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New: Lori Droste’s “Missing Middle” Housing Proposal Needs a Reality Check (PUBLIC COMMENT)

Zelda Bronstein
Sunday March 17, 2019 - 10:17:00 AM

Item 22 on the council’s March 26 agenda is a proposal to allow “missing-middle” housing—“duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, courtyard apartments, bungalow courts, townhouses, etc.”—“across Berkeley.” The measure is sponsored by Councilmembers Droste and endorsed by Councilmembers Bartlett, Kaserwani, and Robinson, with Droste taking the lead.

In her memo, Droste argues that extensive residential densification would

· remedy the city’s legacy of racial discrimination;

· “encourage] greater socioeconomic diversity”;

· and “potentially reduce greenhouse gas consumption” by “allowing the production of more homes near jobs centers and transit”

To back up these claims, Droste cites letters of support from UC Berkeley Professor Karen Chapple, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, and a laudatory March 11 op-ed in the Chronicle by State Senator Nancy Skinner.

It takes five votes to pass a resolution at council. The “missing middle” proposal already has four. It may well have a fifth: On February 27, Mayor Jesse Arreguín tweeted: “I tried to get this passed last night and we will get it done on March 26.”

If Droste and her allies do get it done on March 26, they will have paved the way for a new round of real estate speculation, inflated property values, and gentrification that will hurt Berkeley’s most vulnerable residents. That’s because “missing-middle” housing is market-rate housing. As for fighting climate change: Transit-oriented-development is a feel-good notion whose effectiveness is hotly disputed among planning scholars. People who can afford market-rate housing are more likely to drive. Berkeley traffic is already bad; if Droste’s measure passes, it’s going to get a lot worse. Long on pious rhetoric and short on evidence, Item 22 is a sham.

Jesse, please reconsider. 

Missing-middle housing is market rate housing 

Whatever the intentions of its originator, Berkeley architect Daniel Parolek, the term “missing middle” is being used by politicians as a marketing ploy. State Senator Scott Wiener, to take a notable example, features “missing middle” housing in SB 50, the do-over of his failed controversial 2018 bill, SB 827. Not incidentally, SB 50 is co-sponsored by Skinner and Wicks (among others) and endorsed by Schaaf, and Droste’s proposal shares key elements with SB 50, including a provision for “missing-middle” housing. 

Droste touts “missing middle” housing as a way of countering the “exclusionary” effects of single-family zoning. In February, she told the Bay City Beacon: “’We want planning to look at legalizing smaller, multifamily housing, which benefits students, low income residents and residents of color.” In her letter, Professor Chapple asserts that “zoning reform” à la “missing-middle” housing “has the potential not just to address the housing crisis but also to become a form of restorative or even transformative justice.” 

Such “reform” would be transformative, all right—but in behalf of less, not more, social justice. That’s because “missing-middle” housing is market-rate housing, which is to say, it skews toward the wealthy. 

Droste dances around that fact. Her memo says: 

“Missing middle housing is a term used to describe; 

  1. a range of clustered or multi-unit housing types compatible in scale with single family homes; and/or [emphasis in original]
  2. housing types naturally affordable to those earning between 80-120% of the area median income.”
So is Droste working with both descriptions or just one—and if the latter, which one? 

It’s hard to say, based on what comes next: 

“While this legislation aims to address the former, by definition and design, missing middle housing will always be less expensive than comparable single family homes in the same neighborhood, leading to greater accessibility to those earning median, middle or lower incomes.” 

Droste further obfuscates matters by failing to put numbers to those income categories. 

Here are some relevant figures: As of May 1, 2018, HUD has pegged the area median income (AMI) for a four-person household in Alameda County at $104,400. That means that for a four-person household, 80% AMI is $89,600; and 120% AMI comes to $125,300. 

By HUD standards, to qualify for below market rate, i.e., officially affordable housing, a household may have an annual income of up to 80% AMI. (“Middle” and “lower” income, which appear in Droste’s memo, have no place in the HUD lexicon.) 

It follows that “missing-middle” housing, which targets households with 80-120% AMI, is market-rate housing. 

Do Droste and her colleagues really think that students and low income residents, whom she names as beneficiaries of her proposal, can afford market-rate housing? 

Item 22 says that “by definition and design, missing middle housing will always be less expensive than comparable single family homes in the same neighborhood.” Exactly what does this mean? Does it refer to price per square foot, or something else? “Definition and design” are one thing; outcomes are something else. Where is the evidence that supports this claim? 

The Droste memo refers to “missing middle” housing as “naturally affordable.” Property values are not natural. They’re a function of economics, which is to say, they reflect decisions taken by human being. 

Thanks to one such decision, the California Legislature’s passage of the Costa Hawkins Act, no housing built in the state after February 1995 may be subject to rent control. So what’s going to make new “duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, courtyard apartments, bungalow courts, townhouses, etc.” affordable to low-income households—those with incomes of 80% AMI or less—especially in today’s red-hot real estate market? 

Droste blames single-family residential zoning for housing injustice in Berkeley. From Item 22: 

“Approximately half of Berkeley’s housing stock consists of single-family units and more than half of Berkeley’ residential land is zoned in ways that preclude most missing middle housing. As a result, today, only wealthy households can afford home in Berkeley. [emphasis added] 

Accordingly, Droste’s crew wants to allow greater density in most of the single-family residential neighborhoods in Berkeley, arguing that such upzoning will make the city more accessible to low income people. 

But the more units on a parcel, the greater the profits that can be squeezed out of it, and hence the higher the value of the property. Inflated real estate values foster gentrification and displace the most economically vulnerable. 

According to UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project, much of the area west of MLK is currently subject to “Ongoing gentrification and displacement.” Upzoning that part of the city to allow triplexes/fourplexes, courtyard apartments, bungalow courts, townhouses, etc.” would surely worsen current residents’ vulnerability. 

Indeed, Droste acknowledges the displacement threat. In a passage that echoes the “Sensitive Communities” provisions of SB 50, Supplement #1 to her original memo recommends: 


The types of zoning modifications that may result from the requested report could, as discussed above, significantly increase Berkeley’s housing stock with units that are more affordable to low-and middle-income residents. However, staff’s report should consider possible side effects and ways that policy can be crafted to prevent and mitigate negative externalities which could affect tenants and low-income homeowners. Steps must be taken to address the possibility that altering, demolishing remodeling, or moving existing structures doesn’t result in the widespread displacement of Berkeley tenant or rent-controlled units. Staff should consider what measure are needed in conjunction with these zoning changes (e.g. strengthening the demolition ordinance, tenant protections or assistance, no net loss requirements or prohibiting owners from applying if housing was occupied by tenants five years preceding date of application.)” [emphasis added] 

So much for using market-rate housing to “encourage] greater socioeconomic diversity” in Berkeley. 

Blotting out African American homeownership  

Item 22 stigmatizes single-family zoning across the board as a vestige of racist practices in Berkeley’s past. As the Droste memo observes, 

“For decades Grove Street [now Martin Luther King Jr. Way] created a wall of segregation down the center of Berkeley. Asian-Americans and African-Americans could not live east of Grove Street due to race-restrictive covenants that barred them from purchasing or leasing property.” 

The city’s color line was reinforced by redlining, the discriminatory lending policies facilitated by the federal government’s Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC). 

Item 22 includes a color-coded HOLC-era map of Berkeley that shows mortgage lending risks “based on racial composition, quality of housing stock, access to amenities, etc.,” thereby “allow[ing] lenders to enforce local segregation standards.” 

This shameful history needs to be marked and remembered. 

But when Droste indicts Berkeley’s current single-family housing per se for perpetuating a “de-facto form of segregation,” she distorts local African-American history. From Item 22 : 

“Neighborhoods identified as ‘best’ in green on the HOLC-era map typically remain zoned a single family residential areas today. Red ‘hazardous’ neighborhoods [on the HOLC-era map] are now largely zoned as manufacturing mixed use, light industrial, or limited two family residential.” 

On Berkeley’s current zoning map, shades of yellow and orange represent zoning for residential uses. The darker the color, the denser the permitted housing. 

Most of the northeastern and far southeastern parts of town are light yellow, zoned R-1—Single-family Residential. But so is the substantial neighborhood around San Pablo Park that was right in the middle of the “red ‘hazardous’” area. In mid-century Berkeley, that neighborhood was not white. 

In his magisterial 2003 book, American Babylon: race and the struggle for postwar Oakland, Brown University Professor Robert Self tells a different story: 

“African-American families sought the greater physical comfort, economic security, and class status that a move out of West Oakland afforded. People moved when they could. Until the mid-1950s, the paths out of West Oakland went north, along San Pablo Avenue, Market Street, and Telegraph Avenue into south Berkeley. ‘Half the Negroes in Berkeley in those days had just moved out of West Oakland,’ C.L. Dellums recalled. ‘As soon a they got on their feet and got jobs,’ they moved out.’ Berkeley’s 21,850 African Americans in 1960 lived overwhelmingly in the southern part of the city, in areas contiguous with West and North Oakland’s neighborhoods. Real estate interests and white homeowners maintained the color line at Telegraph Avenue. Neighborhoods northeast of Telegraph remained almost entirely white through the early 1960s, but African American homebuyers and renters faced significantly less opposition from west of there all the way to the industrial districts along the bayshore….In those neighborhoods, as many as 86 percent of African American families in some census tracts were homeowners.” 

The area around San Pablo Park was a famous hub of African American community life. 

Is (Berkeley’s) single-family zoning a major impediment to housing affordability? 

Droste predicated her proposal on an affirmative answer to this question. For authority, she could cite the California Legislative Analyst Office’s 2015 brief and the many academic economists and legal scholars who view onerous local regulations as the primary factor in the soaring cost of housing in the Bay Area and other hot markets. Loosen those regulations, they say, and you will enable new construction whose availability will lower prices across the board. 

