Daily Archives: March 24, 2010
Same schools, different issues (above): desegregating Berkeley’s schools [Public Library]
Friends help former comic strip artist sleeping rough in Berkeley [SF Chronicle]
UC Berkeley’s Opinion Space offers Hillary Clinton some insights [Coco Times]
Students in Berkeley call for statewide ban on Styrofoam [CBS 5]
Berkeley author Annie Leonard on why we’re obsessed with stuff [USA Today]
Mr. Mopps’, the venerable toy store on Martin Luther King near Rose, is going out of business.
The owner, Eugene Yamashita, wants to retire, according to his sister Naomi Yamashita. He tried to find a buyer but was unsuccessful, so he made the hard decision to shut down, she said. It was his wife Jean who opened the store more than 40 years ago.
There is no firm date for the closing, but the store will shut once … Continue reading »
At last night’s marathon City Council meeting (which ended well past midnight), Berkeley City council members voted 8 to 1 to approve the Strawberry Creek Plaza plan for Center Street (pictured above). The vote gives the go-ahead for money to be raised to implement the designs, which were commissioned from landscape designer Walter Hood.
“For the project’s long-range implementation, it’s a small victory but a key victory,” says Jane Wardani, development and project associate at … Continue reading »
A second special joint meeting between the Berkeley School Board and the Berkeley City Council will be held tonight at 6 p.m. in the council chambers. They’ll discuss the 2020 Vision for Berkeley’s Children and Youth. The Berkeley Alliance developed the 2020 Vision, as a “citywide movement to ensure academic success and well-being for all of Berkeley’s children and youth, by closing the achievement and health gaps in Berkeley’s public schools”.
The document at issue tonight shows the first phase of initiatives proposed for July 1-December 31, 2010, and a preview of future phases. The report is lengthy and difficult to summarize in a blog post. One piece of it details four “pilot projects” in this initial phase of 2020 Vision. The pilot projects are:
1. Summer Opportunities
Goal: Develop high-quality cross-jurisdictional summer programs that offer academic support opportunities for targeted youth. In 2010, we will:
- Create a Summer Bridge program for 50 targeted 8th graders and their families to enter Berkeley High School successfully.
- Create a Summer Bridge program for at least 20 targeted, entering Kindergarteners and their families to enter school successfully.
- Create a piloted summer program for selected 4th- and 5th-grade students and their families within community-based programs and Berkeley’s Excellent Academic Road to Success (BEARS), within BUSD.
2. Early Childhood Development Initiatives … Continue reading »
On his first day on the job, newly appointed police chief Michael Meehan walked into the conference room adjoining his office. With ample light and round bay windows overlooking the Martin Luther King Park, it is the nicest room in Berkeley’s police headquarters.
But Meehan was struck by the fact the blinds were shut, blocking out the view. When he inquired about it, he was told that the blinds were kept closed so people would not look into the space where the police brass meet.
In one of his first acts, Meehan requested that the blinds be opened so that the room would be flooded with light and Berkeley citizens could see into police headquarters. Even as he made the order, Meehan was aware that the gesture could serve as a metaphor: on his watch, the Berkeley Police Department will strive to be more open and transparent than ever.
Meehan, 49, took over the police department’s top spot in December after serving 23 years in the Seattle police department. While Berkeley is much smaller than Seattle, with only 100,000 residents, it has big-city problems. It has the highest crime rate in the state for cites of comparable size.
Berkeleyside sat down with Chief Meehan last week to talk about the direction of the city and the department. This is part one of the interview.
On the department’s relationship with the community:
“One of our goals is to be more open and more transparent, about not just about what we are doing but the problems we are seeing. I am of the mind the more we tell people the better. One of the things I tell our officers is that we are not the CIA. 99% of what we are doing is not secret and we are going to share it with people. As we open up, people will begin to see that we are just a group of people doing the best we can, working with the resources we have, working with the mission we have.”
On the drug problem in Berkeley:
“Do we have a drug problem? We do, just like many communities do. Drugs are an accelerant for crime. The more drugs you have, the more crime you have. For us it’s differentiating between the indoor users and the outdoor violent sellers. There are a lot of drug arrests we could make, if we wanted to, but we would spend our time doing nothing but that. What I want to do is to focus the department on drug arrests that make sense. I want to focus on the people involved with violence, focus on the people who are involved with children, and what I call chronic, nuisance neighbors. If a grown man is in the privacy of his home and he is smoking one joint, the interest level of the police is very, very low. But if you are involving kids, or violence, or your neighbors keep calling to complain, that’s going to get our attention.”
On gang activity:
We do not have the gang problem Oakland has, we do not have the gang problem Richmond has. We do have one gang, the Westside Berkeley gang. It is a group we are looking at. We have several people in the department who I could consider experts on it. I can’t quantity the numbers they have. Certainly when we look at graffiti in the city, at least in parts of the city, they’ve made their appearance known.
“It’s my perception that in an otherwise clean city, Berkeley has a very serious graffiti problem. Even by my own house there is graffiti on the stop sign, graffiti on the mail box. It just seems to be everywhere. Not only is it unsightly, it leads to a feeling of disorder, a feeling of fear. I was talking to a man in Strawberry Creek Park and he was telling me how crime was very, very bad and I asked him for some specific examples, for which he couldn’t give me even one. As he was talking to me he was standing in front of a wall that was covered in gang graffiti. So I know exactly what he is saying and I know where it is coming from.”
On reducing incidents at Berkeley High, where the department stations one officer:
“I can’t say at the organizational level what’s broken or what needs fixing; I am not there yet. I am learning. One of the things I would like to do – and I just walked through the school a few weeks ago and met with the principal – is to explore ways we can improve the safety, not just at Berkeley High School, but at all the schools. One of the things I always say is the most important public safety official in any city is not the police chief. It’s the school superintendent. If we can address crime at the ages of middle school and early high school you get people on the right path and they are very unlikely to get on the wrong path. That’s the danger time, middle school and early high school. We want to work very closely with the school to address any issues that they have.”