Full Text

Justin DeFreitas


Press Release: Berkeley Unified School District Shows Gains on the API and AYP

From Mark Coplan
Wednesday October 10, 2012 - 10:05:00 PM

The California Department of Education released the 2012 Accountability Progress Report today. This annual report contains two sections: 1) the state Academic Performance Index (API) measuring year-to-year growth in academic achievement that a school or local educational agency (LEA) has made, and 2) the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measuring how well a school meets minimum performance targets. 

Academic Performance Index (API) - Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) had an overall growth of 19 points resulting in a district-wide Academic Performance Index (API) of 810. The greatest gains in academic achievement are reflected in the 25 point increase in API for English Learners, 37 points for Students with Disabilities, and 16 points for Socio-economically Disadvantaged Students. When disaggregated by ethnicity, the API increased by double digits for African American (15), Asian (12), Hispanic or Latino (15), and White (13) students (see charts 1 & 2). Several district-wide initiatives have contributed to the gains for all student groups including the implementation of Response to Intervention and Instruction (RTI2) in our K-8 schools, focus on English Language Development and academic language instruction, reduced teacher-to-student ratio in middle school math classes, and collaboration time for teachers. 

Each of BUSD’s elementary and middle schools have exceeded the statewide API target of 800 or above. The average gain in Elementary and Middle School was over 25 points. “The API numbers out today provide another data point that our schools are on the path of continuous improvement. We are committed to raising the achievement of students of all groups and closing the differences between them. I am proud of the way all of our school site staffs, administrators, and district departments are working to put students first,” shared Co-Superintendent Javetta Cleveland. 

Berkeley High School (BHS) received an API for the second consecutive year showing a 19- point growth in one year for a school API of 734. Previously reported in Spring, 2012 was the BHS graduation rate of 86% - higher than both the county and state graduation rates. “Berkeley High teachers and staff are working to improve the educational outcomes for all students. Their focus now is to align the curriculum to the new Common Core State Standards and to use common assessments. We expect to see accelerated improvements in high school performance just as we have seen recently in our elementary and middle schools,” said Co-Superintendent Neil Smith. 

Of particular interest to the Berkeley community is the achievement of students in our Class of 2020 (current 5th graders who will graduate from high school in the year 2020). District, city, and community partners to the 2020 Vision for Berkeley’s Children and Youth are using key indicators (e.g. third grade reading fluency, attendance, kindergarten readiness) as a barometer of efforts to ensure educational excellence and equity for all students. At 2020 in Action, a public symposium on the progress to date being held tonight, new California Standards Test (CST) data will show that 76% of last year’s third graders are proficient or advanced in reading, a gain of 10% from the previous third grade class. In addition, the Class of 2020 cohort demonstrated a 20 percentage point gain on the CST in English Language Arts and a 5 percentage point gain in Mathematics on their 4th Grade Test in 2012 as compared to 3rd Grade in 2011. 

President of Berkeley Federation of Teachers Cathy Campbell recognized that "Today's news highlights the critical work that teachers and students conduct every day in our classrooms. Teachers are working collectively to implement a rich and exciting curriculum, to engage all students, and to meet the needs of our diverse learners. Teachers are committed to continuous improvement in their own practice, and this is reflected in the scores we see today." 

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) – Annual Measurable Objectives, or AMOs, are the minimum percentages of students who are required to meet or exceed the proficient level on the statewide assessments used for AYP. AYP targets become more difficult to reach as more students must score proficient or advanced on the tests from the previous year, with the goal of all students being proficient or advanced by 2014. The 2012 data reflected in the Charts 4 through 7 shows there has been an district-wide increase in the percent of students proficient or advanced as well as by students in the African-American, Hispanic/Latino, English Learner, Socio-Economically Disadvantaged and Students with Disabilities subgroups. 

The BUSD Board of Education, the District leadership, individual school site leadership teams and staff will continue to work collaboratively to conduct a thorough analysis of test results and other available data, because as Co-Superintendent Neil Smith said, “Our work is moving us in the right direction but we are still not where we want to be. We now have to focus targeted instruction and resources to the specific areas where we know we can better serve our students.” 


Berkeley Study: Sudden Oak Death 'Epidemic' Threatens East Bay

By Jeff Burbank (BCN)
Wednesday October 10, 2012 - 10:00:00 PM

Sudden Oak Death, a disease that can destroy oak and tanoak trees in California, has reached "epidemic" proportions in some parts of the East Bay and the Peninsula and prevention efforts against further infestation are "urgently needed," according to an environmental task force. 

Surveys of California Bay Laurel trees in selected Bay Area cities, conducted by the University of California at Berkeley and volunteers, show that the pathogen that triggers the disease has spread rapidly in the western East Bay area and the North Peninsula, where "a staggering 48 percent" of bay laurel trees tested in the Burlingame Hills were infected, according to the California Oak Mortality Task Force. 

The on-site surveys, known as "SOD Blitzes," of more than 10,000 trees by 500 volunteers identified bay laurel trees with evidence of the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, which does not harm the bay laurel but can take hold, infect and eventually kill decades-old oak and tanoak trees if left untreated. 

"The bay trees are the primary spreaders of the pathogen," said Katie Palmieri, spokeswoman for the task force and UC Berkeley. "They indicate how much pathogen is in the area." 

Communities that also have high volumes of infected bay laurel trees -- where spores from the pathogen show up as black and yellow coloring on the trees' leaves -- likely will see their oak and tanoak trees catch the disease as well, Palmieri said. 

"The next step is for oaks and tanoaks to be infected" within about a half-mile of infected bay laurels, she said. 

Sudden Oak Disease has been killing oak and tanoak trees in the wetlands of California's 14 coastal counties, Palmieri said. 

A survey this year by the U.S. Forest Service located 376,000 dead oak and tanoak trees within 54,000 acres in California, up from 38,000 dead trees inside 8,000 acres in 2011, she said. 

Leaf samples were gathered from SOD Blitzes last spring in East Bay communities such as Pinole, East Richmond, Kensington, North Berkeley, Claremont and Piedmont. 

The samples had pathogen levels so high that infection of oaks and tanoaks in those areas is "extremely likely, making preventative disease management options urgently needed to protect oaks and tanoaks both in private and public spaces," said Matteo Garbelotto, adjunct professor at Berkeley who operates a lab that analyzes the samples. 

The elevated levels of bay laurel infection observed in the western East Bay indicate that the disease has "rapidly transitioned from arrival (reported in 2011) to an epidemic phase," Garbelotto said.  

The pathogen thrives in moisture and so the wetter the seasons the bigger the outbreaks each year, he said. 

"This increase in infection really was predicted two, and especially one, year ago when we had heavier rains and mild springs," Garbelotto said.  

"SOD Blitzes, combined with aerial surveys, validate our theory that SOD outbreaks are driven by wetter than average conditions and are initiated by bay laurel infection," he said. 

If the disease spreads to an oak and tanoak, two similar but separate species of tree, it creates a dark wound in the trunks of the trees that expands to kill healthy wood, making it harder for the oaks to distribute water and nutrients, Palmieri said. 

"It can take several months to several years for them to die," she said. "The tanoaks are the fastest to die." 

Volunteers, also known as "citizen scientists," who take part in the SOD Blitz surveys of bay laurels are trained how to recognize diseased trees and to inoculate oak and tanoak trees to prevent the disease from spreading. 

The inoculation involves using Agri-Fos, a commercial fungicide that is absorbed into the tree and uses the tree's natural defenses against disease to block the pathogen. 

People seeking to protect their oak trees within the half-mile radius of infected bay laurel should consider using Agri-Fos, applied either topically or by injection, into the trees this fall before it gets wet, Palmieri said.  

There is no cure once the oak tree is infected, so prevention is crucial, Palmieri said  

"All it can do is help boost the tree's immune system," she said. "As long as you treat a tree before it's been infected, that is the key."

Press Release: Watch Berkeley Candidates “Stump Speeches” on YouTube

From the League of Women Voters
Tuesday October 09, 2012 - 01:01:00 PM

Two-minute stump speeches by candidates for Berkeley Mayor, City Council Districts 2, 3 & 5 and School Board give voters a good sense of each candidate’s views. Candidates for City Council Districts and Berkeley Unified School Board also discuss issues in half hour and hour “Election 2012” programs. Watch at any time on YouTube.com/lwvbae. On the site, scroll down to find the spot or program you want to watch. 

"Election 2012" programs are also playing almost continuously on B-TV cable channel 33 in Berkeley every afternoon and evening--except during City Council and Board and Commission meetings. Exact schedules for the programs on Channel 33 are posted on their website at betv.org

Spots and programs were produced by the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville in cooperation with Berkeley Community Media and, for the School Board, the PTA Council.

New: Who's Spending on Berkeley Ballot Measures? The First Filing of Expenditures, and More

By Thomas Lord
Tuesday October 09, 2012 - 10:12:00 AM

The Berkeley Ballot Measure Browser has been improved with the addition of information about campaign donations and campaign spending. Want to get a sense of how much money has been spent promoting each measure, and who is funding the campaigns? Look for the "campaign committees" links on the left hand side.

Click here to use it.

New: Santa Monica has a Plan for Growth and It’s Better than Berkeley’s (News Analysis)

By Toni Mester
Saturday October 06, 2012 - 09:39:00 AM
West Berkeley's historic Heinz factory, now home to successful small businesses
West Berkeley's historic Heinz factory, now home to successful small businesses

The City of Santa Monica is smaller than Berkeley by 22,000 but it has a bigger and better idea for planning growth than Berkeley’s flawed Measure T, and theirs has already paid off in jobs, green buildings, infrastructure improvements, open space, and other community benefits.

Santa Monica uses the development agreement (DA) for all buildings over 32 feet, negotiated under LUCE, their land use and circulation element that was generated after six years of extensive community engagement and adopted in 2010.

Since then, the number of development agreements negotiated by Santa Monica continues to grow, with 2 projects under construction and 6 more approved and waiting to be built. Prior to LUCE, 12 DA projects were completed between 1981 and 2007.

The benefits that such projects will bring Santa Monica include neighborhood conservation, integrated land use and transportation, affordable housing, greenhouse gas and congestion reduction, historic preservation, daycare, and cultural facilities.

Compare this community generated and award winning plan with Berkeley’s Measure T, a revision of the master use permit section of the zoning ordinance allowing heights of 75 feet on large sites in the manufacturing zones of West Berkeley. Any such site would qualify for a development agreement under existing code, so up-zoning the MUP ordinance is redundant.

The reasons why

It’s a mystery why planning staff chose to handle large developments by revising the MUPs when the existing development agreement code is a far superior tool that can be precisely tailored to the site and the needs of the developer. 

Some speculate that the pre-approved allowances were devised with the needs of LBNL in mind, to lure the Labs to Berkeley, and planners continued to push the MUPs even after the Labs chose Richmond for the second campus in January of this year. According to information elicited through the Pubic Records Act, land owners, their agents and developers met in 2010 with City planners about the LBNL site submissions. City planners have more power to control the permit process under the MUPs than with development agreements by minimizing input from the community, which they obviously see as interference. In June 2011, staff asked Council to make land use appeals more difficult by increasing the cost and restricting the number of appellants. 

The MUP applications will go through a discretionary process similar to other use permits, involving discussions with staff, a recommendation to the Zoning Adjustments Board, and ZAB action. For some considerations, ZAB is instructed by the MUP mitigations to find detriment if certain conditions apply, but these determinations are subjective. 

Public input will be limited to short testimony at ZAB or expensive appeals. Any negotiation will happen behind closed doors until the project reaches the ZAB. No permit applicant has allowances “by right” under a MUP or other zoning because ZAB can find detriment, but only a development agreement insures public input and requires a citizens advisory board to represent the interests of the community in negotiations. 

Measure T will not produce jobs or benefits until projects are approved, and nobody knows when that will happen. The eligible properties could change hands many times over before a use permit application for a project is submitted, while developers snatch up other low-cost property to qualify for a MUP. The City has a financial interest in promoting land speculation and consolidation because increased prices add to the municipal treasury through the property transfer tax, 1.5% of the sale price. 


MUP v. DA 

The main difference between a DA and a MUP is that a developer with a project is party to the DA, while the MUP affects land owners, who may or may not be developers. The increased building allowances raise the value of the land and promote speculation, not jobs and benefits. 

Some of the nine targeted MUP sites are not owned by developers. The relentless public relations campaign for the “Peerless Greens” project invents mythological expectations about a self-sufficient artists’ colony. But the owner, Doug Herst, is not a developer. He is trying to get a portion of his land, currently zoned for manufacturing, spot-zoned to allow for housing, which would increase its value. Herst will then sell the land to a developer, and nobody knows at this point what the use application will look like after market analyses, revenue projections, density bonus calculations, and soil contamination reports are completed. 

The Jones family, the property owners of the former American Soils lot, the Plexxikon site and other buildings are not developers. They will also sell their eight acre parcel adjacent to Aquatic Park. It’s a complicated property to zone because of its uneven elevations. 

