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Protesters downtown Sunday opposing no-sitting Measure S, a November ballot measure.
Ted Friedman
Protesters downtown Sunday opposing no-sitting Measure S, a November ballot measure.


Berkeley School Board President Comments on Heatley Withdrawal

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday September 18, 2012 - 10:09:00 PM

The sole finalist for the Berkeley schools superintendent post has withdrawn his candidacy after rumors circulated that he opposes same-sex marriage.

Berkeley school board members announced three weeks ago that Edmond Heatley, a retired Marine officer who is currently superintendent of Clayton County Public Schools in Georgia, was the only finalist in a comprehensive nationwide search for a new superintendent.

But some Berkeley parents and teachers criticized Heatley last week after they found a memo he wrote in 2008, when he was superintendent in Chino in San Bernardino County, which they said showed that he backed a resolution in support of Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

School board president John Selawsky said today that there are conflicting opinions about whether Heatley's memo actually supported the controversial ballot measure, but in the wake of the publicity about the matter he thinks it would have been difficult for Heatley to do a good job in Berkeley. 

"Leaving aside Prop 8, the memo raises other issues that raise questions about his prospects for success in our district because there is so much explaining that he and the school board would have to do," Selawsky said. 

He said, "I think Dr. Heatley recognized that as well." 

In an email to Selawsky, Heatley said, "I want to thank you personally for all of your time and support. I wish you, the board and community of Berkeley nothing but success in the future." 

The Berkeley school board has been searching for a new superintendent since former Superintendent Bill Huyett announced his retirement last December. 

The search for a new leader is taking longer than expected, and assistant superintendent Neil Smith and deputy superintendent Javetta Cleveland currently are serving as co-interim superintendents until the post is filled. 

Selawsky said, "We will advise the community as soon as we have determined what that next step will be. Fortunately we have two very capable interim superintendents doing a great job of running the district while we work this out." 

He admitted that the school board probably won't be able to find a new superintendent until late this winter or early next spring because "any superintendent with merit is in place at a school district now" and it will be difficult for someone to leave their current position at the beginning of the school year. 

Heatley was a site administrator, an assistant superintendent, an associate superintendent and a superintendent at school districts in California, including Chino, before he joined the Clayton County Public Schools. 

He retired as a decorated Marine officer after serving on active duty from 1983 to 1996 and as a member of the Marine Corps Reserves from 1996 to 2004. 

Heatley is married and has three children.

Flash: Heatley Withdraws Candidacy for Berkeley School Superintendent

Tuesday September 18, 2012 - 08:44:00 AM

Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan released a statement this morning reporting that Dr. Edmond Heatley, previously identified as the only finalist for the job of Superintendent of Schools, has withdrawn from candidacy. He has been the focus of sustained public criticism because of his participation in a training program funded by Eli Broad, a wealthy proponent of charter schools and other educational theories, and because his name was attached to a memo to the Chino school board promoting a resolution supporting Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. 

The press release said: 

In an email to Board President John T. Selawsky Dr. Edmund Heatley said, “I want to thank you personally for all of your time and support. I have attached my letter of withdrawal from candidacy for the position of Superintendent of the Berkeley Unified School District. I wish you, the Board and Community of Berkeley nothing but success in the future.” 

The Board will be meeting in the days and weeks ahead to determine the next step. President Selawsky stated, “We will advise the community as soon as we have determined what that next step will be. Fortunately we have two very capable interim superintendents doing a great job of running the District while we work this out.” 

"The Fight for Berkeley's Soul" Sunday Downtown

By Ted Friedman
Monday September 17, 2012 - 04:02:00 PM
Protesters downtown Sunday opposing no-sitting Measure S, a November ballot measure.
Ted Friedman
Protesters downtown Sunday opposing no-sitting Measure S, a November ballot measure.
Ninja Kitty, center, speaks out for the downtown homeless. The dog, right, agrees.
Ted Friedman
Ninja Kitty, center, speaks out for the downtown homeless. The dog, right, agrees.
At rally Sunday: Left to right: Kim Nemerow, a mental health commissioner seated, Max Anderson, Dist 3 councilman, Kriss Worthington, Dist. 7, Mike Delacour upper right, a former mayoral candidate.
Ted Friedman
At rally Sunday: Left to right: Kim Nemerow, a mental health commissioner seated, Max Anderson, Dist 3 councilman, Kriss Worthington, Dist. 7, Mike Delacour upper right, a former mayoral candidate.
Night before the anti-no sitting ban rally. Typical Saturday night outside Med, on Telegraph. Identities blurred at request of sitters, and one lyer.
Ted Friedman
Night before the anti-no sitting ban rally. Typical Saturday night outside Med, on Telegraph. Identities blurred at request of sitters, and one lyer.

In what promises to be a heated fight for Berkeley's soul, a Berkeley anti-sitting-ban committee launched a well-organized campaign downtown Sunday against Measure S, which would prohibit sitting on the sidewalk in commercial districts. 

If Measure S supporters thought Berkeleyans would give up their rights to sit on business district walks, they may have seriously miscalculated—if Sunday's anti-S kick-off campaign at a spirited downtown rally is any measure of opposition to the ballot measure. 

Berkeley, apparently, likes to sit on sidewalks. It's a tradition as sacred as the right to stage sit-in protests. Or, for that matter, to breathe. 

Again and again the measure's opponents miss no opportunity to heap scorn on the measure, which some veteran political observers believe could pass. 

Patti Wall, director of Berkeley's twenty-year-old Homeless Action Center, kicked off the rally Sunday morning at Constitution Square, near the southwest corner of Center and Shattuck. 

Wall has given several rousing speeches in city council sessions. She rails against what is now Measure S, which she says will keep the city's homeless on the streets by "criminalizing" them, and preventing them from getting government benefits. 

She simplified that message, Sunday. "Can you imagine not being able to sit down in Berkeley?" she taunted. 

If the no-sitting measure passes, "you can expect wide-scale acts of civil disobedience," Max Anderson, charismatic District Three councilmember, told the lively crowd Sunday. He proclaimed that opposition to Proposition S would be a "fight for the soul of Berkeley." 

"Berkeley is at at the crossroads," Anderson says. 

"There is an assault on the homeless around the country," Anderson said. "They want to hide poverty. It's political quackery—draconian crap." 

"El Cerrito Plaza is eating our lunch downtown, and Emeryville is taking our business. 

"Downtown needs an anchor store," Anderson noted. 

"And Berkeley wants to respond by hiding the visual sight of poverty," he said. 

Dan McMullan, who uses a wheelchair and was homeless 10 years in Berkeley before receiving housing assistance, told a crowd of more than fifty that he had to sit down. 

"We need social services, not bans," he said scornfully. 

"Ninja Kitty," a homeless man downtown who has charged repeatedly that "police are rousting us constantly," said "we're here as citizens fighting for our constitutional rights. I don't see anything in the Bill of Rights about no-sitting." 

"Why go after everyone for the bad behavior of a few? We're your eyes and ears on the street. We keep your rents down. If it weren't for us, rents would soar." 

"We're rent control," he said, as an afterthought, and laughing over his concept. 

"The problem downtown is not us, it's the city, which harasses us." he added. "They should be protecting us." 

Linda Lye of The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the largest ACLU affiliate in the country, said Proposition S was legally "problematic." The Planet recently published an ACLU letter to Berkeley’s mayor and city council which was highly critical of Proposition S. 

Mike Diehl, a community organizer with a Berkeley drug addiction outreach program, told me, "they passed Prop. O almost twenty years ago, banning aggressive panhandling, and now they're coming back at us again with No-Sit." [Proposition O was thrown out in federal court on constitutional grounds, since it violated the First Amendment by prohibiting asking for money, which is an illegal regulation of the content of speech.] 

The crowd was rocking to the rousing roar of brass from a fourteen-piece jazz band, the Liberation Music Orchestra. The group performs exclusively at political events, according to an event organizer. 

A partial list of support for the Anti-S campaign, www.noonsberkeley.com, includes Councilmembers Worthington, Arreguin, and Anderson., the Green Party of Alameda County, Alameda County Peace and Freedom Party, John George Democratic Club, the City of Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, Gray Panthers of the East Bay, the International Indian Treaty Council, and a number of Berkeley businesses. 


The Planet's Southside reporter, Ted Friedman used to be "the voice of the Southside." 













Don't Close Berkeley Post Office, Say Speakers at Thursday Hearing

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday September 14, 2012 - 12:56:00 PM

More than 100 people who packed a public hearing yesterday urged the U.S. Postal Service to reconsider its plan to close the historic main post office in downtown Berkeley.

