into networked “villages.” 

Will this really work? Can grassroots efforts like this successfully challenge entrenched power inside and outside the community? Can they get around laws that restrict what they can do without the approval of higher authority? Can they defeat economic interests that stand to lose ground? 

Hopkins can’t promise success-the strategies he puts forth have only been tried in the short term. The first transition town, Kinsale, Ireland, launched its movement just three years ago. The Transition Towns WIKI (transitiontowns.org) even offers a disclaimer: “We really don’t know if this will work. Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale.” Or, in Hopkins’ words, it is “a collective adventure.” 

There are not yet many Transition Towns, as such, in the United States, but California communities have started coordinated transition efforts under other names. In fact, a speaker from Willits Economic Localization (WELL) presented a workshop at Kinsale, and Richard Heinberg, a senior fellow from Sebastopol’s Post Carbon Institute (which has a Relocalization Network) has spoken in English transition towns.  

Author of his own books on the world after cheap oil, Heinberg contributed a foreword to “The Transition Handbook,” pronouncing it “accessible, clear, and upbeat.” He has that right. Hopkins has written is a reader-friendly, optimistic guide to building a local movement, and if its ideas are not helpful in all circumstances, it is still well worth a read. 

 

Carol Polsgrove is an emeritus professor at Indiana University.


About the House: How Much Wire Do You Really Need?

By Matt Cantor
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 11:12:00 AM

I confess to some iconoclastic tendencies. I’m probably more geek than rebel but I certainly don’t like to run with the pack. One way in which this is true is that I’m a big fan of antique wiring. It might seem obvious that very old wiring systems are inherently dangerous but it ain’t necessarily the case. Some of these are in great shape and can serve your need handsomely and some are either inherently inadequate by design or have been ruined by any of the armies of despoilers that roam the country. 

If you’re buying or living in a 50- to 100-year-old home, you might want to know a little more about how these sysems work and what they look like, so let’s take a look at what’s good about these and what’s not and when and how to make this call. 

I was out inspecting with a bright young homebuyer named Neil last week when we got to the roof and I noticed the main electrical service drop. Neil had told me that he had done a little wiring and I like to play games so I asked him what he noticed about the twisted set of fat wires that swung in from the street to grasp the house along one side of a front dormer. He looked and wasn’t sure.  

I asked him to count the wires and then he got it. There were only two of these big wires, unlike the three that typically come to a modern house. This was all I needed to know to say that he would be needing a major electrical upgrade. 

Now, there is plenty I still had to learn but what I knew at that point was that the house was only receiving 120 volts from the street because there was only a single hot (or energized) wire as well as a single netural wire. Modern systems, some going all the way back to the 1920s but generally around 1940, have two hot wires and one neutral wire or a three-wire service drop. 

The main electrical panel was also quite a sight and I got to see Neil’s eyes get really big in response. It was found at the very front of the narrow crawlspace just behind a slatted, wooden, ventilation grill behind the camelias at the front of the house. The grill had to be pulled out to see it and when we removed the grill, this is what we saw: 

A wooden board had been nailed to a pair of slender boards that attached to the floor joist so that the board hung down below the floor and faced forward to the crawlspace opening much like a control panel. Screwed on to the panel were several separate parts, mostly made of beautiful highly-glazed porcelain.  

First was a fuse mount with just two fuses. These were the main fuses and were rated at 30 amperes or amps, a measurement of power; and was probably about right given the wire size, which determines the maximum safe current levels, and fuses (or breakers) should be set according to this. The wires from the roof had run down to these fuse mounts and, after running through these little safety devices, ran, by exposed, but insulated wires, to an ancient electrical meter that was hung on this board. The lettering on the meter clearly showed its age, which was about 85 years old.  

The style of having visible wires between all these components is one signature of this as, essentially, a prototype. A system in early development. 

After traveling through the meter, the wires carried the power to several more exposed porcelain fuse mounts, also screwed onto this wooden board and then onward to the rest of the house. 

