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Statement on Eviction of Homeless Community at Berkeley's Old City Hall

Mike Zint, First They Came For The Homeless
Friday February 09, 2018 - 09:57:00 AM

I am requesting help in getting this published. We got blamed, and raided because the city lied, and the press reported the lie. There has been no effort from the press to voluntarily print the truth, and they do know. So, it's up to us to be the journalists. I'm very disappointed in the local press.

This is intended to stop the lies, and show the truth. This is what happened. Our community had nothing to do with the fire. Our community was not on the landing, or north of the bulletin board. We were on the south side of the bulletin board, and on the south side of the building.

The first fire occurred in early January. Below is a quote from a Berkeleyside article, and link to the article. It was made by a local resident. It is clearly stated this person had nothing to do with us. There was no resulting raid, because the truth was published and known to the community. 

"Neighborhood resident Kim Aronson, who alerted Berkeleyside about the fire, said the man whose home burned moved onto the property several months ago, several weeks prior to the creation of a large homeless protest camp outside Old City Hall. Aronson said the man had lived inside a bush, which he had built out with boxes and a number of other items." 


In this article [quoted below] we see something different. We see a city employee being quoted. This quote puts the blame on us, and groups everyone into the same encampment. This quote, in a news publication, puts everything in motion for removal. The Daily Cal did something similar. 

"We’re not sure how it started, though it looked like some objects from the homeless encampment on the lawn was involved, May said. Some members of the “First They Came for the Homeless” political group and homeless encampment have been living at Old City Hall since November, when they were evicted from their nearly year-long post at the Berkeley-Oakland border. The group has grown to occupy much of the lawn." 


Below is testimony from Paul Blake. Paul is very well known, and respected in Berkeley. He is known to the city government and reporters from many media outlets. His testimony contains some things that show the city lied. BFD arrived 12 minutes late to the scene, but is used as a witness. The witness also had no knowledge of the dynamics on the property, yet again is used as a witness. This type of journalism kills homeless people. It sways opinion based on lies. And once printed, it is almost impossible for the truth to get out. The damage, in this case, will not be undone easily. 

[Quote from Paul Blake:] "I was the very first person who rushed up the Old City Hall stairs. No one else was there other than myself and the individual who claimed responsibility for the flames. Flames were 3-5 ft high. He said it was a candle. He continued down the stairs and rode initially north. I rushed to the fire while calling for a rake to spread the burning material out on the concrete to avoid flames reaching low branches of a tree. While approaching the flames I heard 3 small explosions from fire. At this point a resident from Dare 2 Change Community, an affiliate of FTCFTH, insisted that I stop... and get no closer to the fire. Police and fire arrived on scene with hand extinguishers. I called for any extinguishers on site. FTCFTH brought their site extinguisher to Police and Fire who used it to help extinguish flames. Every BPD officer I personally spoke to clearly stated that fire was NOT in FTCFTH group. Resident was NOT affiliated with FTCFTH. Additionally the remark that FTCFTH possessions or material was involved in this blaze is unsubstantiated and not witnessed by me at all. As I was the very first responder and initially the sole witness to this fire I am prepared to respond to any other witness cynically suggesting that FTCFTH or Dare 2 Change was in ANY way responsible or a contributor to this incident. I have not read Berkeleyside account, however I can state that I have NOT been contacted by Berkeleyside... any other first responder other than myself... was NOT on the scene. No one else was there with me oother than individual who claimed to start the fire. NO ONE other than BPD who knew me had any comments at all. BFD had no questions and in fact arrived a full 12 minutes after I was there. “...implicitly blames FTCFTH for new fire” I do not see it that way... I was there... I was the first one there." 

The day of the fire, there was a meeting. The mayor's quote: 

"Arreguín added that the city would post eviction notices 72 hours in advance and allow encampment residents to attempt to fix their behavioral or health-related issues in order to avoid eviction." 


Today, at 5 am, the police raided our city hall location. They did it with less than 24 hours notice. They displaced over 40 people. Those displaced were seniors, disabled, and addicts fresh into recovery. They removed months of stability. They put some people into a much worse situation. They destroyed recovery progress, and put some addicts in the impossible position of staying clean on the streets. They destroyed a community that was making a difference. First They Came For The Homeless has helped get over 50 people off the streets. With the help of the Dare 2 Change community, we finally had a working solution for getting addicted clean and into our sober community. They graduate from Dare 2 Change community, and enter into the FTCFTH camp as drug and alcohol free. Once in FTCFTH camp, the new people must go through probation, just like any other new resident. Dare 2 Change has graduated 23 people. In the same period of time, the HUB got two housed out of camp. We have used no tax payer dollars. The HUB has around 1.7 million dollars budgeted. When you do the math, we have gotten 50 off the streets. Before the raid, we had around 60 sheltered in tents. Including sheltering those 60, we are also providing stability, storage of gear, security, personal space, privacy, and community. With Dare 2 Change's 23 graduated, that brings us to around 120 people that were not fighting for a mat on the floor. They are no longer in doorways. They are no longer on drugs, wandering around town. We are the homeless. We don't get funded. All we have is an idea on what is needed. We have proven over the last 13 months that this community based solution, with rules and camp consensus policy making, is the best way to save lives, and get people off the streets. The fact that the city would rather spend millions on things that don't work, than listen to the homeless suggests to me the city has no desire to really help. They would rather chase the homeless, or house them, out of town.

Updated: Berkeley Dismantles Homeless Camp in Front of Old City Hall

Jeff Shuttleworth (Bay City News)
Thursday February 08, 2018 - 09:51:00 AM

Berkeley city workers and police early this morning dismantled a homeless encampment that had been in front of Old City Hall for about three months, a police spokesman said. 

Sgt. Andrew Frankel said city officials, who previously had allowed the homeless encampment to stay, decided that it should be dismantled because of "an accumulation of public health and safety issues" after a debris fire at one of the tents damaged the exterior of the Old City Hall building on Tuesday. 

Frankel said residents of the encampment on the lawn in front of the building at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way were given notice early Wednesday morning that the city would clear the area today because of a municipal code violation. 

He said a multi-departmental team of public works employees, code enforcement officials and police began dismantling the encampment at 5 a.m. 

Frankel said between 20 and 25 people were asked to leave the encampment this morning, while others who had been there left on Wednesday after receiving notice. 

Homeless advocate Nanci Armstrong-Temple was arrested on a misdemeanor obstruction charge this morning and then was cited and released, according to Frankel. 

Armstrong-Temple, who finished third in a three-way race in 2016 for the District 2 seat on the Berkeley City Council, also was arrested during an enforcement action near the Ashby BART station in 2016 but the Alameda County District Attorney's Office declined to file charges against her. 

Frankel said one person was arrested for a misdemeanor offense of recklessly setting a fire to a building in connection with the fire on Tuesday. 

Jail records indicate that the suspect is 63-year-old William Milton Edwards, who is listed as a homeless man. 

Edwards is being held at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin in lieu of $5,000 bail and is next scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 27 for a pre-trial hearing.

Flash: Berkeley Police Evict Homeless Campers

Alex Kekauoha (BCN) and Planet
Thursday February 08, 2018 - 08:32:00 AM

Martin Luther King Jr. Way is closed this morning between Allston Way and Center Street in Berkeley until about 8:30 a.m. today due to a planned city operation, Berkeley police said.

Further details were not immediately available from the Berkeley Police Department, but according to Berkeley City Hall sources the police were rousting the homeless campers on the lawn of the Maudelle Shirek Old City Hall building. No provision for where the campers will go has been made, according to the source.

Flash: Driver Dies After AC Transit Collision on Ashby in Berkeley

Dan McMenamin
Thursday February 08, 2018 - 08:29:00 AM

A driver died after a collision with an Alameda-Contra Costa Transit bus that sent both the bus and the vehicle crashing into a nearby home in Berkeley this morning, a police spokesman said. 

Officers responded at 6:38 a.m. to the collision reported in the area of Ashby Avenue and California Street, Berkeley police Sgt. Andrew Frankel said. 

Investigators determined a red sedan was traveling south on California when it hit the AC Transit bus, which was heading west on Ashby, Frankel said. \ The force from the collision sent both vehicles crashing into a parked car and then a nearby house, according to Frankel. 

He said the driver and lone occupant of the red sedan died in the crash, while the bus driver and single passenger on board were not injured. 

Ashby Avenue will be closed for much of this morning while police investigate the crash, Frankel said. 

CONTACT: Sgt. Andrew Frankel (510) 812-4082 cellphone or afrankel@berkeley.ca.us 


Copyright � 2018 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. 


