Sunday, December 20, 2009

457. Assorted El Cerrito stories, headlines only because...I WANT TO FINISH THIS BLASTED THING!

Photo of my cat, pleading with me to finish this library of published work so she can eat by December 25, 2009.

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Published news stories by Lurene K. Helzer, July 11, 1991, El Cerrito Journal, “Community liaison post undefined, unfilled”, and “San Pablo site needs a tenant”. Text in library for these first two only. Following listings only headlines for stories I wrote:

May 2, 1991, El Cerrito Journal, “Triceratops might feel at home with tree plan”.

November 22, 1990, El Cerrito Journal, “EC names successor to Barraza”.

November 15, 1990, El Cerrito Journal, “El Cerrito moves to improve its municipal hiring of minorities”.

January 14, 1987, El Cerrito Journal, “Council Takes Sides In The Dump Dispute”.

January 18, 1987, El Cerrito Journal, “Acquiring Property Is Next Step Towards Schurgin Shopping Mall”.

November 8, 1990, El Cerrito Journal, “Fire chief looks back, prepares to step down”.

Published news stories by Lurene K. Helzer, July 25, 1991, El Cerrito Journal, “Liaison job is official; Duffy fills it”; “Bartke only confirmed EC council candidate”; “Warm welcome for parking garage”;

September 12, 1991, El Cerrito Journal, “Council candidate commits to schools”.

Published news stories by Lurene K. Helzer, August 15, 1991, El Cerrito Journal, “Council race taking shape, Fiscal restraint expected to be campaign issue”; Mixed feelings on council raise”.

Published news stories by Lurene K. Helzer, November 15, 1990, El Cerrito Journal, “Agency OKs $3.5M in bonds”.

Friday, December 18, 2009

456. Martin Luther King Birthday Celebrated in 1992 El Cerrito

Photo by Lurene Helzer for El Cerrito Journal, 1992. Martin Luther King birthday celebration/rally. These marchers shown were with an area church. When MLK day was first observed, it was as important to devout Christians in the East Bay as it was to political activists. This remained true in 1992. Note man with bible in hand.

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Published news story by Lurene Helzer, January 23, 1992, El Cerrito Journal, “King celebration revives memories; Moving commentary recalls the spirit of revered civil rights leader”. Photo by Lurene Helzer runs with caption, “About 200 marchers celebrated Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday in El Cerrito Monday”.

I have only part of the story’s text here now, but it will probably turn up elsewhere in my pile of work. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a national U.S. holiday in 1986:

Barbara Cross remembers the day in the early 1960s when she introduced herself to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at an airport terminal. She had heard of him, but had never seen him until that moment.

She asked how he expected people to remain non-violent when facing hate. He answered by taking a small button off his jacket and placing it in her hand. It said, “Grow.”

Cross was one of several speakers who appeared Monday at an assembly in El Cerrito for the celebration of King’s birthday. About 200 participants went from City Hall to the El Cerrito Community Center on foot, in wheelchairs, in strollers and by car. Some came in running shoes and sweats, others came fit for a formal dinner in colorful African patterns.

It was a celebration meant to lift spirits. Musicians from the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts led the parade. People sang and chanted their way through town as bystanders holding babies observed the demonstrators from balconies and doorsteps.

The festivity was sponsored by the El Cerrito Human Relations Commission, St. Peter’s C.M.E. Church in El Cerrito, and the local branch of the NAACP. City Man-...—end of partial clipping—

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Monday, December 7, 2009

451, 452, 453, 454, 455: Various Items, Published and Unpublished


Lurene's email in 2014:

Letter to Lurene from Riad Adameh of Jerusalem, May 10, 2002. It was a friendly letter, but with no content of major public interest. He mentions his family, asks about my travels, and touches on the economics of his daily life in 2002 Jerusalem.

I kept the letter simply because it seemed silly to throw it in office waste bin when I received it in San Francisco. Also, I got so few handwritten letters from Jerusalem. His English was quite good, too. His native language is Arabic. I can't right now find the nice photos I have of him, but will in the next week or so.


Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, January 7, 1987, El Cerrito Journal or Hills Publications, “City reaches deeper into pockets; Insurance Costs Take Heavy Toll On Budget”.

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Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, January 14, 1987, El Cerrito Journal or Hills Publications, “Council Takes Sides In The Dump Dispute”.


Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, January 14, 1987, El Cerrito Journal or Hills Publications, “Acquiring Property Is Next Step Towards Schurgin Shopping Mall”. Partial clip only.


Published news story by Lurene K. Helzer, July 18, 1991, El Cerrito Journal, “New EC planner trades in long commute; Ready to tackle unique needs of built-up city”. Photo by Lurene Helzer runs with caption, “Mark Coughey works and lives in the same city, a great situation for bicycle commuting.”

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

450. Budget in the East Bay, 1987; El Cerrito Had One Word Processor

No matter what financial problems plagued the East Bay in the late 1980s, you had baseball. Photo by Lloyd Francis.


Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, El Cerrito Journal and/or Hills Publications, December 10, 1986, “1986-87 Budget Passed Finally By City Council”.

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Here is a section of the budget story. City budget stories are normally quite uninteresting, especially when more than two decades have passed; 2009 is closing as I post this little 1987 city budget story. But this story may be interesting for Californians today because it shows that those who run the state’s municipalities have been through financial crises before, and have found the paths through them. In the late 1980s, city managers and elected leaders were over and over and over again bashing California’s Proposition 13. It’s all we heard each night on local news shows as residents of the state – believe me!

But this small section gives some insight into attitudes and problems some Northern California local leaders adopted and faced through the difficulties:

“If we are going to continue the services we have with the city, we’re going to have to continue to revitalize” said El Cerrito council member and former mayor, Charles R. Lewis.

“I think most of the sophisticated developers in town will understand that the city is not an impediment to development…we’re not trying to come in with a bunch of restrictions like: ‘you can’t build this, you can build that,’” said Lewis.

“We are in the development business hand in hand with the developers.”

Cutbacks in city services were made in earlier years when, after the passage of Prop 13, the Council had to reduce allocations for street and park maintenance and eliminate some jobs. Now the Council is rebuilding what was lost or deferred during those years, Council members say.

A study initiated by the Council revealed that the City’s pension program was severely underfunded, Lewis said. Commenting on that study, he said the finding that the program was some two million dollars underfunded “shocked everyone.”

The results of a wage classification study found El Cerrito employees in some cases earning 28 percent less than their counterparts in other cities of comparable size, according to council member and mayor pro tempore, Anna G. Howe.

“The city’s limitations are still rather strong but were not laying off people,” said Howe. “We’re staying within the taxes that are allocated to us. We are adopting a very responsible and conservative fiscal line. We’re working for a government that has limits, but that works well within that limit.”

Another long-term project will be the purchase of computers, Howe indicated. She described it as a project that will enable the city to increase their services and process information more efficiently.

“It’s hard to believe in a city our size we have one word processor with two terminals,” said Lewis.

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449. Project Listen in El Cerrito Debates City Finance, 1987. Photo of Lurene in 1987 New York City.

Photo of Lurene in 1987 visiting New York city. This photo, by Lloyd Francis, taken at 7 a.m. in Manhattan apartment I slept in for few nights. Was in NYC, but on way to news events elsewhere. In this pic, am watching update about Iran-Contra Hearings as they were unfolding, I am fairly sure. Smoking cigs back then, drinking coffee. 

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I still drink coffee, but quit smoking, thank goodness!! I hate this photo of me because of the cig, but others always liked it.


Published story by Lurene Helzer and Ocie Hudson, Hills Publications, October 18, 1990, “Project Listen works toward EC consensus”, describes effort by El Cerrito City Council to create citizen task forces to deal with its shortage of revenue. This story was published in several Hills Publications, but this version reminds me that my old roommate, Ocie Hudson, a man originally from Texas, assisted me in covering that city council meeting in El Cerrito.

I remember Ocie, normally an East Bay computer-geek before that term was fashionable, being enthusiastic about helping with this story. He did a great job, and got along well with people at the meeting. He needed no help in public relations because he was a fine communicator. I do not remember, however, why he was asked by us to assist with the story. I have a photo of Ocie Hudson somewhere in my collection, and want to find it to post it here.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

448. San Francisco's East Bay During Last Years of Cold War, Ronald Reagan, Etc.

1987 political cartoon by Jefferds for El Cerrito Journal satirizing U.S. President Ronald Reagan's policies, including his administration's positions on Iran and the Soviet Union.