The fate of other eligible properties including the historic H.J. Heinz building, a City landmark, can not be determined. Designating the Heinz building as a potential MUP puts the landmark at risk because the increased allowances create an incentive to demolish the existing buildings and replace them with condos. The EIR lists demolition of cultural resources as a significant and unavoidable impact. 

All these problems could be solved if these large land holdings were developed through site specific agreements rather than the “one size fits all” MUP standards. 


Development benefits 

When we negotiated the Bayer DA in 1991, job creation was assured. The company employed less than half its current work force of over 1200, but they were in production and had plans for expansion. A large international corporation, Bayer could afford the many benefits that we proposed. As a Council appointed citizen advisor, I pushed for a biotechnology education program and got it, now called Biotech Partners. 

Besides job training, we got child care, affordable housing, public infrastructure, a transportation demand management (TDM) program, and a million bucks for the West Berkeley Foundation to spread around the community over ten years, which was District 2 Councilmember Margaret Breland’s idea. In exchange for all this, Bayer got development standards designed to their expansion needs. 

Some Council and community members seem to think that Measure T is going produce the same results. It’s not. Measure T will not create a single new job because it’s only zoning, not a project oriented development agreement. 

At the benefits workshops held in September by the planning commission, staff estimated the total monetary amount available for community benefits that would derive from six MUP based projects over ten years to be a paltry $5 to $15 million total, based on a formula calculating a percentage of the value of the increased allowances. 

That amount would not come close to meeting Berkeley’s needs for affordable housing, one of the “benefits buckets” that were discussed, and would be but a drop in the big bucket of Aquatic Park, which is sorely in need of expensive engineering improvements including new plumbing and a sound wall barrier. 

At a subsidy of $300,000 per unit of affordable housing, $5 million in benefits would fund only 16 new units. The price of a new Potter Creek storm drain that would divert polluted water from the lagoons and stop the flooding in southwest Berkeley is $20 million according to the Watershed Management Plan

The estimated benefits return from the MUPs is not sufficient to fund the needs and expectations of the community; nor is it adequate to compensate nearby residents and businesses for the negative impacts of large developments, especially traffic. It’s not clear whether the traffic demand management (TDM) strategies that are suggested for the MUPs will be counted as benefits or mitigations. 

In contrast, under the DA, Bayer has paid over $20 million, adjusted for inflation, in community benefits, above and beyond required fees, taxes, and mitigations. In 2010 they spent over $650,000 for TDMs including ride sharing, mass transit subsidies, and alternative transportation. 


The process and its discontents 

The benefits package and protections for Aquatic Park had not yet been decided by July, when the Council majority rushed to put the unfinished MUP ordinance on the ballot to preclude a referendum, which could have given the impacted neighborhoods some leverage in crafting a compromise or substituting development agreements. The Council wants voter approval because passing Measure T would strengthen the City’s legal position in a pending CEQA lawsuit. 

Measure T asks wealthier, less dense neighborhoods to impose intensive development on West Berkeley that they would not choose for themselves. As expressed at a recent forum, it is “an invitation to bully” poor neighborhoods or in other words, a proposition asking the greater community to sacrifice the weaker for the benefit of the stronger. 

When the Bayer development agreement was approved early in 1992, there was some talk of a referendum among the die-hards, but it never got off the ground. Bayer had threatened a plant closure; the union was on edge; and in the end, Berkeley was amply rewarded. 

The worst effect of the Bayer expansion was that it increased the volume and speed of traffic on Dwight Way, a narrow residential street that is now considered an arterial east of Sixth Street. The neighbors complain, although improvements like bulb-outs, a heavy truck prohibition, and additional cross-walks have made the street safer, thanks to efforts by neighborhood activists. 

If the MUP zoning actually results in projects the size of the increased allowances, rush hour traffic will increase, not only on Dwight Way but on every other West Berkeley arterial and intersection studied in the exhaustive traffic report by Wilson Smith for the EIR. It’s doubtful that many people have actually read this volume, but as one who has, I find it appalling that anyone could advocate such a plan in light of the CEQA findings. 23 of the significant and unavoidable impacts are traffic related, including dangerous back-ups at the freeway interchanges of Ashby, University, and Gilman. 

These are the escape routes in case of a disaster such as a quick spreading fire following an earthquake. Even at current traffic levels, flatland residents will be in danger trying to escape the flames with the water front as their destination. Unless all traffic is stopped on I-80 so that people can cross the highway, they will be massed on the overpasses and the pedestrian bridge. 

Consider the crush on the Brooklyn Bridge after 9-11, the residents who ran downhill from our October 1991 firestorm or the people of New Orleans stranded on a highway overpass during the Hurricane Katrina flood of 2005. We should be thinking of disaster planning, like storing supplies at the waterfront so that a tent city could be quickly erected at Chavez Park. 

Disaster planning and other concerns have not been discussed because the community was largely shut out of the MUP process. It’s not only the size of the anticipated developments and their impacts that have generated so much discontent in West Berkeley, but the municipal imperialism that has treated the residents like colonials without the right of self-determination. Most neighbors and business owners were not notified of the plan, but the City did not hold a single public meeting in West Berkeley to hear from residents. 

In August 2009, a group of MUR residents organized a meeting at a hall on 6th Street and invited Darryl Moore, his planning commission appointee Teresa Clarke, and Rick Auerbach from WEBAIC to address concerned neighbors. Planner Alex Amoroso attended, mostly as an observer. About 80 people crowded into the room. The organizers believed that when Moore heard their concerns, he would change his support for the project, but that was not to be. 

Instead insults flew in all directions, some shouted “recall”, and instead of mutual understanding and involvement, feelings hardened. Residents were not drawn into the planning process but dropped out. A few of us persisted, attending planning commission meetings at the North Berkeley Senior Center, where we were allowed to speak for one, two or three minutes, and even fewer submitted comments to the draft EIR. 

In short, the City made residents of the target neighborhoods into the enemy by excluding them from the process. When the City Council finally held public hearings in May, they turned out in force to voice their disapproval, and newly hired planning director Eric Angstadt scrambled to revise the standards and mitigations program in response to their criticisms. But time ran out, because the Council majority was more interested in blocking a referendum than in allowing the planning process to run its natural course. 


The complications 

Two other factors have influenced this outcome. One is the discontinuity in planning leadership. Former planning director Dan Marks resigned in July 2011, leaving his deputies in charge of the MUP process while the City searched for a replacement. The reason for Marks’ departure is a mystery. Some attribute it to a lawsuit brought by a disgruntled planning department employee who named Marks as a respondent, while others say that Marks was forced out. Perhaps personal concerns took priority. 

Angstadt started his job on May 1, coinciding with the first City Council public hearing on the MUPs, and seems to be on the right track. He showed up to direct the community benefits workshops himself and involved the audience in face to face discussions. Unfortunately, since the Council politicized the planning process by putting the MUP ordinance on the ballot, Angstadt is not commenting until after the election, and he is right. It is not professional for a planning director to get involved in a political debate; nor is it proper for politicians to turn a delicate planning effort and complicated zoning ordinance into an elections issue. 

Another factor influencing the project is the demographic shift in the population of the affected community. West Berkeley is a diverse working class neighborhood with a median income of $45,000. A population of 7200 including 1500 children, not counting the many who attend day care and school in the area, will suffer increased traffic, pollution, shadowing, noise, odors, and other negative impacts as documented in the EIR, which found 33 significant and unavoidable impacts, including 23 potentially dangerous traffic conditions like delays at intersections, railroad crossings, and freeway ramps. 

Hispanics are 26% of the West Berkeley population, some recent immigrants without voting rights or sufficient English competency to understand the complexities of this zoning ordinance. Others are simply too busy making a living to involve themselves in civic affairs. 

The established African American population had dwindled by 19% city-wide at the last census count, even more so in western tracts where property values are on the rise, increasing the economic pressure on African-American owners to sell their appreciated properties and move elsewhere. The area surrounding San Pablo Park, long a bastion of black home ownership, saw a loss of 594 African Americans, 32% of their 2000 number. The West Berkeley Project will accelerate this trend as demand for single family homes increases, driving prices ever higher. 

Under development agreements, programs to prevent foreclosure and provide loans for home repairs could be provided as a benefit, addressing the causes of the black exodus. 


Why NO-T? 

And so Berkeley stands at a crossroads. The YES proponents emphasize revenue to the City and the creation of future job and economic opportunities. 

The NO coalition fears the worst in traffic and other negative impacts, including loss of Aquatic Park views and bird habitat. 

A compromise between those who desire development and those who want to shape it to the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods could be achieved through development agreements. Should moderates, skeptics and environmentalists add their NO vote to the opponents and Measure T fail, the City can fall back on DAs and build on the MUP work to date. Little will be lost, and much can be gained by this strategy. 

Voters should pop the “Berkeley bubble” and take a lesson from Santa Monica. 


Toni Mester represented the Sierra Club on the Bayer DA Citizens Advisory Board  

Flash: Berkeley Commission Turns Down “Dharma Way”

By Steven Finacom
Friday October 05, 2012 - 12:04:00 AM

The City of Berkeley will not be renaming the 99-year-old Harold Way in Downtown Berkeley “Dharma Way” if a recommendation made by the Public Works Commission stands. 

After hearing testimony from a half dozen members of the public (including this writer) and having a lengthy follow-up discussion of its own onThursday, October 4, 2012, the Commission voted 6-0 to advise the City Council not to approve the name change. (One commissioner was absent, and another resigned on the eve of the meeting, leaving the Commission with seven voting members and six present.) 

Representatives of the network of affiliated Tibetan Buddhist businesses and institutions that have moved onto the west side of the block under the umbrella of “Berkeley Dharma Way”, and proposed the name change, spoke, arguing that they thought they were the “only stakeholders” when it came to choosing a new name for the street, and that “Dharma” should not be construed as a religious term. 

Critics of the proposed re-naming (including this writer) argued that the term “Dharma” did have religious connotations, including in the literature of the organizations themselves, that adopting it would be a violation of separation of Church and State, that City policy discourages the changing of historic street names except under extraordinary circumstances, and that the proposal was a form of “branding” and privatizing the public street name for the benefit of private institutions and businesses. 

It was the latter argument that seemed to sway a majority of commissioners who, in a variety of ways, expressed skepticism that the proposal coincided with the City’s naming guidelines or would be appropriate for a Berkeley street. 

“When you connect an existing business with a public facility (including street names)…that same precedent could be done for a number of things across the City”, worried Commissioner Ray Yep. One Commissioner compared the proposal to a hypothetical instance of Safeway asking to name a street in front of one of their stores for the business. 

Most Commissioners did demur on the issues of whether they should officially decide if the proposed name was religious or not, or the relative historic significance of Harold Way. 

Instead, they said they were conforming to the City naming policy which most felt emphasized keeping street names in a steady state, and preferring names of places, people, or natural features to names that expressed ‘concepts’ as one Commissioner put it. 

In the end, they unanimously adopted a short motion that “we will be voting to deny the application, and revising and approving our final recommendation to Council at the next meeting.” That recommendation will come in the form of a summary of the meeting discussion and issues from City staff, which will appear in draft form on the Commission agenda in November. 

As time permits, I’ll write a much more extensive account of the meeting, for a future issue of the Planet. 

(Disclosure: the author is the president of the Berkeley Historical Society, whose Board resolved to oppose the “Dharma Way” naming proposal. He has written letters and spoken against the proposal.)

Hometown Online Resources for Berkeley Voters
from The Berkeley Almanac

By Thomas Lord
Thursday October 04, 2012 - 04:00:00 PM

Here is a quick guide to and critique of three on-line tools that can help Berkeley voters make their choices in the upcoming election: 


About http://votersedge.org/berkeley:  

This past week Berkeleyside, a local news site, and MapLight, a locally headquarted non-profit corporation teamed up to unveil "Voters Edge Berkeley", an on-line guide to Berkeley ballot measures in the upcoming November, 2012 election. The new web site offers a guide to Berkeley's ballot measures. For each measure a quick summary is provided along with an assessment of what a yes or no vote implies. There are lists of endorsers for and against each measure, links to related news articles and more. 

Daniel G. Newman, MapLight's president and a co-founder, tells us that the data is being entered by Berkeleyside. "We're providing the technology and the partner organization is providing the content. [....] It's kind of like a WordPress for ballot measures," he quipped. Newman went on to explain that the aim is to provide factual, non-partisan data to voters with a special emphasis on details that shed light on money's influence on politics. (The "Map" in "MapLight" is from the acronym for "Money and Politics".) In that same spirit of creating a community resource, Berkeleyside has accepted and integrated some corrections and additions from this author and other journalists not affiliated with Berkeleyside. 

Update (Oct 2): Campaign funding data is absent for most Berkeley measures. Frances Dinkelspiel of Berkeleyside explains "The reason there isn't a lot of financial info on Voter's Edge is because the committees only have had to file preliminary reports. More info will come after Oct 5 and 25. " 

Pros: It's a neat idea and the interface is slick and appealing. The endorsement lists, even if incomplete and lacking citations, do seem to collect in one place some data not collected elsewhere. The web page "widget" that shows off Voters Edge Berkeley is available for use by other sites. For example, it is being added to the Berkeley Daily Planet site. 