Oops. I forgot one thing. There was a switch. An open knife switch was installed between the first pair of fuses and the meter. This was one of those Dr. Frankenstein switches that has a wooden handle and two long blades that hinge upward and then snug into a pair of prongs to close the circuit. Unlike modern switches, this one has lots of bare metal parts that, if touched, can shock or kill and, like many electrical devices of this time, was forsaken, in favor of safer designs in the years that followed. Nevertheless, there it stood in all its science-fiction glory for Neil to scratch his head at. 

One important notion to get about this system is that it is fused on both sides of the circuit. That is, the hot wires and the neutral wires both travel through fuses. This means that there were twice as many fuses as circuits. When we run our neutral wires through a fuse, which we never do today, having arrested the method in 1928 (80 years ago!), we set up a condition in which a neutral fuse might blow from excessive current, leaving power running all the way though a circuit (and a lamp or a TV or whatever) with no way to get home to the earth. This means that the device (TV, lamp, microwave) doesn’t come on and the circuit appears to be dead. This is bad for multiple reasons but, in my never-humble opinon, the most important is that one might start to fiddle with the equipment, not realize that it’s still energized, and get shocked. Also, when we are the only viable path to ground, shocks can be much worse. This is why I will always recommend that any fused-neutral condition be eliminated in favor of equpiment that is in constant contact the the earth (grounded). 

The board under the house had four fuse holders on the outgoing side, and, as noted above, these were twice the number of circuits. So, this means that there were only two circuits feeding the house’s outlets and lights.  

Now, this is a big issue. For any of you who remember growing up with fuse boxes, you might recall the common syndrome in which one fuse in the house seemed to bear the brunt of the electrical workload and would perenially blow at exactly the wrong time (Thankgiving. Twelve people in the house. First time Cousin Birdie has deigned to come to OUR house). That’s what we’re looking at for this entire house because two circuits is far too little for what will, inevitably, be run off of this system.  

The truth is that people don’t tailor their electrical usage to the capacity of the system. They just plug things in, which is natural. If there are only one or two outlets in a room, they get those funny outlet covers that turn two outlets into four or six. Then they use a few extension cords to reach all the parts of the room and, voila, everything plugs in. End of story, right? 

What happens when we overburden a system like this is that the wires can get much hotter than they should and, at the most vulnerable point, hidden somewhere in a wall where Uncle Richie stuffed in some newspaper to patch a hole, a fire begins. You know the rest. 

Interestingly, many of the houses that have these wiring conditions also lack a compentent source of heat. This results in the use of electric heaters, devices that draw more power than just about anything else we might plug in and, in turn, fires. Oddly, this means that one of the best things any home owner can do for their fire safety is to fix (or replace) the furnace! 

In short, (no pun intended) what many houses are begging for is a system of wider distribution; of many circuits, not just a few. A system of many circuits and many fuses (or breakers) is inherently safer because each part of it is far less challenged than the two at Neil’s house. 

I guess I didn’t get to much of what I like about our early knob and tube systems but trust me, there is a lot to like and we’ll save that for another day. 

Neil will be getting a lot of new wiring, I’m quite sure and I’ll bet he’ll do a lot of the work himself (with a bit of prudent professional oversight). 

If you have an older house and the wiring hasn’t been looked at in a while, it might be a good idea. Maybe, that way you can avoid any unpleasant current events.  

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. 


Community Calendar

Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM

THURSDAY, SEPT. 25 

“The Age of Warrior” with Robert Fisk on his new book of essays about the Middle East at 7 p.m. at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, 1781 Rose St. Benefits the Middle East Children’s Alliance. Tickets are $20. 548-0542. www.mecaforpeace.org 

Berkeley Public Library Master Plan discussion at 6:30 p.m. at West Branch, 1125 Univesrsity. Plan available on-line at www.berkeleypubliclibaray.org 981-6195. 