Published news stories for various East Bay newspapers by Lurene Kathleen Helzer:

El Cerrito Journal, December 10, 1986, “Police Report; Robbers Still Hitting San Pablo Stores”;

El Cerrito Journal, June 11, 1987, “Office Proposal Confuses Fate Of Kearney Street”;

El Cerrito Journal, June 11, 1987, “Women’s Center Facing Order Of Condemnation”;

El Cerrito Journal, January 14, 1987, “State of the City Address: Mayor Views City Growth With Boundless Optimism”. Mayor of El Cerrito then was H. Richard Mank;

El Cerrito Journal, January 7, 1987, “Year-end council action; Citizens Rally Too Little Too late Against Schurgin Project”. Photos of Norma Simmons and Patrick O’Keeffe by Lloyd Francis. Cartoon by Jefferds on page 2 depicts U.S. President Ronald Reagan as quarterback with football team, shirts on players say “New Congress”, “Debt”, Iran”, “U.S./U.S.S.R. Relations”, “Surgery”, with Reagan saying ‘Follow me team. Just one more for the Gipper!’”;

El Cerrito Journal, November 8, 1990, “EC council sets a limit on home childcare center”;

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Photo of Ronald Reagan from Stock Free Photos.


Published news story for El Berkeley Voice by Lurene K. Helzer, January 2, 1991, “City can’t meet budget with current income; Basic services and repairs may take new taxes, bonds”. Runs with series the paper was doing in 1991 titled “East Bay ’91; What’s to come? A special issue.”

This article ran in other East Bay newspapers printed by Hills Publications in 1991, The El Cerrito Journal, for one, on a different date. Part of article below:

Jean Siri, El Cerrito City Council.

Journal – Is the anti-tax feeling that gripped California through the Proposition 13 years and Gov. George Deukmejian years still going strong?

Siri – Well, I like to think that it isn’t because people can see that the streets are wearing out, the trees are not being trimmed, the parks are falling apart and the buildings are falling apart. People must realize you can’t get something for nothing.

Journal – Did people actually get so unrealistic throughout the last decade that they thought there was a free lunch?

Siri – Well, Reagan convinced everybody there was – that it’s stylish to be greedy. He made it stylish to get what you could get for yourself and hang on for dear life and not pay any taxes. People wanted to believe what he was saying and I suppose they did.

Journal – Did a lot of this attitude creep down to El Cerrito?

Siri – Oh, sure.

Journal – Is it still there?

Siri – I don’t know. I’m certainly hoping not. I hope by calling people in and telling them what our problems are…I was appalled before, but now that I’ve listened to the problems that I didn’t even know we had in the facilities committee, I don’t know what we’re going to do. I thought the safety building was in good shape and it turns out that it’s just a mess. You can’t defer maintenance for very long and get by with it.

My theory is we can’t possibly do all the things that need to be done even if we can get people to pass a bond issue. We’re going to have to do it gradually because we’re so far behind.

Journal – Are we in a situation now where, no matter what we do, something else should have been done first – a vicious circle?

Siri – Well, I think our city hall facility at the moment looks awful, but it works. We can live with that for another five years if we have to – 10 maybe if we had to. But I don’t think we can live with the fire and safety (building) situation any longer. I don’t even think we can live with the storm sewers any longer, because the lawsuits against the city are getting so big. We’ve always been cutting and deferring, cutting and deferring. You can’t do that in your house.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009


Redevelopment was a frequent topic of local government debates in Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the late 1980s, early 1990s. Unpublished photo of handsome construction worker taken at construction site in downtown Oakland, CA by Lurene, probably around 1986. I did not know this man, but was walking to BART 12th St. station with camera in hand, quickly snapped shot.

445, 446:

Published news story for El Cerrito Journal by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, May 13, 1987, “Delays in Schurgin Project Anger Proposed Tenants.” Photos of residents at meeting alongside story also by Lurene Helzer.

This story gives detail about how difficult it was to get an aged trailer park out of El Cerrito’s main commercial area to make room for the development of a retail development which could bring more tax revenue to the city. This story available if requested.

Next, published news story for El Cerrito Journal by Lurene K. Helzer, October 4, 1990, “Target Store plan ok’d; Approval comes over objections”. Original story follows, providing some detail about El Cerrito as it was in the late 1980s, early 1990s:

EL CERRITO – Over the objections of some agency members, the redevelopment agency will enter into an agreement with the Target Stores retail discount chain for the construction of a new El Cerrito store.

Community Development Manager Pat O’Keeffe called the deal a “sure thing” in his report Monday to the City Council, which passed resolutions authorizing the agreement.

Councilmember Cathie Kosel, voting against the resolutions along with El Cerrito Mayor Robert Bacon, commented that the city “could have cut a better deal.”

The city and redevelopment agency will receive $283,000 yearly in revenues from sales and property taxes, according to staff estimates.

The store is to be built on San Pablo Ave. between Hill and Blake streets, which will displace residents of a trailer court and require the relocation of a bowling alley.

American Recreation Centers District Manager Fred Foerster, speaking for Golden Gate Lanes in El Cerrito, spoke before the council, visibly frustrated. “We are not interested in moving north of our present location. We’d like to stay.”

Also opposed to the agreement was El Cerrito Elms Trailer Park resident Laureen Burnett, who brought her two-year-old baby up to the podium in front of the council as she spoke.

“We’re living on edge…day by day. I just wish the matter would be taken care of,” said Burnett, complaining about the uncertainty of the relocation process.

Burnett, who was accompanied to the council meeting by her father and husband, also complained that the agency was unclear in explaining what, if any, relocation benefits she and her family would receive.

O’Keeffe seemed sympathetic to complaints brought before the council, and said relocations were ‘the most agonizing part of the redevelopment process.”

He promised to deliver a “definite relocation schedule” as soon as he could, while noting that he had unsuccessfully tried to keep in touch with the parties by telephone.

The proposed agreement calls on Target Stores to pay for $3.5 million of the total $6.5 million cost of relocation and acquisition. The agency will carry the remaining $3 million, borrowing $750,000 of that from Target Stores.

The $750,000 loan to the agency will be repaid at a 9 percent annual interest rate. The repayments themselves are to come from tax increments generated from the store over 12 years. According to staff estimates, this makes the agency responsible for a total interest payment of $1,158,867 over the 12-year period.

“I’m concerned that there’s a 12-year payback. If Target wants to be here, they should put the money up,” said Councilmember Cathie Kosel.

O’Keeffe cited the attractive revenues anticipated from the store. “Given the difficulty of balancing the budget, it’s a good deal,” he said.

“Usually, we try to stay within a 10-year period, but this is a sure thing,” O’Keeffe said in response to Kosel’s concerns. – end –

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

164. Kohl Visits 1991 UC Berkeley after Fall of Nightmare, Communist Europe

Occupied Berlin during Cold War, photo from Wikipedia site; Old Soviet prison cell, photo date and location unknown, from Travelblog website; Soviet Vice Consul Germandy German in office at former Soviet Consulate in San Francisco, Green Street, 1984, photo was for interview we did for student newspaper, I wrote story, photo by journalism student Howard Ford; Berlin Wall shortly after completion in 1962, photo found in Truman Library Collection website; Press pass for September 12 and 13, 1991 to attend post-Cold War speech by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl at UC Berkeley's Greek Theater.


Published news story for The Berkeley Voice by Lurene K. Helzer, September 19, 1991. Headlined Chancellor Kohl speaks on campus. Runs with photo of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was speaking at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theater before some 7,000 people, mostly students. [The Berkeley Voice is different than The Berkeley Planet. I did work for both.]

The Soviet Union and its communist empire “collapsed” on November 9, 1989. The Berlin Wall was now a relic. Kohl had arrived to the Berkeley campus to comment on central Europe’s emerging prospects and tone for future. I think this is one of the more important stories I was given chance to cover for Berkeley papers.

The communist world had been collapsing in fits and starts, ideologically and militarily, before this 1989 date. In this 1991 Berkeley speech, Kohl was discussing the job of putting Europe together -- economically and legally – following the death of European communism. Between 1945 and 1990, the world could not know a whole German nation.

Notably, then, he did not speak much about World War II, or the incalculable crimes of Germany through the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler. Not on this Berkeley day. He made only some reference to that era for this speech.

Why so little talk of National Socialism, at least for the wrath and war it brought to millions?? The answer was this: Europe’s immense problems in 1991.

In 1991, Europe, Russia, and the United States were completely overwhelmed with recovering their civilizations from the long, Cold War. Confusion was everywhere, mixed with an alien excitement in most of the world.

Nobody objected to his chosen topics because people in Berkeley wanted almost exclusively to hear his remarks about the fall of Moscow and the complete failure, and end, of dictatorial communism.

Most of us at Berkeley that day had spent our entire lives thinking we’d never hear such a speech, certainly not from an economically cautious German leader.

Kohl had more in common with Ronald Reagan than many today realize. The German left was frequently opposed to Kohl’s policies.

It’s difficult to overemphasize the preoccupation of the young crowd that day in Berkeley with the fall of communism in Europe. Here you had students who’d grown up not with a real knowledge of fascism, but with a legitimate fear of nuclear annihilation.

