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Berkeley Taser Forum Tonight

Scott Morris (BCN)
Thursday September 04, 2014 - 07:07:00 PM

As Berkeley plans a study on potentially equipping police officers with Tasers, a coalition opposed to the use of the stun guns is holding a forum tonight to discuss the topic. 

Berkeley is one of only a few Bay Area cities whose police departments do not carry Tasers, something the Berkeley Police Association has advocated changing. 

The police union has said that the stun guns offer an alternative to using guns in violent situations with suspects and that Tasers have the potential to save lives as a less-lethal alternative. 

An unscientific survey of Berkeley residents conducted by the association last year found strong support for studying Taser use. 

But critics argue that Tasers can be lethal themselves and aren't often used in circumstances where police are confronted with lethal force, but rather in cases where police are attempting to subdue unarmed suspects. 

The Coalition for a Taser Free Berkeley cites research showing a rise in in-custody deaths in California following Taser deployments, with no decrease in firearm use or officer injuries. 

Tonight's forum will feature civil rights attorneys, activists and mental health professionals to discuss the possible impact of Taser deployment in Berkeley. 

It will include Aram James, an activist and former Palo Alto public defender; Barbara Ann White, vice-president of the Berkeley chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; James Chanin, a founding member of the Berkeley Police Review Commission and prominent civil rights attorney; Jeremy Miller, program director of the Idriss Stelley Foundation; and Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. 

The forum will be held at the East Bay Media Center, 1939 Addison St., at 7 p.m. 

The city only finished taking proposals for the Taser study last month and the study is expected to be underway in October. 

Another Bay Area city where police officers do not carry Tasers, San Francisco, abandoned its most recent push for a Taser policy last year in response to community concerns. 

San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr had asked the city's Police Commission to approve a pilot program to allow officers to use Tasers but found community recommendations that would limit their use were potentially too restrictive.

Judge Orders City to Change "Misleading" Soda Tax Ballot Language

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday September 02, 2014 - 06:13:00 PM

A judge ruled today that city of Berkeley officials must change their ballot summary for a proposed soda tax measure on the ballot in Berkeley in November because the current language is misleading. 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo said the city's statement that the tax would only be imposed on "high-calories, sugary drinks" is "a form of advocacy and therefore not impartial." 

Grillo ordered the city to change the summary to say that the tax would apply to "sugar-sweetened beverages," which he said is more neutral and less likely to create prejudice for or against Measure D. 

The measure, which was placed on the ballot by the Berkeley City Council in a unanimous vote, would impose a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks sold in Berkeley and use the proceeds to fund programs that promote good nutrition. It would affect businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $100,000. 

No U.S. city currently taxes sugary drinks, but a similar measure is also on the ballot in San Francisco. 

A proposed soda tax in Richmond was rejected by voters in that East Bay city in 2012. 

Grillo said the tax would apply to drinks with as few as 24 calories and he agrees with tax opponents that "a reasonable voter would not be likely to consider a beverage containing 24 calories to be 'high-calorie' or 'sugary.'" 

Grillo said tax opponents provided convincing evidence that the tax would be imposed on several drinks with only 30 or 40 calories. 

The No on D campaign is primarily funded by the American Beverage Association, which has spent $300,000 so far. 

The tax opponents said in their lawsuit that a 12-ounce drink that only contains 24 calories would be well under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration definition of "high calorie" items as those containing 400 calories or more. 

Berkeley officials argued that public health experts consider a 24-calorie sugary drink to be high-calorie for children and that a World Health Organization draft guidelines says teen and adults should consume no more than 40 calories per beverage container. 

But Grillo said the city's argument was "not persuasive." 

Tax opponents also argued that ballot language that says the tax would be paid by distributors, not by consumers, is misleading because they believe distributors would pass on the extra cost to consumers. 

But Grillo ruled against tax opponents on that issue, saying they failed to provide clear and convincing evidence based on the ballot statement that the tax won't be paid by consumers is misleading or partial. 

The judge said tax opponents "only speculate that it is like that such cost will be passed down to consumers, but it is unknown at this point whether or not any of the tax will eventually be passed down to consumers." 

Grillo said the city correctly pointed out that distributors and retailers could choose to absorb the cost of the tax in order to better compete with other businesses. 

Berkeley school board member Joshua Daniels, who is co-chair of the campaign in favor of Measure D, said Grillo's order that the ballot language be changed is only a "relatively minor" development and "doesn't concern us at all" because "everyone knows that the measure is focused on preventing diabetes" and he thinks it will still be approved. 

Daniels said that overall Grillo's ruling is "a victory" for Measure D supporters. 

Grillo's ruling came one day before the deadline on Wednesday for the Alameda County Registrar of Voters Office to send ballot arguments to the printer so that voters can receive them well in advance of the election on Nov. 4.

Flash: Berkeley's Green Downtown Ballot Measure Language Challengers Win in Court (Press Release)

From Jesse Arreguin, Sally Nelson, Stefan Elgstrand, Austene Hall and James Massar
Tuesday September 02, 2014 - 12:29:00 PM

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo granted the petition by Berkeley voters Jesse Arreguin, Sally Nelson, Stefan Elgstrand, Austene Hall and James Massar challenging the ballot question written by Mayor Tom Bates, the most vocal opponent of Measure R, and approved by his Council majority, over the objections of Councilmembers Anderson, Arreguin and Worthington. The petition alleged that the ballot question was illegal because it did not conform to legal requirements about accuracy and impartiality. In the attached decision Judge Grillo agreed that certain statements of the ballot question did constitute advocacy and ordered language stricken and amended to make it more accurate, fair and neutral.

