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Press Release: Berkeley Homicide Victim Identified; Reward Offered

From Ofc Jennifer Coats, BPC
Thursday March 06, 2014 - 02:45:00 PM

The City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) is offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect or suspects responsible for the homicide that occurred in the 1100 of Addison Street.

On Friday, February 28, 2014 at approximately 11:48 a.m., the Berkeley Police Department received a welfare check request from a community member. The reporting party was concerned because they had not seen their friend, the resident of an apartment on the 1100 block of Addison St., for several days. Officers obtained access to the apartment, and subsequently discovered the resident, 54-year-old Sylvan Fuselier, deceased in the apartment. Further investigation of the scene determined that Fuselier had been murdered.  

Investigators have been actively working this case, conducting interviews, following up on leads, and examining evidence. At this time, this crime does not appear to have been a random act. However, detailed informationregarding the crime scene, injuries and the possible cause of death is beingwithheld in order to avoid potentially compromising the investigation. We are releasing the victim’s name with the approval of the Alameda County Coroner’s Office.  

Investigators believe the reward in this case may be helpful in obtaining information about the suspect in this case. BPD is urging anyone with information regarding this case to please contact our Homicide Detail at (510)-981-5741 or the non-emergency line at (510) 981-5900. If a caller wishes to remain anonymous he/she can call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Press Release: Berkeley Police Investigating Friday Night Homicide

From Ofc J. Coats
Saturday March 01, 2014 - 02:27:00 PM

The City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) is currently investigating a homicide that occurred in the 1100 block of Addison Street. On Friday, February 28, 2014 at approximately 11:46 a.m. BPD received a call for a welfare check at an apartment building in the 1100 block of Addison Street. Officers arrived at the location and discovered a male, in his 50s, deceased on the premises. 

The subsequent investigation determined the death to be a homicide. The investigation is ongoing, and we have no further information to share at this early point in this case. BPD is urging anyone with information regarding this case to please contact our Homicide Detail at (510)-981-5741 or the non-emergency line at (510) 981-5900. If a caller wishes to remain anonymous he/she can call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Flash: Small Quake Shakes Berkeley Area

By Giovanni Albanese (BCN)
Friday February 28, 2014 - 11:43:00 PM

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 2.6 was recorded tonight in the area just above UC Berkeley's Clark Kerr Campus, in the Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The temblor was reported at 11 p.m. about 1 mile east-southeast of Berkeley, and roughly 2 miles north-northwest of Piedmont. 

The earthquake had a depth of 6.5 miles, according to the USGS. 

Two Relatives of Berkeley Student Down with Measles

By Laura Dixon,Bay City News Service
Friday February 28, 2014 - 04:56:00 PM

Two relatives of a University of California at Berkeley student who contracted measles earlier this month have also caught the disease, Contra Costa County health officials said. 

Neither the student nor the two family members were vaccinated against the measles, according to Contra Costa Health Services officials. 

Both relatives, who are Contra Costa County men in their 20s and 30s, voluntarily quarantined themselves in their homes after their relative was diagnosed with measles. County health officials said it does not appear that anyone else has been exposed to the disease because of these cases. 

However, Contra Costa Health Services' Communicable Disease programs chief Erika Jenssen said anyone who is not immunized is "very likely to get measles if they are exposed to the virus." 

"This really underscores the importance of everyone getting vaccinated," Jenssen said. 

County health officials believe the UC Berkeley student contracted measles while on a recent trip to the Philippines. 

BART users were put on alert about their potential exposure to the disease after the student used the transit system between the Downtown Berkeley and El Cerrito Del Norte stations during the first week of February. 

The dangerous, highly contagious virus can be spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, county health officials said. 

Anyone who rode BART between Feb. 4 and Feb. 7 is encouraged to look out for potential symptoms of measles through this weekend. 

Measles symptoms can surface one to three weeks after being exposed and include coughing, runny nose, high fever and red, watery eyes. Two or three days after the fever begins, a rash develops on the face and spreads to the rest of the body, usually lasting about five to six days, according to county health officials. 

A person infected with measles is also contagious for several days before and after the rash appears. 

Reported cases of measles both in the Bay Area and statewide have risen in recent months, according to the California Department of Public Health. 

More information about measles can be found at www.cchealth.org/measles. 



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Chocolate Factory Comes to Berkeley

By Sasha Lekach (BCN) and Planet
Thursday February 27, 2014 - 11:12:00 AM

San Francisco-based chocolate maker TCHO New American Chocolate is moving next month to a new space in a building which straddles the Oakland/Berkeley/Emeryville border, a company employee said today. 

The factory, located at Pier 17 on San Francisco's Embarcadero since 2008, is packing up next month ahead of an expected April opening at the Marchant Building at 3100 San Pablo Ave., company employee Laura O'Brien said. 

The new space offers the chocolate makers a 49,000-square-foot factory, which is about 20,000 square feet larger than their current building. 

"TCHO is growing, we're thriving," O'Brien said. 

The company was founded in 2005 and earlier this year appointed former Diamond Food executive Andrew Burke as CEO. 

O'Brien said Burke had looked around San Francisco for a new space before finding the factory in the East Bay. 

"Berkeley is such a food Mecca," O'Brien said, noting that TCHO will be sharing the building with Clif Bar, which started in Berkeley, among other tenants. 

After the move, TCHO's presence will remain in San Francisco at a kiosk at the Westfield San Francisco Centre near Fourth and Market streets. 

The chocolate factory offers tours to the public and that practice will continue starting in May at the new location. The last tour at the Pier 17 factory will be on Friday, O'Brien said.



Richmond's Housing Problems are No Worse than Berkeley's, Rebuttal to Expose Shows

By Becky O'Malley
Friday February 28, 2014 - 03:49:00 PM

In the olden days (before 1970 perhaps?) the terms “investigative reporting” or “investigative journalism” were not widely used. Newspapers employed “reporters”, who attempted on a daily basis to turn events into stories. “Journalism” as distinguished from “reporting” (despite its derivation from the French word for “daily”) was a term used primarily in academe, as the title for departments and schools in universities, disdained by hard-bitten news reporters.

Beginning reporters for dailies used to be told that their first paragraph should answer the questions Who, What, When, Where and Why. But increasingly the Why is getting lost in “investigative” stories produced for multiple media outlets by teams at non-profit centers. Investigative journalism can be a powerful tool, so it's important that it tell the complete story. That's why we're publishing in this issue a lengthy criticism of a recent investigative report.

These days in dailies you’re more likely to see puffish journalistic feature stories with lengthy descriptive lead paragraphs in prominent positions on the front page (“Venture Capital: Y Combinator Evolving with New Leadership”). The space devoted to straightforward reporting of local news by in-house staff—planning commission meetings, burglaries and the like—has shrunk dramatically, relegated to second sections and back pages.

For the small number of long factual stories still being published, the focus, in newspapers, magazines, broadcast and online media, has shifted to the investigative model. Increasingly, this kind of journalism is practiced at non-profit independent centers funded by big money interests which exist outside the multiple kinds of news outlets which disseminate their products.

Here’s the Wikipedia definition: “Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, often involving crime, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing.”

Many investigative organizations now rely heavily on some version of data mining: deep reading and interpretation of publicly available information. The technique was perfected by I.F. Stone, who was able to penetrate the secrets of the federal government by his exhaustive study of the documents it produced. (The other kind of reporting which was the product of carefully cultivated relationships between beat reporters and insider sources,à la the Woodward-Bernstein Watergate story, has become less common.)

The greatly expanded availability of online data makes the information-dense strategy even more effective than it used to be. But Izzy Stone’s great strength was adding the Why to his carefully researched facts, and it’s a skill which is often neglected in contemporary investigative reporting.