Conscientious Projector Film Series “What a Way to Go: Living at the End of Empire” at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar at Bonita.  

“Pursuit of Equality” A documentary and discussion about marriage equality at 7:15 p.m. at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, 2966 College Ave. at Ashby. Cost is $20. Benefit for No On 8 / NCLR Social Justice Fund. 433-9730. 

”Sicko” The documentary by Michael Moore, at 7 p.m. at Hillside Community Church, 1422 Navellier St. El Cerrito. 650-303-1176. 

Berkeley Community Gardening Collaborative Potluck with speakers and garden tour at 6 p.m. at Arts Magnet School, 1645 Milvia St. Enter playground off Virginia St. 883-9096. 

Easy Does It Board of Directors’ Meeting at 6:30 p.m. at EDI office, 1636 University Ave. 845-5513. www.easydoesitservices.org 

Baby & Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Three Beats for Nothing South Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Thurs. at 10 a.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, Ellis at Ashby. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

FRIDAY, SEPT. 26 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Lisa Margonelli on “Oil on the Brain: Petroleum’s Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $14.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 524-7468. www.citycommonsclub.org 

“Pakistan, Afghanistan and American Power” with Tariq Ali at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Cost is $12-$15. 848-3696. www.kpfa.org 

mio: made in oakland The launch of Unity Council’s social venture enterprise to bring sustainable sewing manufacturing to Oakland. Workshop from 3 to 5 p.m at 3301 East 12th St., suite 201. Launch party at 5:30 p.m. at 3411 East 12th St., Suite 90. 384-3146. 

Three Beats for Nothing Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Fri. at 10 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, Hearst at MLK. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

SATURDAY, SEPT. 27 

Berkeley Historical Society Walking Tour of Nut Hill in the heart of “Bernard Maybeck country” of North Berkeley, from 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $8-$10. For reservations and starting point call 848-0181. 

Walking Tour of Oakland’s Walkway & Streetcar heritage A walking tour sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance trhough Trestle Glen to Grand Lake. Reservations required. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Spiders in September Discover orb weavers, jumping spiders, wolf spiders and more from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

“Witness Against War: the Iraqi Refugee Crisis” with Kathy Kelly, founder of Voices for Creative Non-violence and Voices in the Wilderness at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Friends Church, Sacramento and Cedar Sts. Donation $5-$35, no one turned away. 

Electronic Waste Collection from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1707 Gouldin Rd.,Oakland. We accept TVs, Monitors, Laptops, Cell Phones, Ink Jet Catridges. There is a $5 fee to recycle the following: CPUs, Telephones, Printers, Copiers, DVD Players, Fax Machines, VCRs, Stereos, Video Games. Proceeds benefit Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society. 925-570-1543. 

Northern California Family Center Foster Parent Orientation for individuals who are interested in becoming a foster parent from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 925-370-1990. 

Make a Box Sculpture with Emily Kuenstler from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. All ages welcome. Cost is $45. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Introduction to Golf from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Tilden Golf Course. Golf balls and loaner clubs are provided. Cost is $50-$56. Participants will also receive a free $20 range card for use at the driving range and $20 off a future class at the golf course. Registration required 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Walk the Line & Connect to the Home Front Walk the line of history and the keel of a victory ship, and learn about the men and women who contributed to victory on the home front during World War II, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. followed by optional 45 min. Bay Trail stroll. Meet park ranger at memorial by main parking lot at Rosie the Riveter Memorial, Marina Bay Park, Melville and Regatta, Richmond. 232-5050. www.nps.gov/rori/ 

All Hands on Deck: Building the Ships that Kept Democracy Afloat Learn about the 747 ships built at the Kaiser shipyards and the people that built them, from 2 to 3 p.m. at Historic Shipyard No. 3, 1337 Canal Blvd., Berth 6A, Richmond. Park outside SS Red Oak Victory gate. 232-5050. Directions to shipyard 237-2933. www.ssredoakvictory.com/contact.htm 

