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Possessions of homeless people, inside and outside the fence
Carol Denney
Possessions of homeless people, inside and outside the fence


Betrayal at the Berkeley City Council (Public Comment)

Harry Brill
Thursday August 11, 2016 - 11:02:00 PM

A special Berkeley City Council meeting was scheduled this evening at 6 to vote on a minimum wage proposal drafted by a community and labor group and negotiated with Councilman Laurie Capitelli. However, only three Council members showed up, but five are needed for a quorum to do official business The three who attended the meeting were Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin, and Darryl Moore. Max Anderson was ill, but he promised that if another member came before the meeting was disbanded, his wife would drive him to the meeting to assure a quorum.

Particularly troubling was Laurie Capitelli's absence, since he negotiated the agreement with those who drafted the proposal. Occasionally, unanticipated events prevent a Councilman from attending a meeting. However, this is the second time that Laurie Capitelli reneged on a minimum wage agreement that he agreed to support. Adopting the proposal is immensely important to low wage workers. Not least, what a terrible, demoralizing experience it is when a council member goes back on his word only a short time after he promises that he would give it his support.

Capitelli is running for mayor against Jesse Arreguin and other candidates. How can he expect the public to vote for a candidate when his word cannot be trusted?

Flash: No Special Berkeley City Council Meeting Tonight Re Minimum Wage

John Caner, CEO Downtown Berkeley Assn.
Thursday August 11, 2016 - 05:32:00 PM

We were just told by Councilmember Capetelli that there will be no Council meeting tonight because of insufficient quorum. He also informed us that the City Clerk brought to his attention that introducing the measure tonight would violate the Good Government Ordinance (Section 2.06.070.E.1) of the City and, possibly the Brown Act. Here is Councilmember Capitelli's statement: 

I strongly believe that we need to raise the minimum wage in Berkeley past its current $11 ($12.53 as of October 1, 2016). We need to help working people and combat wage inequality. In 2015, Council crafted a bold and progressive minimum wage measure that proposed raising the minimum wage to $15. Council voted to further speed up the wage schedule in April of 2016 and let the voters weigh in. Even though our initial proposal was one of the most progressive in the nation, an initiative was circulated to raise it higher. I attempted to broker a compromise to unify our community with the caveat that it needed a supermajority on all points. Unfortunately, at this time, the Mayor, the Vice-Mayor, City Manager and City Attorney are out of town for a special meeting regarding the minimum wage. Other Councilmembers have reservations about whether workers, youth and community-serving nonprofits will benefit from the agreement. Others are concerned about equity regarding health care coverage and sick leave. Additionally, there has been less than 3 hours to review the language from the City Attorney for a measure that will affect the lives of thousands. We ran out of time to do our due diligence and analysis required to pass such a complicated and multi-faceted measure. As a result, we don't believe this is good policy making or democratic. The current Council proposal is amongst the most progressive minimum wage proposals in the entire nation. 

We apologize for the late notice, but we just received this information. 

Flash: Whole Lotta Shakin' at a special City Council Meeting tonight?

Becky O'Malley
Thursday August 11, 2016 - 10:14:00 AM

Something big is going to happen tonight at City Hall at 6 p.m., but what exactly depends on who you ask. It's billed as a "compromise" version of the Berkeley minimum wage initiatives now on the November ballot, with several parties trying to take the credit for devising it.

In the public interest, since I've been away from my desk this week, I'm just going to start by posting ALL the competing press releases, and readers can judge for themselves what's going on.

There's another item on the agenda that seems to be revising the revenue estimates from the initiative that proposes taxing landlord revenues, down by more than a third, or more than a million dollars. This would seem to reduce the chances of its passing in November. The online commentariat as cc'd to me seems outraged.

Also, several emails I've gotten are asking why the special meeting agenda pointedly excludes other topics left dangling as the Mayor and Vice-Mayor decamped for their summer Grand Tours. This would be proposed strengthening of the outdated weak-as-water Police Review Commission and comment on Jerry Brown's imminent attempt to impose by-right development on cities like Berkeley. Why not a special meeting to take up these important topics?

As alway, Public Comment welcome if you can shed any light on any of this. Write to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com, signing your own real name and including a phone number so I can call the author if needed. 

Meanwhile, Emilie Raguso over at berkeleyside.com is making a sincere effort to figure it all out:


More to come as possible....

City of Berkeley News: City Council Special Meeting, Thursday August 11 at 6:00PM

Councilmember Kriss Worthington
Thursday August 11, 2016 - 12:21:00 PM

The City Council will meet at the Council Chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way on August 11 at 6pm to consider the city minimum wage ordinance and ballot measure.  

The Council will also consider a resolution to make a correction to the business license tax on rental units ballot measure.  

The agenda and supporting documents can be accessed here - http://records.cityofberkeley.info/agenda - or -http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/2016/08_Aug/City_Council__08-11-2016_Meeting_Info.aspx 

Read more at CityofBerkeley.info 

Press Release: Berkeley City Council to hold special meeting on raising minimum wage

Stefan Elgstrand, Office of Councilmember Jesse Arreguin
Thursday August 11, 2016 - 10:48:00 AM

What: Berkeley City Council Vote on Raising the Minimum Wage

When: Thursday, August 11th, 2016, 6PM

Where: Old City Hall, 2nd Floor, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr Way

After years of discussion, debate, and negotiation, the Berkeley City Council will vote on a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 at a special meeting tomorrow evening.

After efforts to raise the minimum wage in Berkeley stalled, a community-labor coalition circulated a citizens petition to place a measure on the November 2016 ballot to raise the minimum wage in the City of Berkeley to $15 by 2017 and create a pathway aligning the wage with Berkeley’s Living Wage. After a successful petition drive, the City Council in response voted 6-3 to place a competing measure on the ballot which delayed implementation of a $15 wage until 2019 and included language requiring an onerous supermajority vote to raise wages or paid sick leave requirements.  


Union officials and community members were concerned that two competing measures on the ballot may result in voter confusion and both measures failing. This would keep Berkeley’s minimum wage at $12.53 without any increases, despite rising housing costs and planned minimum wage increases in other cities. 

To prevent a potential lose-lose situation, parties from both camps joined forces in a final and successful attempt to come to an agreement over how to raise the minimum wage in Berkeley. 

“Raising the minimum wage will help lift up working families who for too long have struggled to make ends meet” Councilmember Jesse Arreguin said. “Berkeley should be a leader in economic justice, but we have recently fallen behind other cities. This proposal will bring us back to the forefront and enable our communities and neighborhoods to remain diverse and prosperous”. 

Andy Katz, who facilitated the recent negotiations, said “this shows that the City Council can put Berkeley’s community first. This is a first step for working families to earn a living wage for their hard work and avoids a divisive and confusing campaign at the ballot box”.  

Berkeley is one of the most expensive cities to live in the country, with the average rent of a 2-bedroom apartment costing $2,935 in early 2016 – a 60% increase in just five years. With wages remaining stagnant, displacement has become a major issue facing many historically minority neighborhoods in Berkeley. While the state minimum wage will raise to $15 by 2022, Berkeley’s extreme cost of living has resulted in many calling for a stronger minimum wage. 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin is available for interviews. 


Press Release: HAVE YOUR VOICE HEARD: Council Special Meeting re MINIMUM WAGE, Tomorrow, Thurs, Aug 11, 6pm, Old City Hall, 2134 MLK Jr. Way.

John Caner, C.E.O. Downtown Berkeley Association
Thursday August 11, 2016 - 10:59:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council has called a Special Meeting for tomorrow night, to revisit the Berkeley Minimum Wage. The meeting will be held at 6pm in Council Chambers on the 2nd Floor of Old City Hall at 2134 MLK Jr. Way. 

On June 14 Berkeley City Council put on the ballot a measure that would increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2019, double paid sick leave from 24 to 48 hours per year, provide for a health care credit, and provide a youth training exemption.
This new measure to be considered tomorrow night would: raise the minimum wage to $15 in 2018, raise paid sick leave to 72 hours for employers of 25 or more persons, and eliminate the health care credit and the youth training exemption.
Currently the Berkeley minimum wage is $11/hour and is scheduled to increase to $12.53/hour on Oct 1 of this year.
Reportedly, the Mayor and Vice Mayor, City Manager, City Attorney, and other councilmembers are unable to attend the meeting tomorrow night. Concerns have been raised about passing this revised measure with such short notice, and key City leadership absent from the meeting.
Please show up or email council at council@cityofberkeley.info ASAP regarding your thoughts about this revised measure.
From City of Berkeley's website:
1a. Adopt a Resolution rescinding the previous action of the Council to place a Minimum Wage ordinance on the November 8, 2016 ballot and submitting a new Minimum Wage ballot measure.
1b. Adopt a Resolution rescinding the previous action of the Council to place a Minimum Wage ballot measure on the November 8, 2016 ballot and adopt a first reading of an Ordinance amending the Minimum Wage ordinance, Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 13.99.
1c. Adopt a Resolution rescinding the previous action of the Council to place a Minimum Wage ballot measure on the November 8, 2016 ballot, and adopt a first reading of an Ordinance repealing Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 13.99 and adopting a new Chapter 13.99 (Minimum Wage Ordinance) and a new Chapter 13.100 (Paid Sick Leave Ordinance).

Press Release: Agreement Reached on Berkeley Minimum Wage
Attorney Andy Katz led negotiations for Special City Council vote Thursday

Andy Katz, andy@andykatzlaw.com
Thursday August 11, 2016 - 10:34:00 AM

Working collaboratively, an agreement that avoids dueling ballot measures on the minimum wage in Berkeley has been reached.