Closing the 57,200-square-foot building at 2000 Alston Way, which was built in 1914 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, "would be akin to selling off a redwood state park," Berkeley resident Edith Hallberg said at the hearing in the City Council's chambers.

Adolfo Cabral, who is running for a City Council seat in the Nov. 6 election, said, "This property needs to remain as a common good for the public." 

Cabral said the city of Berkeley should consider the possibility of buying the building and leasing it back to the Postal Service. 

The most colorful opposition to the agency's proposal came when most of the audience joined in singing "Please Mr. Postman," the 1961 Motown hit by the Marvelettes. The singers changed some of the words to convey their message that they don't want the Postal Service to close the main post office. 

Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz said his agency wants to close the downtown Berkeley post office and many other post offices across the country because it is in poor financial shape due to the bad economy and a steady decline in mail volume. 

The Postal Service also has been hurt by a requirement imposed by Congress in 2006 that it pre-fund its retiree health care costs, Ruiz said. The result is that the agency has had net losses of more than $25 billion in the past five years, he said. 

Diana Alvarado, the Postal Service's regional property manager, said closing the main post office is expected to achieve $5 million in savings over 10 years. 

Alvarado said the agency plans to move mail operations in Berkeley to a "detached delivery unit" at 1150 Eighth St. and lease a mall retail space in the downtown area. 

She said the Postal Service is considering the possibility of selling the downtown post office but will conduct "due diligence" over the next 90 days before making such a decision. 

Alvarado said if the agency decides to try to sell the building, "We will hire an historical consultant because we realize the historic importance of the building." 

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who chaired the City Council subcommittee hearing on the matter, said he hopes the main post office will remain and at the very least he and other city officials hope the building isn't sold to someone who will modify the building. 

"We want it to remain in its current state and we'll fight to the death," Bates said. 

He said the decision about the future of the main post office ultimately "is in the political arena" and "is a federal issue" because it's a federal building. 

Bates said U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-0akland, strongly opposes closing the main office and is "a great ally who will fight it all the way." 

Lee didn't attend the hearing but her district director, Ann Taylor, read aloud a letter from Lee in which she vowed to do her best to keep the post office open. 

Opponents of closing the main office won a small victory during today's meeting when Postal Service officials discovered that they had made an error in listing the location of the meeting. 

Their meeting notice listed city of Berkeley offices at 2180 Milvia St. as the location but the meeting actually was held a block away at City Council chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

Ruiz said the Postal Service will participate in another public hearing at another date in the next month, although no date has been set at this time. The deadline for comments on the agency's proposal had been Sept. 28 but Ruiz said that deadline will be extended indefinitely for now. 

Alvarado said that once the public comment period ends, the decision on the future of the main post office will be made by Postal Service officials in Washington, D.C. 

Once they make a decision, people who object to it will have 15 days to appeal it, she said.

Walk will Reveal Problems of Berkeley’s Aquatic Park

By Toni Mester
Friday September 14, 2012 - 11:52:00 AM
Aquatic Park view
Toni Mester
Aquatic Park view

A free informative walk around troubled Aquatic Park in Berkeley is scheduled for Saturday morning September 22 from 10 to 12:30. The two mile walk, guided by Mark Liolios of EGRET, departs from the Waterside Café at 84 Bolivar Drive, opposite Pexxikon, and will circle the Park clockwise, ending at Touchdown Plaza in front of the new Dona Spring Animal Shelter at the base of the pedestrian bridge. 

The walk is designed to acquaint members of the community with the features and problems of the Park and to facilitate participation in three upcoming public processes: the proposed land marking of historical features, the upcoming draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for the Aquatic Park Improvement Program, and the zoning of adjacent parcels under the West Berkeley Project

The Waterside Café has outdoor seating only, so participants should come prepared for the weather. Appropriate gear for the walk are layers of clothing, a small backpack to store shed items as the day warms, sun hat and/or glasses, walking shoes, and a water bottle. The path is paved and accessible to wheelchairs, bikes, and skateboards. In a few places, the walk departs from the road onto areas that are not wheel accessible, but one guide will remain on the paved walk to describe those features to the disabled. 

Aquatic Park is frequently in the news, but not favorably. The most recent negative coverage was a “Chronicle Watch” item in the San Francisco Chronicle that called Aquatic Park “Berkeley’s Civic Eyesore” because of the summer algae growth, especially dense at the north end this time of year. 

Aquatic Park is Berkeley’s largest city park, but arguably its most neglected. An attempt to develop a master plan for the Park began in 1990, and although a draft was prepared and accepted, it was not approved for environmental review and is not available. The most detailed professional description of the Park is the Natural Resource Management Study of 2003

In 2007, $1.5 million designated for the sound wall was transferred to the Ed Roberts campus, and all attempts to build a suitable barrier ceased with the death eight months later of Councilmember Dona Spring, its most prominent advocate. 

Two months ago, environmentalists tried to get a new main storm water pipe specified in a bond measure (Measure M) but failed to garner sufficient support from the City Council, who decided instead to emphasize the paving of streets. Citizens for East Shore Parks and the Sierra Club advocate enlargement of the Potter Creek storm drain, known as Option 1 in the Watershed Management Plan, because that would divert polluted storm water from the lagoons, a habitat for over 70 bird species, and prevent flooding of south and west Berkeley. The current drainage is a too narrow funnel that overflows during heavy rains. 

For more information, contact berkeleyspann@comcast.net.

Updated: Heatley Should Not Be Hired as Superintendent : An Open Letter to the Berkeley School Board (News Analysis)

By Rob Wrenn
Thursday September 13, 2012 - 09:12:00 AM

Edmond Heatley would clearly be a terrible choice for superintendent of the Berkeley Unified School District.

  1. He has very little classroom experience: only two years teaching in Norfolk Virginia after a career in the Marines before moving on to administrative positions. We need a superintendent who knows what teaching is all about from first hand experience. The classroom is where education takes place.
  2. He has been accurately described as a "gypsy", an administrator who moves frequently from district to district. Has he been anywhere for more than 3 years?
  3. He hasn't done a good job where he has been superintendent.

He has a bad reputation in Chino Valley, California, where he served briefly as superintendent before moving on to a three-year stint in Georgia. Did anyone from the board contact the teacher's union at Chino Valley? They have a Web site: http://www.associatedchinoteachers.com/ 

Here's what an article in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, about the Chino Valley Unified School District, has to say about Heatley: 


..."Their superintendant, Edmond Heatley, defected to Georgia. Around this time, an auditor said there was no data to support Heatley's deficit projections and that closing the three schools wouldn't save as much as Heatley had claimed.... "Heatley is widely viewed as a disaster [emphasis added]. Observers fault him for stonewalling people, including his bosses on the school board and giving them bad advice...  

“He inflated savings from closing the three schools because he wanted them closed, critics say, and padded the costs for opening the Preserve School to bolster his case against it to board members." 


For the whole article, go here: http://www.dailybulletin.com/ci_12816666 


He is also strongly disliked by teachers in Clayton County, Georgia, where he has most recently been a superintendent. John Trotter, president of the Metro Association of Classroom Educators (MACE), one of the teachers’ unions in Georgia (a right-to-work state and one where teachers have no collective bargaining rights) is quite outspoken in his criticisms of Heatley: 


“JONESBORO — John Trotter, president of the Metro Association of Classroom Educators (MACE), is speaking out once again against Clayton County School Superintendent Edmond Heatley. This time Trotter is saying the district will be better off without him. “The [school system] stock will go up as soon as [Heatley] is gone,” said Trotter. “[Heatley] and his California cohorts, in my opinion, has [driven] the school system into the ground.”...  

“However the three years Heatley has been the school system’s head have not been without some distress. The district spent $40,000 last year on an investigation to discover the source alleging Heatley committed improprieties. 

"Heatley has also been accused by educators of berating teachers and other administrative staff. “He has a military background,” said Goree. “I’ve had [teachers] tell me when you try to talk to him or tell him something he just does not listen.” 


Source: http://www.news-daily.com/news/2012/jul/12/trotter-sounds-heatley/?opinion 


More on Heatley in Clayton County from another news article: 


“The district had also gone through a prolonged period of turnover in the superintendent’s office. Heatley was the school system’s fifth superintendent in two years. He enjoyed early support from the Clayton County community, particularly when he suspended 1,500 high school students [emphasis added] who participated in a district-wide protest of the system’s school uniform policy in November 2009. But over his three-year tenure, Heatley — an ex-Marine drill sergeant — was often criticized for his tough management style. He was also heavily criticized for his annual handling of budget cuts, which always turned into months-long fights with the school board over proposed cuts such as eliminating employee benefits for bus drivers, shortening school weeks and doing away with arts programs.  

