Author Archives: Guest contributor

Berkeley volunteer redefines good Samaritanism

JC Orton holds up a copy of xxx. Photo: Matt Werner
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By Matt Werner

Every Sunday morning for the last 17 years, Zyg Deutschman has gone over to JC Orton’s house at 6 a.m. to help prepare breakfast for the homeless in Berkeley. One morning, about a decade ago, JC opened his door to find Zyg slumped over on his doorstep. JC first thought Zyg was drunk but then saw that Zyg’s face was gray. He was having a major heart attack. JC called 911 and continued preparing the meal after the paramedics arrived and took Zyg to the hospital.

Years later, JC recalls how he was able to finish getting the meal out on time that morning. He filled his van with oatmeal, grits, sweet rolls and fruit; arrived at People’s Park in time to feed the 80 or so people who’d gathered for breakfast; then drive to Civic Center Park (also called Provo Park, across from Berkeley’s City Hall), where he fed about 80 more people. This was all in a day’s work for JC, who heads up the organization Night on the Streets Catholic Worker.

JC lives below the poverty line. He suffers from diabetes. Skin cancer has left scars below his left eye and left forearm. His wife is bipolar and recovering from drug addiction. Despite these odds, he and the Worker serve breakfast in the parks every Sunday morning and soup three nights a week. JC, aided by a few college students and recent grads, distributes hundreds of sleeping bags and runs the storm shelter on cold and rainy nights. … Continue reading »

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Obituaries

Herb Wong: Visionary founder of BUSD’s jazz program

Dr. Herb Wong, Washington Elementary School Principal invited world class big bands to perform for BUSD students.
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By Sarah Cline, Jazz Program Director at Berkeley High School

We at Berkeley High School and in BUSD Jazz lost our founding father this Easter. Dr. Herb Wong passed early in the morning Sunday April 20. He was 88.

Wong was the visionary principal of Washington Elementary School who was responsible for hiring Phil Hardymon, Dick Wittington and Bob Chaconas to teach jazz to little kids in the Berkeley Unified School District, way back in the late 1960s. At the time, Wong was one of a … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Think about the importance of your signature on a petition

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Berkeley’s iconic wisteria is exploding. Our young trees on Solano are budding out after their (barely) second winter. And as spring declares its arrival, so does our upcoming election season.

As a result, we should all get ready to be pursued by both paid and volunteer initiative petition signature gatherers on our street corners, in front of Peet’s, the Bowl, the Cheeseboard and the Farmers Market.

As you enjoy the fine weather this spring and frequent your favorite community shopping … Continue reading »

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At the Write Home Project, the young homeless are heard

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By Victor Casillas Valle

Nestled behind St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, on Bancroft Way in Berkeley, is one huge set of steel steps covered in rust and foliage. Walking up them, there’s a feeling of urban beauty, something that is calming with a rush of city excitement. Reaching the top, you enter a high-ceilinged auditorium with huge windows and an airy sense of natural light. Every Monday, the room is filled with conversation rising from the writing workshop, or occasional open mic, provided by the Write Home Project.

Conceived and run by two UC Berkeley alumni and working poets, Gabriel Cortez and Natasha Huey, The Write Home Project facilitates creative arts work by homeless youth (under 25). Write Home provides an outlet for its participants to be heard while they tell stories about, and create a dialogue around, the state of homelessness. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Could Box have been Berkeley’s first $1 billion IPO?

The site of Box's first headquarters in Palo Alto
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Box, a leading cloud content management and collaboration company with over 20 million users, filed an S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission two weeks ago. It’s a hotly anticipated IPO, and an exciting milestone for the nine-year old company with 1,000-employees. Most people in the tech industry believe Box was born in Palo Alto, across the street from Stanford, and moved to its current location in Los Altos to scale. But in fact, in 2005 and early 2006 … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: East Bay should raise minimum wage, be a model for state

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I am a person who escaped poverty with education and a minimum wage job.

In so many ways, I was lucky. My cousin and her husband, both campus police officers, raised me as their own son after my mother passed away from cancer when I was six years old. Through their love and guidance, I came to believe that, if I worked hard enough, anything was possible.

I put myself through college by working the night shift … Continue reading »

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Berkeley squirrels are safe from extermination — for now

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By April Rose Sommer

Much to the relief of wildlife lovers, the Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to delay its pilot program to exterminate ground squirrels at César Chávez Park.