Mooncake Festival at Habitot Children’s Museum with activities celebrating the Asian harvest festival from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 2065 Kittredge St. 647-1111. www.habitot.org 

Sushi for the More Adventurous from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center. Parent participation required for 8-10 year-olds. Cost is $25-$49. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Benefit for Girls Inc. of Alameda County from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. Tickets are $75-$125. 357-5515, ext. 219. www.WomenofTaste.org 

Meditation Class at noon at 7th Heaven Yoga Studio, 2820 7th St. Free. 665-4300. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

SUNDAY, SEPT. 28 

“How Berkeley Can You Be?” and Art Car Parade at 11 a.m. at California and University, followed by festival in Civic Center Park. www.howberkeleycanyoube.com 

Taste of El Cerrito with food samples, silent auction and music from 5 to 9 p.m. at El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane at Ashbury Ave. Cost is $10-$20. www.tasteofelcerrito.com 

Little Farm Open House Come grind some corn to feed the chickens, pet a bunny or groom a goat, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Little Farm at Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Walden School 50th Anniversary Celebration Party at 1:30 p.m., performance at 3 p.m. at the Roda Theatre of the Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison St. Tickets for performance are $15-$20. 548-9915. www.walden-school.net 

“A Spiritual Perspective on Government and Politics” with Ron Ballard at 2:30 p.m. at First Church of Christ Scientist, 2619 Dwight Way at Bowditch. 845-7199.  

Berkeley Partners for Parks Afternoon Fundraiser with food, drinks and music from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Halcyon Commons, on Halcyon Ct between Webster and Prince. Suggested donation $30. 

Walking Tour of Richmond Blvd A walking tour sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance along Glen Echo Creek, a residential neighborhood built between 1895 and the 1920s. Meet at 10 a.m. at Pergola, Croxton Ave. and Richmond Blvd. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

The Art of Solar Cooking Learn the use, design, and practical applications of solar cookers and solar water pasteurization, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $15 sliding scale, plus optional $5 materials fee. 548-2220, ext. 233. 

Medicine Take-Back Day Bring unwanted medication, in orginal containers with personal information marked out, for safe disposal between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Jack London Square, 450 Water St. at Broadway. Sponsored by San Francisco Estuary Project and Teleosis Institute. 622-2452. 

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to repair a flat, from 10 to 11 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

UC Botanical Garden Fall Plant Sale from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

“Iran (Is Not the Problem) Film and discussion with producer Aaron Newman at 6:30 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Sun. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 

Personal Theology Seminar with Rebecca Parker on “Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of this World for Crucifixion and Empire” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Sylvia Gretchen on “Light of the Buddha and the Modern World” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

Jewish High Holidays Pot-luck and Discussion at 6:15 on Sat. and Sun. at JGate, near the El Cerrito Bart Station. RSVP to rabbibridget@jewishgateways.org 

Sew Your Own Open Studio Come learn to use our industrial and domestic machines, or work on your own projects, from 4 to 8 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Also on Fri. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

MONDAY, SEPT. 29 

Banned Books: Celebrating the Freedom to Read Readings from the Bible, Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass,” and others, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Library Plaza, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6107. 

World Affairs/Politics Discussion Group, for people 60 years and over, meets at 9:45 a.m. at Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave, Albany. Cost is $3.  

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Join us to work on current issues around police misconduct. Volunteers needed. For information call 548-0425. 

Dragonboating Year round classes at the Berkeley Marina, Dock M. Meets Mon, Wed., Thurs. at 6 p.m. Sat. at 10:30 a.m. For details see www.dragonmax.org 

Free Boatbuilding Classes for Youth Mon.-Wed. from 3 to 7 p.m. at Berkeley Boathouse, 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Classes cover woodworking, boatbuilding, and boat repair. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

TUESDAY, SEPT. 30 

New Deal Film Festival films from the 1930s-Work Projects Administration (WPA), National Recovery Administration (NRA). Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), at 1 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Sponsored by the Berkeley Gray Panthers. 548-9696. 