Cons: The summaries of measures, the "what your vote means" sections, and the "campaign arguments" sections tend towards the biased. The materials the city itself publishes cover the same topics more neutrally. Also, in spite of the MapLight mission, there isn't a lot of data about the money behind the various measures. 

Recommendation: Check it out and have fun. Figure out what you like and don't like about it. If you think it might be helpful pass that information along to Berkeleyside and / or MapLight. 

Other Recommendation!: During our interview Newman suggested: "Make sure you tell people that, you know, all Berkeley voters vote in California too and we have this beautiful [state issues] site, too, so tell them about that." This author is happy to do so .... 

About http://votersedge.org/california:  

At the state level, MapLight has had greater success gathering interesting data. Here's something you might not know about Prop 37, a state measure that would require labeling of certain genetically modified foods: Around 21% of the funding for the "No on 37" electioneering money was spent by Monsanto! On the other hand almost 9% of the much smaller budget for Yes on 37 electioneering is from Dr. Bronner's of soap fame. Who know's what that means but it is no doubt a starting point for many interesting inquiries. 

Pros: The state-wide page really shows off the work MapLight has been doing. State issues come with a lot more readily collectable data than Berkeley ballot measures. 

Cons: As with the Berkeley version of Voter's Edge, don't rely on the site as an objective source of a bill's meaning or implications. Also, the lack of systematic citations make it awkward to use this data journalistically and with rigour. 

Recommendation: Check it out and have fun. Figure out what you like and don't like about it. If you think it might be helpful pass that information along to MapLight. 

Update (Oct 3): MapLight points out that their site has links to citations (look for the circled-i). Our spot-checking of the entries for Measure 37 found that these citations weren't always accurate. MapLight also replied that "The info in the Summary section for each ballot measure, including What Your Vote Means, Financial Effect, and Campaign Arguments, is reprinted from the California Secretary of State, which we consider to be the most objective source available." After some digging to find correct citations we found that MapLight's claim was partially true but that some content in this cateogry appears to be original. For example, we could not find a source other than MapLight for its description of Measure 37's financial impacts. We stand by our earlier suggestion to not rely on the site for as an objective source of a bill's meaning or implications. 

About http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/Elections/Election__2012_Ballot_Measure_Page.aspx:
and also http://static.netfile.com/agency/brk/ 

It's the city's job to assemble ballot measure material for voter information packets. The City Clerk's office kindly publishes the materials on-line, well ahead of the election and before the voter information packets are mailed out. If you want to read the actual texts of measures, the city attorney's analyses, tax implications, and the campaign arguments and rebuttals for and against each measure the city itself provides one-stop shopping. 

The second link above provides the financial data used on the "Voters Edge Berkeley" site. 

Pros: It's official and it's the most objective record of what's literally going to be on the ballot. It's neatly organized. 

Cons: The site makes for an awkward browsing experience. This contains only official voter packet data. For example, it doesn't include data about campaign funding. 

Recommendation: This is the most authoritative source for hard data about what each ballot measure is. 

About http://basiscraft.com/-/2012/09/29/widget.html: 

On a personal note... 

The City Clerk's web page of ballot measure information is a fine resource but as a journalist frequently wanting to page through those materials, I found the interface to be awkward. I wanted a web page that made that stuff easier to browse. So, I copied the public data from the City Clerk's page and set up an archive copy. I used some simple programming tricks to format the data in a way I liked. 

Stay tuned for updates. As financial data from the campaigns rolls in, I'll investigate how hard it is to add to the browser. If it's easy enough, I'll do so. 

Pros: For some, a handy way to page through the official ballot information on Berkeley measures in this election. 

Cons: There is no new information here beyond what the Clerk published. For example, I haven't separately collected endorsement lists or links to news articles. 

Recommendation: Check it out and have fun. Figure out what you like and don't like about it. If you think it might be helpful pass that information along to me, Thomas Lord (lord@emf.net) 


Watch Candidates for Berkeley's Mayor Discuss the Issues

Video by Paul Kealoha Blake
Thursday October 04, 2012 - 02:13:00 PM

If you watched the presidential candidates debate on Wednesday and wished it were that easy to see the candidates for mayor of Berkeley (surely you are), here's your big chance.

See five candidates in a face-to-face showdown, courtesy of the Gray Panthers and videographer Paul Kealoha Blake.

Warning: each part is about an hour long, so it will take a while to load. 

The Time To Learn From The 1868 Hayward Fault Earthquake Is NOW

By Richard Schwartz,© 2012
Thursday October 04, 2012 - 02:08:00 PM

It is a sobering endeavor to remember the 1868 Hayward Fault Earthquake, the last major eruption on our local fault. The USGS states that major destructive earthquakes occur along the Hayward Fault, on average, every 138 years. This means that since 2006 we have been due for another. There is no doubt that the Hayward Fault, the most densely populated earthquake fault in the United States, is going to lash out mightily sometime soon. Is “soon” in a few decades, a few years, a few minutes?

The fact is that, as a community, we have chosen to ignore what happened on October 21, 1868, at 7:54am, and at what is most likely in store for us. Few know the facts of this history. What is to be seen is not pretty. It is rather ominous.

The forty-five-second 1868 Hayward Earthquake (over 2½ times longer in duration than Loma Preita, and equal in intensity to the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake) arrived with a rumble and then increased shaking. Then it stopped for a second or two. It then resumed with a growing and overwhelming power and clamor. It ended with an oscillating motion in many locations. 

Many people were knocked down and could not stand again until the shaking stopped. Some folks grabbed onto trees or fences to try to stabilize themselves. Many trees swayed like pendulums. People were propelled across their rooms and back again. A number of residents all over the Bay Area witnessed fissures in the earth open and then close again like a hungry mouth. Some folks just sank down and waited. Many assumed this was it for them and began to prepare to meet their doom. Panic ensued in some places, and as far away as Sacramento people charged into the streets through the dust as soon as the wild gyrations stopped. The Hayward fault had ruptured from south of Fremont to as far north as what would become Berkeley. 

Many people experienced the quake and its intense horizontal shaking but had no or only minor damage to their structures. In general, it depended on what kind of ground you happened to be on and what kind of building you were in. There were locations where destroyed buildings and unharmed ones were right next to each other. San Francisco suffered major damage, mostly in the area of the “made-ground” where Yerba Buena Cove had been filled in (now the Financial District). This area had previously been ten to eighty feet deep in mud. As a rule of thumb, the further from the epicenter (Hayward) you were, the less intense your experience was, but there were notable exceptions to that rule. 

Many people reported feeling a sinking feeling, nausea or dizziness during the quake. Some reported an electrical feeling in their knees. Huge boulders rolled out of the East Bay hills taking trees with them. Long-dry creek beds suddenly gushed with water. Fissures opened in the ground in numerous locations all over the East Bay and as far south as Santa Cruz. Fissures opened by Lake Merritt and the bay shore in Oakland, at the base of the Hayward hills, and along the San Ramon Valley and hills in Contra Costa County. It was almost impossible for the stage coach to traverse the road between San Leandro and Warm Springs due to the many crevices. A man herding his cattle in Summerville had to leap two or three paces to avoid falling in a fast-forming gap in the earth during the rumbling. Some fissures spouted dust or water, one gushing as high as fifty feet in the air. Some earth was raised up, while other nearby areas fell and became ponds. New springs were born while others dried up. 

A continuous nine-mile-long fissure opened starting in Oakland around Mills College, extending south and east to San Leandro. Later studies indicate the straight fissure, ranging from six inches to six feet in width, continued for thirty miles. 

The earthquake of 1868 was powerful enough somewhere between a 6.8 and a 7.0 that even after destroying much of the small towns of San Leandro and Hayward, it still had enough wallop to slither with the speed of a jet fighter to Sacramento, where it shook the ground with such violence that the Sacramento River ran momentarily backwards, leaving the ship The Globe sitting in mud. The river returned in a matter of seconds with a two-foot wave that pounded dockside ships intensely. People “vomited” (to quote Mark Twain) into the streets in general confusion and fear, though not panic. 

Some large warehouses near San Francisco Bay sank. Others in the flatlands collapsed. One toppled into the bay near Warm Springs. Some were untouched, especially on the hills of San Francisco. 

Kanaka Davis had built a two-story house along the mouth of San Leandro Creek. During the earthquake, it sank to its second story into a wide earthquake fissure. The family was still inside. They miraculously escaped unharmed. Other buildings were ripped in half, tipped, or in various stages of collapse or damage. Most chimneys were toppled or twisted. Large areas, such as all of Oakland, were almost devoid of standing chimneys. Interestingly, every downed chimney there fell in a southerly direction. In Oakland, glass littered Broadway, some brick buildings suffered collapsing walls, and some did not. Some were destroyed, some unharmed.  

Brick buildings in much of the Bay Area did not, as a whole, perform well. After the quake there was a call to limit their height and require that they be reinforced with steel. Others demanded that city hall structures be rebuilt with wood rather than masonry materials. Damage to city halls or courthouses was almost universal. 

The eleven chimneys of the California School for the Deaf, in what would become Berkeley a decade later, were knocked down. The massive new stone building, which was in the process of being completed, suffered some downed gable-end walls and other repairable damage. One workman was about 140 feet in the air, at the top of the new wooden tower, when the earthquake exploded. He held on while it swayed many feet back and forth. The majority of the building held together well. One workman commented that if the construction had been of brick and not stone, the school would not have been left standing. 

The Hayward Fault’s western side ruptured six feet horizontally to the north, on average, that morning. The fault physically ruptured as far north as what would become Berkeley. Down at Jacob’s Wharf, by the shoreline, much lumber was tossed into the bay. 

The Bay Area population of 1868 was fundamentally brave, hearty and self-reliant, and began cleaning up the mess at once. Then they began rebuilding and repairing with determination. They had no choice. Deaths were surprisingly few, somewhere around thirty. Given the magnitude and reach of the earthquake, the East Bay was amazingly lucky. But there were only about 24,000 people living near the fault in 1868, which limited casualties. Today there are over two million. 

Within a matter of days, the people of 1868 quickly thought about and published the lessons of the event. They concluded that chimneys above the roofline should be made of sheet metal and not brick. Many believed that well-built, wood-frame houses were basically earthquake-proof if they had a proper foundation on solid land. They warned to never build with heavy cornices, overhangs, or awnings, as they could fall and kill people running out of buildings, as had just occurred. They said good mortar must be used in building walls and chimneys. They cautioned that masonry buildings should have metal braces and ties, and that foundations and walls should be thick. Firewalls above roofs mandated to help prevent fires from spreading quickly from one roof to another were condemned as they fell with such thunder and frightening frequency in the earthquake. Earthquake dangers now took precedence over fire hazards, the previous number-one danger. 

Most of all, people were cautioned not to run out of buildings during an earthquake and to stay calm. Some called for a commission to study the best practices for future building and for those recommendations to be enforced. 

Newspapers noted that deaths from natural disasters in California were much less than back east, where 300 people had died of sunstroke in New York the previous year. They urged strength, faith, and determination. They stated their lessons clearly. If those lessons had been followed, especially by governmental officials, hundreds of people would not have lost their lives in the subsequent 1906 earthquake. 

Look around. Look around your house, your block, and your neighborhood. We have built pipelines for jet fuel on our bay shore and oil refineries in and near our communities. We have fire, toxic, and collapse hazards. We also have bridges and gas stations and overpasses and chemical plants posing unknown potential risks. We continue to build on “made-land,” and pretend that human engineering of a masonry football stadium directly on the Hayward Fault will protect tens of thousands of people when a forty-mile mass of earth intends to rupture and shift. 

An invisible Paul “Earthquake” Revere is riding down your block crying out, “The earthquake is coming. The earthquake is coming.” But few are listening. They are talking on cell phones or texting. They are ordering from menus and busy with chores and children. They are us. 

Time is running out to prepare for a potentially massive disaster. Here we sit. Some of us are just waiting. Others are preparing for what is surely on its way to our homes soon. 


On Saturday October 27, Berkeley historian and author Richard Schwartz will give an illustrated dinner/talk on the history of the 1868 Hayward Fault Earthquake at Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto, from 5:30 to 7:30pm. Reservations are required, by October 21. For more information call Builders Booksource: 510-845-6874.

Boalt Hall's Centenary (First Person)

BY Dorothy Snodgrass
Thursday October 04, 2012 - 04:25:00 PM

On Friday, November 9th at 7 p.m., Boalt Hall will be celebrating its 100th Anniversary Gala, an auspicious occasion if ever there was one! 

Located at the top of Bancroft, across from International House, this prominent U.C. Law School ranks high among other American law schools. 

I had the extremely good fortune to work at Boalt for more than twenty years. 

I should point out that it wasn't always peace and tranquility. During the anti-war demonstrations, there were noisy protests by students. This resulted in Gov. Reagan sending in the National Guard, who sprayed rebellious students with tear gas. They were therefore unable to take their final exams. 