Now the supply-side position is coming under attack from a formidable critic, internationally renowned economic geographer and UCLA Professor Michael Storper. In a 2018 paper, “Separate Worlds? Explaining the current wave of regional economic polarization,” Storper rejects a supply-side explanation of the “slowdown in interstate mobility in the 1980s, and especially in the new millennium.” 

“The proof for the claim that housing is expensive primarily because of supply restrictions rather than changes in income distribution in the New Economy,” he writes, “is, simply, inexistent.” That’s because in “’superstar cities,’” 

“the excess demand over supply for housing on the part of those with high incomes drives up local housing prices, which in turn skews the composition of in-migration to these areas by excluding lower income people.” 

More recently, Storper ha expanded that critique and applied it to SB 827 and SB 50. In an interview posted by The Planning Report on March 19, he calls “blanket upzoning” a “blunt instrument” that’s 

“not going to…solve the housing crisis for the middle classes and lower income people. Even with so-called affordability set-asides, the trickle down effect will be small and could even be negative in the highly-desirable areas.” 

Here’s why: 

“Cities like LA, San Francisco, or anywhere else in coastal California have a strong economic base that attracts skilled people in occupations with high wages. They also have a large population with very low incomes. What drives housing prices up is the strength of the fundamental economic forces that causes the skilled to want to be in big metropolitan areas today. This force is much stronger than 30 years ago. The payoff for a skilled person to locating in a big city today (in terms of higher wages compared to locating in other places) is much bigger than in the past. That is why the skilled continue to crowd into LA and even the Bay Area, in spite of their high housing costs. It’s also why any increase in supply will mostly benefit them (in terms of better housing choices for them). That’s fine, but what it is unlikely to do is have a strong trickle-down effect, and up-zoning legislation is largely being sold on the affordability or trickle-down argument.” [emphasis added] 

Just so, in a Yimby Action podcast, Droste first says that it’s “challenging for people to wrap their mind around” her proposal, “because it’s really wonky.” Her solution: “If we frame this around social justice, which it 100 percent is, then we can get people aboard.” 

What Berkeleyans, starting with the Berkeleyans sitting on the city council, need to realize, is that what’s inside the frame of Droste’s proposal—the wonky guts—is not about social justice. It’s about market-rate housing and unsustainable growth. 

The sustainability mirage 

Droste would have us believe that densification-by-market-rate-housing would make Berkeley more affordable and equitable and at the same time fight global warming. Tacked onto the end of Item 22 under the heading “Environmental Sustainability” is a five-sentence paragraph that references a 2018 paper by three UC climate researchers, “Carbon Footprint Planning: Quantifying Local and State Mitigation Opportunities for 700 California Cities.” The paper estimates how carbon consumption, aka greenhouse gas emissions, might be abated by local policies in our state. One such policy is infill, new construction in currently developed places. Droste’s conclusion: 

“The most impactful local policy to potentially reduce greenhouse gas consumption by 2030 is urban infill. In short, Berkeley can meaningfully address climate change if we allow the production of more homes near job centers and transit.” 

In her op-ed, Nancy Skinner says much the same thing: 

“According to a 2018 report by researchers at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, the single most important way for cities to reduce their carbon footprint by 2030—which scientists say is the deadline for avoiding catastrophic climate change—is to build urban infill housing.” 

These are shout-outs for smart growth—the idea that building compact housing near transit and jobs will get people out of their cars and onto transit, bikes, and their own two feet. 

At first glance, that idea may seem to be verified by Figure 5 in the 2018 report, which shows that in Berkeley, urban infill would do the most to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

Time for another reality check. To begin, the UC researchers take pains to indicate that what they are offering is not a reliable forecast but rather a model. Under the heading “Uncertainty and Limitation,” they write: “This is in no way a prediction of future emissions, but rather a scenario for deep GHG abatement….Like any model, our results must be observed within the context of the assumptions we have made.” (That they understate Berkeley’s 2017 population by 25 percent, giving it as ~92,000, when, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, it was 122,324, does not inspire confidence.) 

Regarding infill, the UC researchers assume that compact development in settled areas would entail shorter travel distances, smaller homes and household sizes. They say that for “[t]he abatement potential of infill development for transportation and energy,” they relied on two other studies. Both of those studies, however, are also based on modeling rather than on before-and-after empirical investigation that sought to find out if smart growth works. In other words, we’re dealing with a model based on two other models. Not reassuring. 

The more recent of the two supporting studies, published in 2010, has a defensive tone. Noting that “[a] debate has ensued over the potential role of the built environment, and particularly of compact growth, in stabilizing global climates,” the authors call “[d]oubts about the potential GHG-reducing effects of sustainable urbanism…understandable in light of inconsistent research findings to date.” Their cautious conclusion: “the built environment should not be written off, and some settings could very well play a pivotal role in lowering VMT [vehicle miles traveled], GHG, and petroleum consumption.” 

Since 2010, the controversy over transit-oriented development (TOD) has grown. The first 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association includes an academic donnybrook sparked by the lead article, “Does Compact Development Make People Drive Less?” The answer given by the author, University of British Columbia Professor Mark Stevens, is: Yes, but not enough to qualify dense development a major GHG reduction policy. 

Bringing the TOD debate closer to home, consider Professor Chapple’s skepticism about the effectiveness of smart growth. In her prize-winning 2016 paper, ”Integrating California’s Climate Change and Fiscal Goals,” Chapple writes: “The effectiveness of land use interventions to reduce VMT varies by neighborhood type, but in general, impacts are low.” Summing up her argument in an op-ed, she opined: “California’s biggest impact on global GHG emissions comes not through its ability to reduce its own emissions, but rather to influence others through policy innovation.” 

So is smart growth basically PR? 

I assume that Councilmember Droste would say, No. 

But her memo tacitly acknowledges that the upzoning she seeks would entail increased private auto ownership and use in Berkeley, in that Item 22 would exclude from the proposed upzoning “very high fire severity zones as defined by the CalFire and/or the City of Berkeley.” 

That makes sense. We’re all haunted by images of people desperately trying to flee the catastrophic Paradise fire, only to find themselves stuck on roads clogged with vehicles filled with other refugees. 

But what that exemption (which, conveniently for Droste’s re-election prospects, would apply to the high hill neighborhoods in her council district) intimates is that greater residential density means not only more people but also more cars, particularly when densification is to be achieved via market-rate housing. “Missing-middle” housing targets the more affluent market, and higher-income people are better able to afford cars and to own them. 

Congestion isn’t just an issue in “very high fire severity zones.” I live on Tacoma Avenue across the street from Thousand Oaks School Park. When cars are parked on both sides of the street, which is often the case, Tacoma turns into a one-way street. I regularly witness stand-offs and road rage, as two cars face each other, and neither driver is willing to back off. 

Surely that happens on heavily trafficked, narrow streets all over town. And regardless of whether they’re susceptible to wildfires, all neighborhoods in Berkeley are vulnerable to a major earthquake. The implementation of Droste’s scheme would make such streets more hazardous in times of emergency. 

Trying to short-circuit Berkeley’s public planning process 

Recognizing that the changes contemplated in her memo are draconian, Droste has tried to assuage Berkeleyans’ anxieties. On February 27, she tweeted: 

“We are not proposing ANY zoning revisions so this is just requesting information from a much larger community-driven process that in all likelihood we are going to have to do in the near future anyways. I promise information isn’t scary. We can do this.” 

I got the same message from Councilmember Kaserwani at the March 10 town house at Camp Adamah overseen by herself and Mayor Arreguín. After I compared the “missing middle” proposal to SB 50, Kaserwani demurred, “It’s just a report.” 

Oh, c’mon. This is not just a request for information or a report that’s going to sit on a shelf. The council’s approval of Item 22 would be the first step toward amending the city’s zoning laws along the lines set forth in Droste’s memo. In two other February 27 tweets, Droste admitted as much, even while she downplayed the significance of her proposal:  

“…the Berkeley City Council will be considering authorizing a study on missing middle housing in the city. We’ll be live tweeting when that happens….Not only is it just a study, it’s a study conducted by the nation’s leading experts in missing middle housing who is [sic] beginning density standard work for the City of Berkeley AND said they could easily incorporate this.” 

(The aforementioned experts, by the way, are the ones at Optico, the firm run by “missing middle” originator Daniel Parolek. Cozy.) 

Droste seems to think that her proposal is a done deal, a presumption evidenced by the fact that her memo short-circuits the city’s customary route for the consideration of zoning changes. Ordinarily, a councilmember’s request for zoning changes goes first to the Planning Commission, where it can be vetted by the public, and then back to the council. And since the council has created its own Land Use Committee, requested zoning changes ought to go there at the same time as they’re routed to the Planning Commission. 

Instead, Item 22 asks that the council “[r]efer to the City Manager to bring back to Council a report of potential revisions to the zoning code to foster a broader range of housing types across Berkeley…” 

Councilmember Harrison told me that when Droste’s proposal was before the council’s Agenda Committee, she asked that it be referred to the Land Use Committee. Her request was voted down by Agenda Committee members Arreguín and Droste. 

According to the Bay City Beacon, Droste intends to bypass both the Planning Commission and the Land Use Committee: 

“Following an affirmative Council vote, Berkeley’s City Manager, Dee Williams-Ridley, will work with the Planning Department to determine how this may be implemented, and to reconfigure the zoning code to allow for the construction of duplexes, triplexes, courtyard apartments, townhomes, and so on. The Planning Department would then issue a report outlining this new zoning. Following such a report, Councilmember Droste will then revise the original legislation and craft it into actionable law before a final City Council vote.” 