Wiener and Skinner Declare War on Local Planning

Zelda Bronstein
Saturday February 03, 2018 - 08:31:00 PM

On January 19, I attended UCLA Extension’s 2018 Land Use Law and Planning Conference at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Seated in long rows of tables under the glittering chandeliers of the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom, hundreds of elected and appointed public officials, developers, attorneys, and consultants are annually briefed by sharp pro-growth land use lawyers and other like-minded experts on the latest California land use legislation and case law.

This year the star of the show was State Senator Scott Wiener. He earned that role by authoring (along with Senator Nancy Skinner) SB 35, the controversial “by-right” housing bill that Governor Brown signed into law in September. Like his fellow Yimbys, Wiener believes in a supply-side, build baby build solution to California’s housing woes and blames those woes on local jurisdictions’ resistance to new residential development. He presents himself as a brave policymaker who grapples with hard issues that others have dodged—an image belied by his evasive responses to my questions.

In California, Wiener told the conferees, “housing has been a purely local thing.” There have been “few laws on the books,” those that are on the books “are not enforced” and are outdated. What needs to happen is that the state should govern housing the way it governs education. Local school boards “set policy,” but “the state sets the ground rules.” Just so, last February the senator told Streetsblog, “if you [a city] are meeting your RHNA [Regional Housing Needs Allocation, set by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development] goals,…you maintain full local control.”

This strains to the breaking point any reasonable definition of local control, which, moreover, the legislature has been chopping away for years. For starters, see SB 375, which spawned Plan Bay Area; SB 743, which eliminated local congestion as an environmental impact; and, in last year’s “housing package,” SB 35, SB 167 and AB 1515. On January 3, Wiener introduced two new bills, SB 827 and SB 828, that move beyond chopping into slash-and-burn territory.

SB 827

Drafted by California Yimby Executive Director Brian Hanlon, and coauthored by State Senator Nancy Skinner (D, Berkeley) and Assemblymember Phil Ting (D, San Francisco), SB 827 would prohibit cities from limiting heights to lower than 45, 55, or 85 feet--depending on the width of the street—on parcels within a half-mile of a “major transit stop” or a quarter-mile of “a high-quality transit corridor.” For such parcels, SB 827 would also suspend local parking minimums, density restrictions, and “any design standard that restricts the applicant’s ability to construct the maximum number of units consistent with any applicable building code.”

The bill defines a major transit stop as “a site containing an existing rail transit station, a ferry terminal served by either a bus or rail transit service, or the intersection of two or more major bus routes with a frequency of service interval of 15 minutes or less during the morning and afternoon peak commute periods.” The California Government Code defines “a high transit corridor” as “a corridor with fixed route bus service that has service intervals of no more than fifteen minutes during peak commute hours. 

SB 828 

Wiener’s companion bill, SB 828, would exponentially increase both cities’ Regional Housing Needs Allocations (RHNAs) and state authority over local land use planning. I’m going to review the bill in wonky detail, because though SB 827 has gotten the lion’s share of publicity, support, and pushback, SB 828 is likely to have at least as much impact. 

Every eight years, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) determines how much housing at various income levels will be needed to accommodate each region’s forecasted population. The region’s council of governments—in the Bay Area, the Association of Bay Area Governments—divvies up this number among its local jurisdictions, who must then plan and zone accordingly. 

Wiener and other agents of the California growth machine have long complained that the RHNAs have “no teeth,” i.e., that the state lacks the legal authority to force cities to approve housing commensurate with their allocations. The senator marketed SB 35 as a first step toward providing such dentures; the new law ties by-right approval—no public hearing or environmental review—of certain infill housing projects to a city’s RHNA shortfalls. SB 828 would further strengthen Sacramento’s bite. 

According to the SB 828 summary from Wiener’s office, the RHNAs have the following problems: 

  • “The state’s historic population forecasts do not take into account historic underproduction of housing.”
“As communities stifle housing construction locally, their population is limited by how many new homes are built, creating the illusion that population growth is slowing or stagnant. This illusion is prevalent even in areas that have thriving job markets and skyrocketing housing demand and prices.” 

  • “No rollover mechanism” ensures that “communities who underperform in one cycle are held accountable to their remaining obligation when the next cycle starts, creating a perverse incentive for cities to routinely underperform on RHNA.”
The upshot: cities’ “population growth will slow, their previous obligations will be forgiven, and their allocations will be reduced.” 

  • RHNA methodology varies from region to region, with little state oversight, resulting in “heavily politicized allocations that are divorced from the data about true housing demand and fair share principles.”
For example, in the current cycle, three “adjacent and demographically similar coastal communities” in Los Angeles were awarded highly disparate RHNAs: Redondo Beach, got 1397 units, Manhattan Beach got 37, and Hermosa Beach got two. At the conference, Wiener cited these numbers and said that wealthier communities get lower allocations. 

(The choice of jurisdictions is a bit strange, given that the Southern California Association of Bay Governments, whose purview includes the three coastal cities, embraces the build baby build agenda. Indeed, last fall SCAG produced a seven-minute video, “The Bay Area: A Cautionary Tale,” in which Yimby Action Ex. Director Laura Foote Clark and other Bay Area growth evangelists, backed by a mournful Philip Glass-like score, sermonize about their region’s failure to produce sufficient market-rate housing to support the burgeoning tech economy.) 

Cities “are expected to zone for precisely 100% of projected growth,” an “underwhelming requirement that sets communities up for failure in housing production, as not every newly zoned parcel will have a development application completed and project constructed to its full capacity within several years.” 

To address these issues, SB 828 would 

  • Require HCD to do “a one-time unmet need assessment for every California region before the next housing cycle, and then add those numbers to the forecasted allocations”
  • Establish “methodologies that acknowledge the particular need for moderate and above-moderate income housing in areas where housing prices are increasing at a rate far faster than wages.”
  • Authorize HCD “to challenge inequitable allocations between comparable jurisdictions.”
  • Require HCD “to rollover jurisdiction-specific underproduction from the last cycle to the next if a city has underperformed and not met their [sic] RHNA.”
  • Prohibit “regional planners from purposely underallocating in cities that they know are underperformers and will have rollover numbers.”
  • Require the “Housing Elements” in cities’ General Plans “to zone for 200% of their housing obligation every cycle—not 100%.”
Wiener dodges my questions 

Wiener’s panel was followed by a short Q &A. I got to ask the last question—or more precisely, questions, for I had two. The first dealt with the unfunded mandates that Sacramento keeps imposing on local jurisdictions. SB 827 and SB 828 would dramatically increase cities’ populations and hence the demand for services—police, fire, sewerage, water, parks, schools, and transit—without providing funds to pay for the new services. 

I didn’t have time to point out that SB 827’s concluding paragraph specifically lets the state off the hook: 

SEC. 3. No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIIIB of the California Constitution because a local agency or school district has the authority to levy service charges, fees, or assessments sufficient to pay for the program or level of service mandated by this act, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code. 

But I did cite Wiener’s fellow panelist, attorney Barbara Kautz. Another supply-side devotee, Kautz dutifully recited the growther catechism, asserting that the California Environmental Quality Act is being misused by opponents of development, that project approvals take way too long, and so forth. 

But Kautz also displayed flashes of objectivity: her PowerPointed inventory of barriers to new housing included a list with the heading “NO FISCAL BENEFITS”: 

  • Not enough $$ to pay for school expansion
  • Perceived as a fiscal loser
  • No state $$ for infrastructure
  • No state $$ for planning (until SB 2 passed last year)
  • Loss of RDA [Redevelopment Authority] $$ without replacement
At the mic, I pointed out that while growth resisters are called racists, elitists, and reactionaries, Kautz had identified “objective” factors behind such resistance. 

In reply, Wiener first conceded that when it comes to services, “we have lot of challenges.” He mentioned in passing Prop. 13 but notably did not state his support for a split roll. Nor did he refer to any of the items on Kautz’s list. Mainly, he dismissed my question as irrational and uninformed. 

On the first charge: some people, he claimed, say “until we fix everything all at once, don’t fix everything at once, and we should fix housing.” But under the pretext of fixing housing, SB 827 and SB 828 would worsen a huge existing problem: California cities lack the money to serve the populations they already have. 

On the misinformed count, Wiener asserted that “housing does not bring people in….People come here whether or not we build housing. Don’t build it, and they’re going to come anyway,” leading to soaring rents and overcrowding. 

This is partly true: people come to California for jobs. But a major source of both current housing unaffordability in the Bay Area and the region’s growing wealth gap is the influx of hundreds of thousands of highly-compensated tech workers. If policymakers were serious about lowering housing prices (and undoing gridlock), they’d stop approving new mega-office projects. Problem: Wiener and California Yimby are generously funded by the tech industry. More than a hundred tech executives have signed a letter supporting SB 827. 

