The Week

Homeless tent users, including advocates and concerned community members, met in front of Berkeley's Old City Hall with Leilani Farha, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to discuss their treatment by the City of Berkeley. Farha also visited Oakland and San Francisco for an international human rights report on government response to the housing crisis.
Carol Denney
Homeless tent users, including advocates and concerned community members, met in front of Berkeley's Old City Hall with Leilani Farha, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to discuss their treatment by the City of Berkeley. Farha also visited Oakland and San Francisco for an international human rights report on government response to the housing crisis.


The ideology of Silencing: A comment on “public comment”

Steve Martinot
Wednesday January 31, 2018 - 11:02:00 AM

Form, as in the way things are put together, like format, formal procedure, formal arrangement of seating, etc. has meaning. The form of things signifies, while hiding behind the fact that it isn’t language. -more-

No Science but Plenty of Money Behind Greenwashed SB 827

Russ Tilleman
Monday January 29, 2018 - 07:50:00 PM


I apologize for using all capital letters, otherwise known as online shouting, rather than the more traditional and visually-appealing mixture of upper and lower case. But SB 827 will do something very similar to many Berkeley neighborhoods.

Four- to eight-story concrete boxes will replace beautiful century-old single family homes and rent-controlled smaller apartment buildings. And if SB 827 becomes law, there won't be anything anyone in Berkeley can do about it.


The State of California says the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) "requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible."

"At a minimum, an initial review of the project and its environmental effects must be conducted. Depending on the potential effects, a further, and more substantial, review may be conducted in the form of an environmental impact report (EIR)."

"A project may not be approved as submitted if feasible alternatives or mitigation measures are able to substantially lessen the significant environmental effects of the project." -more-

Helen Rippier Wheeler, Ph.D.

Becky O'Malley
Saturday January 27, 2018 - 03:10:00 PM

We are sad to report the death of The Planet’s much appreciated SENIOR POWER columnist, Dr. Helen Rippier Wheeler, in the first week of January. -more-

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Nuclear War: A Thousand Buttons

Conn Hallinan
Saturday January 20, 2018 - 03:58:00 PM

When President Donald Trump bragged that his nuclear “button” was bigger and more efficient than North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s “button,” he was perpetuating the myth that the leaders of nuclear-armed nations control their weapons. But you do not have to be Trump, Kim, Vladimir Putin, Theresa May, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, Mamnoon Hussain, or Benjamin Netanyahu to push that “button.” There are thousands of buttons and thousands of people who can initiate a nuclear war.

Indeed, the very nature of nuclear weapons requires that the power to use them is decentralized and dispersed. And while it is sobering to think of leaders like Kim and Trump with their finger on the trigger, a nuclear war is far more likely to be started by some anonymous captain in an Ohio-class submarine patrolling the Pacific or a Pakistani colonel on the Indian border.

In his book ”The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,” Daniel Ellsberg says that the recent uproar over Trump’s threats to visit “fire and fury” on North Korea misses the point that “every president has delegated” the authority to use nuclear weapons. “The idea that the president is the only one with the sole power to issue an order that will be recognized as an authentic authorized order is totally false,” he told National Public Radio. -more-

More Sidewalk Rules Versus Common Sense

Carol Denney
Wednesday January 24, 2018 - 03:42:00 PM
First They Came for the Homeless's lawsuit survived a legal challenge and is being allowed to broaden its complaint against the City of Berkeley by U.S. District Judge William Alsup

It's happening now in Berkeley. A funny, clunky, three-leg legislation race about poverty on a collision course. -more-

Flash: Judge Allows Some Claims in Berkeley Homeless Lawsuit, Dismisses BART as Defendant

Julia Cheever (BCN)
Monday January 22, 2018 - 12:11:00 PM

A federal judge in San Francisco has turned down a request by the city of Berkeley for dismissal of a civil rights lawsuit filed by a group of homeless people.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup said two members of the group called First They Came for the Homeless could pursue claims that the city violated their due process and free speech rights during evictions from municipal land. -more-

We need a just society!