Click here to download the full text of the decision.  

Petitioner (and Councilmember) Jesse Arreguin who has no legal training, never went to law school or took the bar, wrote the briefs and argued the case in court against James Harrison, partner from Remcho, Johansen and Purcell, a preeminent election law firm, hired by the City of Berkeley to represent the Council in the case.  

This decision is a victory not only for the supporters of Measure R who deserve a neutral description of the initiative on the ballot, but is a victory for fair elections.

Updated: CHP Advises Berkeley Residents to Stay Indoors During Search for Suspect

Bay City News and Planet
Sunday August 31, 2014 - 08:54:00 AM

The California Highway Patrol advised residents between Ashby Avenue and Russell Street in Berkeley to stay indoors while officers searched for a criminal suspect. The search started as a chase on city streets around 6:45 a.m., and at points went onto a highway, the CHP reported. Residents in the area between College and Claremont reported hearing a number of police sirens which stopped in their neighborhood. At 9 a.m. a CHP spokesperson told the Planet his organization had no further information about the search, which he said originated with the Walnut Creek Police.

Press Release: Berkeley Planning Commission Approves Zoning Overlay to Save Historic Buildings

From Mike Lonergan, Save the Post Office
Friday August 29, 2014 - 05:42:00 PM

In two unanimous votes the Berkeley Planning Commission approved the Civic Center Historic District Zoning Overlay Wednesday night. The District Zoning Overlay protects Berkeley's historic public buildings from commercial development.

The first vote accepted a finding from the Berkeley Planning Department that the District Zoning Overlay will have no environmental effect. The second vote approved the overlay ordinance as written in the citizen's initiative, Measure R. The District Zoning Overlay will go to Berkeley City Council for discussion and approval at their September 9 meeting. 

In November, 2013, the Planning Commissioners approved by majority vote a similar overlay ordinance. When that overlay ordinance stalled at the City Council level, Berkeley voters collected signatures for a ballot initiative to enact the District Zoning Overlay and promote sustainable development in the downtown area that benefits the entire community.

By April, Berkeley voters obtained sufficient signatures to qualify the Overlay and Sustainable Development Initiative for the November ballot, now designated as Measure R. On June 24, 2014, the Mayor and Council moved by consent calendar a request to “the City Manager to draft an ordinance establishing a Civic Center District Overlay Zone and to bring it to the Council for a first reading at the Sept. 9, 2014 meeting. The ordinance should be consistent with the Civic Center District Overlay section of the proposed initiative ordinance.”

When presenting the District Zoning Overlay to the Commission, staff stated that there would be no effect on any of the existing uses of property in the Civic Center Historic District even if those uses are non-conforming.

Berkeley Planning Department staff said the effect of its declaration of no environmental impact is that the overlay only gives direction to development but does not authorize any project. Any future project will have to go through its own environmental review.

Attorneys for the United States Postal Service, Clark Morrison of Cox, Castle, Nicholson, submitted a lengthy written protest of the District Zoning Overlay. While the US Postal Service has notoriously ignored public comment, last night their attorneys cried foul alleging that the schedule for the “public comment period forecloses meaningful public participation.”

And while USPS has revised federal regulations to provide itself with an exemption to environmental review on closing facilities, last night the USPS asserted the need for environmental review to assess the potential of urban decay from the District Zoning Overlay.

Furthermore, the cash-strapped postal service was able to hire an additional consultant who wrote that preserving Berkeley’s Main Post Office requires a “new multi-story development within the existing building envelope.” The consultant’s report held that: “It is not likely that reuse of all or part of the approximately 57,000 gross square foot Post Office building space ‘as-is’ would generate value sufficient to assure the necessary preservation and restoration of the historic features of the building.”

Berkeley Planning Department staff advised the Commissioners that in their opinion the USPS legal protests are without merit. 

Speakers from the community asked the Commission to work to keep postal services where they are and to recognize the importance of public spaces. One referred to the buildings of Berkeley’s Civic Center as architectural masterpieces that were passed on to us as part of the public commons and must be maintained for future generations.

Harvey Smith, President of the National New Deal Preservation Association, spoke to the one hundred year history of Berkeley’s Civic Center and noted that under the New Deal, development was exclusively for public purposes, but in the last few decades use decisions have been developer-driven.

Steve Finacom of the Berkeley Historical Society, referred to the legacy of Werner Hegemann, Berkeley’s first city planner, whose goal in planning was the proper coordination of all the needs of the public and bringing the civic, business and campus functions of the city into harmony. Mr. Finacom said “Our predecessors worked very hard to build the civic commons we have today. Our downtown will not decay if developers cannot get their hands on the post office. It is not necessary to convert the public space we have inherited to public profit.”

In voting to pass the Civic Center Historic District Zoning Overlay, Commissioner Dan Lindheim said his support for the Overlay was independent of post office issues and was based on the benefits of the Civic Center District Overlay to all of Berkeley's Civic Center. Commission Chairman Jim Novosel added in agreement that his vote was also determined by the benefits to the entire Civic Center from the District Zoning Overlay.

