The Week

Workers at Berkeley's Pacific Steel Casting Company are on Strike.
David Bacon
Workers at Berkeley's Pacific Steel Casting Company are on Strike.


Press Release: Why the Future Availability of Affordable Space for Manufacturing, Warehouse, Wholesale Trade, Arts & Crafts, Recycling, Contracting, & Retailing Is At Stake and What This Means

Sunday March 27, 2011 - 07:33:00 PM

At their February meeting, the City Council took a 5 to 4 sense vote to open up ALL Protected Industrial Wholesale Trade and Warehouse space (an unverified 2 million sq ft) to Research and Development (R&D). WEBAIC has proposed opening up a smaller subset of this space (100,000 sq ft) so as not to create destructive displacement pressure on valuable industrial & arts enterprises and good jobs and more closely match projected R&D demand.

On April 29th the City Council will discuss this issue, public comment will be taken, and Council may direct staff to write actual zoning language that would open a Council-directed amount of protected industrial space to R&D. Whatever the amount, this directive will have far reaching consequences for the future viability of industry and arts, the sustainability of our economy and culture, and the economic equity and ethnic diversity of our community and region. WEBAIC has been in discussions with City Council members on this issue over the last 2 months. Your presence on the 29th provides the best chance of a positive resolution to this issue for our companies, studios, jobs, and for Berkeley.

Press Release: Driver Arrested after Evading Police

From Lieutenant Kevin Schofield, Berkeley Police Department
Sunday March 27, 2011 - 07:29:00 PM

On 3/18/11, Berkeley Police Officers investigated of report of a robbery and assault with a deadly weapon at a grocery store in Berkeley. As a result of that investigation, the getaway vehicle, a 1996 Honda Passport, was entered into the computer system as a wanted “Felony Vehicle”. -more-

The Public Eye: Understanding Berkeley's Budget Woes

By Zelda Bronstein
Thursday March 24, 2011 - 08:52:00 AM

Berkeley’s deteriorating finances were the subject of the council’s work session last Tuesday. The proceedings should make citizens sad and mad. Sad, because the people who will be hit the hardest by the $12.5 million deficit forecast for Fiscal Year 2012 are among those in our community who are most in need of support—the aged, the mentally ill and the poor. Mad, because City officials blamed the looming debacle wholly on “outside forces,” when in fact the budget crisis results in good part from their own fiscal imprudence.

First, a few more numbers. According to the staff report, the $12.5 million shortfall has two parts: a $3 million deficit in the general fund and a $9.5 million deficit in so-called special programs—specifically public and mental health, refuse, clean storm water, the permit service center and federally funded programs. In addition, the housing department currently faces non-structural funding losses of $.9 – 1.5 million. And this is just for 2012; in 2013 revenue sources are likely to shrink further. -more-

Berkeley High School's Response to Firearms

By Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Thursday March 24, 2011 - 08:52:00 AM

School officials are taking several steps to address two separate incidents Tuesday involving firearms on the Berkeley High School campus. -more-

Three Students Arrested for Bringing Guns to Berkeley High Campus

By Janna Brancolini (BCN)
Wednesday March 23, 2011 - 12:39:00 PM

Three Berkeley High School students were arrested on campus today in two separate incidents for bringing — and in one case discharging — firearms on campus, a school district spokesman said.

Two students were arrested after a gun they brought to the school went off in a bathroom, and the third was arrested a short time later for having an unloaded handgun, Berkeley Unified spokesman Mark Coplan said. -more-

Foundry Workers Strike to Save Their Healthcare (News Analysis)

Photos and text by David Bacon
Wednesday March 23, 2011 - 11:07:00 AM

A strike of over 450 workers in one of the largest foundries on the west coast brought production to a halt Sunday night, at Pacific Steel Castings. The work stoppage, which began at midnight, has continued with round the clock picketing at the factory gates in west Berkeley. -more-

The Future of Education in America (News Analysis)

By Michelle Melamed, UC Berkeley student,assisted by Raymond Barglow.
Wednesday March 23, 2011 - 10:54:00 AM
Waiting for Superman

Twenty, maybe even ten years ago, securing a job in the US economy without a college degree was feasible and commonplace. But as a college sophomore in the twenty first century, it’s clear to me and everyone I know that higher education is a must. Sometimes even that will not be enough; with competition more intense that it has been in the past, many will be lucky to land even an internship with their college diploma in hand. -more-

Press Release: An Examination of the Proposed Sit-Lie Ordinance [for Berkeley]