For many years I’ve been threatening to write a journalism textbook which consists of templates for reliably generic horror stories, which could be used in a fill-in-the-blanks manner by investigative journalists for the kinds of bad situations which never seem to go away: “Nursing Homes Filthy, Unsafe, Neglect Patients,” “Pesticides Traces Found in Applesauce” etc. etc. Stories like this are easy to do: just plug in local names and numbers and you’re home free.

But relying solely on government documents has its perils. In this issue we’re reprinting a lengthy critique of a purported expose of problems with public housing in Richmond which was produced by Berkeley’s Center for Investigative Reporting and featured by the San Francisco Chronicle and KQED. The man-bites-dog critic is Tom Butt, a prize-winning architect and long-time progressive councilmember in Richmond. He’s an indefatigable communicator, writing frequent lengthy reports to his constituents and publishing them online as the Tom Butt E-Forum.

The long-and-short of his complaint is that the CIR team ignored facts on the ground in their zeal for mining sensational but dated HUD complaints from online facts in obsolete public records. Here’s the short version of his beef about the housing story, from his site: 

“When the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) listed numerous HUD criticisms of the Richmond Housing Authority, they neglected to mention that all of them had been distilled into a Recovery Plan prepared by HUD and adopted by the Public Housing Commission (City Council plus two tenant commissioners) over a year ago. 

"Neither did the CIR reports mention that the vast majority of the Recovery Plan requirements had already been completed to HUD’s satisfaction and had been closed.” 

What we’ve re-published today is the long version, complete with pictures and graphs. Butt's key complaint: 

“To me, it appears that they first chose a hypothesis and then and set out to hang whatever sensational narrative they could find to support it.” 

Butt’s analysis is much longer than most people are accustomed to reading on the internet, but he’s a lively writer, and for anyone who’s interested in the future of journalism it’s worth slogging through. 

What many exposes of this type sorely lack is context. Missing from the CIR story as disseminated is context: how does this particular housing authority’s problems compare to others in other cities? And what caused it to get so bad? WHY did it happen? 

Answer: it's the predictable result of this country's schizophrenic approach to affordable housing, it's been happening everywhere for at least 50 years, and HUD's never been much help. Things are no worse in Richmond than they are in comparable towns and cities around the country. 

For examples of housing authority problems close to home, you can just search the Berkeley Daily Planet’s archives. There you will find a long list of stories about Berkeley’s housing problems over the years which closely parallel Richmond’s. And online research on scandals in the federal Housing and Urban Development agency (just google “HUD scandals”) produces a treasure trove of stories about how HUD mismanagement and corruption over the years has been responsible for the sorry state of public housing in this country: Berkeley, Richmond, Chicago…everywhere. For that matter, there’s a rich body of British writing about how privatization of what’s called there “council housing” has made a royal mess of affordable housing options in that country

My generic textbook story about the horrors of public housing would always include a leaky roof, because you can be sure that in underfunded buildings the roof will eventually start to leak. Here’s Tom Butt on how it happened in Richmond: 

”What [CIR reporter Amy Julia] Harris did not say is that… the roof dates from 1966, the original date of construction of Hacienda. It is approaching 50 years old, about 30 years past the normal service life of a built-up roof. The Richmond Housing Authority had tried unsuccessfully to patch it for years because it has not had sufficient funding from HUD to replace it.” 

Another example of a Why-less expose: the recent piece on the front page of the Chronicle about how the University of California’s investments haven’t been making money: UC endowment investment payoff worst of 10 richest colleges, by Jennifer Gollan, Erica Perez and Lance Williams, also from the Center for Investigative Reporting. It’s close to true as far as it goes on the Who What When Where dimensions, though it’s far from being new news, but it misses the important Why by a mile. 

This story was thoroughly reported by Peter Byrne in 2009 in a series which ran in several independent publications, ­­­­including the Planet: The Investors’ Club: How the University of California Regents Spin Public Money into Private Profit. 

As UC’s investments were losing money, financial interests connected to UC regents were making money, as Peter Byrne documented way back in 2009, and it’s still happening. 

Key detail from Byrne, left out of the Chron story: “…some members of the regents’ investment committee, who are also Wall Street heavy-hitters, have modified long-standing investment policies in a way that benefited their own financial holdings. The fallout: multiple conflicts of interest.” 

It’s an old story, one I first read about in my high school Latin class as articulated by the orator Cicero: cui bono? Who gets the benefit? And the answer is a Watergate era cliché: Follow the Money. Good reporting should go further than OMG. 

Not, of course, that Richmond public housing is paradise. But I’d wager that there are similar complaints that can be made about every public housing site in the Bay Area, in the state or in the nation. 

One intriguing small detail in the CIR story, as reported today by Harris on cironline.org: “ Executive Director Tim Jones at a City Council hearing last week conceded that the building should be torn down. He said he’ll meet with federal officials soon to ask permission to demolish or shut down the building.” 

Follow the money: the big money in housing has always gone to the builders. You can be sure that somewhere out there, a developer is already salivating. 








Odd Bodkins: Sprung (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday February 28, 2014 - 04:34:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

"Expose" of Richmond Housing Authority Misses Key Facts

By Richmond Councilmember Tom Butt
Wednesday February 26, 2014 - 03:59:00 PM


The 150-unit Hacienda is the ground zero poster child of Amy Julia Harris’ sensational expose of Richmond’s Housing Authority, so on Friday, February 21, I went to the scene of the crime to see for myself.

Resident Manager Debra Holter said she had been managing Hacienda for 16 years, and this was the first time, to the best of her knowledge, that a City Council member had visited the site. Tim Jones said he was sure this was the first time a City Council member had been on the roof.

For anyone reading this who doesn’t know my background, I have been a practicing architect for over 40 years. I am an expert in forensic architecture and evaluating the condition of buildings, including roofs, whole building evaluations and diagnostics.

As with my previous comments on this recent media frenzy about Richmond’s public housing, this is intended as neither a defense nor an excuse for any mismanagement at any level of the City of Richmond, but it is intended to provide a more circumspect portrayal of the complex and complicated nature of Richmond’s public housing program than that which has been portrayed in the press.

I would have expected better from the Center for Investigative Reporting and Amy Julia Harris, the author of a series of articles slamming the Richmond Housing Authority. While there is plenty to criticize about public housing in Richmond, I am disappointed that the effort by Harris as edited by Andrew Donohue, Mark Katches, Nikki Frick and Christine Lee, was oriented more toward sensationalism and hyperbole than toward objective reporting. There were also a number of factual errors, for which to date no correction or retraction has been offered.

The website of the Center for Investigative Reporting states, “Our work is fact-based, nonpartisan and truth-driven,” and “What keeps CIR alive isn't money or profit – it's impact.”

I submit that the spate of stories about Richmond are neither fact-based nor truth driven, and it appears the reporter was more after impact than reality.

They say don’t argue with people who buy ink by the barrel, but I think someone needs to take this group on. To me, it appears that they first chose a hypothesis and then and set out to hang whatever sensational narrative they could find to support it. The articles are: 


The most egregious missing perspective is a chronology. Though still far from perfect, the Richmond Housing Authority has made significant progress in the last year to clean up its act, which HUD acknowledges, yet this fact is entirely missing from the coverage. 

Most of the management criticisms in the articles were extracted from a HUD “PHARS Internal Summary of Assessment,” an internal memo dated June 18, 2012, largely based on 2011 data, which is by now old news. Shortly before the date of the memo, on April 12, 2012, HUD concluded an assessment of the Richmond Housing Authority and worked with the City to prepare a recovery plan which was provided by HUD on January 23, 2013. The Recovery Plan listed three areas of concern under governance and five areas of concern under finance designed to improve RHA’s financial position, increase their PHAS rating and ensure ongoing sustainability. Why is this noteworthy? Because as of January 23, 2013, when the Housing Commission (City Council plus two tenant representative) adopted the plan by resolution, any previous misconduct or mismanagement at the Richmond Housing Authority was water under the bridge, not necessarily justified or excused, but as far as HUD was concerned, it was history. It was time to move forward. 