Minutes of the Planning Commission meeting may be found at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Planning_Commission_Homepage.aspx

Wellstone Club Endorsements: Quan, Soto-Vigil, Worthington and More

Friday August 29, 2014 - 01:10:00 PM

The East Bay's Wellstone Democratic Club has announced that the following endorsements were made by vote of the members at their meeting on Thursday: 

Oakland Offices

Mayor: Jean Quan
Council District 2: Abel Guillen
Council District 4: Anne Campbell Washington

Berkeley Offices

Auditor: Ann Marie Hogan
Berkeley School Board: Joshua Daniels, Karen Hemphill, Julie Sinai
City Council District 1: Alejandro Soto - Vigil
City Council District 4: Jesse Arreguin
City Council District 7: Kriss Worthington
Berkeley Rent Board: James Chang, Katherine Harr, Paola Laverde-Lavine,
John Selawsky, Jesse Townley

Special Districts

EBMUD Board Ward 3: Marguerite Young
EBMUD Board Ward 4:Andy Katz
BART Board District 4: Lena Tam
Peralta Colleges Board District 7: Julina Bonilla

California Propositions

Proposition 43, Water Bond: No
Proposition 45, Health Care Insurance Rates: Yes
Proposition 47, Criminal Sentences: Yes

Alameda County Propositions

Measure BB, Transportation Sales Tax: Yes

Oakland Propositions

Measure Z, Public Safety: Yes
Measure CC, Public Ethics: Yes
Measure DD, Independent Redistricting CommissionL Yes
Measure FF, Minimum Wage IncreaseL Yes

Berkeley Propositions

Measure D, Soda Tax: Yes
Measure Q, Flex Work Time: Yes

Judge Rules Tentatively That Berkeley Soda Tax Ballot Statement Must Change

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday August 29, 2014 - 12:52:00 PM

A judge said today that he has tentatively ruled that city of Berkeley officials must change their ballot statement for a proposed soda tax measure that's on the ballot in Berkeley in November because of concerns that it's misleading. 

But after hearing legal arguments on the matter, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo said he won't issue a final ruling in the case until Tuesday. 

Timeliness is of the essence because Wednesday is the deadline for the Alameda County Registrar of Voters Office to send ballot arguments to the printer so that voters can receive them well in advance of the election. 

Measure D, which was placed on the ballot by the Berkeley City Council in a unanimous vote, would impose a general tax on sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks sold in Berkeley and use the proceeds to fund programs that promote good nutrition. It would affect businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $100,000. 

No U.S. city currently taxes sugary drinks, but similar measure is also on the ballot in San Francisco. 

A proposed soda tax in Richmond was rejected by voters in that East Bay city in 2012. 

Soda tax opponents allege in their lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court that the ballot measure language drafted by the Berkeley City Attorney's Office and approved by the City Council is "an attempt to influence the outcome of an election" and uses "biased and misleading buzzwords" to frame the question in a positive light. 

Specifically, opponents say the ballot statement's assertion that the tax would only apply to "high calorie" or "sugary" drinks that contain at least 2 calories per fluid ounce is misleading because a 12-ounce drink that only contains 24 calories would be well under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration definition of "high calorie" items as those containing 400 calories or more. 

Opponents say Berkeley officials should use more "neutral" language such as saying the tax would apply to "sugar-sweetened beverages." 

But Berkeley officials say that the terms sugary, high calorie and low nutrition "accurately describe the products to be taxed under Measure D." 

Grillo said in court today that he's inclined to remove the term "high calorie" from the ballot statement and substitute the term "sugar-sweetened." 

Grillo said the city should be careful about the language it uses in its statement because it "should not engage in advocacy." 

However, Grillo said he's inclined to allow the city to say that the tax would be paid by distributors, not by consumers. 

Christopher Skinnell, an attorney for soda tax opponents, said today that the city's assertion that the tax won't be directly paid by consumers may be literally true but he still thinks it's "misleading." 

Skinnell said, "The purpose of the tax is to raise the price of drinks so demand goes down." 

But Margaret Prinzing, an attorney for the city, said it would be speculation to say that the cost of the tax would ultimately be passed on to consumers.

Press Release: Berkeley Police Investigating Attempted Homicide

From Ofc Jennifer Coats Berkeley Police Public Information Officer (PIO)
Friday August 29, 2014 - 12:23:00 PM

On Friday, August 29, 2014 at approximately 12:49 a.m. the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) received a report of a disturbance inside an apartment located in the 2000 block of Durant Avenue. The caller reported hearing a male yelling and making threats. 

BPD officers arrived shortly after the call and could hear a loud disturbance coming from the apartment. The officers made contact with a male subject at the location. While there they discovered a crime scene and a second, severely injured male. The Berkeley Fire Department was requested and the male victim was transported to a local hospital with life threatening injuries. 

Investigators are actively working this case, conducting interviews, following up on leads, and examining evidence. Investigators do not believe this was a random attack. A suspect has been arrested in this case, and booked into the Berkeley City Jail for attempted homicide. 

In the interest of maintaining the integrity of this on-going investigation; BPD will not be releasing the victim’s identity or that of the suspect. Any release of this information so early on could possibly hinder the investigation. 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).

Four Arrested for Spray Painting on UC Berkeley Campus

Dennis Culver (BCN)
Thursday August 28, 2014 - 10:13:00 AM

Four people were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of vandalism after police said they were caught spray painting at the University of California at Berkeley campus. 

UC Berkeley police arrested Amado Becerra, 19, Arash Ehya, 19, Andrew Feldman, 18, and Santosh Malarkannan, 19. 

Only Malarkannan is a student at UC Berkeley, according to university police. 

Campus police responded at 2:10 a.m. to the university's Recreational Sports Facility after receiving a report of vandalism and detained the suspects after police found them with red spray paint. 

Police said the men spray painted the sports facility, Sather Gate, Cesar Chavez Center and other locations on and off campus. 