The agreement between the Service Employees International Union, Local 1021, sponsor of the Citizens’ minimum wage ballot measure, and Berkeley City Council member Laurie Capitelli, author of the Council-sponsored minimum wage ballot measure, will be voted on at a special City Council meeting on Thursday night. Council members who signed a petition for the special City Council meeting to consider this action include Jesse Arreguin, Laurie Capitelli, Lori Droste, Darryl Moore, and Kriss Worthington.  

The Council will consider rescinding its previous action placing a minimum wage ballot measure on the November ballot, and will consider adopting a consensus ordinance at the special meeting on Thursday .  

Workers’ rights attorney and EBMUD Director Andy Katz convened the negotiations over several weeks, after urging the City Council at their June 14, 2016 meeting to work together to find common ground.  

Director Katz stated: “This agreement shows that the City Council can put Berkeley’s community first. This is an important step forward for working families to earn a living wage for their hard work, and avoids a divisive and confusing campaign at the ballot box.” 

Details of the agreement provisions will be released upon City Attorney review. Media may contact Andy Katz in advance for direct notification and further comment.


From Leslie D. Harris, City of Berkeley City Clerk Department
Thursday August 11, 2016 - 10:22:00 AM

In accordance with the authority in us vested, and pursuant to Berkeley Municipal Code Section 2.04.020, we do hereby call the Berkeley City Council in special session as follows:
Thursday, August 11, 2016
6:00 P.M.

Preliminary Matters:
Roll Call:
Public Comment is limited to items on this agenda only.
Action Calendar

Rescinding Resolution No. 67,523-N.S. Placing a Measure on the November 8, 2016 Ballot to Increase the Business License Tax on Owners of Five or More Residential Rental Units and Submitting a Revised Measure on the Same Subject
From: City Manager
Recommendation: Adopt a Resolution:
1. Rescinding Resolution No. 67,523-N.S. submitting a general tax ordinance measure on the November 8, 2016 general municipal ballot to increase the business license tax on owners of five or more residential rental units from 1.081% to 2.880%, prohibiting the pass-through of the tax to most tenants, and directing the Housing Advisory Commission to make recommendations for additional expenditures for affordable housing; and
2. Placing an identical general tax ordinance measure with a revision to the ballot label on the November 8, 2016 general municipal ballot to increase the business license tax on owners of five or more residential rental units from 1.081% to 2.880%, prohibiting the pass-through of the tax to most tenants, and directing the Housing Advisory Commission to make recommendations for additional expenditures for affordable housing.
Financial Implications: See report
Contact: Mark Numainville, City Clerk, 981-6900
Action Calendar

2. Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Ballot Measure, and Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Ordinances
1a. Adopt a Resolution rescinding the previous action of the Council to place a Minimum Wage ordinance on the November 8, 2016 ballot and submitting a new Minimum Wage ballot measure.
1b. Adopt a Resolution rescinding the previous action of the Council to place a Minimum Wage ballot measure on the November 8, 2016 ballot and adopt a first reading of an Ordinance amending the Minimum Wage ordinance, Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 13.99.
1c. Adopt a Resolution rescinding the previous action of the Council to place a Minimum Wage ballot measure on the November 8, 2016 ballot, and adopt a first reading of an Ordinance repealing Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 13.99 and adopting a new Chapter 13.99 (Minimum Wage Ordinance) and a new Chapter 13.100 (Paid Sick Leave Ordinance).
We hereby request that the City Clerk of the City of Berkeley cause personal notice to be given to each member of the Berkeley City Council on the time and place of said meeting, forthwith.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, we have hereunto set our hands
and caused the official seal of the City of Berkeley to be
affixed on this 10th day of August, 2016.
s/Jesse Arreguin, Councilmember, District 4
s/Laurie Capitelli, Councilmember, District 5
s/Lori Droste, Councilmember, District 8
s/Darryl Moore, Councilmember, District 2
s/Kriss Worthington, Councilmember, District 7
Public Notice – this Proclamation serves as the official agenda for this meeting.

See Il Trovatore
at the Hillside Club on Sunday afternoon

Tuesday August 09, 2016 - 05:53:00 PM

Even if you’ve never had the opportunity to see a live production of a famous opera, you’ve probably heard the gorgeous Anvil Chorus from Guiseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore. On Sunday afternoon you’ll have a chance to see this powerful opera up close, as performed by the Verismo Opera company. Here’s the company’s summary of the juicy plot:

“It is full of dramatic scenes: tales of flames at the stake, kidnapping and revenge master-minded by Azucena, the conniving gypsy woman; a mysterious troubadour and Leonora who loses her heart to him; and the drama of war waged on a Spanish castle fortress. Set in the early 15th century, the story is told by three separate, intertwining sub-plots, rich with colorful history.”

And there's powerfully dramatic music to match. 

The show is being presented as a staged production with live orchestral accompaniment in a number of Bay Area locations in the next couple of weeks. On the opening weekend, on Sunday, August 14, at 2:00pm, you can see it at Berkeley’s Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley, CA 94709. 

Cast members for the Sunday production include Bay Area favorites soprano Eliza O’Malley and tenor Frederick Winthrop, with a special guest, Colombian baritone Blas Alberto Canedo, who is currently based in Houston. 

Tickets will be available at the door, in advance from Brown Paper Tickets., 800-838-3006, or online from Brown Paper Tickets

Prices $30 (general) $25 (seniors) $20 (students) under 12 yrs. (free) 

For Verismo Opera company information, including dates and locations of additional performances, see http://www.verismoopera.org 

And if you've never heard the music from Trovatore, here's just a taste of what's in store for you: 



Three Berkeley Pokemon robbery attempts

Allison Levitsky (BCN_
Thursday August 11, 2016 - 11:49:00 AM

Three robberies involving people playing the popular "Pokemon Go" smartphone game have been reported in Berkeley in the past month, according to police. 

The most recent attempted robbery took place around 5:30 p.m. Monday in Civic Center Park at 2151 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The male victim was playing the game in the park when someone tried to snatch the phone from his hand, police said. 

After the victim struggled and successfully retained his phone, the suspect fled eastbound on Allston Way. He described the suspect as a black male between 15 and 16 years old who was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt with black and white Air Jordan sneakers, according to police. 

A similar robbery was reported at 2:46 p.m. on July 31 in the area of Parking and Warring streets. Officers responded to a reported robbery in which the suspect jumped out of a waiting vehicle, punched the male victim and stole his phone from his hand. 

The victim described the suspect as a black male about 16 years old who was wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt. The suspect ran to a waiting sedan and fled south on Warring Street. 

Berkeley police stopped the suspect vehicle a few miles away and made two arrests. 

A third recent Pokemon Go-related robbery was reported on July 12 at 9:15 p.m. Police received calls regarding a screaming woman in the 2300 block of Dana Street. 

Officers made contact with the victim, who said she had been walking east on Durant Avenue and had just finished playing the game when she cut through a parking lot on the south side of the street and noticed two men were following her. 

One of the two knocked her to the ground and attempted to take her phone, while the other pulled her purse off of her shoulder, police said. 

The victim described the suspects as two young "baby-faced" black men with slender builds who were wearing dark hooded sweatshirts. The two suspects fled north through the parking lot and got into a waiting SUV, which fled south on Dana Street, according to police. 

Police are advising residents to leave smartphones in their pocket while walking around, and to avoid playing Pokemon Go alone at night.

Press Release: 300 Children’s Hospital Oakland workers vote to join National Union of Healthcare Workers

From Justin DeFreitas
Tuesday August 09, 2016 - 10:16:00 PM

Business and administrative workers will join nearly 600 other NUHW-represented Children’s employees

OAKLAND — More than three hundred office and administrative workers at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland voted 87 percent August 3 to join nearly six hundred of their coworkers as members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers. 

Children’s workers organized to advocate for improvements in staffing levels, patient care, job security, and respect in the workplace. 

“We want to work together for a better Children’s Hospital and we’re doing that by forming a union with NUHW,” said Office Associate Katie Jones. “Together we can make our voices heard.” 

This election, combined with a June election in which more than seventy Children’s technical workers voted to organize, nearly doubles the number of Children’s employees represented by NUHW.  

Children’s business and administrative workers include office associates, office administrators, office coordinators, schedulers, registration associates, development coordinators, accounting clerks, financial advisors, telecommunications operators, patient accounting representatives, authorization representatives, clerks, secretaries, care access services associates, discharge support specialists, accounts payable specialists, administrative assistants, administrative coordinators, buyers, transcriptionists, and others. 

The technical workers who joined in June include medical interpreters, respiratory therapists, radiology technicians, pharmacy technicians, nursing assistants, surgical technicians, unit secretaries, linen workers, maintenance workers, and other classifications. 

The National Union of Healthcare Workers is a member-driven movement for democracy, quality patient care, and a stronger voice in the workplace. NUHW represents 12,000 caregivers at hospitals and nursing homes throughout California. NUHW.org 

Richmond Mayor calls attempt to evict popular restaurant owner act of spite by developer

Scott Morris (BCN)
Tuesday August 09, 2016 - 04:51:00 PM

Richmond's mayor is strongly backing a waterfront restaurateur facing eviction, saying that the property owner is trying to force her out as an act of spite against the city after losing two ballot measures in June, including one seeking voter approval for a new development project.

According to Mayor Tom Butt, the Penterra Company served a 30-day notice to vacate to Salute e Vita Ristorante, a popular Italian restaurant owned by Menbere Aklilu, an Eritrean woman who has been widely recognized for her charity work and community service.

The Penterra Company is associated with Richard Poe, a Florida-based developer who only mustered 34 percent approval when he took a plan before voters to build a 59-unit residential property on land he owns on the city's waterfront. 

Butt, along with City Councilwoman Gayle McLaughin, fought the measure, calling it an attempt to bypass the city's normal environmental review and public planning processes and push through a project that was contrary to the city's general plan. 