My other question addressed housing equity. SB 827 would inflate real estate values by encouraging massive new development in so-called “transit-rich” neighborhoods. In major cities, many such neighborhoods are home to low-income people of color. Some of the most vehement opposition to the bill has come from community leaders who view it as an engine of gentrification and displacement. In a blistering manifesto issued days after Wiener introduced the bill, Crenshaw Subway Coalition Executive Director Damien Goodmon called SB 827 “a declaration of war on South LA” that “must be killed.” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín subsequently reiterated that sentiment

As initially drafted, SB 827 contains no provisions against displacement or demolition. There was no point, however, in asking about such provisions, because in a Medium piece posted on January 16, Wiener said that such provisions would be added. 

Instead, I queried him about support for repealing the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, the 1995 law that allows rent-controlled units to be leased at market rates when a tenant moves out. “You wrote in Medium that under SB 827, ‘if a city has rent control, it will continue to have rent control,’” I said. “But Costa-Hawkins’ vacancy de-control makes rent control—if not a dead letter, then a very weak one. Please comment.” 

Wiener began by stating that he’s been “very public about supporting repeal” of Costa- Hawkins. Then he attacked AIDs Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein, who’s providing major funding for an initiative to put repeal on the California ballot in November. This, said, Wiener, is “just another losing ballot measure” supported by the same people who ran Measure S, the Los Angeles slow-growth initiative that was defeated last March. During the post-panel break, I followed Wiener into an adjacent room and asked again about Costa-Hawkins. He said he’d like “to bring everyone to the table” to work out legislation that would allow “new apartments to transition over time into rent-controlled affordable housing.” When I pressed him on the content of the initiative, he launched another personal attack on Weinstein: “He loses everything. Weinstein will set Costa-Hawkins reform back” by “driv[ing] it into ground.” But that is a discussion about political strategy, not about the issue. 

SB 828 would make RHNAs even more unfair 

If I’d had time, I would have specifically asked about SB 828. I agree that the Regional Housing Needs Allocations are arbitrary. But by pegging housing RHNAs to doubled forecasted population growth and above all to high-end residential construction, SB 828 would make them even more so. To claim, as the draft bill does, that 

Median rent or home prices that exceed median income will be alleviated by rapidly increasing housing supply for moderate and above-moderate income households. 

and that 

Communities with high rates of income growth must also have a high rate of new housing production for households of all income levels to ensure equity and stabilize home price and communities. 

is to ignore market realities. Rapidly increasing the supply of high-end housing will ensure inequity and destabilize housing prices and communities. 

Moreover, the overview of SB 828 put out by Wiener’s office undercuts the claim that local approval or disapproval is the major factor in housing production. That document accurately observes that “not every newly zoned parcel will have a development application completed and project constructed to its full capacity within several years.” Translation: housing is built by developers, not cities, and even when their projects have been approved, developers, not cities, decide if and when to pull a building permit, and if and when to build. And as Wiener doubtless knows, just about the only housing that developers are building is housing for the high end, because that’s the only kind that pencils out for their investors. 

Finally, if the Legislature really wants the RHNAs to foster equity and stabilize housing prices, it should start by eliminating the requirement that each city must allocate 

a lower proportion of housing need to an income category when a jurisdiction already has a disproportionately high share of households in that income category, as compared to the countywide distribution of households in that category from the most recent decennial United States census. [CA Government Code Section 65584 (d)(4)] 

As Berkeley Housing Advisory Commissioner Tom Lord has explained, this is a pro-gentrification, pro-displacement policy in a city such as Berkeley, where the percentage of low-income residents is higher than the countywide percentage. The state’s RHNA policy requires Berkeley to zone for more affluent residents, even as the current red-hot market is displacing low-income Berkeleyans. “In the short term,” Lord point out, “the RHNA demands that the most affordable parts of the [Bay Area] become less affordable.” How about fixing that? 

This year is different 

When he drafted SB 827 and SB 828, Wiener did not bring everyone to the table. At the Biltmore, he expressed the same contempt for local democracy that he voiced at the Yimby national conference in Oakland in July. Once again, he said that colleagues in Sacramento privately thanked him for authoring SB 35, whose draconian measures would be anathema to their constituents (had they known about them). 

The stealth approach worked in 2017. The cities didn’t wake up to the threats posed by SB 35 until much too late in the legislative season to make a difference. Other than tenants rights and affordable housing advocates in the state who mounted the major opposition to the bill, the grass-roots barely stirred. 

2018 is already different. Vigorous local opposition to SB 827 is flaring from social equity advocates and others, and some power players have come out against the bill. The Sierra Club California formally opposed SB 35 but, cowed by the Yimby lobby, did little more than state its opposition on the club website. On January 18 the club sent Wiener a letter asking him to withdraw SB 827. And, remarkably, on January 23, the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board registered its objections to the bill. 

On the other hand, the San Francisco Chronicle welcomed the legislation, noting that in an interview Wiener had “acknowledged” that SB 827 is “’an aggressive bill for sure” whose draft “’is unlikely to be its final form.’” Does this mean that he and California Yimby are going to put out something outrageous, tweak it to something slightly less outrageous, and then declare, “we’ve compromised”? 

We’ll soon find out. SB 827 and SB 828 will have their first hearings in February. They should be lively. 

Zelda Bronstein has written about urban planning for Dissent, The Nation and 48Hills, where this article first appeared. For more on this topic, see Tim Redmond's piece on 48hills.org, The state Legislature has the housing crisis backwards 






UC Berkeley Employee Arrested at Protest

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Saturday February 03, 2018 - 08:04:00 PM

Labor organizers allege that the arrest of a black man at a protest in Berkeley on Thursday against alleged pay inequality throughout the University of California system indicates that university is honoring the repressive legacy of the Jim Crow South. 

John De Los Angeles, a spokesman for Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said David Cole, a 51-year-old cook at a UC Berkeley dining hall, was protesting peacefully when he was arrested near the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way about noon on Thursday. 

De Los Angeles said Cole sustained injuries to his head and had to have stitches in his eyes and nose after officers threw him to the ground when they arrested him. 

But UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Marc Fisher said in a statement that Cole had been part of a protest that blocked the intersection of Telegraph and Bancroft and that Cole ran toward an occupied vehicle that was making its way through the intersection and threw the sign he was carrying at the vehicle. 

Fisher said when a UC police officer tried to detain Cole "he became uncooperative and disregarded instructions from the officer." 

Fisher said the officer asked for assistance and he and other UC officers tried to detain Cole but Cole resisted so multiple officers were needed to take him into custody. 

Fisher said Cole was arrested on suspicion of vandalism and resisting an officer. 

Cole sustained a cut that required treatment at a hospital and he later was transferred to the Berkeley City Jail, where he was booked, according to Fisher. 

Cole was then released from jail because UC police advocated that he be cited and released without needing to post bail, Fisher said. 

De Los Angeles disputed Fisher's account of the incident, saying that witnesses said Cole didn't do anything to the vehicle. 

De Los Angeles said the vehicle drove toward the protesters who were in the intersection and made contact with several of them and then someone other than Cole threw something at the car. 

The union spokesman said the protest at UC campuses across the state was scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the deaths of two black Memphis sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, killed when their truck's compactor malfunctioned, prompting a strike by union workers. 

Dr. Martin Luther King was visiting the striking sanitation workers when he was assassinated in April 1968, De Los Angeles said. 

In a statement, the union said, "As AFSCME workers across America reaffirmed their commitment to the cause of racial equality, dignity, and respect for workers, the University of California chose to honor the repressive legacy of the Jim Crow South." 

The union said, "This incident only underscores UC's deplorable record and continued resistance on issues of racial justice. We will not rest until UC agrees to provide its workers with adequate protections for immigrants and people of color." 

In his statement, Fisher said UC police and the campus administration "always see the use of force as a last resort and it is used only when a person is not cooperating or complying with the instructions of officers involved in carrying out their duties." 

He said UC police command staff "will carefully review this incident," which he said is standard practice in all incidents involving the use of force by campus police. 

Fisher said anyone with information about the incident should call UC police at (510)642-6760 and ask to speak with an on-duty watch commander. 

He said that after the police review is completed, he and other campus leaders, including the chancellor, will determine whether an independent review is needed and proceed accordingly.


Public Comment

A Biased Report on SB 827

Russ Tilleman
Saturday February 03, 2018 - 08:08:00 PM

One of the difficult things for me about greenwashing has been getting into arguments over the years with people whose goals I share. These people are often strong advocates for the environment and so am I. 

The issue is that I see problems with their reasoning that they do not. And the stakes are often very high, quality of life and the future of humanity. Neither of us wants to back down and admit they were wrong. 