In general, standard Berkeley protocol ought to be followed, especially when it comes to the sort of zoning changes entertained by Item 22: amendments that are sweeping and informed by planning concepts disputed by scholars in the field. And I haven’t even gotten into the questions—totally ignored by Droste’s memo—about how the city would fund the services and infrastructure needed to support the greatly expanded population that her proposal envisions. 

In fact, the “missing middle”/market-rate housing proposal is so ill-conceived that rather than being routed to the Planning Commission and the council’s Land Use Committee, it should simply be withdrawn from council consideration. 

Press Release: “Broken Windows,” Lower Grades

Friday March 15, 2019 - 02:19:00 PM

New Study Demonstrates Link Between Aggressive Policing and Lower Educational Attainment by African American Youth

Newswise — March 14, 2019, Washington DC. The “Broken Windows” theory of policing, applied in New York and other major American cities since the early ‘90s, has been credited in some quarters with reducing crime. Stopping, warning and even arresting perpetrators of low-impact crimes like vandalism and disorderly behavior, says the theory, contributes to a more cohesive neighborhood and a setting less likely to attract violent crime.

While criminologists continue to debate the impact of the practice, new research from two sociologists demonstrates that this sort of aggressive policing has a negative impact on the scholastic performance of African-American young teenagers in the affected neighborhoods. The study by Joscha Legewie, assistant professor of sociology at Harvard, and Jeffrey Fagan, professor of law and epidemiology at Columbia University, found that for African-American boys aged 13-15, the stress of even potential interaction with law enforcement lowered educational performance and added to inequality of economic outcomes. 

In the April issue of the America Sociological Review, the two researchers credit broken-windows programs like New York’s Operation Impact – the policing program at the center of the study – with temporarily lowering crime rates in the impacted neighborhoods. Operation Impact labeled selected high-crime areas as impact zones and saturated these areas with additional police officers with the mission to engage in aggressive, broken-window policing. Of course, safer neighborhoods should generally contribute to increased academic performance for the children living there. 

However, the policing program significantly reduced test scores for African American boys aged 13 to 15 years old even after controlling for many of the factors that could affect academic performance. This finding is based on data from the New York City Department of Education on public school students from the school years 2003/2004 to 2011/2012. The researchers compared changes in test scores before, during, and after Operation Impact for areas affected by the intervention to the same differences for areas designated as impact zones at a different point in time. 

The findings show that Operation Impact lowered the educational performance of African-American boys, which has implications for child development, economic mobility, and racial inequality. The effect size varies by race, gender, and age. It is substantial for African American boys age 13 to 15, and small and statistically insignificant for other groups. 

“These findings provide evidence that the consequences of policing extend into key domains of social life,” said Legewie. “They highlight the hidden costs of aggressive policing programs and suggest that police reformers, policymakers, and researchers should consider these broader implications for assessing the effectiveness of policing.” 

Additional analyses provide first evidence on the underlying mechanisms but are limited by the lack of data on student health. The researchers show that Operation Impact reduced crime, providing evidence for a positive channel through lower crime rates; at the same time they show that Operation Impact reduced school attendance, indicating that system avoidance by young African-American teenagers during periods of intense police presence may lead to higher rates of absenteeism. Looking beyond the data to other well-researched interventions in education, the researchers believe that policing programs like Operation Impact can eliminate the positive effects of costly and positive education interventions, at least for older African-American boys. 

The findings advance understanding about the role of the criminal justice system for youth development and racial/ethnic inequality, Legewie and Fagan conclude. Although much work has been done on the effect of parental incarceration on children, this is the first study demonstrating a negative impact from surge policing on children themselves; the consequences of the criminal justice system are not confined to those incarcerated or arrested but have a much broader impact on the entire community. 

To read the entire study, “Aggressive Policing and the Educational Performance of Minority Youth,” visit https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0003122419826020

About the American Sociological Association and the American Sociological Review 

The American Sociological Association, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society. The American Sociological Review is the ASA's flagship journal. 



A Toast to St. Patrick

Ralph E. Stone
Friday March 15, 2019 - 02:39:00 PM

March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day. The 168th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Festival will be held in San Francisco on Saturday, March 16. The festival lasts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The parade begins at 11:30 a.m. on March 16 at Second and Market streets. In light of Women's History Month, this year's parade theme is "Women Breaking Barriers."

The Irish, the more than 70 million world-wide who claim Irish heritage, and the Irish-for-a-day, will lift a pint of Guinness, or something stronger, to toast Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. I bet corn beef and cabbage will be on many a menu. And many were and will be wearin’ the green. Why is it celebrated on March 17th? One theory is that is the day St. Patrick died and is now celebrated as his feast day. 

The biggest observance of all will be, of course, in Ireland. With the exception of restaurants and pubs, almost all businesses will close on March 17th. Being a religious holiday as well, many Irish attend mass, where March 17th is the traditional day for offering prayers for missionaries worldwide before the serious celebrating begins. 

Saint Patrick’s Day wouldn’t exist if not for the man himself. Only two authentic letters from him survive, from which come the only universally accepted details of his life. Much of the rest is subject to some debate among scholars. Patrick is believed to have been born in the late fourth century about 387. He was born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland and died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, March 17, 460 [some say 461 or 493]. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britain in charge of the colonies. When he was about 14, he was captured from Britain by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where Patrick worked as a herdsman, remaining a captive for six years, before escaping and returning to his family. While a captive, he learned the language and practices of the people who held him. 

He began his studies for the priesthood and was ordained four years later. Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick’s message. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering, he died March 17, 460. He died at Saul, where he had built the first church. 

Interestingly enough, Patrick was never canonized by the Pope. For most of Christianity’s first 1,000 years, canonizations were done on the diocesan or regional level. Relatively soon after very holy people died, the local Church affirmed that they could be liturgically celebrated as saints as was done with Patrick. Nevertheless, various Christian churches declare that he is a Saint in Heaven — he is in the List of Saints — and he is widely venerated in Ireland and elsewhere. 

Legend credits Patrick with banishing snakes from Ireland, though evidence suggests that post-glacial Ireland never had snakes. The stories of Saint Patrick and the snakes are likely a metaphor for his bringing Christianity to Ireland and driving out the pagan religions such as the Druids (serpents were a common symbol in many of these religions). 

Another legend concerns the shamrock, the symbol of Ireland. Supposedly, Patrick used the shamrock, a 3-leaved clover, to teach the Irish about the concept of the Trinity, the Christian belief of three divine persons in the one God — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The shamrock was sacred to the Druids, so his use of it in explaining the trinity was very wise. 

On March 17th, have a toast to Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

Bill Blum, Presenté

Gar Smith
Saturday March 16, 2019 - 05:21:00 PM

Our friend and former Berkeley colleague Bill Blum died last December 9 at the age of 85, after surviving a bad fall 65 days earlier. Many Berkeleyans will recall Bill as a station manager at KPFA but he was so much more. During his stay in Berkeley, I always looked forward to running into Bill at the Berkeley Main Library. He was always good for a chat and for the sharing of top-flight political gossip. He was so mild-mannered and genial that I was surprised to discover he was the author of a series of scathing books excoriating the evils of American foreign policy. His books included "Rogue State: The Rise of the World's Only Superpower," "Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II," (Noam Chomsky called it "far and away the best book on the topic") and "America's Deadliest Export: Democracy—The Truth about US Foreign Policy." These books have been reprinted in more than 15 languages. 

Bill knew whereof he spoke. He began his career at the State Department, hoping to become a foreign service officer but quit in opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1969, he collaborated with CIA whistleblower James Agee before becoming a journalist, reporting stories from Europe and South America. In Chile, Bill exposed the US coup targeting Salvador Allende, the country's democratically elected socialist president. In July 1979, after a brief stint in Hollywood attempting to find backing for a number of politically sensitive screenplays, Bill resettled in the Bay Area (for the third time) and linked up with Pacifica, becoming KPFA's business manager. In his memoir, "West Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir," Bill was unstinting in his assessment of some of the station's well-known on-air and off-mike personalities. For a taste: click on this site

In 1999, Bill won a Top-Ten Project Censored Award for an article that exposed how (in the 1980s) the US had provided the Iraq government with the materials to develop chemical and biological warfare capabilities that Saddam Hussein could use in his war on Iran. 

In January 2006, Bill's book sales received a unexpected boost thanks to a tape from Osama bin Laden praising Rogue State and suggesting "it would be useful" for Americans to read the book to understand the cry from the around the world: "America: Ask Why You Are Hated." (While book sales increased, Bill's paid speaking invitations quickly dried up.) 

Bill spent most of the rest of his life back in Washington where he became a board member and contributor to the CovertAction Information Bulletin. From April 1 2003 to September 20, 2018, Bill churned out a prodigious amount of reporting that appeared in his highly respected blog, "The Anti-Empire Report"

His last public speaking event was on a Left Forum panel hosted by CovertAction Magazine. The topic was CovertAction: Persistent U.S. Attacks Against ‘Democracy and Freedom,’ Past and Present. 

During this event, Bill observed: 

"Consciously or unconsciously, [the American people] have certain basic beliefs about the United States and its foreign policy . . . The most basic of these basic beliefs, I think, is a deeply-held conviction that no matter what the US does abroad, no matter how bad it may look, no matter what horror may result, the government of the United States means well."  

And he stressed the need to establish a new common ground when he said: 

"We can all agree I think that US foreign policy must be changed and that to achieve that the mind—not to mention the heart and soul—of the American public must be changed." 

You can watch the full video of the panel here. Bill's talk starts at 44 min and 48 seconds into the video. 