As Faculty Appointments Secretary, it was my job to set up interviews of prospective newcomers with faculty members (nothing short of the Spanish Inquisition). It was sad to see young faculty members denied tenure, having struggled so hard to keep up with legal issues. Women faculty in particular met with opposition by their male peers. 

One of my professors worked endlessly on the famous Bakke case. Archibald Cox, the famous Harvard professor came to Berkeley to analyze this controversial brief, which was settled to no one's satisfaction. Another case was Brown v. Bd. of Education. The young professor who worked tirelessly on this case was ultimately denied tenure and left California a bitter man. 

All in all, it was a great pleasure to work with scholars such as Willy Fletcher, now a judge in an appellate court in San Francisco. Mention should also be made of Herma Hill Kay and Jesse Choper, the latter often seen on TV news broadcasts when asked for his opinion of timely legal matters. 

The Law School has recently undergone several renovations; I hardly recognize the place. 

Learning that Boalt Hall is considered to be the finest and largest law school in the U.S., I must confess I'm honored to have have played a part, however minor in this great institution!

Plough Benefit For No on "S" Draws Raucous Crowd

By Ted Friedman
Sunday October 07, 2012 - 08:43:00 AM
Part of the crowd of fifty, Sunday at Starry Plough to see Denney's show.
Ted Friedman
Part of the crowd of fifty, Sunday at Starry Plough to see Denney's show.

Starry Plough, a Berkeley landmark hosted another Berkeley landmark last Sunday afternoon--another political fundraiser. But this raucous event was, well, different. 

Part agitprop, part political theater, part cabaret, part benefit to support the opposition to a sitting ban in business districts--part tomfoolery--the stage show was a musical, too, with its own pit-band and a cast exceeding twenty-five. 

The Plough "with deep roots as an Irish Revolutionary watering hole,where the history of protest runs as deep today as it did when it opened three decades ago," according to the Plough's publicity--was like opening on Broadway. 

Nearly fifty Berkeley activists participated, from the audience and the stage. 

As the event organizer, Carol Denney said, in an email interview:  

"I thought Mayor Bates' idea of making sitting down a crime was so ridiculous that as a comedy writer I just naturally rose to the challenge of topping it." 

But was it agitprop, political satire, or political theater? 

"This is a serious athletic event," said Denney, referring to her faux documentary, a spoof on the olympics, chair-sitting, and measure S, which would ban sitting on business district sidewalks from, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

The show kicked off with a screening of the six-minute documentary, a chair-carrying, then sitting homage to Leni Riefenstahl. 

As Denney tried to show--with a diagram--chair-sitting, and the Olympics, and the no-sitting on business district sidewalks were somehow related to the show. 

Judges received Denny's satiric judging manual weeks before the Starry-Plough event. But the rules were ignored Sunday, yielding to improvisational audience and judge interactions, which Denney had encouraged in her preparation of judges. 

You might have thought you were at a Starry Plough slam. At times the crowd was on the verge of rioting; comedically that is. The audience was part of the show. 

Who said Berkeley politics can't be fun? Mike Diehl a paid community organizer, said Sunday, "I'm here to laugh; Radicals need to laugh, too." 

Beware the chair, which according to Denney's script, "has its own agenda…it's cruel." 

She might have called her musical, simply, "Chairs." 

On a chair: Dr. Mozzarelli, a clown, dived into a cup of beer. 

On a chair: Ambrose Muggs Muggles, who has the mellifluous voice of a radio announcer in a 50's beat-club, read Beware the Chair , which became Edgar-Allen-Poe-creepy. Beware the chair! 

"a chair is vile – it will not smile 

it will not speak or sing 

it won’t lend you a dime and it 

won’t spend a gosh-darned thing 

it won’t help the economy 

and heaven knows it should 

why should it get a pass because 

the darn thing’s made of wood?" 

Lori, Queen of the Pool and champion of the warm pool promised by Measures O and N, a comedian, carried a chair to her pool. 

Brandishing a chair: Andrea Pritchett, founder of Berkeley Cop-Watch, gave a truly scary martial arts demo using a chair, as if she were an animal trainer. Cops watch out. 

Riffing on chairs: Wes "Scoop" Nisker, a Buddhist Father Sarducci, put Buddhist priests in lounge chairs, and turned on the massage feature. 

Disappearing a chair: Osha Neumann, well known civil-liberties attorney and People's Park muralist, disappeared the chair. 

Shooting a chair: that was Sheriff Billy who shot at the chair, but seemed to be aiming at Denney. 

Solo to a chair: Eliza O'Malley's was from "Quando m'en vo," La Boheme, by Puccini, according to Becky O'malley. 

Judges had been instructed to expect, and to take bribes, Denney's way to compensate them. Gary Hicks, speaking for the judges, said that the judging was corrupt. "You won't lose because you're no good," he said, encouraging a frenzy of bribes. 

Bonnie Hughes, founder of the Berkeley Arts Festival, and Gary Hicks, an award winning slam poet, were corrupt judges. Hicks raked in thirteen dollars, he said sheepishly. 

And the pit orchestra: Mitchell Hirsh provided live trombone sound effects, and Guido Ritmo provided live acoustic percussion on a central American drum box. 

Dana Merriday was a British Petroleum cheerleader who brought a huge BP banner and made sure the corporate Olympic sponsors were satisfied with the show. 

A late participant, a bagpipe troupe, closed, the show to the tune of Amazing Grace. 


As with, Woodstock, where it is next to impossible to report what happened….

Election Stories in Back Issues of the Planet

Friday October 05, 2012 - 11:24:00 AM

Are you confused about the upcoming election? Below you'll be able to find all the articles about the November 2012 election that have appeared to date in the Planet, in reverse chronological order, except that the editorial endorsements are at the top so they’re easier to find. We’ve pretty much abandoned the idea of publishing election-related articles in this separate section every week because there are just too many of them, but here’s where to search if you’re looking for something about the election in back issues.


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

ENDORSEMENT SPECIAL: Yes on Berkeley Measures U, V, N, O. No on Berkeley Measure M. 09-28-2012

ENDORSEMENT SPECIAL: Measure T is a Trojan Horse 09-21-2012

ENDORSEMENT SPECIAL: Sitting Down Should not be Banned in Berkeley 09-14-2012

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


Berkeley's Measure U: $1 million for sunshine? That’s a stretch! And it would still be a bargain! By Richard Knee 09-28-2012 

Measure R: The Name of the Game is POWER by Former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean 09-28-2012 

No on Berkeley Measure T By Sam Greyson 09-28-2012 

Is Three-Term Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates Vulnerable? By Ted Friedman 09-28-2012 

Ranked Choice Voting Comes to Berkeley: How It Works, How to Do It By Lydia Gans 09-28-2012 

Press Release: Cal Berkeley Democrats Endorse 2012 Local Candidates Worthington, Anderson, and Progressive Rent Board Candidates From Sofie Karasek 09-28-2012 

Press Release: Berkeley No on S Campaign Grabs Three Democratic Club Endorsements "Clean Sweep" of 3 Berkeley Democratic Clubs Marks Growing No on S Momentum
By Christopher Cook, No on S coalition 09-28-2012 

Berkeley Mayor and Council Candidates Debate on Sundays From Nigel Guest 09-28-2012 

CENA Candidates' Night is Monday 09-28-2012 

Berkeley For All Candidates' Forum
McGee Avenue Baptist Church in Berkeley, Thursday

Measure S is a Hate Crime By Carol Denney 09-21-2012 

New: Grey Panthers Host Berkeley Mayor Candidates in Forum By Helen Rippier Wheeler 09-26-2012 

New: Vote No on Alameda County Measure A1 (Opinion) By Laura Baker,East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society 09-26-2012 

Press Release: Bookmark and Share Curb-Sit and Kiss-In Protest Against Anti-Sitting Law-- Re-Creation Of Barack And Michelle Obama's First Kiss While Sitting On The Sidewalk By B Sofer 09-26-2012 

Press Release: Celebratory “Sitting Olympics” To Highlight Measure S Concerns
Berkeley celebs headline Sept. 30 “Starry Plough Olympiad 2012”
From Christopher Cook 09-26-2012 

Election Information 09-21-2012 

MapLight's Voter's Edge: A Graphic Guide to Election Information 09-24-2012 

THE PUBLIC EYE:Campaign 2012: Playing the Israel Card By Bob Burnett 09-21-2012 

But of Course, It Could Never Happen in Berkeley--or Could It? By Osha Neumann 09-14-2012 

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 09-13-2012 

Romney Follows His Own Rules By Bruce Joffee 09-14-2012 

"The Fight for Berkeley's Soul" Sunday Downtown By Ted Friedman 09-17-2012 

Walk will Reveal Problems of Berkeley’s Aquatic Park By Toni Mester 09-14-2012 

Press Release: Berkeley Standing Up Coalition Kicks Off Campaign to Defeat “Sit-Lie” Measure S From Christopher Cook 09-16-2012 

Community Campaign Center Opening 09-14-2012 

Election Information 09-14-2012 

Press Release: BCA Endorsement Meeting Results From Linda Godzi 09-16-2012 

THE PUBLIC EYE: Welcome to Romneyland By Bob Burnett 09-14-2012 

ECLECTIC RANT: Making it Harder For Some to Vote: Restrictive Voting Laws By Ralph E. Stone 09-14-2012 

Odd Bodkins: The Terrorist (Cartoon) By Dan O'Neill 09-08-2012 

Whatever Happened To "Republican Women for Choice"? By Ron Lowe 09-08-2012 

An Open Letter to Jacquelyn McCormick and Adolpho Cabral; By Norma J F Harrison 09-08-2012 

Where in the World is West Berkeley? (News Analysis) By Toni Mester 09-07-2012 

New: Unfunded Liabilities And The New Berkeley Police Contract (News Analysis) By Shannon Brown 09-08-2012 

Planning Commission Special Workshop On MUP Community Benefits to Be Held on Wednesday From WEBAIC 09-07-2012 

Election Update 09-07-2012 

THE PUBLIC EYE:Obama vs. Romney: The Popularity Contest By Bob Burnett 09-07-2012 

Odd Bodkins: Fred for Prez (Cartoon) By Dan O'Neill 08-28-2012 

Romney's Vision for the Future: An Uninhabitable Earth By Jack Bragen 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 

Got Free Speech in Berkeley’s Constitution Square? (First Person) By Carol Denney 08-29-2012 

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 

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 

THE PUBLIC EYE: Mitt Romney: The Great White Hope 08-31-2012 

AGAINST FORGETTING: Voter Suppression: The "Schurick Doctrine" and the Unravelling of American Democracy By Ruth Rosen 08-29-2012 

ECLECTIC RANT: The GOP and the John Galt Factor By Ralph E. Stone 08-29-2012 



ENDORSEMENT SPECIAL: Avoid R, and the Rest of the Story

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday October 04, 2012 - 12:30:00 PM

Sometimes you can’t tell the players without a scorecard. You probably wouldn’t know what’s wrong with Berkeley’s proposed Measure R if you didn’t recognize the names of those who signed the rebuttal to the ballot argument which pushed it.

No one who has been watching Berkeley politics as long as I have would ever have expected to see Shirley Dean, Dave Blake, Nancy Carleton and Jacquelyn McCormick singing the same tune in perfect harmony. Dean was a stalwart standard bearer of Berkeley’s moderate faction, while Blake and Carleton have always been outspoken progressives. What links them all together is that they genuinely care about what happens to Berkeley, even though they’ve seldom agreed on what the prescription should be.

The ballot question is couched in deliberately vague language, but in plain English what it does is transfer the power to draw council district boundaries from citizens to elected incumbents: in other words, it facilitates gerrymandering by self-interested parties. California just took this power away from the politicians and put it in the hands of a commission which was not only non-partisan, but more important, not politicians, and that’s what we need in Berkeley too. 

Citizens in Berkeley came up with at least six fair and equal plans which would work under the current law to correct population imbalances between existing districts, but the council refused to choose any one of them. The majority (which is controlled by the mayor) pushed for postponing the decision until after the election so that they could take a shot at seizing power for themselves by passing Measure R. 

A bit of fairy dust was sprinkled over the discussion by arguments which claimed that passing the measure would make it possible to design an all-student district, and some students,though by no means all, were suckered by it. Unwary students new to town are now being propositioned to vote for R under that pretext. 

There are two problems with these arguments: (1) there’s no guarantee that even if R passes it would take place. More likely than not, sitting councilmembers would adjust boundaries to suit themselves, particularly because R has a provision that no sitting member can be redistricted out of office; and (2) an all-student district would simply ghettoize the student vote. As it stands now, students are the important swing voters in at least three districts and their needs must be considered by six or more candidates at election time. With most of the student votes lumped into one district, candidates in the other seven districts could happily ignore students. 

And what about the rest of the ballot, just in case you plan to jump the gun and vote next week? Well, we might have more to say about it, but as a start we offer this handy matrix, created by Linda Franklin, to let you know what others think about other choices you'll have on your ballot. 


The Editor's Back Fence

View Competitive Sitting Here, Now!

