Author Archives: Guest contributor

After Berkeley soda tax, sugary drinks less popular

Photo: Gael McKeon (file photo)
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By Yasmin Anwar / Berkeley News

In a sign that taxes can work in the fight against obesity, a new study from the UC Berkeley shows a 21% drop in the drinking of soda and other sugary beverages in Berkeley’s low-income neighborhoods after the city levied a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

While Berkeley, the first U.S. city to pass a “soda tax,” saw a substantial decline in the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks in the months following implementation of the tax in March 2015, neighboring San Francisco, where a soda tax measure was defeated, and Oakland, saw a 4% increase, according to the study published today in the American Journal of Public Health.

Read more about the Berkeley soda tax.

“Low-income communities bear the brunt of the health consequences of obesity and diabetes, so this decline in soda and sugary beverage consumption is very encouraging,” said study senior author Kristine Madsen, an associate professor of public health at UC Berkeley. “We are looking for tools that support people in making healthy choices, and the soda tax appears to be an effective tool.” … Continue reading »

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Schools

Op-ed: Our extended family: An open letter from Berkeley Unified Superintendent

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This letter was first published on Aug. 21 by Berkeley Public Schools website. Read the letter in Spanish.

We should all be savoring the end of summer, looking forward to a new school year together, but right now we are in mourning for four members of our extended family.

We learned that 22 year old Alex Goodwin was murdered Thursday night near San Pablo Park. Alex is now the fourth of our recent Berkeley Unified graduates to … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Lab scientists set sail to unlock climate data

The research vessel USS Oceanus, now testing carbon-measuring robots off the California coast. Photo: UC Berkeley
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UC Berkeley

What’s life like aboard a scientific research vessel plying the California coast deploying robots to unlock important data about climate change?

A team of scientists and engineers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley have just set out on such a venture. And they took along lab writer Sarah Yang to document the scientists’ work — and, along the way, to provide answers to burning questions like “how do the scientists keep their coffee mugs from sliding when the boat tips back and forth?” (See photo below to find out.)

The team took off over the weekend on a mission to test updated versions of a robotic float used to measure carbon dynamics in the ocean.Continue reading »

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Flare station is replaced at Berkeley’s Cesar Chavez Park

Old flare pipe being removed at Cesar Chavez Park. Photo: Martin Nicolaus
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By Martin Nicolaus

The old flare station at Berkeley’s Cesar Chavez Park, built amid controversy in 1989, is gone. A crew from Innovative Construction Solutions (ICS), aided by Hatton Crane Service, under the watchful eyes of Taylor Lancelot of the City of Berkeley and a representative from SCS Engineers, who built the system originally, took down the rusty leaning tower in a seven-hour session on Tuesday, Aug. 9, under bright skies with a modest westerly breeze.

Cesar Chavez Park is a green cover over what was, until 1983, the Berkeley city dump. Compostable refuse generates methane and other landfill gases. In the 1980s, a group of scientists and environmentalists argued that a flare station was unnecessary at this site. Measurements showed that surface emissions of methane were below levels of concern, probably due to the action of soil bacteria that “eat” methane. This inexpensive natural bioremediation process was sufficient, they argued. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: It’s not rocket science to solve homelessness

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The issue of homelessness is a Gordian knot that for years has perplexed not only elected officials, but also the citizens of Berkeley, in particular our business community.

While many solutions have been proposed and implemented, and millions of dollars spent, the net result is a 53% increase in the un-sheltered homeless population. This should make one pause and ask, “Why is that?”

In order to answer that question we must first understand that current policy is either to criminalize … Continue reading »

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Remembering Verna Frances (Hottel) Murray

Obituary
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Verna Frances (Hottel) Murray: Oct. 17, 1917 – May 28, 2016

Verna Murray was born in a Victorian house on Addison Street in Berkeley. She attended Willard Junior High and Berkeley High, and majored in astronomy at Cal. In 1940, she married Steven T. Murray (Sr.) of Oakland, who later flew P-47 Thunderbolts in Europe during WW II. In 1943 she gave birth to Steven T. Murray (Jr.), and the family lived in Tallahassee and Minneapolis during the war.

The family … Continue reading »

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Homeless advocates in Berkeley say officials are dumping too many prized personal possessions

Crews load stuff found near Gilman Street in June  Photo: Ted Friedman
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By Mary Rees

They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but who gets to decide which it is?