Romila Khanna
Monday January 22, 2018 - 02:21:00 PM

Our legislators get their pay in time while poverty stricken citizens worry whether they can scrape together enough to feed their families. The legislators forget they were sent to Washington to fix the broken economic system, the immigration policy, employment, education and healthcare. They were not sent to Washington to enjoy the good life. The legislators must solve the problems of an economy where the rich get richer and the poor become poorer. Access of the very poor to schools and colleges gives them a ladder on which to climb from poverty into the middle class. Assurance of continued healthcare and social security gives our poor elders the safety net they need to live in dignity. -more-

SQUEAKY WHEEL: Shelter with Care

Toni Mester
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 08:02:00 PM
2527 San Pablo Avenue

The appeal of the first six-story apartment building on San Pablo Avenue will be heard at the City Council meeting on Tuesday January 23, which starts at 6 pm; it’s the first item on the action calendar. The project is a 63-unit density bonus venture designed and sponsored by Rony Rolnizky, the architect of Hillside Village at 1797 and 1801 Shattuck Avenue and 3001 Telegraph Avenue, across from Whole Foods. In many ways, this is “just an apartment building” to quote the applicant, but he has added a twist in requesting that the 12 below market rate units (BMRs) – six for very low income and six for low income – be set aside for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DDs) and has requested a waiver of the City’s Section 8 and Shelter+Care requirements: 40% of the six very low income (VLI) apartments for each category. In this case, that would amount to 2 Section 8 and 2 Shelter+Care units. -more-

Tens of Thousands March in Bay Area

Keith Burbank/Janis Mara(BCN)
Saturday January 20, 2018 - 08:07:00 PM

About 65,000 people or more marched in San Francisco this afternoon in the 2018 Women's March to draw women to political action, organizers said. -more-

Peaceful Oakland Women's March Estimated at 50,000

Janis Mara (BCN)
Saturday January 20, 2018 - 04:44:00 PM

Oakland police said the Women's March that took place in downtown Oakland today drew an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 attendees and took place peacefully. -more-

John 0liver Simon

J.D. Moyer
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 11:49:00 AM

John Oliver Simon, one of the Bay Area’s most beloved poets, died in the early hours of January 16th, from cancer, in the home of his fiancée Susie Kepner. He is survived by daughters Kia Simon and Lorelei Bosserman, son-in-law J.D. Moyer, granddaughter Tesla Rose Moyer, and former wives Pam Simon Hazel, Alta, and Jan Courtright Simon. He was 75. -more-



Forget about Those White Supremacists

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 26, 2018 - 05:33:00 PM

We have Donald Trump to thank for finally putting the last nail in the coffin of White Supremacy this month.

Huh? You may well ask. Yes, I know it’s counter-intuitive, but let’s just check the evidence.

On your right: President Donald J. Trump. On your left: President Barack H. Obama.

Case closed.

Herr Dumpf is superior to no one.

Editorial page writers have run out of strong adjectives to describe his shockingly manifest inferiority. Vulgar, stupid, venal. And also, mendacious and unstable. Oh,yes, and racist, if you didn’t know that already, as demonstrated by his language choice when discussing immigration with senators.

After typing all those pejoratives the day of that meeting, I felt obliged to check Google News one more time to see if he’d done any new disreputable things since I read the morning paper.

That very day, he’d coined a new junior-high nickname for Senator Richard Durbin and tweeted it. (Time for teacher to confiscate his phone, isn’t it?)

Defenders of Whites might plead that Donald T. is just one guy, and most other White people and even most Old White Guys are better than that.

Well, by the numbers, when you break down national White voters into all kinds of categories (gender, income, employment, education etc.) the majority in every category voted for Donald Trump, so they all deserve blame for what happened. (Possibly excepting educated White women of a certain age…one small Hurrah for Us, but that’s not enough.)

I’m more than a little fed up with the drumbeat coming from a lot of White lefties that more attention needs to be paid to the grievances of the White working class. It isn’t really a class thing that motivates them. In fact, it looks a lot like a disguised subset of good old White Supremacy. -more-

Public Comment

To Berkeley Councilmembers: ICE Should Not be Able to Get Berkeley License Plate Data from Technology Vendor

Steve Martinot
Friday January 26, 2018 - 07:56:00 PM

There was a report on evening news, and an article in today’s Chronicle (1/27/2018, C2) about how ICE can use the data collected by license-plate readers to track down immigrants they want to arrest. When Berkeley bought into the license-plate reader technology, it did so with the assurance that the data collected by those readers would not be available to the federal government. But according to these reports, it is the vendor of the technology that also absorbs the data of these readers into their own database. And they will sell it to the government, or to specific agencies.