Police estimated the on-campus damage to be between $3,000 and $5,000.

Berkeley Soda Tax Opponents File Suit Challenging Ballot Language

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday August 27, 2014 - 10:17:00 AM

Opponents of a measure on the November ballot in Berkeley that would impose a one-cent-per ounce tax on soda drinks have filed suit alleging that the ballot statement for the measure is biased, misleading and false. 

If it's approved, Measure D would place a general tax on sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks sold in Berkeley and use the proceeds to fund programs that promote good nutrition. It would affect businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $100,000. 

No U.S. city currently taxes sugary drinks, but a similar measure is also on the ballot in San Francisco. 

A proposed soda tax in Richmond was rejected by voters in that East Bay city in 2012. 

Plaintiffs Anthony Johnson and Leon Cain allege in their lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court that the ballot measure language drafted by the Berkeley City Attorney's Office and approved by the City Council is "an attempt to influence the outcome of an election" and uses "biased and misleading buzzwords" to frame the question in a positive light. 

Specifically, Johnson and Cain say the ballot statement's assertion that the tax would only apply to "high calorie" or "sugary" drinks that contain at least 2 calories per fluid ounce is misleading because a 12-ounce drink that only contains 24 calories would be well under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration definition of "high calorie" items as those containing 400 calories or more. 

Johnson and Cain said Berkeley officials should use more "neutral" language such as saying the tax would apply to "sugar-sweetened beverages." 

But Berkeley officials say in their response to the suit that the terms sugary, high calorie and low nutrition "accurately describe the products to be taxed under Measure D." 

They say, "Public health and nutrition experts warn that all of the drinks that Measure D would tax are too high-calorie and sugary for young children and the World Health Organization advises everyone to limit their daily sugar intake to just 100 calories. 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo will hold a hearing on the ballot measure language on Friday. 

Berkeley School Board President Joshua Daniels, who is co-chair of the campaign in favor of Measure D, said today that he believes the beverage industry "simply doesn't want to acknowledge the science and the statistics" about the dangers of drinking soda drinks. 

The suit describes Johnson and Cain as residents, registered voters and taxpayers in Berkeley but Daniels said he doesn't believe they are long-term Berkeley residents and Cain works for a public relations firm hired by the American Beverage Association to fight against Measure D. 

Roger Salazar, a spokesman for Californians for Food and Beverage Choice and the campaign against Measure D, admitted that Cain is new to Berkeley but said he has lived in the Bay Area for some time. Salazar said Johnson has lived in Berkeley for "a while." 

Daniels said there's "nothing technically illegal" in Johnson and Cain asserting that they're Berkeley residents but he alleged that it's "a reflection of the overall bullying tactics" that the beverage industry is using against the proposed soda tax. 

Salazar said the American Beverage Association has donated $300,000 so far to oppose the tax. 

He said the beverage industry has "a right to express ourselves" and believes the proposed tax is "misguided and misleading." 

Daniels said the effort on behalf of the tax is "a genuine grassroots campaign" that doesn't plan to spend a lot of money.

Press Release: Measure M Paving Projects to be Reviewed Sept. 4

From Bernadette Lopes
Friday August 29, 2014 - 10:09:00 AM

If you are interested in the City of Berkeley paving program or in providing input on the paving of your street, you are encouraged to attend the September 4, 2014 Public Works Commission meeting at 7:00 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. At the meeting, the Commission will continue its review of the proposed 2016 paving plan. The Public Works Commission will be providing a recommendation to the City Council regarding the 2016 plan prior to it being presented to the Council for approval in November 2014. If you are unable to attend the meeting, you are welcome to send your comments or questions to pwengineering@cityofberkeley.info 

Measure M funding is being utilized in addition to other funding sources for paving and green infrastructure projects from 2014 through 2019. The Measure M planning process was led by the Public Works Commission in collaboration with the Transportation, Parks, Recreation and Waterfront, and Community Environmental Advisory Commissions, with support from the City Council. Measure M-funded projects and the annual paving plan are being delivered by the Public Works Department. Streets are selected for paving in accordance with the City's Street Rehabilitation Policy and the Measure M scorecard developed at the Measure M workshops. 

This summer the City paved over 7.5 miles on 25 streets around the City, including significant portions of Cedar Street, Parker Street, Allston Way, Shasta Road, Contra Costa Avenue, Grizzly Peak, and Wildcat Canyon, installed green infrastructure to collect and treat urban storm water runoff at or near the intersections of Allston Way and California Street, Milvia Street and Hopkins Street, Milvia Street and Eunice Street, and Vine Street and Spruce Street, and began construction of a permeable paver demonstration project on Allston Way adjacent to the Civic Center. The work was part of the 2014 paving plan the City Council approved in 2013. The miles paved in 2014 are approximately twice the amount the City paved annually prior to the passage of Measure M. Photos of some of the 2014 work are attached. 

In the summer of 2015 the City plans to pave approximately 17 miles on over 50 streets and install a major green infrastructure project on Parker Street. More paving and green infrastructure are planned for the remaining years. The City is implementing innovative and more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly pavement treatments that utilize less new material and recycle existing pavement in place.



This from Two Berkeley Liberals? SB1300's Poison Pill

By Becky O'Malley
Friday August 29, 2014 - 09:55:00 AM

Yesterday (Thursday) I got an urgent message from Terry Francke of Californians Aware, the Sacramento group which tracks transparency in California government, or more often the lack thereof.

His subject line:

“ALERT: Hancock's gut & amend bill would classify refinery repair work as trade secrets; ASSEMBLY LABOR COMMITTEE HEARING THIS AFTERNOON. This from two Berkeley liberals!”

