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Bay Area COVID-19 Update

Eli Walsh (BCN)
Monday May 25, 2020 - 08:51:00 PM

The latest developments around the region related to the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, as of Monday afternoon include:  

The USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum is holding an online Memorial Day commemoration event Monday due to the museum's closure during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The commemoration includes videos of past Memorial Day ceremonies aboard the ship. 

In Sonoma County, restaurants and other food facilities are now allowed to offer onsite sit-down meals - outdoors. That is one significant change in the Sonoma County Health Officer's public shelter-in-place order, which expands the list of Sonoma County businesses able to operate as part of the county's move into Stage Two of Gov. Gavin Newsom's reopening plan. The amended order went into effect after midnight Saturday morning.  

While most neighborhood parks and recreation facilities in Berkeley remain closed, the city has reopened tennis and pickleball courts for singles play provided social distancing and other measures are used. The sports are now allowed under the revised shelter-in-place order issued May 18 and the city recreation department as of this weekend has begun taking online reservations for court time.  

The Santa Cruz County Public Health Division is investigating four distinct clusters of COVID-19 coronavirus cases traced to family gatherings, county officials said. County public health workers have identified four separate clusters of COVID-19 transmission in the South County region, according to a statement from the Public Health Division. The investigations are still ongoing, but all known transmissions are associated with close contact between households during family gatherings.  

As of Monday at 2 p.m., officials have confirmed the following number of cases in the greater Bay Area region:  

Alameda County: 2,874 cases, 93 deaths (2,852 cases, 93 deaths on Saturday) Contra Costa County: 1,336 cases, 37 deaths (1,296 cases, 36 deaths on Saturday) Marin County: 403 cases, 14 deaths (369 cases, 14 deaths on Saturday) Monterey County: 371 cases, 8 deaths (371 cases, 8 deaths on Saturday) Napa County: 101 cases, 3 deaths (97 cases, 3 deaths on Saturday) San Francisco County: 2,386 cases, 40 deaths (2,350 cases, 40 deaths on Saturday) San Mateo County: 1,833 cases, 76 deaths (1,833 cases, 76 deaths on Saturday) Santa Clara County: 2,652 cases, 139 deaths (2,546 cases, 138 deaths on Saturday) Santa Cruz County: 200 cases, 2 deaths (192 cases, 2 deaths on Saturday) Solano County: 455 cases, 20 deaths (455 cases, 20 deaths on Saturday) Sonoma County: 500 cases, 4 deaths (467 cases, 4 deaths on Saturday) Statewide: 94,558 cases, 3,795 deaths (90,631 cases, 3,708 deaths on Saturday)  



CONTACT: County Health Departments, State Health Department  



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Gov. Newson Announces Statewide COVID-19 Contact Tracing Campaign

Eli Walsh (BCN)
Friday May 22, 2020 - 03:35:00 PM

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced the launch of a public awareness campaign for the state's COVID-19 case investigation program. 

The state launched a partnership with the University of California at San Francisco and UCLA earlier this month to begin training thousands of coronavirus contact tracers that will attempt to limit the spread of the virus in real time.  

The "California Connected" public awareness campaign -- which will include radio and social media ads, billboards and videos in multiple languages -- is intended to get state residents to "answer the call" when their local public health department reaches out to recruit them as a contact tracer, according to Newsom.  

"That simple action of answering the call could save lives and help keep our families and communities healthy," Newsom said.  

Newsom has said the state hopes to train roughly 20,000 contact tracers by the first week of July through the partnership program and disperse them throughout the state's 58 counties. The state has received some $5.1 million in private financial support to spur the California Connected campaign and reach the 20,000-tracer goal. 

The state's 58 counties and three cities with separate health departments have roughly 3,000 contact tracers already in the field, according to Newsom. More than 500 have already been trained through the state's program as well, with another 300 scheduled to complete the 20-hour training course this week.  

"We are bringing together the best minds in public health, academia and private industry to design a program that can help lower the risk for COVID-19 in all of our communities and keep us on the path to reopening," California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell said. Information on the state's contact tracing program can be found at covid19.ca.gov/contact-tracing.


Public Comment

Better COVID-19 Tracking Data Needed to Plan for
Re-Opening Berkeley

Claire V. Broome, M.D. , Assistant Surgeon General, US Public Health Service (retired)
Sunday May 24, 2020 - 01:21:00 PM

Residents of Berkeley need better information to track Covid-19 in Berkeley and Alameda County

I worked in public health for 28 years, so I understand the challenges facing Health Departments in the City of Berkeley, Alameda County, and the state. The fundamental tool for health departments facing a new frightening disease like Covid 19 is data –how many new cases each day? Are case numbers stable, increasing, or decreasing? Where are cases happening? What are the risk factors (eg exposure to known case, essential worker, crowded facility)?

Many residents may not understand that with a new disease, Public Health Departments at all levels of government are learning as they go, doing what is urgent based on knowledge and past experience, and figuring out how to improve that response. Systems that worked for routine disease tracking may need to be adapted on the fly to track and respond to Covid-19.

But residents of Berkeley like me need to know what's happening in our city now, and how the City will make informed decisions as we move forward with re-opening. The essential questions: are NEW cases stable, going up, or down? As we re-open, where are new cases coming from? How will the City effectively control spread so we are safe but can get back to school and work?

The City of Berkeley and Alameda County provide the number of new cases each day confirmed by PCR testing. But the number of cases confirmed by testing may be difficult to interpret due to recent increased availability of testing. Testing may also not reach vulnerable populations. 

We also need to know the number of NEW cases each day hospitalized or seen in Emergency Departments (including both those confirmed by test, and suspect Covid-like illness). Persons ill enough to seek care represent a more consistent measure over time. Currently reported hospitalization numbers include all who are currently in hospital with Covid, or suspected Covid—but Covid-19 cases may be hospitalized for weeks, meaning that the hospitalization number reflects what was happening in the past, as well as counting the same case on multiple days. The figure is useful for monitoring health care resources—but virtually meaningless for tracking changing disease trends. Privacy of health care data is important—but so is residents’ trust that meaningful data will be available. Given that Berkeley residents can be hospitalized in many different locations, providing this data in some de-identified form (potentially a three day moving average?) should be within the capability of Health Departments. 

While the number of tests administered is an indicator for reopening, this is an indirect metric. One could administer a lot of tests to the “worried well”, a low-risk population, and miss disease spread in high-risk populations who have less access to testing. Reporting new hospitalizations/Emergency Department visits avoids that distortion, as it can identify ill persons who may not have consistent care providers. For example, Berkeley's case rate is low compared to the rest of Alameda County (64 vs 170 per 100,000 population), and tests are widely available in Berkeley. The case data are more informative than Berkeley’s lower rate of testing. 

There've also been a lot of calls for repeated random testing of asymptomatic persons. That violates Sutton's Law —when you have a complex test, limited personnel, and testing sites, you go where the money is –i.e. individuals with symptoms, and a systematic approach to high risk settings, like health care personnel, essential workers, unsheltered persons, and crowded facilities. 

Finally, as Berkeley moves cautiously into reopening, what is the Health Department's plan for identifying where transmission is occurring? The tracking systems discussed above identify cases. Then Berkeley needs to find people who may have been in contact with an infected person; test and isolate as needed; and understand if possible where their infection may have come from. We can’t wait for an app solution which may or may not be useful—there is no substitute for on the ground Public Health investigation by City employees. 

We are fortunate to have well trained dedicated public health workers at local, state, and national levels working 24-7 on the crisis. A critical part of their work requires public trust—trust which will be increased with transparent data sharing and descriptions of the work they are doing to keep us safe. 