By 1991, we did not quite know what National Socialism meant in real life. Leftist rhetoric aside, we never really had to work with its crude smell over an entire continent. It’s almost completely impossible to understand it if you’re an average American of 2008. I almost never trust the modern American’s use of the word fascism, or the motives of the speaker.

The Czech Republic had yet to be declared or recognized, but it was already letting the tip of its nose show. In fact, Kohl makes reference to communist Prague of 1968 in a provocative way during this speech.

Surprisingly, you find little record of Kohl’s speech on the internet today. You can find a little about his visit to Berkeley in 1991 through the U.S. State Department, through UC Berkeley or through other such sources, but you will get little detail. So, the exact words of his speech are not easily found today. I almost sigh in relief that I found this story I wrote for the Voice to place here today.

Summing up: Germany’s leader said Germany alone could not repair the damage of the Cold War. He also discussed the emerging new shape of Europe. Kohl did not predict the rise of extremist Islam yet, of course. Few outside the Mideast quite were in 1991, which is quite clear in 1991 story below:

Germany alone cannot revive the newly emerging democracies of the world, that country’s chancellor Helmut Kohl told an audience at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theater.

“We are providing 56 percent of all Western aid to the Soviet Union and 32 percent of Western assistance to the countries of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Allow me to be very frank with you here: We have already reached the limits of our potential. Nonetheless, we shall participate in further multilateral efforts,” Kohl said.

“Europe continues to need America, but let me also add this: America needs Europe,” he added.

Calling Germany “Europe’s economic locomotive,” the 61-year-old leader of the reunified nation said “optimism and pioneering spirit would be crucial for the reconstruction of Europe.”

He also spoke on the Yugoslavian civil conflict, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the future of the European Community.

He compared the rebuilding efforts now underway to the Marshall Plan, which was implemented in Europe by the United States following World War II.

Addressing his remarks specifically to students, who comprised most of the audience of 7,000 in the outdoor amphitheater, he said he hoped this century would end on a “happier note” by redressing the “problems of the past.” He especially urged students to learn from the bloody agonies of the 20th Century.

In his lifetime, Kohl has worked to rebuild Germany not once, but twice – after the ravages of war and now after the fall of the Communist government of the “eastern lander.”

The Berlin Wall, a symbol of the cold war for over 40 years, fell in November 1989. Kohl came up with a 10-point plan for reunification by the end of the month.

Germany reunified by a vote of the residents of East Germany on Oct. 3, 1990. The German Economic and Monetary Union was enacted by July 1 of the same year. With unification, Germany became a nation of 64.1 million people, with factories in East Germany on average one third as productive as the factories in the West.

The real problem for Germany, Kohl said, is not only to achieve economic unity, but “social and cultural unity.”

“A European political union must lay clear-cut foundations for a common foreign and security policy,” said Kohl. “My government does not want to weaken the tried and tested Atlantic alliance in any way,” he said, making a clear reference to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The continued need for NATO was illustrated by the breakup of the Soviet Union and the civil strife in Yugoslavia, as well as the recent Persian Gulf war, he said.

Kohl called for all use of force in Yugoslavia to be “stopped immediately without qualification.”

“When dialogue and harmonious coexistence are no longer possible we must, in line with our understanding of the right to self-determination, consider the question of recognizing under international law those republics which no longer wish to belong to Yugoslavia,” he said.

Kohl also spoke at length on the Soviet Union. “We the Western nations must now jointly provide swift and extensive aid to the Soviet Union so that it can progress further toward democracy and a market economy,” he said.

Kohl compared the recent coup attempt to the uprising in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1968. The Soviet coup attempt was exactly 23 years after the hopes of protestors had been crushed by tanks in Prague, Kohl said.

August 21 will “go down in history as a belated triumph for the people who had then tried to stop those tanks,” he said to enthusiastic applause.

But “despite all our delight and satisfaction at the historic victory of freedom and democracy, the motto now cannot be “business as usual.’ Not least we owe this to the men and women who risked and lost their lives during the days of that Russian ‘August Revolution’.”

He said negotiations for Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia’s association agreements should be completed as soon as possible as “accession to the community must also be open to those three countries, once appropriate conditions exist there. Europe includes not just Paris, London and Berlin, but also Warsaw, Prague and Budapest – and naturally Vienna and Stockholm as well.”

After the Tanner lecture, Kohl was given the Berkeley Medal, the university’s highest honor, by UC-Berkeley chancellor Dr. Chang-Lin Tien. The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, according to UC-Berkeley’s office of Public Information, is to “advance and reflect upon the scholarly and scientific learning related to human values and valuation.”

Kohl, while in Berkeley, also participated in the ceremonial debut of the Center for German and European studies on Sept. 12. The German government will contribute $870,000 each year for 10 years to the center, one of three in the United States.

 end –

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Monday, November 23, 2009

444. El Cerrito Fears Urban Blight and Crime in 1987


Published news story for The El Cerrito Journal, April 1987, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, “New Housing Complex, New City Hall To Clean Up Avenue”. This 1987 story reads like a government report because it essentially is a local government report. But it’s also a window on the city’s strategy against urban blight in 1987.

What’s underneath the legalistic chat is the story of El Cerrito’s effort to stop the spreading crime of adjacent Richmond, California.

Richmond is one of the most dangerous cities in the United States – next to Oakland with respect to both geography and crime statistics. Some of the Richmond land area remains unincorporated. Outside California, you would have to compare the Richmond area’s crime statistics to 2008 New Orleans, Detroit, or St. Louis. In 1987 when I wrote this story, it was roughly the same.

There is not much disagreement about the crime and economic failure that marks much of the Richmond area; it’s sadly obvious. But there has always been disagreement about why it got this way, remains so, and what municipal governments can do about it.

Consequently, nearby cities -- El Cerrito in this case -- always maintained an obsequious government presence on their main streets, especially those streets bordering violent crime-prone Richmond. You know when you’ve crossed into El Cerrito from Richmond or vice versa. It’s a designed municipal zone.

Along those lines, this story is about the 1987 development of an apartment complex on El Cerrito’s San Pablo Avenue. The complex was being advertised from the get-go as a residential area for athletic, upper-middle class adults and not academic drop-outs from Richmond in need of cheap housing.

I have to mention all of this because in this same issue, you see a story by reporter Holly Robinson about new RUSD Superintendent Dr. Walter Marks who is quoted as saying, “I want it known that I don’t come with any pre-packaged set of answers, but I do have energy, enthusiasm….” He began the job after this issue hit the stands in 1987, and is today remembered as the financial disaster that hit Contra Costa County education in the late 1980s.

Also in this 1987 issue, we have a story by Peggy Liddle about a new anti-crime group set up by businesses on 1987 San Pablo Avenue. So, the late 1980s were all about El Cerrito – through redevelopment – trying desperately to keep itself distinct from neighboring Richmond:

El Cerrito’s San Pablo Avenue may soon have a new apartment complex catering to financially secure and athletically inclined young adults, featuring hot tubs, swimming pools, and jogging trails.

A presentation of a proposed 162-unit apartment complex to be located on San Pablo at Manila, was given at the last city council meeting. City planners hope to bring garden charm to the beat-up main artery of El Cerrito.

Also involved in the deal is a land swap between developer Riley-Bower and the El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency. The Agency, since it controls the land to be used for the apartment complex, stipulates that part of the site will provide a future spot for a new El Cerrito City Hall.

Redevelopment Agency director Patrick D. O’Keeffe wrote in an earlier staff report that the apartment complex would “clean up a substantial portion of San Pablo Avenue, provide needed rental housing opportunities, and provide clientele for surrounding retail.”

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

East Bay Pheonix Journal, November, 1992, Another California Fire Recovery Story

One of many fine photos of Oakland hills after 1991 fire at


Published news story for Phoenix Journal, November 1992, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, “Reforestation – what to do”. Side-bar item text only partially visible on old clipping:

Up on a Lake Temescal hillside, 17-year-olds Heather Landers and Lindsey Fratessa of Moraga scan the ground, ready with hoes in hand to take debris and pull weeds. Landers first tries a tough three-foot shrub. She pulls three or four times and frowns.

Turning, she faces a modest two-inch weed. “This is more my speed,” she says, pulling it out of the ground. She stands with roots dangling from her fist, looking smug.

“You’re so Moraga!” her buddy quips.

Landers and Fratessa were pulling weeds at Temescal August 8 as part of a volunteer effort to make the hills less inviting to fires. The Firescape Project, as it is called, is coordinated by East Bay Regional Parks District. East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), the City of Oakland, the American Society of Landscape Contractors, and other organizations.

“I didn’t realize how much things have grown back since the fire,” says Landers. “I thought it was still all barren.”