He also had a sometimes tenuous relationship with the media. It culminated in a May 2011 press conference where he blasted reporters for investigating rumors he was having an affair with an employee in the school system’s central office. 

“Heatley ran afoul of parents in July 2010, when he announced bus service was being cut to 4,600 students only a week before the school year began. He landed in hot water with parents again in July of this year when he announced a controversial shortened school day plan — less than a month before the current school year began — without first seeking public input. 


Source: http://www.news-daily.com/news/2012/aug/29/clayton-school-superintendent-edmond-heatley/?opinion 


Members of MACE in Georgia warned the Clayton County district not to hire Heatley, but they were ignored. Questions were also raised about the Clayton County School District's hiring of Heatley's wife and children while he was superintendent. 

4) He's a "Broadie", a graduate of billionaire Eli Broad's Broad Foundation Superintendent's Academy. Graduates push testing, charter schools and merit pay for teachers. The head of the Chicago Schools, where teachers are now on strike, is like Heatley, a graduate of this program; through his inept management, he has managed to provoke a major strike. The foundation believes in recruiting people from the the military and private sector, and has a Mitt Romney-like belief in the superiority of the private sector, believing that people with private sector careers, once they've had a dose of Broad indoctrination, can run urban school districts better than people who actually have a background in education. 

5) And if the above is not enough, Heatley wrote a memo in 2008 urging the Chino Valley School District to approve a resolution in favor of Proposition 8 [banning gay marriage]. I researched the results of the Prop 8 vote after the 2008 election and found that 87.4% of Berkeley voters voted no on Prop 8, the highest percentage of "No" votes on Prop 8 of any city in the state. Heatley, as an active advocate of Prop 8, can be assigned a share of the responsibility for that bigoted measure's passage. It is clear that Heatley does not share values widely held in Berkeley. 

Here is an excerpt of his memo as reported on Berkeleyside.com: 


“If Proposition 8 is not successful, then school districts throughout California will inevitably be required to adjust their policies and curriculum to align with the Court’s recent redefinition of marriage. “This resolution also recognizes that the ideal learning environment for children is within a nurturing home governed jointly by a mother and a father as primary educators of their children.”  


Source: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2012/09/13/superintendent-candidate-supported-prop-8-in-chino-post/ 



Finally, I have voted for all five current members of the Berkeley school board, but I wouldn't expect to support the re-election of any school board member who votes to hire Edmond Heatley, given his record to date. [The board] should restart the hiring process and find a more suitable replacement for retired superintendent Huyett, someone with values that are more in sync with Berkeley. 

Coda 9/14/12 

Today’s Chronicle quotes one member of the Chino Valley School District board, Michael Calta, who says that he authored the memo on Prop 8 “From: Edmond T. Heatley” and that Heatley himself took no position. Heatley has refused to comment, so his position on the measure and on the content of the memo with his name on it is unclear. The Chronicle reporter apparently did not bother to contact any teachers, parents or even other school board members in communities where Heatley has worked to find out what they thought. No one but Calta is cited in her article. Nor does it appear that she actually interviewed Calta; she just uses quotes from e-mails posted by Calta in response to Berkeleyside's article about Heatley and Prop 8. In fact, it appears that she didn't interview anyone for the article; certainly no one is quoted who actually spoke with her. 

Even if you put aside the issue of his support for Prop 8, the fact remains that his actions and his management style have generated controversy in at least the last two places he has worked. There are many people in those communities who don’t think he did a good job. Unfortunately the Chronicle reporter did not bother to investigate those controversies and didn't look into the assertion by a reporter in San Bernardino County that "Heatley is widely viewed as a disaster". He has worked in six different places in his relatively brief sixteen year education career, with only two of those years in the classroom. I don’t think working as a superintendent in Georgia where teachers can’t bargain with school districts and in a conservative San Bernardino County community where the school board members vote unanimously to support Prop 8 is particularly good preparation for taking up the challenge of running the Berkeley Unified School District. 

There must be more qualified, more experienced, more suitable candidates available. The $35,000 the district spent on the search for a new superintendent was apparently not well spent. 


Press Release: Berkeley Standing Up Coalition Kicks Off Campaign to Defeat “Sit-Lie” Measure S

From Christopher Cook
Sunday September 16, 2012 - 07:14:00 PM

More than 60 Berkeley residents and city and community leaders rallied support today at the city's downtown Constitution Square for their campaign to defeat Measure S, a “sit-lie” proposal on this November’s ballot which would make it illegal to sit on a sidewalk in commercial corridors. 

Speakers included city councilmember Max Anderson, ACLU attorney Linda Lye, Berkeley homeless activist Ninja Kitty, and Dan McMullan of Disabled People Outside. 

“This is pure snake oil, a solution in search of a problem,” said city councilmember Max Anderson. He called Measure S “political quackery” that blames homeless people for the city’s business downturn—a problem Anderson linked to Emeryville malls and the lack of a downtown anchor store to draw more business. 

Linda Lye, an attorney with ACLU of Northern California, argued that Measure S infringes on free speech and assembly and represents a further restriction of public space. Sidewalks, she said, are important areas of public exchange and culture, now under threat from Measure S. 

Speakers also cited an independent report by San Francisco City Hall Fellows showing that a parallel “sit-lie” law there accomplished nothing for merchants, homeless people, or public safety. 

Another speaker, Dan McMullan of Disabled People Outside, described homeless people’s everyday struggles simply to survive in the streets, saying Measure S adds no solutions but harasses poor people who need help rather than more policing. 

The event attracted numerous passersby who stopped to hear the speakers and their musical accompaniment, the famed Brass Liberation Orchestra. Event organizers with Berkeley Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down/No on S said the campaign kick-off is an opening salvo in their attempt to educate voters that “there are real solutions to homelessness, such as housing and job options, and Measure S does nothing but push poor people around.” 

For more campaign information and updates, visit http://www.noonsberkeley.com/ 

Community Campaign Center Opening

Friday September 14, 2012 - 01:51:00 PM

The Community Campaign Center at 1551 University, which is the campaign home for Measure U, along with Jacquelyn McCormick, Kriss Worthington and a handful of other campaigns, will be holding its grand opening tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 15, at 10 a.m. 

Potential volunteers are invited to attend.

Press Release: BCA Endorsement Meeting Results

From Linda Godzi
Sunday September 16, 2012 - 10:16:00 PM

The following candidates have received the endorsement of Berkeley Citizens Action for the November 2012 election, selected Sunday September 16 at our candidate endorsement meeting. Candidates who were endorsed got at least 60% of the vote. If that threshold was not met, BCA makes no endorsement. 

Several people have asked that we publicize 2nd and 3rd choices. As the BCA rules did not envision this process, this matter needs to be take up at by the Steering Committee, which meets this Thursday at 7 pm. The spreadsheet and the actual ballots will be available for viewing at that time and will be retained until after the election is over. 

The BCA Measures and Propositions Endorsement Meeting will be held at the North Berkeley Senior Center on Sunday Sept 30 from 1:30-5 

• President - Barack Obama 

• US Senate - No Endorsement 

• US Congress - Barbara Lee 

• California State Senate District 9 - No Endorsement 

• State Assembly - No Endorsement 

• Mayor - Kriss Worthington 

• City Council District 2 - Denisha Delane 

• City Council District 3 - Max Anderson 

• City Council District 5 - Sophie Hahn 

• City Council District 6 - Phoebe Sorgen (write-in) 

• Rent Board - Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Asa Dodsworth, Judy Shelton, Igor Tregub (Tenant Convention selected slate) 

• Berkeley Unified School District - 2 endorsements - Judy Appel and Beatriz Levya Cutler 

• AC Transit at Large - Chris Peeples 

• AC Transit Ward 1 - Yelda Bartlett 

• BART District 3 - Rebecca Saltzman 

• BART District 7 - Maria Alegria

Press Release: BCA Endorsement Meeting

From BCA Steering Committee
Friday September 14, 2012 - 04:41:00 PM

The BCA Candidate Endorsement Meeting will take place on Sunday, Sept. 16, 1:30 to 5 PM, at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. @ Ashby Ave. 