The city had generated broad outcry earlier this year when it announced plans to trap and kill park squirrels as a means to address Regional Water Quality Control Board concerns that squirrel burrows might cause toxics underneath the park to leach into the bay.

But on Tuesday, the Council put the extermination plan on hold and directed the City Manager to report back in two months with a plan and a response to the many questions raised by citizens, councilmembers, and environmental and animal rights organizations, including Golden Gate Audubon.

Councilman Kriss Worthington led the efforts for a reconsideration of the extermination pilot program and Councilwoman Linda Maio was careful to stress that the pilot program would not go forward until the council had revisited the issue. Councilman Max Anderson waxed poetic about how the park used to be filled with raptors, the squirrels’ natural predators, and recommended that there be an effort to draw these birds back to the park, while Councilman Gordon Wozniak complained that there are too many squirrels. … Continue reading »

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Obituaries

Sydney Kustu: Eminent scholar, generous mentor

Sydney Kustu
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By Ann Brody Guy

Professor Emerita Sydney Kustu, a distinguished faculty member in UC Berkeley’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, died in Berkeley, Calif., on March 18. She was 71 years old. She was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was instrumental in the revitalization of the field of microbiology on the Berkeley campus.

“Kustu has made major contributions to our understanding of the regulation of gene expression,” a statement read during her induction into the … Continue reading »

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Obituaries

Richard Reynolds: Musician, writer, coffee connoisseur

Richard Allen Reynolds
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By Deborah Branscum

Born in Detroit on Nov. 29, 1943, Richard Allen Reynolds lived a life driven by varied passions that ranged from writing and social justice to the French horn, travel, cooking (Italian and Indian were his favorites), Vitabath, and espresso. He died at home on March 1, 2014, in the care of his amazing wife, Fran Haselsteiner.

Richard once wrote that he was forever grateful that the 60s came along just when he needed them. “The senior picture … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Starbucks vote makes Berkeley seem unfriendly to business

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Several months ago, Starbucks showed up before the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (I sit on the Board) to ask for a permit to operate a coffee shop on the corner of Ashby and Telegraph. It’s one of the busiest intersections in Berkeley, with lots of drive-by traffic and Alta Bates a short walk away. We’re not talking about a massive facility, more like a storefront that could seat about 25 people. Who would think this would be a giant … Continue reading »

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Terry Sellards, former editor of the Berkeley Gazette

Terry Sellards, former editor of The Berkeley Gazette
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A memorial service is planned in San Francisco for Terry Sellards, 76, former executive editor of the Berkeley Gazette and Richmond Independent and a long-time communications consultant in the Bay Area.

His memorial service is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 27, at St. Agnes Church, 1025 Masonic Ave., in San Francisco.  Mr. Sellards died of heart failure on March 5 at Kaiser Hospital San Francisco.

Born in 1937, Mr. Sellards had a varied and far-flung career in journalism, publishing, and politics.  He was associated with the Berkeley Gazette for fourteen years, was also the editor of an English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, and was a founding editor of Endangered Species magazine in Australia. … Continue reading »

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Peter Jansen, WW2 vet, pro-bike anti-authoritarian

Peter Jansen
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Peter Brandt Jansen, 1921-2014

San Francisco Bay Area native and 70-year Berkeley resident Peter Brandt Jansen died January 8, 2014. He was 92.

Pete called himself “a realist” and said in his later years that the declining state of the world inspired his longevity: he wanted to live long enough to be able to say “I told you so!” and, in that, he largely succeeded. (He also wanted to live to 100 so he could get free cheese and scones at The Cheese Board, but The Cheese Board removed that incentive when it recently discontinued its senior discounts!)

Pete was born in San Francisco, raised in Berkeley and in an unincorporated area of San Mateo County that became Menlo Park. His family raised chickens. He noted that when he was born, California’s population was roughly 3 million; it had grown more than ten-fold in his 92 years. He was a critic of theories linking economic health to growth and consumerism, knowing the earth to have finite resources. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Steps we can take towards long-term drought solutions

Drought
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Many of us waited for months for Governor Jerry Brown to make official what our reservoirs and landscapes had already been showing: California’s water situation is dire. This isn’t the first time the state has weathered drought conditions, and, according to reports from government agencies and climatologists, these conditions may only worsen.

The water agency that covers Berkeley, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, recently issued guidelines on water use reductions (reservoir levels are only 63% of normal) and is … Continue reading »

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