From the Committee on Government Affairs, Berkeley Chamber of Commerce
Tuesday March 22, 2011 - 08:18:00 PM

The Committee on Government Affairs, Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, will meet on Monday, April 4, 2011, 1834 University Ave., to talk with a panel of five community leaders about the proposed Sit-Lie Ordinance which is likely to be debated and voted on by the Berkeley City Council before mid-July, 2011. -more-

Press Release: Claremont Branch Library Temporary Closure for Renovations and New Construction

From Alan Bern
Tuesday March 22, 2011 - 08:55:00 PM

Beginning Monday, April 4, 2011, the Claremont Branch will be closed for approximately 9 to 12 months. -more-

A Vietnamese Immigrant Writes from Fukishima

Tuesday March 22, 2011 - 02:12:00 PM

Editor’s note: This letter, written by a Vietnamese immigrant working in Fukishima as a policeman to a friend in Vietnam, has been circulating on Facebook among the Vietnamese diaspora. It is an extraordinary testimony to the strength and dignity of the Japanese spirit, and an interesting slice of life near the epicenter of Japan’s current crisis, the Fukushima nuclear power plant. It was translated by NAM editor, Andrew Lam, author of East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres.


How are you and your family? These last few days, everything was in chaos. When I close my eyes, I see dead bodies. When I open my eyes, I also see dead bodies. Each one of us must work 20 hours a day, yet I wish there were 48 hours in the day, so that we could continue helping and rescuing folks. -more-



As the World Burns, Berkeley Fiddles

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday March 23, 2011 - 11:40:00 AM

Last week a reader asked why the Planet wasn’t covering the disaster in Japan. We responded that our focus was local, and that there are better sources to check for international news. We’ve done a modest story about local fundraising efforts, which have been numerous and well-covered in almost every Bay Area publication. But it’s hard to ignore the international news, both about Japan and about what is loosely called the Middle East. And then there’s the news from the Mid West, specifically Wisconsin but also Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and more—popular uprisings are everywhere, and where they will lead, we still don’t know. Meanwhile, California is falling apart as we watch, and Berkeley’s part of the debacle.

It’s hard to keep in mind that world upheaval is not exclusively the curse of the first decades of the twenty-first century. Or more precisely, that upheavals and disasters have always taken place around the world—what’s new is that because of the speed of modern communication news everywhere is present everywhere, all the time. It’s all local news now. -more-


Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins, BOUNCE

Wednesday March 23, 2011 - 09:48:00 AM

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday March 23, 2011 - 10:26:00 AM

The Report on the Library Lawsuit Meeting; Steven Finacom replies; Community Engagement – For Insiders Only?;Library Lawsuit Meeting; Let There be Light;The State Budget; Library Advertising is Free; Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; EPA; Nuclear Power -more-

No More Taxes Blues

By Bruce Joffe
Sunday March 20, 2011 - 11:30:00 AM

Slip-sliding down the highway,

Storm drains need repair.

School teachers are being laid-off,

Pot holes everywhere.

Working people struggle

To pay to keep their home.

They can't take another bill,

And so they cry alone,

"No More Taxes."

BRT, NIMBYs, and the New York Times

By Charles Siegel
Tuesday March 22, 2011 - 08:44:00 PM

On March 12, the New York Times ran an article named “Green Development? Not in My (Liberal) Backyard.”

It began by saying, “Park Slope, Brooklyn. Cape Cod, Mass. Berkeley, Calif. Three famously progressive places, right? …. But just try putting a bike lane or some wind turbines in their lines of sight.” -more-

Berkeley Budget SOS--Fixing the City's Sewers

By Barbara Gilbert
Monday March 21, 2011 - 02:24:00 PM

Berkeley Budget SOS is a civic organization dedicated to fiscal clarity, accountability and sustainability in the City of Berkeley. Of particular concern to us is a complete audit of the City’s long-term financial obligations and needs, including those in relation to the City’s physical infrastructure. We are wondering why our water drainage and sewer system is in such apparent disrepair given the substantial annual sums of money apparently available. -more-


Wild Neighbors: Not Your Father’s Bird Guide?

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday March 22, 2011 - 08:16:00 PM
Ducks: Black scoters, probably at the Jersey Shore.

