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Berkeley Mayor, Councilmembers Sworn in at Private Ceremony--
Says City Will Move to the Left

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 12:30:00 PM

A new political era began in Berkeley today with the swearing in of new Mayor Jesse Arreguin and three new city council members.

In brief comments to an invitation-only audience of more than 100 people at a standing room-only ceremony at City Council chambers, Arreguin, 32, said, "This is a really momentous occasion for Berkeley." 

Referring to the election of Donald Trump as president, Arreguin said, "In light of the national election, Berkeley now more than ever needs to lead to defend the rights and security of all people, including immigrants and Muslims." 

Arreguin said, "We need to lead a movement to change the direction of our country in four years." 

Also sworn in today were new councilmembers Cheryl Davila in District 2, Ben Bartlett in District 3 and Sophie Hahn in District 5. 

Davila's narrow victory over three-term incumbent Darryl Moore and fellow challenger Nanci Armstrong-Temple marked the first time since 1997 that a Berkeley City Council incumbent was defeated. 

Bartlett succeeds Max Anderson, who didn't seek re-election, and Hahn succeeds three-term councilmember Laurie Capitelli, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor and didn't seek to retain his council seat. 

Arreguin, who succeeds 14-year incumbent Tom Bates, has represented District 4 for eight years and his victory as mayor means that a special election to replace him must be held on March 7. 

Berkeley has almost always had a liberal government in recent years but the victories by Arreguin and the new councilmembers means that the city will move even further to the left. 

In a short interview after he was sworn in, Arreguin said, "The city will now move in a new direction. As the country moves to the right, Berkeley moves to the left." 

"There are two Berkeleys and there is a housing crisis that's pushing people out," he said. "There has been the construction of lots of luxury housing units but we need to build more affordable housing for working families." 

Arreguin said he will announce the details of a 100-day plan at his first City Council meeting as mayor on Dec. 13, but said his immediate priorities are to address the city's homeless crisis and to fight plans by Sutter Health to close Alta Bates Medical Center by 2030 and merge it with Summit Medical Center in Oakland. 

"Those are problems with a short timeline," he said. 

Among those who attended the ceremony today were former Berkeley mayors Shirley Dean and Gus Newport and former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris. 

Arreguin's parents posed for photos with him after he was sworn in and his mother cried. 

"I wouldn't be here without the loving support of my parents," Arreguin said.

Press Release: Kate Harrison Enters Berkeley District Four Council Race

Kate Harrison Campaign Committee
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 01:21:00 PM

Kate Harrison, experienced government leader and progressive activist, announced her candidacy for District 4 City Council on the steps of Berkeley's Maudelle Shirek Old City Hall yesterday, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. 

Harrison brings more than 20 years of public service to the job, and will join a progressive majority on the Berkeley council to enact lasting change by building more affordable housing, offering compassionate solutions to homelessness, making Berkeley a green model for the nation, and preserving local-serving businesses. 

“When Mayor-elect Jesse Arreguín asked me to run for his former seat, I said ‘Yes’ to the opportunity to put my experience in making government work better for the people into service for my own city of Berkeley,” said Harrison. “I will bring lessons from work with public agencies around California and across the world to ensure that our progressive council creates a more equitable and sustainable future for Berkeley in ways that embody our city’s unique character and leadership.” 

Harrison, who began life in politics as a student activist at UC Berkeley, co-founded the Berkeley Progressive Alliance and is a leader of the Wellstone Democratic Club – early supporters of the progressive slate which reasserted Berkeley as a progressive people-focused city again with a sweeping victory in the November election. 

“I strongly support and endorse Kate Harrison for the District 4 Council seat. Kate is an experienced public policy professional who has worked for mayors, state and national governments, and will bring to Council a wealth of public management experience,” said Mayor-elect Arreguín, the outgoing Councilmember for District 4. “She will continue our district’s independent, progressive leadership on affordable housing, homelessness, climate change and balanced growth.” 

Harrison uses her management and budget skills on a number of Berkeley Commissions – the Housing Advisory Commission (HAC), the Parks and Waterfront Commission, and the Streets and Open Space Improvement Committee – to enhance the city’s infrastructure and parks and to increase the city’s stock of affordable housing. 

As a leader in passing Measure U-1, Harrison led volunteer efforts to secure $4 million a year in new revenues from the windfall profits of Berkeley largest landlords. These new revenues are to used to create and preserve affordable housing for the people of Berkeley. 

Harrison comes from three generations of women political activists and three generations of UC Berkeley alumni – where, as an undergraduate, she was a student body senator, participated in student efforts to pass Berkeley’s initial rent control ordinance (Measure D), and coordinated a coalition to pass California’s first retaliatory eviction protections for tenants on behalf of California Rural Legal Assistance. Harrison earned her master’s degree in Public Policy from Berkeley’s Goldman School.  

In her professional career, Harrison has managed state and municipal budgets and improved government efficiency while ensuring vital public services are maintained and employees treated fairly. Harrison’s work experience includes policy and executive positions in the San Francisco Mayor’s Office under Art Agnos, and at the California Administrative Office of the Courts, where she helped develop the budget and policies for California’s $1.7 billion-a-year court system. As a public sector consultant for the past 16 years, Harrison solved problems for agencies in 31 California counties, eight states and 14 nations. Her firm improves systematic access to justice and brings agencies together around solutions in domestic violence, child support, and child custody cases.  

Harrison is endorsed by Mayor-Elect Arreguín, former Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport, Councilmembers-Elect Sophie Hahn and Ben Bartlett, a supermajority of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, District 4 leaders and residents. 

Harrison will work with Berkeley’s young activists to build the next generation of leaders and to ensure an equitable future for all residents.  

District 4 includes Berkeley’s downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. A special election is needed to fill in the vacant seat caused by Arreguín’s election to mayor. The Berkeley City Council will meet December 8 to set the date for the all-mail election to fill the District 4 seat

Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny

Steven Finacom
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 10:25:00 AM

Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny died today after a long illness.

A Bay Area native, she was a long time resident of Berkeley and a stalwart and effective champion for preserving the special character of the community. Susan served as chair of the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission, authored or championed numerous landmark applications, was past President and a long-time Board member of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA), and had many other community connections.

Not least among her accomplishments was authoring Berkeley Landmarks (both the first, and revised, editions), as well as a definitive guidebook to the architecture and history of the Bay Area, and serving as editor and one of the lead writers of the revised versions of BAHA's popular "41 Berkeley Walking Tours" publication. She was a careful and thoughtful researcher and writer and an absolutely dedicated volunteer for every aspect of local preservation causes and activities. 

Susan is survived by her husband, Joe Cerny, and siblings, children, and grandchildren. When we know, we'll let you know if a memorial service or gathering is planned.

Blythe: habitat, healing, and a suppressed play unchained

Carol Denney
Saturday November 26, 2016 - 10:48:00 AM
Dan McMullan, director Leah Joki, and the cast of Blythe answer questions at the forum after the performance.
Carol Denney
Dan McMullan, director Leah Joki, and the cast of Blythe answer questions at the forum after the performance.
Ferry passengers on their way to Alcatraz.
Carol Denney
Ferry passengers on their way to Alcatraz.
Dan McMullan during his incarceration at Blythe.
Thomas McMullan
Dan McMullan during his incarceration at Blythe.

This is an unusual story of habitat, creativity, punishment, redemption, and recovery which won't be obvious for several paragraphs. It begins with some observations about a native California bird, pelicanus californicus, which almost disappeared a few decades ago.

The California Brown Pelican Recovery Plan by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1983 is 179 pages of earnest, early effort to save a species from pollutant and habitat-related reproductive failures. The only viable colonies of the bird once plentiful along the west coast by the 1960's were in Florida.

The surveys and documentation in the plan are followed by articulate, unemotional discussions of habitat needs for species survival and frank discussion of the fact that at the time there existed "little or no protection" of colony sites aside from the Mexican Navy, which accidentally protected certain breeding sites from human disturbance.