Friday October 05, 2012 - 10:57:00 AM

Did you miss the Sitting Olympics on Sunday? Do not despair, help is at hand. We have been given the exclusive—well, original—opportunity to present for your viewing pleasure the brilliant film that opened the event, a fitting competitor to Danny Boyle’s extravaganza created to kick off the London Olympics.

We present this in the hope that tired shoppers, mothers at their wits ends, clueless tourists and others will not be “kicked off” their temporary resting places in Berkeley’s commercial districts by Measure S, which would ban sitting down downtown. (Can you believe it?)

Drumroll please!

The Definitive History of the Misunderstood Sport of Competitive Sitting




Odd Bodkins: The Perfect Man (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Saturday October 06, 2012 - 09:54:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Bounce: The Gnome (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Saturday October 06, 2012 - 09:59:00 AM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

New: Yes,the Fiscal Sky May Be Falling: Moody's is Examining Berkeley for a Rating Downgrade

By Barbara Gilbert
Tuesday October 09, 2012 - 11:18:00 PM

Berkeley’s fiscal hawks, often accused of undue pessimism, inhumanity, and an unseemly low civic boosterism level, are being vindicated by the hard cold facts. 

For years we “hawks” (BASTA, Budget Watch, Berkeley Budget SOS, Committee for FACTS) have warned about the high level of unfunded liability, the decline of services, excessive City employee consumption of our budget, wasteful spending, and unwarranted burdens placed on generous taxpayers. We have pored over arcane City budgets, analyzed a plethora of taxes, tried to educate the public, put forth sensible initiatives. Very few officials listened and, because they disliked the message, continually tried to marginalize the messengers. 

Thankfully, the day of reckoning may be hand. We truly need to reckon so that we can get a clear picture of the problem and move ahead with the hard and painful job of real solutions. This is the biggest issue facing Berkeley. If we have no money and few services, and our infrastructure continues its decay, what kind of Berkeley are we leaving our children? 

In a Wall Street Journal Market Watch article on October 10, entitled “Moody’s Reviews 32 California Cities’ Ratings” Nathalie Tadema advises that Moody’s is reviewing 32 California cities “mostly for potential downgrades”. The particular cities to be reviewed for downgrade were especially chosen out of 95 rated California cities, and Berkeley is among the chosen. Tadema continues “In contrast, the ratings for Los Angeles and San Francisco are on review for an upgrade…” because of their economic resiliency. 

This election cycle, Berkeley voters have a chance to opt for politicians and measures that focus on our fiscal health. Jacquelyn McCormick has been at the forefront of the fiscal accountability effort and deserves our vote for mayor. Meanwhile Tom Bates continually tells us that Berkeley is in good financial shape and Kriss Worthington is willfully ignorant and ignoring of the problem. After observing most Council meetings for the last fourteen years (!) I still do not know what Kriss really stands for. Councilmember Anderson thinks we have bigger fish to fry than the City debt!  

Voters should also vote yes on Measure V, the FACTS fiscal accountability citizens initiative, and no on the three ill-conceived tax measures M, N and O. 

It’s time for a reality check. 

BUSD mailer touts false accomplishments in student achievement

By Priscilla Myrick
Thursday October 04, 2012 - 04:46:00 PM

Along with the usual campaign flyers that arrive in mailboxes during election season, Berkeley residents are receiving a glossy brochure from the Berkeley Unified School District touting a rosy laundry list of twenty disparate “accomplishments” in academics, facilities, and finances. Among the “Twenty Things to Know,” the claim that all Berkeley public schools have shown improved student achievement is false and misleading. Berkeley High has not shown improvement for years.  

The district claims “In the Berkeley Public Schools we’ve improved student achievement in all of our schools.” The brochure continues, “Each of our eleven elementary schools achieved close to or above the state goal of 800 on the Academic Performance Index (API). All three middle schools have surpassed an API of 800.” All true. 

The brochure makes no mention that the largest school in the district, Berkeley High, enrolling over 3,200 of the district’s 9,000 students, has shown long-term declines in student achievement. In fact, Berkeley High posted an API of 715 this year (compared with 725 in 2005) landing it at the bottom (the lowest 10%) of 100 similar public high schools in California.  

The school board and the district seem to have lost sight of insuring that all high school students gain proficiency in critical math and English skills that will prepare them for post-secondary college and job opportunities. After years of district emphasis and investment in small schools reform and redesign of Berkeley High, student performance has declined in math and English in all of the six learning communities at Berkeley High. Moreover, the four “small schools” posted proficiency rates in math and English well below average state of California proficiency rates. There has been no progress in closing of the achievement gap at Berkeley High. 

With respect to the budget, the district claims “Submitted a balanced budget for the next three years.” What does that mean? The brochure goes on, “The state budget crisis and difficult economic climate have cut resources to our schools, but a combination of efforts by teachers and staff, parents, voters, and community supporters has provided the people power, creativity and funding to ensure critical community priorities that strengthen our schools.” Has the board approved balanced budgets for the next three years? How can this be true?  

The community should be asking how Berkeley students are doing and whether the school board and district are effectively targeting and managing fiscal resources. Student achievement and financing public education are top issues locally and statewide, but a serious discussion is warranted that goes beyond a superficial listing of dubious "accomplishments." 

Berkeley taxpayers support BSEP and maintenance parcel taxes, and construction bond measures. The public deserves better accountability, including accurate information on BUSD academics, facilities, and finances. Using scarce public funding to produce and mail a poorly written "puff piece" is an insult and a disservice to the community.  

The school board is elected to provide direction and oversight to BUSD and to provide accountability to the public. Can school board members and candidates move the discussion to a meaningful action plan of what needs to be done?

October Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Thursday October 04, 2012 - 12:28:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.  

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 

Quakers Oppose Berkeley Measure S

By Berkeley Society of Friends
Thursday October 04, 2012 - 04:47:00 PM

Berkeley Society of Friends (Quakers), located in North Berkeley at Vine and Walnut streets, deplores Measure S, the proposed ordinance to impose citations and jail sentences on homeless people for sitting on the streets in Berkeley. Such a policy would not only violate the civil rights of hundreds of Berkeley citizens, but it would be a discriminatory law that would be enforced more against homeless people and in shopping areas than against shoppers and in residential areas. 

Furthermore, this ordinance is unnecessary, since nuisance and loitering laws already exist. The city should focus on practical solutions to end homelessness: housing, services, employment programs. Ticketing and jailing homeless people would only divert us from this important work still needed in our city. Let's spend the city's money on helping people instead of fining or imprisoning them for being homeless, which is not a crime but a misfortune. 

We urge you to vote against this proposed ordinance on the coming November ballot.

My Take on the Presidential Debate

By Joseph Stubbs
Thursday October 04, 2012 - 04:34:00 PM

I am disturbed by the reaction to the first round of debates. The 2012 first Obama/Romney presidential debate featured a performance by Mitt Romney which was an abomination of psychological techniques surely compiled by the best and the brightest, techniques designed to affect and compel us on an emotional level while at the same time encouraging us to disregard critical analysis of the content of what he was saying. The latter effect was most effectively achieved by ‘snowballing’ ideas into a blizzard of phrases which were virtually impossible to digest, weigh and analyze unless you were already an expert. He didn’t try to explain anything so Joe American would understand it better; his litanies were essentially defensive in nature while posing as offensive.  

This was a very distinct ‘technique’ which was used. The truth is that reaching for the gut while turning off the mind is the only play Republicans have, and the true contest in this debate was really between what would prevail - doing things that way or basing the quality of judgement of statements on the actual merit of the ideas being expressed. In my view, the president clearly won this debate based on the merit of his ideas and the rationality of his approach, but he lost the debate based on what technique of influencing people would prevail. The most difficult thing to watch was how rigorously the media, even the liberal media, endorsed style over content as the most important element of the debate. Even Chris Matthews (Hardball With Chris Matthews) said while expressing outrage at Obama’s “poor” performance that the content of Mitt Romney said “didn’t even matter,” because he was able push the moderator around, dominate the emotional tone with a more ranting style, and basically not get called on many of his recent political faux pas.  

By a majority of polling and with a lot of help from media endorsing the psychological style as being virtually the only important thing here, Mitt Romney is actually judged generally as having won this debate even though what he said was so full of smoke, mirrors and distortions that it was at times laughable. You may have noticed watching the debate many ridiculous substitutions of fancy for fact, my favorite of which was stealing the phrase “trickle down” to try to redefine this term as referring to democratic principles and regulation rather than the traditional meaning: concentration of capital in the top and hoping benefits will “trickle down” to the rest of us. But nobody called him on these things. It didn’t even come up. It was all just a foregone conclusion afterwards that the content meant nothing and the style meant everything.  

If emotional manipulation is allowed to prevail as the dominant methodology of communication to the people, then the game is moved farther onto the playing field of conservatives. Since marketing is their business, they will always have the edge in this realm, and by skillful manipulation of people’s emotions, will always endeavor to control public opinion arbitrarily to suit their desires. This is the essence of the battle going on right now and being showcased in the presidential debate. HOW will people’s opinions be affected, by rationality and merit of ideas or by pychological manipulation.

Vote Yes on A1

By Dr. Joel Parrott, Veterinarian and Executive Director, Oakland Zoo
Thursday October 04, 2012 - 04:39:00 PM

The animals at the Oakland Zoo need your help! Vote YES on A1 to give Oakland Zoo animals the quality, humane care they deserve. 

Measure A1 cares for and meets the basic needs of Zoo animals, ensuring they are safe and that enclosures are well maintained. Voting Yes on A1 will provide animals the food, heating/cooling, and clean and fresh watering systems they need. 

Measure A1 allows the Zoo to continue to partner with wildlife conservation and animal rescue organizations, like in the real life story of one of our lions, Leonard, who is the mascot for Yes on A1. In 2000, a four-month old lion was rescued by the Houston SPCA and brought to the Oakland Zoo. He had been abused and deprived of food, care and shelter. Leonard the Lion now lives at the Oakland Zoo where he is lovingly cared for. However, he continues to suffer the after-effects of his early abuse and malnutrition. 

Yes on A1 helps care for animals like Leonard who are rescued from abuse, wounded in the wild or are retired circus animals, including lions, tigers and elephants. Yes on A1 ensures the Zoo has quality veterinarians and animal specialist to care for the unique needs of zoo animals, who live significantly longer in a zoo than they might in the wild. 

Additionally, Yes on A1 maintains the Zoo’s children educational programs and school field trips, and provides science and nature education to students who often have none because of budget cuts to Alameda County schools. 

As Sacramento continues to cut education, it’s more important than ever for local children and youth to have access to quality education programs that teach them about wildlife, science, and nature – in a way that just isn’t possible through books. Yes on A1 makes it possible to double the number of school children served by the Zoo at a time when local schools are cutting science programs and field trips. 

Don’t believe the misinformation being spread by desperate opponents who have repeatedly lost their case in court and at City Council. Measure A1 funds are guaranteed to be spent as promised to taxpayers with independent citizens’ oversight and annual audits. The A1 Expenditure Plan legally requires that all funds must be spent for quality humane animal care, basic animal needs, educational programs for children, and maintaining zoo affordability and visitor safety. 

Measure A1 is supported by hundreds of community, education and conservation leaders including Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the Alameda County Democratic party, the Council of Alameda County Superintendents, Laura Maloney, Chief Operating Officer of the Humane Society of the United States, and Dr. Kim Carlson, President of the Alameda County Veterinary Medical Association – because at only $1 per month, YES on A1 is a small price to pay to protect Zoo educational programs and ensure animals receive the quality, humane care they need and deserve. 

Learn more about Measure A1 at www.ItsYourZoo.org. On November 6th, remember to vote Yes on A1!


THE PUBLIC EYE: Romney Channels Reagan, Wins Debate

By Bob Burnett
Friday October 05, 2012 - 07:57:00 AM

To the delight of Republicans and the dismay of Democrats, Mitt Romney won the first presidential debate. His performance was reminiscent of the 1980 presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, where Reagan asked Americans, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” 

In the October 28, 1980 debate, Carter came across as serious and disdainful. Reagan appeared relaxed and competent. When hectored by Carter, Reagan chided, “There you go again.” 

In the October 3, 2012 debate, Barack Obama was professorial and pensive. Mitt Romney appeared relaxed and competent. When challenged by Obama, Romney repeated one of his five promises: restore jobs, propose no tax cut that adds to the deficit, repeal Obamacare and shift Medicaid and other programs to the states, restore $716 billion cuts to Medicare, and prevent dramatic cuts to the military. Romney blamed America’s problems on lack of leadership and boasted he had the skills to get Republicans and Democrats to work together. 

Romney’s opening statement set the contrast between his plan and that of Obama. “The path we’re on has been unsuccessful… trickle-down government.” “I will restore the vitality that gets America working again.” Romney was selling his skills as an executive more than a specific plan. Late in the debate Romney promised that on his first day as President he would sit down with Democrats and Republicans to figure out what to do. 