In my previous article "No Science but Plenty of Money Behind Greenwashed SB 827", I wrote that I couldn't find any scientific studies of SB 827. Since then I found a report titled "Right-Type-Right-Place" that analyses the kind of housing construction specified by SB 827. 

This report was commissioned by the pro-SB 827 Next 10 organization set up by wealthy venture capitalists. And it doesn't seem to have been peer-reviewed by neutral scientists like a legitimate research paper would have been. 

As a result, the report is very biased toward SB 827, possibly even fraudulent. 


- The report does not consider the huge amount of carbon emitted by tearing down and rebuilding the housing units that are currently on property being developed. Many of the densely populated areas that have BART stations and high-frequency bus routes don't have vacant lots. Certainly Berkeley has almost none after a century of urban development. So something has to be torn down.  


- The report does not consider the increased carbon emitted by the additional buses required to carry the new riders. AC Transit gets about 30 passenger-miles-per-gallon, around half that of a driver-only Toyota Prius. A large increase in the number of bus riders would likely require an increase in the number of buses. This would effectively turn 50-passenger-miles-per-gallon Prius-driving commuters into 30-passenger-miles-per-gallon AC Transit riders and thereby POTENTIALLY INCREASE RATHER THAN DECREASE THE CARBON EMITTED BY TRANSPORTATION. 

With these two major biases, the report claims that SB 827 slash-and-burn type housing construction near transit can save 201 million gallons of gasoline every year in California. 


In reality it is ONE PERCENT of the gasoline used in the state. 

So the damage to neighborhoods, the evictions of elderly and disabled tenants from the their rent-controlled homes, the apparent outlawing of affordable units in the new buildings, is all to remove A CLAIMED ONE PERCENT of California's gasoline use. 

And gasoline use is only responsible for around ONE QUARTER of carbon emissions. So even with these biased projections, SB 827 is expected to reduce California's carbon footprint by less than ONE-THIRD OF ONE PERCENT. 


A third of a percent reduction in carbon emissions, which the authors claim "provides the best outcomes for meeting the state’s climate goals", is a drop in the bucket. And that is if the reduction actually occurs, which is highly doubtful. 

When the torn-down-unit-rebuilding carbon increases and the additional-trains-and-buses carbon increases are factored in, as they would have been in an unbiased report, that one-third percent number will decrease and quite possibly will go negative. Meaning SB 827 would end up emitting more carbon than would have been emitted without it. 

We need more than just empty gestures and pretend solutions, we need real solutions that make a significant dent in our carbon emissions. 


The authors of the report could have chosen to include these very significant sources of increased carbon emissions in the report. But they made the decision to exclude them. And they made that decision for a reason. 

The only reason I can think of is to cover up the fact that SB 827 DOESN'T HELP PREVENT GLOBAL WARMING. According to my calculations, SB 827 MAKES GLOBAL WARMING WORSE. 

So Scott Wiener and Nancy Skinner have protected their developer donors' projects from a legitimate environmental review. And SB 827 supporters have concocted a deceptive report. Even that report admits that any possible carbon reductions would be insignificant. 


We as a society need a way to measure how good or bad a proposed project like SB 827 is. Something that is accurate and easy to understand. 

I suggest that for each project like this, scientists calculate: 

- An unbiased estimate of any reduction in carbon emissions. 

- An unbiased estimate of the number of years until carbon breakeven. 

By "carbon breakeven" I mean the number of years it would take for the expected annual carbon reductions to overcome the initial carbon emitted by constructing the project. 

If a project has a short breakeven time, maybe 10 or 20 years, it might produce real improvements in the environment. 

If a project has an intermediate breakeven time, maybe 100 years, there is still some chance it might be worth doing. 

If a project has a long breakeven time, maybe 1000 years, it will just make the current situation worse. 

Armed with these numbers, policy makers and voters can easily separate good projects from bad ones. And we can start making real progress on global warming. 


There is a tendency for any project that would actually reduce carbon emissions to be lobbied against by big corporations and super-wealthy individuals because it reduces the profits they make off their carbon-emitting activities. 

Any project that increases carbon, and increases their profits, isn't lobbied against. 

The result is that good projects don't make it to fruition and bad projects do. This needs to change if we want to really do something about carbon emissions and global warming. 


One of the reasons to get money out of politics is that money and carbon are closely related and effectively the same thing for political purposes. Projects need to be judged on their effects on the environment and the American People, not their effects on profits made by extremely rich people. 

As voters, we will likely have to solve this problem for ourselves. Enact strong campaign finance laws. Recall corrupt politicians. Demand real solutions. 

If we do these things, I think we can make some improvements and have the bright future we deserve

What Would An Honest Progressive Do?

Carol Denney
Sunday February 04, 2018 - 09:57:00 AM

I see the town hall coming.

Berkeley's forum on "homelessness" this Monday, Feb. 5th (6:30 pm at the North Berkeley Senior Center) will feature:

Councilmember Sophie Hahn on the proposed "Pathways Project" featuring city tents instead of personal tents relocated near the dump.

Peter Radu, of the relatively newly christened Dept. Health Housing and Community Svcs., will speak on "Current City Programs" which will predictably omit the mechanisms of middle-of-the-night tent sweeps except to cue people that if you drop enough complaints about a nearby tent city it'll be gone in the morning.

Mayor Jesse Arreguin will step right up to the myth progressives had that he would take other than his predecessor Mayor Bates' approach to the housing crisis by introducing a raft of new sidewalk laws; more ways to criminalize people with nowhere to go with everything they own and are legally limited to being in and on public sidewalks and spaces.

Then Phil Harrington of the Department of Public Works bats cleanup, quite literally, by describing "current efforts at sidewalk cleanliness, trash pickup, provision of sanitation facilities" which are truly heartbreaking except for the missing logic - without trash pick-up, bathrooms, and washing facilities people are a messy bunch.

There will be nobody speaking on behalf of those who live in tent cities, at least not as scheduled so far. 

Expect anecdotal stories from shaken pedestrians and parents of bewildered children to provide copy for the Bay Area papers of the horrors of living near a tent city, using the aberrant behavior of one to stereotype an entire group. Expect police officers and Downtown Berkeley Association members to show up in wild appreciation of more sidewalk rules. 

Expect none of these speakers to bring up that there are around 1,000-3,000 short-term rentals in Berkeley (City of Berkeley estimate, Nov. 2017), which, given Berkeley's declaration of a housing crisis, could be immediately utilized to house the mere 1,000 people on our streets any given night. This estimate does not include empty commercial and government spaces 100% of which have electricity, heat, some of which have sat empty for more than ten years. 

We don't need to build a thing to house our people. We don't need to miniaturize, and we don't need to acquire more property. We just need to prioritize our public health crisis, instead of demonizing the victims of a policy that prioritizes profits over people. 


I Blame the Sidewalks

Carol Denney
Sunday February 04, 2018 - 02:45:00 PM

I Blame the Sidewalks, by Carol Denney February 2, 2018

I look around me and what do I see
terrible happenings coming to be
people in poverty tenting tonight
huddling in parks giving tourists a fright

Chorus: I blame the sidewalks what else can I do
can't blame my donors wish I could blame you
I blame the sidewalks what else can it be
I blame the sidewalks so no one blames me

hundreds evicted the rents are so high
I am the mayor I ask myself why
what do I blame for all this poverty
I must make sure that nobody blames me (Chorus)

I am convinced that it's sidewalks to blame
they may seem peaceful but I know this game
lying in wait looking calm and serene
soon as your back's turned a big dustbowl scene (Chorus)

how to make sure my career has a path
without disturbing developers' math
thankfully mayors who've gone on before
have left me the key and have opened the door (Chorus)

The FBI & Russia

Jagjit Singh
Sunday February 04, 2018 - 02:50:00 PM

Another chapter is unfolding in the Russia investigation. Trump Team is determined to cast doubt about the integrity of the FBI. Trump’s twitter war seems to be succeeding with his withering criticism of the British MI6 Steele dossier which seems ever more believable given the revelation of Trump’s bizarre dalliance with porn star, Stormy Daniels so soon after Melania gave birth to their son, Barren. There is little doubt that Putin’s Kremlin has done extensive research on Trump and his family and seems certain to continue to exploit their many weaknesses. The strategy to deflect criticism of Trump and derail the Russian investigation is all too familiar. Weaken the credibility of the FBI by making false charges which are then seized upon by the Trump-Republican friendly media which echoes them relentlessly and serves to convince a doubting public.  