His message:

“This bill [SB1300, coauthored by Berkeley’s Sacramento representatives Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner] would allow refineries to claim as trade secrets all the information they file with the state concerning periodic repair “turnarounds”, and would also allow the refineries, if there were a CPRA [California Public Records Act] request for this information, to effectively sue the requester in Superior Court seeking a judicial declaration that the information is indeed a trade secret. The requester would either have to appear and defend the request or accept a default judgment. This from two Berkeley liberals!” 

Terry forwarded an email he'd gotten from Jim Ewert, who keeps an eye on open government issues as general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers’ Association, which spelled out what’s wrong with this bill as recently amended from the freedom of information perspective [emphasis added] : 


“This bill was gut-amended last Friday: [August 22]: I have been trying to negotiate w/Hancock’s staff amendments that would narrow the definition of trade secret and fix the problem for CPRA requesters . . . “Our objections to SB 1300 are twofold:

1. Our primary objection is that the bill allows the oil companies to control DIR’s [the California Department of Industrial Resources’] duty to disclose information under the Public Records Act (CPRA). Section (b) of the bill requires DIR to notify a refiner when information is requested and permits the refiner to go to court to seek injunctive relief. Nothing in the bill requires the court to apply the principles of the CPRA when it makes that determination. This would lead to the following scenario: A member of the public submits a CPRA request to DIR for information that she believes is disclosable. DIR notifies the refiner that a request for the refiner’s information has been received. The refiner goes to court files an action vs. DIR for injunctive relief to prevent the disclosure of the information. The person who requested the information will be named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by the refiner. This result is fundamentally unfair for the requester who may or may not have been willing to go to court to enforce her rights under the CPRA but now finds that she is an unwilling defendant in a lawsuit and must now pay her own expenses for a lawyer and the costs associated with the action. This is fundamentally unfair. To top it off she could also have to pay the attorney’s fees and costs of the oil refiner if the refiner is the prevailing party. This is a perversion of the public’s role in government oversight and eviscerates the notion of due process.
"2. The definition of trade secret ... will be significantly broader than existing law. It would ... allow refiners to stamp just about anything a trade secret, whether or not it meets the criteria in the bill and the public would have no ability [to] challenge whether the refiner’s assertion was proper under this bill. The public would have no ability to monitor DIR to determine whether it is effective in overseeing this powerful industry or if it is ineffective because of a cozy relationship with the industry or some other reason.”
Terry added: 



“There are dozens, if not scores, of laws requiring regulated professions and industries to file periodic operational reports with state regulators. The CPRA already makes some of these reports confidential, without classifying the information as a trade secret. But the difference here is that the information in question may or may not qualify as a trade secret, but if someone puts in a CPRA request for it to the regulatory agency, the refinery owner can sue them for asking—seeking a court to confirm the trade secret protection. The requester then has to either defend the request in court or stay away and accept a default judgment against it.”
In other words, the Hancock-Skinner bill would force anyone seeking information about what Chevron and et al were doing during a “turnaround” (which is defined as "a planned, periodic shutdown of a refinery process unit or plant to perform maintenance, overhaul, and repair operations and to inspect, test, and replace process materials and equipment" in the legislative counsel’s digest of the bill's language) to prove that what they wanted to know was not a trade secret. It would let Chevron et al sue the regulatory agency, members of the press and other citizens who sought such information, and if the people with the questions didn’t (or couldn’t) defend themselves in court they’d just lose. Period. 


When the bill was introduced in February its stated purpose was to promote safety by requiring refineries to report on their turnaround schedule and activities. But the recent amendment which Francke and Ewert are protesting uses what’s called in the trade a “gut & amend” trick—adding just a small change, but one which makes a big difference in the effect of a bill. 

I spent yesterday afternoon trying to reach someone in Hancock’s office. After I’d left my desk I got an email from her communications director, Larry Levin, which said in part: 


“SB 1300 leaves untouched existing law regarding access to public records concerning oil companies. If a member of the public has concerns about an oil company -- safety, procedures, explosions, pricing, management, unethical or illegal behavior, etc. -- this bill will not limit or affect existing access to that information.”
I ran his email past the two freedom of information mavens, and this is what they said: 


Jim Ewert: 


“He is wrong that the bill leaves the CPRA untouched. It creates a situation where a requester asking for any information about a refinery risks financial ruin if pulled into court because he or she made a request.”
Terry Francke: 



“I think it entirely ignores the part of the bill that allows refineries to sue those who make Public Records Act requests for turnaround information. The Evidence Code puts the burden of establishing that something is a trade secret on the party claiming that it is. This bill allows the submitted information to be classified as trade secret just because the owner says so, and if someone asks for it anyway, that person stands to be sued in the process of obtaining a court confirmation that the information really is a trade secret.
“The bill also swallows and codifies an expansion of the trade secret definition, because unless that definition is expanded to suit the desires of the proponents, much of the information would not qualify for the traditional trade secret protection.
"There is precedent for dealing with trade secret claims against Public Records Act exposure, and it involves no expansion of trade secret doctrine or jeopardy to the requester.”
SB1300 looks to me a lot like a Trojan horse: on the outside it appears to be a nice gift, but destructive forces are hidden inside. 


The added layer of secrecy it imposes would seriously impede the ability of the press and of environmental activists to monitor refinery safety, which in the case of Chevron has been a matter of great public concern in the last few years. 