Pompous Pompeo & Trump

Tejinder Uberoi
Saturday May 23, 2020 - 02:44:00 PM

It’s past time to apply the brakes on the Trump-Pompeo duo who are determined to remove the oversight guard rails of our democracy. The latest watchdog to receive a pink slip is State Department inspector general, Steve Linick who was reportedly close to completing his report on Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s efforts to bypass Congressional oversight in an end run to close a $8bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates. This is yet another example of “American Exceptionalism.” – selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, the architects of 9/11, and the torture and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi. These weapons will enrich US defense contractors, but will be used to blow up innocent men, women and children in neighboring Yemen, a country on the brink of mass starvation, a cholera epidemic and Coronavirus pandemic. It is inconceivable that Pompeo and VP Pence, who claim to be devout Christians, would negotiate arms deals with such autocratic regimes. Jesus must be weeping. 

Linick’s firing is the latest in a string of dismissals of officials in watchdog roles, as Trump has steadily dismantled the machinery of government oversight. Linick was also investigating gross misuse of security staff to run errands for Pompeo and his wife Susan. They are also guilty of entertaining friends at expensive restaurants, all at taxpayer expense, a gross abuse of power. Trump should fire Pompeo and submit his own resignation. He is inflicting enormous harm to America, its people and the world at large.

New CEQA Guidelines for Traffic Impacts Make Assessment Meaningless

Bob Silvestri
Thursday May 21, 2020 - 05:05:00 PM

As anyone knows, during normal times, traffic is one of the top concerns of Bay Area residents. Prior to the current, unprecedented economic lockdown, local traffic was intolerable during rush hour--something it will likely become again, once the pandemic has passed.

It is generally acknowledged that traffic jams have a direct relationship to air pollution from all those idling and bumper to bumper vehicles. And until we live in a fully electric or hydrogen powered world, this will remain the case.

One of the current methods of mitigating against this, as it relates to new real estate development, include assessing the impacts of the traffic that a zoning change or a new project will add to adjacent roads and how that will effect congestion at intersections. That method is called "Level of Service" (LOS) and it's analyzed by doing traffic counts and recording congestion times.

It's a method that has served us well for decades. California’s public policy makers, however, disagree and have made changes to CEQA Guidelines to take this issue in an entirely new direction. 

In 2013, the California legislature enthusiastically passed Senate Bill 743 (both McGuire and Levine were on board). Among other things, this legislation required that the California State Office of Planning and Research issue and adopt new CEQA Guidelines for assessing the environmental impacts of traffic. 

What the legislation basically said was that traffic congestion would no longer be considered a significant impact under CEQA and therefore need not be assessed at all if the "project" involves "land use" (i.e., zoning) or "transportation" (involves highways or any other system that Caltrans has some jurisdiction over). 

The new way of considering traffic congestion impacts is called "vehicle miles traveled" (VMT). 

The paradoxical rationale for this change to VMT was supposedly to better align CEQA analysis the State’s public policy goals of “reducing” greenhouse gas emissions and traffic-related air pollution in order to promote “multimodal transportation networks” (translation: get rid of cars) and “a diversity of land uses” (translation: high density development). It presupposes that local planners can really know what those metrics will be, now or in the future, for any particular type of land use or development (in the real world, VMT data that may exist varies widely depending on location, geography, demographics, economic vitality, level of urbanization, etc.). 

Another stated goal was for "traffic studies" to no longer be able to use LOS data to support road widening and building new freeways (both considered cardinal sins by current planning doctrine). It seeks to force the use of essentially non-existent public transportation and "walkability," whatever that means. 

As a result of SB 743, as of July 1, 2020, CEQA “lead agencies” (your city) are now supposed to analyze a project’s transportation impacts using VMT. 

In theory, VMT measures the “per capita number of car trips generated by a project” and estimates the distances cars will travel to and from a project, regardless of the traffic congestion it may or may not cause. However, this is, as a practical matter, an unquantifiable guesstimate based on pretty much whatever anyone wants to believe is the case (i.e., planning staff, developers, and politicians with an agenda). 

Very broad statistics do exist (the only studies considered to support SB 743) for a typical adult's VMT in a year, but none of those can be realistically applied to development on a particular land parcel in a particular town anywhere in the state. 

VMT is very different from the way most agencies presently assess impacts, which, as I said, is to rate the LOS of the various intersections impacted by a new project, based on monitoring existing congestion levels at those intersections and estimating the number of additional vehicles that the project will generate. The LOS scale grades from “A” (best - less than 10 second delays) to “F” (dysfunctional - more than 80 second delays). 

Under an LOS assessment, these vehicle counts are relatively accurate because they are based on decades of statistics and they are also code based. For example, a ten unit apartment building is required to have a certain number of parking spaces per unit and data on how much traffic different types of uses generate per unit or per square foot (residential, retail, commercial, industrial, etc.) is well documented, locally. But, VMT turns the definition of "congestion" from being an objective measurement to a subjective opinion, grounded only in what is or is not politically correct at any given time. 

After all, who gets to decide what additional percentage of traffic is "too much?" 

High density developers, housing advocates, and the usual cast of characters in the State Legislature are gushing about this change to VMT. They know that under, VMT “traffic,” as an impact, will be more easily manipulated to match their public policy goals. 

Or, as the law firm of Perkins Coie notes, 

“Under the existing framework of congestion-based analysis using LOS, infill and transit-oriented development is often discouraged because such projects are in areas of existing traffic congestion.” 

The fact that VMT lacks any commonsense relationship to real world experience apparently doesn’t matter, but I suppose that’s the whole point. 

Ed Yates, a prominent SF Bay Area environmental attorney, explains it this way. 

“Developers complained for years about the Level of Service criteria because it focused on intersections and they complained that any growth could exacerbate intersection congestion. Which, of course, is something the public would want to know about and could understand. 

“VMT, however, does not tell the lay person that [an intersection] will become more congested but instead provides a snapshot of the development's percentage contribution to overall traffic. So, instead of a finding that [their nearby intersection] will go from the already bad LOS C to a very bad D, now the finding is that the new development will add .9% to the total VMT. 

“What does that latter figure really mean to the public? Not much, because who cares what the development project's percentage of historic traffic will be? What people want to know is do they have to wait longer and how much. And now, they may never know.” 

Or as traffic expert Robert Harrison commented, 

"It appears VMT offers a great opportunity for "fudging" the numbers on project impacts, reducing the possibility of adding transportation capacity and improving the potential for new development to be approved." 

But it turns out that "fudging" is the least of VMT's flaws. The truth is that the mathematics of VMT rewards more and more traffic congestion, while masking the real world impacts. 

As an area's roads become more and more congested, the VMT traffic impacts that any particular new project contributes decreases as a percentage of the overall impacts. 

Consider this. 

If the VMT for development in a particular area is presently 10,000, and a new project produces another 500 VMT, that's an additional 5% impact. But if the VMT is then 10,500 and an identical new project producing another 500 VMT is added, that's only an additional 4.75% impact -- indicating it has less impact than the first project, even though its actual impact is identical. 

Theoretically, as the area's real traffic congestion reaches total gridlock 24/7, the addition of yet another project approaches zero percent impact. 

Or as Michael Graf, another seasoned CEQA attorney we work with, put it, 

“It seems that in the name of fighting climate change, officials appear pretty ready to sentence those left in the urban areas to a miserable existence.” 

Bob Silvestri is a Mill Valley resident and the founder and president of Community Venture Partners, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community organization funded only by individuals in Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area. Please consider DONATING TO CVP to enable us to continue to work on behalf of California residents. 

We Must Become Loving, Fierce, and Brave Now

Thomas Lord
Monday May 18, 2020 - 04:44:00 PM

What a terrible predicament we're in during this pandemic shut-down, but there are some very bright silver linings. Let's consider three big problems we face:

Problem: The climate emergency

Scientists tell us that we are out of time. Our greenhouse gas emissions must fall very sharply this year, and every year for years to come. If we get to, or very close to, 0 emissions this decade, there's a ghost of a chance. If we fail, scientists tell us every tree a young adult sees today, in every forest on earth, stands a good chance of dying during her lifetime. They tell us that not only trees but species of all types will die off so rapidly that there are questions about whether we'll be able to keep eating. This is the world we have been preparing to leave those young adults and children! Our society as a whole is doing this to generations who are already alive!