The latest victim was deputy FBI head, McCabe, who drew Trump’s ire after he learned that his wife ran as a democrat for the Virginia state senate. That lack of fealty to Trump generated a “deep sate” conspiracy. The latest effort to weaken the FBI is the Republican Nunes memo which accuses the FBI and the Justice Department of seeking to damage Trump’s presidential campaign – the doctors up version is soon to be declassified for maximum impact. This is the same Nunes who leapt over the White House Wall unchallenged to tip off the Trump people of the inner activities of the so called independent investigation. For more go to: http://callforsocialjustice.blogspot.com/


Tejinder Uberoi
Sunday February 04, 2018 - 02:49:00 PM

After 16 years and $4 – $6 trillion squandered in the failed war in Afghanistan, Trump now joins Obama and Bush hailing great progress in a country raked with violence. The uncomfortable truth is the Taliban and Islamic State are on the ascendency. A BBC study found the Taliban are now in control of 70 percent of the country. So dangerous is the situation that US personnel no longer drive from the airport to the embassy but are flown in by helicopter. President Trump becomes the third president in a row to attempt to put a positive spin on the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history. Compounding this tragedy is the theft of billions of dollars by a thoroughly corrupt Afghan government. 

Sadly, both sides cling to the delusion a military victory is possible. Much like his predecessors, President Trump still subscribes to the insane logic that what we actually need to do is to advance the war so that we can negotiate from an advantage. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Contrary to the spin merchants at the Pentagon, the drone war is exacting huge civilian casualties creating intense hostility towards the US and serving a huge recruitment for the Taliban and their affiliates. The current US strategy has little to do with victory but false pride to admit the war is lost. The time to exit is NOW.

The Economy: How Bad News Is Reported As Good News

Harry Brill
Saturday February 03, 2018 - 08:49:00 PM

I think that almost all of you already know that the real unemployment rate is substantially higher than the officially reported rate. And I doubt that any of you believe the major economists that our economy now is at full employment and that anyone who wants to work can find a job. So I promise, I won't dwell on what I think you already know. 

What may surprise you is that developments in the economy that have been harmful to working people appear in the official data on the nation's labor force as major improvements. How is this possible? Thanks for asking. 

The federal government's Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is a unit of the Department of Labor, reports every month the number of new jobs that are created. According to the BLS, the economy is expanding, which has been creating more opportunities for working people. The agency reported that over 2 million new jobs were created last year. This is a gross, not a net figure. The BLS does not take into account the number of jobs lost due to business bankruptcies and mass layoffs by the major corporations. 

I think you know that the BLS calculation on the unemployment rate excludes the millions of workers who have given up searching for jobs. To be counted as unemployed it is not enough, statistically speaking, to be out of work. Employees must claim that they have been actively seeking jobs within the previous four weeks. When the economy begins to decline, the unemployment rate certainly rises. However, when bad times persist, an increasing number of workers stop looking for work. So they are statistically ignored by the BLS. Until a few years ago over 40 percent of the unemployed were recorded as being long term unemployed, which is defined as being out of work for over six months. Currently, the numbers of long term jobless workers has dropped in half but not because they found jobs. Rather, they have become too discouraged to continue looking. 

Specifically, in early 2,000 the percent of the working age population that was in the labor force -- either working or actively seeking jobs -- was 67.3 percent. By December 2017 the rate has declined to 62.7 percent. Had the current rate remained the same as the 2000 figure, up to about 10 million more workers would have been counted as unemployed. But as a result of the increase in the number of discouraged workers, they are all excluded from the calculations on the unemployment rate. 

Because of the abundance of jobless workers, employers are at a tremendous advantage. In recent years they have been able to convert full-time jobs to part- time positions. In fact, the number of part-time jobs are growing at twice the rate of full-time jobs. There are now over 5 1/2 million workers who are employed part- time because they cannot find full time jobs. The hourly wages of part-time jobs are typically low and most often lack benefits, which explains why the poverty rate is high among part-timers. But the proliferation of part-time jobs looks good statistically because it doubles the count of new jobs. If, say, 100 full-time jobs converted to part time positions, then "presto" - the total count is now 200 jobs. The BLS would certainly be welcomed as a member and even as an officer in any national organization of magicians. 

About full time jobs, the numbers are growing. However, the conventional full-time job is disappearing. As researchers on this issue have noted, an increasing number of full time positions are no longer the traditional nine to five, steady jobs. They are characterized by being temporary and unpredictable. Freelancing is among the growing number of marginal occupations. About 35 percent of the workforce, which is about 53 million "non-employees", are now freelancers. Experts anticipate that in two years freelancers will make up 50 percent of the workforce. 

The reason the number of freelance workers are rapidly increasing is because employers can save money by replacing many of their paid employees. Employers can lay off an employee by dividing the various tasks which are then assigned to several different non-employees at a lower cost and only on a need basis. Unfortunately, many of the millions of these ex-employees have become freelancers because of circumstances rather than choice. The earnings of many freelances are at the poverty level. They are counted as employed even if they rarely receive assignments. For those of us who are more fortunate, the substantial growth in such unconventional jobs is barely noticed. But it is inflicting enormous pain and insecurity on millions of people. Yet since several freelancers are able to replace in small doses the work of one laid off employee, the BLS statistics interprets these "increases" as a very positive development. For the workforce has increased and so have the number of jobs! 

The obvious question is why does the BLS regularly underestimate the serious problems that working people confront? That the business community exerts considerable pressure on government agencies is not the only reason. Neither government nor business could successfully deceive the public if our news media was critical and independent. A free press for the most part would not allow the deceptive and misleading findings that the BLS reports to remain unchallenged.  

What is urgently needed along with good old fashion organizing is producing more newspapers that have the integrity of the Berkeley Daily planet. Doing whatever we can to educate the public on how their interests are being undermined in ways that are not apparent is indispensable.

The Homeless Problem: The Berkeley City Council Can Do Better

Harry Brill
Sunday February 04, 2018 - 02:53:00 PM

Probably many of you have noticed the alarming increase in homelessness in the Bay Area. It is especially painful to see families with very young children in the streets. At UC Berkeley, students have organized a program to find affordable rooms for the many homeless students. UC gave a grant to a student organization that has been successfully finding living quarters for these students. 

I would like to urge the Berkeley City Council to invest in a similar program. There are plenty of empty rooms in Berkeley. Whether for reasons of benevolence or self-interest, I am sure that many homeowners and tenants could be persuaded to provide a living space for homeless individuals and even families. The Council could play an important in developing an administrative structure to implement such a program. 

Among those who may be interested, there are tremendous numbers of seniors who are living alone that could themselves benefit by providing an empty room for the homeless. As an example, there is very successful organization in New York City, the nonprofit New York Foundation for Senior Citizens, that has helped thousands of individuals obtain affordable housing by carefully matching people. 

The Berkeley City Council should take the initiative. The homeless cannot wait for an adequate supply of affordable housing to be built. I ask the Council to please, please, please, work toward filling the huge number of empty rooms and beds as soon as possible. 

It is important that we urge the Council to act. Please write to: council@cityofberkeley.info to reach all Council members.

February Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Sunday February 04, 2018 - 01:30:00 PM

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

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

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

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Important Distinction of "Me" and "Not Me"

Jack Bragen
Sunday February 04, 2018 - 08:25:00 AM

An ancient comedian once said that he had "undying love" for his wife--he "wouldn't die for her." This line, which was probably humorous in the 1950's, points to a very deep mental health issue.  

I am not familiar with the specifics of identifying an unhealthy relationship. But it seems to me that in a codependent relationship, the identity of the "enabler" is lost. The "enabler" identifies more with the other person than with oneself.  

Enablers and other people who are in one way or another on the lower rung are subject to a lot of anger. Often this is bottled up. It can come out in weird ways.  

The situation of the enabler is where their sense of self is superseded by their perception of the other person. How, and why, does "me" get submerged?--you might ask. I am not sure. It is possible that the addict of the relationship, (or, if not addicted, the one identified as having a problem) is brainwashing the enabler. Tools of brainwashing could be almost anything. 

If the enabler tries to become free, the punishment from the other person could be verbal, could be tears, could be domestic violence, or could be any of a number of other methods--for maintaining control and dominance.  

The enabler is perhaps just as misdirected as the identified sick person.  

{Please note that in this week's column I am speaking of things that do not really address mental illness as a brain condition. I am speaking of dysfunctional relationships, one of the many things about which I am not an expert. Dysfunction doesn't always exist in the case of mentally ill people, and it isn't always absent in the population of non-mentally ill people. Issues of brain chemistry, medication, and pharmaceutical psychiatry often are not applicable to the subject of abuse.} 

Any of what I've said above could be wrong. However, I think I have been an enabler before. And in some of my relationships, my sense of self has been compromised.  

It is necessary to put ourselves first. That idea might go against some philosophies. In some religious or monastic practices, including some forms of Buddhism and some of Christianity, the individual is instructed that her or his purpose is to serve others.  