Memorial Program for Bill Blum (1933-2018)
Date: Sunday, March 17, 2019

Time: 4:00-7:00 pm
Place: Washington Ethical Society
7750 16th Street NW, (corner Kalmia Street)
Washington, DC 20012

Special guests—to be announced—will be speaking including Bill’s wife Adelheid and his son Alexander—both whom are coming from Germany.

There will also be videos of Bill, a question and answer period, and a reception with food and drinks



A Little Bit of Progress

Becky O'Malley
Monday March 18, 2019 - 03:52:00 PM

Finally, some mildly encouraging political news, after close to sixty years.

Although I am a member of U.C. Berkeley’s class of 1961, I didn’t go to my graduation in June of that year. In those days, the senior class was small enough that all of us would fit into the Greek Theater, but a substantial number of my classmates didn’t intend to go into the event. Instead, they planned to picket the ceremony in caps and gowns, protesting the commencement speaker, California Governor Edmund Gerald “Pat” Brown Sr.

What did they have against him? In May of 1960 he had allowed Caryl Chessman, author of a widely read memoir, to be executed for kidnapping and rape crimes which did not include murder. Many around the state had protested Brown’s decision not to reprieve Chessman’s death sentence, including another member of the class of ’61, his son Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown Jr. I don’t know if Jerry went to our graduation or picketed it, but he is on record as having persuaded his father to grant a 60-day stay before the eventual execution, for all the good it did.

Jerry was a couple of years older than me, having detoured along the path to the A.B. for a year at Santa Clara and another one in the Jesuit Novitiate before transferring to Cal. No one in the literary/political circles I hung out with knew him. I had fast-tracked through college via summer school, finishing my course work in December of 1960, and by graduation day I was 21, married, living in San Jose and teaching farmworkers’ kids. I figured there would be other opportunities to protest the death penalty, and boy, was I right.

I certainly didn’t realize that it would take the rest of my life for a California governor to acknowledge the fundamental immorality of a civilized society deliberately killing human beings. Yet it’s taken just about my whole lifetime, to drive this point home, two generations. All my daughters and one of my granddaughters have already graduated from college, and the question is still on the table. 

Jerry Brown eventually got to be governor himself, not once but twice. Not coincidentally, no one was executed during his terms, though he did not succeed in getting the death penalty abolished. But there were executions between his terms, under Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis

Both Jerry and the new governor are products of Jesuit education, a tradition famous for teaching its students how argue all sides of a moral issue. When I was in high school in Los Angeles, the debaters from the Jesuits’ Loyola mopped the floor with tournament opponents.  

( One of them, David Roberti, went on to become the President Pro Tem of the State Senate, but ultimately lost out in public office because the gun lobby opposed his efforts to enact gun control and some feminists took issue with his personal opposition to abortion. You can't please everyone.

Both Brown and Newsom have debated the wisdom of capital punishment with the public over the years. 

At this juncture, neither of them appears to be a slavish adherent to Catholic doctrine. Jerry doesn’t seem to go to church any more often than I do, and Gavin has a record of technically verboten divorce and remarriage, not to mention a well-publicized adultery incident. But I’d wager a small sum that both have been influenced by the gradual evolution of the church’s position on the morality of the death penalty. Last August the Vatican announced a revision of the official record of contemporary church policy, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which now says that capital punishment is no longer admissible under any circumstances. Further, the church is now committed to abolition of the death penalty world-wide. 

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope in recent memory, and his rationale for opposing capital punishment is predictably logical and persuasive. The Vatican announcement he approved notes that non-lethal methods of preventing repeat crimes have now evolved to the point of being unnecessary, and also that the possibility of the criminal’s contrition must be preserved: “..more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption. ” 

Gavin Newsom has said the same thing more succinctly: The death penalty is “ineffective, irreversible and immoral.” His decision was couched in terms of personal morality, his belief that he will not in good conscience be able to permit anyone to be executed on his watch. He has taken no action which would preclude future governors from legally approving executions, however.  

The concept of revenge doesn’t enter into this kind of moral analysis. Some of my own Puritan ancestors believed that retribution was important (“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”), but at least one strand of the complex Catholic tradition stresses repentance over revenge, and that’s what Newsom’s decision is pointing toward.  

And there are practical considerations as well. One major flaw with capital punishment, it has always seemed to me, is the lost opportunity to figure out what went wrong in the tortured brains of mass murderers. This weekend’s horrifying slaughter of Muslims in New Zealand should prompt both psychologists and moralists to question why it happened and how things like this can be stopped. If Timothy MacVeigh had not been executed for the Oklahoma bombing, we might have benefited from talking to him about what went on in his twisted mind. It’s clear that executions do nothing to deter such criminals, and we might learn something from them, as we did from Chessman. 

Instead, Jerry Brown and I have just about used up our respective lifetimes protesting what we knew, way back when, to be immoral. Gavin Newsom has at least stopped the clock for his own tenure. But now it’s time to finish the job, to amend the California constitution so that future generations don’t have to keep fighting the same battles.  

Two competing and confusing initiatives on the topic were on the California ballot recently. Voters narrowly supported retaining the death penalty in those elections, but recent polls show that the majority of voters now oppose it. While Governor Newsom’s moratorium is in place, the state legislature should put a clear and well drafted amendment before the voters, supported by an adequate informational campaign, so that we can abolish this “ineffective, irreversible and immoral” policy once and for all. I for one am tired of protesting it after about 60 years.

Public Comment

The Real Reason Big Cannabis Wants Cesar Chavez Park and Your Local Storefront

Carol Denney
Friday March 15, 2019 - 02:44:00 PM

California is the cannabis industry's largest legal market. 2018's profits topped $10 billion dollars. While local dispensaries cannibalize their local markets muting profits, the overall projection for the cannabis industry in 2019 is $16 billion, a combination of straight sales and ancillary investments fleshing out in jobs, deliveries, even tailored software packages. Visibility and a sense of normalcy are key, but "temporarily" lifting or eliminating smokefree protections are more than key; they are crucial. 

The cannabis industry wants public consumption in restaurants and bars, special cannabis spas, on-site smoking at dispensaries, lounges, and massage parlors, and outdoor cannabis zones for fairs and trade shows. Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani even suggested at the March 12 meeting that the Doubletree Inn near Cesar Chavez Park host the proposed High Times' "Cannabis Cup" indoors on their premises in her haste to back off her initial support for "unlimited" cannabis events in Cesar Chavez Park --situated in her district. This despite decades of hard-won smokefree protections for employees often fought for by casino dealers, maintenance workers, and entertainment industry musicians who often had to wheel up to their City Council's podium dragging oxygen behind them. 

One can be sure Councilmember Kesarwani hadn't considered the matter from the point of view of the stagehand forced to inhale what amounts to years of theatrical, tobacco, and marijuana smoke opera by opera, but that's just the problem. That big money the cannabis industry waves around gets in your eyes and obscures the fact that this bright idea had visited zero commissions. And this Cesar Chavez Park cannabis designation was inserted at the last minute in the middle of 90 pages of proposed dispensaries legislation. 

The easiest, the most reasonable request of the council should come from all parties to this matter: sever the proposed Cesar Chavez Park cannabis designation from the 90 pages of proposed cannabis dispensary legislation and let it have the opportunity to do what the dispensary package did -- travel through relevant commissions and include unheard community voices, especially public health voices. That is if there's anybody left really eager to destroy Berkeley's forward-thinking smokefree park protections on behalf of one of the wealthiest, well-heeled groups in existence. 

The "temporary" permit process the Berkeley City Council is considering- again- at their meeting on April 2, 2019 is just the beginning. As important as decriminalization and safe access are, as useful as creams and lotions with cannabinoids may be to a ratio of citizens for ailments, the work we have to do here in Berkeley is serious. We need to address the probability of our high schoolers continuing to vape and smoke at twice the rate of other California high school students, a far higher probability than that any cannabis event in Cesar Chavez Park will be, even if so billed, a stately, obediently smokefree affair as some of the council - even the mayor - are now suggesting with a straight face after experiencing a bit of public backlash. 

We need signage in Berkeley to help the very low ratio of smokers in Alameda County who have a high ratio of supporting smokefree legislation and a high desire to comply with it-- if they know what it is in the first place. Most people in town, smokers or not, would fail any test that asked, what's the nearest legal place to smoke? Especially considering that California's recent law decriminalizing marijuana prohibits smoking it in public. Most people, even the Berkeley City Council and the local police, have no idea. And this is crucial information to have if you're a student, employee, visitor, or customer who smokes. 

We need education so that people understand that their attitude about tobacco or marijuana is irrelevant to their lungs, which are evolutionarily incapable of compromise. Not even next year are your lungs, no matter how hard they concentrate, going to be able to get what they need from the air they breathe and just skip the particulates. 

Hear that high-pitched whine in the background? That's the shrill insistence that nobody acknowledge the obvious: that recreational marijuana was the obvious driver of "medicinal" decriminalization in California. That any benefits- recreational or medicinal -pale in comparison to the information from any pulmonologist or cardiovascular specialist regarding the immediate and measurable damage from smoke, including marijuana smoke. That we in Berkeley find smoke everywhere we go in Berkeley and in most "smokefree" parks as well. Middle schoolers toke up before class in the alcove of the West Branch Library. Your neighbors think it doesn't drift into your garden. The fellow who smokes by the children's play structure daily in Strawberry Creek Park will just tell you the sign doesn't apply to him, since his smoke is medicine

Are our parks for sale? Is Cesar Chavez Park for sale? The letter from High Times dated November 27, 2018 and the subsequent race to insert accommodating legislation in the dispensaries proposal not only says yes. It says yes, how high? 