This is the list of candidates who have said they will be present: 

-US Representative: Barbara Lee 

-Berkeley Mayor: Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi , Jacquelyn McCormick, Kriss Worthington
- Berkeley City Council District 2: Adolfo Cabral, Denisha DeLane
- Berkeley City Council District 3: Maxwell Anderson
- Berkeley City Council District 5: Laurie Capetelli, Sophie Hahn
- Berkeley School Board: Judy Appel, Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, Norma Harrison, Tracy Hollander
- California State Senate District 9: Mary McILroy
- California State Assembly District 15: Eugene Ruyle, Tom Hughes for Nancy Skinner
- AC Transit At-Large: Dolene Jones, H. E. Chris Peeples
- AC Transit Ward 1: Yelda Bartlett
- BART District 3: Fred Wright Lopez, Anthony Pegram, Rebecca Saltzman
- BART District 7: Maria Alegria, Margaret Gordon, Zakhary Mallett  

We have received questionnaire responses and in some cases other materials from: 

Maria Alegria, Max Anderson, Judy Appel, Yelda Bartlett, Adolfo Cabral, Beatriz Leyva Cutler, Sophie Hahn, Loni Hancock, Norma Harrison, Tracy Hollander, Barbara Lee, Jacquelyn McCormick, Mary McILroy, H.E. Chris Peeples, Anthony Pegram, Eugene Ruyle, Nancy Skinner. 

The BCA PO Box will be checked on Friday, 9/14 for additional responses.  

Agenda for the meeting: 


1:15 Registration, BCA members get ballot packet and ticket showing current membership
1:45 Call to order
1:50-3:30 Presentations by category with Q&A after each category
1:50 National Candidates
2:00 Mayoral Candidates
2:15 City Council
2:40 School Board
2:55 State legislative offices
3:10 Transit offices
3:30-4:00 Opportunity to talk with BCA members
4:00 Ballots turned in, Tallying begins
4:30 Finish tallying ballots,announce results, adjourn and cleanup  

We will be as flexible as we can be with the time allotted to each candidate and to Q&A. We will be as accommodating as we can be to candidates' busy schedules.  


Election Information

Friday September 14, 2012 - 01:41:00 PM

Here are previous Planet articles with information and opinion about Berkeley’s November election:

ENDORSEMENT SPECIAL: Berkeley Mayor and City Council 09-05-2012

Berkeley Heats Up For the Fall Election Season 08-29-2012

Press Release: Bates and Berkeley Council Violated Brown Act in Measure S Process, Says ACLU in Letter From Bob Offer-Westort, Berkeley Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down; Michael T. Risher, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California: 415 621 2493 09-06-2012

There's Something About Tom Bates (News Analysis) By Ted Friedman 09-01-2012

New: Berkeley Election News in Other Media 09-04-2012

Profiles of the Candidates for Berkeley Office in the November Election From the Berkeley City Clerk 08-28-2012

Berkeley Mayoral Candidates Forum on Sept 26th By Margot Smith 08-29-2012

Election Information: 2012 Berkeley Ballot Measures 08-29-2012

Berkeley's General Election Calendar From the Berkeley City Clerk 08-29-2012

Jacquelyn McCormick for Mayor (Opinion) By Martha Nicoloff 08-29-2012



ENDORSEMENT SPECIAL: Sitting Down Should not be Banned in Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Friday September 14, 2012 - 09:41:00 AM
Sitting the sidewalk on Pacific in Santa Cruz, a man whose sign describes him as a veteran begs passersby for money.  Sitting on the sidewalk is illegal in Santa Cruz, but the law is seldom enforced.
Becky O'Malley
Sitting the sidewalk on Pacific in Santa Cruz, a man whose sign describes him as a veteran begs passersby for money. Sitting on the sidewalk is illegal in Santa Cruz, but the law is seldom enforced.

Here’s the big date: October 8.

That’s the day voters can get their mail-in ballots, and many Berkeley voters will eagerly jump the gun, get their ballots and vote on the spot.

Me, I have a nostalgic fondness for the ritual of walking to my neighborhood firehouse, seeing that nice lady who always knows my name even though I don’t always remember hers, placing that “I Voted” sticker on my shoulder. But realistically I know that mail-in ballots are safer and even easier for many, so decisions need to be made soon.

We’ve gotten the simple decisions out of the way here already: the council candidates, including the mayor. Or at least the top-rank candidates are apparent, though deciding the one-two order for mayor and District Two are not as easy.

This week we’ll ease into the rest of the ballot with a freeby, Measure S (Don’t Sit Down). 

As I’ve said elsewhere, Measure S is just another swift kick aimed at the down-and-out. (That’s such a good line that the Green Party’s election handbook has appropriated it, with my blessing.) But banning sitting from commercial sidewalks is no joke. 

It’s a colossal waste of money and police resources which will make absolutely no difference in outcomes. An elaborate ritual of warnings, citations and eventual arrest is postulated, which if enforced equally will result in much city employee overtime and no observable change. 

Measure S offers no new funding, which is badly needed if we really want to get unstable people off the streets and into services. It provides no new services, which would be a much more efficient use for the money which S proposes to spend on enforcement. 

And it is a joke, or even a bald-faced lie, to say that No-Sit laws have worked elsewhere. A study of the San Francisco version confirmed what opponents had predicted: The same small number of chronic violators were picked up and let go repeatedly, with little or no effect on either the streetscape in commercial districts or the offenders’ personal problems. 

I go often to Santa Cruz, another city that attempts to ban sitting down, and I can attest to the fact that people are sitting and begging on commercial sidewalks on the main drag, the grandiosely named Pacific Garden Mall, exactly as much as they were before the law was passed. And also, some obviously disturbed people who have been evicted from the commercial zone have moved along into the adjacent residential neighborhoods, an undesirable result which Berkeley can expect to see here if Measure S passes. 

The “Ambassadors”, the new guys downtown with the Orwellian name, have already started rousting the unsightly, using laws already on the books against lying on sidewalks, blocking sidewalks, having dirty old dogs on sidewalks, and so forth. 

One mightily confused transient, who described himself as a veteran, wandered into the house next door to us on Ashby Avenue one Sunday afternoon while all the residents were home and managed to make it as far as the second floor shower, where he defecated. The residents called 911, six police cars came, officers interviewed him for an hour, and eventually he was taken away in an ambulance. That’s an expensive intervention. 

As annoying as some might find it to have people like him downtown, at least it’s possible to keep an eye on them if they’re in a central location. Using the money which would be spent on Measure S for added social services, it might even be possible to get them some effective aid. 

Saying that the law will only be enforced against “some” and not “others” doesn’t make things better, it makes things worse. Selective enforcement can easily become constitutionally suspect, inviting expensive legal challenges. And even if it’s not unconstitutional, it’s wrong. 

For the nostalgic old-timers among you, I’ll just mention that some of us old-school progressives have a commitment to an admittedly old-fashioned idea called civil liberties. Some of us have fondly hoped that Berkeley is special, that Berkeleyans respect the equal rights of all citizens to share in the use of public spaces. 

For people like us, the privatization of city sidewalks for the benefit of Wi-Fi cafes, with simultaneous ousting of the poor, the friendless and the unappealing youth, seems wrong. Should the law in Berkeley be that you can use the sidewalk for sitting if you have a cappuccino and a chair, but not if you have just a ratty backpack or a garbage bag filled with old clothes to sit on? 

By now you’ll have figured out that you’re being urged to vote No on Measure S, called by some the Uncivil Sidewalks law. You should not only conclude that it’s inherently an expensive bad idea, maybe even unconstitutional if enforced poorly, but also you should be aware of how it got on the ballot in the first place. 

The ACLU of Northern California has written a letter which succinctly describes how Mayor Tom Bates, with the collusion of his council allies, strongarmed the measure onto the November ballot in blatant violation of both the Brown Act and the council’s own rules. The cynics among us (and I’m one) suggest that he hopes it will bring Berkeley’s more conservative voters to the polls in November, where they will vote for him and his allies who are up for re-election., Darryl Moore and Laurie Capitelli. 

Most opponents of those three candidates oppose Measure S, and you should too—as well as voting No on Bates, Moore (if you’re in District 2) and Capitelli (in District 5). Bates has two excellent opponents (Worthington and McCormick), as does Moore (DeLane and Cabral), and Capitelli has one (Sophie Hahn). Significantly, the progressive Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club declined to endorse any of the incumbents as they had in previous elections, most likely because of their support for S. 

If you’re persuaded and would like to do more, the campaign kickoff for No on S is this Sunday, September 16, at 11 a.m. The location is—where else?— on a Downtown Berkeley sidewalk at Constitution Square, the plaza on the southwest corner of the intersection of Shattuck and Center. Candidates Max Anderson (District 3) and Kriss Worthington (Mayor’s race) have already promised to show up, and there will be more, plus the Brass Liberation Orchestra. Could be fun.

Public Comment

But of Course, It Could Never Happen in Berkeley--or Could It?

By Osha Neumann
Friday September 14, 2012 - 10:15:00 AM

Editor's Note: The Daily Cal rejected this op ed saying it was "a significant departure from our typical op-ed style," and they preferred "a written format as opposed to a script."