Lives of service do not work for everyone. Many of us will get healthy by resuming, strengthening, and fortifying our senses of self, not by losing the self. People who have been bullied all of their lives may have trouble learning to respect ourselves. We must have and we deserve self-respect and self-affinity. 

We need a clear perception of me versus not me. Someone else's pain doesn't have to be mine. Someone else's problem doesn't have to be my problem. This does not rule out altruism. However, it may rule out hypocrisy. 

I am not knocking noble self-sacrifices. When someone exhibits bravery, and is willing to risk his or her life to save others, or to further a worthy cause, it is one of the loftiest of human characteristics. What I don't like is where someone has a bad habit, their life is going down the drain, and the enabler is cooperating with this. This serves no one. 

Both Buddhism and Christianity teach unselfishness. You do not need to be selfish to choose your own well-being over and above cooperating with another person's warped ideas. The codependent person may cooperate because they are afraid of what will happen if they say "no."  

Service exists where we feel love, and not coercion. A codependency exists where we've lost our identity into the folds of folly of another person. Selflessness, the exalted state of being in which we have transcended personal needs, is at the top; loss of basic identity is at or near the bottom.

THE PUBLIC EYE: The Great Imposters: Reagan and Trump

Bob Burnett
Sunday February 04, 2018 - 08:28:00 AM

Donald Trump likes to compare himself to Ronald Reagan. Trump and Reagan do have a lot in common, both in terms of ideology and their approach to the office of the President. They're imposters. Reagan was an actor playing the role of President; so is Trump.

Ideology: Reagan and Trump were influenced by Ayn Rand's philosophy of objectivism: "unfettered self-interest is good and altruism is destructive." This produced the "trickle-down" economic theory that cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy would eventually benefit all members of society. In the 80's this produced "Reganomics" and, in 2017, led to the massive GOP tax-code revision. Trump doesn't believe in governing for all Americans, only for those he perceives as winners.

Reagan and Trump supported the doctrine of white supremacy. Reagan's approach was less overt: he advocated "States' rights" and deplored "welfare bums" and "welfare queens." Trump has a long history of racism and, since Charlottesville, has made public his support for white supremacists. (Trump's immigration objective is to block the immigration of everyone who is not of white-European origin.)  

Reagan and Trump campaigned with an "America first" perspective. In 1980 Regan said, "Let's make America great again." In 2016, Trump's campaign slogan was "Make America great again." 

Personality: Reagan and Trump marketed themselves as outsiders who would come to Washington and shake up the establishment. Reagan promised to reduce the power of the Government and noted, "Government is the problem." Trump promised to "drain the swamp." (Both Reagan and Trump forgot their promises after entering the White House.) 

Reagan and Trump were raised as mainstream Christians; at the end of their lives they both identified as Presbyterian. As they began to campaign for the Republican presidential nomination they adopted a conservative Christian agenda. Reagan's signature "values" issue was prayer in the schools. Trump's signature issue is abortion. Both Reagan and Trump began their adult lives as pro-choice and then switched to being "pro-life." 

Reagan and Trump both had an unsavory aspect of their personal history that they labored to conceal. During the 40's Regan was an FBI informant who provided the bureau with names of motion-picture luminaries that he believed were communist sympathizers. Reagan continued his relationship with the FBI into the 70's. 

In the 90's Donald Trump several times filed for bankruptcy because of problems with his hotel and casino businesses. It's alleged that he recovered from a ruinous financial situation by laundering money for the Mafia. (Allegedly, Trump's Russia connection started with the Mafia.) 

Mental Health: Reagan left the presidency in January of 1989 and five years later was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. Writing in the Virginia Quarterly Review (http://www.vqronline.org/essay/reagan-retrospect ) Robert Erwin notes that during his time in Washington, Reagan was regarded as an "amiable dunce;" someone who did not understand business essentials or the governmental process but who, in public gatherings, exuded confidence and spoke effectively. 

Since Trump became president there has been continuous speculation about his mental health. Like Reagan, Trump does not appear to understand business essentials or the governmental process. Trump functions best when he reads from a script. 

Management: Robert Erwin writes, "Future historians will have no trouble understanding [the Reagan presidency] as an American example of the ancient practice of political puppetry... put a videogenic executive impersonator out front who would not interfere with trade associations, lawyers, lobbyists, and others doing the important work." 

The Trump presidency follows the Reagan "puppet" model.. Trump is the "videogenic executive impersonator," while in the background Republican oligarchs organize to get their objectives accomplished. 

We can see this model at work in the recent Republican legislative initiatives. 

1.2017 Tax Reform: Trump signed the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" on December 22nd. It passed the House and Senate with no Democratic support. (Most legislation needs a minimum of 60 votes to pass the Senate; the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by a 51-49 margin because Republicans were able to use a convoluted "budget reconciliation" process: they had to "ensure" that the tax bill only increased the deficit by $1.5 trillion in the first 10 years.) The GOP tax plan, which greatly benefits the Oligarchs supporting Trump, was shepherded through Congress by Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin (formerly CEO of OneWest Bank) and WH chief economic advisor Gary Cohn (former COO of Goldman Sachs) 

2. Immigration: On September 5th, Trump precipitated an immigration crisis by ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and not providing a way for the Democrats to negotiate safe status for the 690,000 DACA young people. On January 9th, Trump promised that he would soon sign a “clean” DACA bill. However, on January 12th, when presented with a bipartisan compromise, Trump reneged on his promise. Democrats briefly shut down the government and then backed off, on January 22. 

It's become clear that Democrats are not negotiating immigration with Trump --whose positions change hourly -- but his chief-of-staff, John Kelly, and senior policy advisor, Stephen Miller. 

The White House staff keeps Trump in the background and lets Republican operatives do the real work of crafting the legislation. 

Caveat: Although Reagan and Trump are strikingly similar, Reagan was a fervent anti-communist. On the other hand, Trump never misses an opportunity to suck up to Russia. 


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





Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, week of Feb 4- Feb 11

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Sunday February 04, 2018 - 01:06:00 PM

Berkeley City Council February 13, regular meeting is available for comment, 11. remove fence around Here There, 29. Fund Reserves 31. Significant Community Benefits moved to Feb 13, 32.a&b. Porta Potties, 33. Tax rate for cannabis 35. Stormwater Ballot initiative 36. a&b Paid Family leave, 37. U1, 38 a.&b. Homeless Encampment, 39. a.&b. Premier Cru storage for homeless, 43. Information space for Berkeley Food Network

Email comments to: council@cityofberkeley.info


Indivisible Berkeley list of actions you can do from home, https://www.indivisibleberkeley.org/actions
The meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website. http://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Tiny House Living Festival, Sunday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, 4501 Pleasanton Ave, Pleasanton, Alameda County Fair Grounds. This is not a free event, entrance, $14, Seniors $12, under 12 free, free parking


Monday, February 5, 2018

City/UC/Student Relations Committee, 2465 Bancroft Way, Eshleman Hall, ASUC Senate Chamber, 5th Floor, Agenda: amendments to Group Living, Proposed Landmark of Campanile Way View, Council committee members, Harrison, Wengraf, Worthington, Droste, Arreguin


Community Forum on Homelessness, Mon, Feb 5, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Moderator-Kate Harrison, Sophie Hahn – Pathways Project, City-Staff-Homelessness Program, Public Works – sidewalks maintenance.

RSVP TSreekrishnan@cityofberkeley.info

Tax the Rich rally – Monday, Feb 5, winter hours 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm top of Solano in front of closed Oaks Theater, Feb 5 is Transit Equity Day

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board – Outreach Committee, 5:30 pm, 2001 Center St, 2nd Floor Law Library, https://www.cityofberkeley.info/rent/

Peace and Justice Commission, Mon, Feb 5, 7:00 pm – 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Homelessness, Emergency Outdoor Shelters, Surveillance Policy, UN reports, https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Peace_and_Justice_Commission_Homepage.aspx

Personnel Board, Mon, Feb 5, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Personnel_Board_Homepage.aspx

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Berkeley City Council, Tues, Feb 6, 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 2134 MLK Jr Way, City Council Chambers, Agenda: Land Use Appeals

  • 1446 Fifth Street
  • 2334 Jefferson
  • 1436 Campus Drive

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Board of Library Trustees, Wed, Feb 7, 6:30 pm, 1901 Russell St, Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library, Agenda: One Workplace, service maintenance contract


Commission on Disability, Wed, Feb 7, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Dr. Karen Nakamura on Universal Design, Automatic Door Openers, Sidewalks, Representation on Design Review Committee


Mental Health Commission-Bylaws Subcommittee, Wed, Feb 7, 6:00 pm 1939 Addison, East Bay Media Center http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Mental_Health_Commission_Homepage.aspx