A College Education: The Problems Keep Growing

Harry Brill, ( UC Berkeley Grad, 1960-1969)
Friday March 15, 2019 - 02:30:00 PM

College students are not only hungry for knowledge. They are hungry for new experiences and for the opportunity to explore new ideas Students are also looking forward to developing new friendships, and more generally, enjoying the college experience. Instead, too many are feeling very financially pressed, unable to find a decent affordable place to live, and can barely afford regular and healthy meals. Unfortunately for many students, their college experience is disappointing and even distressing.

About their living situation, most students would prefer to live on the college campus. Although 38 percent of undergraduate students attending one of the nine University of California schools live in campus housing, which is less expensive than the private sector. U.C. Berkeley provides housing for only 22 percent of undergraduate students. And only 9 percent of Berkeley graduate students compared to about 20 percent on the other campuses enjoy campus housing. Indeed, U.C. Berkeley's record for housing students is the worse of the nine California university schools.

With regard to the cost of campus room and board in U.C. Berkeley housing, the University ranks among 1,100 colleges as the fifth most expensive in the nation. Because it charges exorbitant rents, the housing is self-supporting. So it could charge student tenants less rent. But it doesn't. By not competing with the private sector with lower rents, it is a gift to the private housing market. 

To understand U.C. Berkeley's housing policy, take a look at who serves on the UC Board of Regents, whose members govern the universities. . Many who serve on the board are committed to the interests of the private sector. For example, Dianne Feinstein' spouse, Richard Blum, who is an investment banker, has an exclusive contract with the federal government to purchase post offices and sell them to the private sector.  

Clearly, the University administrators are quite aware of what the regent members want. In deference to the interests of the private housing market several years ago a UC Berkeley administrator mentioned that the University did not intend to build student housing. In defense of this policy, he claimed that providing a quality education rather than housing was its main objective. But as many colleges realize, providing campus housing is very compatible with educational objectives. Actually, UC Berkeley has other priorities. Among the reasons that the private sector has been able to charge exorbitant rents is in part because the University has avoided competing for tenants. 

Due to the considerable pressure to provide housing for students, the Board of Regents and the UC Berkeley administration has more recently acknowledged their obligation to build campus housing on some of the campus sites. But there is a catch. According to U.C. administrators, U.C. Berkeley has adopted what is called the P-3 approach, which means it now favors participating with the private sector in "public, private, partnership" ventures. In short, the University provides the land, and the private sector constructs, then operates the housing, and collects the rents to pay back its investments. So in reality, the University is allowing these developers to privatize campus housing. You can be certain this arrangement will be lucrative for business, which will undoubtedly be charging high rents. 

To assure a student market in the private sector for housing being built both on and off the campus, the University is continuing to admit more students than is justified. Since 2010 the number of enrolled student has climbed from about 30,500 to over 42,500 currently. Moreover, the plans are to increase the student body to 44,735 in the next three years, But the number of faculty is not being proportionately increased. And the University announced that it will be reducing substantially the number of employees. As a result, the size of classes will grow, more courses will be taught by teaching assistants rather than experienced faculty, and services will be cut. In addition, the crowded city of Berkeley will become even more crowded and polluted. 

Moreover, the California state legislature rather than attempting to ameliorate student problems have appreciably contributed to their hardship. Until the late 1970s, tuition for students on any one of the campuses was free. But Ronald Reagan, who served as governor, from 1967 to 1975, was outraged at the "extremism of the students". He claimed that the student protests of the sixties reflected their "socialist ingratitude" for the education they were receiving. So he did whatever he could to punish both the University and the students. He fired the University's president, Clark Kerr, who supported free tuitions and who Reagan regarded as too soft on radical activism. He cut UC's budget and attempted to require students to pay a tuition. Although he succeeded in persuading the Board of Regents to adopt student fees (for non-instruction costs), the state legislature was not yet convinced to approve tuitions.  

But not long afterwards, the Board of Regents was given the power to charge tuitions. Tuition was one tool that could limit student activism. A growing number of legislators agreed with Reagan that to build a world class university, the students must pay for it. In addition, the budget allocated to the University system was slashed in 1974 from 32 percent of the total UC budget to about 12 percent currently. To compensate for the reduction, the Regents has since felt compelled to raise the tuition substantially. 

Not surprisingly, the implications for students who are under enormous financial pressure have been worrisome. A survey found that among college students, over 40 percent suffered from anxiety and more than 36 percent were experiencing depression. Almost one out of four college student were taking prescription drugs to relieve these symptoms.  

However, student problems are more than psychological. Food insecurity, which is the Department of Agriculture's term for a lack of adequate and healthy food. According to a survey of UC Berkeley 38 percent of undergraduates and 23 percent of graduate students cope with food insecurity at some point during the year. In addition to the adverse health implication of suffering from food insecurity, a lack of an adequate diet impacts school performance. Hunger makes it very hard to focus on school work. 

To get by many students have been forced to borrow money. After graduating, paying back their loans reduces for many their standard of living. Even though Berkeley students compared to students in other colleges are better off financially, 35 percent are forced to make loans. Also, a full time, good paying job after graduating has become more difficult to obtain. Unfortunately, the immense decline in middle class jobs is certainly not a fiction. 

To turn the economy around to serve the objectives of graduates requires building a mass based democratic political movement and electing progressive political leaders. Yes, that sounds like one of those clichés. Whether it is a cliché or not, there is no other alternative

Governor Newsom's Order to Halt Executions

Harry Brill
Monday March 18, 2019 - 04:03:00 PM

What a wonderful event for progressives to hear very good news on an important issue. In the last several years California voters have twice rejected measures to abolish capital punishment. Nevertheless, Newsom, who is Catholic, has not only employed his gubernatorial powers to halt executions, which applies while he remains governor. He has done so for the right reasons. Capital punishment is inhumane, discriminates against people of color, and those who are too poor to afford expensive legal representation.  

Because a public referendum supported the death penalty, Newsom's decision will probably be appealed, claiming that the governor has no authority to change the law. But so far, so good. 

Moreover, Newsom made the very obvious and important point that execution is irreversible. Five inmates since 1973 in California were freed from death row based on evidence that they were wrongly convicted or sentenced. Donald Heller, who wrote the initiative that expanded California's death penalty, acknowledged "if you have an imperfect system taking someone's life, it's a little bit frightening". Indeed, the result of wrong decisions is that the system is burying its mistakes. 

Actually, due to judicial intervention, there have been no executions since 2006, which is 13 years ago. The inmate was a 78 year old white man, who was legally blind, diabetic, and used a wheelchair. But the future was about to change. There are now 737 condemned inmates in the nations' largest death row. They include 24 inmates who have exhausted all legal appeals. if Newsom's decision is upheld, he would be saving many lives. 

As Newsom commented, most countries have either abolished capital punishment or are no longer using it. But the U.S., along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and China, ranks among "the world's top executioners. 

However, stopping executions is not enough. It should be just the beginning of a progressive incarceration policy. Too many prisoners should not be in prison at all, either because they are innocent or they are serving long sentences for minor offenses. 

On this issue, Newsom so far is disappointing. He stressed that his order would not provide for the release of any inmates or alter their convictions or sentences. This is inconsistent with the decision he made. California's prisoners are disproportionately racial minorities, poor, and unable to able to afford costly legal representation. And too many who have been convicted for possessing and using drugs should be in rehabilitation programs, not in prison. It is incumbent on progressives to continue the struggle to demand and achieve a more civilized society for all, including those who are racial minorities, poor, or mentally ill, who certainly cannot defend themselves adequately. If not, we are a democracy in name only.


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Brain-Intensive Tasks and a Good Environment Are Therapeutic

Jack Bragen
Friday March 15, 2019 - 02:26:00 PM

One of the many things that can better the condition and outlook of mentally ill people, and can ease depression, is to have brain intensive activity on a regular basis.

Reading books would be one example. Reading intense books or technical books is a rung higher on the ladder. Getting involved in complex, organized tasks that engage the mind and body such as some jobs in technology, or some classes in adult schools or colleges, would be yet another example.

You don't have to become a rocket scientist and you don't have to be on the "cutting edge" of science or technology. Just being engaged in a stimulating, and at the same time, constructive environment, will help the brain develop. When you develop the brain through "mental exercise" it may alleviate some of the "negative symptoms" of some mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. 

Brain intensive activity doesn't fix everything. Yet, it is a way of improving the brain, by causing neurons to form new connections with other neurons. 

Living in a good environment, (and there are numerous factors to this) helps one's condition and one's outlook. The term, "Use it or lose it," applies to numerous things in life. 

Exercising the mind is akin to bodybuilding. In bodybuilding the muscles are enlarged and strengthened through a regimen of physical exercises. When you put the mind to task through mental activity, you strengthen the mind. Mental activity isn't limited to academic-type work. Social interactions use other parts of the brain that aren’t used in reading, writing and thinking. Working with your hands uses yet another area of brain capacity. Any activity that is organized uses the brain's capacities and strengthens the brain. 


Absence of abuse is very important to your well-being. You should not be abusive to people, and you should not have to receive abuse. 

Environment is never going to be perfect. But one hopes that your environment isn't overfilled with stressors, has some fun things, and engages the body and mind. 

Some amount of stress is healthy. Being overly sensitive to stress could be addressed with medication or could be addressed with some forms of meditation. Sometimes too much avoidance of discomfort is counterproductive. 

Everyone has to deal with hard and demanding situations at times in our lives. If life was always easy, we wouldn't really be alive. Compared to a few generations ago, most Americans have it easy, materially speaking and in terms of health. Advances in technology, the availability for most people of enough food, and the wealth that most people are calling "middle class" cause most people to have very high standards for what is acceptable. 

Now the pendulum is swinging the other way, and in the not so distant future many people could be looking at bleak prospects, because of what we're doing to the atmosphere, and because of deterioration in societal structures. If you can acclimate yourself to a level of stress that you can handle, this may serve you in the coming years. 