On Monday, Butt accused Poe of trying to evict the restaurant as an act of spite and retaliation against the city for the June failure of that measure, along with another measure he put on the ballot seeking to reduce the city manager's salary. 

"Spite is not a new motivation for Poe, whose Measure O to dramatically reduce the Richmond City Manager's compensation had no compelling objective other than spite and retaliation," Butt said. 

Butt planned a news conference this morning to rally support for the restaurant. Poe did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Restaurant owner Aklilu, known in the community as "Menbe," has been renowned for her charity work and her personal story of overcoming homelessness and abuse to become a successful businesswoman. 

Among her accolades, she was the Contra Costa Business Woman of the Year in 2009, received the Jefferson Award in 2015 and was nominated for the Women's Hall of Fame by state Sen. Loni Hancock this year. 

In a 2013 commencement address at Holy Names University in Oakland, she recounted her turbulent early life in Ethiopia and Italy. Her mother, also a restaurant owner, was shot dead in front of her when she was 11 years old. 

"I saw the blood, I saw the fight, I saw all the drama," she said. 

After she was raised in orphanages and by her brother and sister, she moved to Italy with the dream of becoming an actress. But she ended up in an abusive marriage and, pregnant with her first son, she fled to a women's shelter, where she met Mother Teresa shortly after giving birth. 

Her community work includes hosting annual Thanksgiving dinners for homeless families, Mother's Day brunches for single mothers and donating to the Richmond Rescue Shelter, the East Bay Center for Performing Arts and the Family Justice Center.

Press Release: Sophie Hahn's fundraising outpaces Murphy in the race for Berkeley's District 5 council seat

From sophie@sophiehahn.com
Tuesday August 09, 2016 - 04:44:00 PM

Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board member Sophie Hahn has announced that her campaign for City Council raised $44,859.00 between January 1st and June 30th, almost three times what her opponent raised during the same period. Hahn, a grassroots candidate with deep ties to Berkeley and to her District, received over 300 contributions during this filling period. Seventy-five percent were made by residents of Berkeley, with over 100 from within District 5. 

During this period, Hahn raised almost $29,000 more than her opponent, Stephen Murphy, who received only 91 donations in total, with approximately 20 from residents of District 5. Approximately one third of Murphy’s donations can be attributed to developers and others with a stake in the real estate industry, including consultants, builders, architects and attorneys who work for, or represent, real estate and development interests. Many of the most active developers and developer-representatives in Berkeley are among his donors. 

“I am honored to have received so many donations from Berkeley residents, and from people who know me from my many years of work on behalf of our schools, libraries and community. Our message is resonating with voters, who are ready for a leader who understands and values the people and neighborhoods of Berkeley, and has a track record of getting things done for Berkeley. As we grow and change, I will fight to ensure that our values are reflected in all that we do, and that we protect the things that make Berkeley such a uniquely wonderful place.” 





# of Monetary Contributions Received  

This Period 


Number of District 5 Contributions  


Total Raised this Period  


Cash on Hand  


Sophie Hahn  










Steven Murphy  




Approx. 20 (addresses not listed – only zip codes)  







Hahn has an expanding list of elected officials and community leaders backing her campaign for city council, including CA State Controller Betty Yee, Former CA State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, State Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, CA State Senator Isadore Hall, Berkeley City Councilmember Max Anderson, Berkeley Rent Board Chair Jesse Townley, Emeryville Mayor Dianne Martinez, former Berkeley Vice Mayor Carole Kennerly and Councilmember Ying Lee, as well as local hero Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant & Founder of the Edible Schoolyard. 





Sophie grew up in District 5 and has raised her three children less than a mile from her childhood home. She graduated from Berkeley High in one of the first cohorts to attend elementary through High School in Berkeley’s recently integrated schools, launching her life of engagement and advocacy by working to desegregate extracurricular activities. 

Sophie served as Chair of the City of Berkeley Commission on the Status of Women before being appointed to the Zoning Adjustments Board, where she has been a strong and consistent voice for affordable housing, green building and sustainable transit. As Co-Chair of the 15th California Assembly District Environmental Task Force and an elected member of the Sierra Club Northern Alameda County Group’s Executive Committee, she is deeply involved in local efforts to address climate change and achieve environmental justice. Sophie has also been involved in numerous school and community activities including serving as President of the King Middle School PTA, on the Board of the Friends of UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, and as a Board member for the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, where she led local fundraising efforts for the renovation of the North Branch Library. 


For more information: www.sophiehahn.com 


Happening Now in Berkeley: The Trump Effect

Carol Denney
Friday August 05, 2016 - 10:04:00 AM
Under the Gilman overpass
Carol Denney
Under the Gilman overpass
Possessions of homeless people, inside and outside the fence
Carol Denney
Possessions of homeless people, inside and outside the fence

Take a local tour of Trump policy in action in the East Bay where building a wall isn't just a laughable Republican pipe dream. If you live close to Berkeley or Albany, it's something you can see in all its comic finery mid-construction without the inconvenience of any election, without any public or community hearing or vote, without any community involvement whatsoever.

Start with the Gilman Street underpass next time you're on your way to the Berkeley Kite Festival or picking up greens at Whole Foods. Little by little, the underpass is being fenced off so that no one can take shelter underneath it. The bare square footage best sheltered from the wind and rain is now fenced off as securely as the Chancellor's mansion on the University of California's Berkeley campus at a similar cost to the public purse. 

You may have noticed the same phenomenon at the Berkeley Main Post Office on Allston; a fierce black fence surrounds...nothing at all, unless you count some creative sidewalk chalk. It would seem to be a reaction to the "First They Came for the Homeless" protest as well as a pre-emptive strike against potential violations of 647(e), which states: 

Except as provided in subdivision (l), every person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor: 

(e) Who lodges in any building, structure, vehicle, or place, whether public or private, without the permission of the owner or person entitled to the possession or in control of it... 

You'll find the same pre-emptive architectural phenomenon on old City Hall's lawn, which now sports "protective" green plastic fencing just about anywhere one could conceivably place one's pillow. The constitutionality of a law such as 647(e) in a world without adequate low-cost housing or shelter continues to lumber through various courts, of course, but your public servants are content to assume, given convention and tradition, that by the time the horror of this cruel policy is fully exposed they will be long gone. 

Were members of the public asked to weigh in on such absurd and inhuman expenditures? Not at all. If you're a member of the public sympathetic to those who have suffered the effects of skyrocketing evictions and plummeting wages or even a member of the public watching this happen to your neighbors, family, or friends, your public servants are nonetheless busy fencing off public space whether you find it ridiculous or not. 

Should they be getting the public's permission? Of course. But as long as the public is relatively silent, they enjoy an uneasy protection if they stand next to the towering mountain of anti-homeless and anti-vagrant laws both old and new which take acres of time and money to battle. The constitutional challenge to such laws generally requires so much organized time and money to fight that entire eras of public policy will elapse unscathed by constraint; moral, legal, or otherwise. 

If you're offered an opportunity to ask the candidates for local political office whether or not they approve of not only the fences and walls, but of the processes, if in fact there are processes, which allow the public to be completely circumvented in their creation by all means do so. Whether they style themselves as from the right or the left, ask they where they expect people on the streets to go. And if they start tossing the usual platitudes around in the air, lean in, interrupt, and say, I'm sorry, what I meant was, where do you expect people on the streets to go right now, today. Otherwise our silence becomes not only complicity; it also becomes just another very real brick in the wall.

Why Berkeley Needs a New Police Review Commission—And Why it’ll Have to Wait Two Years to Get One

Andrew Beale
Thursday August 04, 2016 - 11:33:00 AM

On Thursday, July 21, the City of Berkeley’s Administration building was mysteriously under lockdown. Police officers on bicycles and plainclothes security officers ringed the building, refusing entry to Berkeley citizens. A city spokesman posted outside the building (which houses the mayor’s office, the City Council chambers and various other critical city functions) offered no clues, saying only “We’re having some security concerns, but we’re not discussing it broadly.”

Around two o’clock in the afternoon, the source of the “security concerns” became clear: a small group of protesters was trying to enter the building to speak with City Council members about the council’s failure to reform Berkeley’s Police Review Commission. The activist group included students, an attorney and 2016 City Council candidate Nanci Armstrong-Temple. Despite an invitation from current Councilmember Kriss Worthington to meet with him, even Armstrong-Temple was prevented from entering the building. Hours later, Worthington eventually secured permission for the activists to come inside, but by then they had left, tired of standing on the steps of a city office building in intemperate chilly weather. (Armstrong-Temple and several other protesters penned op-eds for the Daily Planet about the experience.)

Worthington told the Daily Planet that he doesn’t know who made the decision to close the building. “You know, I’ve never seen that before, so I was surprised. I just didn’t know what to think,” he said. “I think the community’s concern was very legitimate and reasonable to be upset when people refuse to do their jobs, when elected officials refuse to do their jobs.” 

Failure to Reform 

Worthington was referring to the City Council’s failure to even discuss his proposed changes to the city’s Police Review Commission, the civilian body responsible for investigating complaints against Berkeley police. The PRC was first established in 1973 and has operated under the same rules since then, and many in the community (including some on the commission itself) believe it’s time for an update. 

At the council’s July 19 meeting, Worthington’s proposal for police commission reform, modeled after a similar measure which was passed by the Oakland City Council, was on the agenda, but wasn’t actually discussed at the meeting. Worthington said the problem was an overstuffed agenda for the meeting, including a controversial land-use issue discussed the same night. 

“The Mayor should have understood that a major land-use appeal is going to take a long time,” he said. “When there’s 50 or 100 people showing up at a meeting to speak, you know it’s going to take hours.” 

