At a press conference held this afternoon on a closed-down Haste Street with the still smoldering Sequoia Apartment building in the background, Mayor Tom Bates, City Manager Phil Kamlarz, and Assistant Fire Chief Gil Dong said that it hasn’t been fully established whether all the occupants of the building got out during the five alarm blaze, and that the historic building, constructed in 1916, will probably be demolished in the immediate future. -more-
The fire that started in the Sequoia Apartments at Haste and Telegraph on the evening of Friday, November 18, was still burning the next morning. Berkeley Fire Department crews continued to pour water into the mixed-use structure, a historic apartment building that contains 39 units and restaurants popular with the campus crowd, including Café Intermezzo and Raleigh’s pub. The building has four floors—including the commercial level—along Telegraph and five levels on Haste.
A column of smoke was visible throughout Berkeley this morning above the severely damaged building. Along Telegraph the top floor apartments and some on the third floor below appeared gutted. The sky and charred lathe and plaster walls were visible through several of the fourth floor windows. Along Haste the damage extended down to the second floor, which was one of the first portions of the building visibly burning last night. Some of the aluminum window frames hung blackened and distorted above the street. -more-
A four-alarm fire at an apartment building near the University of California at Berkeley has been contained more than six hours after the fire department first received reports of a fire, a Berkeley fire chief said. -more-
A four-alarm fire is raging in the Sequoia Apartments building, on the northwest corner of Haste and Telegraph in Berkeley. The tile-faced five-story building, which dates from the early 20th century, has 39 apartments on its upper floors. The storefront on the first floor for many years housed Mario's La Fiesta Restaurant. There was a two-alarm fire in the building in February of this year. -more-
Occupy Oakland will take to the streets at 14th and Broadway this Saturday at 2:00 p.m. for a mass rally and march. -more-
The “Occupy Cal” encampment seemed at an early morning ebb on Friday as I arrived on the UC Berkeley campus for work. After the police action on Thursday night that had cleared away the tents and most of the other objects and art—from pianos to sculpture—that had accumulated on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Mario Savio Steps of Sproul Hall displayed only a few signs, some black and white balloons, and perhaps a dozen Occupiers. -more-
About 200 Occupy Cal protesters gathered on the steps of Sproul Hall at the University of California at Berkeley last night for a general assembly meeting to decide if they will set up an encampment again. -more-
By Steven Finacom -more-
Dear Parents and Alumni of Cal:
Like many of you, I have been so proud that our daughter is attending an institution with the stature of Cal. Until last week. While the context of the protests have not been thoroughly reported nationally and are difficult to judge, students linked by their arms should not be bludgeoned. Did the students err? Quite possibly. Did they deserve to be beaten? Absolutely not. Any respect the students and the rest of had for the judgment of the Cal police and administration has been lost by this senseless response. -more-
This week, the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees adopted a resolution for the local reinvestment of its student fees and community tax dollars that will move the East Bay colleges’ funds from large, for-profit banks to community-based financial institutions. -more-
Dear Chancellor, -more-
I just finished reading a stock proxy. Like most proxies, it has a section on compensation for its five named executive officers. Also, not atypically, this section was a full third the length of the full proxy, in this case despite the fact that there were two appendices with a restatement of the articles of incorporation. What is particularly relevant to current events in this proxy, was that the compensation section, like all such sections I have read, had no discussion of how executive compensation compares to the compensation of any of the other employees of the company. In the corporate pay structure there is no connection between executive compensation, and worker compensation.
It gets worse. Worker compensation is a cost, and a well-run business does what it can to limit this cost. This includes automation, outsourcing, temporary or part-time employment without benefits, layoffs, and even efforts to eliminate minimum wage laws. On the other hand, the compensation philosophy espoused in proxies almost guarantees pressure to increase executive pay. Companies present themselves as being in competition to attract and hold scarce executive talent. Every compensation section I have read has an extensive discussion of the pay in comparable companies. To ensure company success, target compensation for their executives is almost always at or above the median of their competitive group. At or above, that is the rub. All companies cannot be at or above the median, at least not all the time. A company can, however, raise its pay to the median or above at a particular time. It will then be at or above the median until its competitors raise their executive pay so that they are at or above the median. -more-
Carol Denney, a frequent contributor to these pages, is fond of saying that the reason the Free Speech Movement took place at the University of California at Berkeley was NOT because free speech flourished on this campus. Quite the contrary: it’s been the tradition at Cal, going way back in pre-history before I was an undergraduate, for arrogant administrators to try to keep the lid on student speech. It could be described as a form of hubris (a ten-dollar word I learned in Cal’s English department): “we’re the top …students are damn lucky to be here…so they should shut up and drive.”
At the University of Michigan, another school I had the opportunity to observe in the 1960s after I graduated from Cal, the bosses took the opposite tack. By and large, they ignored student protests, so there were never any major riots on the part of either students or police. Eventually the more radical students got bored, founded first SDS and then the Weathermen, and went off to tear up Chicago instead, which was much more satisfying—and now like Bill Ayres they’re almost all professors somewhere or other.
But at Cal, as we called it back in the day before the name of the town was appropriated by the university’s PR department, decision-makers have always provided satisfying opposition to student action which has historically stimulated more student action. And the current crop of well-paid administrators is keeping up the tradition. Lots and lots of them, including Chancellor Birgeneau ($428,712.84) who okayed the police action last Wednesday where heads were bashed and stomachs jabbed with batons, are firmly part of the richest 1%, and they have no qualms about asserting their power over impecunious and mouthy students because of it. -more-
While the 2012 elections are twelve months away, Republicans have handed President Obama and Democrats a winning theme: ”they’ve gone too far.” -more-
On November 15, 2011, New York City Police evicted Occupy Wall Street (OWS) from lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park. Later that same day, OWS obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) requiring that they immediately be allowed back into Zuccotti Park with their tents, tarps, and sleeping bags. But the next day, the New York County Supreme Court In the matter of Waller V. The City of New York, et. al.
This week I saw and heard Bill Cain’s play, How to Write a New Book for the Bible, world premiered at the Berkeley Rep. In short, “A man moves in with his mother when she can no longer care for herself… Their reunion heals old wounds, opening a heartfelt and humorous new chapter in their relationship … this timeless tale celebrates a mother’s love and a son’s devotion.” -more-
Living with schizophrenic illness entails several different “catch-22’s” in which the options are limited. One of these conflicts is the choice between being overmedicated and thus depressed, versus not taking enough medication and being mildly psychotic. It seems, for me at least, there is little or no middle zone between these. -more-
Arts & Events
It started out like a typical community theatre musical, kind of lackluster, some good actors and singers, some mediocre, the set very Japanese but everyone dressed for Guys and Dolls. It was the Point Richmond Masquers Playhouse production of The Hot Mikado, a swing era rewrite of Gilbert & Sullivan. For the most of the first act I was in and out, occasionally nodding. The band was flat and non- ensemble with no drummer (!?). The choreography seemed uninspired. There was a good barbershop-like harmony at one point. There is one truly impressive baritone, a couple of pretty girls, one a guy who had great moves, but pretty unmemorable all around. -more-
"I'm so glad you came to see me ..." -more-