"The basic habitat needs of the California brown pelican are: 1) a disturbance- and predator-free nesting area, 2) offshore habitat with an adequate food supply, and 3) appropriate roosting sites for both resident and migrant pelicans." - California Brown Pelican Recovery Plan, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Pollutants, notably DDT, had reduced egg shell thickness by 50% by 1969, so that most eggs collapsed during incubation, work shared by both parents. Noise pollution played a role as well, making habitat protection even from aircraft a priority for the pelicans' survival along with anchovy harvest quotas and other protective measures.

It took years, but it worked. Now the tourists on the ferry to Alcatraz Island, the Spanish word for pelican, can see a sight not seen since the early 1950's; long strings of pelicans fishing together on the bay, their elegant profiles backlit by the sun.

Alcatraz is home to another recovery; the transformation of its notorious prison, established in 1868, to a national landmark in 1986 which acknowledges in its rangers' interpretive talks the nineteen month-long occupation by protesting native tribes with a hint of pride.

On November 5, 2016, about a hundred people took the ferry to see the Poetic Justice Project's presentation of Blythe, a play by local author Daniel McMullan, in the former industrial arts building on the island, a building with no facilities except for its 360 degree view of the bay and a large area with seating and a simple stage. 

You probably know Danny McMullan if you live in Berkeley. He may or may not use a wheelchair, depending on his health on any given day. He is often accompanied by his sparkling wife Katy and their whip-smart boys Nicolas, 16, and Thomas, 14, who took the train with him to see the play's opening in San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande. He's a commissioner, an activist, and the guy with the quick wit and the broad smile who can disarm an entire room with a perfectly timed joke while keeping his eye on a collective goal. He says his wasn't the worst prison in California -- people only got killed every other day. And he never thought Blythe, the play named for the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in the California's southeastern desert would ever be performed. 

The play won first prize twenty-five years ago in a state-wide contest for formerly incarcerated people and had been scheduled for a reading at the Ivar Theater in Los Angeles sponsored by Ed Asner and Edward James Olmos. But the warden stopped the play from being performed, concerned that his prison would receive an unflattering portrayal. 

He needn't have worried. The play is a comedy, rich in timeless human shortcomings, set in a cafe near the prison which, except for the distinctive fonts and fashions of the time, could have been written about the same issues today. The cast of actors, all formerly incarcerated, beautifully illustrate a small town's hopes for the economic boost the prison's promoters promised for the local people. In the deceptively ordinary movements of an ostensibly ordinary day, they wrestle with themes of redemption and punishment with deft, moving, and humorous performances, hitting a boom box for brief accompaniment and floridly raking the hands of the large clock forward to show the passage of time. 

It's a tight performance without a wasted moment or word. Not a single word has been edited from the original script, according to the director. Attention was rapt and the helpless laughter sincere. And what followed, a discussion of the show's origin, the Poetic Justice Project's work, and the personal journeys of the cast, author, and director, was equally compelling judged by an audience that stayed for every word. Their personal recoveries from trauma, their amazement at how wearing an officer's costume affects the way they feel, their sense of the clarifying challenges of working together and helping each other as a theatrical team were discussed with a riveting honesty. 

Danny McMullan seems pretty relaxed about it all. His play Blythe, twenty-five years after its suppressed debut, has now had performances in Santa Cruz, Santa Maria, Arroyo Grande, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Alcatraz Island, Studio City, Hollywood, and includes an upcoming performance in March at the Los Angeles Arts Festival. 

The Poetic Justice Project, founded by Artistic Director Deborah Tobola, has had 16 productions involving around 100 formerly incarcerated people since its beginning in 2009. Dan has attended some of the Blythe performances, most recently in Los Angeles, and the memoir, "Juilliard to Jail" written by Blythe's director, Leah Joki, is currently being developed into a film. 

"It was the Two Roads in Studio City where I met Joe Manganiello and his brother Nick, who bought the book "Julliard To Jail" that has two chapter; one about the play, and one about me called named 'Black Irish'," said McMullan. "I told Joe, "You can play me....if you work out some." 

Perhaps it seems obvious that "La Isla de los Alcatraces,", or Alcatraz, the island named for a native bird once close to extinction in California now one of its most obvious environmental successes, the island converted from a notorious prison to a national recreation area with a ridiculous gift shop which only recently hosted an art exhibition by suppressed, imprisoned contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, is the perfect setting for a larger meditation on habitat, freedom, creativity, and recovery. 

Danny McMullan had never written a play before writing Blythe. "I wrote the play at the urging of Leah Joki, director of Arts-In-Corrections (AIC) at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison. I was her inmate clerk." McMullan now supports and speaks publically about the new era of AIC. 

"She heard about a play writing competition and we were working on a book of monologues called 'Monologues From A Cold, Roach Infested Cell' in which my contribution was 'Tales From My Leg,' a collection of crazy stuff that happened to me because of my prosthetic leg. She thought I might be good at it." 

"The idea came from reading the local paper and reading a story about the new prison guard populations' dislike for the city and a bumper sticker going around saying 'Happiness is seeing Blythe in your rearview mirror' and imagining what a person that lived their whole life there would feel, react, and who they would be." 

The play is more than successful at painting this portrait, a portrait that at the time of McMullan's incarceration he could only imagine. The small town that surrounds a prison is doing its own kind of time, making the best of its own confines whether a dead-end job or a very small pool of social and sexual options. The cast of Blythe is masterful at subtle comedic elements which craft a deeply moving story in the middle of comic opportunity. 

McMullan "studied other plays for a day or so" then retyped his effort in those pre-word processor days over 22 times. He has another play, "A Man Down in the Warehouse", that he's finally going to finish, and says maybe he'll "write a couple more." When the play's initial performance twenty-five years ago was scratched by the warden at the time, Julian Marquez, who allowed the second-place and third-place play readings to go on, McMullan says he let it go; the warden's decision came at the same time as the police killing of Rosebud Denovo, an activist in Berkeley who was shot in the back. As McMullan puts it; 

"This all went down at the same time that Rosebud was killed so I never would of made it to the play anyway. And though I was disappointed that I didn't get the promised internship with Paramount Studios, who knows where that could of led, I didn't want to hurt the Arts-In-Corrections program as a whole or Leah Joki particularly. Raising too much of a stir could of hurt her and she was so kind to me. So I let it go." 

"I think now is the time that the universe intended for this," McMullan continued. "And it has been fun and moving to be a part of the whole process. To work with Poetic Justice has been my poetic justice and it is complete and beautiful." 

McMullan took the ferry to Alcatraz with family, friends, a few reporters, and dozens of long parades of once-rare brown pelicans skimming the waves, sailing the skies, and fishing from schools of species returning to bay waters in steady recovery. The Poetry Justice Project was launched in the same year that pelicanus californicus was finally removed from the endangered species list, a victory which took decades of stewardship by generations to secure. 

McMullan now sits on the nationally acclaimed Street Spirit's advisory board, founded and directs the twenty year-old Disabled People Outside Project, is a current commissioner on the Human Welfare and Community Action Commission for the City of Berkeley, and is a tireless activist on human rights issues throughout the Bay Area. Winning first prize as a playwright came as a complete surprise to him, as much of a surprise as the play's suppression. But the play, the poetic justice, and the program that brought it to life is having an unexpected renaissance during an otherwise confounding political moment in time. 

The turnaround for pelicans' survival was a deceptively simple one: 1) a disturbance- and predator-free nesting area, 2) offshore habitat with an adequate food supply, and 3) appropriate roosting sites for both resident and migrant pelicans. These relatively simple needs have great relevance for human survival and recovery, for issues of homelessness, and for art to thrive as a full-throated part of a healthy community which may depend, more than it may presently realize, on art to help a broken society move toward healing, health, and the realization of our shared creative opportunities. 

Danny McMullan's moment of recognition may seem improbable from some perspectives. But his moment also offers us an opportunity to consider how, given a nurturing and receptive habitat, our brothers and sisters behind bars might literally play a role in helping us heal. 

The Poetic Justice Project advances social justice by engaging formerly incarcerated people in the creation of original theatre that examines crime, punishment and redemption, and can be contacted at: staff@poeticjusticeproject.org

# # # 

How Berkeley Voted: Clinton 90.4%; Trump 3.2%

Rob Wrenn
Friday November 25, 2016 - 06:38:00 PM

Trump Vote Second Lowest in Nation

Hillary Clinton won 90.4% of the vote in Berkeley. Donald Trump finished third with 3.2% behind Green Party candidate Jill Stein who won 4.6% of the vote.