A weekday afternoon on Telegraph Avenue. The year is 2013. A young woman, slings her book bag off her shoulder, sits down on the sidewalk, and takes off her shoes. A policeman walks up, stands over her, and takes out his citation book:

The officer: Get up! Get up! You’re breaking the law.

The woman (incredulous): My feet hurt. See these heels. I know it's just vanity but I like them. Where is it written that a woman whose feet hurt can’t sit down and take off her shoes?

The officer: Get up! It is written. Right here. (Pulls out a little blue book from his pocket and reads)No person shall sit on a commercial sidewalk between 7 AM and 10 PM.” Here you can read it yourself. 

The woman: (He hands her the book. She reads) But surely there's an exception, for one such as me, a student you see, here's my ID. 

The officer: No exception ma’am. 

The woman: If only for a minute? 

The officer: Not for a minute, not for a second. 

The woman: But I’m tired. My feet hurt. 

The officer: Is it a medical emergency? 

The woman: (She thinks.) Tired feet? Does that qualify? 

The officer: Do you need an ambulance? 

The woman Of course not. For tired feet? 

The officer: Then it’s not a medical emergency” 

(Reluctantly, she begins to put on her shoes rubbing each sore foot before she does. Then she stops. She has had a thought.) 

The woman: I remember hearing about this ordinance. Something about Measure S. I don't pay much attention to politics. (brightening)I did vote for Obama. (sighs) But when I got to all those measures on the ballot I think I just zoned out. (Pause. She searches her memory.) Now that you mention it, I remember them saying that measure was all about homeless people. (triumphant)And I'm not homeless. I showed you my ID. I’m a Cal student. I live in the dorms. I never thought… 

The officer: Lady, we don't write laws that way. The law’s the law. You're smart. You should know that. There’s not one law for homeless people and another law for everyone else. 

The woman: But I'm not causing any trouble. 

The officer: Neither are most of the people I cite. In fact, I feel sorrier for the homeless kids than for you. You should hear some of their stories. They don't have any place to go. Sure some of them are pain in the butt. We've got plenty of laws to deal with the bad guys. Personally, I wouldn't have voted for this no-sitting law, but I just enforce them: I don't make them. 

(She’s up now. Gathers up her book bag and slings it over her shoulder. She walks off muttering.

The woman: Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. A lot of people standing up do stupid things. Why not pass a law against standing? 

(A passerby who stopped to watch the whole incident overhears her. talking to herself.) 

The passerby: 95% of violent crimes are committed by people who are standing up. 

(She turns and smiles at him.) 

The woman: That’s probably a conservative estimate. 

Roland Peterson walks by. He passes the empty lot where Raleigh’s and Intermezzo used to be before the fire burnt the building down; Mario's La Fiesta was on the corner before good old Mario was forced out of business because he couldn’t afford the rent. Across the street the Cody's building remains empty (now that was a great book store). Across the street on the other side—another vacant lot. Roland is the executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, whose members are commercial landlords. He's holding a copy of his Daily Californian opinion piece. He's got a satisfied smile on his face and reads out loud to himself what he has written. 

Roland Peterson: "The real oddity is that last year the ASUC Senate voted overwhelmingly to oppose any sit-lie ordinance… It might have been the most anti-student resolution in ASUC history—one that could negatively impact thousands. “ 

.(The woman overhears him,looks puzzled) 

The woman (to herself): And they say the homeless are crazy. That guy scares me. 

(the end) 



Romney Follows His Own Rules

By Bruce Joffee
Friday September 14, 2012 - 10:34:00 AM

It is despicable that Candidate Romney issued a preemptive criticism of President Obama even as American Ambassador Chris Stevens was being killed in Libya. Not only was Romney misinformed and misguided, but he failed to adhere to a basic rule of American politics: politics stops at the water's edge. When our country is attacked, we stand behind our President, no matter what political party he belongs to. Romney's statements demonstrate how corruptly he values partisan politics over uniting around our country. He showed greed for power instead of patriotism. Romney seems to think that he is exempt from our common rules of decency. 

Another common convention that Romney thinks he is exempt from is that of candidates releasing past income tax filings during their campaign. If you want to see a person's character, look at his finances. You'll see what values he really believes in. We voters have come to expect such transparency from our candidates; it gives us one opportunity to objectively see the real person behind the paid advertisements. Again, Candidate Romney fails.

Letter to Berkeley Mayor and City Council Regarding Brown Act Violations in Placing Measure S on the November Ballot

By Michael T. Risher, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California
Thursday September 13, 2012 - 02:48:00 PM

I am writing on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California to express our concerns about the procedure that the Berkeley City Council used in putting the sit-lie proposal to a vote on July 10, 2012. Specifically, we are troubled that in responding to disruption of its meeting, the Council violated both the Brown Act and its own procedures: it failed to follow the Act's procedures for addressing disruptive behavior and instead calling a recess at which a majority ofthe Council may have discussed the matter under consideration; and it then held a vote immediately after reconvening even though there were members of both the public and the Council who were on the list to comment on the proposal. As a result of these violations, members of the public and of the Council Were denied their rights to speak about this controversial proposal, and the proposal was adopted without the public debate by Councilmembers that is a crucial part of our democracy. 

Although we fully appreciate the Council's need to maintain order at its meetings, we believe that the procedures set forth in Brown Act and the Council's rules for dealing with disruption are more than adequate to allow the Council to address such problems. We therefore ask that the Council put this matter back on its agenda for reconsideration in a meeting that respects the Brown Act, the Council's own rules, and the fundamental principles of open government, free speech, and public participation that they, and our California Constitution, are meant to protect. 

I. Facts 

As we understand it, one of the items on the calendar at the July 10,2012 Berkeley City Council meeting was the addition of the proposed Civil Sidewalks ballot measure to the November 6 ballot. This ballot measure would criminalize sitting on the sidewalk in Berkeley between the hours of 7 AM and 10 PM. The Council took up this topic at approximately 10:30. Council member Arreguin submitted a proposed amendment or revision to the measure at this time, as did Mayor Bates.  

Many community advocates attended the meeting, and some 47 people spoke in this section of the agenda against the proposed measure. One person spoke in favor. At approximately 11 :43 (the 4:43:03 mark from the video that is available online) some members of the public began to sing "We Shall Not Be Moved." When the singing persisted after calls for order, the Council voted to extend the meeting until 12:30 and then recessed. Five of the city council members (Wozniack, Maio, Bates, Moore and Capitelli) gathered in a space outside the City Council chambers, along with the City Manager. Witnesses state that all five members were either listening to or participating in a discussion about how they could bring the resolution to a vote and that at least one of them was sharing a story meant illustrate why the measure was appropriate. 

All five City Council members returned to the public space after about ten minutes. Once there, Mayor Bates immediately said that the Council would be moving on the recommendation. Councilmember Maio began to explain her position on the matter but was drowned-out by the singing and apparently stopped; the Mayor then called for a vote, over an objection by Councilmember Worthington that there were still speakers and members on the list and that the Council had not had an opportunity to debate. As the singing continued, the vote on the measure was taken. There was no audible reference to the amendments that had been tendered at the start of the meeting. 

The annotated agenda of the meeting on the City's website states that the Council voted to accept supplernent~l materialpn tIle m~asury from the MaYQr andfroI\lMember Arreguin; however, although it indicates that the resolution adopted with the mayor's amendment it does not indicate the status of Council member Arreguin's. The annotated agenda also indicates that 65 individuals were on the speakers list. 

After the vote Mayor Bates moved to adjourn the meeting and it was adjourned around midnight, well before the extension of time had expired. 

II. The Council's actions violated the Brown Act 

In California, "the people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies ... shall be open to public scrutiny." Cal. Const. Art. I § 3(b). Thus, California's Brown Act requires local bodies such as the City Council to conduct all of their discussions and deliberations about items before them in public unless a specific exception to the open-meeting requirement applies. This strict requirement applies not just to formal meetings but also to any gathering at which a majority of the Council "discuss" "any item" that is under consideration or within the Council's jurisdiction, no matter how informal. All the Act's provisions must be construed "liberally in favor of openness.”  

Here, a majority of the City Council members were gathered together during the recess, and both the chronology of the events that followed - the immediate call for a vote, without any on-therecord discussion, despite the prior grant of an extension of time until 12:30 - as well as the witness accounts, strongly suggest that those present during this gathering discussed matters relating to the pending resolution. Any such discussion, no matter how brief and even if it did nothing more than confirm support for the measure or address how it could be brought to a vote, would violate the Brown Act. And even if the City Council members did not discuss anything having to do with the substance or procedure of the meeting, the appearance of impropriety that their actions produced can be as corrosive to our democracy as impropriety itself. 

