Author Archives: Guest contributor

Opinionator

Op-ed: Why I support Isabelle Gaston for City Council

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A few months ago, I joined the North East Berkeley Association (NEBA) Board of Directors at the request of President Isabelle Gaston. My limited time with the board has made me simultaneously distraught, and cautiously optimistic, about the future of Berkeley.

It has made me distraught because this group of folks has an incredible grasp of the economic dysfunction of our city, and what they know and share with the group about both the present and historical state of our … Continue reading »

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How I became a docent for burrowing owls. What a hoot!

Burrowing owl in Cesar Chavez Park in Feb. 2016. Photo: Miya Lucas
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By Rubi Abrams

Newly retired from a fulfilling career as a community college librarian last year, I was ready to plunge into as many birding activities as I could schedule. Birding-related travel, classes, meetups, speaker series, feeder watch, bird counts – the more the better, and most sponsored by Golden Gate Audubon Society. But I was also eager to use my professional skills. I was itching to be a citizen scientist, to have a “conservation conversation” in my community.

Read more (and see photos) on burrowing owls.

Remembering the delightful young adult novel Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, I was inspired to get involved with the GGAS Burrowing Owl docent project. In the novel two young boys embark on a campaign to save the burrowing owl colony in their Florida town from real-estate developers. Although not threatened by local developers, our local burrowing owl populations have declined steeply, and they are currently a federally listed Species of Management Concern and Species of Special Concern in California due to habitat disruption. Though protected, there is still plenty to do in educating the public about these delightful creatures. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Berkeley must protect its cultural inheritance

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“West Berkeley Shellmound dates back 5,800 years and is the oldest Shellmound in the area by about 1,000 years” Richard Schwartz. Berkeley Voice, April 15, 2016.

As many of you of may (or may not) know the City of Berkeley has decided to allow the re-development of Spenger’s Fish Grotto to go forward in spite of the finding of human remains dating back almost 6,000 years. This project would be an estimated 207,590 square feet of stores, restaurants, luxury apartments … Continue reading »

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Schools

Op-ed: Berkeley, testing, testing, 1-2-3… is this thing on?

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BUSD is preparing for standardized testing next week. Meanwhile, across the rest of the country, there’s a strong, vocal tide that’s swelled into what has become the largest revolt against high-stakes testing in U.S. history.

I have been surprised by the silence in Berkeley.

Public school advocates throughout the US are voicing opposition to modern school “reform” practices that civil rights icon, James Meredith calls “catastrophically misguided and ineffective”.

It’s time to break the silence.

This community has … Continue reading »

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Obituaries

Remembering beloved mother, friend Nancy Jane Heckrotte

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Nancy Jane Heckrotte: July 9, 1958 – April 21, 2016

Nancy Jane Heckrotte, 57, of Berkeley, transitioned from life on April 21, 2016, with loving family and friends present, following a long illness.

Born in Oakland on July 9, 1958, to Warren and Mia Heckrotte, Nancy was the younger sister of John and Peggy. She attended Berkeley public schools, graduating from Bay High School at 16 years old.

Nancy trained as an electrical designer and worked in the lighting industry … Continue reading »

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In the hands of feminist press, Calamity Jane rides again

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By Judith Coburn

What was the best book the actor Ethan Hawke read last year? Calamity Jane’s Letters to her Daughter. (The second was Berkeley writer Greil Marcus’s A History of Rock ‘n Roll in Ten Songs) When Alta Gerrey, founder of Shameless Hussy Press, the first feminist publisher in America, heard about those choices, she rushed to her favorite Copymat on College Avenue to run off 50 new copies of the Calamity Jane book. Shameless Hussy had initially published Calamity Jane’s letters in paperback in 1976; its first edition is now selling on Amazon for $300. Hawke’s endorsement was followed by a recent shout-out from a blogger at The Paris Review.

“Calamity Jane is a feminist icon,” said Alta, who prefers to go by her first name as she did as a poet for many years on the Berkeley poetry scene.

Alta said Calamity Jane has taken her licks from mainstream biographers and filmmakers, like the men who made HBO’s Deadwood. “They just depict her as a drunk and a whore,” she said. Historians of the West quarrel over whether she was really married to Wild Bill Hickok and whether he is the father of Janey to whom the letters are written. Some regard the letters as fiction. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: stop UC from eliminating award-winning medical program that creates life-changing physicians

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Proposed budget cuts are threatening UC Berkeley’s award-winning medical program, which partners with UCSF to create life-changing physicians. In a fight to keep the program alive, students, staff and alumni are taking action.