Terry’s exclamation (This from two Berkeley liberals!) raises a good question. Just exactly who do self-styled progressives Hancock and Skinner think they’re serving with SB1300? Chevron, perhaps? 

The amended bill will be up for a final floor vote today. 

I've left another message in Loni Hancock's Sacramento office this morning to ask about the August 22 amendment. If anyone calls me back, I'll let you know. 


UPDATE: After this was published, I talked to Larry Levin on the phone, and at my request he sent this email summarizing his points: 



"It was a pleasure talking to you this morning. I’m very sorry that Hans and Loni aren’t available, but as I mentioned, today is expected to be the last day of the legislative session and both of them are on the floor or in committees. "SB 1300 will give our regulators access to important new information about oil refineries for the first time. Without this bill, a member of the public would not be able to file a public records request for the information -- because there would be no information on turnarounds, as is the current situation. That is why this bill is necessary. Senator Hancock is concerned about how this is going to work, and she is committed to coming back and making adjustments as necessary. First and foremost, however, she believes that the state should be taking a proactive approach to preventing oil refinery disasters that can harm the public and the environment. If this bill passes, California will have the most robust refinery inspection program in the country.  

"SB 1300 adds a category to the definition of trade secret to include turnarounds. As you know, the concept of trade secrets is an accepted element of existing law. SB 1300 does not expand or extend the definition of trade secrets beyond turnarounds, so the bill is limited to this one procedure at California’s 14 oil refineries. It affects nothing else beyond that, and does not change or limit anything else in existing law regarding access to public records and freedom of information. The bill spells out a process for public record requests regarding the new turnaround information. That process is designed to work within the bill’s main intent of regulating oil refinery turnarounds, and to ensure that taxpayers would not have to pay legal costs for public records requests from competing oil companies, oil traders or speculators. 

"I hope this is helpful. 

"Larry Levin 

"Office of Senator Loni Hancock 



I'm not an expert in legislative language, but this letter doesn't change my perception of the pernicious effect of the August 22 amendment. I've forwarded it to Terry Francke and Jim Ewert so they can weigh in if they choose. We'll see if the bill passes this afternoon. 

UPDATE 2: Associated Press reports that SB1300 passed. No reports in any California paper I can find so far, but see it here: 



Any thoughts? Write to opinion@berkeleydailyplanet.com 














Public Comment

New: California Governor Jerry Brown Wants to Steal My Home

Chris Darling
Monday September 01, 2014 - 03:38:00 PM

Due to the expansion of Medi-Cal under ObamaCare, my wife and I am now covered by that program. But because both of us are over 55, Jerry can steal our house after we die to cover Medi-Cal's expense of paying for our healthcare. A 1993 law gives states the option to take back all the money spent by Medi-Cal for the healthcare of recipients over 55 by billing the estate after the recipient (and spouse) die. Because California is taking advantage of this option, Medi-Cal for older people is effectively a long term loan.  

SB 1124, a bill to fix the problem, has made its way through most of the legislature. If it passes, which is expected this week, Jerry has threatened to veto it to protect the state from the financial ruin of losing the $15 million it expects to collect by stealing the homes of other older Medi-Cal recipients who die over the next year. That $15 million is 1/100 of 1% of the state's budget! At the end of this diary, I will ask you to contact Jerry Brown's office and tell him to sign, not veto, SB 1124. But first, a few important details. 

My wife and I signed up for Medi-Cal late last year with coverage to start on January 1 of this year. It was not until several months later that I read online that in California Medi-Cal is a long term loan program. Even if we remain healthy, the state will deduct the monthly fee for the managed care program that administers Medi-Cal. I even found a PDF of a brochure produced by the California Department of Healthcare Services (DHCS) that explained the details of how “estate recovery” works. I prefer the term legal theft to the Orwellian “estate recovery.” 

At no point in the process of signing up were we notified that it was perfectly legal to steal our home from our children after we both die. When I called the Medi-Cal customer service line to ask about how to resign from Medi-Cal, they told me I was wrong and that the state could not and would not bill my estate. Mentioning the DHCS brochure I had in my possession made no difference in that assertion by the customer service rep and his supervisor. 

In April, California Senator Ed Hernandez, chair of the Senate Health Committee, introduced SB 1124, which limits so-called “estate recovery” to that which is mandated by Federal law, which is long-term care. The bill also prohibits collection from the estate of a surviving spouse of a Medi-Cal beneficiary. I started an on-line petition in support of the bill and, with the help of Moveon and the Courage Campaign, have gotten almost 1500 people to sign the petition.  

Nearly every person I have ever talked to about Medi-Cal “estate recovery” is just as shocked as I am. Some of the things they have said and/or written to me about “estate recovery” include “unconscionable,” “unfair,” “appalling,” and an “ill-conceived asset-stripping scheme.”  

Some of the people who signed the petition have told me their stories. Here are some: 

  • One woman is delaying gall bladder surgery rather than sign up for Medi-Cal. She turned 55 earlier this year, is on disability and cannot work, and will pay off her home mortgage later this year. Because her income is too low for the subsidies for private insurance that middle income people get, she is hoping to pay full price for health insurance when the open enrollment period for Obamacare begins in November.
  • Others tell me that the process of signing up takes a long time, is cumbersome, and, like me, that nobody told them about “estate recovery” when they did sign up. And, like me, they found out about it later through their own research. There have even been cases where the family and beneficiaries first find out about Medi-Cal “estate recovery” after the recipient dies.
  • Another woman explained that she had chosen to move back into her father's home when he became very ill so she could take care of him. His healthcare was covered by Medi-Cal. She was able to work in addition to caring for him but put all her extra money into paying taxes, maintenance, and upkeep for the house. She has no money saved, but had assumed that she would be able to continue to live in the house after he dies. There is a hardship exemption, but it will not apply because she can work. Thousands of her dollars will be lost when he dies and the state steals his home that she will no longer inherit.
  • Most ridiculous of all, a 62 year old man, who is an unemployed librarian with an MA in library science, broke his finger. It is all discolored from the injury. Rather than sign up for Medi-Cal so his finger could be taken care of by a doctor, he splinted it with a popsicle stick. He does not want to lose his house.
This past week, SB 1124 has completed the legislative process. It passed both houses unanimously; 78-0 in the Assembly and 35-0 in the Senate. As I said previously, the governor's staff have said that they are recommending that SB 1124 be vetoed. 