While we understand that the Mayor called for a recess and then a quick vote because of the disruption, the Council's actions failed to follow the Brown Act's established procedure for dealing with such problems. The Act does not authorize either off-the-record meetings or the termination of debate as a response to disruption; instead, it requires that the Council first try to remove individuals who are causing the disturbance, and if that is inadequate, to clear the public from the room but allow the media to remain to observe further public, on-the-record deliberations by any Council member who wishes to be heard: 

In the event that any meeting is willfully interrupted by a group or groups of persons so as to render the orderly conduct of such meeting unfeasible and order cannot be restored by the removal of individuals who are willfully interrupting the meeting, the members of the legislative body conducting the meeting may order the meeting room cleared and continue in session. Only matters appearing on the agenda may be considered in such a session. Representatives of the press or other news media, except those participating in the disturbance, shall be allowed to attend any session held pursuant to this section. Nothing in this section shall prohibit the legislative body from establishing a procedure for readmitting an individual or individuals not responsible for willfully disturbing the orderly conduct of the meeting. Gov.Code § 54957.9  

The Council should have followed this statutory procedure, which would have allowed the Councilmembers to explain their votes for the record, to raise points in opposition or in favor of the measure, and to conduct the vote in an orderly manner that expressly addressed the amendments that had been offered. The procedure that the Council instead employed allowed none of this. 

III. The Council's actions violated its own rules 

These actions also violated the City Council's own rules of procedure. City Council's Rules of Procedure state that "Roberts Rules of Order have been adopted by the City Council and apply in all cases except the precedence of motions in Section V.D shall supersede.” Robert's Rules recognize that debate is "an essential element in the making of rational decisions” and explicitly protect the right of each member to speak about a measure before a vote: the right of the city council members to debate "cannot be cut off by the chair's putting a question to vote with such rapidity that no member may get the floor ... If a vote has been taken or begun quickly and it is found that a member arose and addressed the chair with reasonable promptness ... the vote must be disregarded, the member is entitled to the floor, and debate begins or resumes." This rule of order was violated when the Mayor brought the matter to a vote without allowing the scheduled speakers to be heard. 

An action taken by a deliberative body may be null and void if it has been taken in violation of procedural rules established by local law. The Council, which has the authority to enact local laws, has adopted these rules, and its failure to abide by them may well render its actions void. Further, the violations prevented the Council from engaging the debate that is an essential element of the parliamentary process and also denied individual City Council members their right to speak in debate, which is one of the basic rights of individual members by Robert's Rules.  

IV. Conclusion 

The Council's violations of the Brown Act and its own rules curtailed debate and prevented members of the council and of the public from putting their views of the Civil Sidewalks Ballot Measure on the record. The sudden vote on the measure may have led to confusion about what exactly was being approved. And by gathering during a recess and then returning and immediately calling for a vote, despite the prior grant of an extension of time, a majority of the Council at the very least raised the specter that they violated what is perhaps the Brown Act's most important protection: the requirement that all discussions and deliberations regarding an item under consideration occur in public. 

For these reasons, we ask that you put the Civil Sidewalks Ballot Measure back on the agenda, so that the Council may reconsider it under procedures that comply with the Brown Act and the Council's own rules. 

Sincerely, Michael T. Risher Staff Attorney 

cc: Zach Cowan City Attorney 2180 Milvia Street 4th Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704

East Bay Tax the Rich Group Celebrates One Year of Weekly Rallies

By Carol and Harry Brill
Sunday September 16, 2012 - 07:13:00 PM

Last Monday the Eastbay Tax the Rich Group celebrated our one year anniversary with a party on the street. The group started on September 11, 2011 when 10 community people rallied at the top of Solano Avenue in Berkeley to protest the inequality of taxes in our country. We held signs saying “Tax the Rich” and “Tax the Big Corporations”. 

Since then the group has grown tremendously and has rallied every Monday from 5-6 p.m. Cars passing by honk in support. Pedestrians take leaflets. The signs and leaflets present information about the impact of tax inequities in our society, and how we must work together to bring about essential changes so that the rich and big corporations pay their fair share. 

The people participating in these weekly rallies feel strongly that it is essential for people to be out in the streets mobilizing together to be part of bringing about social change in our society. And, any real changes cannot come about without rich people and big corporations paying their fair share of taxes. This is essential so that schools, social services, and public security services can be funded. 

The group is now working hard to advocate for “ Yes on 30”, basically a Tax the Rich proposition, and “No on 32”, which basically would destroy the political influence of unions. 

Among our dedicated participants is the Occupella music group that plays and sings music every week. Hali Hammer, a member of Occupella, wrote a song for our special one year celebration. 

We welcome anyone who wishes to rally for tax equity to join us on Mondays, from 5-6 near the top of Solano Street.­ 

For more information contact: 

carol.brill@sbcglobal.net or harry.brill@sbcglobal.net


THE PUBLIC EYE: Welcome to Romneyland

By Bob Burnett
Friday September 14, 2012 - 08:59:00 AM

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s policies would degrade American life. If Romney had his way, the US would follow the dysfunctional course of Wyoming, a state run by big oil and gas companies and governed by conservative Republicans. A state where pursuit of corporate profits trumps quality of life.

In Romney’s acceptance speech he promised, “By 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables.” Reframing the Republican mantra “drill, baby, drill,” Romney’s energy plan would “open America’s energy reserves for development” and “provide a rational and streamlined process to regulation.” A Washington Post analysis of the plan concludes Romney would “Open all federal lands and waters for drilling, including the entire Pacific and Atlantic coasts as well as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Currently, the Interior Department has the power to issue drilling permits for Federal lands and waters; “Romney would give that power to states.” In addition, Romney would “approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil sands from Canada to the Texas gulf coast.”

To facilitate his full-throttle approach, Romney would significantly weaken the regulatory power of Federal agencies. He would, “Strip the Environmental Protection Agency of the power to regulate carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.” In addition, Romney would “remove obstacles and regulations” that impede the development of coal. (Romney has called the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts “outdated” and said “they need to be overhauled.”) 

If this sounds familiar, it’s the strategy Republicans have been using in Wyoming since the sixties. The Cowboy State is the ninth largest in size, 97,105 square miles, but last in population with 568,158 residents. A state of vast open spaces, it is known for its beautiful parklands on the west – 48 percent of Wyoming land is owned by the Federal government including Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks – and high plains prairie to the east. In recent decades Wyoming has also been known for its vast supplies of energy; it’s the number one state in coal production (including coal-bed methane), 4th in natural gas and 7th in oil. Most of the mines and wells are in the eastern part of Wyoming, but in recent years there’s been a push west to property adjacent to and, in some cases, inside Federal lands. 

Although coal, gas, and oil have always been important to Wyoming, the modern era begins in the seventies when the energy crisis produced an oil and coal boom that led to a 52 percent increase in population. (This decade also saw the growth of the Wyoming Republican Party and the emergence of Dick Cheney, who served as the Cowboy state’s only Representative from 1979 to 1989.) The Wyoming economy continued to be dependent on oil and coal even through difficult times in the eighties and nineties. “The current energy surge in Wyoming took off in the early 2000s... Between 2000 and 2006, the production value of oil and gas in Wyoming skyrocketed from $7.3 billion to $17.6 billion. Coal production values also increased at a more modest pace, rising from $2.6 billion in 2000 to $4.0 billion in 2006.” (Today’s Wyoming economy has only a 5.6 percent unemployment rate – government is the largest employment sector but coal, gas, and oil remains the largest private employer at 9.6 percent.) Not surprisingly, energy companies heavily influence the Wyoming Republican Party and state politicians favor a drill, baby, drill policy oriented towards fossil fuels while advocating relaxation of relevant regulations.  

In response to the Gulf Oil Spill, President Obama noted the “scandalously close relationship between oil companies and the agency that regulates them.” This relationship between the Department of Interior’s Material Management Service and the coal, gas, and oil industry was described by a Wyoming non-profit news service WyoFile: “A former chief executive of Halliburton, [Vice President Dick] Cheney took an early and very active interest in energy policy and placed several Wyoming political friends in key positions in the Department of Interior… Cheney then chose Thomas Sansonetti, a prominent Cheyenne lawyer and GOP activist, to head the team choosing top personnel for the Department of Interior, which oversees Minerals Management Service.” 

Because of the close relationship between the Wyoming coal, gas, and oil industries and the agencies that regulate them, there are a wide variety of environmental problems in the Cowboy state: lax law enforcement, dirty air and water, destruction of wilderness, depletion of vulnerable species, and on and on. (For example, Wyoming is ranked 7th in hydraulic “fracking,” the injection of Toxic Release Inventory chemicals to release oil and gas.) 