“Women and Global Security” with Margot Wallström, Vice-President, European Commission at 2 p.m. at International House, Piedmont Ave. Sponsored by The Institute of European Studies. http://events.berkeley.edu 

“Physics for Future Presidents” A discussion with Warren William Chupp Distinguished Lecturer and UC Berkeley Physics Prof. Richard A. Muller at 5 p.m. at Lipman Room, Barrows Hall, UC campus. 642-5132. www.lawrencehallofscience.org 

Peace and Freedom Candidates Speak with Ralph Nader, Matt Gonzalez, Cindy Sheehan and local candidates speak at 7 pm at the Grand Lake Theater, Grand at Interstate 580, Oakland. Suggested donation $5-$10, no one turned away. 705-8864. 

Political Theater for Everyone A class in experimental political/street theater technique at 6 p.m. at Rock-Paper-Scissors Collective, Telegraph at 23rd St., Oakland. http://rpscollective.com/new.php 

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

Street Level Cycles Community Bike Program Come use our tools as well as receive help with performing repairs free of charge. Youth classes available. Tues., Thurs., and Sat. from 2 to 6 p.m. at at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

Fresh Produce Stand at San Pablo Park from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Frances Albrier Community Center. Sponsored by the Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice. 848-1704. www.ecologycenter.org 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Share your digital images, slides and prints and learn what other photographers are doing. Monthly field trips. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We offer ongoing classes in exercise and creative arts, and always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

Sing-A-Long Group from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave., Albany. 524-9122. 

Yarn Wranglers Come knit and crochet at 6:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 1 

Berkeley Path Wanderers: Claremont/Uplands Walk Explore the curvy streets and historic paths of Berkeley’s first “private residence park.” Meet at 10 a.m. at the Landmark plaque at northeast corner of The Uplands and Claremont. 848-2944. www.berkeleypaths.org 

Berkeley Public Library Master Plan discussion at 6:30 p.m. at North Branch, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. Plan available on-line at www.berkeleypubliclibaray.org 981-6195. 

“A Food Agenda for the Next Administration” with Michael Dimock, President, Roots of Change; Michael Pollan, Journalism Professor and author; Judith Redmond, co-owner of Full Belly Farm and President of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers; and Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State and co-founder of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy at 7 p.m. at Wheeler Auditorium, UC campus. Tickets are $10. 642-9988. http://tickets.berkeley.edu 

“Immigration at the Golden Gate: Passenger Ships, Exclusion, and Angel Island” A talk by historian Bab Barde at 7:30 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720. 

Birding Basics Wed. at 7 p.m. through Oct. 29, at Albany Adult School, 601 San Gabriel Ave., Albany. Sponsored by the Golden Gate Audubon Society. Register online at http://albany.k12.ca.us/adult/ or call 559-6580. 

Sudden Oak Death Preventative Treament Training Session Meet at 1 p.m. outside Tolman Hall at the oak tree, Hearst Ave. and Arch/Leconte, UC Campus for a two hour field session, rain or shine. Pre-registration required. SODtreatment@nature.berkeley.edu 

“‘Celebration’ in a Worship Context” with Rev. Barbara J. Essex, Minister and Director of Pastoral Services at Pacific School of Religion at 7:30 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. An optional pasta dinner served at 6:30 p.m. for $6, children free. For dinner reservations call 526-3805. 

Jump Start Entrepreneurs Network meets at 8 a.m. at Cuppa Tea, 3202 College Ave. at Alcactraz. Cost is $5-$6, includes breakfast. 899-8242. www.jumpstartten.com 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes and a warm hat. Heavy rain cancels. 548-9840. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. www.geocities. 

com/vigil4peace/vigil 

Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Family Sing-Along for toddlers, pre-schoolers and their families at 4:30 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720. 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

Berkeley CopWatch Drop-in office hours from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. 548-0425. 