Like the plants that have cropped up in the fire zones, new organizations have emerged with the goal of revegetating disaster areas. Shortly after last year’s fire, Jane Rogers of the San Francisco Foundation, a non-profit organization, which serves five Bay Area counties, was left wondering which needs were unmet. Little had been done on revegetation, so the foundation eventually made grants totaling $100,000.

According to Jack Chin, a program fellow at the foundation who worked extensively on the revegetation effort, $25,000 was set aside to set up ACORN (Ad Hoc Committee on Replanting Needs). Another $10,000 went to the Mayors’ Task Force on Emergency Preparedness and Community Restoration, co-chaired by the mayors of Berkeley and Oakland, and the remaining $65,000 went to projects like environmental education programs in schools.

“One of the things we recognized was how important it was I to include the entire Oakland community, because the flatland areas are still recovering from the 1989 earthquake. We hoped to create some links between the hills of Oakland and the flatland areas,” Chin said.

“We wanted to get people thinking about how to revegetate their neighborhoods while creating jobs,” he added. “Community building is an objective of the program and of the foundation as a whole.”

Previous generations of Californians have been faced with similar problems after devastating fires. Since 1923, California has been a virtual dictionary illustration of the phrase “wildland fire.” Los Angeles County, 1933 – 25 people dead. Glenn County, 1953 – 15 people dead. Los Angeles County, 1966 – 12 people dead. Statewide fires, 1970 – 19 people dead.

Not including the 1991 Oakland/Berkeley fire or the recent summer fires of 1992, 55 wildland fires have burned since 1923, taking a total of 409,253 acres, 5,475 structures, and 148 lives. But as Roy D. Pike, deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, wrote in his essay, “Adding Fuel to the Fire: Homes in the Wildlands,” fires have been a consistent theme in local history.

“The first significant building in the wildland areas of this state occurred during the Gold Rush in the Sierras. Towns sprang up virtually overnight, and just as quickly were destroyed by fires…One town was rebuilt three times during the Gold Rush era,” Pike wrote. But fires have also “played a key role in the evolution of most native plant species in this state, particularly the brush and tree species.”

Margaret Kelley, supervising naturalist at the Tilden Nature Area, said fire “has a certain cleansing function.” Fires give new plants a chance to sprout, rejuvenate the soil, free water for new growth and allow additional sunlight to hit the forest floor.

Kelley used the Monterey Pine as an example of a tree which reproduces after fires. The tree’s cones do not release seeds until a mechanical disturbance, such as a strong wind or a fire, starts the process. “If we look at Monterey Pines, we see that fire was a tool for spreading the species,” said Kelley.

“Observers of the 1991 fire watched television scenes of Monterrey Pines exploding, which led some to blame the species for spreading flames. But to make Monterey Pines a culprit for the fire would be inaccurate,” she said.

“On October 20, there were a set of circumstances that no matter what you had planted it was on the path to destruction. It was a very dry day after six years of drought, the humidity was extraordinarily low and there was a wind from the east, which is drying, as opposed to a westerly wind, which is moist. How often do you have those circumstances?”

Another tree under attack by observers was the eucalyptus. “I don’t recommend taking them down,” Kelley said, “but I don’t recommend replanting them, either. Eucalyptus trees are incredibly beautiful trees when they’re tended. But if we want to just ignore them, we’re going to be paid back.”

But what are the alternatives? Christine Schneider, a San Francisco landscape ecologist with ACORN, said it was difficult to enforce good landscaping habits.

“In an urban area, you can’t say ‘This is a list of trees that you can not plant.’ People will say, ‘Well, this is what I want to plant.’ It’s hard to change that mind set for the common good.”

“I think landscaping guidelines are most effective when they’re at the building permit or zoning permit offices,” Schneider said. “There is not one plant that is going to be fire retardant. If you put a flame to a plant, it eventually will burn. I would suggest native plants only because native plants are adapted to the situation.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention recommends specific types of trees, shrubs and ground cover plants for fire-safe home landscaping. California live oaks, Valley oaks, alders and sycamores are acceptable trees. Some of the shrubs are Aarons Beard, safe leaf rockrose and Descane rockrose. Ground cover plants include ice plants, ivies and Cape weed.

Schneider recommends homeowners get advice about landscaping for their lot, since landscaping conditions vary from block to block and house to house. She cautions against going to nurseries for advice.

“They’ll give advice based on supply and demand, rather than what’s good for their yard.”

When hiring a landscape architect, homeowners and rebuilders should look for someone knowledgeable about the particular lot, the bigger picture of the block and what is native to the area. Costs will vary, depending on how many hours the landscape architect spends at the consultation, and whether the client wants a drawn-out landscaping plan.

FUEL CLEARING GUIDELINES (Side-bar text item only partly visible in clipping.)

The state Department of Forestry has issued guidelines which can help homes survive a wildfire.

• Maintain a “defensible” space around the home by clearing flammable vegetation at least 30 feet around the structure. Clear dead leaves and branches to leave widely spaced ornamental shrubbery and trees.

• Clean needles and leaves from the roof, eaves and rain gutters.

• Trim tree limbs within 10 feet of chimneys and trim dead limbs hanging over the house or garage.

•Cover the chimney outlet or flue with a spark-arresting 1/2” mesh screen.

• Make sure the address is clearly visible for easy identification….fire hydrant…stack woodpiles…clear all vegetation…

 30 –

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Nov 29, 1990: Partial story from El Cerrito on drug case


Published news story for El Cerrito Journal, November 29, 1990, by Lurene K. Helzer, “Drug case might be reinstated”. Two men faced drug charges in El Cerrito. Most of the story is currently missing, but it may turn up soon.

EL CERRITO – Two men freed from drug charges after a court scandal involving a city police detective may have to face a new trial for the crimes with which they were originally charged.

The scandal erupted after it was learned that the key witness in the case, Detective Michael Ramirez, was romantically involved with Judge Irene Takahashi, who presided over the preliminary hearing in October 1989.

The suspects, Alberto Torres and Luis Lozano, were freed in a Nov. 5 decision by Berkeley-Albany Municipal Court Judge Julie Conger.

She held that the suspects’ right… -- rest of story currently missing –

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Richmond Mayor of 1990 Learning French Toast Cooking? Media and Bay Area Governments Debate

Photo of original clipping, modern eggs by Lurene. Eggs are ingredient in most French Toast meals.


Published news story for El Cerrito Journal, December 6, 1990, by Lurene K. Helzer, “EC council enters debate on columnist; Councilmembers cite First Amendment, urge reinstatement of West County Times writer”. President Obama and Fox News not getting along in 2009 is not a new concept in the United States. This was case of a local government butting its head with its local media in 1990:

Issues that leave the press and government on opposite sides of the constitutional fence are as common as stereotypes in old cowboy and Indian movies. But – like seeing a movie where all the cowboys are sporting bows and arrows – a recent media issue has prompted El Cerrito politicians to beat the drums of the First Amendment.

Instead of the media defending its freedoms in the face of government intrusion, the council is supporting freedom of the press against the press itself.

The El Cerrito City Council passed a resolution Nov. 26 urging The West County Times to reinstate a popular opinion column which was recently suspended after Richmond Mayor George Livingston complained to editors about its content.

“…Censorship of ideas and opinions no matter how noble the cause is as unacceptable now as it was when the authors of the Constitution drafted the First Amendment,” the unanimously passed resolution read.

The council called on The West County Times to reinstate the “Insider” column with “apologies to its readership for its temporary absence and to designate Michael Cabanatuan as its author.”

The incident erupted when columnist Cabanatuan wrote an article which included comments about Richmond Mayor George Livingston.

The mayor had planned a trip to France and Cabanatuan wrote, “The mayor will soon be off to Strasbourg, France, on ‘city business,’ according to his weekly schedule.”

Cabanatuan went on to ask if the mayor was “searching for the recipe for French Toast.”

He made other gags about the Richmond City Council’s proposal to ban the rap group 2 Live Crew from the Richmond Auditorium and about Republicans in general.

Livingston, who was paying for the trip himself, complained to editors at the Times. He said the column implied he was taking the trip at the city’s expense.

Following Livingston’s complaints, Cabanatuan was suspended for three days, mainly for not “getting the other side of the story,” Managing Editor Al Pacciorini said.

Shortly after Cabanatuan’s suspension, a number of West County Times employees staged a “sick-out” to protest the decision, according to press reports....

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416, 321, 438, 439, 203, 440: KPFA Berkeley Radio stories from 1990s

Pro-labor parade in San Francisco, July of 1984, photo by Lloyd Francis.

Photo of Stephen Dunifer taken in 1993 found on his Free Radio Berkeley website

Photo of primate by HD, 2008 India, illustrates what Berkeley's buffoon left-wing does to amuse rest of San Francisco Bay area from time to time.


Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, June 21, 1993, East Bay Phoenix Journal, “Radio Free Berkeley fined $20,000”. Story about underground Berkeley micro-power broadcaster Stephen Dunifer, founder of Free Radio Berkeley, being in big trouble with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission because of his illegal broadcasts. Why would Dunifer have been the subject of so much local attention in 1993?

