Author Archives: Guest contributor

Op-ed: Don’t call what Berkeley Police used ‘tear gas’

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“We believe ‘tear gas’ is a misnomer for a group of poisonous gases which, far from being innocuous, have serious acute and longer-term adverse effects on the health of significant numbers of those exposed.”

Physicians for Human Rights wrote the above paragraph after studying the health effects of the chemical agents commonly known as tear gas on human health after the government of the Republic of Korea admitted to using 351,000 canisters against civilians in 1987.  Physicians for Human Rights’ … Continue reading »

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Kids get new perspective on plastic, make eco-art

Sean Keller, fourth-grade teacher at Jefferson School, fixing one of the eco-art panels.
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By Ann Krueger Spivack

While students in Sean Keller’s fourth-grade class at Jefferson School tie broken toys onto a wire mesh panel, Colleen Mahoney is talking about LEGOs. Mahoney nods to a red LEGO brick that one student picks up from a table.

“In 2012, 45.7 billion LEGO bricks were produced. That’s more than 5 million bricks every hour. Right now you could give every person on the planet eighty LEGOs and you’d still have LEGO bricks left over.”

Students stop working to listen to Mahoney, and it’s clear they’re considering how much plastic humans create on an hourly basis, and what this means for the planet. This lesson is a first step in teaching children about plastic, where it comes from and where it goes. Where plastic goes is of particular concern to Mahoney, the founder of A Kid By Nature, the nonprofit group sponsoring this lesson about plastic’s impact on the environment. Mahoney explains what motivates her to bring environmental projects such as this one into classrooms, without any cost to the schools. … Continue reading »

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Neighbors complain about Berkeley Police commandeering their street to get ready for protests

During the Dec. 6 protests, Berkeley police commandeered McKinley St. to set up a staging area for mutual aid from other departments. This is a photo of a Hayward Police Department van parked on the street. Photo by
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By Mara Van Ells

Residents on McKinley Avenue near the Berkeley Police station are seething after a week of protests which saw parking banned, the street blocked to normal traffic after 5 p.m., and police cars and armored vehicles stationed there.

Some neighbors said when they tried to go home, police yelled at them and demanded to see their identification. They were also told, “no ins and outs.”

See complete Berkeleyside coverage of the recent Berkeley protests.

“I was treated like a criminal for trying to come home from work,” said Julie Guilfoy, who has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: BAMN’s protest plans calculated to cause violence

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I am happy to see that a rising tide of idealism is causing non-violent demonstrations for justice across the country.

I am not happy to see that the one of the main groups planning our demonstrations in Berkeley is BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), which believes in violence.

The news has even made the New York Times, which reported: “At Sproul Plaza, students took to megaphones to urge for peaceful demonstrations. But Yvette Felarca, 44, an organizer from By … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: 5 myths about East Bay #BlackLivesMatter protests

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I’m a longtime Berkeley resident who has attended two of the last five nights of protests and have been following reportage and readers’ comments on Berkeleyside. There are five areas of misunderstanding I’d like to try to clarify:

1. The protestors have articulated no demands

Numerous demands have been made by the national movement that has now seen waves of protests not only in the East Bay, but in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York, Atlanta, Chicago, … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Talking about violence is not a distraction — The Berkeley protests for Ferguson

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I marched again last night, Dec. 7, in Berkeley with my protest partner Sharon Fennema, and over 1,000 other committed, passionate, and almost entirely nonviolent people. It was astounding to see that there were more people gathered on December 7, 2014 than there had been the night before when protesters were violently attacked by police. As can happen, but doesn’t always, in response to state-sponsored attacks, a movement galvanized and grew; it did not weaken.

Protesters’ commitment to nonviolence and … Continue reading »

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Business is swell at a much-loved East Bay button shop

Buttons
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By Karen M. Galatz

In the East Bay, if you’re looking for buttons, be they glass, wood, resin, metal, mother of pearl, Bakelite or other, you’d better go meet Mary Sortile, the proprietor of Exclusive Buttons on San Pablo Avenue. She has thousands and thousands of them.

Mary’s story is actually three stories in one. It is the story of a quaint business in the community; it is the story of an enduring partnership; and it is about aging with grace and purpose. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: How come my street isn’t getting fixed?

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How come my street isn’t getting fixed?

Since Berkeley’s Five-Year Street paving plan came to Council November 18 (item 39), a lot of people have asked “how come my block isn’t on the list? It’s in major disrepair.” The answer is in our 2011 Streets audit; we provided a road map for getting the most bang for the buck for every dollar spent on streets. Repair costs increase exponentially when maintenance is deferred. This means the City needs … Continue reading »

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2 ‘botanical rubberneckers’ forage the East Bay

Foraging couple larger
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By Gretchen Kell

With the gusto of wine enthusiasts in a tasting room, Philip Stark and Tom Carlson eye, sniff and sample their selections, pronouncing them “robust,” “lovely,” “voluptuous” — and even “just beyond words.” The undergraduate students with them flock close, curious.

The group is far from a trendy winery or upscale farmer’s market. Instead, gathered at the forlorn corner of Sycamore Avenue and South 45th St. in Richmond, they’re in the heart of a food desert, an area without easy access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. Yet, in this low-income neighborhood, with more liquor and fast-food shops than grocery stores, there’s a bounty of goodness thriving in some unlikely places — a parched lawn, sidewalk cracks, along a chain link fence.

And from the looks of it, that bounty is composed almost entirely of … weeds.

“Yes, these are weeds,” acknowledges Carlson, an ethnobotanist and a tenured lecturer in the Department of Integrative Biology, happily munching on a low-lying edible called cat’s ear. “But many of these were brought to America long ago by immigrants from Europe and Asia who used them for foods and medicines. There are high rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in these food deserts, and study after study shows the benefits of eating more leafy greens. These are available and nutritious and free.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Recess restriction is discriminatory and counterproductive

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This Wednesday, the Berkeley Unified School Board will vote on a policy that would allow teachers to restrict students’ access to recess. As a parent of a child at Willard, I oppose the recess restriction policy as discriminatory and counterproductive.

K-5 students have two short recess periods, fifteen minutes in the morning and twenty minutes after lunch. Middle-school students have a combined lunch-recess period of 30 minutes. The policy would allow teachers to take away up to ten minutes of … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Sexual harassment at Berkeley High must stop

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On the evening of Nov. 12 we sent an invitation to each member of the Berkeley School Board and to members of the leadership team of the Superintendent’s office at the Berkeley Unified School District, asking them to support a fundraising initiative for a student-led organization called #BHSstopharassing.

The students of #BHSstopharassing are planning an educational “teach-in” event for later this month to build community awareness about sexual harassment at Berkeley High School and about students’ rights under … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: More voices needed to set priorities for older Berkeley residents

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Last Sunday afternoon, while some Berkeley residents recuperated from a half-marathon run, a decidedly older demographic gathered at the South Berkeley Library for a specially convened meeting of Berkeley’s Commission on Aging. Like all City Commissions, the task of this appointed panel is to make recommendations to City Council, in this case regarding ways to improve life for older adults in Berkeley. The Sunday meeting’s purpose was to hear what residents have to say about such issues as health, safety, … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley overrules Citizens United!

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The biggest vote-getter on the Nov. 4 ballot in Berkeley was not the tax on sugary soda, which got 75% of the vote and national attention. Nor was it a candidate for any office. It was Proposition P, which called for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. Prop P got 85% of the vote.

The proposition was, as California propositions go, remarkably simple. It asked if the United States Constitution should be “amended to … Continue reading »

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