The CIR website says, “Since 1977, CIR has relentlessly pursued and revealed injustices that otherwise would remain hidden from the public eye.” When the Richmond Housing Authority Board/City Council adopted the Recovery Plan on February 5, 2013, all of the previous HUD critiques became public record. CIR would have us believe that thy uncovered this trove of secret documents and made them public. 

Where is HUD? 

One of the remedies discussed multiple times in the memo was to hire a management company to take over the Authority’s rental units. HUD likes to threaten this but is loath to actually do it because HUD knows how difficult it would be to find a contractor to operate the units for the insufficient funding provided. 

Most conspicuous by its absence was any criticism by Harris of HUD, which entirely funds public housing and by any informed source, actually underfunds it by billions. Since 2010, public housing agencies have lost a cumulative total of $3.4 billion in federal funding (ignoring losses due to inflation) to operate and maintain public housing developments, which provide affordable homes to 1.1 million low-income families. These developments now face a $26 billion backlog of repair needs. While Tim Jones and his crew may have a number of shortcomings, any honest coverage of the problems in Richmond or anywhere else has to start with a lack of resources and unreasonable expectations (http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3993). 

The CIR web site states: 

Our stories reveal injustices and arm the public with the facts needed to spark federal legislation, policy change at all levels of government, public interest lawsuits, reforms in corporate practices, op-eds that move the needle of public opinion and more. CIR’s stories are at the center of news reports and community conversations. 

Yet CIR never once cited HUD for inadequate funding or suggested any legislation or policy changes to address that issue. The entire focus was on the shortcomings of the Richmond Housing Authority and its staff. 

The closest Harris got was quoting Jones about the funding issue, but she failed to evaluate whether or not he had a valid point, a very important, even critical, piece of information, particularly with respect to public policy. 

“When I arrived, we had a staff of 65,” Jones said. “Now there’s a staff of about 28. We are lean here. There is no fat.” 

The authority’s executive director, Tim Jones, said he’s “running an operation on life support.” He blamed years of budget cuts from the federal government for the problems plaguing the housing authority and insisted that the agency is on the road to recovery. He said the problems come down to money. 

Rental Units and Finances 

Harris also misrepresented the financial picture of the Richmond Housing Authority. She wrote: 

The Richmond Housing Authority got $26 million in 2013 from the federal government to provide safe and decent housing for the needy. Richmond has 715 units of public housing for the poor, elderly and disabled. It also gives out Section 8 vouchers to subsidize rent for an additional1,750 residents on the private market. 

Harris is inaccurate. The Richmond Housing Authority operates only 550 units, not 715. In FY 2012-13, the Richmond Housing Authority received $25,009,211 for all its programs. $20,561,276 of that went for Section 8 “Housing Choice Voucher Program,” leaving only $4,447,935 for other tasks. After other programs were accounted for, including HOPE VI, Project Real, Westridge and others, there was only a $3,293,293 subsidy available for public-operated housing rent subsidies, the subject of her reports. 

The actual unit count is: 

  • Hacienda (150 units, built in 1966)
  • Nevin Plaza (142 units, built in 1986)
  • Friendship Manor (58 units, built in 1976)
  • Triangle Court (98 units, built in 1987)
  • Nystrom Village (102 units, built in 1942)


On February 21, I visited Hacienda to see for myself the disaster that Harris described. Tim Jones, Richmond Housing Authority director, and Debra Holter, resident manager, accompanied me. For a nearly 50-year old building, I was surprised at how good it looked, particularly in light of what Harris reported Tim Jones as saying:
Jones conceded that Hacienda is uninhabitable. He said the building should be torn down because “it just doesn’t make sense to put that much money into that structure.”
Jones said he is meeting with HUD soon to ask for permission to demolish or shut down Hacienda. HUD must sign off before the housing authority can give residents vouchers to find alternative housing. 

I don’t know if Jones actually said that, but if he did, I disagree with him. 

The Hacienda is an all-concrete structure and appears to be structurally sound. Concrete doesn’t rot, decay or support mold growth. The building may have seismic issues, but to my knowledge, no one has ever made a structural seismic evaluation. It is certainly no Pruitt-Igoe, and is not an unattractive building. It has wide entrance balconies with curved railings, large landscaped courtyards and great views. Apartments come in studios, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom models. They are simple but clean. 

The building needs a paint job and a new roof if HUD would pay for them. New windows would also be nice. I did not see any mice, rats, roaches or sewage leaks.
View to the north from a 6th Floor balcony
South Courtyard
Typical unit “turned” and ready for a new tenant
Bathroom in a typical unit “turned” and ready for a new tenant 

The Hacienda Roof 

Regarding the Hacienda roof, it is clearly a disaster. Harris wrote:
Federal inspectors in 2009 and then again in 2011 alsowarned of severe problems with the roof. In 2009, an entire electrical closet’s walls were “saturated with water mold and mildew” due to the leaking roof, they said. The housing authority has hired contractors to stop the roof from leaking since 2006, but it hasn’t gottenfixed. Even after the housing authority paid the most recent contractor $8,000 a few months ago, the roof still was leaking, according to a housing authority receipt. One contractor didn’t even finish the job years before, according to housing authority records.  

What Harris did not say is that, according to Tim Jones, the roof dates from 1966, the original date of construction of Hacienda. It is approaching 50 years old, about 30 years past the normal service life of a built-up roof. The Richmond Housing Authority had tried unsuccessfully to patch it for years because it has not had sufficient funding from HUD to replace it. 

For FY 2112-13, the capital budget for all of the Authorities projects, at least one dating back to 1942 was only $458,750, and a new roof at Hacienda at $347,000 would have taken almost the entire budget. 

As I understand it, bid documents are currently being prepared for a new roof, which ideally, would be installed after the end of this rainy seaon. 

The much repaired roof at Hacienda
indoor leak
Peeling ceiling finish in vacated 6th Floor apartment as a result ofroof leak  


In one of her articles of February 17, Amy Julia Harris wrote:
Cracks snake their way along the seams of Hacienda. In early January, reporters saw the walkway on Hacienda’s sixth floor separating from the main building by almost 2 inches. The cracks are so large that you can see down to the fifth floor. These were some of the same problems inspectors warned of years earlier.
In 2009, HUD noted that Hacienda’s foundation was separating from the walls. One- to 4-inch gaps were cited on all six floors, according to federal reports.
HUD officials gave the separated foundation its most extreme rating on the books. Major foundation problems can lead to the instability of an entire building. It’s unclear whether Richmond has a plan to make repairs.
I walked around the entire building and did not see any evidence of “foundation … separating from the walls.” I asked Jones and Holter if they knew where the cracks were. After pulling up the story on my iPhone and showing it to them, they realized the reference was to the building’s expansion joints. As an architect, I understand expansion joints, which are provided to avoid damage to the building from seismic shaking and from thermal expansion and contraction. They are not evidence of a structural problem; quite the contrary, they are part of the structural design. That a HUD inspector did not know this makes HUD’s credibility suspect.
The expansion joints have not been maintained, but they are not indications of any structural defect or hazard.
roof crack
Seismic/expansion joint with staining from leaking roof above 

The Hacienda Residents 

I wanted to talk to some of the residents to get a feeling about their experiences at Hacienda. 