Planning Commission, Wed, Feb 7, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Student Housing initiative, 8:30 pm - 1050 Parker rezone, Cannabis Zoning regulations


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Community Benefits, Thur, Feb 8, 10:00 am – 11:30 am, location and agenda to be announced


Community Environmental Advisory Commission, Thur, Feb 8, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1901 Russell St, South Branch Library, Agenda: Citywide green development requirements, stormwater infrastructure, BPA receipts, plastic straws


Zoning Adjustments Board, Thur, Feb 8, 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm, 2134 MLK Jr. Way, City Council Chambers

  • 2609 Shattuck & 2110 Parker St – full service restaurant – on consent
  • 2257 Glen Ave – demolish 1707 single family home, creek restoration, new 2082 single family home with 5’ front setback instead of 20 and 0’ west side setback instead of 5’-on consent
  • 2024 Shattuck – add alcohol service – on consent
  • 2367 Telegraph – establish entertainment use in basement level – staff recommend approve
  • 1200 San Pablo – demolish1-story structure, construct 6-story mixed use, density bonus, 57 dwelling units, 44 parking spaces, advisory comments

Friday, February 9, 2018

African American History Celebration, Fri, Feb 9, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, 1730 Oregon

Berkeley City Reduced Service Day, Fri, Feb 9

Saturday, February 10, 2018

McGee-Spaulding Neighbors in Action Meeting, Sat, Feb 10, 9:45 am – 12:00 pm, University Terrace Community Room 

Sunday, February 11, 2018 

Candidate Forum CA Assembly District 15, Alameda County DA, 2:00 pm – 5:30 pm, 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, everyone welcome to hear candidates, only members of BTU, BPA, BCA will vote for endorsement.  

Indivisible Berkeley General Assembly, Sunday, Feb 11, 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm, 1970 Chestnut St, Finnish Hall, General Assembly meeting 





Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Excels in Stravinsky’s THE FIREBIRD

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday February 03, 2018 - 08:30:00 PM

It takes some doing to overshadow French cellist Gautier Capuçon, who is perhaps our finest young cellist today. But that is exactly what occurred on Sunday evening, January 28, at Davies Hall when London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed before intermission with Gautier Capuçon as soloist in Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major, then returned to the stage to offer a scintillating rendition of Igor Stravinsky’s L’Oiseau de feu/The Firebird. Let me be clear, however. There was absolutely no lack of artistry in the chemistry between cellist Gautier Capuçon and conductor Thierry Fischer in the Haydn Cello Concerto No. 1. Quite the contrary, what was outstanding in this performance was the attention to detail, and especially to dynamics, as both soloist and orchestra beautifully rendered the delicacy of this excellent work by Joseph Haydn.  

Having heard Gautier Capuçon several times before, most memorably as soloist in Dvorák’s Cello Concerto, I had always appreciated Capuçon’s robust tone, his physicality, and his assertive attack. Well, this time around, Capuçon brought out his sensitive, delicate side, as he played many passages softly yet with crystalline clarity. In this he was aided by conductor Thierry Fischer, who wisely had the orchestra accompany Capuçon’s pianissimo passages toward the end of the first movement with only the faintest, hushed strings performing repeated three-note phrases. Of course, with Gautier Capuçon, one always encounters quite a bit of sheer power, and this was evident in the difficult cadenza he performed in the opening movement. Yet here too there were moments of gossamer filigree played ever so softly. This was music by Papa Haydn performed with exquisite sensitivity by a great artist. The second movement, an Adagio, was a rapturous thing of beauty. In this movement only the strings are heard, the oboes and horns remaining silent. Here Gautier Capuçon brought out the full, burnished tone of his cello as he made it sing this Adagio’s lustrous melody. And for a change of pace, what could be better than the rapid-fire excitement of Haydn’s finale, also beautifully performed by Capuçon and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra led by Thierry Fischer! (Currently Music Director of Utah Symphony, Thierry Fischer was a late replacement for Charles Dutoit, with whom the San Francisco Symphony recently severed all ties in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment by Dutoit. For Thierry Fischer, this was his first appearance under the auspices of San Francisco Symphony, and it was an auspicious one.) 

The Haydn Cello Concerto No. 1 was preceded on the program by Claude Debussy’s Petite Suite, a group of four songs, two of which are set to poems by Paul Verlaine. Debussy originally published the Petite Suite in 1889 as a work for piano four-hands, but in 1906 he made transcriptions for solo piano and for violin and piano. Then, in 1907 Henri Büsser proposed to create an adaptation of Debussy’s Petite Suite for chamber orchestra. Debussy was delighted with Büsser’s adaptation, and he subsequently conducted this version in many concerts. It is this version we heard played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  

The second half of the program was given over to Stravinsky’s The Firebird, which premiered in 1910 at the Opéra in Paris with Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Like Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Kashchey, the Immortal, which I reviewed last week, Stravinsky’s The Firebird is based on Russian folk tales dealing with conflict between young Prince Ivan Tsarevich and the superannuated sorcerer Kashchey, who is evil incarnate. The Firebird, discovered by Ivan in the magic garden of King Kashchey, is a benevolent fairy. The Firebird’s magic is a powerful antidote to the evil magic of the sorcerer Kashchey, and her lullaby puts the malevolent sorcerer into a deep sleep. She then reveals the secret of Kashchey’s immortality – his soul is kept in a giant egg, buried in a casket. She leads Ivan to the casket, and Ivan smashes the egg, killing Kashchey and causing Kashchey’s castle and entourage to disappear in darkness. Good has triumphed over evil, and the world rejoices. Stravinsky’s score is full of unusual harmonic effects and vivid orchestral coloration.  

The flute is prominent in many of the early sections of The Firebird, and flute solos were admirably rendered by Royal Philharmonic’s principal flutist Emer McDonough. The section entitled Supplication of the Firebird offers richly scored music with an importuning melody that begins in the oboe, English horn, and viola. Later, when Kashchey unleashes his guardian monsters, the music turns violent and fantastic. A Lullaby sung by The Firebird offers a lovely bassoon solo, exquisitely played here by Royal Philharmonic’s principal bassoonist Emily Hultmark, is accompanied by ethereal harmonies in the strings, flute, and harp. This Lullaby was for me the highlight of the entire work. Immediately following the Lullaby comes Kashchey’s death, signified by a loud orchestral crash. The celebratory final section opens with a solo horn melody of childlike wonder as good triumphs over evil, and the theme builds to a grand apotheosis as the curtain falls.  

Conductor Thierry Fischer fairly threw himself into this music, energetically leading the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra throughout each and every section of this highly original work. One can understand why Claude Debussy, who was present at the premiere of The Firebird in Paris, was so enthusiastic about Stravinsky’s unusual harmonic effects and orchestral coloration that he went backstage to congratulate Stravinsky and invite him to dinner.

Katja Heuzeroth: Young Opera Singer on the Move

Profile by James Roy MacBean
Sunday February 04, 2018 - 02:40:00 PM

As a veteran opera-goer who has seen almost 800 live opera performances, I hardly expected to encounter in one afternoon in Alameda a wonderful opera I had never seen or heard even though it was by a major composer, and, moreover, to discover a new, unheralded young singer who was sensational. But lucky me, such was my good fortune on January 21, when I attended Island City Opera’s production of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Kashchey, the Immortal, on which day German-born mezzo-soprano Katja Heuzeroth happened to sing her only performance of the role of Kashcheyevna, daughter of the superannuated, tyrannical sorcerer, Kashchey. For Katja Heuzeroth, a young singer whose career has been on temporary hold due to the recent move from New York to the Bay Area and the birth of her daughter, the role of Kashcheyevna, she hopes, will jump start her career.  

The opera itself was a wonderfully fantastic fairy tale. Based on Russian folk tales, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Kashchey, the Immortal offers a different version of the downfall of the wicked sorcerer than that presented in Stravinsky’s L’Oiseau de feu/The Firebird. In Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera, Kashchey is undone when his daughter, Kashcheyevna, finally experiences the pangs of love, and, weeping, sheds the tear in which Kashchey has magically locked up his own mortality. Kashchey, you see, has raised his daughter to be stone-hearted. Thus, confident that she will never weep, Kashchey lives to an overripe old age gloating in his immortality. He has also enlisted his daughter in a plot to kill off any would-be successors to his despotic rule. Kashcheyevna uses her beauty and charm to seduce any young aristocrat bold enough to aspire to win her and become the successor to Kashchey’s rule. Then she uses a magic potion to put the suitors to sleep, and, while they doze, she chops off their head and sends the severed head to her father, who attaches it to the outer wall of his forbidding castle. Rimsky-Korsakov’s music is full of unusual harmonic effects and exotic orchestral coloration. 