Stitch ‘n Bitch at 6:30 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

THURSDAY, OCT. 2 

Walkers 55+: Explore El Cerrito Hillside Gems Join a down-and-up loop explores little-known creekside paths and great views from El Cerrito’s Hillside Natural Area. Meet at Arlington Park, 1120 Arlington (AC Transit 7) at 9 a.m. Wear hiking shoes; bring sticks if you use them. Registration required, call Albany Senior Center 524-9122. 

Berkeley Public Library Master Plan discussion at 6:30 p.m. at South Branch, 1901 Russell at MLK Jr. Way. Plan available on-line at www.berkeleypubliclibaray.org 981-6195. 

 

 

 

 

“An Evening of Prose and Politics” with Susan Griffin and George Lakoff at 6 p.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 18. 

Hecho in Califas Festival “Rise Up and Green Up!” An interactive town-hall meeting on strengthening our community through green initaitives, at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $3-$10, no one turned away. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Town Hall Meeting in Support of Marriage Equality with clergy from the African-American community and the cast from “Noah’s Arc” at 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St. Cos tis $30. http://equalitytownhall.eventbrite.com 

“Seeds to Harvest” Enjoy locally produced snacks and goodies, and learn about Bay Area Community Services’ commitment to food security at 5 p.m. at the East Bay Community Foundation Conference Center, 365 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland. www.bayareacs.org 

A Beginner’s Guide to E-mail and the Internet Learn the basics without the technical jargon. Get a free e-mail account. From 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at North Oakland Senior Center, 5714 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. Sponsored by RSVP of Alameda County. For more information call 452-0868. 

Opera Piccola 20th Anniversary Season Open House from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at its new East Oakland headquarters, 2946 MacArthur Blvd. RSVP to 482-2906. 

Seed Saving for the Home Gardener Learn the basics of pollination, selecting, harvesting, processing and storing seed, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $10-$15. 548-2220, ext. 233. www.ecologycenter.org 

Appreciating Diversity Film Series “Unnatural Causes: In Sickness and in Wealth” at 7 p.m. followed by facilitated discussion, at Ellen Driscoll Theater, Frank Havens School, 325 Highland Ave., Piedmont. 835-9227. diversityfilmseries.org 

“Pain Management” with Dr. Ernest Cheng at 1 p.m. at the Grand Avenue Seventh Day Adventist Church, 278 Grand Ave., Oakland. 653-8625. 

Three Beats for Nothing South Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Thurs. at 10 a.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, Ellis at Ashby. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

Baby & Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Avatar Metaphysical Toastmasters Club at 6:45 p.m. at Spud’s Pizza , 3290 Adeline at Alcatraz. namaste@avatar.freetoasthost.info  

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

World of Plants Tours Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

FRIDAY, OCT. 3 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Jim De Mersma on “Dunsmuir Historic Estate: An East Bay Architectural & Horticultural Treasure” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $14.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 524-7468. www.citycommonsclub.org 

George Lakoff in Conversation with Josh Kornbluth on “Why We Vote the Way We Do” at 7:30 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda.  

“The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal” with J. Patrick O’Connor at 7:30 p.m. at Niebyl Proctor Library at 6501 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. 763-2347. 

Berkeley School Volunteers Orientation from 10 to 11 a.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Come learn about volunteer opportunities. Bring photo ID and two references. 644-8833. 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 

Three Beats for Nothing Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Fri. at 10 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, Hearst at MLK. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

SATURDAY, OCT. 4 

North Oakland Neighbors: City Council At-Large Candidates Forum from 1 to 3 p.m. at Faith Presbyterian Church, 430 49th St., Oakland, just off Telegraph in the Temescal neighborhood. Meeting will include updates on proposed developments and rezoning in Temescal. www.standoakland.org 

“Green Gardening” Exhibits and Workshops on saving water and reducing waste from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at MLK Civic Center Park. 981-7432. 