Rhonda Marshall 

The first tenant I spotted was Rhonda Marshall. Here is what Harris wrote about Marshall:
There are a dozen light posts in Hacienda’s courtyard, but for more than two years, none worked. At night, Rhonda Marshall stumbled in her wheelchair getting from her apartment to a back gate across the courtyard, rolling off uneven paths in the darkness. “It’s so dark you can’t see your hands in front of you,” the 58-year-old said.
Rhonda Marshall, 58, waves to visitors outside the Hacienda public housing complex. She’s been living on the high-rise’s first floor for years and has watched the building deteriorate. She says she sees cracks in the walls running from the sixth floor to the ground and smells mold in the hallways and stairwells. (Lacy Atkins/San Francisco Chronicle)
At the time, I had not recalled that Harris had featured Marshall in one of her stories. I greeted Rhonda, introduced myself and simply asked her, “How do you like living here, Ms. Marshall?” 

She responded:
“Love it, my place is a mansion”
I asked her if she had any problems with her unit. She said she had a problem with her door but that someone would fix it next week. She said she knew Mr Jones didn’t have enough money to take care of everything. She said she loves the new garden crew and has “no critters” in her unit. She thought the “critters” some people had complained about might come from the garbage chutes, which are not cleaned as often as they used to be. Then she added, “They didn’t feed us Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner this year.” 

Later, Jones told me that dinner had been served to over 100 tenants by a church, but for some reason, Mitchell didn’t get the word or didn’t attend. 


Geneva Eaton 

I wanted to talk to one of the tenants who had been prominently featured by Amy Julia Harris, so I knocked on the door of Geneva Eaton. She let me in, and I asked her to show me any problems in her unit. She showed me a light in the refrigerator that was dangling out of its housing, a cracked vinyl floor tile, a missing threshold strip under the bathroom door, and an area on her screen door where the mesh was separating from the frame. While I was there, a woman who identified herself as a Chronicle reporter hovered outside the door snapping photos of us. 

G Eaton
Geneva Eaton  

dog foodfridge bulb
Cracked vinyl floor tile in Geneva Eaton’s unit (note full dog food bowls) 

Dangling light bulb in refrigerator in Geneva Eaton’s unit 

Missing threshold strip under door in Geneva Eaton’s unit 

Bedroom door
Screen separated from door frame Geneva Eaton’s unit 

Here is what Harris wrote about Eaton:
Geneva Eaton has learned to deal with life in Hacienda: the stench of mold from the stairwell in front of her door, the winter she spent huddled at her stove for heat, the broken security gate that allows drug dealers and squatters to walk past the paid security guards and urinate on her doorstep. But the mice were too much.
For eight months, the 73-year-old woke to handfuls of half-dead mice wriggling in the glue traps lining the floors and cupboard of her apartment. In the space of a few hours, she caught 12. She put her nicest family belongings into storage. She went to bed with the lights on, afraid that the vermin she heard chewing through her walls would bite her in her sleep.
When I was there, Eaton said that she had no roaches, mold or mice. I did notice that she had two bowls permanently filled with dog food on the floor, which might have had something to do with her mouse problem.
Later I asked Debra Holter to check into the status of Geneva Eaton’s complaints, and she responded later by email after checking the work order files:
Per your request, I have checked the work order system and I do not have any open work orders for Ms. Geneva Eaton of 1300 Roosevelt, #407. The last work order that Ms. Eaton requested was on December 12, 2013 for no heat, the work order was completed on December 13, 2013.
Diana Garcia 

The next door I knocked on at random was the unit of Diana Garcia. Diana told me that she had loved there five years, and the only concern she had was a woman who lived on the floor below her, a Ms. York, who had hit her sometime in the past. She seemed to be concerned that it could happen again. 

When I pressed Diana again about problems in her unit, she told me that her tub faucet had been leaking. She said she had not made maintenance request but was “going to.” 

When I asked Tim Jones and Debra Holter about York, they told me that she had recently died and that “her funeral is today” (February 21). I resisted the urge to go back and inform Diana. 

Otis Williams 

When queried about problems, Otis said he had a leaking faucet but had not called yet for maintenance. He had no comments one way or another about living at Hacienda. 

Evan Lang 

The final person I interviewed was Evan Lang. Evan said he did not like living at Hacienda but that things were much better since he moved from a fourth floor unit where mold was bothering him. He showed me a letter from his doctor. Regarding his current unit, he showed me his bedroom door that dragging on the floor and would not close all the way and a window that was racked and would not fully close. He also noted that the elevator was broken. He acknowledged that the management had promised him that his door and window would be repaired in a couple of days. 

Langs window
Evan Lang’s stuck bedroom door
Evan Lang’s window 

Hacienda Maintenance  

I was curious about the maintenance issues and asked Tim and Debra to explain how the maintenance system works. I was under the impression that the Housing Authority had a maintenance staff, but that is not the case. Due to funding constraints, there is no maintenance staff. Other than for a dire emergency, routine repair and maintenance requests are “bundled” and submitted for bids to a group of regular contractors. This process takes about a couple of weeks, so there is typically a delay of from days to weeks from the time a work order is placed until it is acted on. 

In the case of an emergency, a contractor can be dispatched within 24 hours. 

Jones and Holter said that a lot of the perceptions of inattention stem from tenants’ not using the system correctly. They showed me a notice in the Lobby detailing how the process works. Often a tenant will simply not get around to placing a work order, as acknowledged by several to whom I talked. Sometimes they will make a complaint to a contractor who has come to repair something else, not understanding that the contractor is not part of the staff and has no authorization to repair anything other than what he has contracted for. Sometimes, tenants think they have reported a problem but actually have not. 

Hacienda ground 


Two days ago, City Manager Bill Lindsay followed up on some information provided by Harris: 

"I visited Hacienda recently and there was a woman on the fourth floor who described how she had a bathtub full of roaches for months--I didn't see the roaches personally. But her story wasn't unique. There was another resident on the fifth floor who got trapped in the elevator this weekend as well, and has had dirty water bubbling up into her sink for weeks. Her name is _________. A resident on the sixth floor (unit XXX) is struggling with mold and roaches." 

Lindsay then contacted Tim Jones on Friday evening to have him follow up immediately. His maintenance staff got back to him this morning with the following information: 

I checked the work order request line and also looked for any open work orders for ___________ (HAC XXX), there is nothing in either. The last work order for Ms. ____ was a heater problem repaired on February 7, 2014 there was no sink stoppage problem at that time. I spoke with Allen and he stated he did not know of anyone getting "stuck" in the elevator over the weekend. As you know we are having door problems and ThyssenKrupp has been out no less than 6 times last week to repair intentional damages to the elevators. I personally rode up in the elevator with Ms. ______on Thursday, February 20, 2014 and she never stated anything to me about getting stuck or having a sink problem. Will create work order to have it checked on Monday. Ms. _____ is usually pretty good about calling in a work order. 

I spoke with Debby yesterday morning and Ms. _____ is the next to be transferred from a 1 to a 2 bedroom due to a live in aide. Maria and Kathleen were off and this will be brought to their attention and if approved Apt. #401 can be offered to her. Debby does not have anyone on a 2 bedroom senior/disabled wait list. 

Ms. ______(HAC XXX) has not called in a work order for roaches since November 6, 2013, she was treated on November 8, 2013. She was also treated on January 17, 2014 when the entire building was offered treatment. She does have a work order in for mold in unit dated February 13, 2014. Allen went to the unit and it was very hot inside and a lot of condensation on the windows, Allen informed Ms. _______ she needed to open her windows to allow for ventilation and air circulation, she said since she did not have screens she did not want to, Allen told her he would locate some screens for her windows. There is a little bit of mold in the corner of her kitchen ceiling by the front door, Allen went to take pictures but tenant would not let him in and told him to come back later. 

