Letter to Berkeley Planning Director Tim Burroughs re 2211 Harold Way

Erin Diehm
Thursday January 16, 2020 - 12:34:00 PM

Dear Mr. Burroughs,

I believe the entitlement for 2211 Harold Way will expire this coming Monday, January 20th. In the name of fairness, transparency and precedence I am writing to urge you to NOT grant this project yet another extension. The fourth, if I'm not mistaken - a shocking possibility. The investor has had ample time, four years, to secure funding and move ahead. Our city has been inordinately accommodating, granting three extensions already, behind closed doors and without public process or hearings. The granting of yet another, a fourth, would violate public trust and the goals of our permitting conditions, which were established to make sure projects move forward in a swift, timely fashion. To this end, I believe you stated when granting the prior, third extension:

"August 31, 2018. We are granting your extension request, but the project team will need to move swiftly to demonstrate to the City and the broader community that this third extension will result in a different result and that the project will get built consistent with City approvals."

Well, it's 16 months later. We are counting on you to honor your words. In the letter you stated that "a different result" was expected, that is, the project would move ahead quickly in 2018-2019 and there would be no more requests for an extension. And yet, here we are again. This simply must not stand.

To reiterate, in the name of precedence and fairness, I urge you to refuse any additional exceptions or extensions to this project. We've lost precious time with this investor. Granting yet another exception would amount to favoritism and essentially nullify the results of the democratic process we struggled and fought for in the community. In addition, offering yet another extension would set a very bad precedent for the future of our city, encourage other investors to request special treatment, and detract from our ability to enforce the construction of entitled housing in a timely fashion. I urge you to do the right thing. No more extensions. -more-


From the Desktop

Glen Kohler
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 12:28:00 PM

Empty the Photos Trash

Most Macintosh users I encounter use the Photos program to store and organize photographs. But no photographer bats a thousand, so a lot of pictures wind up in Photos’ trash folder—which is a different place than the System trash found in the Dock. Picture files in the Photos trash are out of sight and therefore out of mind, sometimes for years. It is not uncommon to find hundreds, even thousands, of image files in the Trash folder inside of Photos. -more-

Why We Wash Our Hands

Margot Smith, Dr.P.H.
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 12:59:00 PM

Recently I spent time with a relative in the ICU, the Intensive Care Unit at my local hospital. In the ten days I kept vigil until his recovery, the hospital staff kept his room sterile. Every time the room was entered a new pair of gloves was put on. Blood pressure and other monitors were wiped down when entering and leaving the room. The floor and bed rails were cleaned often. For the short time he was considered contagious, we all put on paper aprons when entering, discarding when leaving. There were four trash receptacles—one for needles and sharps, one for soiled linen, one for bio-contaminated equipment like tubes and wipes, and one for plain refuse. Staff efforts at keeping the room sterile were impressive. -more-

Public Comment

“Wag the Dog” - again

Jagjit Singh
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 12:57:00 PM

Our political leaders have an annoying habit of repeating failed survival strategies. They also feed the American public with mega doses of false information to mask embarrassing political blunders. Remember the New York Times story 1998 headlined “Impeachment Vote in House delayed as Clinton Launches Iraq Air Strike, Citing Military Need to Move Swiftly” started to circulate on social media. This picture was widely shared by those who argued that Trump, like Clinton, was attempting to “wag the dog,” a colloquialism that means to distract attention away from a political scandal (in this case impeachment), often through military action. -more-

Do We Really Want War with Iran?

Margot Smith, Dr.P.H.
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 12:48:00 PM

President Trump’s plan to increase US conflict with Iran and engage in nuclear war is outrageous. War with Iran would have unimaginable political and humanitarian consequences. It could not only lead to Iran’s devastation but result in nuclear fallout over many countries of the Middle East.

Iran has 14 nations on its borders. By land, Iran shares borders with Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan. Across the Persian and Oman Gulfs lie Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman. And to the north, beyond the Caspian Sea are Russia and Kazakhstan.