Benefit to Close the School of the Americas with Francisco Herrera and Jon Fromer, singer/songwriters at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison St. 986-0168. 

Home Front Festival at Rosie the Riveter Park, with music, carnival rides, art and activities, at Marina Bay, Richmond. Free. For details see www.homefrontfeatival.com 232-0865. 

Compost and Worm Workshop Learn the basics of backyard composting; understand how to compost with garden waste and how to compost kitchen scraps using worms at 2 p.m. at Smith & Hawken, 1330 10th Street. Free. store803@smithandhawken.com 

The Political Affairs Readers’ Group of Berkeley “Financial Crisis and Class Struggles” A discussion of the present US financial crisis, its effects on the world economy and on workers’ struggles to improve their lives at 10 a.m. at Niebyl Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 595-7417. 

Ready to Learn Fun Fair Meet Clifford “The Big Red Dog,” receive free books, get their faces painted, and play outdoor games from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Rosa Parks Elementary School. Free for families and children of all ages. 268-5376. www.acgov.org/board/district5. 

Global Peace and Justice Rally with music and speakers from noon to 4 p.m. at MLK Civic Center Park. 

“Love it Like a Fool” a film about Malvina Reynolds, Berkeley songwriter and political activist at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge at Shattuck. 981-6241. 

Lakeshore Neighborhood Plant Exchange from noon to 4 p.m. at 3811 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland. Bring plants from cuttings up to full size, as well as gardening books and supplies. 866-8482. www.plantexchange.wordpress.com 

Preschool Storytime, for ages 3-5, at 11 a.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 17. 

Free Internet Classes offered on Sat. from 10 to 11 a.m. at El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton St., El Cerrito. Today we will learn how to use Google or Search the Web. 526-7512. 

“Congregational Singing and Listening” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Suggested donation $10. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Around the World Tour of Plants at 1:30 p.m., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Oakland Artisans Marketplace Sat. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jack London Square. 238-4948. 

SUNDAY, OCT. 5 

Hecho in Califas Festival “Books? or Bombs?” An interactive town-hall meeting on education and military recruitment, at 4 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $3-$10, no one turned away. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

“Taxi to the Dark Side” A film on the torture practices of the United States at 4 p.m. at Townsend Center for the Humanities, 220 Stephens Hall, UC campus. 642-0965. 

Home Front Festival at Rosie the Riveter Park, with music, carnival rides, art and activities, at Marina Bay, Richmond. Free. For details see www.homefrontfeatival.com 232-0865. 

“Banished” A film about African Americans expelled from counties in the US from 1860 to 1920, at 2 p.m. at Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd., Oakland. Cost is $5. 665-7880. 

Berkeley Rep Family Series “Fairy Tales Come True” from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Nevo education Center, 2071 Addison St. Free, but bring a book to donate to a school library. 647-2973. 

Blessing of the Animals at 12:30 p.m. on the Terrace at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Dreaming Ritual Demonstration with Antero Alli at 8:30 p.m. at Finnish Brotherhood Hall, 1970 Chestnut St. Donation $5-$10. www.paratheatrical.com/demonstration.html 

“Journey to Tibet” with Karen Harris on her visit to Buddhist nunneries in remote eastern Tibet at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Kids Cook in the Garden Learn how to create snakcs from garden foods from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Dr. For ages 7-12. Registration required. Cost is $15-$18. 643-2755, ext. 03. 

Drop-In Acupuncture from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sarana Community Acupuncture. 968 San Pablo Ave. Albany. Free. 526-5056. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Sun. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Mark Henderson on “The Buddhist Dharma Wheel” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

Kol Hadash Tashlikh Service at 10 a.m. at Emeryville Marina. Especially for children. Bring-Your-Own picnic follows. 428-1492. www.kolhada