Author Archives: Guest contributor

Opinionator

Op-ed: Berkeley restaurant has been approved: Let it open

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I am a homeowner on Russell Street just below College, and thus an Elmwood resident. A year ago, I heard that the owners of Comal on Shattuck Avenue were proposing a restaurant for the old Wright’s Garage space on Ashby and I was thrilled. It sounded like just the ticket to round out the dining options in our little neighborhood. Finally, we would have an upscale spot with a nice atmosphere and a small bar space — just what … Continue reading »

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Sharing the music in a Berkeley backyard, Cajun-style

Cajun music. Photo: Dorothy Brown
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By Dorothy Brown

It is Monday evening and five folks with fiddles are seated in a circle in the backyard. Four of them are learning a traditional Cajun tune, The Milk Cow is Dead.* There is no sheet music in sight, and nobody expects any. You learn this music by ear.

Joel Savoy is sharing his intimate knowledge of the song, and his expert techniques with the instrument and the style. He plays the tune through, and then breaks it down into phrases that he invites the group to repeat. The notes themselves are the easy part. What makes a good Cajun fiddler is nuance and flair, and Joel breaks that down too.

“You want to get those pulses in there.” “…a little bit bouncier there. Slide into that last note.” This tune has a lot of that, and Joel enjoys that part. “Just slide up to C# and stop when you get there!”

This is how Cajun music has been shared and taught for generations. After a long day’s work, people gather together to play. It is easy to imagine this scene is taking place in Southwest Louisiana, but this is a backyard in Berkeley, California.  … Continue reading »

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Snapshot: Evening in a southwest Berkeley neighborhood

The African Rain tree in Jeanne Pimental's South-West Berkeley neighborhood which appears pleasingly diverse on the eve of July 4th. Photo: Jeanne Pimental
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By Jeanne Pimentel

Wednesday, 8 p.m. Time to catch up on today’s World Cup results, but first some exercise before the sun sets.  

I walk up the block to Strawberry Creek Park, but instead of turning left to the creekside lawns where birds, children, and dogs prevail, I turn right to the series of sports courts that line the rear of the block of apartment houses uncharacteristic of our neat, single-family-home neighborhood, and sometimes called the projects or the “barri-ghetto.”

On the first open basketball court, just vacated by Berkeley Youth Alternative’s “Twilight Team” of local, mostly African-American schoolgirls, is a middle-aged white woman practicing Tai-Chi. On the second, a local father and son are shooting hoops. In the first of the enclosed courts it’s soccer, played on asphalt partly covered with the shredded remains of green surface material. … Continue reading »

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Obituaries

Beth Cobb O’Neil: Devoted to social justice and education

Jennifer Cobb
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Beth Cobb O’Neil (née Elizabeth Ellen Pendleton), of Berkeley, California, a respected educational administrator known for pioneering minority admissions policies throughout her long career, died on May 22 at age 79 in Jackson, Wyoming from the effects of vascular dementia.

In the early 1960s, when a request went out to the Junior League of Oakland-East Bay seeking volunteers to work with disadvantaged youth in North Richmond, Beth was the only member who was not afraid to go. She quickly became … Continue reading »

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Hershey Felder: A master entertainer’s food journeys

Master entertainer and virtuoso pianist Hershey Felder returns to Berkeley Rep with his popular and critically acclaimed one man show Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro.

Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com
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By Aleta George

Hershey Felder’s hands are small considering what he asks of them. In his one-man show, Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro, now playing at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, they glide across the keys of a baby grand, conduct an orchestra with grace, and accentuate Bernstein’s father’s scorn.

Felder uses his hands just as ably offstage, especially in the kitchen. He’s known for his cooking, a passion that he inherited from his mother, Eva, while growing up in Montreal.

“My mother was a foodie of sorts,” says Felder. “She loved to prepare a beautiful table and make a beautiful warm home. I was there as a kid over her shoulder and learned to have a great deal of love for food.” … Continue reading »

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Comment

Op-ed: Parks bond needs strict accountability and vision

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At its meeting tomorrow night, the Berkeley City Council will consider again how to raise funds for Berkeley’s parks.