As it stands, mentally ill people often do not live in good environments or under good living conditions. If we are institutionalized, including outpatient institutionalization, we do not have much power over our external circumstances. We may not be able to get away from disturbances, whether this is noise, someone getting into a conflict nearby, lack of privacy, or incessant, bad television. We may also be subject to supervision, and this isn't always necessary. 

In order to establish a better environment, sometimes it seems as though a miracle must happen. However, if we are at liberty some of the time to live in a peaceful situation, and during that time, exercise our faculties, it will help improve brain condition. 

Jack Bragen's books are available on Amazon and through other vendors.  


SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Monday March 18, 2019 - 04:42:00 PM

The first paragraph of Al Jazeera's report on the Christchurch murders reads as follows:

"The Australian-born suspect who shot and killed dozens of Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, has published a manifesto praising US President Donald Trump and Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011. The 74-page dossier . . . hailed Trump as 'a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose'."

But there was something unique and notable in Al Jazeera's reporting: Not once did the reporter mention the killer by name.

Al Jazeera has set a standard that should be emulated by the rest of the world's media.

If news reports can withhold the names children and unwitting next of kin, let's demand that the media stop granting recognition and fame to mass murderers—many of whom are driven to kill, in part, by the lure of celebrity. 


There have been reports that other news outlets have also begun to "de-identify" the Christchurch killer. However, a Google search confirms that the following news providers all continue to name the killer: CNN, ABC, BBC, Sydney Morning Herald, New Zealand Herald, The Washington Post. The New York Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Sun, and Foreign Policy.

It is not clear yet where the new policy first caught on but Al Jazeera isn't completely off the hook when it comes to hitting the delete button: it mentioned the killer by name in an article posted on 2AM Saturday morning.

I hope that the name-ban policy continues to expand. And it should be extended to ban videos of mass-killing suspects and any words that they might wish to shout at waiting news crews.

Fortunately, because footage from the suspect's arraignment appeared with his face blurred (government policy in New Zealand), we could not see the killer "smirk." It was the print media that shared his immoral glee, thereby became an enabler of the gunman and those who might wish to follow him.

It's now abundantly clear that the killer was motivated, in part, by the promise of Internet fame. Case in point: The killer's attempt to glorify his online impact by interrupting his carnage to shout: “Remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie!”

The news media can clean the slate—literally—by refusing to shine a spotlight on mass murderers. Better they fade and wither—locked up, alone, and unknown—in the shadows of a prison cell. For celebrity-seeking killers, the prospect of being denied 24-7 media notoriety and being treated as a nonentity, could be a bigger deterrent than the death penalty.

Meanwhile, in the White Nationalist House…

Donald Trump has again gone on record with a rant demonstrating why he is an individual worthy of the title "symbol of renewed white identity." In an interview with Breitbart News, Trump bellowed:

"I actually think that the people on the right are tougher,

but they don’t play it tougher. Okay? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad."

As Splinter News observed:

"It says a lot about the state of the country when the President of the United States can make a laudatory, if oblique, reference to having fascist goon squads commit violence on his behalf, and it’s not the biggest headline of the day."

Why Trump Is Not a Leader: In His Own Words 

Listening to Donald Trump's responses to press inquiries about the purpose and direction of the government under his stewardship, you might have cause for concern. More often than not, Trump's most frequent fall-back response to critical questions is: "Well, we'll just have to wait and see." 

This fave-phrase only reinforces the impression that Trump is not a leader. He's more like a spectator attending his own performance. 

Truth in Labeling? 

Here's more proof that Trump only has business on his mind. (Thanks to Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert for pointing this out.) Trump recently hosted Marilyn Houston, the CEO of Lockheed-Martin, at a White House event. In his hoarse and halting way (pausing and searching for each next word like an unsteady hiker trying to cross a stream, one rock at a time), Trump struggled to produce the following non-sentence: "I may ask Marilyn Lock-HEEED, the leading . . . business . . . woman . . . executive in this country . . . according to many . . . ." (Emphasis NOT added: Trump really enunciated the name "Lockheed" in this fashion.) 

Kimmel and Colbert, in simultaneous monologues, both followed up with a tape of Trump chatting up Apple CEO Tim Cook. 

Trump again: "Tim, you're expanding . . . all over and really doing things I wanted you to do . . . right from the beginning. And I said, 'Tim, you really got to start doing that over here' and you really have that … you really put a big investment in our country. We appreciate it very much, Tim Apple." 

Kimmel offered the best alibi, suggesting that Trump "got confused after meeting Ronald McDonald last week." 

Perhaps Trump should extend this practice to members of his cabinet, 70% of whom have significant corporate ties. 

A few examples, courtesy of Corporate Presidency.org: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos-Amway, Energy Secretary Rick Perry-Waste Control, Health Secretary Alex Azar-Eli Lilly, HUD Secretary Ben Carson Costco-Kellogg, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao-Wells Fargo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin-Goldman-Sachs, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo-Koch, and Vice Pres. Mike Pence-Koch. 

A War on Warren's Piece 

On March 8, Elizabeth Warren announced her big proposal to break up the three biggest tech companies—Apple, Google, and Facebook. But when the Senator's team tried to promote the proposal with a video ad on Facebook, they ran into a roadblock. As Team Warren explained: "We got a notification from Facebook: They were pulling down our video ads." 

As Warren's staff explained: "Facebook and Google control 70% of online traffic, so in order to get Elizabeth's message out online, we have to use their platforms—and pay them for the privilege. Facebook is letting us share our video again (thanks, by the way). But if you want proof of Elizabeth's point that Facebook has too much power, look no further than their ability to shut down a debate over . . . whether Facebook has too much power.
"This is why it’s important to have a social media marketplace that isn't dominated by a single censor — because at the end of the day, Facebook makes the call on whether an ad, whether it’s from a presidential campaign or a mom-and-pop business, gets to be shown or shut down.
Earlier this year, Facebook blocked an ad from Reveal, as investigative website, after it posted an article explaining how Facebook was allegedly "duping game-playing kids out of their parents' money." Facebook turned about-face after Reveal got in touch with the Com-giant's PR department. 

All about the Benjamins 

OrganizeFor.org has posted a petition defending Rep. Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim woman to serve in the House who got in trouble for suggesting that support for Israel might have something to do with pro-Netanyahu political donations and lobbying. 

Right-wing GOPsters pressur4red Dems to specifically name Ilhan Omar and label her as "anti-Jewish." This is ironic, OrganizeFor.org notes, since: 

"Last week, Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy, who infamously accused Jewish Democrats of trying to "buy" the 2018 midterm elections, attacked two Muslim congresswomen for speaking out against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In response, Representative Omar pointed out that McCarthy and other politicians receive money from pro-Israel groups, and that's why he was targeting her—unintentionally evoking an anti-Semitic trope, for which she immediately apologized." 

Criticizing Bibi Netanyahu for his politics—including the illegal repression of Palestine—doesn't constitute "anti-Semitism." If it did, that would mean criticizing Trump for his xenophobia and misogyny would make you "anti-Anglo." 

How US News Morphs into Propaganda 

When Trump vents about the Mainstream News Media and its so-called "fake news" he's not entirely wrong. Much of the media routinely indulges in the use of manipulative nouns to denounce and adjectives to promote objectives that are fundamentally political and ideological. Here are some of the words to look out for: 

"Regime." If a country is not a firm ally of the US, it is referred to as a "regime." Hence, Iran is referred to as a "regime." Saudi Arabia is referred to (at worst) as a "monarchy." North Korea was a "regime" but it became a "country" again during the Washington/Pyongyang peace negotiations. Now it's edging back into "regimeness." 

If the US is interested in using illegal military force to threaten, attack or invade a foreign country, the target is first identified as a "rogue" regime. 

We are told that Russia "invaded" Ukraine. A bit of an overstatement, but the word "invade" has more political zing than the word "annexed." 

We are told that Hamas "seized power" in Gaza. In fact, Hamas "seized power" by winning the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections (claiming 74 of 132 parliamentary seats). 

We are told that Russia is an "expansionist threat" that promotes "instability" by acting as a "geopolitical rival" of the US. The message: The US empire cannot abide rivals. 

Trump's Environmental Policy: Trash, Defile, and Denude Mother Nature 

The Society of Environmental Journalists compiles a weekly survey of important articles on environmental themes. Here are some recent examples of how much damage Trump can do in a single week: 

"White House Presses Automakers To Back Fuel-Efficiency Rollback"  

"EPA: Wehrum's Old Clients Back 'Ambient Air' Plan — Documents" 

"Trump Again Seeks Deep Cuts in Renewable Energy Funding"  

"Energy Department, California Spar Over Nuclear Site Cleanup"  

"How Federal Disaster Money Favors The Rich"  

"School Lessons Targeted By Climate Change Doubters" 

And here's a sampler from a more recent week: 

"EPA: Trump Repeats Effort To Slash Agency Funding"  

"Interior: Budget Highlights New Headquarters, New Drilling" 

"Trump Seeks Cuts For Cleanup Of Great Lakes, Other Waterways"  

"Congress Strikes Back at Interior Department's Bad FOIA Regs" 

Docs: Monsanto Recruited Scientists To Fight Glyphosate Cancer Stigma  

"Trump Budget Seeks Cuts In Science Funding"  

Call Him by His Name 

Just more evidence that Trump doesn't care a whit for the well-being of planet Earth. Instead of trying to preserve nature's beauty, Trump wants to mine mountains, pollute streams, fell forests, and poison the atmosphere—all in the name of short-term profit. To Trump, the Planet—our Mother Earth—exists only for individual self-gratification, to grope, abuse and exploit at will. 