The silver lining? This "shut down" of large parts of the economy has, overnight, reduced our greenhouse emissions far and fast. In fact, at the moment, we have reduced emissions farther and faster than has been accomplished in the entire history of the environmental movement. And if nothing else, look at the sky. You have never seen air this clean, for this long, in the Bay Area. 

The predicament: Capitalism poses us a nasty predicament. If we restart the engines of capitalism and try to "reopen", to return to something like how we lived last year, instead of reducing emissions by 16% or 20% this year, we'll only see a temporary, smaller drop - perhaps 9% in recent forecasts. In the years that immediately follow a reopening, we'll more than make up for even that 9% drop. Emissions will return and grow. We will seal a terrible fate for the young adults and children among us. 

Problem: The pandemic vs. wages 

If we were, tomorrow, to return to life just as it was last year, scientists tell us that COVID-19 would spread so rapidly, and gravely injure or kill so many, that our lives would be even more disrupted than they currently are. By sticking to quarantine for now, we can avoid a total crisis. At the same time, this is causing an economic crisis for 10s of millions of people - possibly a majority of the workforce. It's a very frightening time for many people who are confronting a full market, but with no money in their pocket. 

The silver lining? The shelves are full! The production that is vital to our thriving is still going on. Oh, sure, there are glitches but they're just glitches. It's already become easier to find toilet paper for sale. Flour and yeast will return. The only problem is that on one side we have full shelves -- on the other, a rapidly growing number of people with empty pockets! 

This is our chance to fix that. We have no choice but to drag out the loss of wages - to keep the shut-down going. Otherwise, the pandemic will rage. We have no choice but somehow put necessities into the hands of those with empty pockets, to keep them in their homes, to put those that lack homes into homes, to ensure that everyone can access healthcare. We can work this out, and we have to. Like they say: every crisis is a mix of danger and opportunity. Let's focus on our opportunity to make a society that is more forgiving of empty pockets, no matter how they arise. 

The predicament: Nearly every necessity we need in order to thrive is made by but a tiny fraction of the global workforce. We can see that plainly now, during the shutdown. So many out of work, but the shelves are full and the shortages are easing. Many of those still working operate in dangerous, horrifying conditions just to have a pittance of money in their own pockets. 

Those dangerous, harsh jobs only exist for one purpose and one purpose only: profit. To endure the pandemic in good shape, we must - even if we think it only temporary - agree to produce much that we need more safely, even if that harms profit

And we must find ways to distribute that produce, even to those who lack wages right now, even if that harms profit

We can do this but think of who will resist, who will fight us. Every politician from the White House, through the Congress, to our local officials. They are all eager to "reopen" and restore profits - even at the cost of public safety. They are already trying to do it. Every capitalist claims that their profit is the only moral course, and the only possible mode of human organization. They are wrong, of course, but they are serious. 

So once again, at the heart of our troubles right now, sits capitalism. Capitalism is our biggest danger. Capitalism threatens to ruin our planet with warming. Capitalism threatens to starve anyone caught with empty pockets. 

Now is our opportunity to break capitalism's rules - because we have no choice. At least for now. 

Problem: The pandemic vs. our personal lives 

For most of us, the quarantine is personally hard to endure. Some of us are stuck at home alone. Some are with roommates, friends, or family who we may love quite a bit. But confinement together stresses any relationship, confinement alone stresses every individual. It is a time when none of us can really do much going out to meet up with people we know, or meet people we don't. This is hard on all of us. We can't stay like this forever. 

The silver lining? Now is a time when we can imagine a slightly different way of life. What if, as the pandemic fades, and it becomes safe to be near one another again, what if we could do that while still holding on to all this new free time? Couldn't that be wonderful? More time to meet people, to share good times. More time for more people to help educate the children. We would have more time to live freely, to develop ourselves, to enjoy life on a suddenly less polluted earth, one that might even turn the corner on climate change. 

The predicament: No surprise, it's capitalism again. Profits in capitalism happen only when we sell our time to someone else who is buying it to turn a profit. And the more of our time that's sold, the bigger the profits can be. So if we try to emerge from the pandemic more free, with more free time, once again, we can expect strong push-back from every politician, and every capitalist. Capitalism only exists if we sacrifice all of our free time on its alters, sell all our time to someone else. This has got to be stopped. 

So what can we do now? 

Nobody can form some big, central plan of action for today's problems. Nobody can publish a convincing blueprint of how we'll force the farms, the meat packing plants, the grocery stores, the hospitals across the nation to become safer for workers. Putting more of us on those jobs so that everyone involved can work fewer hours (but not few wages!) should help. Even at jobs wherein scarce skills are needed - nursing for example - the rest of us can offer help like operating ppe factories, or helping with whatever non-medical tasks we can do in hospitals. 

The workers already doing those jobs can help lead us in figuring out how we can pitch in to share the work and make them safer. That is where the knowledge of how to heal our systems of production resides: not with any great revolutionary leaders, certainly not with the politicians and capitalists, but with the people who do the work. 

I know it's true that we could run this joint much better than you.
I know it's true. The only reason you do it is for the cash the cash the underage ....
You ain't ever seen the tracks and the tacks will be washed out soon Now you could not care less about how it's gonna end That's not part of the plan Because capitalism ruins everything that's worth doing 

Aside from sharing out the vital work more fairly we have one more duty to one another: holding tight to our free time, our time to be whole people, and not, under any circumstances, accepting any kind of work that involves a rise in greenhouse gas emissions. 

No central leaders can tell us how to do this: the detailed knowledge it will take is scattered among all of us. Everyone knows piece of it.some 

Instead, we have to all recognize on our own what needs to be done, and start seeking each other out and working with one another to do what is now, more than ever, absolutely necessary. 

We must be loving, fierce, and brave now. 

The Dangerous Mix: Coronavirus plus Air Pollution

Harry Brill
Friday May 22, 2020 - 11:53:00 AM

The American public is aware that both the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and air pollution are major killers. So far in the United States the Coronavirus has killed over 95,000 people. Air pollution takes over 100,000 lives a year. But not as well known are the consequences of their interaction,

Scientists at Harvard have found that the Coronavirus death rate in highly polluted counties is 4.5 times higher than those in counties with low levels of air pollution. So if a community decides to allow more businesses to operate normally, which results in increasing traffic, the additional air pollution combined with the same level of the Coronavirus could result in a higher coronavirus death rate. 

An obvious and important question is how do we explain that the city of Berkeley, which has a population of over 120,000, has experienced so far only one COVID-19 death. This is surprising since there have been 72 confirmed infections, although the actual figures are probably higher because of limited testing. 

The major explanation has been that the Berkeley public has been more cooperative in conforming to the rules such as staying home, keeping a 6 feet distance where people congregate, and wearing protective masks Undoubtedly, many residents are taking precautions. But it is also apparent on Solano Avenue that many are also ignoring the requirements.  

What has been very obvious in Berkeley is the tremendous reduction in motor vehicle traffic. Not only are there fewer automobiles. Also, there are fewer high polluting diesel trucks on the streets. And the Pre- K-12 schools, which attract lots of drop-off and pick-up traffic, are now closed. As a result, the air that the city’s residents breath is a lot healthier. Among the benefits is that, the number of deaths in Berkeley due to the Coronavirus infection is close to zero. The important lesson is that the efforts to contain the virus and save lives must include a serious attempt to clean the air. 

Among the major barriers to cleaning the environment has been the resistance of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is actually an opponent to protecting the environment. The Agency recently relaxed rules that require business to report on various pollutants even though continually obtaining detailed information about the Coronavirus is important. Moreover, a few months ago the EPA suspended the enforcement of environmental laws. Unquestionably, the Agency policy, by mainly serving business interests, is engaging in the evil practice of spoiling the environment. 

in addition to being victimized by the Coronavirus, a growing number of workers are being victimized by unemployment. In fact, the unemployment rate is approaching the high rates of the 1930s. Workers of course want their jobs back. So the pressures are compelling public officials to relax the stringent rules that have curtailed the ability of business to operate.  