What we see in Wyoming is the consequence of the GOP “free market” philosophy: let the coal, gas, and oil industry have its way and ignore the common good. Given Mitt Romney’s campaign statements, it’s what would happen if he became President. He would turn the United States into fifty versions of Wyoming. Welcome to Romneyland. Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net 


ECLECTIC RANT: Making it Harder For Some to Vote: Restrictive Voting Laws

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday September 14, 2012 - 09:55:00 AM

In the 2008 presidential election, approximately 5 million more Americans voted than in 2004. And the voters were the most racially diverse in American history, with African-Americans, Latino, and Asian-American citizens voting in record number. Since the 2008 election, however, more than 30 states have introduced laws that make it harder to vote, ostensibly to curb voter fraud. According to the Brennan Center for Justice , these restrictive laws could disenfranchise more than 5 million Americans, and could effect the presidential election in key states. 

At least ten states have or have introduced voter ID laws. Approximately 1 in 10 Americans do not have a photo ID. In Crawford V. Marion County Election Board, 553 U.S. 181 (2008), the U.S. Supreme Court held that an Indiana law requiring voters to provide photo IDs did not violate the U.S. Constitution, finding it closely related to Indiana's legitimate state interest in preventing voter fraud, modernizing elections, and safeguarding voter confidence. The Indiana law in question required all voters casting a ballot in person to present a U.S. or Indiana photo ID. Under the Indiana law, voters who do not have a photo ID may cast a provisional ballot. To have their votes counted, they must visit a designated government office within 10 days and bring a photo ID or sign a statement saying they cannot afford one. But in their ruling on behalf of states’ ability to regulate elections, the high court also noted that state “judgment must prevail unless it imposes a severe and unjustified overall burden upon the right to vote, or is intended to disadvantage a particular class.” 

In another case, a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C. struck down a Texas ID law. In the same court, a similar South Carolina ID law is before a three-judge panel. The panel cited a $22 fee for a state ID, which they ruled imposed “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor.” The difference between the Indiana case and these two cases may be that the Texas and South Carolina laws are much stricter than Indiana's. It is expected that the Texas and South Carolina cases will end up in the Supreme Court. 

In Pennsylvania, a lower state court ruled that a voter ID law should apply in the November election. The case is on appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. 

In Ohio, a key state in the presidential election, a court struck down a new law that allowed only military personnel to vote the weekend before the November election, which the court said discriminated against the poor and minorities, who historically have taken advantage of the early weekend voting to cast their ballots. 

Seven states require proof of citizenship at the polls.  

Thirty-two states have introduced bills to reduce early or absentee voting. In 2008, 30 percent of all ballots were cast before election day.  

Thirty-two states, including California, restrict voter registration drives. Onerous regulation of voter registration activities can significantly limit or even halt community-based voter registration drives, blocking the citizens who rely on these drives from getting on the voter rolls. For example, until June 2012, national groups like the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote had discontinued voter registration activity in Florida due to that state’s excessive regulations, particularly unreasonable fines and deadlines. On May 31, a federal judge blocked some of Florida's voter registration restrictions. 

In Texas, both Voting for America, an affiliate of Project Vote, and Project Vote filed suit against the state of Texas to challenge its election code that similarly impedes community-based voter registration drives. The group sought a preliminary injunction to block portions of the law that have a chilling effect on voter registration activity, in violation of the National Voter Registration Act and the U.S. Constitution. On August 2, a federal judge agreed and granted a partial preliminary injunction, effectively blocking some of the state’s most prohibitive rules until a final ruling can be reached. 

The ACLU has been involved in 36 lawsuits challenging restrictive voting laws in 20 different states over the past 18 months. And they expect to file even more lawsuits in the weeks leading up to the election. 

These restrictive laws are supposed to curb fraud. "Voter fraud" occurs when individuals cast ballots despite knowing that they are ineligible to vote, in an attempt to defraud the election system. After an investigation by the Justice Department between 2002 and 2007, not one person was prosecuted for impersonating an eligible voter at the polls. And out of the 300 million votes cast in that period, federal prosecutors convicted only 86 people for voter fraud – and many of the cases involved immigrants and former felons who were simply unaware of their ineligibility. As the Brennan Center notes , “The truth of the matter is that voter fraud—votes knowingly cast by ineligible individuals—is exceedingly rare; one is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud." 

The 15th amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents any state from denying the right to vote to any male citizen on account of his race. Voter restriction laws borrow from pre-civil rights-era voting and election laws designed to restrict the rights of African-Americans to vote. In addition to violence and intimidation, many Southern states used poll taxes to prevent Blacks from exercising their civil and voting rights from 1868 through the mid-1870s. A poll tax, which many Blacks could not afford, had to be paid in order to vote. The requirement to purchase a state identification card or other form of acceptable identification acts as a poll tax and discourages the poor from voting. 

The Republican Party is a minority party. By borrowing from pre-civil rights-era Southern states that used voting and election laws to manipulate the voting strength of the electorate, the GOP is determined to shrink the majority by reducing the number of elderly, poor, African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans voters. 


For a state-by-state listing of voter restriction laws, see Laws Against Voting: State Statutes that Restrict Participation in 2012 by Project Vote .  

I also recommend The Truth About Voter Fraud by the Brennan Center for Justice , for an analysis of voter fraud, finding that allegations of widespread voter fraud is greatly exaggerated. 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS:Outpatient Institutionalization--A Rant

By Jack Bragen
Friday September 14, 2012 - 09:46:00 AM

Institutionalization can happen to a person with mental illness with or without their housing as one of its components. Many persons with mental illness are forced by economic concerns to live in a "board and care home" (which is a privately owned house that rents to mentally ill people) or in "supported housing," (this might be an apartment complex that has low rent, set aside for persons with disabilities.) 

Living situations like the above may not provide a lot of dignity. A resident may have to put up with being supervised, with being restricted, sometimes with being harassed, or just with having a street address that has negative connotations. 

(I wonder if it is harder to be hired at a job when the address given on the application is that of a known mental health housing project. And then, without being able to get hired at a job, how is a person supposed to climb the economic ladder and some day move out of such a facility?) 

Institutionalization to me is one of the major factors that make life with mental illness un-fun. On an outpatient basis, it can consist of participation in a day treatment program, as well as visits to a clinical psychologist, visits to a psychiatrist for medications, and of course, trips to the pharmacy. I am including trips to the pharmacy because it is one more complication in life that we must deal with, and because the pharmacist apparently plays a part in monitoring persons with mental illness. 

Ultimately, in nearly all aspects of our lives, we are reminded of not being normal. Many persons with mental illness are resentful that they have been classified as abnormal and incapable. To be treated as though we can not think or function normally, in all venues that we normally go to, will either make someone outrageously mad, as well as motivated to do better so that they will not be in that situation, or else, it will convince a person of their own worthlessness, and they will consent to being a controlled zombie for the rest of their life. 

Many persons with mental illness crave to be in a situation in which they are not treated and viewed as an "ill" person. A day of work for a temp agency may temporarily provide this. I am suggesting a temp agency since most persons with a major mental illness have difficulty sustaining regular full-time work; part-time and temp are more doable. A person could go to a temp agency and work one or two small assignments, and can then consider that they are successful at that. 

Institutionalization can affect a person's self image to the extent that they become identifiable in public, because they have learned to carry an aura of being abnormal and less of a person. 

The above paragraphs express my somewhat skewed image of the mental health treatment system. However, if I think about it, I realize that there are some persons with mental illness who truly need the help. In that case, these institutions are there for them and provide needed care. 

The above text conveys two perspectives concerning the psychiatric outpatient care system. Which side a person is on may depend on his or her anger level, as well as the readiness or lack of readiness to blend in with people at large. For some, anger is channeled into positive actions toward getting oneself into a better situation. In this case, resentment could be a sign of health.

Arts & Events

New: FILM REVIEW: Tears of Gaza: An Apolitical Apocalypse-- Opens September 21 at the Elmwood Theater

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Thursday September 20, 2012 - 09:28:00 AM

In a perfect world, I'd like to think Bibi Netanyahu might be required to sit through a screening of Tears of Gaza—and that he would emerge moved by the plight of the Palestinians. Again, in a more perfect world, I would wish that the men who manufactured the bullets, grenades and unquenchable, flesh-searing phosphorus bombs used in Gaza (and elsewhere in the world) would be required to sit through this film—in the company of their horrified wives and children. 