Clinton. 57,750 90.4%

Stein 2,947 4.6%

Trump 2,031 3.2%

Johnson 884 1.4%

La Riva 298 .5%

There were also 912 write-in votes, some of which were probably for Bernie Sanders, and 559 people voted for no one for president.

Trump’s showing was the worst ever for a Republican presidential candidate in Berkeley. In 2012, Romney managed to get 4.6% of the vote, while John McCain did a bit better in 2008 with 4.9%. George Bush won 6.6% running against Democratic candidate John Kerry in 2004. 

Only one city in the United States with a population of at least 100,000 has recorded a smaller percentage of votes for Donald Trump than Berkeley. Voters in Detroit, Michigan cast 95.0% of their votes for Clinton and only 3.1% for Trump, according to official results. 

Washington D.C. appears to be in third place, with 4.1% for Trump (90.5% for Clinton). Among cities with a majority of white residents, Berkeley clearly ranks first in votes for Clinton and in rejection of Trump 

Some cities, especially in California, haven’t finished counting votes. Inglewood in Los Angeles County, in the count reported so far, reports 91.4% for Clinton and only 5.2% for Trump. San Francisco is 84.5% for Clinton; 9.2% for Trump in unofficial results. Trump was at 10.1% in early results for the City of Santa Cruz, with Clinton at 83.2% 

Other cities housing major universities are among those with very small percentages for Trump. Cambridge, Mass voters gave Trump only 6.2% of their votes. In Ann Arbor Michigan, Trump had about 12% with the count not yet complete. 

Turnout up in Berkeley 

Turnout this year was 78.1% of registered voters in Berkeley, up from 73.7% in the 2012 presidential election. 65,430 ballots were cast this year, up from 60,559 in 2012. Some of the increase is probably due to population growth. 

Berkeley Turnout Presidential Elections 




Ballots Cast  

and turnout 


Winner in Berkeley with vote and %  








42,167 78.1% 








54,409 90.0% 








61,134 92.5% 








54,163 90.3% 








57,750 90.4% 



Vote by Mail in Berkeley Elections 




Percent VBM  































Turnout, Vote by Mail by Council District 

November 8, 2016 Election 


Council District  


Ballots Cast/Turnout  


% Vote by mail  
























































8 student precincts  







Turnout was highest in Districts 1, 5, and 6 where it exceeded 80%. It was much lower in student precincts close to campus. In a group of seven consolidated Southside precincts and one consolidated Northside precinct that together include almost all UC dorms, as well as fraternities, sororities and student coops and near campus apartments, turnout was only 60.5%. 

In predominantly student District 7, only 7660 people are registered to vote. In every other council district except District 4, which also has a lot of student voters, there are over 10,000 registered voters. In District 4, which includes Downtown, 9466 are registered to vote. 

Voting by Mail  

64.8% of Berkeley’s ballots were cast by mail this year, up from 51.7% in the last presidential election. Only students, or those students living close to campus, continue to cast more ballots at the polls than by mail. And even in 8 near campus consolidated student precincts, 44.5% of the vote was cast by mail ballots. 

So many people are voting by mail that this year 44% of the votes were counted after the election night count of early vote by mail ballots and votes cast at the polls. 

State Props and Regional Measures 

Berkeley voters voted by big margins for bonds for BART and affordable housing and for the AC Transit parcel tax, all of which passed. 

Berkeley voters supported Prop 62 to repeal the death penalty by a 87% to 13%, and strongly opposed Prop 66 to speed up the death penalty appeals process. Statewide the voters defeated repeal and passed Prop 66 (though not all ballots have been counted statewide). Fewer people voted one way or the other on Prop 66 than on Prop 62. 92.8% of Berkeley voters favored Prop 57 to increase parole and good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes. 

Berkeley voters were strongly in favor of legalizing marijuana (Prop 64) and banning single use plastic grocery bags (Prop 67). Prop 64 was supported by 83.5% of Berkeley’s voters, with 61,731 voting for or against. Only the cigarette tax to fund healthcare drew more total votes (62,312). 

Berkeley voters favored Prop 61 to lower prescription drug prices, which was supported by Bernie Sanders but opposed by a massive spending campaign by pharmaceutical companies. The measure failed but got 69.6% in Berkeley. 

How Berkeley Voted November 8, 2016 Election 

Selected State Propositions and Regional Measures 


Prop or Measure  







Ballots cast  


% of vote  


Prop 51  


School Bonds for K-12 and com colleges  








Prop 53*  


Voter approval for revenue bonds  








Prop 55  


Extend Tax on High Incomes For educ.  








Prop 56  


Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare  








Prop 57  


Parole nonviolent offenders  








Prop 58  


English proficiency; multilingual educ.  








Prop 61*  


Lower prescription drug prices  








Prop 62*  


Repeal Death Penalty  








Prop 63  


Background check for ammo purchase  








Prop 64  


Legalize Marijuana  








Prop 66  


Speed up death sentences  








Prop 67  


Ban on single use plastic bags  










BART bond measure  










Alameda Co. Affordable Housing Bond  










AC Transit Parcel Tax  








* Defeated statewide 


How voted is how voters in Berkeley voted on the prop or measure. 

Ballots cast are total ballots cast Yes or No on measure. A total of 65,430 ballots were cast in Berkeley. On each prop or measure, some voters left the ballot blank. In the presidential race, 63,910 votes were recorded for candidates on the ballot; others wrote-in candidates and only 559 voters, or .9% voted for no one. 

% of vote: percent of vote for or against measure in Berkeley 

Berkeley Bird of the Day: black oystercatcher

William Woodcock
Friday November 25, 2016 - 02:57:00 PM

William Marx Mandel -- Presente !

James Vann (with help from Wikipedia)
Thursday November 24, 2016 - 10:32:00 AM

William Marx "Bill" Mandel (born June 4, 1917 in New York City), a former broadcast journalist, left-wing political activist and author, best known as a Soviet expert, died Thanksgiving morning, October 24, 1:15am. Bill was 99.  

His books include “Soviet Women” and the latest, his autobiography, “Saying No to Power" (1999). Considered a leading Sovietologist during the 1940s and 1950s, Mandel was a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, but lost his position there due to the political pressures of the McCarthy era. He is perhaps best known for standing up to Senator Joseph McCarthy during a televised 1953 Senate committee hearing in which Mandel pointedly told the senator, "This is a book-burning! You lack only the tinder to set fire to the books as Hitler did twenty years ago, and I am going to get that across to the American people!" 

In 1960, Mandel was again subpoenaed, this time by the House Un-American Activities Committee. He testified on May 13 in a hearing held at the San Francisco City Hall. Outside the hearing, hundreds of protesting Bay Area college students were blasted with firehoses and dragged down the marble steps by police officers, leaving some seriously injured. Newsreel cameras recorded Mandel's scathing response to the question posed by Lead Counsel Richard Arens, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?": 

Mandel replied: “Honorable beaters of children, sadists, uniformed and in plain clothes, distinguished Dixiecrat wearing the clothing of a gentleman, eminent Republican who opposes an accommodation with the one country with which we must live at peace in order for us and all our children to survive. My boy of fifteen left this room a few minutes ago in sound health and not jailed, solely because I asked him to be in here to learn something about the procedures of the United States government and one of its committees. Had he been outside where a son of a friend of mine had his head split by these goons operating under your orders, my boy today might have paid the penalty of permanent injury or a police record for desiring to come here and hear how this committee operates. If you think that I am going to cooperate with this collection of Judases, of men who sit there in violation of the United States Constitution, if you think I will cooperate with you in any way, you are insane!" 