However, the problem for working people and their families is that their legitimate objectives could backfire. Opening the doors more widely to substantial number of businesses could appreciably increase air pollution and the number of deaths from the Coronavirus. 

It is urgent, then, that environmental issues be addressed. Providing alternatives to the current high polluting transportation system cannot wait. BART must improve its capacity, frequency, and safety. And the outrageous fares must be reduced to be affordable. Also, California’s Lower Emission School Bus Program, which provides funds to replace the polluting public school buses, must be expanded. Attention should also be paid to what other cities and counties are doing. Seattle is closing roads to cars and letting them stay open only to bikes and pedestrians. i It is likely that the public is more open now to considering and advocating an agenda that will improve our quality of life, To win the many battles ahead keep in mind that there is no replacement for an organized community whose participants put caring and sharing before greed.


THE PUBLIC EYE:What is the 2020 Democratic Message?

Bob Burnett
Friday May 22, 2020 - 11:49:00 AM

On Friday, May 15, House Democrats passed "The Heroes Act." It's a $3 trillion pandemic-relief bill, providing assistance to state and local governments, hazard pay for frontline health care workers, election protection, and many other benefits. Dems concocted a list so long that political pundits asked: "What's the message that Democrats are trying to send?"

"The Heroes Act" is a symptom of a larger problem: in the face of Donald Trump ranting "Covid-19 is nothing to be afraid of; it's safe to come out now," Democrats don't have a coordinated response.

1. Bad Donald: Many observers have suggested that Democrats adopt a variation of "Trump is a lunatic who is ruining our country" as the Party's mantra. This approach is tempting because Donald keeps doing all the wrong things, in prime time. Nonetheless, I recommend that Democrats do not make "Donald bad, Joe good" their primary message.

While such an approach might stir up the deep-blue base, it's unlikely to attract thoughtful voters who want to understand what the Democratic Party stands for. And this message won't sway Republicans who already know Donald is "bad" and don't care -- in fact, seem to love him more the badder he gets. 

Besides, the "Trump is a lunatic" channel is already occupied by groups such as The Lincoln Project. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/campaign-ads-2020/the-lincoln-project-mourning-in-america--campaign-2020/2020/05/05/2f99f36a-9761-4011-9b20-9258d3429f1a_video.html)) That is, by former Republicans, such as George Conway and Rick Wilson, who seem fully committed to running weekly "bad Donald" hit pieces for the next six months. 

Setting aside this option leaves three obvious messaging choices: leadership AKA "Joe good;" we can do better; and (sigh) the all-too-familiar "blue marshmallow." 

2. Leadership: From here, the best Biden-oriented thrust would be to emphasize his leadership qualities. That is, build on the fact that Joe is widely perceived as a nice guy with 50 years of experience getting things done -- mostly good things, such as the 2009 economic recovery. A Biden message example: In these difficult times, the United States needs calm seasoned leadership. A leader to bring us together, not drive us apart. Let's restore decency to the White House. Vote Joe... 

In other words, the Democratic leadership should not have Joe go negative, but instead let others do that. (Specifically, they should not have Joe respond to mean Trump tweets, but let others do that. Dems should set up a "President Tweety" war room.) Over the next six months, Joe should be calm, positive, and presidential. If Trump's dominant persona is vindictive narcissist, Joe's should be healer-in-chief. 

(This message logic suggests that Biden's VP pick should be someone who can "lay the wood" to Donald. Something that Amy, Elizabeth, and Kamala (and others) are very capable of doing.) 

3. We can do better: As a perennial optimist, I believe the U.S. pandemic-depression is an opportunity for a seismic positive change in American society. For example, the pandemic has made clear the horrific problems with America's healthcare system; the 2020 election is a good time to begin to fix these -- for example, with Medicare for all. 

While Joe Biden projects an image of empathic leadership, the Democratic team should broadcast a message of "the United States has to do better; we can do better." (I.e., "The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades.") 

Democrats should emphasize a handful of appealing programs. For example, Dems want healthcare for everyone -- Medicare for all. Further, Democrats should promise meaningful employment for everyone -- a massive effort to rebuild America. And, Dems will deal with climate change -- the green new deal. 

I'm emphasizing a handful of Democratic program proposals because the campaign emphasis should be restricted two or three. In 2020, Democrats need to to keep the message simple. The American public is hungry for problem solutions but, in these difficult times, is easily overwhelmed. Democrats should pick two or three program initiatives and hammer away at them: Americans need better healthcare and Democrats know how to do it... (By the way: since the Trump campaign is all about Trump, they won't be providing any real problem solutions.) 

4. What's the message? Sadly, there's a real possibility that Dems will not develop a coherent message in 2020. There's a real chance that Democrats will repeat the mistakes made in the 2016 Clinton campaign -- go all-out wonk, promise something for everyone, and lose message contact with persuadable voters. We can't let this happen. 

All of us, who think another four years of Trump would be disastrous, should do everything we can to ensure that the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign has a straightforward message: In these difficult times, the United States needs the calm seasoned leadership of Joe Biden. If we work together, America's best days are yet to come. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT:On Reopening the Economy

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday May 21, 2020 - 05:10:00 PM

Trump was alerted about COVID-19 in January and February but did not acknowledge its seriousness until March. He refused to take charge of the war against the virus, deferring instead to the states, and then continually undermined their efforts. Now he is quitting while he’s behind by encouraging the abandonment of state shelter-in-place orders. 

According to new estimates from Columbia University disease modelers, if the U.S. has enacted social-distancing measures a week earlier than it did — in early March rather than mid-March — about 36,000 fewer Americans would have died. That’s more than one-third of the current death toll, which is rapidly approaching 100,000. If the measures had been taken two weeks earlier, on March 1, the death toll would be 54,000 lower. 

For Trump it's strictly reelection politics now. There is no need for him to appear concerned about the public’s health and welfare. Empathy was never a Trump strong suit. His Republican enablers in Congress, red state governors, and his witting and unwitting followers are following lockstep behind him. 

Remember, however, we are only at the beginning of the pandemic and as of May 21, we already have more than 1.58 million reported cases of COVID-19 and over 93,000 dead — and growing. The expected number of deaths is projected to reach 100,000 by June 1. What will the death rate look like when a vaccine is found and administered? 

Politics has indeed trumped science (PUN intended).


Jack Bragen
Friday May 22, 2020 - 12:13:00 PM

If you can withstand having a full-blown psychotic episode, it isn't a giant intellectual stretch to deal with a society instituting massive changes to battle a deadly pathogen. This is not to claim superiority of any kind, nor do I minimize non-afflicted people's bravery or their fortitude. 

However, in my past, my psychotic episodes took me to bizarre places, with imagined danger and actual danger--the latter caused by being psychotic which caused me to be gravely disabled and, at times, a danger to myself and others.  

It takes bravery to get through a psychotic episode. Yet it is also foolish to stop treatment against medical advice. But once someone is in that place of psychosis, they have lost the ability to think normally, and that often makes a person unable or unwilling to accept or seek treatment. 

The psychotic worlds I lived in were even more bizarre than life in the face of coronavirus. And those bizarre, albeit imaginary worlds make life with coronavirus seem almost familiar. 

Fear is a familiar frenemy to me. It notifies me when there is something I must deal with, or it taunts me to tell me of worst-case scenarios that are highly unlikely to happen. Or, sometimes, fear is just there for no apparent reason, like a sadistic bully lurking within.

From seeing reports of first responders on television news, I see that Americans haven't lost their ability to fight. Even if fighting means keeping very ill people alive, if it equals the strength to carry on in the face of fear, and if it doesn't mean the stupidity of war, it is still fighting--good fighting. 

I respect people who can do things that I cannot do. I can come up with a good literary style and get a few things published. But I can't drive an ambulance, I can't resuscitate a person whose heart has stopped, and I couldn't even do a blood test properly, if I tried out for phlebotomist. 