Since the reform was pushed from the agenda, and since the City Council won’t meet again until September, this means any reforms to the Police Review Commission will have to wait a minimum of two years, until the 2018 election. It’s now too late to get PRC reform on the November 2016 ballot. 

The reforms pushed by Worthington would give the PRC greater oversight of BPD, something he says is badly needed in Berkeley. 

“The Police Review Commission is… sort of advisory to the police chief and advisory to the city manager. They don’t have actual power, just advice, their advice,” Worthington said. “There’s no requirement that their advice be listened to or followed… Many civil-rights and civil-liberties lawyers tell people not even to bother to file a complaint with the Police Review Commission because it doesn’t work.” 

Toothless Oversight 

Bulmaro Vicente, a Cal student and former member of Berkeley’s PRC, echoed Worthington’s criticisms of the commission. 

“One of the main problems that we had was I felt like the commission acts more as an advisory board to the police department than one that enforces discipline,” he said. “There’s no teeth to the commission.” 

Vicente said as a police commissioner he had no power to sanction police misconduct—even when that misconduct was directed at him personally. 

“I found out that the Berkeley Police Association [the police union] was snooping over my social media accounts and sharing information that was posted online [with the Berkeley] police department,” he said. 

During a ride-along with BPD, Vicente witnessed behavior that he described as “very problematic,” including racist comments by Berkeley officers and one officer talking about his desire to arrest a homeless man who was breaking no laws. After expressing his displeasure with the officers’ actions, he received a troubling email from one of the officers. 

“He [the officer] criticized a post I made on Facebook and Instagram,” Vicente said. “And I was concerned that he was looking over my social media and he dug pretty deep, because that post I made was like a year before I was on the commission.” 

Vicente spoke with the chief of police, Michael K. Meehan, about the incident, and the chief’s response was not encouraging. 

“The chief told me that the union [the BPA] was actually the one who was seeing these posts and sharing what I was posting to the police department,” Vicente said. “The chief even told me ‘I’m sorry you had this experience,’ and I told him ‘well, you know, thank you for that, but what I really want is an apology from the officer.’ They had made me very uncomfortable. And then the chief told me ‘I can’t force him to make an apology. I’ll ask him and see how he feels.’” 

Vicente never got his apology, and there was no further action he could take as a PRC member to discipline the officer who sent him the email, which he feels was intended to intimidate him. 

A better model? 

George Perezvelez, the current chair of the Berkeley PRC, said the commission has never had the power to force the chief to discipline officers. 

Perezvelez also sits on the BART Police Citizen Review Board, and he said there’s a major contrast between the powers granted to the BART commission and those granted to Berkeley’s PRC. 

“In Berkeley, I just make findings. I find whether an allegation is sustained or if it’s not, exonerated. And that’s it,” he said. “And it’s up to the chief to make a decision on discipline. At BART, not only can I find whether the allegation is unfounded, founded or exonerated, but I also am able to make recommendations on discipline.” 

In the Berkeley system, Perezvelez said, the PRC commissioners don’t even have the opportunity to find out what discipline (if any) was imposed on an officer after they determine a civilian complaint is “founded.” 

“At BART… there’s a monthly report made by the office of the independent auditor and it tells you in the month of July, there were 100 complaints, 80 complaints are under investigation, 20 of them were resolved, these are the allegations, this is the end result of the allegations,” he said. “I don’t get that in Berkeley. Under Berkeley regulations and rules, I don’t even have the ability to get a report that tells me that.” 

Worthington’s recommendations to the City Council about how best to reform the PRC were modeled after a measure that recently passed by the Oakland City Council. Oakland’s proposed reforms will be on the November ballot for approval by the city’s voters. 

“What I was hoping to do was to have something very similar so that both cities would be voting on something very, very similar at the same time,” he said. 

The proposed reforms to Oakland’s police commission, however, have come under fire from activists for putting too much power in the hands of the mayor. At a contentious meeting of the Oakland City Council on July 26, dozens of community members spoke out against the reforms as currently proposed. By allowing Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to appoint three members of the commission, activists say, the reforms would further concentrate power in the hands of a mayor they feel has done an inadequate job of overseeing the police department. Under Schaaf’s watch, the Oakland Police Department became embroiled in a sex-trafficking scandal. Dozens of Oakland officers, along with several San Francisco officers and at least one federal agent, stand accused of participating in trafficking a teenage woman. None have so far faced criminal charges. 

Maybe Next Time 

Perezvelez said the Berkeley PRC is open to the idea of reform, but commissioners feel there needs to be consultation with community members and the department before any reforms are ready for the ballot. He said the PRC was notified of Worthington’s proposal the day before it was set to be discussed. 

“We didn’t know that a member of city council was going to propose changes to the ordinance,” he said. “All we had were 45 minutes. That’s not enough time. So the commissioners put together the best that they could do and made recommendations to the ordinance.” 

Worthington disputes this version of events, saying that PRC members themselves told him they wanted to see changes to the commission. Both Worthington and Perezvelez agree, however, that reform is still on the table and could make it onto the 2018 ballot. The proposed changes, Worthington said, can’t be passed by the city council alone and must be voted on by Berkeley citizens as a charter amendment. 

“Because it’ll be a two-year process, we will have a lot more chance to hear from the public as well as all the commissioners,” he said. “Now that the city council has killed it for this year, we will certainly work harder to include all of [the commissioners] and all of their ideas.” 

Perezvelez said at the next PRC meeting, in September, he plans to propose the creation of a new subcommittee to gather ideas for reform of the commission. The creation of the subcommittee and the extra time to study the issue will make for stronger reform proposals by the time the measure makes the ballot in 2018, he said. 

“It’s a two-year process, but at least this way, the community will be involved. The Police Review Commission will be involved. City Council can be involved. BPA, the Police Association can be involved, BPD can be involved, and we can actually have a process that starts working.” 

From Bulmaro Vicente’s perspective, change can’t come too soon. 

“[I was] kind of very disappointed in the police department and in the PRC itself, because even as a commissioner where I experienced this behavior and I had this kind of experience, the PRC wasn’t really willing to do anything about it. And also the police department itself was just kind of ‘well, you know, you just had a bad experience,’” he said. “But, you know, one bad experience for one person can lead to their own deaths or being brutalized by the police.” 

Andrew Beale is a graduate student at the UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He's reported for national and international outlets including the AP, Vice and al-Jazeera from the US, Mexico, Turkey and Palestine.

Opposition To SB 503 Is Growing In The Bay Area

Lynda Carson
Thursday August 04, 2016 - 10:26:00 AM

SB 503, Is A Bill That Is Known As A “Deadly Shift in Nursing Home Care.”

SB 503 is an insidious bill that people need to know about, because if it is passed into law it would strip people of their constitutional right to make end-of-life decisions, and it would make it difficult for people to keep from being chemically restrained by nursing homes, and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), according to California Advocates For Nursing Home Reform (CANHR)! 

While people are focused on maintaining their jobs, paying the bills, keeping the landlord off their backs as they are trying to keep a roof over their head and the utilities on, an insidious bill that has received little attention is facing some local opposition.

SB 503 is an insidious bill that people need to know about, because if it is passed into law it would strip people of their constitutional right to make end-of-life decisions, and it would make it difficult for people to keep from being chemically restrained by nursing homes, and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), according to California Advocates For Nursing Home Reform (CANHR).

Many baby boomers are a heart beat away from landing in the hospital, and into a skilled nursing facility or a nursing home due to a possible surgery, injuries, disabilities or a devastating illness of some kind. Presently they are afforded certain rights under the constitution that protect them from the for profit, or nonprofit nursing home industry, and skilled nursing facility (SNF) industry, that may try to take advantage of them while they are having major health problems, while in their care. But this may all change if SB 503 becomes the law of the land according to California Advocates For Nursing Home Reform (CANHR).

Local opposition is growing against SB 503, a bill supported by the California Department of Public Health (DPH), but is opposed by the organization called California Advocates For Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), including other local activists in the Bay Area.

According to CANHR, the bill (SB 503) radically shifts American law by forcing the residents/patients of a nursing home or a SNF whose rights are being violated to go to court, rather than the nursing homes that are pushing intrusive, involuntary “care.”

Joining the opposition against SB 503, local activist Lori Kossowski said, “SB 503 should scare the hell out of poor people, the elderly, injured, and the disabled. If passed into law, SB 503 takes the rights away from the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. I am speaking out in total opposition to SB 503, and I hope others will join me.”

Additionally, Eleanor Walden is the Housing Chair of the Board of the Berkeley Gray Panthers, and she said, “The Gray Panthers have always supported people in whatever stage of life, to make there own decisions. To usurp this decision by a bureaucracy, is a constitutional as well as a civil rights violation. We stand firmly in opposition to SB 503, and stand firmly with all individuals and their right to make their own decisions.”

According to the California Advocates For Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), if passed into law SB 503 would permit nursing homes to chemically restrain and make end-of-life decisions for residents alleged to be incapacitated. The organization has been speaking out in opposition against SB 503, a bill which is known as a “Deadly Shift in Nursing Home Care,” in an effort to keep the bill from becoming the law of the land in California.

Located at 650 Harrison St., in San Francisco, CANHR is urging the public to join them in speaking out in opposition against SB 503 which apparently is scheduled to go before Assembly Member Jim Wood (D), and the Assembly Health Committee, on August 9, 2016.

Regarding more information about this insidious bill, according to California Advocates For Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), “Using a late-hour legislative maneuver called “gut and amend,” the California Department of Public Health (DPH) has introduced SB 503 (Hernandez), a bill that would permit nursing homes to chemically restrain and make end-of-life decisions for residents alleged to be incapacitated.”