For over 38 years, Mandel hosted a weekly radio program on KPFA-Berkeley until 1995 as commentator and interpreter on Soviet affairs. He died peacefully at his home in Kensington 



The new council needs creative thinking about homelessness

Becky O'Malley
Friday November 25, 2016 - 10:01:00 PM

As the furor over the outcome of the national election starts to subside a bit, it’s time to start thinking about what can be done locally. It appears that Berkeley has elected a solid new City Council majority, composed of people who promise to be more receptive to local voices and more suspicious of out-of-town speculators and their various paid shills, including the faux renters à la SFBarf and the revolving door lobbyists like Mark Rhoades. How did this happen, and what will come of it? 

Over the holiday a newly elected city councilmember from Santa Cruz (full disclosure: my son-in-law Chris Krohn) looked through a shopping bag full of expensive mail pieces from Berkeley candidates which I collected during the last election. As a recent campaigner himself, he was fully aware of how much money those glossy doorhangers and mail pieces represented, especially when he heard that the national real estate lobby had dropped a cool $100k on a couple of candidates, one for mayor and another for city council, and they both lost—badly. 

Santa Cruz, where we’ve had family members for a half-century or more, faces many of the same problems as Berkeley. Notably, both are home to branches of the University of California with its attendant blessings and problems. They are also both increasingly destinations of choice for attractive spillover housing for the newly rich from the technical sphere who can afford long commutes to their job sites or are allowed to work from home if they’re important enough. Since many university employees in campus service jobs are not well paid, the housing markets in both cities are being artificially jacked up beyond the reach of a sizable percentage of the long-term residents, especially renters. 

However, as far as can be determined at the moment, the real estate industry did not drop a bundle in Santa Cruz as they did in Berkeley. The building boom hasn’t yet gotten off the ground there, or at least to the extent it has in Berkeley, though their less-than-progressive city council majority has started to put forward zoning changes to facilitate it. Nonetheless, on November 8 two of the four “Brand New Coucil” slate were elected on a platform which included affordable housing with restrictions on speculative development, very similar to the candidates elected in Berkeley. 

The main difference in the two races, the reason that candidates backed by the Berkeley Progressive Alliance and similar groups swept the Berkeley election while only two of four BNC progressives won in Santa Cruz, seems to be that the unsightly results of the luxury speculation boom backed here by the previous council majority are now numerously in-your-face, especially along and near Shattuck in downtown Berkeley. The outrageous overreaching represented by the plan to demolish the Landmark Cinema for an eighteen-story Trump-like tower got some public attention, even though its permits were rammed through by the city council and eventually upheld at the trial court level. A lot of the volunteers whose work won this election had been shouted down by the mayor during council meetings. 

Also in-your-face downtown are the living consequences of ignoring the need for affordable housing—the homeless residents of the street who are apparent on many corners. Students, another group especially burdened by skyrocketing rents, voted in great numbers for the new slate (and they were probably also impressed by Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Jesse Arreguin.) 

The city of Berkeley’s spongy response to complaints about inappropriate policing was especially effective influencing voters in West Berkeley in addition to development issues. The incumbent councilmember, who had chosen to be identified with the mayor’s majority, lost to one of two strong challengers--and both did better than he did. The general deterioration of public facilities in South Berkeley, especially the closure of Willard Pool, was another obvious catalyst of the voters' desire for change. 

Now the opportunity for the newly-elected mayor and councilmembers is huge. They should probably start with a general housecleaning, identifying which staff members have devoted themselves to advancing the developer-dominated agendas of the last incumbents rather than the common good for all citizens. 

Civil service laws do protect genuinely impartial city servants, but some official notice must be taken of why, with a lame duck mayor and council, some city staff have spent the last couple of weeks chasing homeless campers around town and confiscating their possessions. 

Mentioned in one activist’s account of the rout where much camper property was illegally seized was the same bully on the city staff who I remember tried to illegally get rid of newsstands when the Planet was in print. It’s past time to ask that guy to move on, or at least to take away his power to harass people. 

There will soon be another opening on the City Council, for the District 4 seat which Mayor-elect Jesse Arreguin will vacate. It will mandate a special election, probably sometime in early March. The law says, approximately, that a special election must be called within ten days of a vacancy occurring, and then must take place between 60 and 90 days later. The special meeting for the new council to call the election will be on December 8. 

Arreguin has endorsed Kate Harrison, who has held a number of public policy positions, including working in San Francisco in the auditor’s office. She’s been active as a citizen in Berkeley, serving on several commissions, and is a founding member of the Berkeley Progressive Alliance, which backed Arreguin and other successful candidates in the recent election. 

Her announced opponents so far are students Ben Gould and Brianna Rogers. Gould was an unsuccessful candidate for Mayor,winning only 2.8% of first choice votes, but he has been endorsed by councilmembers Lori Droste and Susan Wengraf, who can now be expected to constitute the council minority, along with Linda Maio, who was originally elected as a progressive but has sided with the former majority often in recent years. 

What can the new majority do? It would be great if they could tackle the plight of people now living outside as their first problem to solve. 

Two or three of the losing candidates for Mayor suggested that the city should sponsor building “tiny houses”, those twee little special structures much beloved of architecture students. This is a silly idea, considering that many excellent small dwellings are already manufactured, including, for example, the tents brought out in cases of disaster, or old-fashioned mobile homes, the kind that we used to call trailers. 

I lived in a trailer for a summer in Indiana, a very small one, along with a tall husband and a two-year old, and I was hugely pregnant to boot. The temperature reached 110 some days, with no air conditioning, and it rained a lot. But there was a bathroom with a shower, and we had a couple of lawn chairs, and we made out fine. Used trailers like these could be acquired at a reasonable price to use as temporary shelters parked on city property during the rainy season, movable on their included wheels when necessary. One suggested site is the alley behind 2211 Harold Way, at least until demolition begins. 

Or how about turning the almost abandoned Maudelle Shirek Building, Old City Hall, into a winter shelter with mattresses and sleeping bags? It has bathrooms and plenty of floor space. People now living outside, a sizable percentage of them at least, do need some social services, which they could get more easily if there were a central place for them to stay. 

These are just a couple of the many creative ideas for dealing with homelessness that could be adopted if local government had the will to do it, and of course the money. Will the new city council be willing and able to try some of them? I hope so. 



Public Comment

Emergency Measures to Address Homeless Crisis

Berkeley Mayor-elect Jesse Arreguín
Friday November 25, 2016 - 10:50:00 AM

I have placed the following on the Berkeley City Council Agenda for December 13:

Take the following actions to implement emergency measures to address our growing homeless population:

1. Direct the City Manager to provide an update on staff and Council actions discussed on November 1, 2016 to respond to the homeless shelter crisis.

2. Direct the City Manager and Chief of Police to permit camping on designated public property, unless conditions arise posing an imminent threat to health and safety.

3. Establish an ad-hoc subcommittee to work with the City Manager to explore emergency solutions, including short-term Navigation Centers. 

4. Refer to the City Manager and City Attorney to develop a formal city policy modeled after the proposed amendment to San Francisco’s Police Code. 

5. Adopt an Ordinance repealing Ordinance No. 7,449-N.S., which restricts the placement of objects on sidewalks to a 2 square-foot area. 


Our city is experiencing a homeless and shelter crisis. On January 2015, the nonprofit organization EveryOne Home performed a point-in-time count of Berkeley’s homeless population, which showed a 53 percent increase in the unsheltered homeless population since 2009, and a 23 percent spike in homelessness overall, from 680 to 834 homeless people in total. Currently the number of homeless individuals in Berkeley far exceeds the amount of shelter beds and transitional housing opportunities available. Additionally, our city’s Storm Shelter at the 1st Congregational Church was destroyed in a fire, even more greatly reducing our shelter capacity.  

In response to the worsening conditions on our streets locally and regionally, the City Council voted unanimously on January 19, 2016 to declare a homeless shelter crisis, which was just renewed on November 15 for another year. Although extending the resolution was an important step needed to minimize the red tape of potential solutions, it is in and of itself not a solution. And as our city’s residents, service providers and homeless individuals and families can attest to, shelter is needed now, particularly as winter conditions worsen. 

As recommended by the Community Health Commission, the City should be immediately focused on saving lives, which can be accomplished by calling for a moratorium on the eviction of encampments until a plan is developed. Additionally, adding specific language similar to San Francisco in our Police Code regarding encampment relocation procedure will further protect our most vulnerable and their possessions.