I can endure ostracism while putting on a front of not being affected by it--the disguise is thin. I can not very well go after and attack someone who insults me. I get hurt feelings sometimes, and maybe a reputation for being weak, among some. Others would just say that I'm civilized. 

When psychotic, I would become verbally assaultive but did not attack anyone. When first mentally ill in 1982, I did do some stunts that were violent and other stunts that could have gotten myself or someone killed. It wasn't my proudest time of life. Yet, taking antipsychotic medication every day for more than thirty-five years with some interruptions, takes work. 

Antipsychotics hinder my capabilities. Yet, they have become so much of a part of normal for me, that I would never be able to successfully withdraw from them. If I stopped these medications now, I could die purely from the shock to my brain. If I didn't die of that, the result would still be a permanent wreck of my faculties. 

It takes resolve to continue to be medication compliant. Not everyone with mental illness is able to voluntarily do this. When it is not done voluntarily, it will be done for us involuntarily, if we are fortunate enough that the mental health establishment is willing to intervene and devote those resources to us. 

I could probably not survive the physical stresses of another psychotic episode. The emotions, the stresses on the body, and not taking care of basic needs, could mean death for someone my age. It helps that I am aware of that. 

If I became homeless, it would be a death sentence. I would not have access to the basic needs of someone with compromising physical and mental medical issues. 

In the above, I am facing facts. I've been noncompliant when young and I barely survived it. I was resilient back then. 

More recently, I've dealt with about four major crises at the same time. I've dealt with a mandated move into a downstairs unit in the apartments where I rent with my spouse. I've dealt with Social Security now doing a review on me to determine whether I continue to be disabled--if they decide I'm not, I'm in massive trouble. I've dealt with increased demands in my environment--I can't be more specific than that. And I've dealt with Earth's upheaval because of a pandemic. Also, a great therapist who has helped me for two years is leaving. None of the above might seem challenging to a skeptical person. Yet, if you were to see it from my perspective, it has been rough. 

Some things can turn out not to be awfully hard if I just try. This is where mental plasticity comes into the picture. I am still sometimes able to adapt to new challenges. I do not have the luxury and restrictions of being taken care of and supervised in a group home. I have responsibilities, and by the same token, I am in charge of me. 

I do not have a case manager, and I do not have a ghost writer. The words you read are written by a 55-year-old schizophrenic man with the aid of Microsoft Word. The books I've produced (available on Amazon and elsewhere) are done through the automated self-publishing platform of LULU, and I did not get any help from anyone in producing them. I've also navigated the electronic copyright system at the U.S. Copyright Office--my books are registered there. The fee, up until recently, was $35 for a simple copyright registration. 

My fiction has appeared in science fiction e-zines. I've had guest commentaries appear in East Bay Times. I am a longtime contributor to the Street Spirit Newspaper. The problem is, even while I've done a lot with respect to writing, the pay is usually little or nothing. But I can do it from home with no immediate pressure, and it keeps me out of trouble. 

My resilience is not entirely gone--I have some left. And we may find that the individuals in society, mentally ill or not, who are able to make something work in the face of this crisis, will still be here a few years from now. I can only hope I am one of them. 


SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday May 23, 2020 - 02:39:00 PM

This week, another great issue of Mother Jones hit the newsstands (Hmmm…. Do we still have newsstands?) with a cover showing a tilted statue of Sen. Lindsey Graham in the process of being toppled. 

Oddly, while most magazines (Newsweek, Time, The Nation) are rolling out issues for the month of May, the newest Mother Jones is identified as the "March + April" edition. Still, it's worth waiting for—filled with timely features about national politics, an Indigenous struggle to protect sacred land from becoming a corporate uranium mine, an investigation of online political gamesmanship for profit, reflections on the legal repercussions of sexual harassment and a review of an academic debate over the claim that male and female brains process information differently. 

But one thing that struck me was the undercurrent of feisty "war-speak" that coursed through the pages. It began with the cover title: "Take Down: Inside the fight to topple Lindsey Graham." It continued on the inside with a removable pledge slip that invited readers to write a check and "Fight like Hell with us every month." It popped up in a page-five editorial that praised "hard-hitting journalism." And finally, on page 64, there was an ad for a bladder-control product that bore the headline: "Thanks to BetterWOMAN I'm winning the battle for Bladder Control." [Emphasis added throughout] 

Lorax Lyrics 

Dr. Seuss gave us a storybook creature called the Lorax, a feisty furry defender of Truffula Trees and free-range Brown Bar-ba-loots. 

The Lorax once spake a now-famous refrain that arose from his toes and embraced the terrain. And what was the phrase that arose from his lungs?: "I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues." 

Pleased to report, the Lorax's legacy is alive and well in Berkeley. Several nights ago, during an evening walk down Marin Avenue, we found a sign taped to a tree. The crayon-scrawled message from a young neighborhood environmentalist read: "Hug Me! For I am a Tree! Happy Earth Day!" 

On another night, eight blocks away, we found another hand-drawn note attached to a branch dangling over the sidewalk. It read: "Did you thank a tree today? #LoveTrees @ThankTrees." 

And another tree near the Monterey Markey on Hopkins now hosts a sign that reads: "Didja know . . . Trees can Detect Light and Day Length, Gravity, and Pathogens!!! Wow!!!" 

Wow, indeed! The Lorax Lives! 

Interesting to note: While American children look forward to the annual holiday broadcasts of Dr. Seuss' "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," our country's pro-consumption, commercial networks would never dare broadcast the anti-consumer/anti-capitalist message at the core of The Lorax (be it the 1972 original or the lavish 2012 star-studded 3D animated travesty revision). Here's a taste of the 1972 True-to-Seuss version. 


Bullock Is Bidding for Ballots 

I recently received a fund-raising letter from Steve Bullock, the Montana governor who's hoping to win a US Senate seat in November. Bullock is hoping to boot the GOP incumbent and help flip the Senate. In his four-page cover letter, Bullock claimed he had been contemplating retiring for politics to spend more time with his family. "With only 4 ½ years before the kids are out of the house, I had decided to step back." But decided to sacrifice full-time dad-hood in order to mount a campaign to pursue Democratic reforms in the US Senate. 

Although the Republicans hold a majority in Montana's state government, Bullock claims to have expanded Medicaid, put a freeze on college tuition, protected Net Neutrality, passed the country's "strongest anti-dark money laws," defended the Affordable Care Act, stood up for Americans with pre-existing conditions, stopped Big Carbon from despoiling public lands, and supported the rights of women and the working class. 

Sounds like a man with a plan. But when I took a closer look at the mail-back solicitation from Montanans for Bullock, I spotted a surprise in the small print: A line that instructed donors to make the enclosed check "payable to Bullock for President." 

This leaves me with a question: Was this the most embarrassing campaign typo in US electoral history or does Gov. Bullock really have grander plans for his future? And has he told his family? 

Watch Out, Trump. A Hot Plame May Be Coming Your Way 

Against her will, activist, author, and mom Valerie Plame became "America's most famous ex-spy" when a member of the George W. Bush administration "outted" her as a secret CIA agent. Plame's life was turned inside-out in revenge for her husband's opposition to the Bush Administration's plot to invade Iraq. Plame's husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, challenged Bush's tall tale that Saddam Hussein was secretly buying yellowcake uranium from Niger. As payback for her husband's independence, Dick Cheney's henchman, Scooter Libby, leaked Plame's secret identity to the press. 

Plame and Wilson retired to New Mexico to raise their two children—far from the intrigues of the Beltway. (They divorced in 2017.) 

Today, Plame, while chronologically 56 years old, has the youthful appearance and boundless energy of a twenty-something. And she's getting back into politics—but this time in public—as a progressive candidate for the US House of Representatives. 

Plame is one of four candidates jousting for a Congressional seat in the imminent June 2 primary. Plame, however, is the only candidate who is being attacked in scurrilous ads financed by a steady flow of "dark money." Plame is undeterred. She is promoting her campaign with some of the most awesome TV spots in the history of politics. They are worthy of her background—with car stunts and physical stints that look like out-takes from a James Bond blockbuster. Here's a sample: 


"I have lived all over the world," Plame tells her fellow New Mexicans, "and I have never felt more connected to a place and its special people than in The Land of Enchantment. Our state is magical in many ways, and I want to continue to protect its unique cultures and communities." 