In opposition to SB 503, CANHR said, “The Alameda County Superior Court recently found the law on which SB 503 is based to be unconstitutional. Rather than re-write the law to comply with the constitutional rights of nursing home residents, DPH is doubling down on its illegal features, expanding the law’s scope to include dangerous chemical restraints and irreversible end-of-life decisions. The bill radically shifts American law by forcing the residents whose rights are being violated to go to court rather than the nursing homes that are pushing intrusive, involuntary “care.”

In a sample letter that may be used by the public from CANHR about SB 503, it reads: “Imagine you are an elderly person who recently suffered a fall at home, injuring your leg and ankle. You are sent to a hospital for treatment. At the hospital, you develop an infection and suffer mild delirium. As a result of the delirium, you are prescribed Ativan, a powerful tranquilizer, and Ambien, a sleeping pill, to make sure you stay in bed to protect your leg. You are sent to a nursing home for rehabilitation. You do not sign an admission agreement with the nursing home.”

“At the nursing home, you receive a notice that the nursing home physician, who has never met you, has determined you are not capable of making your own treatment decisions and so the nursing home will make them for you. The physician has proposed you continue to receive Ativan and Ambien, although they make you groggy and dizzy. He has also proposed the amputation of your leg because of the injuries sustained in the fall. The notice tells you that if you want to keep your leg or avoid the sedating drugs, you must contact an attorney and file a lawsuit. However, you cannot go to an attorney's office because the physician has ordered that you may not leave the facility due to your incapacity. You have no options.”

CANHR is urging the public to use the sample letter above to get the attention of legislators that are involved in passing SB 503 into law, as a way to stop the passage of SB 503, and to keep it from becoming law in California.

According to CANHR, if SB 503 becomes the law of the land, situations like the ones mentioned above in the sample letter are what may occur to patients in nursing homes or SNFs, and CANHR is urging people to contact Assembly Member Jim Wood (D), to tell him that they are speaking out in opposition to SB 503.

Simply put, CANHR wants the public to contact Assembly Member Jim Wood to let him know that they are opposed to SB 503, and to send their opposition message to him by fax.

Assembly Member Jim Wood (D) contact info may be found at the website listed below…


Or Assembly Member Jim Wood may be reached by fax at the number listed below, according to CANHR.

Assembly Member Jim Wood

Chair, Assembly Health Committee

State Capitol, Room 6005
Sacramento, CA 95814

FAX: (916) 319-2197

Click on link below for an email contact for Jim Wood…


CANHR is also asking the public to email a copy of their opposition letter/fax/email to CANHR: canhrmail [at] canhr.org

For more about SB 503, click on the link below to read a letter in opposition to SB 503 from CANHR…


More from CANHR: Click on link below for: No On SB 503: Non-Consensual Antipsychotic Drug Use In California


According to their website: “Since 1983, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), a statewide nonprofit 501(c)(3) advocacy organization, has been dedicated to improving the choices, care and quality of life for California’s long term care consumers. Through direct advocacy, community education, legislation and litigation it has been CANHR’s goal to educate and support long term care consumers and advocates regarding the rights and remedies under the law, and to create a united voice for long term care reform and humane alternatives to institutionalization.” 

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com, or newzland2 [at] gmail.com 



What's a Berkeleyan to do as the election looms?

Becky O'Malley
Sunday August 07, 2016 - 10:30:00 AM

Okay, the summer’s half over, and the news from the presidential election front is surreal. There are options:

1) Send money, but it doesn’t seem that Hillary Clinton really needs it. On the other hand, there are Senate and House races that do, and without congressional support the next president won’t get as much done.

2) Go elsewhere in the country to work for campaigns. I have good friends, middle-aged and older women like me, who have been unfortunate enough to move to purplish states, and they tell me I could go there to register voters and get them to the polls. Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida—which might it be?

3) Make day trips to work in nearby congressional races. Two nearby congressmembers in close races which might be worth some effort: Ami Bera in Sacramento and Jerry McNerny out toward Livermore. I went to a Bera house party last week and was impressed by how smart he is, and he joined the House sit-in for better firearms regs.

4) Stay here and work phone banks. Me, I’m already getting grouchy from way too many phone calls and emails from campaigns I’m already supporting, and I suspect other voters are too. Might it be time to stop this stuff?

And if working in national elections seems unproductive, don’t forget that here in Berkeley local elections were sneakily moved to coincide with the national elections when we weren’t paying attention. This means that this November Berkeley will be choosing a new Mayor and four councilmembers, creating a new majority on the city council which will be with us for four years, like it or don’t.  

A healthy percentage of the November electorate in presidential years in Berkeley is made up of people don’t know much about what’s been going on here. That of course includes most students, who are only here for a while, but also our increasing number of snowbirds, who live here in the winter, often on the U.C. payroll, and go elsewhere in the spring, summer and fall. We’re even getting an international “pied á terre” crowd, those who live abroad but purchase a California condo “just in case”, though most of these aren’t voting citizens. 

Almost everyone who can will show up to vote in the upcoming presidential election with Trump on the ticket. In the absence of a local newspaper, many low-information voters will base their decisions in local races on the expensive glossy mailers they’ll receive in quantity in October. These are funded by a variety of interest groups, some worthy, some not so much, and some well-intentioned but misled. Their authorship will be concealed under generic labels like “Committee for a Progressive Alameda County”.  

It’s the job of those of us who pay attention year-round to local issues to communicate with these people before it’s too late. That means, in California, before the mail-in ballots are sent to voters.  

What’s wrong in Berkeley at the moment?  

Nothing, surely, say those who have moved here to escape New York congestion or Massachusetts winters. It’s the land of the lotus eaters, isn’t it? Why should anything be changed? Cognitive dissonance, so popular in the 60s (look it up) rears its ugly head. If I’m here, it must be good. 

Case in point: Professor Robert Reich, formerly of Cambridge, has been uber-Bernie nationally, but locally has consistently supported the current mayor, a pol who’s been shilling for every developer who comes before the city council for many years now. 

Nothing’s wrong, surely, say many (though not all) UC students. We’re proud to have gotten into the best school on earth (except that we can barely afford to live here.) 

Berkeley is increasingly becoming the poster child for the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but those who have managed to get in under the wire don’t want to believe what’s happening to the place they are programmed to adore.  

Newbies don’t want to notice that the civic amenities which have contributed to the city’s fabled charm are being replaced by cash-register multiples: characterless multi-story buildings thrown up in a matter of weeks, unpleasant cheaply built structures marketed as high-priced “luxury” dwellings. They wonder why the Rose Garden and City Hall seem to be collapsing and the public pool in Willard Park is closed, but have no explanation. 

One example among many of the problem: developers have gotten permits from the Berkeley City Council to tear down the building which houses the Landmark Shattuck Cinemas, an economic engine for downtown businesses, to build a luxury apartment project which, among other things, threatens the foundation of the historic Shattuck hotel. The Berkeley City Council has gifted the well-wired developer with a deep, deep discount from the in-lieu fees which were supposed to be contributed to fund affordable housing in return for zoning variances. Meanwhile, the stock of low-income or even affordable housing continues to shrink as older units are being demolished.  

So that’s problem number one: uncontrolled construction of inappropriate buildings, coupled with neglect of the real need for low-income rentals, plus neglect of an infrastructure increasingly impacted by population increase without adequate compensation or even planning. 

The second neglected problem in Berkeley is the local manifestation of the Black Lives Matter movement. Just last week (see article in this issue) a peaceful delegation of religious leaders was barred from entering Berkeley’s city administration building during business hours for a planned meeting with a councilmember, because someone on the staff thought they might do something illegal. That’s a bad decision which is sure to lead to less peaceful encounters down the line. 

What can you do about all this between now and November? 

Berkeley is now blessed with ranked-choice voting, which has produced an ample supply of good candidates. It’s important to look at the field, and then to decide which ones you’d like to support with money or volunteer work, and also to be sure of not only your first choice but also of your second and third choices where available. 

It’s early for endorsements, perhaps, but let’s give it a go, because the time for action is now. 

For the California Assembly, our previous endorsement of Sandre Swanson was reinforced by a recent press release from his opponent boasting about how much money she’d raised. Trophy contributors to her campaign included corporate sugar merchant Pepsico, Big Pharma’s Bayer, and an assortment of law enforcement and prison guard associations of the worst sort.  

In Berkeley, candidate Capitelli represents more of the Same Old Same Old—and it’s past time for a change, so skip him. You should rank progressive councilmembers Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington as either One or Two, since either would be a big improvement over the status quo.  

In District Two there are also a couple of excellent options for the One-Two slots, both visible and forceful in the Black Lives Matter environment. That would be Nanci Armstrong-Temple and Cheryl Davila. Skip the incumbent altogether. 

In District Three, Ben Bartlett, a smart young attorney with Berkeley roots, has been endorsed by outgoing Councilmember Max Anderson, but Mark Coplan would probably be another respectable choice, certainly a good number two. Avoid real estate professional Deborah Matthews, who was in the pocket of the building industry as a ZAB member. 

For District Five, there’s only one good choice: Sophie Hahn, the best member of the Zoning Board. 

In District 6, either Fred Dodsworth or Isabelle Gaston would be a welcome voice for change, so they should be your one-two choices in whatever order. The longtime incumbent should be retired

So they’re off and running! Arreguin and Hahn are already doing door-to-door canvassing on weekends. Choose your candidates and jump into the race. It will make a big difference for what Berkeley becomes in the next four years. 




Public Comment

Press Release: Housing and Community Groups Protest Governor Brown’s So-Called Build-By-Right “Housing Plan”

Friday August 05, 2016 - 01:40:00 PM

Coalition Holds Day of Action Against Giveaway to Developers

On August 5th in San Francisco and Los Angeles, members of Californians for Affordable Housing (CAH), held a “day of action” against the proposal. CAH is a network of over 60 community and housing organizations across California who oppose Governor Brown’s “build-by-right” proposal to expedite housing development approvals. The groups expressed outrage over the Governor’s giveaway to developers at the expense of local review and oversight, in exchange for dismal affordability requirements.

