Author Archives: Guest contributor

2 ‘botanical rubberneckers’ forage the East Bay

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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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Op-ed: No on Measure R isn’t nearly enough

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I am thrilled that we voted 3 to 1 to defeat Measure R, and that the building of new housing in downtown Berkeley will continue. Let’s build on this momentum, and get serious about addressing the massive housing shortage in our community that is hitting working families hard. Downtown is great, but we have to do an order of magnitude more to bring supply and demand into balance.

Only 18% of Alameda County families can afford to buy the … Continue reading »

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Market Report: Winter squash offer beauty, variety

La Tercera squash photo by William Newton
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From the classic tan butternut squash to the brightly colored sweet dumpling, winter squash come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. In general, winter squash have tough outer rinds with sweet-tasting inner flesh and are conveniently interchangeable in recipes.

Despite their name, winter squash are harvested during the start of fall, and can last for extensive periods of time without rotting if stored properly. Their long shelf-life and beautiful colors make for charming fall décor.

The most well-known variety of winter squash is the pumpkin, but you’d be best leaving it for carving into a jack o’lantern. Most commercially available pumpkin pie fillings are made not with pumpkin, but other, sweeter, varieties of winter squash.

Winter squash are incredibly versatile. In addition to sweet dishes like pies, they taste excellent baked in savory dishes as well. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley love: Laying our Measure D vote on the cogs of the beverage industry machine

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Fifty years ago Berkeley birthed the Free Speech Movement when Mario Savio stood atop a police car in the middle of Sproul plaza on the UC Berkeley campus and called for moral action. He shouted out:

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious — makes you so sick at heart — that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Cal should take down beer and athletics billboard

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Has anyone been in the Alta Bates ER on a UC Berkeley football game night? I have, and it is an eye-opening experience of drunkenness and bloody injuries.

I was astonished this week as I headed home from work to see a billboard next to the freeway in Emeryville advertising beer with the Cal Athletics logo. I had noticed a similar billboard a year ago and wrote to the newly appointed Chancellor expressing my concerns. I received a prompt reply … Continue reading »

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Why Acorn Woodpeckers are appearing in Berkeley

Acorn Woodpecker / Photo by Larry and Dena Hollowood, www.flickr.com/photos/larry_dena/
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By Bruce Mast

They are the clowns of the oak savannah — Acorn Woodpeckers — with their harlequin faces, gregarious habits, and off-kilter laughing calls that inspired Woody Woodpecker.

Here in the Bay Area, Acorn Woodpecker colonies are fairly common in the East Bay hills and the western slopes of Mount Diablo, particularly where there are concentrations of valley oaks. South of Livermore, they can be locally abundant in the Diablo range. They are rare in Tilden and Redwood Regional Parks, however, and practically unheard of west of the Hayward Fault.

So what’s up with the recent spate of Acorn Woodpecker sightings in urban San Francisco and the East Bay lowlands? … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: My personal journey to becoming a fierce supporter of Measure D

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In February, 1999 my first grandson was born in Berkeley. He arrived early and underweight, and came home from the hospital 6 weeks after birth. That same year, coincidently, the City of Berkeley issued a Health Status Report, which included the fact that my grandson had a 40% less chance of living to the age 40 than children his age born to households in the hills above the flatlands where we lived.

I was shocked, afraid, devastated, motivated, and galvanized … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: The League of Women Voters urges a Yes vote on Measure F

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The League of Women Voters urges a YES vote on Berkeley’s Measure F, the Parks Tax. Measure F proposes a modest increase of 2.1 cents per square foot in the current parcel tax that funds maintenance and repair of 52 parks as well as trails, medians, and 35,000 street trees.

The current tax and its inflation index are inadequate to meet the needs of the parks and urban forest. The budget of the Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront is running a … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Measure D levels the health playing field

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You are a busy person taking time to be informed and I respect that. So I’m going to let you in on my line of reasoning here: corporations impact what we drink, what we drink impacts our health, “our health” includes “your health”, you can vote, therefore vote “Yes” on D!

Why am I writing this? We need to level the health playing field and Measure D is a way to do that.

Corporations impact what we drink

In 2013 … Continue reading »

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