Some of the challenges she's promised to tackle include: lowering healthcare costs, protecting the air and water, improving public education, ensuring equal rights, promote the right to vote, and (ironic for a double-agent) "combating gun violence." 


Bibi's Bid to Say Bye-Bye to Bitter Bummer 

You gotta give Israeli co-leader and indicted criminal suspect Benjiam Netanyahu credit for a breakaway example of chutzpah. Bibi is the first sitting president to face sitting on a prison cot. But first he needs to appear in an Israeli courtroom. 

With this accounting imminent, Netanuayu and his enablers have come up with a stunning argument designed to excuse the Likud leader from making a court appearance. 

Israel, like most of the world, is dealing with the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hence, Bibi's brilliant alibi. According to the Associated Press, Bibi's attorneys have argued that the tainted leader (who is always surrounded by a phalanx of beefy security guards) must be excused from appearing in court in the interests of public health since "his bodyguards’ presence would violate Health Ministry social distancing requirements." 

Bibi's not the only celebrity to use the coronavirus as a get-out-of-jail-free card. A growing list of Trump conspirators have been leaping out of jail citing their need to be distanced from the crowded confines of our country's unsanitary prisons. The recently released include disgraced general and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Trump campaign honcho Paul Manafort, and Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen. Waiting in the wings: Trump confidant and convicted liar Roger Stone. 

Comic Strip Cliches 

British comic Spike Milligan is said to have observed: "The cliché is the handrail of a crippled mind." Cartoonist John Caldwell snaps back with the defense that "Cliches are the building blocks that we throw at the writing blocks. Often, they're the best way to break through." Here are just some of the recurring, seemingly eternal set-ups for drawn jokes. Which ones have I missed? 

Two men stranded on a dinner-table-sized deserted island. Aliens in a UFO. Aliens in a UFO beaming up a victim. A thirsty loner crawling across a dry desert with vultures overhead. Guy on street with a sign reading 'The End is Near." Dinosaurs Facing Extinction. Meeting St. Peter at the Gate. In Heaven with Angles, Clouds, and Halos. In and Out Trays on a Work Desk. The Grim Reaper. A Job Interview. Adam and Eve. Satan in Hell. Rapunzel's Hair. Cavemen. Psychoanalyst and Couch. "Waiter, there's a fly in my soup." 

And then there are some once-but-no-longer favorites retired for the better-good: Travelers on a Flying Carpet. "Savages" dancing around a hot-tub-sized pot cooking a batch of missionaries. Other queasy clichés now retired and buried include: A caveman dragging cavewoman by the hair; a boss chasing a secretary around an office desk. 

One last cliché. This eternal strip shows a "seeker" climbing a mountain to ask a bearded recluse: 'What's the secret of life?" 

Stephan Pastis, a former lawyer-turned-toonist, delights in skewering clichés in his own Pearls Before Swine strip. On May 19, Pastis posted a strip in the Chronicle that showed a sign at the bottom of a mountain with an arrow pointing upwards and the words "Wise-ass on the Hill." 

The strip's characters, Rat and Pig, make their way to the summit only to discover the Wise Ass is a donkey sitting in a Sukhasana yoga position. 

Freedom of the Press Is Dying in America 

The 2020 World Press Freedom Index is now available and it reflects poorly on the US. When it comes to the Fifth Estate, the Land of the Free has a dismal record. The US now finds itself Number 45 in a field of 180. 

Not surprisingly, most of the top ten countries on this list (as on so many other lists) are Scandanavian—Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands—followed by Jamaica, Costa Rica, Switzerland, New Zealand and Portugal. 

Other countries that aced-out the US for advancing and protecting press freedoms include: Estonia, Uruguay, Suriname, Samoa, Latvia, Namibia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Ghana, Slovakia, Burkina Faso, Botswana, and Taiwan. 

The main reason for this slump in our First Amendment freedoms? Donald Trump. 

Here's the verdict: From the Index's authors at Reporters Without Borders: 


"Press freedom in the United States continued to suffer during President Donald Trump’s third year in office. Arrests, physical assaults, public denigration and the harassment of journalists continued in 2019, though the numbers of journalists arrested and assaulted were slightly lower than the year prior.  

"Much of that ire has come from President Trump and his associates in the federal government, who have demonstrated the United States is no longer a champion of press freedom at home or abroad. This dangerous anti-press sentiment has trickled down to local governments, institutions and the American public.  

"In March 2019, a leaked document revealed the US government was using a secret database tracking journalists, activists and others who border authorities believed should be stopped for questioning when crossing certain checkpoints along the US-Mexico border.  

"A couple months later, the Justice Department charged Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange with 17 counts of the WWI-era Espionage Act. If he is convicted, this would set a dangerous precedent for journalists who publish classified US government information of public interest moving forward.  

"Under President Trump, the White House has strategically replaced traditional forms of press access with those that limit the ability of journalists to ask questions of the administration. The last daily, televised White House press briefing led by a press secretary took place in March 2019, and since then, the federal government has made multiple attempts to deny specific journalists and news outlets access to other opportunities for press engagement." 


COVID-19 Is Spreading: But So Is Solar Power 


Vikram Aggarwal, the Founder & CEO of EnergySage.com, has some good news: "For the first time in our country's history, we're expected to generate more electricity from renewables than from coal this year." This milestone has been achieved years before prior industry estimates. 

An EnergySage survey found that 63 percent of homeowners considering the move to solar claim they are more motivated to make the transition as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has "actually accelerated their timeline for going solar." 

Arts & Events

Michael McClure Performance Video is Online Memorial

Ken Bullock
Thursday May 21, 2020 - 05:15:00 PM

Famed poet Michael McClure, longtime Oakland resident and teacher at the California College of the Arts at Broadway and College Avenue, died May 4, age 87.

In memoriam, Mel Vapour and Paul Kealoha Blake of the East Bay Media Center of Berkeley have posted a never before released two-camera video of 'Double Moirè,' an hour- long jazz/poetry performance by their longtime friend and collaborator McClure and George Brooks, the well-known jazz and world music saxophonist/composer, produced and shot by the Center at the Jazz Café of the California Jazz Conservatory, where Brooks has taught, on Addison, a block from the Media Center, on May 22, 2009: 


Accompanying McClure and Brooks are Chris Lopes and Scott Amendola, with designer electronic graphic projected during the performance before a live audience. 

McClure's particularly famous for his participation in 1955 at the 6 Gallery Reading in San Francisco with Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Philip Lamantia and Philip Whalen, reputed to kick off public recognition of the Beat Movement with Ginsberg's reading of 'Howl;' for his play 'The Beard' and its notorious 60s productions; for his collaborations with Jim Morrison and The Doors--as well as many other cultural manifestations over the past 65 years. 

Mel Vapour reminisced about meeting McClure in the 60s around a production of 'The Beard' at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and other notorious collaborations, including one with Andy Warhol and "The Plastic Inevitable Band" (later, The Velvet Underground), and his publishing of a book of McClure's writing with the Great Lakes Books imprint. 

Decades later, they'd reunite at the East Bay Media Center in the downtown Berkeley Arts neighborhood, where McClure performed many times over the past two decades. 

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar: Week May 24 – May 31, 2020

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday May 23, 2020 - 02:26:00 PM

Worth Noting

There are six City meetings this coming week.


The Budget Committee, 10 am, is meeting weekly, but there seems to be a disconnect between the expressed concerns of the impact of Covid-19 and Council agendas and actions. The FY 2021 budget agenda item was accompanied by page with “No Material Available for this Item.” The last update is from May 19.