Trump's Woes

Jagjit Singh
Saturday November 26, 2016 - 11:52:00 AM

Trump grudgingly acknowledged that he may have run afoul of self-dealing rules by using $258,000 of foundation funds to settle legal disputes for his businesses. He also reneged on pledges of financial support for his foundation. Money was also improperly used to pay for private school fees for Trump’s son, Barron. The foundation remains shrouded under a dark cloud pending investigation by the New York attorney general. 

Shell-shocked Democrats cowered into silence should wake up and demand that the Trump Foundation be open to more vigorous oversight. 

Trump’s business interests intertwined with his president-elect duties are also gaining public scrutiny. 

A few examples: 

A week after winning the election, Trump met with his Indian business partners – who are managing $1.5 billion in Trump projects. 

Requested British officials oppose wind farms in Scotland pleading they would mar the view of his company’s golf course. 

Included his adult children to be at the helm of the transition team while simultaneously managing his business empire. Foreign diplomats are already booking expensive rooms in Trump's hotel in DC, opening up more potential conflict of interests. If Trump fails to liquidate his assets into a blind trust he may face serious charges which would mire his entire presidency. 

Melania Trump has expressed her desire to remain at the Trump Hotel after Trump moves into the White House. This would impose a huge additional tax burden in security costs of $1 million a day.

Letter to the Heartland from California

Harvey Smith
Friday November 25, 2016 - 01:20:00 PM

I am a White guy writing from California to all of you White people in the middle of the United States. The two parties of the 1% have managed to separate us into two evenly divided blocks. I’ve been to your part of country so just in case you haven’t been here I’d like to take the time to introduce you to my region. 

I want to say first I know you folks out there are problem solvers. To the hard hats, let me say I’ve worked construction so I know every day on a job you may have plans in hand, but they leave out a lot and you have to figure it out. To those of you in farm and ranching country, I am also a horse rancher and know that baling twine, baling wire and duct tape come in handy for making a clever quick fix. You have to use what’s at hand and think of novel ways to repair stuff - what is sometimes referred to as “hick technology.” I started working on cars as a young man and learned too, like every shade tree mechanic, there are solutions to seemingly unsolvable mechanical problems. 

I also know you have mothers and perhaps some sisters you deeply respect. You’ve picked up some values at your house of worship and/or through your elders. So what happened that you did not apply this knowledge and respect, these lessons and ways of thinking to problems in our communities and in our nation? 

Let me put this in the form of a story… 

The snake oil salesman rolls into the town of Lake Charles, Louisiana with his horse and wagon. (I say Lake Charles, but it could be almost any other town.) The snake oil salesman pulls up to a busy corner and starts his pitch. A woman comes by whose family has a gap in health insurance coverage. She is taken by the huckster’s pompadour, his red tie and his shiny label pin. His way of speaking is somehow assuring. Her whole family is suffering from various ailments due to the heavy pollution in the area. The pitch is convincing, and she buys a bottle of the magic elixir. She soon discovers that her family’s symptoms don’t get better, but they all actually get worse. She asks her neighbors, who also bought bottles, how they are doing and she gets the same story. What do they all do? Blame the snake oil salesman or their own gullibility? No, they all blame his horse! 

Now we must ask - did we get hustled again? Like a broken piece of machinery, it takes some problem solving and systemic thinking to fix our political system. If the machine breaks down, yelling slogans at it will not get it running. Calling it names will not repair it. Snake oil will not help. 

During this election cycle nobody – the political parties, the candidates, the media - disputed the fact that our nation now has the biggest gap in income since the Gilded Age, which was over one hundred years ago. Granted our choice was either for an actual member of the 1% or for a person who is a shill for the 1%. In the end our choice for president was between two candidates who played the system from one side or the other. However, we did get to vote for either a candidate who scapegoated and demeaned people or one who did not. 

Some say that fear of the other or stone cold racism is at the root of the election result. We have been warned about succumbing to fear before. Let me tell you from my vantage point in California we have nothing to fear about folks that don’t look like us. 

Let me share another story… 

I was in East Oakland the other day. Some folks shun it as dangerous, but it is actually a vibrantly wonderful community although beset with some problems related to lack of decent income, housing, education and health care. I’m hungry so I stop at a Vietnamese noodle restaurant. Obviously it is run by immigrants, but I don’t know how recent. The clientele is perhaps half Vietnamese. The rest consist of a couple of Chicano bikers, a couple of FedEx workers on their lunch break – one an Asian woman, the other a Black man, a Mexican-American family. I know the neighborhood. Around the corner and down the block is a Native American community center. 

This is a community we all inhabit together. We share each other’s food and culture. My life would certainly be much less rich without Vietnamese, Pakistani, Italian, Turkish, Afghan, French, Mexican, Burmese, Indian food… I could go on. Surely if we can come together around a table, we can see the possibility of the beauty of cultural exchange, of learning from each other. Despite the nay-sayers, being American is about welcoming and then enjoying the flavor of another culture. This does not take from us; it adds to the richness of the interwoven strands of our community’s fabric. Knowledge and experience of “the other” goes a long way in establishing respect and building tolerance. To most of us in California this seems like a basic value. 

The weather is moderate in California, and unfortunately our major cities are now overrun with many homeless people. They sometimes walk the street spewing epithets or nonsense. Some are veterans, and some have personality disorders or mental health issues. Young urban dwellers think homelessness is normal because they have never known anything else. I am old enough to know there was a time that the homeless were not a feature of our city streets, that the homeless merely need a job or a home or mental health care. 

However, I wish I could say that someone with a personality disorder did not find a job and a home at the White House. We’ll now have four years to deal with reality TV as reality, four years to ponder our values, our respect for difference, and our involvement in fixing the ship of state. 


Here is a link to my recent book - http://www.arcadiapublishing.com/9781467132398/Berkeley-and-the-New-Deal. Here are links to the National New Deal Preservation Association and The Living New Deal. Please take a look and if you like what you see, sign up to receive occasional updates. I hope you’ll join us in pushing for a New New Deal! www.newdeallegacy.org and www.livingnewdeal.org. See the latest enewsletter -http://livingnewdeal.org/newsletters/spring-2016 - or previous enewsletter - http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs180/1103359479611/archive/1112348736410.html. 

Harvey Smith is author of Berkeley and the New Deal. He has advocated for public policy at the city, county, state and federal level. He has worked as an educator, public health worker and researcher, radio journalist, horse rancher and union carpenter. He has been an activist on health care and educational issues and has fought the privatization of the U.S. Postal Service. 

Help Requested for Tent City - “First they came for the homeless”

Marcia Poole
Friday November 25, 2016 - 12:55:00 PM

We are requesting the residents of Berkeley reach out to those in their community who are less fortunate. We ask this with the sincere hope that it awakens the community to immediate and compassionate action. 

The Berkeley City Manager’s office has repeatedly called on the Berkeley Police Department to roust a small group of clean and sober homeless people who are living outdoors in various locales. Last Thursday and Friday mornings, the police confiscated their warm sleeping bags, blankets, tents, tarps, clothing, etc. The police are mandated by law to put these belongings in a specific spot from where they can be retrieved. They have not done so. The current Tent City people are now sleeping under two spread out tarps that protect them from the rain and they are wrapped in whatever the community has been able to donate. The wind and cold still penetrate this temporary shelter and several of the people there are now very ill. 

If anyone has extra sleeping bags, blankets, small tents, warm socks and jackets, etc., please consider donating them to this group immediately. You could deliver them directly to Tent City - “First they came for the homeless” at the southwest corner of Milvia and Center Streets. 

We are also asking members of the community to volunteer to camp out with them for a night now and then. Choose whichever night you wish and bring your own warm camping gear. We are asking this in order to show solidarity with those in need and to act as witnesses in case they are rousted again by the police in the early hours of the morning. 

Three of the campers are currently very ill from exposure. If any of you have medical training - (nurses, doctors, medics) - we also ask you to drop in and help them. 

We thank you all.