These incidents are evidence that the RHA is attentive to residents’ complaints, getting accurate information continues to be difficult. 

Hacienda Security 

Security at Hacienda starts with the building itself. It is surrounded by an 8-foot high steel security fence, and access to the building by non-tenants is only if a tenant buzzes someone in. a contractor, Cypress Security, provides a security guard 24/7 the first week of every month, because that is when tenants get various support checks and are most vulnerable. After that, security is reduced to 12 hours a day, during the nighttime. Lack of funding from HUD prevents enhanced security. 

There is no operating video surveillance system at the Hacienda. What exists is inadequate but is broken anyway. People who should not be in the building gain access by following someone else in, being let in by a tenant or a tent’s family member, or by scaling the security fence. 

The Housing Authority is in the process of terminating Cypress based on reports of serious lapses. 

Hacienda Grounds and Landscaping 

The building grounds are generally well-maintained, with one exception. The area west of the building landscaped with ivy ground cover and not intended for tenant use is strewn with trash and broken glass, including drug paraphernalia. This needs to be cleaned up. 

Other Issues
In a journalistic “gotcha,” Harris described what she made to appear as a $400 meal consumed by Tim Jones, himself, in New York:
In a trip to New York in November 2009, Jones got the authority to pay for a $417.34 meal at Fabio Piccolo Fiore, a high-end Italian restaurant, HUD documents show. In Washington, he had taxpayers fund $130.60 and $279.90 meals at an upscale soul-food restaurant called Georgia Brown’s in 2008 and 2010.
Its executive director, Tim Jones, charged hundreds of dollars on meals in New York and Washington, including a roughly $400 meal at an upscale midtown Manhattan restaurant where a strip steak with truffle fries runs $41.
HUD found the charges to be excessive, according to a review that stretched from 2008 to 2011. In addition to charging the meals, Jones appears to have billed taxpayers a $40 stipend each day he traveled, records show. Government officials are supposed to limit their meals to the per diem costs, so they shouldn’t be charging meals at all.
Based on information I obtained from the city manager and from Jones himself, the New York meal in question was a working session by at least five people, maybe more, representing LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), NURVE and the City of Richmond, who were in New York to make a presentation on Richmond’s NURVE Project. “NURVE” stands for “Nystrom Urban ReVitalization Effort” a partnership of several foundations and public agencies, including the Richmond Housing Authority, which are dedicated to revitalizing one of Richmond’s most challenging communities. Already to date, NURVE’s partners have raised nearly $50 million dollars for projects, half of which are built or under construction. 

Harris extracted all the information about meals from an unverified HUD report without fact-checking it. 

REAC Scores 

HUD routinely conducts “REAC” program inspections of public housing properties. According to HUD, “The Real Estate Assessment Center's (REAC) mission is to provide and promote the effective use of accurate, timely and reliable information assessing the condition of HUD's portfolio; to provide information to help ensure safe, decent and affordable housing…” 

Below are the Scores from the REAC inspection reports for the Richmond Housing Authority properties for 2012, which were the most recent REAC inspections performed. There are two scores. The first might be considered the “base” score for the property on a scale of 0 to 100. Then, there are Health and Safety “deducts” from the base score based on observed repairs. In essence, the H&S deducts are similar to “fix it tickets” that a car driver might receive when a tail light our a turn signal is inoperative. They are considered temporal (rather than structural ) in nature. As applied for the REAC program, a life safety H&S might include having a low battery in a smoke alarm. As a practical matter, the RHA prepares a work order for each H&S deduct and fixes the problem immediately. 

As you can see from the reports, the base scores, deducts and net scores for the properties for 2012 are as follows: 


Base Score out of 100 


Net Score 

Nystrom Village 








Friendship Manor 




Triangle Court 




Nevin Plaza 




As indicated, three of the five properties scored well into the 90’s on a 100 point scale for their base score. According to Tim Jones, all “deducts” to these base scores were immediately repaired after the REAC inspection. You may also note from the backup to the attached reports that the REAC inspection is rigorous. For example, Nevin Plaza (the lowest base score) received 0 points for the exterior section out of a possible 16.4 points because of three items: the exterior door to the trash room did not close automatically, there was a “bad seal” due to inadequate caulking at an office, and there was a damaged downspout from the roof. 


The condition and operation of public housing in Richmond is clearly less than desirable, but the reality is not nearly as bad as Amy Julia Harris portrays it. Likewise, the causes of any deficiencies are much more complex and the blame wider than Harris would have us believe. The Center for Investigative Reporting must think they have done a great service by taking on Richmond’s public housing, but what they have done borders on yellow journalism, striving for sensationalism while ignoring both reality and the bigger picture. What they also haven’t done is describe what is needed to fix it. 

Writing a critical article about anything is easy, but operating a government is not. There are problems everywhere in Richmond as in any city: potholes, crime, pollution, education, unemployment and public transportation, to name a few. It’s easy to blame any or all of these on government mismanagement and incompetent pubic employees. But the public gives their government only so much money with which to operate and then leaves it to legislators and administrators to decide how to allocate it. There is never enough to go around. 

Neither is poor management and poor judgment a flaw limited to the public sector. The private sector has their share. Chevron’s gross negligence resulted in a devastating fire at the Richmond Refinery in 2012, and when their fracking operation blew up in Pennsylvania last week, they assuaged the community’s trepidation with free pizza and a soda. 

As a City Council member, I am committed to do whatever we can, as the governing body, to make the Richmond Housing Authority better or to perhaps to simply turn it over to HUD since they seem to have all the answers. 




Sequestration, Salary Cap Needed For Nonprofit Housing Developers

By Lynda Carson
Friday February 28, 2014 - 04:37:00 PM

As the massive automatic across-the-board sequestration budget cuts continue to devastate the poor in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, greedy nonprofit developers are pushing for Rental Assistance Reform (RAR) legislation that would result in higher rents for the poor, the acceleration of the privatization of our public housing sites all across the nation, and the loss of Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers for the poor.

The wealthy nonprofit developers want more Section 8 vouchers to be taken away from the poor so that they can be converted into project-based vouchers for their projects.

Meanwhile, as the massive sequestration budget cuts continue to harm the poor, the executives in the nonprofit so-called affordable housing industry continue to demand higher rents from the poor, at the same time they receive massive bonuses and increases in their salaries and wage compensation.

At this point, I am demanding a freeze in rent increases on the poor in all so-called affordable housing projects being operated by nonprofit and for profit so-called affordable housing developers.

I am also pushing for a salary cap of $125,000 in salaries and wage compensation for all the executives in the so-called affordable housing industry that have projects subsidized by local and federal tax dollars.

I am demanding that the executives immediately reduce, and freeze their salaries at the level of $125,000 annually.

I am asking for community support in demanding an end in rent increases on the poor in so-called affordable housing projects, and ask for community support in pushing for a salary cap of $125,000 for all executives in nonprofit and for profit housing organizations that have so-called affordable housing projects subsidized by local and federal tax dollars. 

Click below for a list that includes some local nonprofit so-called affordable housing developers in the East Bay: 


See the latest in salaries and wage compensation for some of the top executives from some local 501 c3 charity nonprofit housing corporations operating in Oakland, according to some of the latest 990 tax forms filed with the federal government that are available for public viewing. 

EAH Inc.; In 2012, more than 11 executives at EAH Inc., earned well over $100,000 per year, including 2 people raking in well over $200,000 a year. Leading the pack, Mary Murtagh, President, was paid $298,850 in 2012. Laura Hall, Chief Operating Officer, was paid $208,286. Cathy Macy, CFO, was paid $186,709. Stephen Lucas, VP Acquisitions, was paid $182,991. Dianna Ingle, VP Re MGMT, was paid $163,324. 