What Kashchey doesn’t consider, however, is that his daughter might someday become enamored of one of her suitors. In Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera, this happens when young Prince Ivan loses his bearings in a snowstorm and finds himself in the garden of Kashcheyevna’s castle. When Ivan and Kashcheyevna meet, romantic sparks ignite. But let me back up a bit. When Scene 2 of this one-act opera begins, Kashcheyevna sings exultantly as she picks herbs from her garden and mixes them to make a magic potion. She is proud of the way her charms and beauty seduce men, and she seems to revel in beheading them when they are under the spell of her potion. Then Kashcheyevna sings a propulsive, rhythmic aria while she sharpens the blade of her sword on a wheel-stone, exulting all the while over her many victims thus far and looking forward to the next victim. At this point Kashcheyevna seems totally complicit in her father’s evil scheme. 

At the January 21 Island City Opera performance I attended of Kashchey, the Immortal, mezzo-soprano Katja Heuzeroth made an immediate impression in her opening passages. Her voice has dark, burnished low tones and radiantly bright, clear high tones. After these opening moments in Scene 2, things got interesting when Prince Ivan appeared in Kashcheyevna’s magic garden. In Island City Opera’s excellent staging by Richard Bogart, Prince Ivan, ably sung by baritone Igor Viera, was clearly attracted to the beautiful Kashcheyevna in spite of the fact that he dearly loves his fiancée, the Tsarevna, and longs to be reunited with her. Nonetheless, Ivan is soon under the spell of Kashcheyevna; and she invites his courting, though whether it is simply part of her seduction routine or something more deeply felt is hard to say at this point. Kashcheyevna does note, however, in an aside, that Ivan is quite handsome. After she has offered him a drink of the potion, things heat up quickly. Ivan forgets his fiancée and declares himself totally beguiled by Kashchyevna’s charms; and she returns his wooing. A beautiful, dreamlike love-duet ensues; and this is where the magic of Katja Heuzeroth’s voice truly worked its wonders. As Ivan gave way to blissfully naïve declarations of love, Katia Heuzeroth’s Kashcheyevna simply enveloped Ivan in a dreamworld of lustrous, rapturous sound. As Ivan and Kashchyevna embraced, it was as if Katja Heuzeroth’s voice, in addition to her character’s beauty and charm, had consummated the seduction. But it also hinted that Kashcheyevna, too, might be equally seduced by the young and handsome Prince Ivan. As we see in Scene 3, this was in fact the case. 

When I met with Katja Heuzeroth about a week after her stunning performance in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Kashchey, the Immortal, I asked her how she happened to be invited to sing the role of Kashcheyevna in this Island City Opera production. “I had sung various Russian pieces before,” she replied. “And I sent to Island City Opera a video of myself singing the role of Joan of Arc in Tchaikovsky’s Maid of Orleans. They liked my singing on the tape and invited me to cover the role of Kashcheyevna, which Sylvie Jenson was scheduled to sing. After I signed on, they invited me to sing Kashcheyevna in the January 21 performance. When I studied the role, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved Rimsky-Korsakov’s music.”  

I asked Katja how long she had been based in the Bay Area. “Not long,” she replied, “two and-a-half years.” During this time, she added, she had given birth to her first child, a daughter named Juliette. Now she finds herself ready to make a push to expand her singing career. I inquired whether she found it hard to establish herself as a young singer in the USA. “It’s harder than I thought it would be,” was her answer. “I thought that with the Bayreuth Festival roles on my resume, doors would immediately open to me anywhere. But when I asked for an audition at Ft. Worth Opera, they didn’t even respond.” 

Katja Heuzeroth’s association with Bayreuth came at an early age. Having grown up in Wiesbaden, where she attended an opera school, she first went to Bayreuth for an Art Song Masterclass as part of the International Youth Festival Encounter that runs concurrently with the Bayreuth Festival. Katja was then only 19 years old. At the end of this six-week masterclass, Katja was among four singers offered an audition by the Bayreuth Festival. Her audition was successful, and she was offered a contract. At age 21, she made her professional debut at the Bayreuth Festival singing small roles in Wagner’s Parsifal under Giuseppe Sinopoli, Die Meistersinger under Daniel Barenboim, and Der fliegende Höllander under Peter Schneider. Later, Katja sang the role of an apprentice in Die Meistersinger under James Levine in Lucerne, Switzerland. During these years, Katja Heuzeroth held stipends from Germany’s Richard Wagner Foundation and the Meistersinger von Nürnberg Foundation. 

Next stop for Katja Heuzeroth was New York, where she sang with Dicapo Opera and ventured to upstate New York to sing the role of Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma. She also sang the role of Cherubino in a concert performance of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro with New York Opera Forum in 2009. In 2012 she sang Flossilde in Wagner’s Das Rheingold in St. Louis. While still based in New York, Katja sang Sieglinde in Wagner’s Die Walküre at Opera Bravura in San Jose in 2014. Next came marriage and, eventually, the move to the Bay Area.  

Katja Heuzeroth’s next Bay Area performance will be in Mozart’s Requiem with San Jose’s Winchester Orchestra on May 12; and she will follow that with a concert on May 13 with Cal Arte Ensemble at the Triton Art Museum in Santa Clara, where she’ll sing excerpts from her Kashcheyevna role in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Kashchey, the Immortal. That role, she hopes, will jump-start her career; and Katja credits her Island City Opera guest conductor, Lidiya Yankovskaya, with introducing that opera, which had apparently never before been performed in the USA, though it is a favorite Rimsky-Korsakov opera in Russia. Katja also credits Lidiya Yankovskaya with being a wonderful mentor to her as she prepared the role of Kashcheyevna. We can only hope that, thanks in part to Katja Heuzeroth’s singing, this delightful opera will be heard often in the USA, and that it will indeed catapult the career of the immensely talented Katja Heuzeroth. 

Derek Tam Conducts A German Requiem by Brahms

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday February 04, 2018 - 01:58:00 PM

There is a noble idea behind Johannes Brahms’ Ein Deutches Requiem/A German Requiem, but somehow this work leaves me cold. The idea itself is laudatory: Brahms sought to write a requiem not for the dead but for those, still living, who mourn the dead. As Brahms once put it, “Life robs one of more than death does.” Put differently, death simply puts an end to things, but life exposes one to ongoing struggle and pain and loss. 

As part of the Resonance concert series at First Congregational Church, Derek Tam led the First Church Festival Chorus and Orchestra in a performance of Brahms’ A German Requiem on Friday evening, February 2. Hearing it live, my impressions of this work didn’t change from what I thought of it by way of the splendid recording of it on Deutsche Grammophone with the Berlin Philharmonic led by Herbert von Karajan. To my mind only two of this Requiem’s seven sections are truly moving. After a muffled chorus begins this work singing “Selig sind, die da Leid tragen”/”Blessed are they that mourn,” the second section offers a chorale-like “Denn alles Fleisch ist wie Gras”/”All Flesh is like grass,” and this leads into a grim dance of death with arching themes in the orchestra. I like this lengthy second section quite a bit; and Derek Tam’s conducting brought out the rhythmic sway of this dance of death. However, the chorus sings of the eventual return of the “ransomed of the Lord,” i.e., those who mourn. So this section closes on a note of hope. The third section features a baritone solo, here sung by Nikolas Hackley, who was solid in his performance, though I find Brahms’ insistence on the vanity of all life a bit much. The fourth section features the chorus in a lyrical vein singing praise of the Lord’s tabernacles. Ho hum.  

Section number five is my favorite. It features a soprano, here sung by Angela Arnold. It opens with the words, “Ihr habt nun Traurugkeit”/”They now have sorrow,” and one can hear the sorrow in the plaintive elongations and repetitions of the word “Traurigkeit.” My love of this music stems from hearing the great German soprano Gundula Janowitz sing this part on the aforementioned Deutsche Grammophone recording. As heard here. Angela Arnold’s voice was a bit shrill in the high notes, though the music never fails to move me.  

In the sixth section, Brahms lets out all the stops. The music fairly explodes, but I find it overly dramatic to the point of being turgid, full of Christian triumphalism. “Death is swallowed up in victory,” go the words. “O death, where is thy sting?” After the forced drama of the sixth section, the final section simply repeats music from the work’s opening section. Only this time around the words are “Blessed are the dead, which die in the name of the Lord.” The Brahms Requiem closes softly, on yet another note of Christian triumphalism. 



Errata: In my review last week of the New Century Chamber Orchestra’s concert celebrating Mozart’s birthday, I incorrectly cited the concertmaster’s name as Daniel Horn in the concluding sentence of my review. It should be Daniel Hope, as correctly cited earlier in my review.