I do not know the name of the technology vendor that Berkeley purchased its l-p readers from, but the company mentioned in these reports was Vigilant Solutions.

If the BPD is sharing its data collections with the technology vendor, then its promises not to share its data with the federal government is seriously compromised, to the point of being in violation of all the principles of sanctuary that we support. This needs to be investigated, and steps taken. -more-

UN Representative Visits Bay Area Tent Groups

Carol Denney
Friday January 26, 2018 - 05:30:00 PM

"You know how to keep a wage slave? Scare the piss out of them." - Mike Zint

United Nations representative Leilani Farha and a recording crew dropped by Berkeley's Old City Hall on Sunday, January 21st, 2018. But they didn't want to talk to Berkeley officials or politicians. They wanted to talk to the people living in tents on the front lawn.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Leilani Farha is including housing conditions in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley for an international human rights report documenting the crisis of people living in poverty on the streets. The UN crew sat in the midday chill on the Old City Hall steps surrounded by tent dwellers, local advocates, and concerned community members to hear their stories.

First They Came for the Homeless is the group nearest Old City Hall steps, the group the City of Berkeley has chased repeatedly from location to location in sweeps well-documented with video, news stories, and photographs. Berkeley has easily a dozen tent groups or more, but this group is committed to documenting and confronting Berkeley's cruel and unconstitutional responses to the human necessities of sleep, warmth, food, and shelter. -more-


Tejinder Uberoi
Friday January 26, 2018 - 05:27:00 PM

Brace yourselves, the tweeter-in-chief is off to be dined and wined by the world’s economic titans in Davos, Switzerland. The Swiss are certain to give him a “warm welcome”. The weather Gods are not happy, dumping 6 feet of snow in 6 days. Trump is expected to address the Forum in a speech prepared by one his intellectual superiors. The remainder of the time he is expected to wallow in comfort at US taxpayer’s expense. -more-

Open Letter to the Berkeley City Council
Re: the "Activation of BART Plaza"

Carol Denney
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 11:15:00 AM

I have concerns about the January 23rd plan to allow the Downtown Berkeley Association to "implement arts and cultural programming" at BART Plaza given its past record.

The Downtown Berkeley Association began its history trying to outlaw panhandling, helping create ordinances that targeted the poor, violated the constitution, and were overturned by the courts. Their mission of driving the poor out of shared space has never changed. We've had to battle anti-sitting laws, laws designed to target people with more than two square feet of belongings all with the same purpose: to make life as difficult as possible for the most vulnerable among us.

They allowed posters in BART Plaza created by the city, but threatened with arrest anyone who posted a flier from any other source, claiming in writing that the First Amendment only applied to the government. They violated campaign finance laws in their wholehearted effort to target the people they have unilaterally decided should not be allowed to enjoy the benefits of public space downtown.

This is the same Downtown Berkeley Association which ignores Public Record Act requests, which trains Green Shirt Block by Block "ambassadors" who then seem to think it is their job to assault homeless people on camera for exercising their constitutional right to rest. Their advertisement of downtown businesses is highly selective - some are celebrated while others are ignored - and there is no oversight or complaint system as was promised when our current mayor was campaigning. -more-

We Can Defeat Homelessness

Harry Brill
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 11:07:00 AM

Among the grim statistics is the growing numbers of homeless people, which has climbed to about 600,000. Twenty percent of the homeless reside in California. Among the major causes are unemployment, skyrocketing rents, mortgage foreclosures, and a costly medical crisis. Indeed, if a financial crisis occurs, most families discover that they had been living on the edge. Nearly seven in 10 Americans (69 percent) have less than $1,000 in their savings account. If they are unable to meet their financial obligations, individuals and families risk eviction and losing their homes. -more-

Another Opinion on Stop Signs

Chris Gilbert
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 11:48:00 AM

The campaign to install more stop signs may be misguided, according to recent research and on-the-ground experience in Europe. -more-