Birding, for such a quiet occupation, seems unusually prone to revolutions. In the old days, BP (Before Peterson) the custom was to shoot any bird of interest so you could examine the fine points of its plumage in the hand. Roger Tory Peterson’s first field guide changed all that. With somewhat schematic paintings and concise text, Peterson offered the ability to identify most birds through binoculars or a spotting scope. -more-

Dispatches From The Edge: Europe’s Austerity: A Grimm’s Fairy Tale

By Conn Hallinan
Monday March 21, 2011 - 02:59:00 PM

* In the Greek town of Aphidal, people have stopped paying road fees. In Athens, bus and metro riders are refusing to cough up the price of a ticket. On Feb. 23, 250,000 Greek protesters jammed the streets outside the nation’s parliament. -more-

Eclectic Rant: Time to End the U.S. Economic Embargo of Cuba

By Ralph E. Stone
Monday March 21, 2011 - 02:34:00 PM

The United States is the last country in the Western Hemisphere with no formal relations with Cuba. It is time for the United States and Cuba to mend fences. For a start, the U.S. should end the economic embargo against Cuba. The embargo makes it illegal for U.S. corporations to do business with Cuba. U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba are also a form of economic sanctions. -more-

On Mental Illness: the Effects of Collective Disasters

By Jack Bragen
Monday March 21, 2011 - 03:01:00 PM

I had a friend/adversary in the mid- 1990’s with whom I sometimes shared delusions. We had a tendency to get one another into trouble. His delusions were mostly of a military-government-secret agent theme. When he was well, this man was very kind, and worked in the psychiatric self-help field to help others. He had gotten well after a lengthy stint of wild mania in which he frightened a number of people, including me, and in which he was fairly destructive. He was back at work, and I didn’t have much contact with him because of how bad our encounters had been. -more-

Senior Power: Nihon Elderly

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Tuesday March 22, 2011 - 08:55:00 PM

You may have noted many old persons in photos from the Tōhoku ("northeast")region, a geographical area of Japan. It occupies the northeastern portion of Honshū, the largest island of Japan. The population estimate of Tōhoku as of 2008 was 9,708,257. The region consists of six prefectures: Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata. Sendai ,is the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture, and the largest city in the Tōhoku Region. The city of trees was founded in 1600 by the daimyo Date Masamune. Here, abstracted from “Fourteen elderly die after evacuating Japanese hospital,” by Associated Press medical writer Margie Mason (March 17, 2011), is news: -more-

Dispatches From the Edge: China & the U.S. :Things That Go Bang

By Conn Hallinan
Sunday March 20, 2011 - 11:28:00 AM

Reading the headlines about U.S.-China relations might lead one to conclude that current tensions between the two have less to do with political differences than chemical imbalances: “The Chinese Tiger Shows Its Claws” vs. “China Helps Defuse Korea Crisis”; or “America is far too soft in its dealings with Beijing” vs. “Blaming China will not solve America’s problems.” What comes to mind is a dose of Thorazine, or maybe a Lithium regime? -more-

Arts & Events

Eye from the Aisle: HAIRSPRAY—bouffant, buoyant and a real pro show!

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday March 22, 2011 - 08:45:00 PM
Erica Richardson, Victoria Morgan. Marcus Klinger

If your spirits need a lift, I recommend CCMT’s HAIRSPRAY at Lesher Center in Walnut Creek. -more-

Film Review: Worst in Show: A Pack of Humans in Dogged Pursuit of Glory

By Gar Smith
Monday March 21, 2011 - 02:50:00 PM

“Worst in Show” opens at Berkeley’s Elmwood Theater at 7PM on March 24 with a benefit screening for the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society. Tickets (which include a chance to win a raffle) are $20 and can be ordered in advance online at -more-

Around & About: Theater Review:
The Iliad by Inferno Theatre at Berkeley City Club

By Ken Bullock
Monday March 21, 2011 - 02:38:00 PM

Going to our seats in the Berkeley City Club, amid the pre-acting: the players making music on accordion, guitar, while someone's bathing in a metal washtub, while soldiers in camouflage trousers and camp followers sprawl out, lounging in the lull between battles ... Then power chords on the guitar. A soldier brings in the weapons and gear: bamboo poles, parasols ... another paws a woman ... Drums, war cries, attitudinizing ... Ululation of the women; the soldiers shimmy and gyrate in a provocative Oriental dance ... Boots and cowboy hat in the hands of another, who puts them on, then dons shades, and rouges lips ... -more-

Theater Review: Narnia, the Musical

By Steven Finacom
Monday March 21, 2011 - 02:37:00 PM
“Narnia” the musical plays through April 3 at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts on College Avenue.

Near the beginning of the musical, “Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe”, a cranky housekeeper at a historic English country estate warns four newly arrived children, “I see you all have that ‘I’m going to explore Marbleton Manor’ look. Forget it. The Age of Exploration is OVER. Understood?” -more-