Affordable Housing Associates; In 2010, Susan Friedland, Executive Director of Affordable Housing Associates, was paid $133,731, but was payed $152,966 in 2012, a huge wage compensation increase of $19,235 during a period of massive budget cuts to the nation's housing programs during that same period. 

Bridge Housing; In 2011, the top executive at Bridge Housing took in well over $300,000 that year, with 6 other top executives pulling in well over $200,000 annually, including an additional 6 other top executives raking in well over $155,000 that year. Leading the pack, Cynthia Parker took in $330,249 in compensation during 2011. Rebecca Hlebasko was paid $278,224. Kimberly A McKay was paid $255,665. Susan Johnson was paid $235,875. D Valentine was paid $235.840. Lydia Tan's compensation was listed at $224,474 for 2011 (Severance pay on 1/3/2011, of $118,244, and distribution of an additional $106,230). Brad Wiblin was paid $200,887. Ann Silverberg was paid $196,499. 

Christian Church Homes: In 2011, Don Stump, President/CEO, was compensated $181,874. Cynthia Lappin, VP Operations & COO, was paid $157,295. Winthrop Marshall, VP Finance & CFO, was paid $151,687. Leilani Siegfried, VP Human Services, was paid $138,810. Geoffrey Morgan, VP Development, was paid $130,948. Sheryl Stella, Controller, was paid $123,832. 

Eden Housing; In 2011, Linda Mandolini, Executive Director, was paid $188,834. Jan Peters, Chief Operating Officer, was paid $187,538. Terese Mcnamee, CFO, was paid $175,804. 

Satellite Housing; In 2011, Ryan Chao, Executive Director, Satellite Housing was paid $175,321. Dori Kojima, was paid $105,179. Miriam Benavides was paid $100,093. 

East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation; During 2011, Jeremy Liu, Executive Director, was paid $125,217. Peter Sopka, CFO, was paid $125,101. Mary Hennessy, COO, was paid $110,126. Carlos Castallenos, Director of Real Estate Development, was paid $103,329. Records also show that in 2009, former Executive Director of EBALDC, Lynette Jung Lee, earned as much $140,536 that year, including an additional $5,942 in other compensation. Joshua Simon is the current Executive Director, of EBALDC. 

Resources for Community Development; In 2011, Dan Sawislak, Executive Director, of received a total compensation of $127,330. 

Lynda Carson may be reached at; tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com

March Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday February 28, 2014 - 04:43:00 PM

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

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

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

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 

Why Community?

By Harry Brill
Friday February 28, 2014 - 04:44:00 PM

For 2 1/2 years on the streets of Solano Avenue our East Bay Tax the Rich Group has been building community. Why is community important? For political activists a community minded perspective improves the odds of winning political battles. That's why achieving solidarity is often a strategic objective for organized labor. 

But the commitment to building community should not be to serve only pragmatic objectives. It should be an end in itself as well. Human beings have a social nature. Through our broad human connections, and not only with family and friends, we experience a sense of well being and the joy of living. Our individualistic oriented culture tends to isolate us from each other, and prompts us to withdraw. It even makes us feel lonely. Being members of a larger community brings us together, and helps us feel whole. Accordingly, we feel replenished rather than fatigued. Community provides an ideal context for developing our human potential.  

We are proud of what we have been trying to accomplish on Solano Avenue. Indeed, it explains why we have been rallying weekly for so long. Our Tax the Rich activists are each unique individuals. But we have a common bond to build upon. We care about making a difference.


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Ukraine Revolt’s Dark Side

By Conn Hallinan
Monday March 03, 2014 - 08:22:00 AM

“The April 6 rally in Cherskasy, a city 100 miles southeast of Kiev, turned violent after six men took off their jackets to reveal T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Beat the Kikes” and “Svoboda,” the name of the Ukrainian ultranationalist movement and the Ukrainian word for “freedom.”

--Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 12, 2013

While most of the Western media describes the current crisis in the Ukraine as a confrontation between authoritarianism and democracy, many of the shock troops who have manned barricades in Kiev and the western city of Lviv these past months represent a dark page in the country’s history and have little interest in either democracy or the liberalism of Western Europe and the United States.

“You’d never know from most of the reporting that far-right nationalists and fascists have been at the heart of the protests and attacks on government buildings,” reports Seumas Milne of the British Guardian. The most prominent of the groups has been the ultra-rightwing Svoboda or “Freedom” Party.

And that even the demand for integration with Western Europe appears to be more a tactic than a strategy: “The participation of Ukrainian nationalism and Svoboda in the process of EU [European Union] integration, “ admits Svoboda political council member Yury Noyevy, “is a means to break our ties with Russia.” 

And lest one think that Svoboda, and parties even further to the right, will strike their tents and disappear, Ukrainian News reported Feb. 26 that Svoboda Party members have temporarily been appointed to the posts of Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Supplies, and Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources. 

Svoboda is hardly a fringe organization. In the 2012 election won by the now deposed president, Viktor Yanukovitch, the Party took 10.45 percent of the vote and over 40 percent in parts of the western Ukraine. While the west voted overwhelmingly for the Fatherland Party’s Yulia Tymoshenko, the more populous east went overwhelmingly for the Party of the Regions’ Yanukovitch. The latter won the election handily, 48.8 percent to 45.7 percent. 

Svoboda –which currently has 36 deputies in the 450-member Ukrainian parliament—began life in the mid-1990s as the Social National Party of the Ukraine, but its roots lie in World War II, when Ukrainian nationalists and Nazis found common ground in the ideology of anti-communism and anti-Semitism. In April, 1943, Dr. Otto von Wachter, the Nazi commander of Galicia—the name for the western Ukraine—turned the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army into the 14 Grenadier Division of the Waffen SS, the so-called “Galicia Division.” 

The Waffen SS was the armed wing of the Nazi Party, and while serving along side the regular army, or Wehrmacht, the Party controlled the SS’s 38-plus divisions. While all Nazi forces took part in massacres and atrocities, the Waffen SS did so with particular efficiency. The post-war Nuremberg trials designated it a “criminal organization.” 

Svoboda has always had a soft spot for the Galicia Division and one of its parliament members, Oleg Pankevich, took part in a ceremony last April honoring the unit. Pankevich joined with a priest of Ukrainian Orthodox Church near Lviv to celebrate the unit’s 70th anniversary and re-bury some of the Division’s dead. 

“I was horrified to see photographs…of young Ukrainians wearing the dreaded SS uniform with swastikas clearly visible on their helmets as they carried caskets of members of this Nazi unit, lowered them into the ground, and fired gun salutes in their honor,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder wrote in a letter to the Patriarch of the Ukrainian church. He asked Patriarch Filret to “prevent any further rehabilitation of Nazism or the SS.” 

Some 800,000 Jews were murdered in the Ukraine during the German occupation, many of them by Ukrainian auxiliaries and units like the Galicia Division.  

Three months after the April ceremony, Ukrainians re-enacted the battle of Brody between the Galicia Division and Soviet troops, where the German XIII Army Corps was trying to hold off the Russians commanded by Marshall Ivan Konev. In general, going up against Konev meant a quick trip to Valhalla. In six days of fighting the Galicians lost two-thirds of their division and XIII Corps was sent reeling back to Poland. The Galicia Division survivors were shipped off to fight anti-Nazi partisans in Yugoslavia. In 1945 remnants of the unit surrendered to the Americans in Italy, and in 1947 many of them were allowed to emigrate to Britain and Canada. 