In this light, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) used the correct word when she told her cheering supporters: "We're gonna impeach the Mother-fucker!'" 

Demand an Honest Vote on Election Reform 

The good news: the House of Representatives introduced and passed the For the People Act (FPA), the strongest, most comprehensive package of voting reforms in decades.
The bad news: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed that he won't allow the FPA a fair vote in the Senate. McConnell claims Congress's attempt to make our democracy more open, honest, and accountable constitutes a "power grab."
To which, Common Cause observes: "McConnell doesn’t care that our democracy has been corrupted by big money donors and vote-suppressing politicians. He doesn’t care that the nonpartisan solutions in the For the People Act are already working in states across the country. And he doesn’t care that Americans overwhelmingly demanded change with their votes last year."
Common Cause is calling for millions of Americans to publicly condemn Mitch's machinations. You can stand up to McConnell by adding your name to this petition demanding a fair Senate vote on the For the People Act. 

Inside Syria 

NBC's Richard Engel recently filed a report from a hill overlooking Baghouz—"the city where ISIS, the terror group, is making its last stand." 

A long-range lens showed what Engle described as "a squalid tent city." 

Crouching with a Kurdish commander alongside, Engle sounded indignant as he overlooked the camp: "We can see them moving around. Lots of them. On their motorcycles. Men. Why aren't you attacking?" he demanded. 

The Kurdish officer calmly explained that "hundreds of wives and children of the fighters" also were living in the camp "and we don't want to make them martyrs." 

Engel got his comeuppance when he approached a large group of women refugees recently driven from the town. The veiled women started pelting Engel and his film crew with water bottles, yelling "Infidels!" as their children defiantly held up their index fingers as a sign of the Caliphate. 

This was not your classical war of one army facing off against another. Instead, it involves several armed forces (including several foreign actors) conducting artillery and aerial strikes against a small, determined band of ideologically driven survivors—and their wives and their sisters, and their children. Invoking the Underdog Principal, it's hard not to find some sympathy in the plight of the dogged and doomed defenders of Baghouz, Syria. 

A Slap on the Gold-plated Wristwatch 

Donald Trump's ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort got slapped with a kid-sized glove during his criminal sentencing. The minimum proscribed sentence for Manafort's manifold crimes was 17.5 years. Instead, he got less than 47 months. By contrast, Reality Winner, an intelligence official with a moral compass who was charged with revealing information about WikiLeaks, was handed a 63-month sentence. (Update: In a subsequent trial, Manifort was sentenced to another 43 months for a total of 90 months.) 

There's a petition going around to protest this injustice. It's more proof that there's one justice system for the wealthy and well-connected, and another for everybody else. It's time for real criminal justice reform, but it's going to take a grassroots movement to make it happen.
Click here to add your name to support criminal justice reform

Getting Off Easy: Trump's Reputed Link to Sex Trafficking 

But the big winner in the Reduced Sentence Sweepstakes has got to be billionaire playboy and political insider Jeffery Epstein. In November 2018, the Miami Herald reported interviewing more than 80 women who testified to having participated in a "sex pyramid scheme" from 2001 to 2006 at Epstein's Palm Beach mansion. Investigators uncovered a "black book" containing the names of hundreds of young women and underage girls—some as young as 13—who were recruited to serve as "masseuses." 

One of the underage recruits was Virginia Roberts Giuffre. Giuffre was recruited in 1998 while working a summer job at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. 

Epstein faced life in prison for his involvement in child prostitution but, in 2007, federal prosecutors in Florida offered Epstein a secret "non-prosecution" agreement. A Florida judge subsequently ruled the deal illegal. 

George W. Bush's Justice Department opened an investigation that revealed the man behind the deal was none other than US Attorney Alex Acosta (who, ironically, now serves as Donald Trump's Secretary of Labor). 

Once again, Epstein was facing a life sentence but the politically connected multiple offender was again offered special treatment. According to The Daily Beast, he was allowed to plead guilty to just two state charges (solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution). 

And what was Epstein's sentence? Take a deep breath. Just 18 months—in "a private wing of a Palm Beach jail." But he only served 13 of those 18 months. And during that year in the clink, he was allowed to leave the jail every day and spend 16 hours outside on unsupervised "work release"! 

So how come Epstein received such extra-special treatment? Rumors suggest it was due to his status as “a money manager to the super-wealthy” and his many connections with powerful and influential men, including Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, Woody Allen, New England Patriot's owner Robert Kraft, attorney Alan Dershowitz and, yes, Donald Trump. 


Fox News has reported that flight logs showed Bill Clinton had been a passenger aboard the "Tatiana," Epstein's personal Boeing 727 (aka the "Lolita Express"), on more than 22 occasions. As Fox rushed to explain: "The tricked-out jet earned its Nabakov-inspired nickname because it was reportedly outfitted with a bed where passengers had group sex with young girls." 

When New York Magazine asked about his friendship with Epstein, Trump was characteristically boastful, declaring: 

'I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it: Jeffrey enjoys his social life."

Arts & Events

New: Puccini’s LA RONDINE Soars at Island City Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday March 18, 2019 - 05:00:00 PM

A late work by Puccini, La Rondine (The Swallow) is somehow perennially absent from the operatic stage. It was last seen locally in a 2007 San Francisco Opera production featuring Angela Georghiu as Magda, the kept woman who abandons her wealthy Parisian patron when she finds true love, only to discover she must give up her dreams. If the plot of Puccini’s La Rondine suggests affinities with Verdi’s La Traviata, the main difference is in the musical structure. Puccini has fashioned La Rondine as a Viennese-style operetta.  

Recently, Island City Opera presented four performances of La Rondine at Alameda’s Elks Lodge. I attended the Sunday, March 16 performance. With veteran conductor Jonathan Khuner at the helm of a 21-piece chamber orchestra, La Rondine soared on wings of fine music-making. Soprano Eileen Meredith was convincing in the role of Magda, and her many high C’s were mostly spot on. Meredith delivered a beautiful “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta,,” an aria that is often hailed as one of Puccini’s finest, which is no small praise! 

La Rondine boasts not one but two prominent tenor roles; and here Sergio Gonzalez was a stalwart Prunier, poet and confidant of Magda, while Alex Boyer was an ardent Ruggero, the young man who inflames Magda with his love. Bass Jason Sarten was an elegant Rambaldo, Magda’s wealthy sugar-daddy. Soprano Liz Russ almost stole the show with her portrayal of Lisette, Magda’s maid and confidante. As Lisette, Liz Russ was alternately saucy and submissive, a loyal servant but one who leads an alternative life when not working. Her romantic involvement with Prunier has its ups and downs, but a lively sex-life keeps them together 

. The Parisian café society milieu of La Rondine calls for many small roles; and here Katja Heuzeroth, Liesl McPherrin , and Christabel Nunoo stood out among the females, while Wayne Wong, Khris Sanchez, Robert Boyd, and Michael Belle held up the male contingent. A large chorus also was frequently heard. Stage Director Jane Erwin Hammett kept the action moving deftly, and she wisely brought the whirlwind movement to a standstill for the moments of high emotion. 

Act III was particularly effective. Magda has left Rambaldo to make her life with Ruggero, and they have taken up residence on the French Riviera near Nice. Ruggero confides to Magda that he has written to his parents telling them of his love for Magda and asking their consent to his marriage. This news both touches Magda and disturbs her, for she realizes that her sordid past as a courtesan (unknown to the naïve Ruggero) will make it impossible for her to marry Ruggero and be acceptable to his parents. In the end, she reluctantly informs Ruggero of this, and he is devastated. As Ruggero bursts into tears, Magda leaves accompanied by Lisette, and Magda is last heard singing a high A flat “Ah!” from offstage, as La Rondine comes to a close.

New: With Philharmonia Orchestra Salonen Goes Big and Loud

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday March 18, 2019 - 05:02:00 PM

A program of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht and Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony may offer only a small and unrepresentative sample, but it seems from Saturday night’s concert, March 16, at Zellerbach Hall that San Francisco Symphony audiences may be in for some very loud music when Esa-Pekka Salonen assumes the Music Director post in 2020. Salonen is currently in town with his Philharmonia Orchestra of London, which he has headed as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor since 2008. For Saturday’s concert, Salonen had huge forces at his disposal. The program notes listed 110 musicians, and the stage was filled to capacity with musicians extending the full width of the stage.  

Opening the concert was the 26 year-old Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, a work that is a climax of Post-Romanticism, written well before Schoenberg developed his twelve tone approach. This early work of Schoenberg’s was originally written for string sextet, and the composer later arranged it for string orchestra. Rarely, however, is Verklärte Nacht performed with such a massive orchestra as it was given here under Esa-Pekka Salonen. Some things get lost in such a performance. For example, there are two important pizzicato passages in the viola section that, in either the sextet version or with a small chamber orchestra, stand out boldly. Here they were smothered and became barely audible. This is a pity. On the other hand, I found the Philharmonia’s cello section offering a sumptuous tone throughout. Principal violist Yukiko Ogura had a brief but lovely solo, and Concertmaster Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay excelled in bright, shimmering passages, as did Assistant Concertmaster Sarah Oates. All told, this was not Verklärte Nacht the way I like to hear it; but if you want big and loud, this was your meat and potatoes, 

After intermission the Philharmonia took on Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in E Major. Bruckner offers plenty of opportunity for music that is big and loud. However, Bruckner composes in blocs that alternate in dynamics. The 7th Symphony opens quietly, with low rumbles in the cellos and a solo horn; but it soon builds to repeated ear-splitting climaxes. Even in this symphony’s second movement, an Adagio that offers some of the most lyrical music Bruckner ever penned, there are also several ear-splitting brass climaxes played fortissimo. The Adagio was conceived by Bruckner as a loving tribute to Richard Wagner, who died before Bruckner completed this Adagio. It has a number of Wagnerian features, including the use of “Wagner tubas,” an invention of Wagner’s that is a cross between the horn and the euphonium. The Adagio also offers a lovely solo for flute, here ably performed by Samuel Coles.  