With malice towards none

Joanna Graham
Saturday November 26, 2016 - 10:46:00 AM

Both Becky O’Malley (“I get so angry as to be incoherent”) and Kurt Eichenwald (“You’re lucky it’s illegal for me to punch you in the face”) are expressing extreme anger with those on the left of the Democratic party who put Trump in the White House by failing to turn out for Hillary Clinton. 

They imply that a narcissistic concern for personal purity or residual (and unjustified) anger about Bernie Sanders’s defeat in the primary is what caused the “paranoid left,” “irrational people,” “fringe pseudo-leftists,” or the left wing of “the Trump/Sanders right-left axis” to vote for other candidates or kept them away from the poles. 

I cannot speak to what motivated others, but this year I voted for a third party candidate. I have been doing so in every presidential election since 1996 when I realized that Bill Clinton, far from being the lesser of two evils, had turned out to be exactly the same evil and I would be a fool to vote for him again. 

Since I therefore appear to be in the “paranoid left” category, but not for the reasons attributed to me, I would like to respond to the accusation, not because I wish to explain myself or be argumentative, but because I feel that this defeat indicates an urgent need for the Democratic party to rethink its principles and strategy. 

But many Democrats seem to be turning their rage—not on their party, which nominated one of the worst candidates imaginable—but on the progressive left which refused this time to play its assigned role in the standard Democratic party strategy: move rightward assuming the left has nowhere else to go while screaming loudly “their candidate is worse than our candidate.” 

This suggests that the sluicing out of the Democratic Augean stables for which I had desperately hoped is not going to take place. And among many other consequences, this may well mean that the Democratic Party is now, to all intents and purposes, dead. We must keep in mind that the Democrats lost not just the White House. In spite of months of gloating prognostication in the (mainly Democratic-leaning) mainstream media that the Republicans were finished, the Democratic losses ongoing through the entire Obama administration continued in this election so that Republican control across the entire country is now nearly total. 

So there are two possibilities. Either half the people in the United States are bad people—racists on the right and paranoids on the left—or there is something very very wrong with the Democratic party as it exists today, not in our nostalgic New Deal/Great Society memories. 

I have been reading O’Malley’s editorials and Bob Burnett’s column occasionally in the months leading up to the election. My sense is that their assumptions are so different from my own that we might as well inhabit different universes. 

The most obvious one, of course, is that Hillary Clinton was a good candidate. A second, I believe, is that the Democratic party is by definition the good party (an illusion I once shared—or perhaps it actually was the better party, pre-Clintons). 

A third is that the world as it is—although it obviously needs some fixing—is good enough. This certainly is the platform that HRC ran on—nothing so bad that neighborly cooperation (“Stronger Together”) and a little bit of tinkering by someone with good tinkering skills can’t fix it. 

I do not agree with any of these assumptions. But rather than discuss them rationally at this point, since we’re all raw with emotion I’d like to share my feelings. Several people have mentioned to me that they are experiencing a sense of “dread” since Trump won. I woke up with dread every morning for months before the election, fearing the outcome no matter who would eventually win—any of the 17 Republican contenders or Clinton. 

With Trump (the survivor!), besides his complete lack of relevant experience, there was his history of corruption; his narcissism, ignorance, and belligerence, as well as his disregard for facts or rules of engagement; and the racism, sexism, and other hatreds he was stirring up. 

With HRC, the issue for me was war—her known history of preference for war over diplomacy; her recklessness (“(I’d rather be caught trying”); her clear enjoyment of brutal murder (“What can I say? We came, we saw, he died!”); her predilection for interfering in other people’s countries, whether by war (Libya) or covert meddling (Ukraine); her stated intention to establish a no-fly zone in Syria, thereby setting the U.S. on a direct collision course with Russia; and, of course, her demonization of Russia, the drumbeat of which never faltered during the entire campaign, as if she were running for commander-in-chief—a characterization of the office she used frequently—instead of president of the United States, and was planning to march us into war on Day One. 

Not since the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan talked about “winnable nuclear war,” put medium-range nuclear warheads into Europe, and came up with the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”), have I felt such fear that we were on the verge of nuclear annihilation. 

I did feel sick to my stomach when, on November 8, it became clear that Trump would win—had won—but even by as early as that evening, I think, I had a sudden happy vision of Hillary vanishing like CGI in the movies, breaking apart into tiny tiny particles, and with her went Victoria Nuland, Michèle Flournoy, Samantha Power, and all the rest of that interventionist R2P crowd that terrified me. I realized they were really truly not going to be in a position to carry out their plans to save villages all over the world by destroying them and my dread lifted. And when, the next day or the day after, the news came out that Trump and Putin had spoken and talked about a potential reset between our countries, I felt a relief and optimism I had not felt for many many weeks. 

So then I knew it was Clinton I had feared more. Of the two great evils, it was Trump who was my lesser. 

It looks like what we are facing now may well be as horrifying as we feared—including continuing or increasing war. And we must resist in every way possible. But it is essential to understand that Hillary Clinton, despite having the entire Democratic establishment behind her, lost twice to the most improbable of outsiders, not because of the stupidity or irrationality or evil of those who voted against her in ’08 and ’16, but because of her own corruption, arrogance, mismanagement, and absolute inability to hear the desperation of those millions of Americans outside her well-off, self-satisfied elite circle. It is fantasy to think we would have thrived if only she had won. She is the ultimate insider, the epitome and beneficiary of everything that is wrong with the system—the world system of greed, violence, and destruction which is now in collapse across the planet. 

For God’s sake I beg you, at this critical time in world history, do not hate the progressive wing of your own party, people with whom you are most likely to share your moral convictions, if not all your political opinions. Do not hate, either, those Americans who voted for Donald Trump in the mistaken belief that he would make their lives better. Even if they are racists! Racism is embedded in the American experience. It is the problem of us all. And the worse things get—and they will get worse—the more selfish and angry humans are going to be. The more we are going to want to pull up the drawbridges and yell down from the parapets to those left out in the cold, “Die!” 

We must struggle against this impulse in ourselves and in others. Not because it’s right but because it’s necessary. It is almost certain that we humans have no chance of survival. But we are now so intertwined, so globalized (if I may use that expression), that if we have any chance at all, it will have to be cooperatively. It will have to be together.

Let us educate people to revive our democracy

Romila Khanna
Sunday November 27, 2016 - 08:31:00 PM

We have to educate our citizens to believe in a truly democratic country where all have the right to thrive and get equal opportunities to participate in choosing their Commander-in chief. 

We should include “Government” and “Politics” as compulsory subjects in all schools. It is important that students start thinking about government and politics during their school years. Their mental involvement in government affairs will help them later when they become eligible to cast their vote. I In a democracy, each person should know the background of his or her own representatives. Some people neither knew their candidates’ names, nor the background of the nominee of the two major parties. Media and advertisement played a big role to divide our people. 

I believe some of us lost our freedom to participate in this General Election because of strict voter ID law. In some “Red” states many poor and elderly people could not vote due new ID requirements. Many good people lost their ability to vote, as they never had a "voter ID". Most such people were seniors, or those who never had the means to get the state or county issued identification cards. Some of us had lost the ability to think clearly, and understand the empty promises made by our nominees on the campaign trail. 

I think that President must care for all the people. But it seems that the president-elect may not be able to bring equal opportunities for all to succeed in making their dreams come true. 

President-elect Donald trump is, purportedly, a very successful businessman who has expanded his businesses all over the world. But his policies and cabinet selections worry me. President Bush had the tax policy, which did not balance the budget. We have continued to create war zones by attacking Muslim countries to kill terrorists and their leaders. But still we have not finished our mission. At this difficult time of chaos and uncertainty our Electoral College has helped Donald Trump to get Electoral votes to win the Presidency. He does not have any experience in public office. His policies will also hurt many international communities. 

The president-elect is figuring out how to include all his trusted business friends and wealthy donors who contributed millions to his campaign. I think that money-power has stolen our democracy. 

I am sure his business world will get numerous benefits with his tax policies. The poor and the lower middle class will suffer, and the rich will become richer. There will be racism, poverty and unfriendliness across the globe. It makes me worried about the masses that are poor and lack the ability to fend for themselves and their families. Some friends are worried that the only white people will enjoy the benefits after January 20th 2017. 