The network opposes the housing plan because it will enable developers to obtain approvals of mostly market rate and luxury housing projects “by-right” without public input or environmental review. The groups are denouncing the Governor’s so-called “affordable housing” proposal, saying that it will in fact undermine existing affordable housing programs, strip away citizen input, and hand over precious available land to market rate and luxury housing developers, accelerating the displacement of lower income people and people of color from the urban core.  


In Los Angeles, dozens of CAH members took over the lobby of the California Association of Realtors, calling on CEO Joel Singer to have the trade group remove its support for the bill. Individual tenants and LA residents shared stories of gentrification and displacement, and expressed their concerns about the proposed plan. 

After the protest the LA group went to the offices of Senator Pro-Tem Kevin De León to urge him to “hold the line” and not let this ill-conceived proposal move forward. In both locations, event leaders resolved to escalate activity in state legislative districts across the state, calling on legislative representatives to stand with local communities and not profit-driven developers. 

Jovon Clayton, ACCE member, single mom and South LA resident:  

“I’m fighting the Governor’s housing plan because we can’t afford to let these developers build whatever they want. Working class people like me are barely able to rub two nickels together because the cost of housing is too high. We need more affordable housing, not more developments that are 95% unaffordable for working families.” 

Fanny Ortiz, member of East LA Community Corporation: 

“If the Governor’s ‘by-right’ plan passes, I won’t have the right to voice my opinion about luxury development in my neighborhood. As an active community member, I see the need for community to be involved in planning and land use decisions. The need for affordable housing is so high – I applied and had to wait over two years to get a call back.” 

In San Francisco, community members rallied in front of the luxury Millennium Tower at 301 Mission Street, a symbol of what happens when greedy developers have their way. A recent report in the SF Chronicle revealed that this tower of multi-million dollar condos built just 8 years ago is sinking into the ground, potentially leaving taxpayers on the hook to stop it from being sucked into the Bay mud. The group then paid a visit to Salesforce, calling on the CEO to withdraw his support from the “by-right” proposal.  


Aimee Inglis, Acting Director of Tenants Together 


“This plan has the potential to undermine rent control protections by expediting demolition of existing housing without public input. With 5 California cities going the ballot this November to establish rent control protections, we won’t stand by and let Governor Brown undo our work.” 


Theresa Imperial of the Bill Sorro Housing Program of the Veteran’s Equity Center in San Francisco’s South of Market 


“Communities across the Bay Area use the public input and public hearing process to make housing developments respond to community needs. We make sure below market rate units are provided on site, that developers pay prevailing wages to workers, and that developments are held accountable to the California Environmental Quality Act.” 


Tony Robles from Senior and Disability Action 


“Shoddy construction and escalating prices are the result when developers get to build whatever they want without community oversight and input. We are here today because we expect to see more terrible projects that don’t reflect our communities needs if Gov. Brown has his way. We need to come together to push back against his developer give-away so we can hold developers accountable to the needs of our communities 


Californians for Affordable Housing is a statewide network of more than 60 organizations with members and roots in racially and economically diverse urban areas across California who reject Governor Jerry Brown’s streamlined affordable housing proposal. 


FOLLOW: You can follow the conversation online at #ByRight4Whom on Twitter @opposebyright and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/opposebyright. The list of organizations in the coalition, Californians for Affordable Housing can be found at: http://bit.ly/opposebyright

The Bernie Sanders you do not know

Harry Brill
Thursday August 04, 2016 - 09:49:00 AM

In a recent discussion on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now program, Robert Reich and Chris Hedges debated the upcoming presidential election. Reich argued in favor of Hillary Clinton while Hedges made the argument that we should instead support a third party candidate. However, it is important to note Reich did agree with Hedges that in the long run building a political movement including a third party is the route to go.

Bernie Sanders during the 1980s was sympathetic to a third party political agenda. But since 1990, unlike Reich and Hedges, he changed his mind, and made a pact with the Vermont Democratic Party. The Democratic Party would not officially endorse any candidate that runs against Bernie. In return, Bernie would use his influence, which he has done several times, to block third party efforts. The Vermont Democrats had been worried that a third party might emerge.

Because of Bernie's reputation as an anti-war advocate we might have expected that the Democratic Party would have second thoughts about favoring him. The catch is, however, that his reputation does not reflect the reality. Yes, he did oppose the war in Iraq. However, in a subsequent vote that has made two protracted wars possible, he voted to fund the wars both in Iraq and Afghanistan. So Bernie was able for the most part to satisfy both sides; those who favor peace and those who favor war. Bernie has also supported the NATO bombing of Serbia. 

Those who have been active in the anti-war movement are aware of Bernie's pro-war record. Some peace activists protested by occupying his office. If Bernie thought he was misunderstood he could have explained himself to the occupiers. Instead, he called the police. Not surprisingly, then, the Vermont Democratic Party leadership has appreciated that although Bernie ran as an independent he was really one of them. The Senate Democratic Party Caucus, in fact, has included Bernie Sanders as a member, which is a rarely offered to a non-Democrat. 

In 1990 Bernie ran for a seat in the House of Representatives against Delores Sandoval, who is an African American progressive. She ran as an unauthorized candidate of the state Democratic Party. The Party's leadership attempted to persuade her, but without success, to withdraw. In contrast to Bernie, she opposed the war on drugs, which she realized was a disguised racist assault. She was also a peace candidate. He wasn't. To assure her defeat she was completely ignored by the Democratic Party. Bernie easily won. 

As you know. Since Hillary won the presidential nomination, Bernie has given her his unqualified and enthusiastic support. Like most of us, he is terrified with the prospect of Trump as our next president. But this is not the first time that Bernie has supported Democratic Party presidential candidates. He voted for John Kerry in2002 and also Bill Clinton both in 1992 and 1996. Bernie had once claimed that there was no difference between the two major parties. But he apparently changed his mind.  

So Bernie voted for Bill Clinton for a second term despite Clinton's reactionary record during his first term. Clinton successfully twisted arms in Congress to win passage of the onerous, anti-labor, pro-corporate NAFTA bill. He gutted the welfare program at the expense of very poor families including mostly children. Clinton also signed into law a crime bill which has encouraged police surveillance and racial profiling. This law also has led to mass incarceration of the poor, particularly African Americans. Clinton even eliminated funds to provide educational programs for inmates. 

Bernie justified his support of Bill Clinton by making the tiresome lesser of two evils argument. But the reality was that Clinton's Democratic Party was closer to the Republicans than Bernie realized. Consider the following outrage. Clinton and the Republican Newt Gingrich, who was Speaker of the House of Representatives, secretly devised a plan to privatize Social Security. Fortunately this scheme was dropped because soon after, Clinton was weighed down by the revelations of his sexual contact with a White House intern. 

Bernie Sanders has just run a very progressive campaign against Hillary Clinton. It was among the most refreshing events in recent American history. Despite her many advantages, he did incredibly well. In fact, he did much better than the official figures showed. Hillary was declared the winner in California even though, as Bernie and the rest of us learned, 2 1/2 million votes in the state had not yet been counted. Quite suspicious. Also, there were serious questions about the legitimacy of the count elsewhere. 

But particularly disturbing was how Bernie reacted to the flagrant irregularities. Although Bernie did not at first concede, nor did he respond aggressively, which he should have. He was for the most part silent despite the deceit by the Hillary campaign. The obvious question is why didn't he attempt to stir things up.  

Actually, former presidential candidates who have been cheated have behaved similarly. Even the Republican Nixon who was competing with Kennedy decided against challenging the votes that the Democrats illegally Nixon apparently did not want to make public the revelation that our democracy is not quite democratic. Some other presidential candidates who have been cheated have done the same. Perhaps Bernie had a similar concern, particularly with regard to protecting the reputation of the Democratic Party. 

The rather "patriotic" code of silence on voting irregularities is not only unfortunate. It is dangerous. Bernie should have broken from that tradition. No matter how high minded his motives may have been, his reticence has been tantamount to complicity. Bernie has something to learn from the Spanish philosopher, Miguel De Unamuno, who was trouble that "sometimes to remain silent is to tell a lie". Bernie's reticence is especially disappointing to hear from someone who calls himself a Democratic Socialist. 

Instead, Bernie should have taken his cues from Election Justice USA, which is a national organization of experts on election integrity. It has conducted a thorough investigation of voter fraud this year and found plenty of wrong doings. The organization proposes "calling for decertification of the 2016 primary in every state in which we have established a reasonable doubt as to the accuracy of the vote tally". Obviously, a nation that is really democratic does not only assure us the right to vote. It guarantees us that our votes will be accurately counted. 

Please do not misinterpret my criticisms of Bernie. I certainly wish that he had won the nomination. If Bernie then became our next president, he would have been a lot more progressive than Hillary. Indeed, it would have been an extraordinary step forward. But it is important that we do not rationalize our support for a candidate by overlooking his or her shortcomings.  

What is especially salutary and promising about Bernie's campaign is that while Hillary's money comes mainly from Wall Street. Bernie's from the grass roots!

Response to Harry Brill's Election Article

Carol Denney
Friday August 05, 2016 - 10:37:00 AM

As thoughtful as Harry Brill's article is, it makes the same mistake I've seen throughout this election by focusing on the personal voting record or behavioral or personality traits of specific nominees. While not entirely irrelevant, this is not nearly as important as having an informed, focused electorate which not only votes but which sustains its pressure on representatives to fulfill progressive policy. This connected group, whether at a municipal, state, or federal level, is much more powerful than money. A political party may have its imperfections, but it has been, at least up to now, the best way for such people to unite and pressure together for sensible legislative options. Even Bernie Sanders recognized this by joining the Democratic Party, albeit at the eleventh hour of his career. 