The City Council 6 pm meeting contains some mind-boggling items and agenda order. Take a look at Consent items 18, 19, 20, 21, 23 and Action 27. Item 18. $6.1 million on recyclable materials – (recycling/reuse seems to be hitting an all time low with Covid-19 and there needs to be an honest discussion on “wish” cycling), items 19., 20., 21. total $10,193,714 in contracts to generate parking revenue through fees and fines, 23. On CycloMedia system produces high-resolution, 360 degree, 3-d panoramas of every street view it is deployed on (see explanatory letter following the weekly calendar) and item 27. The Emergency Ordinance to enhance tenant protections during the pandemic is placed as the very last item on a long agenda. Will the Council even get to tenant protections.  


The Zoning Adjustment Board, 7 pm, is meeting via Zoom for the first time after the March 16 Shelter in Place order. 

The City Council Agenda for the June 2 meeting is available for comment (agenda follows daily calendar). There are several ballot proposals 

The Saturday noon Town Halls with the Mayor continue. Since questions need to be submitted in advance by 9 am on Saturday using this form and there is no live interchange with the public, watch anytime on the Mayor’s YouTube site or watch as it is live streamed on jessearreguin.com. Video Updates from the Mayor on COVID-19 are on Mondays and Wednesdays and are posted on the Mayor’s YouTube page, the same site as the posted Town Halls. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgXaP2idglejM_r7Iv7my6w 

Sunday, May 24, 2020 

No City meetings or events found 

Monday, May 25, 2020 

Memorial Day Holiday 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 

City Council Budget & Finance Committee, 10 am, 

Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84285620387 

Teleconference: 669-900-9128, Meeting ID: 842 8562 0387 

Agenda: 2. Fiscal Year 2021 Budget, Unscheduled items not to be discussed at the meeting 3. Open West Campus Pool and MLK Jr Pool for shower during COVID-19 Pandemic, 4. Housing Trust Fund Reserves, 5. Homeless Services Report, 6. Review of Fiscal Policies, (packet 26 pages - there is a link to FY 2021 Budget Update on home page from May 19 meeting). 


Berkeley City Council,  

Special Closed Session, 5 pm, Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/s/81197535688 

Teleconference: 669-900-9128 Meeting ID: 811 9753 5688,  

Agenda: Filling Director of Public Works position 

Regular Meeting, 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 

Public Comments to be read by the Clerk during the meeting need to be emailed to clerk@cityofberkeley.info with the agenda item number. 

Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84645708594 

Teleconference: 669-900-9128, Meeting ID:846 4570 8594 

CONSENT: 1. FY 2020 Annual Appropriations Ordinance $47,770,093 (gross) and $42,815,104 (net), 2. 2nd reading Dorothy Day License Agreement for services at Veterans Memorial Building and Old City Hall, 4. Resolution designating City Manager as Authorized Agent for COVID-19 Relief Funds, 5. Resolution for FY 2021 to levy an annual assessment for the Downtown Berkeley Property Based Business Improvement District and 6. Levy Assessment Telegraph Property Based Business Improvement District, 7. Notice of Appropriations Limit for FY 2021, 8. Amend Contract add $603,874 total $960,874 and extend for 1 year with Berkeley Food & Housing for Berkeley Food and Housing Project, Berkeley Mental Health, Flexible Spending Programs and Russell Street Residence, 9. Contract $56,000 7/1/2020-6/30/2021 with Bay Area Community Resources for placement of AmeriCorps Members, 10. Resolution Accept Grant from Alameda Co of $32,080 for FY 2021 for Public Health Infrastructure Program, 11. Resolution Accept Alameda Co Grants for FY 2021, Foster Care $93,187, BHS and Berkeley Tech Academy $178,778, School Linked Health Services $193,175 and Tobacco Prevention $193,175, 12. Resolution Accept Grant from State of CA for FY 2021 for Tuberculosis Program $14,000, 13. Contract $436,000 6/1/2020 – 6/30/2023 with Software AG, Inc for software, maintenance and professional services for Data Integration Middleware Platform webMethods, 14. Amend Contract add $95,451 total $399,411 9/14/2016-6/30/2022 with Geographic Technologies Group for Geographic Information system (GIS) Master Plan, 15. Accept Cash Donation $74,266 for Tuolumne Camp Shade structure, 16. Lease 235 University with Hana Japan for 5 years, 17. Set Public Hearing for 6/16/2020 Street Lighting Assessments, 18. Amend Contract add $2,100,000 total $6,100,000 with Community Conservation Centers, Inc for Processing and Marketing Services of Recyclable Materials, 19. Amend Contract add $111,150 total $1,335,257 with SKIDATA for Parking Access and Revenue Control System Maintenance Services and Warranties, 20. Amend Contract add $1,513,540 total $7,033,457 thru 6/30/2022 with IPS Group for Parking Meter Operations to provide parking meters, replacement parts and support services, 21. Amend Contract add $175,000 total $1,825,000 with Portable Computer Systems dba PCS Mobile for Automated License Plate Reader Equipment, ACTION: 22. Electric Bike Franchise Agreement, 23. Contract $187,401 (5/15/2020 – 6/30/2022) with CycloMedia Technology for Geographic Information System Infrastructure Asset Data Acquisition, 24. a, FY 2021 Proposed Budget Update, b. 2020 mid-year Budget Update, 25. Establish COVID-19 Business Damage Mitigation Fund (related to vandalism of business closed due to pandemic), 26. Support Global Ceasefire during COVID-19 Pandemic, 27. Urgency Ordinance – COVID-19 Emergency Response Ordinance to Amend BMC13.110Title 13 to enhance emergency Tenant protections consistent with recently adopted County Laws, INFORMATION REPORTS: 28. FY 2019 4th Qtr Investment Report, 29. FY 2020 1st Qtr Investment Report ended 9/30/2019, 


Wednesday, May 27, 2020 

Police Review Commission, 7 – 10 pm,

Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88540396983 

Teleconference: 669-900-9128, Meeting ID: 885 4039 6983 

Agenda: 5. Review 2019 Draft PRC Annual Report, 7. Closed Session - Consider whether to accept late-filed complaint #2469, 


Climate Emergency Mobilization Task Force and Tiny Homes Solution Task Force, 5:30 – 7 pm 

Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81269252337?pwd=aVhuVVIxY2xjQTJzaGxzS1AwL2tYdz09 

Teleconference: 669-900-9128 Meeting ID: 812 6925 2337 PW 801003 

Thursday, May 28, 2020 

Zoning Adjustment Board, 7 pm 

Videoconference: https://zoom.us/j/95844922726 

Teleconference: 669-900-9128, Meeting ID: 958 4492 2726 

2129 Shattuck – add service of distilled spirits incidental to food within a hotel (on consent) 

1700 Seventh – eliminate single family dwelling and establish child care center (on consent) 

920 Heinz – add sale of distilled spirits at existing grocery that sells beer and wine (on consent) 

1001 Dwight – allow non-conforming nursery with two 1-story buildings and 61 sq ft restroom to change to cannabis retail nursery microbusiness (on consent) 

2139 Oregon – demolish 1-story single family dwelling and construct two detached 2-story single family dwellings (staff recommend approve) 


Friday, May 29, 2020 

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Special Meeting, 6 pm, No Agenda or virtual meeting login information provided – check website during week for update 


Saturday, May 30, 2020 

Expect a Town Hall announcement from the Mayor at 12 noon, Watch live at jessearreguin.com 


Sunday, May 31, 2020 

No City meetings or events found 


(ITEM 23 on June 26 City Council Agenda was rescheduled from May 12 where it was listed as ITEM 7. ) 

The Honorable Mayor Jesse Arreguin,
Members of the Berkeley City Council - Rashi Kesarwani, Cheryl Davila, Ben Bartlett, Kate Harrison, Sophie Hahn, Susan Wengraf, Rigel Robinson, Lori Droste,
Berkeley City Manager, Dee Ridley-Brown,
Berkeley City Attorney, Farimah Brown,
David White.

Oakland Privacy is writing about Item 7 on the 5/12/20 Berkeley City Council Agenda, the CycloMedia contract, postponed for consideration at the next meeting. This technology falls under Berkeley’s Surveillance Ordinance, and a use policy that is considered and approved by the Council as required by law, will be needed before the purchase is finalized and the equipment deployed.