Republicans are the majority in Congress, and in the Senate. Now Paul Ryan will not be a hurdle to president-elect Donald Trump. 

I hope there will be no prejudicial character evaluation of the incoming President. There will be no votes on the Supreme court Justice’s selection. Any supporter friends of president-elect Donald Trump will be appointed as Supreme Court Justices. Due to party politics a well-qualified Justice was not appointed because President Obama had nominated him. 

I wonder if the Congress will act differently now. Is it because the incoming President is white and wealthy, or because he has never worked in public office or because he represented the Republican Party with less popular votes? 

Will Trump’s Presidency bring more peace, financial and physical security to the common people? Will his billionaire friends and cabinet members advise him to try to make every citizen healthy and happy, and be honest in their dealings? I hope The Supreme Power inspires the new government to provide justice for all.

What's wrong with the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton?

Glen Kohler
Sunday November 27, 2016 - 08:29:00 PM

in between meeting with people in my neighborhood to commiserate and plan for the policy and economic changes immediately ahead, and waking up in sadness and dread at 3:00 am, I think of how and why the Democratic Party so often fails to serve and support the majority of Americans. This year, as it became obvious that Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, et. al., were determined to marginalize Mr. Sanders in favor of Mrs. Clinton, I felt ever more distance from and distaste for the wealthy power brokers in the Democratic Party.  

Dianne Feinstein—while her husband’s greedy hands groped for our Post Offices—and Michigan ‘Democrat’ Debbie Stabenow, sold us out on behalf of Monsanto Corp., Syngenta, etc. The coupe de grace to our ability to monitor the whereabouts of GMO products was then delivered by Mr. Obama, who signed the reviled DARK act (H.R.1599), despite millions of signatures on petitions and phone calls to the White House asking him to veto this attack on Americans’ right to know what is in food sold in this country. 

Well before the election Mrs. Clinton said of the Monsanto Corp. products ‘ ... people don't understood them.’, implying that the millions of Americans who don’t want to eat food containing GMO’s are merely ignorant; an allegation that somehow makes us unfit to decide what we don’t want to eat.  

Mrs. Clinton also feigned ignorance of the many objectionable provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as if she was not privy to the publically-available information (via whistleblowers) that our national sovreignity is to be set aside for the convenience of overseas capitalists. 

Mrs. Clinton's on-going support of big corporations against the interests of working American citizens is more than a series of peccadillos. It is her modus, her aim, as a full fledged member of the ruling elite. 

This year she placed her personal ambition to become President ahead of the Democratic Party’s strategic ability to win the election. Mr. Sanders was, after all, talking about going after the banks. As President, with the aid of Elizabeth Warren and a hand-picked head of the Justice Dept., Bernie may have represented a threat to the financial status quo that Mrs. Clinton was put forward to counteract.  

Commenting on Bernie’s vow to end ‘too big to fail’ and investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for illegal banking and financial practices, Hillary said, ‘Well, that’s not going to happen.’ This remark struck me as a likely dog-whistle to the bankers and Wall Street that she is their friend. 

As Ms. Graham said, the old rubric ‘she’s better than the Republican candidate’ is no longer believable. Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump represent that ultra-rich super-minority of citizens who care so little for the other 98% of us that they insist on grabbing any remaining power and money by any means.  

With Sincerely Regret, 

Glen Kohler


ECLECTIC RANT: Berkeley's Violent Raids on Tent Communities Illegal

Ralph E. Stone
Friday November 25, 2016 - 01:17:00 PM

The Berkeley police have conducted raids on homeless camps as members of the homeless community continue to protest the Hub — the city’s homeless services system — for its alleged inefficiency in providing homeless Berkeley citizens with housing and other services.

It is illegal to criminalize someone's status rather than their conduct, and therefore enforcing no-camping laws when homeless people don't have viable alternatives is criminalizing their state in life. A shelter is a basic human right and efforts to remove the homeless self-help shelters -- including tents -- are likely to run afoul of the law.  

Earlier this year, an Oakland federal district court judge, in Cobine v. City of Eureka, prohibited the city of Eureka from evicting eleven homeless unless the city provided them with adequate shelter and assurances that their possessions would be stored and safeguarded. The Court found that the eviction of these eleven homeless violated the 4th, 8th, and 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

While this case applies only to these eleven plaintiffs, the Court's reasoning is sound. And remember this district court is in the Ninth Circuit, which covers Berkeley. This places the constitutionality of Berkeley's anti-homeless program in doubt. 

That does not mean, of course, that Berkeley cannot enact restrictions on homeless encampments to maintain hygiene, safety, and lawful conditions. As homeless encampments are here to stay at least for the foreseeable future, instead of violent raids on such encampments, Berkeley should provide portable toilets, trash bins, trash, trash removal, other amenities to make the encampments more livable, and enforce laws preventing blocking of streets, sidewalks, and entrances to businesses.  

Whether we like it or not, homeless encampments are now part of the urban environment. 



THE PUBLIC EYE: Building the Trump Resistance

Bob Burnett
Friday November 25, 2016 - 10:41:00 AM

With the election of Donald Trump, the US has lurched towards political and social turmoil, an era where democracy is under attack. Progressives have a moral obligation to resist autocracy and injustice. Here are eight steps for building an effective resistance to Trump. 

1. Be kind to yourself: Right now, I'm upset and angry. What I've learned from my experience as an activist is that before I take action I must be centered. I need to calm myself. Breathe. 

In my experience as an activist, I am most effective when I am physically healthy. And, I need to be psychologically healthy by following my spiritual practice, which includes meditation and time in nature. 

2. Take care of your family, friends, and community. Building the resistance begins at home. Most members of my family are terrified at the prospect of a Trump presidency. Treat your family with kindness and offer comfort. Extend that circle of love and support to your friends and community. 

The Trump era has opened with bullying and bigotry. Progressives must stand up for all Americans. We must oppose bullying and bigotry and widen our circle of love and support to those who are victimized by Trump and his supporters. 

3. Cultivate Compassion: The struggle begins immediately but the resistance will last four years. We must reach out to our adversaries with compassion. 

At the heart of my nonviolent tradition is the maxim: "There is that of God in every person." This teaches that when we engage others we first seek out their humanity. 

In the present moment we have three sets of adversaries. The first consists of those progressives who, in the 2016 election, didn't vote the way we did: perhaps they voted for Jill Stein, or wrote-in Bernie Sanders, or didn't vote at all. We need to reach out with compassion to our fellow progressives and, without rancor, ask them to join us in the resistance to the Trump regime. 

The second set of adversaries consists of those who voted for Trump because of economic worries. They share many of our progressive values, and our concerns about Trump, but on November 8th they set these aside and voted for Trump because they believed he was going to "fix" the economy. We need to reach out with compassion to our fellow populists and , without rancor or judgement, ask them to join us in the resistance. 

The third set of adversaries consists of those who voted for Trump for other reasons. Some were motivated by bias, fearful of "the other." Some were motivated by their religious beliefs and saw Trump as "the chosen one." Regardless of why these Americans voted for Trump, we need to reach out to them with compassion and listen to what they have to say. 

4. Focus: At the moment, there is so much to do, the darkness is so pervasive, that progressives will feel pulled in multiple directions. It's vitally important for each of us to focus our energy and begin with simple direction action. (In India, Gandhi's resistance to British rule began with a salt boycott. In Montgomery, Martin Luther King Jr's resistance to segregation began with a bus boycott.) 

5. Begin with small steps: There are three simple actions that all of us can do now. Actions that take little energy, but help to focus our attention, and build the resistance. 

5a. Contribute to the National Popular Vote Initiative (http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/). This grassroots movement seeks to have the next President determined by the popular vote rather than the electoral college. It has bipartisan support and should succeed in the next couple of years. 

5b. Demand that the national Democratic leadership represent all the Party not just Washington insiders. It's a difficult truth that Hillary Clinton would be President if she had had rock-solid Democratic support. (According to the New York Times exit polls, Trump held 90 percent of Republicans while Clinton held only 89 percent of Democrats.) Clinton lost because some progressives saw her, and the national Democratic leadership, as not representing our values. 