The third movement is a Scherzo, a dramatic whirlwind of music featuring trumpet and clarinet above ostinato passages in the strings. The Finale features a pizzicato bass line while the strings offer a lyrical hymn-like melody. However, the opening theme from this symphony’s first movement now returns to lead up to yet another ear-splitting climax, which, because this is Bruckner, somehow works and seems entirely appropriate. Throughout this 7th Symphony of Bruckner, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted with enormous energy. He leaped about the podium, waved his left arm vigorously, thrust with his right arm and pointed his baton directly at individual musicians, and when he wanted the orchestra to stop dead, he gave a dramatic downward thrust with his right arm. He put on quite a show. I guess it goes with music that is big and loud. One can’t help wondering, however, what Salonen will do with music that is not big and loud.

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar: Public Meetings and Civic Events for March 17-23, 2019

Saturday March 16, 2019 - 10:43:00 AM

Sunday, March 17, 2019

SPECIAL SSBPPE –Sugar Sweetened Beverages Product Panel Experts-- Commission meeting on Sun., March 17, from 9am–1pm, at Leila Café, 1724 San Pablo Ave. Sponsored by Health Housing &Community Service Dept, contact 510-981-5394; --see:


Monday, March 18, 2019

Children, Youth, and Recreation Commission, at 7 pm, at 2800 Park St., Frances Albrier Community Center, San Pablo Park. No agenda posted. If you have questions call 981-5146. --See: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Children_Youth_and_Recreation_Commission/

Agenda and Rules Committee, from 2:30–3:30 pm, at 2180 Milvia, 6th Flr.,Redwood Conf Room; Agenda Planning for March 26-City Council Meeting. Email your public comments to <council@cityofberkeley.info

On planning Council's April-2 agenda, Consent items: #2.To add $50K more to Shattuck Ave Reconfiguration Project, #3. Budget for opening West Campus Pool year round, #5. Adopt Holocaust Remembrance Day Proclamation, #7. To support AB-969 Collective Bargaining (CA Legislature), #8. To support SCA-1 Public Housing Projects which repeals citywide voting for public housing construction; 

Action items: #12a-b Enforcement for (CEAC) safe lead paint practices, #15. Discuss Draft SEIR of Upper Hearst Project development and 2020 Long Range Development Plan, #16 refer City Manager to create a comprehensive “vehicle dweller program” for Berkeley (model on Oakland Safe Parking Program), # 17. Refer Energy Commission to hold public meetings on new electrification technologies (new buildings), #19. To propose an Adopt-A-Spot program for public volunteering with neighborhood city maintenance (storm-drains & circle clean-up, etc.) projects; --see Agenda Packet: 



Tuesday, March 19, 2019 


Berkeley City Council Special Session, from 6–11pm, at 1231 Addison St., in BUSD Board Room. On agenda, Work Session, item: #1 Projection of Future Liabilities, #2. Budget update, #3. Crime report, - Action #4. To develop a Qualified Opportunity Fund for economic stimulus and affordable housing in Berkeley. 






Wednesday, March 20, 2019 


Animal Care Commission, from 7–9 pm at 1-Bolivar Drive, Berkeley Animal Shelter. On agenda: Old business items, and Election of officers. --See: 





Commission on Labor, from 7 – 9 pm at 2939 Ellis St., South Berkeley Senior Center. On agenda: #4. Status 

on Homeless Youth Policy, Fair Workweek Requirements, Equal Pay and Family Leave, #6. Living Wage Ordinace; --See: 







Commission on the Status of Women, from 6:30– 8:30 pm at 2180 Milvia, Cypress Room. 



Thursday, March 21, 2019
City Council Land Use, - Housing & Economic Development Committee, from 10:30am—12 Noon, at 2180 Milvia St., 1st Flr, Cypress Room. On agenda, item: #2. analysis for proposed senior housing development at West Berkeley Senior Center at 1900-Sixth St., #3. Open Doors Initiative (re-zoning R1 & R1a for condos) and First-Time Home-Buyers Program (for City workers & local moderate-income buyers), #4. To modify Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee per gross residential floor area (GRFA) vs. number of units in building; see:





Facilities, Infrastructure,Transportaion, Environment,& Sustainability (FITES) Comittee, at 2 pm, at 

2180 Milvia Street, 6th Flr, Redwood Rm. On agenda, item: #2, a-b. Recommended Green Stormwater Infrastructure in new and redeveloped properties, #3. Adopt new code to prohibit natural gas in future projects, #4. Adopt new bidding process for street paving maitnance. --See: 




Adult Mental Health Services Center Groundbreaking Ceremony, at 1:15 pm at 2640 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way (near Derby St.) The AMH Services Center provides mental health and related social services to Berkeley and Albany community members and their families living with serious and persistent mental illness., include counseling, case management, medication, nursing, psychiatry, and wellness and recovery groups. --see:



Design Review Committee, from 7–11 pm, at 1947 Center St., in Multi-Purpose Room (Basement). No agenda posted --contact (510)- 981-7415 (or -7410) for more information. --See: 




Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, from 7–11 pm, at Berkeley Unified School District Board Room, 1231 Addison Street (near University Ave or Bonar St.). No agenda posted. Contact 981-7368.--See: 



Fair Campaign Practices Commission, at 7 pm, at 2180 Milvia St., 1st Floor, Cypress Room. No agenda posted. Contact 981-6998. --See: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/FCPC/ 


Open Government Commission, from 8-9 pm, at 2180 Milvia St., 1st Floor, Cypress Room. On agenda: #8. Proposal by ProDemocracy Project, #9. Report on Good Government Ombudsman program; --see: 





Transportation Commission , 7–9:30 pm, at 1326 Allston St., Corporation Yard, Bldg A, 1st Flr (near Acton/West Sts.) No agenda posted. Contact 981-7061. --See: 



Water Conservation Showcase in San Francisco on Thursday, March 21. Gathering yearly since 2004 to address the water issues and challenges facing California, and advocating for sustainable practices in building developments that speaks to the bottom line of people, profits, and the planet. --See: https://www.waterconservationshowcase.com 


Friday, March 22 2019 – No public meetings or events listed. 


Saturday, March 22, 2019 - – No public meetings listed. 


John Lee Invitational Co-Rec Softball Tournament at San Pablo Park, 2800 Park St., and at Grove Park, 1730 Oregon St. Saturday and Sunday at 8am. Contact (510) 981-5152 for more information. --See: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/CalendarEventMain.aspx?calendarEventID=15730

Free Tax Preparation at the Main Central Library, (weekly) from March 9--April 13, from 10:30am-3:30pm by appointment. Need help with your Taxes? Volunteers with the AARP Free Tax Preparation service are here to help you every Monday & Saturday by appointment. Sign up by calling (510) 981-6148 to make an appointment. --See: https://www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org/events/free-tax-preparation 


Sunday, March 23, 2019 – No public meetings listed. 


John Lee Invitational Co-Rec Softball Tournament at San Pablo Park, 2800 Park St., and at Grove Park, 1730 Oregon St. Sunday at 8am. Contact (510) 981-5152. --See: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/CalendarEventMain.aspx?calendarEventID=15730

* * * 

Worth Noting 


– Career Day: Women Leaders on Wednesday, March 20, at 12:15 pm at the Berkeley Community College in BCC Room 423. --See: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Health_Human_Services/Commissions/Commission_for_the_Status_of_Women/COSOW%20-%20Events%20-%20Women%27s%20History%20Month%20@%20BCC.pdf 


– Attend a Berkeley ADU Basics Workshop on March 25,at 7pm at the Berkeley Rep Theatre. This public workshop is open to all who want the specifics of the Berkeley ADU ordinance permitting process and Measure Q's impact. 


--The Public Review Draft Adeline Corridor Specific Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) will be available in April/May 2019. There will be multiple opportunities to learn about and provide feedback about the Adeline Corridor Draft Plan and the DEIR at community meetings, as well as meetings of the Planning Commission and other Boards and Commissions in May & June. More detailed information about specific meeting dates will be announced as location and agendas are confirmed. Visit the Adeline Corridor webpage for schedule of the planning process--or visit: 



-- The CASA Compact-- Former Planning Commissioner Zelda Bronstein has given an introduction to the CASA Compact and Bay Area cities on the issues of land-use and development. It is more literal and current, describing a situation that requires some organized resistance in the moment. ..."Regional planners mount a quiet coup to promote developers and attack vulnerable communities"... in 48 Hills. -- View at: https://48hills.org/2019/01/developer-mtc-coup/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGZylxZWSqk 


-- Coming soon, "What Is Democracy?" a new film documentary that reflects on the word we take for granted and how it connects the past and the present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political, in order to provoke and inspire us--if we want to live in a democracy. See: <https://zeitgeistfilms.com/film/whatisdemocracy#playdates


-- To check for Regional Meetings with Berkeley Council Appointees, see: 



-- A new web-platform of mapping of City data can be found at <cityofberkeley.info/gisportal

This portal allows users to explore a broad variety of data, grouped into five primary categories: property & planning, transportation, recreation, environment, and community services. --See: 



* * * 

This *Sustainable Berkeley Coalition civic meetings list is posted on the SBC website at <https://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/

and it is also available at the Facebook pages for **Berkeley Progressive Alliance (BPA) and for Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA). 

Also, visit the (BNC) Berkeley Neighborhoods Council Newsletter link for information on City and community issues at <http://berkeleyneighborhoodscouncil.com/