Romney asserted: “Under the president’s policies, middle-income Americans have been buried… [They’ve] seen their income come down by $4300… At the same time, gasoline prices have doubled under the president. Electric rates are up. Food prices are up. Health care costs have gone up by $2500 a family.” 

During technical discussions about tax plans, Romney kept returning to jobs. 

And if we lower that rate, [small businesses] will be able to hire more people. For me, this is about jobs. This is about getting jobs for the American people… My priority is putting people back to work in America. They’re suffering in this country… We’ve go 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work… when the president took office, 32 million people on food stamps; 47 million on food stamps today; economic growth this year slower than last year, and last year slower than the year before.

Romney seemed to be in command of the facts but Think Progress reported that most of what he said was either a distortion or lie. 

Romney dodged Obama’s complaint that he intends to turn Medicare into a voucher program and responded, “He’s cutting $716 billion from the program.” Actually Obama is not cutting Medicare benefits but instead producing $716 billion in savings by eliminating overpayments to insurance companies. 

When asked to give an example of harmful Federal regulations, Romney mentioned the “Dodd-Frank” financial reform law and complained, “it designates a number of banks as too big to fail, and they’re effectively guaranteed by the federal government.” That’s not true. The Think Progress website noted: “The law merely says that the biggest, systemically risky banks need to abide by more stringent regulations. If those banks fail, they will be unwound by a new process in the Dodd-Frank law that protects taxpayers from having to pony up for a bailout.” 

Romney presented a formidable case against Obamacare: “It will cost $2500 a year more than traditional insurance… it cuts $716 billion from Medicare to pay for it… it puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people what kind of treatments they can have… 20 million people will lose their insurance as Obamacare goes into effect…” Again, Romney’s complaints were untrue. Think Progress reported “Obamacare will actually provide millions of families with tax credits to make health care more affordable.” The $716 billion are savings. The Board is restricted to “lowering health care spending” and has nothing to do with treatment. “The Affordable Care Act would actually expand health care coverage to 30 million Americans.” 

Romney finished strong. 

What we’re seeing right now is… a trickle-down government approach, which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams. And it’s not working. And the proof of that is 23 million people out of work… we need to have leadership in Washington that will actually bring people together.

For several weeks there have been rumors than in the final month of the campaign, Romney would liken Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter; he would do as Ronald Reagan did when he claimed Carter was part of the problem. That’s what Romney’s strategy was in the first debate; through aggressive duplicity, he painted Obama as a villain. 

In 1980 Jimmy Carter had one debate with Reagan and lost it and the election. Fortunately, Obama will debate Romney two more times and has an opportunity to set the record straight. To accomplish this, Obama must be much more aggressive and engaged. The President must confront Romney on his lies and distortions. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net

SENIOR POWER: A Senior Moment

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday October 04, 2012 - 04:28:00 PM

Beginning in June 2012, an invitation has been included in each Senior Power column:

All candidates for election are welcome to share statements of their accomplishments and plans vis a vis senior citizens and elders. Please email them to me…

And I sent individual invitations to candidates for Berkeley Mayor and City Councilmembers representing districts 2, 3, 5 and 6 in the November 6, 2012 General Municipal Election.

I received one statement. From Sophie Hahn, candidate for City Council, District 5, running against incumbent Laurie Capitelli. The City Election website indicates that she is currently a Zoning Commissioner, i.e. a member of the Zoning Adjustments Board. She recounts accomplishments and plans relative to the health, housing and transportation of our senior citizens.

None of the other, thirteen mayoral and councilor candidates provided statements. There were acknowledgments of receipt of Senior Power’s invitation from the offices of candidates Bates, Capitelli, Wengraf, and Worthington. 

What might be concluded from this? Several things, possibly… depending on your reading interests and skills, politics, income, and demographics— mainly age. And of course, depending on any regard you may or may not have for a Senior Power column and its writer. Is it possible that thirteen candidates consider that they have no accomplishments and plans related to senior citizens’ well-being?  

Of fourteen candidates for Mayor and four Council memberships, apparently there is one who is clearly concerned with seniors’ health, housing, and transportation. Sophie Hahn writes: 

“The diversity among Berkeley’s seniors reflects the diversity of our entire population. There is a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences, of family and economic status. Berkeley needs to ensure that all seniors have adequate housing to meet their changing needs, and services to support them.  

Much of the housing built in the last few years in Berkeley has targeted our student population. I will work for more housing diversity, with developments appropriate for seniors and for families, close to public transportation and other amenities. Funding for affordable housing has been severely restricted at the State and Federal levels, so it’s up to local communities to find ways to support affordable housing. Council recently rejected an approach to obtaining funding for such housing – without even studying the proposal.  

As a result of ongoing budget deficits and less funding for AC Transit, fares have gone up and services have been cut. This has a disproportionate impact on seniors who often rely on public transit. I will advocate for increased funding for transit and against cuts that have a negative impact on seniors.  

Our parks, libraries, pools and other public amenities are important for all, and seniors in particular. I support the refurbishment of Berkeley’s pools, including the warm pool, and believe that with good management they can become profit centers for the City. As a member of the Public Library Foundation Board and Chair of the North Berkeley Committee for the Branch Libraries Campaign, I am actively involved in the refurbishment and expansion of our libraries. I believe a community must provide safe and well maintained parks, recreation facilities and other amenities to support the health – and happiness – of all residents, including seniors.  

Cuts to senior programs in Berkeley, including the closing of the West Berkeley Senior Center, are troubling. Cuts in critical safety net programs at the State Level – in-home supportive services and services that help the disabled – compound the problems seniors face. With tight budgets at the local level as well, the need for good government practices, pro-active, fact-based fiscal management and strategic resource allocation becomes even more important.  

Seniors value good government and good financial management, and want to know that tax dollars are wisely spent. But we cannot balance our budget on the backs of seniors and other vulnerable populations. We need to increase transparency around the city’s financial predicament, clarify our priorities and pull the community together to address our common future.” 



The 2012 United States elections will be held on Tuesday, November 6. The 57th quadrennial presidential election will be held on this date, coinciding with Senate elections where 33 races will occur, as well as House of Representatives elections to elect the members for the 113th Congress. This election year will also encompass thirteen state and territorial governors' races, many state and territorial legislature races, special elections, and various other state, territorial, and local races. Considerable Election Information is posted at the City of Berkeley’s website.  

California ranks 41st in state voter turnout. Election Day registration can considerably boost this dismal voter turnout. AB 1436 effectively address California's low voter participation rate through the creation of a conditional voter registration process, allowing citizens to register and vote at their local polling place on Election Day. This year, register to vote by October 22, 2012.  

The National Council on Aging suggests these five questions to ask candidates in order to find out where political candidates stand on these critical issues facing seniors.  

1. Federal Funding for Seniors’ Programs

What will you do to protect investments in seniors’ health and economic security under discretionary programs, including maintaining or increasing funding for the Older Americans Act, elder falls prevention, housing for the elderly, and nutrition and energy assistance? 

2. Medicare

What are your plans to help protect and strengthen the Medicare program and ensure adequate, affordable coverage for the growing population of beneficiaries? 

3. Federal Deficit

What are your plans to address the mounting federal debt in a way that enables our nation to meet the critical needs of vulnerable seniors and their families, and do you support a balanced approach that includes both spending reductions and increased revenues? 

4. Long-Term Services & Supports

With the aging of the U.S. population, how would you recommend the country address its current and growing needs for long-term services and supports? 

5. Medicaid (California’s Med-I-Cal)

What improvements should be made within the Medicaid program to provide choices for seniors and individuals with disabilities to receive services at home rather than in more costly nursing homes and institutions? 


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: October, November and December 2012. Be sure to confirm. Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events and deadlines that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. pen136@dslextreme.com.  

Fridays, Oct. 5, 12, 19 and 26. 3 P.M. Super Cinema. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6100.  

Wednesday, October 10, 12:15-1 P.M. 60th Annual Noon Concert Series 

Hertz Concert Hall. QUEERING THE GOSPEL SOUND. University Gospel Chorus, D. Mark Wilson, director In recognition of National Coming Out Month, the University Gospel Chorus honors the contributions of the LGBTQ Community to gospel music. Free. 510-642-4864 

Wednesdays, Oct. 10, 17, 24, 31 and Nov. 7, 14, 21 and 28. 12 Noon. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6100.  

Thursday, Oct. 11. 9 -10:30 P.M. ET. Vice presidential debate. It will be moderated by Martha Raddatz, Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent, ABC News. This is the only vice presidential debate).  

Thursday, Oct. 11. 7 P.M. A panel discussion and screening of the documentary film, 

Blossoms & Thorns: A Community Uprooted. This video recounts the struggle and 

resiliency of local Japanese American nursery growers who were forcibly removed from 

their homes to barren, desert incarceration camps during World War II. El Cerrito Library, 

6510 Stockton Avenue. Free. 510-526-7512  

Thursdays, Oct. 11 and Nov. 8. 7-8:45 P.M. Cafe Literario Berkeley Public Library north branch, 1170 The Alameda. Facilitated book discussions in Spanish. October title: Carlos Fuentes’ La muerte de Artemio Cruz. November title: Marcela Serrano’s Diez Mujeres. 510-981-6250 

Friday, October 12, 12:15-1 P.M. 60th Annual Noon Concert Series SYMPHONY. UC 

Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, David Milnes, conductor Brahms: Symphony No. 4 (program change). Free. 510-642-4864 

Tuesday, Oct. 16. 9-10:30 P.M. ET. Presidential Debate, moderated by Candy Crowley, 

Chief Political Correspondent, CNN, and Anchor, CNN's State of the Union.  

Wednesday, Oct. 17. 1:30 P.M. B9-10:30 P.M. ET. Berkeley Commission on Aging meeting. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Free. 510-981-5190. 

Saturday, Oct. 20. 2 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Japanese American 

Internment Camp Panel Discussion. USF Professor and editor, Brian Komei Dempster, and 4 former Japanese American internment camp internees. As part of the California Reads program, USF Professor and editor Brian Komei Dempster and four former Japanese American concentration camp internees will share their first-person accounts of this time period during World War II. Mr. Dempster is the editor of Making Home From War: stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement and From Our Side of the Fence: Growing up in America's Concentration Camps. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Monday, October 22. 9-10:30 P.M. ET. Presidential debate. Bob Schieffer, Chief 

Washington Correspondent, CBS News, and Moderator, Face the Nation. 

Monday Oct. 22. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. : Book Club: The 

Warden by Anthony Trollope. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a 

member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always 

welcome. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Tuesdays, Oct. 23 and Nov. 27. 3-4 P.M. "Read & Share" Book Club (formerly "Tea and Cookies") Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Free. 510-981-6100 

Wednesday, Oct. 24. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Troth, by Gregor von Rezzori. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Oct. 24. Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers meeting. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Free. 510-548-9696 or 486-8010. GrayPanthersBerk@aol.com.  

Wednesdays, Oct. 31, Nov. 7, 14, 21, 28. 12 noon-1P.M. Playreaders at Central Library, 

2090 Kittredge. Read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for 

adult participants. Free. 510-981-6100 


Tuesdays, Nov. 6 and Dec. 4. 5 P.M. 5366 College Ave. Oakland Public Library Rockridge Branch. Lawyers in the library. Free. 510-597-5017. 

Wednesdays, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours.  

Thursday, Nov. 8. 7-8:45 P.M. Café Literario at North branch Library. 1170 The Alameda, Berkeley. Facilitated book discussions in Spanish. November title: Marcela Serrano’s Diez Mujeres. Free. 510-981-6250 

Thursdays, Nov. 8 and 15. 6-7:30 P.M. Lawyers in the Library at Claremont Library. 

2940 Benvenue Ave., Berkeley. Free. 510-981-6280 

Saturdays, Nov. 17 and Dec. 15. 1 P.M. Oakland Public Library Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave. Free. Writers’ Support & Critique Group. 510-597-5017. 

Wednesday, November 28. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Sunday Morning, by Wallace Stevens. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Dec. 5. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Wednesday, Dec. 19. 7:00 - 8:00 P. M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch, 1247 Marin Av. The Adult Evening Book Group will read Primary Colors; A Novel About Politics by Anonymous (Joe Klein) A behind-the scenes look at modern American politics with characters and events that might seem familiar. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Free. 510-526-3720 

Wednesday Dec. 26. 1:30 - 2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch, 1247 Marin Av. Great Books Discussion Group Holiday Luncheon. Free. 510-526-3720.

AGAINST FORGETTING: Who Cares Most About Ordinary Americans?

By Ruth Rosen
Thursday October 04, 2012 - 01:09:00 PM

Summary: At stake, says Ruth Rosen, are two visions of the so-called American Dream. One emphasizes government and people helping each other and the other insists that individuals are on their own. Neither, however, seems to remember that that women are half the population. 

For weeks, President Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney have sparred with partners, immersed themselves in piles of position papers, practiced remaining cool, and in the case of Romney, memorized unforgettable zingers that he never used. But each knew they had the same task: to persuade viewers that they genuinely cared about the lives of ordinary Americans. 