Since 1971, the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program (JMP) has been producing innovative physician leaders. Students spend the first part of the program, the pre-clerkship years, studying at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health before heading to UCSF for the final sprint. It has now trained over 450 highly accomplished physicians, with 70% of all those graduates continuing to practice in California.

Now, because of budget cuts, this critical program may be closed. Funding for it is needed in order to get more highly trained physicians into the industry, physicians who are changing lives and furthering scientific research. 80% of the research projects conducted by JMP Masters candidates directly benefit Californians’ health and wellness.

As a program alumni, Colette Auerswald, MD, MS says, “I would not have embarked on a 20-year career caring and advocating for marginalized children and youth in California had it not been for the JMP. Period.” Continue reading »

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Obituaries

Remembering disability-rights activist Paul James Church

Paul James Church. Photo: courtesy family
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Paul James Church, a disability-rights activist and City of Berkeley employee, died suddenly at home in Berkeley on March 31, at the age of 60.

Paul was born in Dubuque, IA to Helen B. and Robert S. Church. However he considered Missouri to be where he was from — growing up his family moved often throughout the Midwest, but he lived the longest in Missouri.

Paul earned a B.S. degree in Horticulture and a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from the University of Missouri, Columbia, … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: New 783-bed, 8-story-high Stiles student housing project is too big

A rendering of how the Stiles student housing project would look on Bancroft Avenue. Photo: UC Berkeley
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The University is poised to approve what may be its largest student housing project to date, the Stiles Student Housing project, in the form of this behemoth of a structure providing 783 beds for students on one of few remaining University parking lots, on Bancroft, just west of Telegraph. Although our City needs more housing, we need to make sure that we’re building the right kinds of housing, in the right quantities for the right sites. This enormous project is too much, too high, and too dense. Perhaps more importantly, it does not account for the impacts that result from building from property line to property line and closing the heavily used parking lot.

If the University pushes this project through approval without modification, our community will be stuck with the consequences, including a prison-like façade overwhelming the neighborhood, for decades to come.

Our community must come together to persuade the University to scale down its plans to align better and less disruptively with the existing neighborhood. Public comments are due this week. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: The ‘Right to the City’: Who should control the process of urbanization in Berkeley?

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The “Right to the City” is an idea proposed by Lefebvre that those who live in a city have a democratic right, a human right, to shape the process of urbanization.

Unfortunately we seem to live in a world where private property rights, where profit rates, trump all other human rights. We seem to live in a time where the majority of our City Council believes the neoliberal notion that markets should determine all change -— that profit-driven decision making … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: An open letter to the citizens of Berkeley

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Good People of Berkeley:

I’m here from out of town, on a five-month stay for my husband’s sabbatical from Middlebury College, but I lived among you for five years while that same husband received his PhD from UC Berkeley. So, I’m prepared to tell you how the rest of the country thinks of you.

Mention “Berkeley” to most people, and they immediately conjure up an image of progressive, liberal, peace-loving descendants of the 1960s hippie movement, eating artisanal whole foods … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley is being overrun by a culture of greed

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I feel so discouraged about what’s happening here in Berkeley. At the beginning of the year, like so many others, I was encouraged to hear Bernie Sanders speaking truth to power, calling out the culture of greed that is wreaking havoc in our country.

But right here in Berkeley, we are being overrun by that same culture of greed, often masquerading it seems as concern for the environment. We’ve had a city government that turned over our downtown to developers who are building high rise, luxury housing. The Bates administration has, by its own admission built 89%  of the luxury housing and only 4% of the moderate income housing projected for future needs. Now the mayor is proposing to extend this downtown density to major corridors that line the flatland neighborhoods of our town. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: A new vision for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund

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On Tuesday, the City Council will discuss Mayor Bates’s omnibus housing plan. The plan has 13 points and covers everything from condo conversions to incentivizing Section 8 vouchers and by-right development rights. Yet, his proposal is a sweeping portrait of supply side economics and does not address displacement. It is premised on the idea that increasing the supply of market rate (expensive) apartments will ease the burden on everyone else, because, the argument goes, wealthy new comers will no … Continue reading »

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