In an Opinionator op-ed published today on Berkeleyside, parks advocate Marc Beyeler argues that the best path for the Council — and for the city and its residents — will be to place a Mello-Roos combined funding measure on the November ballot. A Mello-Roos measure would provide both capital and continued operating funding, but it also demands a two-thirds vote for passage. … Continue reading »

Opinionator

Op-ed: Big vision and strict accountability required to save Berkeley parks

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On Tuesday, June 24, the Berkeley City Council may choose to place a combined Mello-Roos financing measure for Berkeley parks on the November ballot. It is vital for the Berkeley community — elected officials, city staff, residents and voters — to embrace this big vision for the future of Berkeley parks, playgrounds, and pools and support this “gamble” by the Council. The arguments in favor of investing in saving our … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Minimum wage plan is raising bar too far, too fast

Poster produced by the Berkeley Alliance of Small Businesses
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The Berkeley Small Business Alliance supports the need to raise the minimum wage in Berkeley. There is a longstanding history of support for small business in Berkeley as evidenced by its lack of corporate retailers and big-box stores. Berkeley residents are known for their devotion to sustainable restaurants whose chefs buy seasonally from local farmers and ranchers. It’s the small mom and pop shops that make Berkeley feel like a small town and are the backbone of the local … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Women will benefit from minimum wage increase

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The National Women’s Political Caucus, Alameda North Chapter strongly supports the efforts to establish a local minimum wage in Berkeley that is higher than the state minimum wage. As an organization that supports growing both the political and economic power of women, we know that a higher minimum wage is critically important to women’s economic security.

In a recent story on regional efforts to raise local minimum wages, we learned about Essence Hope, who works at a retailer for … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: In minimum wage debate, respect business owners

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In the growing conversation about minimum wage and establishing a fair balance for workers and businesses, it would be an unforgivable oversight to forget what makes Berkeley such a special place to live in. Small neighborhoods. Stores owned by individuals and families where people are recognized and greeted like members of those families.

Remembering the number of independent book stores that were thriving in Berkeley 10 years ago and then counting the brave survivors, is a tough marker of where … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: How about some notice before a tree is cut down?

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Last month a magnificent fruiting tree on the southeast corner of Dwight Way and Grant Street was cut down. Turns out it belonged to the Berkeley City Ballet.

A good guess is that thousands have plucked fruit from this tree, likely without knowing what kind of tree it was, or even if it was OK to eat. Head-height fruit full of flavor within arms’ reach of the sidewalk — this was the kindest tree this side of town, offering an introduction to harvesting edible, … Continue reading »

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Remembering public servant Wesley Eugene Hester Sr.

Wesley E. Hester, Sr.
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Wesley Eugene Hester Sr.— who managed the former Berkeley Hester Day Care and served on the Berkeley Police Review Commission and the Berkeley City Council among his many public roles — passed away peacefully in San Leandro on April 26, 2014, at the age of 90.

Hester, an avid Cal Bears basketball fan and recreational tennis player, was a champion of Berkeley’s underserved community and he served both the Berkeley and Oakland communities by immersing himself in a variety of civic activities and public offices.

Among his many achievements, Hester was one of the founding members of the Berkeley San Pablo Tennis Club, initially formed to accommodate Bay Area African American tennis enthusiasts who were segregated from other local tennis clubs; and he helped establish Berkeley’s city wide recycling program, one of the first in the country. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s influence on Assembly race takes a twist

California State Capital. Photo by Thomas W. Toolan, Wikimedia Commons
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By Kate Darby

Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s primary election for the District 15 Assembly seat, history is in the making in Berkeley. For the first time in several decades, this assembly race doesn’t include a candidate with direct ties to Berkeley City Hall, though one has garnered a slate of endorsements from familiar faces there.

Current District 15 Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley is termed out of office at the end of the year, opening the door to an energized contingent of candidates interested in her seat. The 64% majority Democrat district covers a swatch of the East Bay from north Oakland to Hercules, including the cities of Berkeley, Emeryville, and Richmond. … Continue reading »

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