To overcome the opposition of the governor and his staff, I need you to act NOW by contacting Jerry Brown's office and state your support for SB 1124. Here is the contact information (mail, phone, fax, email): 

Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814 

Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160 


Please act right away.  

And please sign my petition in support of SB1124 at: 



Updated: The Corporate Robber Barons

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday August 29, 2014 - 10:08:00 AM

More and more companies are establishing corporate headquarters overseas in counties offering significantly lower tax rates, a process called tax inversion. Burger King is one of the latest high profile company’s which is planning to move their corporate headquarters to Canada where the corporate tax is 27 percent. James Henry, former chief economist of McKinsey & Company, noted that because Canada has a territorial corporate income tax structure, the US treasury will not receive any taxes from Burger King’s 6,000 overseas locations. 

The Obama administration estimated tax inversions cost the U.S. as much as $17 billion each year. Corporate inversions are a growing menace. From 1983 to 2004 there were only 27. Just last year there are at least 50 under consideration. Ireland is a favorite tax haven where the tax rate is 12 per cent. In a recent article in Rolling Stones, entitled "The Biggest Tax Scam Ever" Tim Dickerson describes “how top U.S. companies are avoiding hundreds of billions of dollars parking their profits abroad — and still receiving more congressionally approved incentives.” Top offenders include Microsoft, Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Wal-Mart, McDonald, and Caterpillar. 

General Electric enjoys an effective rate of 4 percent – 31 percent below the U.S. tax rate. Meanwhile our schools, basic infracture continue to suffer with declining federal tax revenues. The oligarchs have a chokehold on our declining democracy. Citizens it is time raise your voices.

War Can Never Bring Peace

Romila Khanna
Friday August 29, 2014 - 10:07:00 AM

The unrest we sense is the result of fear which is affecting every country. Whenever there is unrest and some other country is affected America feels that war and invasion will bring peace and security. It is true that we are very powerful due to our armament industry, but we feel insecure in spite of our armaments. We become impatient with internal domestic violence in another country. We want to help other nations by selling them more arms. Our way of helping others does us more harm than good. Our arms enable vast graveyards for the masses of other countries.  

Instead of supporting healthy internal communities in other nations we soak their environment in toxins. We spend our US citizen tax dollars to provide health services for those affected by the toxins. But we lose the good will of families we have torn apart by death and destruction. In my view, war can never bring peace. It always fuels the spiral of hatred. We should look for small ways of helping other countries find their own appropriate path.


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: When Mentally Compromised, Things to Avoid

Jack Bragen
Friday August 29, 2014 - 10:01:00 AM

A person can do a lot of damage to oneself if they go on the internet while in a compromised state of mind. This holds true for anyone.

This is akin to the rule that if you have been drinking or haven't gotten enough sleep, you should not get behind the wheel of a car. When delusional or not in a fully ordinary and grounded state of mind, getting on the internet can damage one's reputation. It is a way that a person can lose friends or blow away business opportunities. 

Back on the subject of automobiles, all it takes is one mistake and someone can lose their life or be permanently maimed. Thus, if you are symptomatic with mania, depression, or psychosis, it is not the time to go driving. If you are overly sedated with prescribed medication, you are still expected to use caution and possibly not be in a position of driving. 

On the internet, if you post the wrong thing or go to the wrong website, it can do irreversible damage, not only to your reputation, but also to finances. It is easy to pick up a devastating virus from a bad website. If suffering from delusions, it is an additional dimension in which a person can get into trouble. If one suffers from deep depression, things can also be posted or emailed that are regrettable. 

About fifteen years ago, I made a stab at self-employment in which I was helping people with their computer difficulties in their homes. I had a customer who was a mental health consumer, and she offered me $100 if I could solve her computer problem (a scrambled looking picture on the monitor). I resolved that malfunction and I collected the money. A few months later, the same customer had become paranoid and accused me of doing something to her computer. She demanded her money back. I refused to comply with that. 

My point is that, because of the traits of computers, involvement with them can interact with paranoia. Thus, if you suffer from paranoid delusions, additional caution should be portioned into computer activities. 

The internet has been a great medium in which I can interact with a wide variety of people while feeling "safe." The important thing to remember is that I need to catch myself before I send something that's going to "blow people out of the water." When things do not feel normal or when they are excessively stressful, I often stay entirely away from my computer for a while. 

When embarking on certain things like internet and driving, it is important to develop a self-warning system which generates a red flag when a mistaken action is pending. When you feel you could be delusional, even if only subtly so, when excessively upset, or when compromised mentally in some other way, it is important to stay off the internet.

ECLETIC RANT: Response to Daliya Robson's "Did You Ever Look at a Map?"