The broadcaster was doing protest shows from the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Berkeley’s City Hall and far-left radio station KPFA’s offices in downtown Berkeley. (Dunifer said he felt KPFA was compromising its original, leftist ideals born in the Cold War/Vietnam War years. Of course, this is both impossible and amusing; many in the Bay Area still joke in 2009 that Berkeley’s KPFA remains somewhere to the left of Karl Marx.)

Whatever his platform, Dunifer was risking sizable financial penalties from the American FCC in 1993 because of his so-dubbed “pirate” radio broadcasts. The FCC said illegal broadcasts risked jamming aircraft navigation systems, for example, so the airwaves had to remain strictly regulated.

Pirate broadcasters like Dunifer argued that there was plenty of open broadcast area of the AM and FM bands of 1993, that the costs of radio broadcasting were needlessly prohibitive to the broader community. Pirate broadcasters believe this to be an opportunity cost, that it essentially contradicts the goal of free speech, ultimately serves to gag the opinions of those on pirate shows.

Who was being allegedly gagged? Black Liberation Radio in Chicago was one group that became relatively known in illegal broadcasting.

Such media earned this tag originally because illegal radio broadcasters often worked their controls off the European coasts of World War II. They worked in stealth in order to embarrass or influence their target populations, i.e., the Germans trapped inside Germany during the Nazi years. In later decades, pirate radio broadcasts could be heard by enslaved populations of the Cold War.

Today, it’s a far different debate because of the internet’s ubiquity. Mr. Dunifer, though, continues to strongly support regulatory reform for radio in 2009, and can be found online at “”.

In June of 1993, when I was sent out by the paper to meet Stephen Dunifer for this story, I could hardly believe the happenings right before me. The events weren’t staged. Some people were indeed excited about an illegal broadcasting movement in the Bay Area:

Even in Mogadishu U.S. military forces know what to hit first — the radio station.

So do U.S. Federal Communications Commission forces, much to the annoyance of Stephen Dunifer, Free Radio Berkeley’s most visible broadcaster.

Actually, Dunifer is Free Radio Berkeley’s only visible broadcaster, because the 88.1 FM station is illegal.

“Free Radio Berkeley encourages you to take up the microphone and let a thousand transmitters bloom,” said an FRB handout obtained June 12 at a gathering of Berkeley underground radio enthusiasts.

The FCC recently filed a Notice of Apparent Violation against Dunifer, which carries a fine of around $20,000.

These threats did not keep 20 people away from a “Micro Power Radio Workshop” in Berkeley, to learn the basics of setting up an underground radio broadcast.

Radio equipment a hot commodity

Amidst a background of leftist posters from the Cold War era, a man in Khaki shorts shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“I just came to buy your $35 transmitter, but if I have to sit through the whole meeting, that’s okay, too,” the man blurted.

Dunifer replied he could not sell him an assembled kit, because it would only put him in further trouble with the FCC.

“Well, take a couple knobs off,” the man answered impatiently.

Dunifer said it would still be illegal.

No longer able to control himself, the man picked up the equipment, slapped $40 on the shelf as a “donation,” and made for the door, saying if he couldn’t legally buy the stuff, he’d ‘steal’ it.

Radio transmitters for illegal broadcasting are hot right now and getting hotter, it seems.

“Free Radio Berkeley is part of a growing movement of individuals and communities across the country who have set up these micro-power (1 – 15 watts) broadcasting operations. Most notable of these is Black Liberation Radio, which covers a housing project area in Illinois,” the handout said.

Other material was available from Dunifer, too, such as “Pirates Guide to FM Stereo.”

San Francisco attorney Louis Hiken, of the national Lawyers Guild’s Committee on Democratic Communications, represents FRB and several other under-ground operators. He said underground stations are popping up in several U.S. locations. He said he believes FCC regulations must change to allow these broadcasters to go about their business legally.

MasterCard radio? In Berkeley?

Free Radio Berkeley has been broadcasting 9 – midnight Sunday evenings since April. They have also broadcast from places like Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and Berkeley City Hall.

On June 17 FRB broadcast from in front of KPFA Radio’s Berkeley studio to protest what Dunifer called the station’s transition from “People’s Radio to MasterCard Radio.”

The FCC complained that illegal broadcasts can interfere with aircraft navigation systems. But Dunifer said there is plenty of space between radio bands, especially in the age of digital tuners, which are more precise. “There are at least 20 (available) spots on the Bay Area FM bank,” said Dunifer.

He complained that the cost of broadcasting has a chilling effect on free speech. “The only way for a community group to have a voice is to have at least $50,000 in the bank,” said Dunifer. –30—


Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 16, 1999, “KPFA supporters rally.” Story regards fans of Berkeley radio station KPFA, their street gathering to support well-known station employees Larry Bensky and Nicole Sawaya.

Bensky and Sawaya were then in conflict with the Pacifica Foundation, confronting possible termination of their contracts.

In the 1999 news photo running alongside my story, San Francisco area broadcaster Bill Mandel addresses the crowd of about 400 Bensky and Sawaya supporters. The crowd was gathered on Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Way with temperatures nearing 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They were calling for mediation.

A second photo by Berkeley Daily Planet Editor Rob Cunningham runs inside. That photo shows the crowd that day from a different angle. Most at the demonstrators held signs:

As the rally was going on, KPFA was simultaneously celebrating its 50th year on the air with the rebroadcast of many of its most memorable shows since 1949, including writer James Baldwin and labor leader Cesar Chavez.

It added a strange, historical feeling to the protest. One could have been at the rally and put a headset tuned to KFPA on to hear, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…” in beat poet Alan Ginsberg’s scratchy 1957 broadcast of “Howl.”

Larry Bensky was there to speak. Rally organizers had constructed a kind of stage in the bed of a small truck with microphones. He stepped up into it.

“I’ve been known for a lot of things in my life, but now I seem to be known as the person who was fired for speaking freely on free speech radio,” said Bensky.

There was a large variety of homemade signs at the rally. “Lynn Chadwick and corporate mind-set have to go,” read one.

“While Clinton attacks Yugoslavia, his friends attack KPFA,” read another, drawn up by Aaron Aarons of Berkeley. He said he had made seven or eight signs. Some other attendees, lacking a sign with a slogan, had dipped from his cache of placards.

Laurie MacKenzie, a sample of the small but fiercely dedicated core group of financial do contributors that keep the station afloat, came from San Francisco with her 8-month-old son, Duncan Rocha to attend the demonstration.

She said she had been listening to KPFA for the last 20 years.

“It shouldn’t be run like any other broadcast corporation. The staff and listeners should have a say in the programming – especially the staff,” said MacKenzie.

But who were some of the attendees in the crowd? That was almost the whole story. You had Bill Mandel, after all, who is best remembered for his famous words during the Cold War 1950s.

Whatever your position on the various news events of the long Cold War era, Mandel was one of the more colorful speakers called to speak during the McCarthy spree:

“This is a book-burning! You lack only the tinder to set fire to the books as Hitler did twenty years ago, and I am going to get that across to the American people!” Mandel said before Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1953, according to transcripts.

When in 1960 a member of the House Un-American Affairs Committee, then in San Francisco, asked Mandel if he was a member of the Communist Party, you can imagine Mandel’s response. Now, the House was in Mandel’s yard:

“Honorable beaters of children, sadists, uniformed and in plain clothes, distinguished Dixicrat wearing the clothing of a gentleman, eminent Republican who opposes an accommodation with the one country with which we must live at peace in order for us and all our children to survive…” began Mandel.

“...where a son of a friend of mine had his head split by these goons operating under your orders, my boy today might have paid the penalty of permanent injury or a police record for desiring to come here and hear how this committee operates. If you think that I am going to cooperate with this collection of Judases, of men who sit there in violation of the United States Constitution, if you think I will cooperate with you in any way, you are insane!” Mandel is recorded as saying in 1960 San Francisco.

You could not have paid me enough to live in the former Soviet Union, but I quickly concede McCarthyism in the United States was no fun, either.

Communism revealed deep rifts within American society and Europe, but also embarassing, fatal flaws with liberalism itself. With all respect to KPFA, I think the American left needs to be far more candid in portraying the Soviets and the American left as they honestly were in those decades. We may never quite see it, though.

Mandel himself is still around Berkeley. He was 92 on June 4, 2009. So, covering Berkeley was innervating. Original story follows:

About 400 KPFA listeners and staffers stubbornly spilled out to fill a section of Martin Luther King Jr. Way Thursday afternoon to show their support for former station manager Nicole Sawaya and radio journalist Larry Bensky, both of whom demonstrators say were unjustifiably and wrongfully fired.