Trump Sinks into the Gutter

Jagjit Singh
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 11:31:00 AM

Trump’s latest disgusting racist comments disparaging Haiti and Africa as s-holes, preferring immigration of white Norwegians has sent shockwaves throughout the world. This is also an appalling reflection on Republican enablers and Trump supporters who continue to remain silent. It is shocking that there were enough Americans who ignored Trump’s narcissism, racism, misogyny and mental instability who were willing to elect him and continue to support him. This is the man who falsely claimed he would spend all his time in the White House but has spent 33% of his time on his properties at huge cost to the US taxpayer. -more-

Please Comment on Berkeley Surveillance Ordinance Proposal

James McFadden
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 11:34:00 AM

If you care about the direction the country is going towards a surveillance state (aka Snowden), then please make a comment on Berkeley Considers supporting the proposed Berkeley Surveillance Ordinance. You can do this anonymously. -more-

Meaningless Homeowners Exemption

Paul M. Schwartz, attorney at law
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 11:25:00 AM

With the recent skewering of high tax states by the federal government, the state government needs to step in and provide California homeowners property tax relief by restoring a meaningful homeowners exemption. Since we homeowners in California are now limited to a $10,000 property tax deduction on our federal taxes, it is time for the state legislators and the governor to restore us a state benefit that has been inflated away. -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE: Five Shutdown Lessons

Bob Burnett
Friday January 26, 2018 - 05:20:00 PM

On January 19th the federal government shut down. Two days later, Democratic leaders blinked and called off the shutdown. Even though Dems didn't get what they wanted, there were important lessons learned.

The brief shutdown accomplished two things. First, Democrats finally secured an extension to the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that benefits 9 million children in low-income families. Second, the Senate effort to resolve the shutdown was led by a bipartisan group of 24 Senators; this suggests that, when the Senate votes on immigration, there may be enough moderate Republicans to ensure that the resulting bill is reasonable.

Nonetheless, on January 22nd Senate Democrats didn't get what they wanted and lost the first major DACA battle. There are five lessons to be earned from this experience. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Does Trump's threat to withhold aid from Palestinians doom any restart of peace negotiations?

Ralph E. Stone
Friday January 26, 2018 - 05:13:00 PM

On January 26, 2018, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump threatened to withhold aid money from the Palestinians until they return to the peace talks with Israel. The U.S. has contributed over $6 billion in economic and security aid to the Palestinians since the mid-1990s, and around $500 million annually since 2008, mostly for development projects. Trump had already moved to withhold some -- $65 million of $125 million -- of scheduled aid to the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees.

This threat to withhold money comes on the heels of Trump's December 6, 2017, recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The process began in 1995, with the passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which required the U.S. to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by a set deadline, but permitted the move to be put off for six months at a time as long as the President “determines and reports to Congress in advance that such suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.” Trump refused to put off the move for another six months. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Your Brain Can Help You

Jack Bragen
Friday January 26, 2018 - 05:12:00 PM

Although some mental health practitioners may ascribe to the belief that the brain of a mentally ill person is impaired and has useless output, you should not absorb this projection. Many persons with psychiatric disabilities have wonderful brains that can do wonderful things. The fact of being medicated, as many of us are, should not make us give up on our brains. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Obsessive Gratification Systems and Ensuing Disasters

Jack Bragen
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 11:27:00 AM

Becoming symptomatic due to unfulfilled gratification systems is a scenario out of many in which persons with mental illness can become unstable. There are numerous paths to becoming acutely ill, and what I am about to describe is only one of them. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE: The Politics of Sustainability

Bob Burnett
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 11:02:00 AM

As Democrats embark on a ten-month campaign to take back Congress, it's clear they need a unifying message. Because Republicans are defined by Trump, Dems could unite on the theme, "lock him up." While satisfying, this slogan doesn't capture the depravity of Trump's reign or the fact that Republicans have sold their souls uniting behind him. A better solution for Democrats would be to focus on sustainability. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT:U.S Government Shut Down — Dreamers Left Dangling