This documentary is an "apolitical" film in that it does not or dwell on the history of a particular regional conflict nor trouble itself with the rationales or strategies behind any particular military action. It merely shows the human consequences of war on a single, trapped and beleaguered civilian population. 

In the broader context, however, the film's very title reminds us that the remarkable footage (captured by numerous photographers and filmmakers on the ground) is a civilian's-eye documentation of Israel's "Cast Lead" attack on Gaza in 2008. 

Because Israel refused to allow any international reporters to enter Gaza during the assault, the ferocity of the attack has remained largely unrecorded and unseen in the West—until the release of this stunning Norwegian documentary. 

Norwegian director, actress and author Vibeke Løkkeberg was moved to undertake this film (her twelfth since 1966) after watching a brief interview with several child survivors of the Cast Lead attack. Løkkeberg explained it was "the short glimpses of children's faces displayed on my TV set, after they had lived through the war" that motivated her to secure funding from The Freedom of Expression Foundation and the Norwegian Film Institute and to undertake the film project, with the assistance of producer Terje Kristiansen. 

"Wars are senseless, destructive, unworthy of mankind," Løkkeberg insists, offering as proof the words of a grieving father, holding the burned body of a child disfigured by the effects of a phosphorous bomb: "What God do these people believe in, who can do this against children? And how can I gather the strength to forgive?" 

The 2011 winner of the Human Rights Award and the Monaco Charity Film Festival, Tears of Gaza has also screened at the 2011 Jerusalem Film Festival, where it was hailed as "an unsettling, gut-wrenching, and simultaneously thought-provoking film." 

Tears of Gaza revolves around several extensive and emotional interviews with three young survivors—Amira, Razmia and Yahya. The interviews and other scenes of Gaza's shell-shocked survivors were shot covertly by local filmmakers working in Gaza over a period of six months. After the footage was smuggled out of Gaza, it took another year for the raw footage to be edited into the final 83-minute-long film. 

This is what war looks like up close, unfiltered by corporate news anchors, uninterrupted by commercials for Charmin Ultra Soft and Febreze air fresheners. That means confronting the visual impact of bodies charred by phosphorous weapons, gaping bullet-caused wounds in bellies and heads, and bullet holes in the bodies of two-year-old children, clearly suggesting that they had been executed at close range. 

Because of the Israeli-imposed blockade on goods and services, when the bombs being to fall, the impoverished residents of Gaza are even less able to defense themselves. There are no ambulances to carry the victims; lacking a fire department, families struggle to save their burning homes with garden hoses. 

Variety praised the "disturbing immediacy and visceral terror" of this powerful film, noting that its message was above politics and "almost purely observational…. The wounded parents carrying maimed children are not in uniform, and the bullet holes in the two-year-olds did not arrive by accident." 

As Tears of Gaza manages to find rare theatrical screenings in select US cities, producer Kristiansen recently offered an observation about the so-called "War on terror" being orchestrated from Washington. According to Kristiansen, "The use of words like 'terrorist,' 'discrimination' and 'democracy' tend to be mantras for justifying the use of violence." 

Tears of Gaza makes it abundantly clear that we've had too much violence. It's time to start focusing on healing.

THEATER REVIEW: Three Nights--or Matinees--of James Keller's Plays at Live Oak Theater

By Ken Bullock
Friday September 14, 2012 - 04:48:00 PM

Unusual to have the chance to see the work of a mature playwright, a local one at that, in a setting like Live Oak Theater. But the opportunity to see James Keller's troupe, Poor Players, performing two gender-specific programs of his delightfull—and very thoughtful—short plays, plus Keller himself performing his condensation of James Joyce's 'Ulysses' (he has also taught classes in literature and other subjects at Berkeley Adult Ed.) is an opportunity not to pass up. 

It's a short runl—just through this weekendl—but I managed to catch all three (the Joyce reading was one time only)l—and there're several shows of each of the play programs left. 

'Women Alone,' four plays and monologues featuring an all-female cast, well-directed by Keller, featured a spicy tee-off with "Cougar on the Green," when ninety-year old widow (never a golf widow!) Mrs. O'Neill is rebuffed in her attempt to convince icy, all-business Miss Mulligan, avowedly not a player, to give her the senior rate at her old club ... That is, until Mrs. O'Neill discovers Miss Mulligan may be another kind of player, indeed ... Janice Fuller Leone and Elinor Bell clash beautifully as the ebullient widow and the tight-lipped managerial type. Bell ups the ante as an offbeat heavy in "The Caregiver," as bitter, abusive niece-companion to her Aunt Evelynl—Susannah Wood is all eyes and sidelong glances, with halting speech, from her wheelchairl—until poor auntie turns the tables on her half-ghoulish former ward in a switcheroo worthy of Hitchcock's days on telly. 

"Companion Piece" has a nice little ensemble of Fuller, Bell and Wood putting on a showl—rehearsing it, anywayl—about a society matron who wants a theater named for her. But can the actress playing her part (a funny turn by Fuller: "My memory's shot full of holes, like Swiss cheesel—you could melt me down like fondue!") remember her lines? Wood as Rose, her companion onstage, provides some great verbal vignettes of Budapest during and after World War Two. And Bell essays a long monologue as an aged dance teacher in 'Many Happy Returns,' musing on reincarnation, while improvising the gestures for yet another dancel—something of a tour de force for this excellent performer. 

'Men Only,' valiantly directed by Martha Luehrman (of Actors Ensemble, who's acted with distinction in earlier Poor Players shows), gets off the ground with a charming yet pointed monologue by impish Rish Sanghvi as a Hindu flight attendant taking us through his paces up in the blue, in 'Airbourne.' A dialogue after hours in a Downtown New York restaurant kitchen has two old ex-seminarian friends grousing and laughing over old times, whether they could've ever made it in the clothl—and why one of them, now a stage director, was ousted from the path to priesthood by their thorny mentor, in 'Leaving Jesus.' More verbal spice here, as they commiserate about family and Church and the up and down sides of losing Church, faith, and the former meaning to their lives. Michael Fleming pours it on as Leo, local boy who emerged from his mother's kitchen to feed the public, and Bruce Kaplan lays back with an edge as his old school buddy Al, the two flirting with a secret that finally comes out in a rush of confession. 

"The Return of Lenin," dominated by the ghostly presencel—if not actual appearancel—of the late, great revolutionary during the Second World War Siege of Moscow, when the remains of the great departed Soviet leader needed ... to depart! Kaplan performs a terrific turn as State Embalmer Boris Ilyich Zbarsky, while Fleming and Sangvi match off as bureaucratic comedy team Rozinsky and Guzinsky. No buck-and-wing, but it's quite a burlesque, the leading player a stiff in the wings! Finally, Kaplan threads his way with exemplary care and humanity through the monologue of an eighty-five year old WW II vet, who can't forget the trauma of service under fire, a scene he vividly paints, the enemy unseen, the darkness of nightl—both of the event and many sleepless ones over a lifetimel—filled with the shapes and outcries of other eighteen year olds. A haunting, spendidly written piece, based on the true account of a local man of the theater. 

The shows go off without a hitch, effortlessly covering much ground under the guise of their sprightly dialogue, comedy and drama alternating, humor and irony. There's a bit too much blackout of lights in the men's monologues, bringing to mind George M. Cohan's admonition about actors pausing in a soliloquy before a thought's complete. Here the actors have the flow, impeded by a technical mannerism. But the performances stand, in both sets of plays, with anything else you're likely to see around here onstage right nowl—and the material's a gem, delivered by actors who clearly love their work. 

Keller, who rarely performs, gave an unusual three hour reading from 'Ulysses,' acting out passages as he read quickly, the ideal way to read Modernist masterpieces, winging it, as it were, leaving a steady stream of impressions behind, beating the footnotes that dog the way most have read Joyce et all—in school. Jumping from one episode ahead to the next, all set pieces in the great Irish author's burlesque of novelistic form and classicism, Keller captures the rapturous lyricism of perception and memory of a day in the life of a city unseen by its memorialist for some time, caught in the small glances and gesturesl—and small talk, puns and slips of the tongue, from home to pub, funeral to seashore, anticipation to memory, via Night Town back home to bed, ending with Molly Bloom's ecstatic "inner voice" soliloquy. 

I urge anyone, everyone to treat yourself to Poor Players' brace of plays, 'Men Only' and 'Women Alone,' this weekend, like a holiday box of chocolates. You won't forget them; the impression they make lasts long after the curtain's rung down. 

'Women Alone' Saturday at 2 p. m., 'Men Only' Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7:30, Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck (at Berryman, a block north of Rose and the Gourmet Ghetto of North Berkeley). $20 per program. (925) 473-1363