The rally began at noon with about 150 people who were confined to the sidewalk in front of Pacifica Foundation/KPFA offices. But as the temperature climbed to 78 degrees, the crowd began to swell with onlookers and supporters.

Barbara Lubin, who many in the Bay Area and elsewhere know for her missions to Iraq to deliver medicines, is the founder of the Middle East Children’s Alliance. She came to speak at the rally in support of KPFA staff.

“We depend on KPFA to know what’s going on,” she said in a critical remark directed at the mainstream media’s coverage of the current war in the Balkans. “We’re going to bring Nicole Sawaya back. We’re going to bring Larry Bensky back.”

The Pacifica Foundation has not responded to local protest efforts, saying personnel issues are not matters for public discussion. However, the foundation explained the Bensky dismissal, at least to a limited extent, in an April 9 press release.

“Mr. Bensky’s April 4th on-air attack of Pacifica Radio Foundation and members of its management was a direct violation of Pacifica policy, as well as his AFTRA union contract, both of which prohibit airing personal grievances on the air. Pacifica has no plans to replace Sunday Salon, nor to offer Mr. Bensky a new contract,” read the press release.

As the rally was going on, KPFA was simultaneously celebrating its 50th year on the air with the rebroadcast of many of its most memorable shows since 1949, including writer James Baldwin and labor leader Cesar Chavez.

It added a strange, historical feeling to the protest. One could have been at the rally and put a headset tuned to KFPA on to hear, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…” in beat poet Alan Ginsberg’s scratchy 1957 broadcast of “Howl.”

Larry Bensky was there to speak. Rally organizers had constructed a kind of stage in the bed of a small truck with microphones. He stepped up into it.

“I’ve been known for a lot of things in my life, but now I seem to be known as the person who was fired for speaking freely on free speech radio,” said Bensky.

There was a large variety of homemade signs at the rally. “Lynn Chadwick and corporate mind-set have to go,” read one.

“While Clinton attacks Yugoslavia, his friends attack KPFA,” read another, drawn up by Aaron Aarons of Berkeley. He said he had made seven or eight signs. Some other attendees, lacking a sign with a slogan, had dipped from his cache of placards.

Laurie MacKenzie, a sample of the small but fiercely dedicated core group of financial do contributors that keep the station afloat, came from San Francisco with her 8-month-old son, Duncan Rocha to attend the demonstration.

She said she had been listening to KPFA for the last 20 years.

“It shouldn’t be run like any other broadcast corporation. The staff and listeners should have a say in the programming – especially the staff,” said MacKenzie.

The protest was being watched by Berkeley police officers. Lt. Stephanie Fleming said the department had stationed 10 officers at the rally, and one parking enforcement officer.

“We’re just here to make sure they have a safe environment to voice their views,” she said. “It’s gotten a lot of media attention. People knew it was going to happen.”

On March 31, the night of Sawaya’s termination, someone fired bullets into Pacifica’s offices. No suspect was found, and no one was it by the bullets. Both KPFA staff and Pacifica Foundation representatives condemned the incident.

Ben Clarke was there Thursday as part of a group called Media Alliance, a politically progressive media organization that has 3,500 journalists, students and other media professionals. Larry Bensky formed the group in 1975.

Media Alliance is demanding that Sawaya and Bensky be rehired. “KPFA has stood for free speech for 50 years and Pacifica management is headed in the wrong direction,” said Clarke. “Given that the war is heating up in Europe, radio founded by pacifists that provide alternative viewpoints to Pentagon press releases must remain strong.”

Free Radio Berkeley, the illegal pirate broadcaster, also was at the rally. The broadcaster for the group wished to remain anonymous, but spoke about why the station’s “microradio” equipment had been set up there to broadcast.

“We’re here to demonstrate how easy free speech can be created. That’s supposed to be what KPFA is about. We want them to return to it,” he said. One of Free Radio Berkeley’s first broadcasts six years ago was of a KPFA event.

Kevin Adkinson is an apprentice at KPFA who has worked there for the last nine months.

“It’s ridiculous. She raised so much more money for this station than her predecessor,” he said of Sawaya.

Standing next to Adkinson was Weyland Southon, who airs music shows like “Mid-Day Swing” for KPFA. He, like Bensky, used air time to protest the Sawaya termination. “It was just a verbal warning,” he said.

Southon has been doing shows for the station since 1991, when he began as an apprentice. Now, being witness to this latest row, he said he thought it was time for KPFA to consider a new status of its own, divorced from the Pacifica Foundation. It was an idea that floated within the crowd all day.

“It would probably give Pacifica cardiac arrest because this is the heart of the entire network,” he said.


Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 13, 1999, “‘This battle was different’; KPFA labor fight draws attention from 50th anniversary”. Berkeley's KPFA radio has been broadcasting a variety of programs for decades now. I've always had mixed feelings.

On the positive side, I find some of the music and science shows top-quality in 2009, as I did in the 1990s. On the more negative side, their political biases have always been extraordinarily liberal, with their reports wildly slanted in the Cold War years. I lost count of the shows they did defending or making excuses for the old Soviets as the Soviets chewed on multiple human rights and freedoms.

I doubt you'll ever hear much recognition by KPFA staff of those past shows, of course. I can't find these Cold War shows in their website archives.

Today, it's Islamic dictatorship they pretty-up -- the trampling of women's rights, etc.

What happened to the American Left? Where's the Gloria Steinem for Gaza on KPFA?

Joking critics in Berkeley often called the station KPLO rather than KPFA because the station's guests and broadcasters made so many excuses for the Palestine Liberation Organization under Arafat and his friends and/or co-conspirators.

Critics joke this way because the station has made hundreds, if not thousands, of justifications for political fanaticism by giving stage to apologists. They honestly could cover Arab/Islamic issues with more fairness, mind you, and do not.

Related examples of twisted broadcasting on KPFA were frequently -- very frequently -- found in citations of British Author George Orwell. In past years, and perhaps still, you would hear KPFA broadcasters labeling a U.S. government policy as inspired by Orwell's fictional "Big Brother" from Orwell's famous book "Nineteen Eighty-Four."

This was a serious misuse of the author's work since Orwell himself said he was using the fascisms and communisms of his own day for his nightmare, fictional scenario.

Orwell was not concerned with the U.S. government of the mid-1960s, 1970, 1987 or the 1990s. In fact, Orwell died in January of 1950. According to British Author Christopher Hitchens, interviewed on a NPR show, and several other sources easily available, Orwell was not much interested in affairs of the United States after the war. He died of Tuberculosis.

If you were listening to much of KPFA in the 1980s and 1990s, you had the feeling that Orwell had been commenting on multiple American Cold War controversies. Yet, Orwell was not observing Sen. Joseph McCarthy's vituperative shows in Washington D.C.; Orwell may well have called McCarthy a buffoon (See photo of primate in 2008 India above, consider "Burmese Days" by Orwell, 1934) if he'd been alive to hear him rant and accuse, but Orwell was no apologist for communism. There is ample evidence he disliked European communism, though he was a socialist.

Broadcasters like Democracy Now's Amy Goodman should make that extremely clear during their radio shows citing Orwell's work. I've heard her falsely flag his reputation about in the last twenty years like crazy. I quit tolerating her after the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.

The point is, some KPFA broadcasters are good quality, while others really should have been put to sea with the gulls as their loyal audience in 1989.

I still catch KPFA shows and always will, but I trust some shows more than others, and digest all media with reasonable doubts.

Having said all that, these old stories following below that I wrote in 1999 about KPFA have some truly interesting quotes, but are otherwise routine labor dispute stories

In what was supposed to be a routine anniversary celebration, KPFA’s 50 years of broadcast service to the community is being recognized this week more for the station’s internal disputes than for its programming.

The disputes at the popular Berkeley radio station have gotten so bad that Berkeley City Councilmember Dona Spring will ask the council tonight to send a letter to the station calling for mediation.

The trouble reportedly started when the station’s staff and listeners were informed that popular station manager Nicole Sawaya had been dismissed on March 31.

After many people in the public and inside the station protested her departure, the station announced in a broadcast message that Sawaya had not been fired, but simply her contract had not been renewed.

KPFA staff member Larry Bensky also had been protesting Sawaya’s departure. He was fired Friday.

Bensky, host of the popular show “Sunday Salon,” started working with KPFA in 1969. This isn’t the first time he’s run into problems with the station. He also was fired in December of last year.

After hundreds of listeners contacted KPFA in protest, he was invited to return, though the Pacifica Foundation has denied that public reaction influenced its decision regarding Bensky.

The KPFA staff has been consistently opposed to the Sawaya and Bensky terminations. Staff members believe Sawaya held the station together and kept it from imploding on itself, as it has gained a reputation for doing every few years.

KPFA staffers said she had the talent to smooth disagreements and to act as a fair arbitrator between Pacifica and station personnel.