The U.S. press has downplayed the role of Svoboda, and even more far right groups like Right Sector and Common Cause, but Britain’s Channel 4 News reports that such quasi-fascist groups “played a leading role” in organizing the demonstrations and keeping them going.  

In the intercepted phone call between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, the two were, as Russian expert Stephen Cohen put it to Democracy Now, “plotting a coup d’état against the elected president of the Ukraine.” 

At one point Nuland endorses “Yat” as the head of a new government, referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk of the Fatherland Party, who indeed is now acting Prime Minister. But she goes on to say that Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok should be kept “on the outside.” 

Her plan to sideline Tyahnybok as a post-coup player, however, may be wishful thinking given the importance of the Party in the demonstrations. 

Tyahnybok is an anti-Semite who says “organized Jewry” controls the Ukraine’s media and government, and is planning “genocide” against Christians. He has turned Svoboda into the fourth largest party in the country, and, this past December, U.S. Senator John McCain shared a platform and an embrace with Tyahnybok at a rally in Kiev. 

Svoboda has links with other ultra-right parties in Europe through the Alliance of European National Movements. Founded in 2009 in Budapest, the Alliance includes Svoboda, Hungary’s violently racist Jobbik, the British National Party, Italy’s Tricolor Flame, Sweden’s National Democrats, and Belgium’s National Front. The Party also has close ties to France’s xenophobic National Front. The Front’s anti-Semitic leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was honored at Svoboda’s 2004 congress. 

Svoboda would stop immigration and reserve civil service jobs for “ethnic Ukrainians.” It would end abortion, gun control, “ban the Communist Ideology,” and list religious affiliation and ethnicity on identity documents. It claims as its mentor the Nazi-collaborator Stephan Bandera, whose Ukrainian Insurgent Army massacred Jews and Poles during World war II. The Party’s demand that all official business be conducted in Ukrainian was recently endorsed by the parliament, disenfranchising 30 percent of the country’s population that speaks Russian. Russian speakers are generally concentrated in the Ukraine’s east and south, and particularly in the Crimean Peninsula. 

The U.S. and the EU have hailed the resignation of President Yanukovych and the triumph of “people power” over the elected government—Ambassador Pyatt called it “a day for the history books”—but what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  

Prior to the deployment of Russian troops this past week anti-coup, pro-Russian crowds massed in the streets in the Crimea’s capital, Simferopol, and seized government buildings. While there was little support for the ousted president—who most Ukrainians believe is corrupt—there was deep anger at the de-recognition of the Russian language and contempt for what many said were “fascists” in Kiev and Lviv. 

Until 1954 the Crimea was always part of Russia until, for administrative and bureaucratic reasons, it was made part of the Ukraine. At the time, Ukraine was one of 15 Soviet republics. 

The Ukraine is in deep economic trouble, and for the past year the government has been casting about for a way out. Bailout negotiations were opened with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU), but the loan would have required onerous austerity measures that, according to Citibank analyst Ivan Tchakarov, would “most probably mean a recession in 2014.” 

It was at this juncture that Yanukovych abandoned talks with the EU and opened negotiations with the Russians. That turn around was the spark for last November’s demonstrations. 

But as Ben Aris, editor of Business News Europe, says “Under the terms of the EU offer of last year—which virtually nobody in the Western media has seriously examined—the EU was offering $160 million per year for the next five years, while just the bond payments to the IMF were greater than that.” 

Russia, however, “offered $15 billion in cash and immediately paid $3 billion…Had Yanukovych accepted the EU deal, the country would have collapsed,” says Aris. 

The current situation is dangerous precisely because it touches a Russian security nerve. The Soviet Union lost some 25 to 27 million people in World War II, and Russians to this day are touchy about their borders. They also know who inflicted those casualties, and those who celebrate a Waffen SS division are not likely to be well thought of in the south or the east. 

Border security is hardly ancient history for the Kremlin. As Russian expert Cohen points out, “Since the Clinton administration in the 1990s, the U.S.-led West has been on a steady march toward post-Soviet Russia, beginning with the expansion of NATO…all the way to the Russian border.” 

NATO now includes Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungry, Slovenia, and former Soviet-led Warsaw Pact members Albania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania. 

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s comment that the IMF-EU package for the Ukraine would have been “a major boost for Euro-Atlantic security” suggests that NATO had set its sights on bringing the Ukraine into the military alliance. 

The massive demonstrations over the past three months reflected widespread outrage at the corruption of the Yanukovych regime, but it has also unleashed a dark side of the Ukraine’s history. That dark side was on display at last year’s rally in Cherkasey. Victor Smal, a lawyer and human rights activist, said he told “the men in the T-shirts they were promoting hatred. They beat me to the ground until I lost consciousness.” 

Svoboda and its allies do not make up a majority of the demonstrators, but as Cohen points out, “Five percent of a population that’s tough, resolute, ruthless, armed, and well funded, and knows what it wants, can make history.” 

It is not the kind of history most would like to repeat. 

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com 




THE PUBLIC EYE: The War on Democracy: Art Pope and the Rich Bullies

By Bob Burnett
Friday February 28, 2014 - 04:33:00 PM

Out here on the Left Coast, we’re not opposed to capitalism. But we believe it needs constraints. You’ll hear two arguments for curbing capitalism. One focuses on poor kids and the other on rich bullies, such as North Carolina’s Art Pope. 

Americans share the myth of the “rugged individual” who pulls him, or herself, up by their bootstraps and becomes a success. What undergirds this myth is the notion of the level playing field; belief that all American children start with the same resources and, therefore, whether they succeed depends upon their character. 

Sadly, most of recognize that poor children are not offered a level playing field. For a variety of reasons they have inadequate nutrition, housing, education, and health care. While there are stories of poor children becoming very successful, most do not. In my life I’ve seen that poor kids have a different experience with the police and the court system than rich kids do; if you’re a poor kid caught with a joint, you’re much more likely to go to jail than a rich kid. If you are a poor kid, you’re much more likely to grow up in a home where no one reads and there is no one to encourage you to do your schoolwork. 

As important as the plight of poor kids is, the problem of rich bullies has become more disturbing. Of course, there have always been wealthy folks in America. Thomas Jefferson was rich, as was Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Most Americans would like to be wealthy, but don’t actually know any rich people. Nowadays, most member of the one percent live segregated secluded lives. 

There have always been a few rich Americans who used their wealth in an attempt to subvert democracy. We saw this with the 19th century robber barons and in the 1930’s with the liberty league. Each generation has had to deal with these bullies. In the modern era, they are the Koch brothers and their wealthy allies, including North Carolina’s Art Pope. 

Spending millions of dollars, America’s 21st century bullies have reshaped the Republican Party and are threatening representative democracy. The Koch brothers and their allies have four objectives: replace all elected officials with those amenable to their program (the “Tea Party”); shrink the size of government; reduce taxes and regulations; and, advocate the conservative Christian agenda de jour. 

Behind each of their objectives is an ideological and a personal rationale. The capitalist bullies want to replace Democrats and moderate Republicans with politicians that will support their agenda; in 2012, radical Texas Republican, Ted Cruz, supplanted moderate Republican senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison. Since 2010, in North Carolina, conservative businessman Art Pope has spent millions moving the state government to the right. Now, for the first time since reconstruction, Republicans control the governorship and the legislature. One observer noted, “Democrats running for office in North Carolina are running against Art Pope.” 

In order to increase the power of conservative Republicans, Pope-sponsored groups led the movement to gerrymander North Carolina congressional districts and suppress Democratic turnout by limiting early voting and requiring display of government-issued voter ids. 