All these countries could be affected by a nuclear event in Iran. The nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, Japan (1945), testing in Nevada (1951) and the Marshall Islands (1946–58), the accidents at Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011) have shown us that nuclear emissions and fallout affect people living more than a thousand miles away. In the United States, people as far as Chicago, 3,000 miles away from the Nevada tests, were exposed to nuclear fallout. -more-

What They Promised v. What We Got; Vape Lounges by Libraries

Carol Denney
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 08:42:00 PM

Item VII.A.1. Cannabis Commission June 7, 2018, Page 10 of 37, Draft of Cannabis Advertising Proposal: Advertising: "The proposed Berkeley Municipal Code states that no billboards would be allowed within the Berkeley city limits advertising cannabis or cannabis products." -more-

Just Another Little War Crime

Steve Martinot
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 01:09:00 PM

Shall we add Suleimani to the list of people assassinated by the US government? They include, despite some on-going controversy, JFK, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, RFK, Fred Hampton, Karen Silkwood, Louis Lomax, Patrice Lumumba, Che Guevara, and many more. That is an auspicious list of people who, in one form or another, fought for democracy, justice, and national sovereignty in the world. Trump is adding Suleimani to that list. -more-

LETTER FROM AUSTRALIA: Addressing the Cause of Fires

Dennis Fitzgerald
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 01:24:00 PM

Sometimes it's the small events that brings home an issue to you, as the saying you can't see the trees for the forest can be so true. At the usual Friday coffee catch up one of our group mentioned in passing that they had lost their holiday house in the fires that are attacking so much of Australia at the moment. -more-


Supporting Workers in Gig Professions is Complicated

Becky O'Malley
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 11:36:00 AM

The law of unintended consequences is alive and well and living in Sacramento. A well-intended bill which seemed to be designed to correct inequities affecting drivers of on-demand car services like Uber and Lyft is causing an uproar among small arts production organizations among others.

An onine posting from one of the Bay Area’s excellent small-scale low budget professional production companies, Alameda’s Island City Opera, tipped me off:

“It is with a heavy heart that, due to circumstances beyond our control, we must postpone our current plans for the March 2020 production of Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers. “As of January 1, 2020 the State of California put into effect new regulations. Island City Opera (ICO), with the guidance of legal counsel, has determined that these new rules apply to ICO and present significant new administrative and financial requirements. The ICO management team is investigating exactly what is required to meet the new rules and developing a plan for the future.”
The villain is Assembly Bill 5, which was authored by California Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 18th, 2019, to take effect on January 1, 2020.

Groups like Island City recruit performers from an itinerant contingent of professional actors, singers and other musicians who need to assemble a lot of different jobs to create something like a living wage. That’s where the term “gig economy” originated—jazz musicians back in the day called their engagements “gigs´. Wikipedia claims that the word originated in the 1920s and is short for “engagement”. That might just be folk etymology, but regardless of origin, this term has been adopted for all kinds of short-term work.

Some musicians and actors at some points in history have achieved the goal of steady work with the aid of Actors’ Equity and the American Federation of Musicians, but the vast majority of those who entertain us in the Bay and elsewhere must go it on their own with no union to back them up. Many go back and forth between managing productions and appearing in them. Professionals usually get small fees and they are supported by a lot of unpaid volunteers. -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

Speak Truth to Power in Berkeley on Wednesday: For a Price

Saturday January 11, 2020 - 11:29:00 AM

There are lots of important topics being dealt with, for the most part out of the public eye, in Sacramento these days. Besides the need to clean up the sloppy drafting of the former A.B. 5 (see the editorial above), we need to drive a stake through the heart of SB 50, Sacramento’s attempt to snatch land use planning away from local governments, which must be killed before the end of January if at all.

If you’d like to bring your concerns to our local Assemblyperson Buffy Wicks, you might be interested in this invitation forwarded to me by a reader:

“Join Team Buffy in Berkeley on Wednesday, January 15th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm for an evening reception hosted by Honorable Tom Bates & Honorable Loni Hancock, Honorable Laurie Capitelli, Honorable Lori Droste, Honorable Rashi Kesarwani, Linda Schacht & John Gage, Elizabeth Echols, Ben Gould, George Perezvelez, and Honorable Susan Wengraf.

Let’s keep the momentum going as we approach the primaries in March! Please join us Wednesday, January 15th? -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE: 2000-2019: What Hath the Internet Wrought?

Bob Burnett
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 12:39:00 PM

While I usually write about politics, I'm also interested in technology. And, of course, technology is political. So here are a few observations about the social and political impact of the Internet in the first twenty years of the twenty-first century.

THE INTERNET turned fifty in October. The modern era of the Internet began in 1989 with the invention of the "world-wide web" and the first web browser. The past twenty years has seen rapid deployment of the Internet throughout the world -- although in some locations, such as central Africa, it's difficult to read your email without a satellite phone.