To do that, Obama had to justify his record, sound like a president instead of a professor, and to explain that the same Republican policies advocated by Mitt Romney caused the economic crisis he inherited. Obama did avoid sounding professorial, but he failed to explain the Republican origins of the American’s financial crisis in a crisp and lucid manner. 

As the debate began, the President already enjoyed a substantial lead of 3-5% in polls a week before the debate began. His biggest mistake before the debate was his failure to publicize the considerable accomplishments achieved by his administration. These included saving the auto industry, preventing a depression and bank run by helping the financial industry, creating thousands of jobs through government-sponsored programs, promoting the rights of American-born children of immigrants from deportation, supporting same-sex marriage, signing legislation that guaranteed women’s pay equity with men, promoting health care legislation, commonly called “Obamacare,” that will provide medical insurance for almost all Americans, ending the “gag rule” that prevented funds for family planning around the world, supporting women’s reproductive choices and health, providing federal funds to Planned Parenthood, and promoting fairer loans to college students. 

During the debate, he again failed to emphasize these accomplishments. Nor did he aggressively attack how much Senate Republicans had systematically blocked his efforts to create a safety net to protect the vulnerable, the disabled, students and the elderly.  

Obama exuded confidence and looked comfortable in his own skin. At times, thought, he seemed weary, even glum, at having to address Romney’s misleading statements. His demeanor was that of a tired wonk, who wished he were celebrating his 20th marriage anniversary with Michelle. But when he flashed his infectious grin, viewers saw the charming and charismatic candidate they had elected in 2008.  

Mitt Romney, on the hand, appeared articulate and aggressive, but not particularly charming or personable. Far too often, he smirked while Obama spoke about his plans for the future. For Romney, the task was to shed the image that he was a wealthy ally of the Tea Party that seeks to cut taxes for the wealthy and cut services for the poor. To win the primary, he had moved to the far right, even criticizing the universal health care program he created in Massachusetts, promising to repeal Obamacare, and changing his view from supporting women’s reproductive choice to denouncing abortion.  

Now, speaking before the whole nation, Mitt Romney tried to portray himself as a moderate, even as he blamed President Obama for everything that was wrong with America. The political baggage Romney brought to the stage was considerable. First, he chose a vice-presidential candidate, Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, who famously wrote a budget that would replace Medicare—health care for Seniors-- for a private voucher plan, and whose tax plan would cut the taxes of the wealthy 

During the debate, Mitt Romney tried to persuade Americans that he feels their pain and cares about the middle class and “working families,” an American euphemism for the working class and the poor. But it seemed inauthentic. He has repeatedly said that people must take individual responsibility for their own lives, and that they should not expect the government to provide them food, education, health care or shelter. 

I don’t think Romney really had much of a chance of changing viewers’ image of him. Just recently, Mother Jones, an investigative magazine, released a video of Mitt Romney addressing wealthy donors at a $50,000-a-plate dinner. The video revealed Mitt Romney’s candid lack of compassion for half the population. He said that that forty-seven percent of Americans who support Obama are “victims” who are "dependent upon government" and "pay no income tax." He then added,” I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." The video went viral and undermined his last-minute efforts to portray himself as a moderate who identifies with ordinary Americans. Oddly, Obama never mentioned this video, nor Romney’s low rate of taxes, or the stash of money he has hidden in the Cayman Islands. 

As the debate began and the candidates started to spar, they carried all this political baggage on to the stage. At stake were two distinct views of American society. Obama explained that government should help those who are vulnerable and suffering from layoffs, outsourcing of jobs, and the loss of their homes. (Obama’s failure to help enough foreclosures, however, made him vulnerable on this issue.) Mitt Romney tried hard to wiggle out of his repeated statement that Americans should expect nothing from the government. He did manage to look like a compassionate conservative, but one who believed that the market would take care of all problems. 

Shockingly, neither Obama nor Romney gave women any reason to vote for them. In fact, they never mentioned them. At present 60% of American women support Obama, largely because every one of his policies seeks to help families, support women’s rights, contraception and reproductive choice and educate their children. Yet Obama took women for granted and mentioned nothing about their lives. Romney, for his part, also said nothing about women. Afterwards, I did not hear any “spinners” note this astonishing fact. 

Among the viewers who watched the first debate were millions of men and women who have lost their jobs and homes, and live with gut-wrenching uncertainty about the future of their families. Mitt Romney, who believes that individuals are on their own, did nothing to reassure them that he wants to help them. Obama, on the other hand, gave people hope that the community and the government can strengthen the safety net and improve their lives, a view that appeals more to women than men. One promised a lonely uncertainty and disparaged assistance as an “entitlement.” The other offered the comforting vision that you are not alone and that you’ve got an entire nation behind you.  

In the end, neither candidate dominated the debate and I doubt that the dense discussions of taxes and deficits change the minds of many voters.  

Ruth Rosen, a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle, is a Professor Emerita of History at U.C. Davis and a scholar in residence at the Center for the Study of Right-Wing Movements at U.C. Berkeley. Her most recent book was “The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America.” 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Accepting Oneself with Imperfections

By Jack Bragen
Thursday October 04, 2012 - 04:31:00 PM

It can be hard for people with mental illness to accept the idea that there is a "defect" in their brain. This is one reason, among others, why some people are in denial of the illness-there is a conflict between liking oneself, versus acknowledging what seems like a significant flaw. Newly diagnosed people must come to terms with the idea that they may have this biological "difference." 

It is important to distinguish between a: your attitude, which is something you can control, versus b: something you can't control, namely, the fact of having a psychiatric illness. Your rating in life isn't necessarily based on the cards you've been dealt, such as being dealt a human body with some problems, but is instead based upon how you play those cards (in other words, where you go in life despite this circumstance.) Another way of saying this is that it doesn't matter so much how good your brain is, but how well you use your brain. 

I didn't manufacture my brain, my genes or my environment. Therefore, I did not bring my illness on myself; my illness is not my fault. However, I do have a great deal of power over how I behave when medicated and stabilized. The fallout of my actions deservedly comes to me. But I can still accept myself as I am. 

For many people, self esteem is related to a distorted version of Darwinism. People use the idea of "survival of the fittest," as a standard against which to compare themselves. Believing that you could survive if you were put on a deserted island, or that you can propagate your seed better than others, or that you do not need to rely on any assistance from modern medicine to survive, is an arrogant version of buffoonery. Prior to modern advances, people rarely lived beyond age 30, and most died a lot sooner than that due to diseases or to other harsh conditions that once existed. Today, most people rely on some kind of help from modern medicine and modern technology. 

Accepting the help of technology rather than foolishly trying to do without shows maturity and means that I am not a masochist. 

I am not my brain. I am the person, maybe the personality, or perhaps the entity that is using my brain. It is not necessary to believe I have a "spirit" or "an immortal soul" for me to not identify with my brain. I can see myself as an abstraction which is the final output of my brain, my environment and the software that runs my brain. You could call this an agnostic version of spirit. My [agnostic] spirit can recover from the delusions or other errors that my brain produces and can produce reasoning that has common sense. 

I am not "a schizophrenic," or "a bipolar," I am a person, a human being, who has schizophrenia or who has bipolar. It is a form of bigotry to identify us by our diagnoses. This includes when we do that to ourselves.

Arts & Events

Berkeley Actor returns in Marin Theatre Co. "TOPDOG/UNDERDOG"

By John A. McMullen II
Sunday October 07, 2012 - 08:38:00 AM
Bowman Wright (Lincoln) left, and Biko Eisen-Martin (Booth) right
Bowman Wright (Lincoln) left, and Biko Eisen-Martin (Booth) right

Biko Eisen-Martin (on right in photo) is a Bay Area native who has returned to co-star in Marin Theatre Company’s "TOPDOG/UNDERDOG" by Suzan-Lori Parks directed by Timothy Douglas.

He will reprise the role of Booth, the younger brother and hustler, who tries to draw older brother Lincoln back into his scams. Lincoln has gone straight and has a steady job as a black Abraham Lincoln impersonator.

Eisen-Martin taught history at Berkeley High. As a youth, Eisen-Martin attended the prestigious Branson School in Ross, arising before dawn to catch the bus from San Francisco. He was a member of “Youth Speaks,” Bay Area's first spoken word artists and educators.  

Eisen-Martin received his MFA from the National Theatre Center in April, earned his Actors’ Equity card at the Denver Theatre Center, and is represented by the Hardin/Curtis agency. 

He auditioned for the role while in town; he had played the role in a conservatory production at the Denver's National Theatre Center. 

Here is the phone interview I had last week with the 28 year old actor: 

You play Booth, the younger brother, the hustler. Did you ever hustle?  

No (he laughs). 

Have you thought about running a 3-card Monte to prepare for the role? 

No, I’m not that much of a method actor (more laughter). 

How are you preparing for the role? 

Script analysis, trying to get the language right and in my body… with close attention to the punctuation….there is something bubbling…like when the scansion is off or over punctuated in Shakespeare.  

Who plays your older brother Lincoln? 

Bowman Wright. He recently got his MFA down at UC San Diego, and he's Equity, also.  

How are you working on this together? 

Sending it at each other….kind of a call and response. We’re trying to get in synch in support and familiarity more than in physical traits like walking or talking. 

Do you have brothers? 

Yes, a big brother. 

How do you see the character of Lincoln (your brother)? 

As a street god…a legend…a father figure. 

How do you see Lincoln (the President)?  

I don’t think the play is about Abraham Lincoln, so that hasn’t changed in the process of the show. I know how my character feels about him, and you can come to the play to find out how. I know how I feel about him, and…well, that’s irrelevant to my performance. 

Have things changed for African-Americans since Suzan-Lori Parks wrote this almost a decade ago? 

This play is not just about African-Americans …it’s about brothers who are poor which transcends race. 

But to answer your question, there are negatives and positive: Katrina exposed a lot of the actions of what the government will do. Young brothers get killed at an alarming rate. A black person is killed by law enforcement every 36 hours. Rising price of higher education is limiting Black communities. 

But kids are making positive contributions, showing up to school facing some of the worst circumstances. Just like Lincoln shows up every day at work. 

“TOPDOG/UNDERDOG” is a family story. Rich brothers have crazy/competitive/loving relationships, too. The specificity of the demographic makes it a good story, but it’s still universal. 

But, like I said, the point of this show is not to educate you about black people…. 

Who are your theatrical influences and teachers? 

Two men, mainly. 

L. Peter Callender--I took his class at Cal Shakes and he directed me in PATRICIDE REVISITED at the SF Theatre Festival in 2009. 

And my mentor SF Poetry Grand Slam Winner Marc Bamuthi Joseph who is now the director of performing arts at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. 

Do you still teach? 

I still do workshops on spoken word poetry…I still try to rap (he laughs). Still perform in high schools sometimes…but it doesn’t pay the bills. 

Do you come from a bi-racial background? 

How is that relevant? I am, but type-casting is difficult, once you get pigeon-holed. 

There are so many actors who don’t get shots. I’m trying to stretch the limits, but race and casting are still an issue. 

Who is directing it and what can you tell us about the direction? 

Timothy Douglas. He’s a perfect blend of natural, less intellectual, and one of the smartest directors I’ve had in the way he breaks down moments for us while keeping us in the moment. 

What’s in your future professionally? 

More auditions. Waiting to be called. 

“TOPDOG/UNDERDOG” is celebrating the 10th Anniversary of its Pulitzer Prize for Drama win, and the first and only for an African American woman. The play was seen in the Bay Area in 2003 when the Broadway production toured through San Francisco. Marin Theatre Company is producing the first local professional production of the play. 

“TOPDOG/UNDERDOG” plays at the Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley through October 21st. 

For more info & tickets, go to http://marintheatre.org/ 

Bitter Seeds: Monsanto's Legacy—Debt and Mass Suicides

By Gar Smith
Saturday October 06, 2012 - 09:09:00 AM

Several years ago, I sat in a San Francisco screening room with other local film critics to watch China Blue, the second documentary in Micha X. Peled's ambitious Globalization Trilogy. China Blue shared the stories of several young men and women who had moved from rural villages to urban factories where they labored long hours producing blue jeans for US consumers. The film was by turns astonishing, amusing, and heartbreaking. At one point, I had to stumble from my seat and flee to the lobby to get a grip on my emotions. 

Given the impact of China Blue, I was somewhat on edge as I prepared to view the final production in Bay Area filmmaker Peled's trilogy. Bitter Seeds, after all, promised an unstinting look at the mass suicides of Indian farmers. 

The first surprise was the presentation. Bitter Seeds does not look like a documentary. It is exquisitely cinematic — shot like a movie, with an omnipresent lens that follows the protagonists through scenes that proceed as if envisioned on a storyboard. (When someone boards a bus, for example, we see them inside the bus, we see the bus from the outside as it rolls down a road, and we watch as they climb off the bus when it finally pulls over and parks.) It isn't until the first 20 minutes have passed that the first talking head interview pops up. 

Multinational Marketing: Making a Killing 

Early on, the film blackboards some essential announcements: "Half the world's population are farmers" and, in India, a quarter-million of these farmers have committed suicide in the past 16 years — one suicide every 80 minutes. 