“We’re in shock that a manager as successful as Nicole Sawaya, who unified the staff, got the station on track and raised over $40,000 over the last (fund-raising) goal, was fired for supposedly not being a good fit. We’re trying to figure out who she didn’t fit with,” said Dennis Bernstein, co-host of Flashpoints, a nightly show that focuses on national and international events.

Strong arguments and ideological clashes are common at the station, even expected. But listeners and staffers alike reacted quickly to the departure of Sawaya and the subsequent firing of Bensky.

“KPFA is an extremely interesting place,” said Bernstein. “This battle was different.”

The underlying issue that reportedly feeds the battle between Pacifica and the staff of KPFA, Bernstein said, is the conviction among staff that any tampering with the organization’s principles will “undermine the real free-speech mission of the station.”

Bensky has worked for KPFA intermittently since 1969, and steadily since 1987. He was the station’s national affairs correspondent from 1987 through 1998, and the station manager from 1974 to 1977.

Bensky does not accept the explanations for personnel changes given by the Pacifica Foundation.

“You can call it roast beef or you can call it Swiss cheese. The bottom line is she’s (Sawaya) not there anymore,” said Bensky. “Any rational person would say I was fired in December and she was fired in March.”

Lynn Chadwick, the now-maligned executive director of Pacifica, spoke on the air April 2.

“First, internal Pacifica issues and management decisions are precisely that – internal. We have made decisions that reflect the best management practices for the organization, regardless of their popularity,” she said in that statement, which appears on the “Take Back KPFA” web site.

“Second, internal Pacifica issues and management decisions are not news. It is not appropriate for any media outlet, including KPFA, to use airtime to voice internal grievances, nor should a parent organization, such as Pacifica, use airtime to counter such grievances. This is not the purpose of community radio.”

Chadwick said Sawaya’s contract with KPFA expired on March 31, and Pacifica simply made a decision not to renew it.

She denied in the same broadcast that Pacifica fired Bensky last December. She also said his return to host “Sunday Salon” was not the result of public outcry.

“The legalities surrounding personnel issues and their confidentiality make it impossible for me to share the particulars of either situation with you,” Chadwick announced.

Bensky spoke out on his show April 4 against the Sawaya termination. The station, standing on its policy of forbidding Pacifica personnel from discussing work-related grievances on-air, subsequently fired him.

Regarding the Sawaya affair, Bensky said the station’s listeners deserved to have more control over major changes in policy. “This was at the very least an abusive process. At the very most, an aggressive power grab,” he said.

On the Monday preceding his termination, Bensky found that his e-mail account had been cut. By Tuesday and Wednesday, Bensky began learning that KPFA affiliates had been told that his show would be discontinued. When Bensky received orders to attend a meeting with Pacifica representatives on April 8, he declined to attend.

Bensky said he got a facsimile telling him he was fired, and a package that contained his final paycheck the same day, dated Wednesday, April 7.

“There was no point in going to talk on the 8th,” said Bensky.

“I intend to grieve it through my union and ask for arbitration. If that is not satisfactory, I am going to consider legal action,” said Bensky, adding that he has already received some 1,500 e-mails of support. He also has received listener support on the street, he said.

“It’s been overwhelming and gratifying,” he said.

Bensky said he regretted that events have overshadowed KPFA’s 50th anniversary, for which staff had been preparing.

He also said listeners would miss a program he had scheduled for his next Sunday show featuring a professor in Belgrade – an area particularly difficult to reach as the NATO strikes continue.

“Pacifica is doing absolutely nothing special about this war and we would have been leading that effort; I would have been a part of it. Instead, we have this unseemly situation,” said Bensky.

This is not the first time that KPFA’s internal disagreements have spilled into the public sphere. A similar incident occurred in 1995, when broadcaster Al Huebner went on the air Feb. 10 to discuss KPFA’s internal disputes.

Bensky, when asked why KPFA seemed to have a fractious history with staff and management disagreements, took a broad view.

“It’s not easy to administer a place like that,” he said. “Anti-authoritism is hard to administrate. It’s a place that gathers innovators. You tend to have strong personalities and strong opinions.”

Curt Gray is with a community group that has followed closely the events at KPFA, called “Take Back KPFA.” It has criticized the decisions to terminate Sawaya and Bensky.

“They’re in the information-suppression business,” Gray contends of Pacifica management. “They’ve been gagging people. It’s a perversion of what free speech radio is about.” – end –


Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 17, 1999, “Pacifica official speaks out; Spokeswoman says foundation has been fair with KPFA”. This story, while boring like previous story, gives some insight into Berkeley's KPFA radio:

The Pacifica Foundation said Friday it has been trying to initiate discussion with staff members at its local radio station, KPFA, following a bitter and high-profile rift that has arisen over the termination of two popular station staffers.

Elan Fabbri, Pacifica’s national communications director, said that Pacifica has been attempting since April 7, in cooperation with the Communication Workers of America union, to enter into discussions with staff members at the radio station. As of Friday, Pacifica was awaiting a response from KPFA staff members on whether they would enter “facilitated discussions.”

If staff members agree to talk, an organization called the “Institute for Labor and Mental Health” will act as facilitator between the opposing camps, Fabbri said.

In the meantime, Pacifica has “suspended all disciplinary procedures as a sign of good faith.”

“We did this to show that this is not about power, this is not about firing people, or about rigidly adhering to a disciplinary process. Our good faith effort was to show the people at KPFA that we are reasonable people, that we do want to hear their issues, and that we do want to be able to communicate ours to them,” she said.

The trouble between KPFA and its parent organization, The Pacifica Foundation, began when the foundation decided not to renew the contract KPFA Station Manager Nicole Sawaya on March 31. Many KPFA staff members, who characterized her departure as a wrongful termination, began to voice complaints during KPFA shows.

Pacifica remains silent regarding circumstances surrounding the termination of Sawaya. Attorneys for Pacifica have advised foundation officials to remain silent. For that reason, Fabbri said, “we have not been proactive with the media.”

She also said that American labor laws prohibit employers from disclosing information about employees in several ways.

However, Fabbri did say that every station manager who works for Pacifica must effectively manage the station, manage programming and further the mission of the parent organization.

“It is the responsibility of a good manager to understand Pacifica’s mission and to accurately communicate that with their staffs and volunteers and, not just the understanding of the mission, but directing them in such a way that it furthers the goals of the organization – of the Pacifica national organization – and I think that’s a key distinction.”

Radio host Larry Bensky devoted nearly 20 minutes of airtime to protest Sawaya’s departure. He was subsequently fired on April 9 for violating Pacifica’s policy that forbids its radio personnel from airing internal grievances during broadcasts.

“Most media outlets have these policies,” Fabbri said. “That kind of stuff is just not appropriate. He has repeatedly violated the policy over the years. Repeatedly.”

Many members of the KPFA staff, under an agreement between the CWA and Pacifica, are entitled to a four-step disciplinary process. This means Pacifica must first verbally warn and employee or volunteer, then issue a written warning, followed by a suspension if there is still an issue. Termination is the final step, Fabbri said.

Six people on the staff of KPFA violated the same rules as Bensky in that week, she said, and have received verbal warnings.

But Bensky is not entitled to the same four-step process because he is employed through a separate unit of the Pacifica organization. “He was covered by a different set of rules,” Fabbri said.

Bensky has promised to grieve Pacifica’s actions with his union. He said if he could not get results that way, he would consider taking legal action.

Asked what her understanding was of what happened between KPFA and Pacifica, Fabbri said, “The station, instead of coming to Pacifica to enter into some sort of internal grievance process, immediately took to the air within a couple of hours.”

That night, March 31, someone fired shots around 11 p.m. into the Pacifica office. Evidence of the incident remains. One window is boarded up, another has a bullet hole which is situated at about eye-level. Pacifica’s Executive Director Lynn Chadwick’s desk had been located behind that window.

Berkeley police told Pacifica personnel that the shots were not random, Fabbri said, adding that she “cannot believe” anyone from KPFA could have been responsible. “I can’t internally resolve that. I really can’t, that a peaceful organization would be the target of violence,” she said.

On Thursday, a crowd of about 400 KPFA listeners, staff members, and supporters gathered in front of the offices on Martin Luther King Jr. Way to rally against the terminations of Sawaya and Bensky.

“It doesn’t surprise me in the least. We encourage people’s right to free speech and the legal expression of it. We’re in Berkeley, and in Berkeley, people protest,” she said.

One of the disputes that has arisen between Pacifica and KPFA staff regards changes Pacifica made at the urging of one of its major financial contributors, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which provides Pacifica with 14 to 15 percent of its annual budget.

CPB officials wrote a letter to Pacifica on September 14, 1998, advising the foundation that because some members of the Pacifica board were also serving on local station advisory boards, in violation of Communications Act guidelines, that CPB might be forced to withdraw funding.

The rule is designed to keep community advisory boards distinct from governing boards. Up to that point, Pacifica had some board members who also were serving on community advisory boards.