Every two weeks, Caltrans clears items out from the homeless encampments along the Gilman Street underpass near Interstate 80, according to Bob Haus, the public information branch chief for Caltrans. Sometimes workers from the city of Berkeley remove things, too, such as on July 7.

Read more about Berkeley homelessness on Berkeleyside.

The clean-ups are announced in advance, and when workers arrive the people living there pack up their things as quickly as they can and move them a few hundred feet. Then crews from Caltrans and Berkeley sift through what’s left and decide what’s valuable and what’s not.

“If belongings are deemed valuable, we hold onto them for 30 days at the nearest maintenance yard,” Haus said. If something’s unclaimed and considered worthless, Caltrans disposes of it. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Jesse Arreguín is right to oppose Jerry Brown’s anti-democratic give-away to the real-estate industry

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Jesse Arreguín is right to oppose Jerry Brown’s anti-democratic give-away to the real-estate industry.

In his July 19 op-ed published on Berkeleyside, Garret Christensen slammed Berkeley City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Jesse Arreguín for opposing Governor Jerry Brown’s Trailer Bill 707. Christensen called the legislation “an important state affordable housing bill” that “Berkeley and its councilmembers, especially those with aspirations of becoming mayor should welcome…with open arms.” “[I]t is truly baffling to me,” he declared, “why anyone who calls … Continue reading »

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See Sojourner Truth’s ‘calling cards’ at BAMPFA

Carte de visite of Sojourner Truth, 1863; albumen print mounted on cardboard; 4 x 2 1/2 in.; BAMPFA, gift of Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby.
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By Joel Bahr

Patrons of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive will get a chance to meet abolitionist, women’s rights activist, speaker, entrepreneur, runaway slave and illiterate memoirist Sojourner Truth in a new exhibit that opened Wednesday. Or at least they’ll get to meet the peripatetic truth-teller the same way most 19th-century Americans did — through small rectangular photographs called cartes de visite.

Cartes de visite are small, 2½- by 4-inch pieces of cardboard adorned with a photograph that functioned in a similar capacity to modern-day business cards. Invented in France in 1854, the carte de visite quickly became popular in the U.S., and were utilized by abolitionists like Truth to disseminate their message.

Before becoming an abolitionist and activist, Truth was born Isabella Baumfree, a slave in upstate New York who actually learned how to speak Dutch before English. A mother of five, Truth stayed in New York until 1826 when, at age 30, she ran away with one of her children. In 1843, she took the name Sojourner Truth, and spent the rest of her life advocating for the abolition of slavery and for women’s rights, as well as teaching skills to freed Southern slaves.

Truth was a formidable speaker, and her speech given at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron in 1851 — which would eventually come to be known as “Ain’t I A Woman”— is to this day one of the most iconic pieces of women’s rights rhetoric. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Switch it up — support clean energy for Berkeley

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What if every time an electrical switch was turned on in Berkeley, 100% clean energy was delivered to power our lights, computers and appliances – and charge our electric cars? Sounds like a futuristic sci-fi dream, right? But very soon, this could be the reality for Berkeley — and all of Alameda County – with your help.

On Aug. 2, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will vote on whether or not to move forward with a plan that, if … Continue reading »

Opinionator

Op-ed: Confronting the causes and solutions of mass homelessness

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Policy makers, government agencies, funders, and nonprofits alike all cling to the concept and importance of data like it is a panacea for societal ills—it is not. Data is only as good as our ability and willingness to act on it. Case in point: homelessness.

Where Does Mass Homelessness Come From?

Mass homelessness was not always our reality. Poverty has always existed but poor people scraped by with shared resources, in whatever living arrangements they could afford: today’s reality of … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Homeless lite in the East Bay — an odyssey

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On my birthday last month, I had to vacate the home where I’d been for about a year. I wasn’t evicted, but my lease ran out, and I was given five weeks’ notice that the month-to-month arrangement was over. During the search for a home, I saw some nice people with scary places and scary people living in nice places. As with many in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m willing to make lifestyle sacrifices to share housing with others … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Not in my front yard: Cuts to downtown services threaten basic quality of life for the homeless

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While the number one priority for serving homeless people is (or should be) helping them find affordable housing to live in, for the last several years the city has also rightly deemed it an important quality-of-life priority that homeless people have access to showers, bathrooms, and laundry facilities.

Until now.

BOSS’s Multi-Agency Service Center (MASC) is a downtown drop-in center located in the basement at the City Veterans building. Since 2000, it has provided access to showers, bathrooms, laundry, and, … Continue reading »

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