But nobody needs to run for mayor or for president to be part of it; that united party can educate itself, the electorate, and even sitting politicians to re-direct legislation in favor of putting people first. What Bernie Sanders, Robert Reich, and most people who remember the Nader debacle of 2000 recognize at this point in the election (Reich was a Sanders supporter up to now) is that people who think of themselves as purists can destroy that party's chances by voting for a third party with no chance of winning, as though what an election is about is preening in a mirror looking for a candidate that looks like, sounds like, or somehow feels like you. 

This is simply immaturity. There is simple math about to happen state by state, electoral vote by electoral vote. Kris Hedges can certainly support building a stronger political movement AND still vote for Hillary Clinton out of at the very least the recognition that to do otherwise is to help Donald Trump become president. Presenting these two things as either/or is misleading. It really is that simple. And most people, especially those of us who remember Ralph Nader handing Florida to Bush, appreciate that national elections are not a personal personality or morals test. You pick the practical option because while it is certainly the fashion to treat politics as a passion play or a soap opera, it is a purely practical matter.

Two Presidents?

Romila Khanna
Thursday August 04, 2016 - 11:34:00 AM

Some politicians talk about failed democracy during President Obama’s tenure in office. I don’t agree. According to me, the true cause of failures of democracy lies in the unwillingness of the Republican Congress to listen to the 99%. In my view the Republican majority wanted only to support those bills which favored the top 1%. 

Should there be two presidents in a democracy -- one for billionaires and another for people whose incomes are low?


THE PUBLIC EYE:Who are Trump voters?

Bob Burnett
Friday August 05, 2016 - 09:59:00 AM

The latest Huffington Post Poll of Polls shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 47.1 percent to 39.7 percent. Many political observers feel that Trump’s voter “ceiling” is 40 percent of the electorate. Who are these voters?

Two years ago, Pew Research Center released a typology of American politics. The typology distinguished between three classes of voters: the general public, registered voters, and the “politically engaged.” In the category “politically engaged” there were three categories of Republicans: “Steadfast Conservatives: socially conservative populists” at 19 percent; “Business Conservatives: Pro-Wall street, pro-immigrant” at 17 percent; “Young Outsiders: conservative views on government, not on social issues” at 11 percent.

In addition, there is a swing group of Democrats, “Hard Pressed Skeptics: Financially stressed and pessimistic” at 9 percent. These are “Reagan Democrats.”

Given the Pew data, the hard-core Trump base is probably composed of “Steadfast Conservatives” and “Young Outsiders” for 30 percent. (This is roughly the size of the Tea Party movement.) It’s safe to assume that some Business Conservatives and some Hard-Pressed Skeptics also support Trump. Thus, the core Trump vote is likely to be 30-40 percent of the portion of the electorate that are probable voters. 

In March, Bill Moyers interviewed Dr. Robert Jones whose organization conducted the “American Values Survey.” Dr. Jones said that Trump voters: “… are best understood not as values voters, not even as Tea Party voters, but as nostalgia voters, these voters that are looking back to — they’re culturally and economically disaffected voters that are anxious to hold on to a white conservative Christian culture that’s passing from the scene.” [Emphasis added] The Trump voters are united by their skepticism about government: both the perceived failings of the Obama Administration (and, by association, Hillary Clinton) and their negative feelings about immigration. They are fearful and angry

On July 7th, Gallup profiled the differences between Trump voters and Clinton voters. Trump voters are overwhelmingly White, male, elderly, and uneducated (57 percent of white voters without a college degree support Trump; 52 percent of white voters with a college degree support Clinton.) 

The New Yorker’s George Saunders spent several months following the Trump campaign. He observed: 

From the beginning, America has been of two minds about the Other. One mind says, be suspicious of it, dominate it, deport it, exploit it, enslave it, kill it as needed. The other mind denies that there can be any such thing as the Other, in the face of the claim that all are created equal. The first mind has always held violence nearby, to use as needed, and that violence has infused everything we do—our entertainments, our sex, our schools, our ads, our jokes, our view of the earth itself, somehow even our food. It sends our young people abroad in heavy armor, fills public spaces with gunshots, drives people quietly insane in their homes. 

And here it comes again, that brittle frontier spirit, that lone lean guy in our heads, with a gun and a fear of encroachment. But he’s picked up a few tricks along the way, has learned to come at us in a form we know and have forgotten to be suspicious of, from TV: famous, likably cranky, a fan of winning by any means necessary, exploiting our recent dullness and our aversion to calling stupidity stupidity, lest we seem too precious. 


Trump voters are afraid and angry. They are uneducated White men who fear that they have been left behind. 

Donald Trump knows how to harness this fear. He’s “famous, likably cranky, a fan of winning by any means necessary.” 

Fortunately, at the moment, the voters Trump appeals to are a minority of the electorate. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: Donald Trump, the Muslim Basher

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday August 04, 2016 - 11:39:00 AM

On the final night of the Democratic National Convention, Khizr Khan, whose Muslim-American son, Army Captain Humayun Khan, 27, died from a suicide bombing in Baghdad in 2004, delivered a passionate appeal for voters to support Hillary Clinton, and accused Donald Trump of sacrificing “nothing” and “smearing the character” of religious minorities like his family. The Khans, a Muslim family, immigrated to the United States from the United Arab Emirates. 

Here are parts of Mr. Khan’s powerful remarks: 

“If it was up to Donald Trump [Humayun] never would have been in America,” Khan said. “Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from his country.” 

“You are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.” [He then pulled a copy of the Constitution from his pocket.] “In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’” 

“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.” 

“You have sacrificed nothing. And no one.” 

Unlike competitors CNN and MSNBC, Fox News only showed Khan’s speech for two minutes without audio, in a small window at the bottom of the screen. Instead the network aired commercials, including a Benghazi-themed attack ad against Clinton. 

In an interview with ABC News, this is how Trump reacted to Mr. Khan’s remarks: 

“If you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say. Probably maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say, you tell me, but plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet and it looked like she had nothing to say.” 

The implication of Trump’s remark is that Ghazala Khan had not spoken because women are subservient in traditional Islam. 

Mrs. Khan is certainly “allowed” to speak. She did so on MSNBC, and explained that she couldn’t speak at the DNC because talking about her son just gets her far too emotional. 

Trump even suggested that Clinton wrote the speech. Mr. Khan responded that he and his wife had worked on the speech together. 

In response to Khan’s accusation that Trump sacrificed “nothing,” he said: “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, ten of thousands of jobs” And he added that he donated to help the building of a Vietnam memorial in New York. 

Trump’s comments on Mr. Khan’s speech comes on the heels of his past anti-Muslim comments such as he would consider requiring Muslim-Americans to register with a government database, or worse, mandating that they carry special identification cards that note their faith. This echoes what the Nazis had imposed on Jews. Trump also said he was open to wholesale surveillance of Muslim-Americans and warrantless searches of mosques. And he was open to shutting down American mosques, noting he’d have “absolutely no choice” if “some bad things happen” in a mosque. He did back-pedal on his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. 

Unfortunately, Trump’s Muslim-bashing plays well with voters. In fact, according to polling data released by the Public Religion Research Institute, a majority (56 percent) of Americans say Islamic values are at odds with American values. 

The dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims (Islamophobia) is already alive and well in the United States. The aftermath of September 11, 2001 terrorist attack and the ISIS directed and inspired attacks around the world, have given rise to a growing Islamophobia in this country and is only fueled by Trump’s Muslim-bashing; it is like throwing gasoline on a smoldering fire. 

Muslim-bashing is just more of Trump’s divisive style and embrace of white resentment politics and has no place on the campaign trail.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: All People with Disabilities Should Vote for Clinton

Jack Bragen
Thursday August 04, 2016 - 10:00:00 AM

In her nomination speech, Hillary Clinton touched upon the existence of people with disabilities. This is better than Trump's speech, in which he said, "I am the candidate of compassion, believe it." And then, Trump quickly switched back to the tack of being "The law and order candidate," without adding a milligram of substance as to why we should believe his claim of being compassionate.

On the other hand, Clinton's background included fighting for the rights of disabled children to attend school. That is at least something that would make a voter believe that Clinton might help those of us with disabilities.  


Trump claimed he "would leave Social Security alone." However, President Obama suggested an expansion of Social Security. If a Clinton Presidency is seen in part as a continuation of Obama's policies, and if Sanders got through to Clinton adequately, there is a little bit of hope that benefits could at some point be expanded for people with disabilities.  

Since Trump is a pathological liar, there is no reason to believe he would leave Social Security alone as he promises to do. Paul Ryan wants cutbacks in Social Security and wants to raid its funds to pay for other parts of the government, doubtless, things like the military. Ryan could possibly be seen as a co-conspirator with Trump. Thus, if living on SSA, SSDI, or SSI, we should be afraid of the Republicans, especially Donald Trump.  

Furthermore, Trump is a very mean man, not a nice person at all. Mean people have more of a likelihood of being intolerant of the disabled. Since his only real experience is that of big business, and since big businesses are constantly looking for more ways to exclude disabled people, there is no reason to believe Trump would be kind or nice to disabled people.  

On the other hand, at the convention, Clinton was portrayed as someone who cares. If there is any truth to this, it could mean that there is a possibility that Clinton will help those of us who have a physical or mental disability.  

Obamacare is one way that disabled people have a chance of rising out of poverty. We have been unable to work in any substantial way because of the need for the medical benefits that come with Social Security.  

In the past, we could not afford to lose our Medicare, and this has been a blockage toward getting a job and moving upward economically. Repealing Obamacare would eliminate the last shred of hope of working and having better conditions, if disabled.  