5c. Contribute to Planned Parenthood (https://www.plannedparenthood.org/). So many progressive organizations need our support that it's hazardous to select one. However, Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides vital women's health services, has come under unprecedented attack and will likely lose all federal funding. 

6. Join with others. Developing a broad, mindful resistance movement is an exercise in community building. Start locally but move outside your circle of comfort to enroll allies. 

7. Literally, stand up for democracy. It's not enough to tweet or email or share a Facebook post. The resistance is about meeting face-to-face with our allies and (eventually) our adversaries. Go to a meeting, rally, or march. 

8. Remember the midterm election campaign begins May 1st. Conveniently, Trump's first 100 days in office will conclude on May 1st, International Worker's Day. That's when progressives should begin the political process of regaining control of Congress. 

The resistance begins today. 

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













ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Achieving More Personal Happiness Today

Jack Bragen
Friday November 25, 2016 - 10:48:00 AM

As persons with psychiatric disabilities, there is no expectation that we try to solve the world's problems. If we are cooperating with treatment, and if we have some kind of regular activity that engages the mind and body, that holds our interest, it should be good enough. No one expects mentally ill people to become involved in politics, social justice, or to have professional employment. If you have a severe mental illness, it is legitimate to sit in the sidelines of society. We should be focused on our own recovery and on staying well.  

When we take care of ourselves, it helps the rest of society because we aren't creating problems for others, and we aren't in need of as many resources. Not to mention, family doesn't have as much to worry about. Thus, we are helping society when we focus on recovering or remaining recovered. It helps our mental health and our level of happiness when we take care of ourselves, and this usually entails not being preoccupied with world events.  

How then, do we disconnect from disturbing world events, from the erosion of democracy in the U.S., and essentially from society falling apart before our eyes? Just tell yourself; "It's not my problem."  

It is worthwhile to seek personal happiness and to ignore world events.  

In becoming a happier person, we may need a way of getting our minds "from point A, to point B." To me, this means getting rid of problematic thoughts, and focusing on what is enjoyable in the moment.  

An exercise: Get pen and paper. Write down worries. It doesn't matter if some of the worries are rational or irrational, possibilities or nearly impossible, delusions or not. Just write down the worries, one by one. Begin with the first on that comes to mind, then write the next, and so on. Now, categorize the worries. At the bottom of each worry, notate if the worry is something you have control over, or not. Next, at the bottom of each worry, put down a percentage of emotional impact. In other words, estimate how much this particular thing is impacting on being happy at the present moment. Next: put down at the bottom of each worry; "method of dismissal." In some instances, the worry pertains to something that you need to do, such as, "clean my dwelling for inspection," or perhaps, "pick up my prescriptions," or perhaps, "pay my rent on time." In other instances, the worry pertains to something over which you have no control, such as; "Global warming." The method of dismissal for "Global warming" is different than the one for "pick up my prescriptions." In the first instance, climate change is completely out of your hands, and you ought simply dismiss the thought. Write down or say to yourself, "This thought is dismissed." If your worry pertains to a necessary action, then schedule when, where and how you intend to do the thing. Such as, "I will pick up my prescriptions at three o'clock today."  

A question you can pose to yourself: "What can I do right now to increase my enjoyment of the moment?" The answer could be something like, "I am going to have a cup of tea." Or, the answer could be, "I am going to read part of a paperback novel that is sitting on my shelf."  

This isn't rocket science. You don't control the Earth, but you have a lot of power over your own state of mind. Employ that power, and become a happier person.  

Jack Bragen is author of: “Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia: A Self-Help Manual.” And, “Schizophrenia: My 35-Year Battle.”  




Arts & Events

Simon Rattle Conducts Berlin Philharmonic in Mahler’s 7th Symphony

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday November 25, 2016 - 10:46:00 AM

What a treat it is to have two great conductors and two of the world’s leading orchestras, Gustavo Dudamel with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Simon Rattle with the Berliner Philharmoniker, performing, respectively, Gustav Mahler’s 9th Symphony and Mahler’s 7th Symphony in a three-week span here in San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall. On Tuesday evening, November 22, Simon Rattle, the Berlin Philharmonic’s chief conductor for the past 14 years, led his orchestra in a program consisting of Éclat by the late Pierre Boulez and Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 in E minor. The following night’s program by the Berlin Philharmonic featured works by the 20th century Viennese atonal innovators Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern, as well as the Symphony No. 2 in D Major by Brahms.  

To employ a culinary phrase, Boulez’s 8-minute Éclat might be termed an amuse-bouche, a starter that tickles the palate and prepares the taste-buds for more substantial fare to come. Boulez scored Éclat for two groups of instruments – one a group of ‘soloists’ consisting of piano, celesta, cimbalom, glockenspiel, vibraphone, tubular bells, harp, mandolin, and guitar; and another consisting of alto flute, English horn, trumpet, trombone, viola, and cello. These two groups trade musical ideas back and forth like quicksilver, with often striking modulations made clear by the Berlin Philharmonic instrumentalists. 

Without an intermission the Berlin Philharmonic launched into Gustav Mahler’s 7th Symphony, the least well-known of this composer’s symphonies and one of his most controversial. Scholars are divided over the apparent imbalance between the huge, heavy textured outer movements and the three lighter textured inner movements consisting of two different Night Music episodes and a Scherzo. Some fault the Night Music episodes as being unworthy of the opening and closing movements. For my part, I admire the songful Night Music sections far more than I admire the often bombastic outer movements; and I found this to be true even granting how energetically intense I found Simon Rattle’s conducting of the opening and closing movements.  

We sometimes forget that Mahler composed many beautiful song-cycles and built many of his symphonies out of music from the song-cycles. Here, his Nachtmusik I recalls his themes from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. The main section of Night Music I is a slow march filled with chiaroscuro effects, which may or may not be inspired by Rembrandt’s famed chiaroscuro in the painting known as The Night Watch. (The conductor Willem Mengelberg suggested this source.) In between the two Night Music episodes is a brief, shadowy Scherzo, which also conjures up spectral visions of the night. The shrieking glissando of two clarinets is grim indeed, perhaps even a vision of The Grim Reaper. Nachtmusik II then follows with a serenade marked Andante amoroso, full of sighing violins and lilting lyricism which are interrupted, however, by a fierce reminder of the Scherzo’s dark side. 

The three inner movements were in fact the first music Mahler composed for this symphony. Unable to proceed further, he retreated to a summer home on the Wörthersee, where, out rowing on the Tyrolean lake one day, the rhythm of the oars gave Mahler a starting point for his opening movement. Amidst this rhythmic motif the tenor horn announces the first main idea of the symphony. Mahler specified that the tenor horn must be played with a big tone, even suggesting that “Here nature roars.” (The Berlin Philharmonic’s horn section played beautifully throughout this work.) The music builds slowly but steadily. Trumpets announce the Allegro, in which a martial theme is heard in horns and cellos. A Viennese theme reminiscent of Richard Strauss is heard in the violins, developed with fantastic tonal freedom and harmonic resources. However, the hefty tuttis of this opening movement border on the bombastic, which I deplore, even while appreciating the clarity of the Berlin Philharmonic’s approach.  

As for the finale, Simon Rattle, who first recorded Mahler’s 7th Symphony back in 1991 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, succeeds in pulling off a mad coherence. From the thunderous drums at the opening of this Rondo-Finale to a coda brimming with garish colors and orchestral excess, Rattle embraces a wholeheartedly vulgar apotheosis of Viennese dance. There are veiled references, almost parodic in style, to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger and Franz Lehár’s Merry Widow Waltz. I’m not overly fond of this finale’s successive climaxes, but Battle and his Berlin Philharmonic give this finale everything it’s worth and more. Battle’s humility, after the tumultuous applause at the conclusion of Mahler’s 7th Symphony, was heart-warming. The conductor did not just point to individual musicians in his orchestra who figured prominently in this concert; he also made a tour deep into the orchestra to shake hands and embrace his musicians as he invited them to take well-earned individual bows. At the end, quite a few musicians of the Berliner Philharmoniker were seen to embrace one another, as if aware that in this concert they had created something exceptional, which they surely did.