The film sweeps us into the life of the residents of Telumg Takli, a small village in Vidarbha. 

Enter the advance guards of globalization—bounding through the village in a loudspeaker-equipped van promoting Ankur Akka Bt, the latest variety of genetically modified cottonseeds. Sure, the salesmen admit, this new US-patented seed is more expensive but they promise farmers the new seeds will earn 4000 more rupees. 

"Do you have land?," one of the seed-pushers asks a village woman, "Tell your husband to plant Bt seeds." They hand out leaflets to the illiterate farmers with photos and testimonials from other "farmers." There are even phone numbers to call —at a cost the local farmers cannot afford. 

The Vanishing World of Traditional Seeds 

For generations cotton was grown from traditional seeds, saved and shared from one harvest to the next. This changed in the 1970s when hybrids were introduced as part of the so-called Green Revolution. The new foreign seeds promised bigger harvests but at a price — they required costly chemical fertilizers and insecticides. After a few decades, harvests began to falter as the natural fertility of the chemically altered soils began to collapse. Suicides began in 1997. In 2002, Monsanto announced a revolutionary new product — genetically modified Bt cotton. The seeds were sold and sown but the suicides continued. 

Today the only seeds farmers can buy are genetically modified Bt cottonseeds (using Monsanto technology). Because these patented seeds are hybrids — designed only for a single year's use — farmers are forced to buy new seeds each year. As a result, more than 90% of India's cotton farmers now pay royalties to Monsanto. 

A local seed dealer explains that he is required to push GE seeds because it means "higher profits" for Monsanto. In Mumbai, a Monsanto executive glibly boasts Bt seeds will double productivity while Monsanto's TV ads show farmers trading in their bicycles for motorcycles (and dreaming of owning automobiles) due to their success with Monsanto's Frankenseeds. 

One Farmer's Story 

Ram Krishna Kopulwar is a struggling 40-year-old cotton farmer with three acres of hard-scrabble land. His poverty is compounded by the fact that his two daughters are nearing the age for marriage. In Telumg Takli, unmarried daughters are a cause of social shame but Ram Krishna's previous cotton crop failed, leaving him without funds for a dowry and in debt to the local bank. 

Inside Raj Krishna's modest home, his children return from school and an older daughter teaches his wife, Sunanda, how to write her name. But it's a dangerous world if you only know how to sign your name and do not know how to read a contract. In India, many farmers sign away their souls with the inked imprint of a thumb on documents they cannot read. 

A banner over downtown Pandharkawda reads: "Welcome to Green City," but there is nothing green about the dusty, unpaved streets, lined with colorful billboards advertising the benefits of Monsanto's Bt seeds. 

Kopulwar has traveled to Pandharkawda to ask the State Bank of India for a loan to buy seeds for his next planting. But because he already has an unpaid loan of 20,000 rupees ($450) for last year's failed crop, the bank refuses to grant another. This is not uncommon: 80% of Vidarbha's farmers are unable to secure bank loans. 

When the bank says no, the only recourse is the moneylender. "Have mercy," Kopulwar pleads. The moneylender's only question: "What collateral can you offer? A house? Your wife's jewelry?" 

In exchange for a fistful of rupees, Raj Krishna signs over his three acres of land. The interest on the loan will be seven percent— per month—or 84% a year. 

A Young Girl's Search for Truth 

Manjusha Amberwar, 18-year-old village girl, wants to become a journalist in hopes of exposing the problem of farmer suicides. (Manjusha's father, a respected village leader, committed suicide because of his farming debts.) Manjusha begins interviewing the families of local farmers who toke their lives by drinking pesticides. 

She asks one of the village elders about alternatives. "In my time there were no suicides," he tells her. "Even the poor could survive by working hard." "There are no other seeds available now," he laments. Traditional seeds have disappeared. "We farmers are illiterates. We follow false advertising like a dog follows bread." 

Peled trains his camera on local seed managers and a Monsanto spokesperson as they all deny any connection between their over-priced products, their market monopoly, farmers' debt and the suicides. 

Dr. Vandana Shiva, an environmentalist and traditional seed activist with the Navdanya Trust, shows up to point out that, since Monsanto's arrival, the Indian Cotton Institute has stopped releasing traditional, non-GMO seeds. "Why is it that the public supply is stopped?" Shiva asks. The answer is obvious: these new seeds need chemical fertilizers, pesticides, which means more profits for the multinationals. 

Raj Krishna's Crisis 

Manjusha discovers most of the phone numbers on Monsanto's Ankur Akka Bt leaflets are nonexistent or disconnected. The one person who replies is so positive about the seeds, Manjusha suspects he is a seed company employee. (Perhaps this is why he demands to know her name and where she lives.) 

Raj Krishna's seeds are planted and the crop looks promising. The rains fall abundantly, suggesting a bountiful harvest. But then disaster strikes—in the form of an infestation that threatens the crop and everything the hard-pressed farmer has worked for—his land, his home, his family's future. 

Will he become the next suicide in India's unfolding tragedy? 

I have no idea. The DVD I was given to review was damaged. I was unable to watch the last 20 minutes. 

So look for me at one of the screenings at the Roxie Theater. Bitter Seeds is playing for a week and — in a fine example of solidarity — has invited a half-dozen local environmental groups (including Food First and Pesticide Action Network) to table at the screenings. 

This film, by one of the Bay Area's most committed social filmmakers is highly recommended. But don't take just my word for it. Here are three short reviews by a trio of familiar Bay Area activists: 

"Films like this can change the world." — Alice Waters. 

"Beautifully told, deeply disturbing." — Michael Pollan. 

"Better than a Batman movie… with real villains making up their own lines." — Peter Sellars.

AROUND & ABOUT THEATER: John Guare's "Bosoms & Neglect" This Weekend Only At Masquers Playhouse

By Ken Bullock
Friday October 05, 2012 - 08:02:00 AM

Masquers Playhouse, 105 Park Place in downtown Point Richmond, as part of their Envision series, will be presenting that unusual black comedy by New Yorker John Guare, 'Bosoms & Neglect,' staged at the Aurora a few years back, but seldom enough seen ... & it's only through this weekend: Friday-Saturday at 8, Sunday at 2. Directed by Linda Ellinwood, with Martha Luehrman (of Actors Ensemble of Berkeley & Poor Players), David Irving & Michelle Pond. $10--or free to Masquers subscribers. 232-3888; masquers.org

Around & About Music: Berkeley Chamber Concerts Presents the Ives String Quartet Playing Haydn, Henry Cowell & Smetana; Grand Finale This Year's Westbrae Free Concerts—& Received! 'Long Old Road,' Smooth Toad's Latest CD

By Ken Bullock
Friday October 05, 2012 - 08:00:00 AM

—Berkeley Chamber Concerts presents the Ives String Quartet—Susan Freier, violin; Steven Harrison, cello; Jodi Levitz, viola; & Bettina Mussumeli, violin—playing Haydn's Quartet in F Major, opus 50, no. 5 "The Dream;" Henry Cowell's Quartet no. 4 "United Quartet" & Smetana's Quartet no. 1 "From My Life," 8 p. m. Tuesday, October 9, in the Ballroom of the Berkeley City Club, appropriately for Bay Area composer Cowell in particular, a 1929 Julia Morgan-designed "castle." A complimentary reception with wine & cheese will follow, giving listeners a chance to meet & speak with the musicians. (The Ives Quartet is committed to performing European classic pieces together with those by less-played American composers.) $25; high school students free; students past high school, $12.50. 525-5211; berkeleychamberperformances.com 

—Two unusual shows at Piedmont Piano this weekend: Saturday at 8, Bulgarian guitarist-composer Hristo Vitchev (his latest album, 'Heartmony') with sensational Brazilian pianist-Latin Grammy nominee Weber Iago (formerly a Bay Area resident) & vibraphonist-Downbeat awardwinner Christian Tamburr; at 2 on Sunday, longtime Bay Area favorite (& Nicasio, Marin County resident) stride pianist Mike Lipskin, with Gypsy guitarist Paul Mehring & Mike's vocal sidekick, the charming Dinah Lee. $15, either show. Piedmont Piano, 1728 san Pablo Avenue @ 18th Street, Oakland ("Uptown"). 547-8188; piedmontpiano.com 

—The Grand Finale of this year's Westbrae Free Concerts this Saturday late morning-early afternoon, produced by Mary Prophet, will feature; Middle Eastern oud player Claude Palmer, 10-10:20; Alan Lipton (Acid Folk, Progressive Rock) 10:25-10:40; Sauce Piquante Duo (Cajun-Creole), 10:45-11; Andrew Page (lyric-driven originals); Backyard Tarzans (Blues, Rock, Operetta), 11:25-11:40; Rebecca Prophet (Jazz, Broadway, Pop), 11:45-12; Betsy Rose & Occupella (Progressive Folk), 12:05-12:20; Rich Kalman (Jazz, Blues, Broadway, Pop), 12:25-12:40; Michael DeWall (Jazz, Calypso, Bossa Nova), 12:45-1 ... All in the Garden at the Bagel shop/Toot Sweet, 1281 Gilman @ Curtis, by the BART elevated tracks. 

—Smooth Toad, Berkeley's Dynamic Trio—Blake Street Hawkeyes co-founder Bob Ernst on harmonica & vocals, fiddler-guitarist-harmonica player extraordinaire Hal Hughes & poet G. P. Skratz on vocals & guitar (with a little help from "Toad Emeritus" Andy Dinsmore)—have just issued their latest CD, 'Long Old Road.' On a quick listen, it's something delightful, completely sui generis ... All three Toads write numbers—Hal Hughes' "Magpie Yodel," for one; Bob Ernst's "Pope of the Bay" (Emperor Norton) for another (or his special "Lorca's Lullabye")—& a couple unusual poetic ventures by Skratz, supported by Hughes as composer or arranger: "Kaspar Is Dead," his translation of Dadaist Hans Arp's poem about a favorite sprite, for Jerry Garcia, & "Pound's Brindisi," a piece by the great modern master poet, music'd by Robert Hughes, arranged by Hal ... Lend it your ears—you'll get them back with interest! (A fuller review will follow.) arundosalon.com or myspace.com/smoothtoad!

Berkeley No on S Campaign Holds Sidewalk Events Citywide Sunday

From Bob Offer-Westort, Campaign Coordinator, No on S
Friday October 05, 2012 - 08:18:00 AM

(Don't Just) Sit There… Do Something Will Highlight Absurdity of Sit/Lie Proposal, Call Attention to Ignored Proposals for Real Improvements

On Sunday, October 7, opponents of Berkeley's controversial Measure S will hold events on sidewalks all over Berkeley to educate their neighbors about the measure. If it passes, Measure S will make it a crime to sit down on sidewalks in Berkeley's commercial districts between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Events include a sidewalk children's circus, a yoga class, a barbecue, a tea party, hopscotch, and chalk art. The events are collectively going by the name (Don't Just) Sit There… Do Something.

Events Include: 

12:00, University Ave. near Sacramento (north side): Sidewalk Barbecue 2:00, Bancroft and Telegraph (north side): Tea Time 4:30, Constitution Square (Shattuck and Center): Children's Circus 

For times and locations of more events, contact Bob Offer-Westort at (510) 610-2150. 

Campaign Coordinator Bob Offer-Westort says, "Every event would become a crime if the sit/lie law were to pass. These are obviously innocent acts, which, actually, make our neighborhoods better. Talking about making simple sitting a crime pits people in this city against one another where there's no real division: Both homeless people and small businesses need real solutions for Berkeley." 

Elisa Della-Piana, a Berkeley mother of two and civil rights attorney who will be hosting a children's circus as part of the event, says, "We want to put an end to the bickering that happens every time there's another politically-motivated push to criminalize homeless people. We all know that doesn't work. We want to have conversations with our neighbors about real solutions, and that's what we're going to do on Sunday." 

Berkeley's Economic Development Manager prepared a list of five recommendations for improving retail commerce in Berkeley a year before the sit/lie debates began. None of those recommendations include a suggestion that the city needs a sit/lie law. As a response to the sit/lie proposal, Councilmember Jesse Arreguín prepared a proposal entitled "Compassionate Sidewalks," which includes dozens of possible solutions for improving public spaces and repairing the local economy. Participants in (Don't Just) Sit There… Do Something will distribute information about the City's proposed solutions, as well as the documented failure of sit/lie laws elsewhere.

NEBA Holds Two Berkeley Election Fairs and Forums

Friday October 05, 2012 - 08:13:00 AM

The North East Berkeley Association (NEBA) will sponsor two election forums in October. 

Thursday, October 4th, 2012, 6:00 – 9:30 p.m.
Fair: Meet the proponents and opponents of various ballot measures: 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Forum: Q&A 7:00 – 9:30 p.m. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012, 6:00 – 9:30 p.m.
Fair: Meet the Mayoral and District 5 candidates: 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Forum: Q&A candidates 7:00 – 9:30 p.m. 

NORTHBRAE COMMUNITY CHURCH, 941 The Alameda (at Los Angeles)