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 07:59:00 PM

At 11:59:59 on Friday, January 19, 2018, the U.S. government funding went dry and the government shut down. Today, Saturday, January 20, both the House and Senate are caucusing to try pass a continuing resolution to "kick the can down the road" until February or pass legislation to help the "Dreamers." The prospects for both are uncertain. -more-

Arts & Events

New Century Chamber Orchestra Gives A Mozart’s Birthday Bash

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday January 26, 2018 - 05:18:00 PM

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria. In celebration of the 262nd anniversary of Mozart’s birth, the New Century Chamber Orchestra offered to Bay Area audiences a series of concerts featuring Mozart’s music. I attended the opening concert of this series on Thursday evening, January 25, at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church. Opening the program was Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488, featuring German pianist Sebastian Knauer as soloist. The orchestra was led by British violinist Daniel Hope, who serves as the group’s Artistic Partner for the 2017-18 season. -more-

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar: Jan. 28 - Feb 4

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday January 27, 2018 - 02:40:00 PM

Coming Week:

Two key meetings are City Council Tuesday Evening – surveillance technology and Landmarks Preservation Commission Thursday – Campanile Way, landmark hearing.

Comment Deadline Jan 30, Community Choice Energy under attack again, fax (best) or email, details in link

Indivisible Berkeley list of actions you can do from home, -more-

Island City Opera’s Rimsky-Korsakov Double-Bill

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 08:12:00 PM

At the Alameda Elks Club, Island City Opera presents two one-act operas by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov – Mozart and Salieri, set to a play by Alexander Pushkin, and Kashchey, the Immortal, based on a Russian fairy tale. This double-bill opened on January 19 and concludes with performances on January 26 & 28. I caught the Sunday matinee on January 21.

Let me say straightaway that I consider myself lucky to have attended the January 21 performance, for that was the only date when the role of Kashcheyevna, the wizard’s daughter in Kashchey, the Immortal, was sung by German mezzo-soprano Katja Heuzeroth. I have always appreciated Silvie Jensen, who sings all the other performances of this role, whenever I’ve heard her. However, Katja Heuzeroth was absolutely sensational. Her voice was sumptuous, sensuous, and rapturous. According to the program notes, she made her professional debut at Bayreuth in Wagnerian roles, which I’m sure she sang beautifully. The big question is where can we in the Bay Area hear Katja Heuzeroth in any role she wishes to sing? I’d go anywhere to hear her; and I hope to have many opportunities to do so if, as the program notes seem to indicate, she now is locally based. -more-

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar
January 21 – January 28

Kelly Hammargren
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 11:52:00 AM

The coming week January 21 – January 28 is packed with City meetings. The week starts with the affordable housing update Sunday. Monday is Zero Waste Commission, Commission Chair Alfred Twu is running against Council member Lori Droste for District 8. City Council is Tuesday with Porta Potties, Surveillance and Significant Community Benefits on the Agenda. Wednesday the Disaster and Fire Safety Commission will be making a recommendation on Urban Shield. The same evening the Police Review Commission meets. The week finishes Thursday when ZAB will be reviewing the Final Environmental Impact Report for 2190 Shattuck Ave, the building that will block the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Campanile Way. -more-

"Sign My Name to Freedom"
A New Book by Betty Reid Soskin

Sunday January 21, 2018 - 08:20:00 PM

In Betty Reid Soskin’s 96 years of living, she has been a witness to a grand sweep of American history. When she was born in 1921, the lynching of African Americans was a national epidemic, blackface minstrel shows that both mocked and denigrated black music were the most popular American form of entertainment, white women had only just won the right to vote in American elections through the 19th Amendment passed the year before, and most African Americans in the Deep South could not vote at all. From her great-grandmother, who had been enslaved until she was in her mid-20s, Betty heard stories of slavery and the times of terror and deep difficulties for Black Folk that followed. In her lifetime, Betty watched the nation begin to confront its race and gender biases when forced to come together over the Fascist and Nazi world threat of the World War II era, saw those differences nearly break apart at the seams again in the upheavals of the civil rights and Black Power eras, saw the defeat of the Southern-led white segregationists following the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts and, finally, lived long enough to witness both the election of an African American president and the re-emergence of a militant, racist far right that rose up out of the ashes of the old segregationists. -more-