Oakland Privacy is a citizen coalition that works regionally to defend the right to privacy, enhance public transparency, and increase oversight of law enforcement, particularly regarding the use of surveillance techniques and equipment. We were instrumental in the creation of the first standing municipal citizens’ privacy advisory commission in the City of Oakland. We have engaged in privacy enhancing legislative efforts with Berkeley and with several other Northern California cities and regional entities. As experts on municipal privacy reform, we have written use policies and impact reports for a variety of surveillance technologies, conducted research and investigations, and developed frameworks for the implementation of equipment with respect for civil rights, privacy protections and community control.

The CycloMedia system produces high-resolution, 360 degree, 3-d panoramas of every street view it is
deployed on. It is our understanding that Berkeley intends to deploy this system over many, if not all, Berkeley streets.

According to Berkeley’s Surveillance Ordinance, surveillance technology is defined (in part) as

“[any] tool... used to... collect... information specifically associated with, or capable of being associated with, any individual or group.”

As well as identifying and geolocating signs, lampposts, streetlights and other City of Berkeley property, the raw data captured by the panoramas will include houses, cars and people. Post-processing of the data for public works purposes may blur or delete image components not needed for such purposes but the data collected by the equipment will be capable of being associated with an individual – a property owner or resident, by street address on a house or geolocation, a vehicle owner by license plate, and a person by recognition of their physical characteristics.

A use policy defines the allowed uses for a technology and/or the data it creates and defines the prohibited uses. On its website CycloMedia talks about its technology being used for such things as enhancing tax assessment capability and public safety. It must be the Council’s decision, after taking into account public input, what uses will be allowed and prohibited. As noted in the ordinance itself:

Decisions regarding whether and how Surveillance Technologies should be… used should be governed by the City Council as the elected representatives of the City.

In addition, a reasoned use policy defines allowable data sharing and data retention. Neither prohibited uses nor these things are specified, or even alluded to, in the short writeup attached to the consent-calendar Agenda item that the Council was presented with on 5/12/20.

The intent of the surveillance ordinance passed by the Berkeley City Council unanimously in March of 2018 was
to have intended uses and purposes defined in a written policy that is approved by the City Council and noticed to the public.

The City’s stated purpose for using the Cyclomedia equipment for handling the city’s public infrastructure assets is reasonable and does not seem to present significant surveillance concerns, so we would not anticipate significant community concerns once a use policy is presented to the Council. But we will insist that the City follow the straightforward process laid out in Berkeley’s Surveillance Ordinance before acquiring and deploying this technology.


Oakland Privacy


City Council June 2, 2020 meeting agenda is available for comment. 

Email comments to council@cityofberkeley.info 

Videoconference: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82518774480 

Teleconference: 669-900-9128, Meeting ID: 825 1877 4480 

CONSENT: Contract add $37,046 total $249,653 with City of Albany for Animal Care Services FY 2021-2023, 2. Contract extend to 6/30/2021 & increase $20,400 total $121,600 with Koefran Industries to pick up and dispose of deceased animals for Berkeley Animal Care Services, 3. Ballot Measure Increasing City’s Appropriation Limit to Allow Expenditure of Tax Proceeds for FY 2021-2024, 4.add $127,947 total $303,527 (7/1/2016 – 6/30/2022) with Persimmony Electronic Case Management System for Software Licensing, Implementation and Maintenance for Online Electronic Case Management System 5. Contract $534,000 total $989,335 (7/1/2017 – 6/30/2025 with AMS.NET for Network Support and Maintenance, 6. Contracts June 15, 2020 – June 30, 2023 for on-call waterfront engineering, design, environmental permitting and construction for capital improvement projects, (1) Anchor QEA, LLC not to exceed $1 million, (2) COWI North America, In not to exceed $1 million, (3) Moffatt & Nichol not to exceed $1 million, (4) Transystems Co. not to exceed $1 million, 7. Reject all bids and negotiate in open market for Grove Park Field Renovation and Park Improvements Project, 8. Amend Capital Contribution Agreement with 200 Marina Blvd for Doubletree Hotel and assign to parent company Apollo Bright, LLC and change payment schedule to $3M due in June to $375,000 due in Oct 2020 and $2,675,000 due upon Council approval of Marina streets construction contract estimated Jan 2021, 9. Contract $1,011,006 includes $131,871 contingency with Alta Group, Inc for T1 Corp Yard Maintenance Building Upgrade at 1326 Allston and 201 University, 10. Contract $114,576 (7/1/2020-6/30/2023) with Urban Ore, Inc for Salvage Operations at City Transfer Station, 11. Berkeley Safe Open Air Dining, ACTION: 12. FY 2021 Proposed Budget Update Public Hearing #2, 13. Presentation & Discussion Community Survey Results on possible Ballot measures, 14. Ballot Measure Charter Amendment to change Council and Mayor Status to full-time with FT salary, 15. Ballot Measure to Create a Climate Action Fund in response to Fossil Free Berkeley, 16. Contract extend by 1 year add $117,000 total $217,000 with Youth Spirit Artworks for Transition Age Youth Case management and Linkage Services and Tiny House Case Management, 17. Contract $782,715 15% contingency total $900,122 with ERA Construction for Strawberry Creek Park Play Area and Restroom Renovation Project, 18. Amend Berkeley’s Minimum Wage Ordinance to reinstate youth wages at $14.50/hr for youth training services for FY21, then increase annually per CPI, INFORMATION REPORTS: 20. Short Term Referral Process – Quarterly Update. 



Use Appeals 

1155-73 Hearst (develop 2 parcels) - 6/9/2020 

0 Euclid – Berryman Reservoir (denial of 4G telecom facility) - 7/7/2020 

1449 Grizzly Peak Blvd (single family dwelling) – 7/7/2020 

2650 Telegraph (construct new mixed-use building) – 7/7/2020 – possible change in date 

1533 Beverly (single family dwelling) - 7/14/2020 2020 

2133 University (Acheson Commons – sign alteration) TBD 

Remanded to ZAB or LPC With 90-Day Deadline 

1155-73 Hearst (develop 2 parcels) – referred back to City Council – to be scheduled 

Notice of Decision (NOD) With End of Appeal Period 

1711 Allston 5/28/2020 

2417 Browning 5/28/2020 

2945 College 5/26/2020 

933 Creston 5/26/2020 

2224 Stuart 6/2/2020 

611 Vistamount 5/28/2020 

(Link to review zoing applications in appeal period is broken and has been reported) 



LINK to Current Zoning Applications https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Planning_and_Development/Land_Use_Division/Current_Zoning_Applications.aspx 



June 23 – Special Meeting on City Budget 

July 21 – Crime Report, Climate Action Plan/Resiliency Update, 

Sept 29 – Digital Strategic Plan/FUND$ Replacement Website Update, Zero Waste Priorities 

Oct 20 – Update Berkeley’s 2020 Vision, BMASP/Berkeley Pier-WETA Ferry 

Unscheduled Workshops/Presentations 

Cannabis Health Considerations 

Vision 2050 

Ohlone History and Culture (special meeting) 

Presentation from StopWaste on SB1383 

Systems Realignment 


To Check For Regional Meetings with Berkeley Council Appointees go to 


To check for Berkeley Unified School District Board Meetings go to 


This meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website. 

http://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and in the Berkeley Daily Planet under activist’s calendar http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com 

When notices of meetings are found that are posted after Friday 5:00 pm they are added to the website schedule https://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and preceded by LATE ENTRY 

If you wish to stop receiving the Weekly Summary of City Meetings please forward the weekly summary you received to kellyhammargren@gmail.com



This meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website. 

http://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and in the Berkeley Daily Planet under activist’s calendar http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com 

When notices of meetings are found that are posted after Friday 5:00 pm they are added to the website schedule https://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and preceded by LATE ENTRY 

If you wish to stop receiving the Weekly Summary of City Meetings please forward the weekly summary you received to kellyhammargren@gmail.com