Pope and the other capitalist bullies want to dramatically reduce the size of government. Their lobbyist, Grover Norquist, famously quipped, “We want to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” (Typically, however, they don’t want to diminish the military or the national security establishment.) Ultra-conservative Republicans seek to eliminate Federal domestic agencies and the social safety net. In North Carolina, Art Pope has led the push to lower taxes and to reduce funds for public education – particularly higher education, which he regards as a “boondoggle.” 

Less government inevitably means fewer regulations and looser enforcement of existing laws. The Koch brothers want less government oversight of Koch Industries because that would increase the profitability of their fossil fuel and chemical companies. Art Pope’s family business, Variety Wholesalers, is a discount retail chain with thin profit margins; therefore Pope is opposed to measures such as the Affordable Care Act and an increase in the minimum wage. 

While capitalist bullies are not necessarily conservative Christians, they embrace them as allies and, therefore, support their radical agenda including homophobia (opposition to gay marriage), misogyny (opposition to women’s rights), and racial segregation (voting rights restrictions and opposition to school integration). 

Since 2010, the Koch brothers and their rich allies, such as Art Pope, have waged a stealth war on American democracy. Through a variety of channels, they’ve used their millions to alter the government of state after state. In Washington DC, they’ve tilted the House of Representatives far to the right. In 2014, they’re spending more millions to seize control of the Senate. In North Carolina, Art Pope and friends have already spent more than $7 million to defeat centrist Democratic Senator Kay Hagan. 

Where’s the outrage? When are Americans going to wake up to the capitalist bullies’ war on democracy? 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: About This Column

By Jack Bragen
Friday February 28, 2014 - 04:47:00 PM

This column consists of the opinions of one mentally ill man on the subject of mental illness. This is an opinion column, and it is not meant to contain expert advice. 

There are numerous places where a person can be advised on how to deal with a relative with mental illness, such as NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness (no affiliation with this column.) 

This column, instead, presents a voice that people don't normally hear—that of the person who suffers from these diseases—a voice that is usually silenced by a number of factors. 

This column is easy for me to write because I have built-in subject matter. I don't have to go out into the world and dig up stories. Nor do I need to do research on the internet, except perhaps when I want to know a definition or possibly a synonym of a word—or perhaps when I am commenting on a current news story that pertains to mental illness. In truth, I am able to obtain ninety percent or more of the material for this column from my experiences as a man with over thirty years of severe mental illness. 

Surprisingly, I never seem to run out of things to write on this subject. In the space of a week, it seems that I can nearly always come up with some aspect of having a mental illness upon which I can comment. I have been writing this column for over three years. This experiment appears to be a success. 

My perspective is fairly unique, since most people with mental illness seem to be too impaired by their condition or by sociological factors to write about their experiences and to do this at a level that is commercially viable. I do not have a ghostwriter or a copy editor. I do not have money to pay one, and besides that, I am not getting paid for this column. 

Before I started writing for The Berkeley Daily Planet, I had already been published in The Street Spirit and in a few other publications. I continue to write commentary and fiction for The Street Spirit, my science fiction has also appeared in Bewildering Stories—and I have written for several publications that are no longer in existence (Ragged Edge Magazine, Illuminata, and Magical Blend Online.) I recently landed a piece in The Mindfulness Bell, a well-known Buddhist magazine. The piece was called, "Schizophrenia and Mindfulness." 

My writing isn't a miracle and hasn't come into existence out of thin air—I have worked at it. Several years back I had the realization that I wouldn't be successful because of my belief that I deserve it, or merely because of wanting it a lot. 

On days when nothing or next to nothing gets written, I console myself that I am accomplishing something when I refrain from discrediting myself. While getting into trouble may be good for the careers of famous movie actors and performers who benefit from tabloid attention, it would not be helpful for my situation. 

Mental illness can be a tough and debilitating condition. I continue to deal with paranoid symptoms, depression and anxiety. I also have a fair degree of agoraphobia. But these are things that can also generate more subject matter. 

I have gone about eighteen years without a repeat psychotic episode, largely due to medication compliance. I have been writing for publications for twelve of those years. I can not guarantee that I will never have another psychotic episode—although I hope that I won't, and I will try to steer clear of that. 

I hope to continue writing this column for more years, as long as this newspaper continues to exist and as long as my material doesn't go sour or evaporate. I appreciate the opportunity given to me by Becky O'Malley and the editors of other publications—I consider myself fortunate. 

And I hope that my readers will continue to get something out of this, and that some will be willing to pay for my books on Amazon. The proceeds go to a good cause—the support of a disabled author.

Arts & Events

AROUND AND ABOUT MUSIC: Vienna Philharmonic Returns to Berkeley for Cal Performances Residency & Symposium

By Ken Bullock
Friday February 28, 2014 - 04:26:00 PM

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra returns to Berkeley next weekend, March 7-9, for Cal Performances' annual orchestra residency, including three concerts and a symposium, with lectures, panel discussions and chamber concert, 'The Vienna Philharmonic, 100 Years After the Outbreak of World War One, featuring scholars and musicians from Vienna, Berkeley and elsewhere in North America. The symposium is open to the public as a free event.  

Lorin Maazel of the Munich Philharmonic (replacing Daniele Gatti, who is ill), will conduct the Vienna Philharmonic at 8 p. m. Friday, March 7, with guest soprano Juliane Banse, in Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor ("The Unfinished") and Mahler's Symphony No. 4 in G major. Andris Nelsons of the Boston Symphony conducts Saturday at 8 with Haydn's Symphony No. 90 in C major and Brahms'Symphony No. 3 in F major, Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn. Franz Weisel-Most of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Vienna State Opera will conduct Sunday at 3 with Mozart's Symphony in F major, Staud's On Comparative Meteorology, and Bruckner's Symphony No. 6 in A major. All performances at Zellerbach Hall on the UC campus near Bancroft and Telegraph. 

Pre-performance talks, free to ticketholders, will be delivered by Professor Clemens Hellsberg, acing Chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic.  

Friday at 3 p. m. the concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic will hold a master class for the UC Berkeley Orchestra string section, open to the public. 

On Saturday the 8th, from 10 a. m. at Hertz Hall on the UC campus, the symposium will feature scholars from Vienna, Berkeley and elsewhere in panels and lectures such as: "Viennese Modernism," "Wartime and Postwar Memories Reconsidered" (by Dr. Christian Meyer, director of the Schoenberg Center, Vienna), "Making Peace After War," "Mastery of the Past," and "The Responsibility of the Artist." At 2 p. m. a string sextet from the Vienna Philharmonic will play, also a pianist and singer with songs by Schoenberg, Berg and other Viennese composers.  

Tickets for the concerts start at $35, with discounts available. calperfs.berkeley.edu

Press Release: Ruin In Progress:
How the Decay of Cal’s Historic Buildings Reflect Its Changing Mission
With Dr. Gray Brechin

Friday February 28, 2014 - 04:51:00 PM

Can we allow UC Berkeley to destroy its historic buildings? Its Maybeck, its South Hall? William Randolph Hearst and his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst gave generously to the University of California at Berkeley in its formative years. Signature buildings like The Campanile, the Library, and Hearst Gym were built according to two Hearst plans for the campus. As costly new structures rise around the university's perimeter, the historic buildings at its core suffer advanced neglect. Geographer. Gray Brechin will present an illustrated talk on changing priorities in a time of forgetting. 

Ruin in Progress With Dr. Gray Brechin  

Friday, March 7, 2014 from 5-7 PM 

315 Wheeler Hall. University of California, Berkeley  

Wheelchair Accessible.  

All Welcome. 

A round table discussion on the crisis of maintenance at UC’s flagship campus will follow with Art History Professor Margaretta Lovell and Professor Emerita of Integrative Biology Roberta Park. The talk is co-sponsored by the Berkeley Faculty Association and the Department of English. Audience participation is encouraged.