So, whether you have a disability that is physical or mental; whether your disability came about through military service, through an accident, or through heredity, a vote for Clinton will help keep Trump from cutting needed benefits, from cutting social programs that are lifelines for us, and from stomping out our last shred of hope that things will be better some day.

Arts & Events

New: American Bach Soloists Perform Bach’s B-Minor Mass

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday August 08, 2016 - 01:52:00 PM

Johann Sebastian Bach’s monumental B-Minor Mass was a product of the last years of his life, though its origins lie in various earlier periods of his career. As Jeffrey Thomas, Musical Director of American Bach Soloists, observes in program notes for these performances, “The genesis of the Mass in B Minor – so admired for its colossal dimensions and encyclopedic stylistic variety – is actually a long history of separable parts. Although Bach compiled the music for this work in the last years of his life (1748-1749), most of the movements had been composed long before or were reworked from earlier pieces.” There is no evidence that the B-Minor Mass was ever performed in Bach’s lifetime, and it is assumed that in creating this work Bach was offering a sort of valedictory compilation of what he could do in the realm of the Latin Mass. 

On Sunday evening, August 7, in St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco, American Bach Soloists gave the first of two performances of Bach’s B-Minor Mass. (The second performance will be Sunday, August 14 at 2:00 pm at San Francisco Conservatory of Music.) With Jeffrey Thomas conducting, ABS and the American Bach Choir plus numerous guest soloists gave a stirring performance of Bach’s great B-Minor Mass. The opening Kyrie features repeated phrases of staggered two-note combinations, which offer a suspenseful prelude to the musical drama about to unfold. The Chorus then intones the words Kyrie eleison. Soon a duet occurs for two sopranos. Soprano 1 was elegantly sung by Ashley Valentine, a recent graduate of San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Soprano 2, to whom is allocated the lower voice, was richly sung by Kerry Holohan.  

The lengthy Gloria opens with Chorus backed by three trumpets. The aria Laudamus te was sung by mezzo-soprano Kim Leeds accompanied by a brilliant violin solo played by Marie Nadeau-Tremblay. There ensued a duet for soprano and tenor, Domine Deus, Rex coelestis, elegantly sung by Eunji Kim and Jorge Prego, accompanied on flute by Christa Evans. The Chorus then prays to him who taketh away the sins of the world. Next comes the aria Qui sedes ad dextram Patris, admirably sung by countertenor Patrick Dailey, whose crystal-clear voice rang out with celestial beauty. Dailey was accompanied by Fiona Last on oboe d’amore. The aria Quoniam tu solus sanctus received a somewhat weak account by baritone Ethan Sagin, accompanied by Sadie Glass on horn, and Ben Matus and Leah Kohn on bassoons. Lastly, the Chorus ended the Gloria section with a rousing Cum Sancto Spiritu.  

After intermission ABS returned for the second half of Bach’s B-Minor Mass. The Symbolum Nicenum section offered a duet for soprano and alto, sung by Christina Kay and Emily Skillling, respectively. Three brief movements for Chorus include, among others, the Crucifixus, which Bach borrowed from music he composed back in 1714. The Crucifixus, appropriately, is a slow and somber bit of music, heavy with the pathos of the death of Christ on the Cross. The Resurrection is then celebrated with lively gusto by the Chorus and orchestra. Baritone Bryan Jolly gave a robust aria, which was followed by the Confiteor for Chorus, the only music Bach newly composed for inclusion in his B-Minor Mass.  

The brief Sanctus section, which dates from 1724, is sung by the Chorus, backed by trumpets, timpani, oboes, strings and basso continuo. The final section includes a Osanna, Benedictus, Agnus Dei, and Dona Nobis Pacem. The Osanna offers the Chorus backed by the same orchestral combination as in the Sanctus. The Benedictus was admirably sung by tenor Jorge Prego backed by a brilliant flute solo from Taya König-Taresevich. The Agnus Dei was exquisitely sung by contralto Robin Bier, and the concluding Dona nobis pacem offered a fervent prayer for peace delivered by the Chorus and orchestra. Throughout this B-Minor Mass, Bach’s use of independent instrumental parts offers tremendous variety in which the composer affirms his mastery of each instrument’s tonal color. Playing on period instruments, the American Bach Soloists under the leadership of Jeffrey Thomas offer about as authentic an interpretation of Bach’s B-Minor Mass as one would find anywhere in the present musical world.

Merola Opera Stages COSÌ FAN TUTTE in a Hospital Ward

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday August 05, 2016 - 01:45:00 PM

When the audience took their seats in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall for the first of two performances of Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte on Thursday, August 4, they were greeted by a bare stage with only a long table and a few chairs. It seemed a very austere, basically modern setting for this 18th century opera by Mozart. During the overture, conducted robustly by Mark Morash, the five principals – Don Alfonso, Ferrando, Guglielmo, Fiordiligi, and Dorabella, walked onstage through a rear door and sat down to have a drink. The men were all in military uniforms, with Don Alfonso as the superior officer. The two women wore identical white pin-striped dresses. As the overture concluded, Don Alfonso pulled a long beige curtain to close off the whole stage, while a scene change was effected behind the curtain. Meanwhile Ferrando and Guglielmo joined Don Alfonso in front of the drawn curtain, and Alfonso challenged the two men about the faithfulness of their fiancées. A wager was made: if the two men agreed to do whatever Don Alfonso asked them to do, he would prove that their fiancées were not the paragons of fidelity the men imagined them to be.  

The bet was on. Now Don Alfonso pulled back the curtain, revealing a ward in a hospital, where Fiordiligi and Dorabella work as volunteer nurses. A super-numerary played the part of a wounded man lying in a hospital bed, tended by a registered nurse. Fiordiligi and Dorabella sang of their love for their fiancés and looked forward to their future marriages. Suddenly, Don Alfonso entered with bad news. Their fiancés were sent off to war. They were to leave immediately. While the wounded man was wheeled off in a wheelchair, the fiancés entered and bade their girlfriends a sad farewell. To a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart here offers very conventional music to express very conventional emotions. The women are devastated, and the men feign anguish at having to leave their women behind as they go off to war. Actually, of course, they’re going off to war of a different sort – the battle of the sexes. When the men finally departed, the women sang a lovely duet wishing them a safe voyage on calm seas.  

Then, just before the men were about to re-enter in disguise as Albanians, an alarm went off in the concert hall, lights flashed and a siren was heard. I thought for a moment this was a signal for an ambulance to deliver two wounded Albanians to the Emergency Room. But, no. A voice on the intercom announced that a fire had been detected somewhere in the building and we were asked to leave the building in a quick but orderly fashion. So we did. Audience members, musicians from the orchestra, singers in costume, and various backstage crew-members all gathered in the street in front of the building. Soon fire engines appeared. No fire or even smoke was visible, and we all wondered whether the show would eventually go on. Well, after 20 minutes or so, the show did go on, as the fire alarm seemed to have been due to a system malfunction. There was no fire. 

Somehow, serendipitously, the fire alarm and evacuation seemed to tie in somehow with Ted Huffman’s staging of Così Fan Tutte in a hospital ward. When Ferrando and Guglielmo re-entered disguised as Albanians wounded in the war, walking on crutches with one foot in a cast, bandages wrapped around their heads, and a patch over one eye, it all seemed to fit together realistically. Indeed, with their fake beards and mustaches as part of their disguises, the men looked less ridiculous and more real than in any previous Così Fan Tutte I have ever seen. Moreover, the singing in this production was excellent. As Fiordiligi, soprano Yelena Dyachek sang with a rich, edgy tone that conveyed her character’s emotional mood-swings. As Dorabella, mezzo-soprano Alexandra Schenck also had a slight edge to her lustrous voice, thus giving each of the sisters a high-strung quality that Mozart evidently wanted for these roles. Where the men are concerned, tenor Amitai Pati was an ardent Ferrando, singing with a clear, ringing voice; and bass-baritone Cody Quattlebaum was an outstanding, full-voiced Guglielmo. In the role of Don Alfonso, bass-baritone Josh Quinn offered a robust vocal interpretation of this cynical character. Finally, as the maid Despina, soprano Adelaide Boedecker contributed a spirited, purposely shrill account of this woman’s somewhat sardonic take on life and love, the battle of the sexes, and issues of class. Somehow, everything came together in director Ted Huffman’s visionary staging of Così fan Tutte, an opera that many find full of unresolved problems. 

Some of the vocal highlights included Yelena Dyachek’s passionate aria, “Come scoglio,” (“Like a rock”), Amitai Pati’s aria, “Un aura amorosa” (“a sigh of love”), and Alexandra Schenck’s aria, “Amore è un ladroncello” (“Love is a little thief”). Another highlight was Mozart’s sextet involving all six principals to close Act I, with Despina in disguise as a doctor who employs Mesmer’s infamous magnets to ‘cure’ the Albanians of the poison they have ostensibly taken when rebuffed at first by the two women. Later, of course, in Act II the Albanians have more success in winning over the affections of their buddies’ betrotheds. Here, as in most productions of Così Fan Tutte, Ferrando’s impassioned courting of the heretofore steadfast Fiordiligi offers one moment, at least, where real passions rather than conventional poses of love seem to be expressed. Though it is by no means clear whether Ferrando truly loves Fiordiligi or simply wants revenge against Guglielmo who has already won over Ferrando’s Dorabella and bragged about it. There are deep, dark mysteries at stake in Così Fan Tutte, and no one has quite found an answer to them. However, in this imaginative staging by Tedd Huffman, with excellent singers and a fine orchestral interpretation led by conductor Mark Morash, Merola Opera has created a production that holds together remarkably well and is enjoyable throughout. Così fan Tutte repeats Saturday, August 6 at 2:00 pm at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Hopefully, there will be no repeat of the fire alarm.