The vast expansion of the Internet has impacted all aspects of our lives, from our daily personal rituals to the conduct of our businesses. It's been facilitated by the develpment of high-speed telecommunication networks, LTE (long-term evolution) -- mostly 4G in the U.S. And by the advent of the PDA (personal data assistant) and e-commerce (electronic commerce). -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Antipsychotics: A Chemical Straitjacket?

Jack Bragen
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 01:12:00 PM

Although I've taken antipsychotics for more than thirty years, and I swear by them, they are not an ideal treatment. This is because an ideal treatment for a psychotic disorder hasn't yet been discovered. We have medications, counseling, and, to augment these, training oneself to recognize delusional thoughts. None of these three alone are enough; we need all three.

Medication causes a lot of problems for the patient. Antipsychotics depress the central nervous system. They restrict the flow of information in the brain. Everything is affected by this. It is harder to brush your teeth. It is harder to get up out of your chair and do calisthenics. Any attempt at connecting with, and/or exerting the body is harder.

Antipsychotics make it harder to concentrate. They make it harder to read. They make it nearly impossible to work competitively at most jobs. They can make life a miserable experience.

Antipsychotics are like a chemical straitjacket.

How many readers have been in a straitjacket? I have a vague memory of being in one once. I've also been "four-pointed." This is where you are tied to a restraint table with a leather strap at each limb. When four-pointed, California state law mandates that staff must check on you every fifteen minutes to make sure you are still breathing.

(Anything that resembles restraint to me triggers a lot of anger. This is because mental health treatment has given me PTSD. If my path is blocked, especially when I have no exit route from a space, I become very upset. This has happened to me in my kitchen.)

The alternative? There is none. Trying to go without medication doesn't work. I tried that several times, and each time, I barely got through it alive and intact. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Trump versus Iran Over Assassination of General Soleimang

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 12:45:00 PM

The assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Suleimani, Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, must be considered violations of international and humanitarian law.

Assassinations are unlawful under an executive order signed by Ronald Reagan in 1981 (which updated those by Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter). Because the ban on assassinations is set forth in an executive order rather than an act of Congress, numerous methods circumventing the prohibition exist. -more-


The Berkeley Activist's Calendar: Jan. 12-19

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 12:28:00 PM

Worth Noting and Showing Up:

The summary below is good reason not to have confidence in the City’s Community Calendar as a source as many of the meetings found by going through every board and commission were not listed in the Community Calendar.

The agenda for the January 21 City Council meeting follows the list of next week’s meetings and there are lots of important items that could use your comment either with an email, phone call or showing up on January 21 including 43 .a&b 5-year paving plan, 44. Outdoor Emergency Shelter, 46. Purchase order for trucks

Monday: The Agenda Committee planning for January 28 City Council meeting #8 prohibiting cell phones, text, email, etc during Council meetings under items to be reviewed deserves comment. Some of the Council members are constantly texting during meetings along with receiving “coaching” on how to question/comment, expect resistance of the prohibition from those who depend on these tactics the most. Also note Surveillance reports due and RV parking in City lots,

Tuesday: Council Worksession note the $ 95 million estimate for Veterans Building and Old City Hall -more-

Back Stories



Supporting Workers in Gig Professions is Complicated 01-11-2020

The Editor's Back Fence

Speak Truth to Power in Berkeley on Wednesday: For a Price 01-11-2020

Public Comment

“Wag the Dog” - again Jagjit Singh 01-11-2020

Do We Really Want War with Iran? Margot Smith, Dr.P.H. 01-11-2020

What They Promised v. What We Got; Vape Lounges by Libraries Carol Denney 01-11-2020

Just Another Little War Crime Steve Martinot 01-11-2020

LETTER FROM AUSTRALIA: Addressing the Cause of Fires Dennis Fitzgerald 01-11-2020


Letter to Berkeley Planning Director Tim Burroughs re 2211 Harold Way Erin Diehm 01-16-2020

From the Desktop Glen Kohler 01-11-2020

Why We Wash Our Hands Margot Smith, Dr.P.H. 01-11-2020


THE PUBLIC EYE: 2000-2019: What Hath the Internet Wrought? Bob Burnett 01-11-2020

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Antipsychotics: A Chemical Straitjacket? Jack Bragen 01-11-2020

ECLECTIC RANT: Trump versus Iran Over Assassination of General Soleimang Ralph E. Stone 01-11-2020

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar: Jan. 12-19 Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition 01-11-2020