Ralph E. Stone
Friday August 29, 2014 - 09:58:00 AM

In her article "Did You Ever Look at a Map?", Ms. Robson seems to equate criticism of Israel with anti-semitism. Is there anti-semitism in the world? Absolutely. But too often accusations of anti-semitism are merely a scare tactic used to discredit Israel's critics. 

Ms Robson focuses on the current Israel versus Hamas conflict, which is but the latest chapter in a long saga stretching back to the creation of Israel in 1947. Then, the United Nations partitioned the land, allotting the Jews 55 percent of Palestine. The Arabs did not agree to this partition. Most of the Zionists accepted the partition resolution because they were convinced that the crucial issue at that time was to establish a firm foundation for Jewish sovereignty. However, in closed meetings, Zionists, including David Ben-Gurion never concealed their intention to expand at the first opportunity the territory given to the Jews. That is why the Israeli Declaration of Independence did not define the state's borders and Israel has not defined its borders to this day. Menachem Begin declared, "The partition of the Homeland is illegal. It will never be recognized. The signature of institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people. Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel (the land of Israel) will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.”  

Israel ended up with 78 percent of the area of Palestine and Israel continues to establish new settlements, demolishing homes and uprooting plantations in the process. In addition, Israel has erected a wall or fence, which cuts deep into Palestinian territory, joining large Jewish settlement blocks to Israel, further confining the Palestinians to isolated enclaves.  

No wonder many Palestinians believe Israel's goal is to control all of the West Bank and Gaza. 

And yes, Ms. Robson, Israel is surrounded by the Arab ring states. However, Israel's vulnerability is largely a myth. Although there is open hostility between Israel and other Arab states, the latter do not pose a direct threat to Israel at this time. Even though an Arab alliance has a quantitative advantage, Israel can rely on its technological and military dominance. Israel has a nuclear monopoly in the region. Although, this would change if Iran develops a nuclear capability. Otherwise, Israel has a military superiority vis-a-vis any possible coalition of Arab forces. It has the fourth largest air force in the world after the U.S., Russian, and China. It is the only state in the region with its own defense industry. It has the most modern military in the region with 160,000+ personnel. And finally, it has the lockstep support of the United States.  

In sum, the situation between Israel and the Palestinians is not as simplistic as you indicate in your diatribe. 


Arts & Events

PUBLIC FORUM - Should Berkeley Police be Allowed to Use Tasers on the People of Berkeley?

Berkeley Copwatch
Tuesday September 02, 2014 - 12:38:00 PM

Berkeley Police are asking the City Council for tasers. The City Council wants a study. The Coalition for a Taser Free Berkeley is convening a diverse panel to discuss their experiences with tasers and to help Berkeley make an informed decision. We invite members of the public, city employees and police officers who are genuinely concerned about how tasers will affect the community. We will consider taser effects on various communities, mentally ill people, previous cities' experience with tasers and how taser use would be monitored and police officers be held accountable?

Panelists include: 

  • Aram James, Activist and former Public Defender Palo Alto
  • Barbara Ann White, Berkeley NAACP representative and Berkeley Mental Health
  • James Chanin. Founding member of the Police Review Commission, Civil Rights lawyer
  • Jeremy Miller, Program Director, Idriss Stelley Foundation, Co-organizer of the successful campaign to stop San Francisco from getting tasers
More speakers to be announced! Public discussion to follow. 

Thursday September 4th 7pm
1939 Addison St., Berkeley, CA
Two blocks from Downtown Berkeley BART 

This event is free and open to the public. It is wheelchair accessible. 

For more information:

taserfreeberkeley@gmail.com coalitionforataserfreeberkeley.org or on facebook.com/taserfreeberkeley 

AROUND AND ABOUT THEATER: Marion Fay's Theater and Music Classes; Jovelyn Richards and 'Dinner at Mz Pat's House'

Ken Bullock
Friday August 29, 2014 - 10:03:00 AM

—Marion Fay's unusual adult education theater and music classes are starting up again for the Fall season. Theater explorations—nine weeks of two hour weekly classes—meets first on either Monday September 8 or Thursday September 11, both at 1 p. m. The course features five plays, including 'Rapture, Blister, Burn' at Aurora,' 'Party People' at Berkeley Rep, and also at the Rep a new play about Molly Ivins featuring Kathleen Turner. Guest speakers include artistic directors Michael Storm, of TheatreFIRST and Michael Moran of Ubuntu Theater Project. $85; discounted group theater tickets additional. Register at first class—bring $28 and a plain envelope if seeing 'Rapture, Blister, Burn' at Aurora on September 21. 

Music Appreciation class first meets Thursday, September 18, 10-noon, for nine weeks. Speakers include conductors and musicians from the Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco Symphonies. Musical events will be attended with post-performance discussions. In-class talks and concerts will include SF Symphony cellist Jill Brindell and her piano trio, composer Gabriela frank and clarinetist Deborah Pittman with her trio and baritone singer. $80; discounted group tickets additional. Register first day of class. 

All classes at Northbrae Community Chiurch, 941 The Alameda, Berkeley (near Solano Avenue Tunnel) 


—This weekend Jovelyn Richards will be staging the latest episode in her Depression era tale, 'Dinner at Mz. Pat's House,' set in a bordello in a black neighborhood in Cleveland that becomes a kind of community center and a beacon for unusual characters from all over. Backed by the sound of blues and jazz from her band, Jovelyn spins her own original stories, acting out the people, equally from dreams and reality. 8 pm Friday and Saturday, August 29 and 30. La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck between Prince and Woolsey. $12-15; cabaret-style table, $20 (food and drink available). lapena.org