Pacifica changed the structure of the organization to stand in line with CPB guidelines. Some listeners were offended at what they viewed as a reduction of local control over KPFA, Fabbri said.

“If we don’t comply with laws, we’ll be at risk of being shut down,” said Fabbri. “We need to change how we do things.”

For example, she said, it makes sense to centralize purchasing because Pacifica could get better prices if it purchased in quantity. “That is responsible fiscal management,” she argued.

Asked if Pacifica intended to find a new station manager right away to replace Sawaya, Fabbri said the organization might hold off until the situation with KPFA staff cools down, perhaps sometime this summer.

“I don’t think it would be fair to ask a new person to step in when the conflict has yet to be identified, much less measures taken to address it,” she said. – end –


Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 20, 1999, headlined “Upheaval continues at KPFA.” I lived in Berkeley, and even dated host Dennis Bernstein on a few occasions, who was considerate, good-natured in personality.

It took me until the late 1990s to see KPFA clearly, and this story shows my then-naivety; I needed more outside opinion for this story.

KPFA is publicly supported, and far to the left. They do virtual propaganda broadcasts for Palestinian nationalists and Islamic apologists. They regularly broadcast programs during the Cold War defending positions of the Soviet Union. Few, if any, of these Cold War shows are today rebroadcast by KPFA, for embarrassingly obvious reasons. They regularly feature speakers who hurl vague allegations of racism, i.e., higher-income “white” neighborhoods are usually lumped in with the broader history of American racism.

Today, there are no guests invited for interviews from the old Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia or Romania to share memories of authoritarian socialism/communism. Not that I’ve ever heard, at least. (Perhaps I am wrong?)

The station attacks American political positions. KPFA reached the height of left-wing vehemence and self-righteousness when American President Ronald Reagan was in the oval office.

In 2007, they every day hurl slanderous remarks by various radio hosts and program guests against not only U.S. policies and history, but “whites” in general. Never mind what KPFA means by “white”, “people of color”, or “economic justice.” Today’s shows are the closest one can get to Soviet obfuscation, propaganda and meaninglessness. I still listen to them for instruction in modern slander, but not for accurate analysis of world events.

When you consider that these broadcast stories are defending Islamic parties/countries that show hostility to other ethnicities, detest Jews, oppress women, and routinely use violence to terrorize populations, you see that stations like KPFA may as well be doing press releases for organizations like the old Ku Klux Klan. You would not guess it by some of the quotes in this story, though.

The KKK was/is not an Islamic organization, but stood just the same for a legally mandated racism (toward American black populations in their case), the legal suppression of women’s rights, the suppression of American Jews, and terrorism in general.

Here's the bottom line: You could post the photo of lynched black Americans of the 1920s and the photo of the beheaded Daniel Pearl on the same bulletin board. People would put it together fast, but the staff and listeners of KPFA would surely rush to tear them down.

Original story below:

While the operators of radio station KPFA are expressing optimism regarding today’s labor talks with staff members, station personnel are turning up the heat with reports of two popular shows being taken off the air.

Radio station staffers told the Daily Planet on Monday that two popular shows have been knocked out of their broadcast slots at KPFK, the Los Angeles affiliate of KPFA.

One of those shows, CounterSpin, a nationally syndicated show produced by the media watch group FAIR, had scheduled an interview with former Pacifica network host Larry Bensky, who had been fired from there because of his protests over the departure of Nicole Sawaya, station manager at Berkeley’s KPFA.

“CounterSpin invited Bensky to discuss his firing, the Sawaya dismissal and overlying issues of Pacifica accountability. The Sawaya and Bensky dismissals have stirred public concern, resulting in an April 15 demonstration at KPFA which reportedly drew between 700 and 1,000 protestors,” a press release by FAIR read.

“As a show concerned with censorship, CounterSpin relies on the atmosphere of openness and critical thinking provided by non-commercial radio,” said CounterSpin producer and host Janine Jackson.

“It would be distressing commentary on the state of free speech at the Pacifica network if CounterSpin was pulled from their airwaves for doing just the kind of work we’ve always done, raising just the kinds of questions we regularly raise about the media.”

The Pacifica Foundation’s offices had closed for the day when Daily Planet staff tried to call to solicit reaction to the press release from FAIR.

KPFA personnel also said that “Your Health and Fitness” with Leyna Berman had not been simulated as usual from the Los Angeles Affiliate April 12, but no further details on the situation are now available.

Meanwhile, Pacifica’s National Communications Director Elan Fabbri expressed optimism earlier in the day Monday that “facilitated talks” between Pacifica’s Executive Director Lynn Chadwick and KPFA’s designated union shop steward Dan Albers could make progress.

“My hope is that that meeting is a launch pad. That will be the first step,” said Fabbri.

Albers said the two sides would need to begin with basic communication issues. But he said the issues on the table were already clear to station staff and volunteers.

“The firing of a totally competent person does not seem to be in line with anyone’s mission. Getting rid of competent people is not a good move. Not communicating with listeners who provide the funding is not a good move. And censorship of what people can say on what is ostensibly a free network is not a good move,” he said.

Dennis Bernstein, the long-time host of KPFA’s “Flashpoints,” said an immediate concern for station staff was the departure of several big donors, who have expressed opposition to the dispute that has been raging between Pacifica and KPFA since March 31.

He said one donor had left $150,000 in a will as a donation to KPFA but then rewrote the document to cancel the bequest.

“They pulled a popular manager out when we’re in the middle of covering a war at a station founded by war resistors who went to jail for opposing a popular war,” said Bernstein of the station’s beginnings in the post World War II era. “How sensitive could (Pacifica executive staff) be to the mission?”

Bernstein said Sawaya was “acutely aware of Pacifica’s mission of creating diversity and promoting freedom of the press.”

“It’s beginning to look like KPFA managers are rewarded for censoring programs and fired for supporting freedom of the press,” said Bernstein, who has been with the network for 20 years.

Bernstein said the March 31 shooting through the windows of the Pacifica headquarters by an unidentified suspect had created further tensions and unfounded suspicions, between Pacifica executive staff and KPFA staff.

“Pacifica’s enemies are many, and they are not the network’s producers and reporters. They’re white supremacists, extreme anti-abortionists and those who hate minorities and resent their crucial role in the network,” he said.

Bernstein referred to Pacifica’s policy that forbids staff members from discussing company business on the air. Enforcement of that policy is what led Pacifica to dismiss Bensky, company officials say.

Pacifica has declined to discuss its reasons for not renewing Sawaya’s contract, citing company policies and labor laws governing such actions. While Pacifica has remained silent on the issue, critics on all fronts have been vocal and have garnered widespread media coverage. – 30 –


Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 28, 1999, “KPFA talks continue”. A follow-up brief:

Little progress is being reported in talks between Berkeley radio station KPFA and its parent organization, Pacifica Foundation, as a rift involving the two parties enters its second month.

“I give them an ‘A’ on diction, an ‘A’ on thinking on their feet, a ‘B+’ on steering the discussion and refocusing, and I give them a ‘D-‘ on perceiving the problem,” said Dan Albers, who has been acting as shop steward for KPFA in talks with Pacifica.

“We’re anxious about moving on this,” Pacifica executive director Lynn Chadwick said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I hear concerns in the community; they want to save their radio station. We’re doing, we’re trying.”

Chadwick said that with two talking sessions now behind them, Pacifica and KPFA staff have not been able to go “fast enough,” but that “there was an agreement that we will continue to work together.”

“I will continue to be optimistic,” said Chadwick, who has been heavily criticized by station staff for her role in the March 31 termination of station manager Nichole Sawaya.

Chadwick reported leaving the second round of talks Tuesday having “more of an appreciation of each others position.”

“This may be my little Pollyanna attitude, but this station is very important to the people that work here. They don’t work there just because it’s a job. And it’s the same for me,” she said.

Albers reported a much different perception of the talks. When informed of Chadwick’s optimistic comments, Albers said “the two sides spent 45 minutes on the first question KPFA put to Pacifica but never got an answer. They moved on to other issues like an upcoming pledge drive.”

The rift began March 31 when Pacifica Foundation announced it would not renew the contract with Sawaya, KPFA’s station manager.

Chadwick said she has been concerned about Pacifica Foundation’s overall condition as the rift continues.

“The main problem for me is that I have four other Pacifica radio stations, an archive, and a national programming service that have not been getting the attention they need. That’s a hard thing because there are a lot of other things you want to be working on and this matter is taking up considerable time,” she said.

“There’s only so many hours in the day and we’re short-staffed anyway,” she added.

Albers agreed that the struggle has caused distraction at the local radio station.

“People are still trying to do radio. We’re trying to do our jobs,” he said. “It’s very, very disruptive. I came to work here because it was progressive, free-speech radio. I’m kind of wondering where my energy should be placed.” – end --

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