Shirley she'll run: It's only been four months, but former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean already is back from the dead. Rumors are swirling around town that Dean, who lost her bid for a third term to progressive challenger Tom Bates in November, is fixin' to run for her old North Berkeley City Council seat in two years. Of course, that seat is currently occupied by her erstwhile moderate ally Miriam Hawley, but the two have long been rumored to be at odds over Hawley's ideological squishiness and tendency to sporadically work with the progressive faction. Could Dean be planning a comeback by unseating her own colleague?
The former mayor is playing it coy, which usually means she's getting ready to run. "Several people have suggested it me, but I haven't said one thing or another," she says. "I haven't said I would get back in, I haven't said I wouldn't. I don't know if I would want to get back in. But I'm a little bored." Dean claims she "probably" would cede the field to Hawley if the incumbent decided to run for reelection, but that qualification is oh-so-tantalizing, isn't it? And Dean may have already picked her issues. "What I'm really concerned about are some density issues in Berkeley," she says, "and why we can't talk about it in some kind of civil fashion. That's where I'm at right now. ... We need to start talking about good design. Whether it's height limits, separating buildings from one another, all of these things should be articulated, not in a 'I'm gonna bite your head off' way, but in a way that makes this a better community."
Shirley Dean the slow-growth candidate? That's a far cry from the Dean we used to know and love, but at least she'd have interesting and unexpected company. Now that Bates is moving to curtail the power of neighborhood activists, many of who have stalled affordable housing development with nitpicky objections and malicious lawsuits, progressive Councilwoman Dona Spring may find that she has more in common with Dean than she thought. Spring has long been a champion of as much citizen participation as possible, and Bates' appointees to critical commissions aren't exactly her best friends. He has put David Stoloff, the man who oversaw construction of the UC Terrace faculty housing project that angered so many central Berkeley NIMBYs, on the Planning Commission. In addition, his pick for the Landmarks Preservation Commission is Margaret Kavanaugh-Lynch, the former city staffer who green-lighted the demolition of two homes adjacent to South Berkeley's Seminary Baptist Church, which plans to expand its facilities.
Spring claims that with these appointments, Bates is signaling his disinterest in neighborhood politics. "He's certainly showing a direction," she says. "It's not the direction that I am going in. I got on the council to try to be responsive to neighborhood concerns." When asked who her friends were on the council these days, Spring laughed and said, "Betty Olds." -- Chris Thompson
Flea killers: Say goodbye to the Laney College flea market, that adorable collection of caveat emptor Chinese import vendors, shriveled-fruit stands, and speed freaks hawking more wares than they have teeth in their heads under the I-880 overpass. For more than ten years, the market has lurched along, delighting seekers of Oakland grit with their panoply of suspiciously acquired goods, but now the Peralta Community College District has decided to give it the heave-ho. District officials have already shut down the market on Saturdays, and come June 30, the axe will probably fall on the Sunday swap meet as well.
According to Charles Taylor, the Peralta senior vice chancellor for administration and finance, Laney College has seen an upsurge of student demand for its Saturday classes, and administrators had no choice but to clear out the market and provide parking for the students. But some district officials also quietly complain that the Nor-Cal Swap Meet, which manages the market, didn't do itself any favors by failing to clean out the Porta-Potties, leading to overflows of sewage. Nor-Cal CEO Rich Sherratt claims that the toilets only overflowed once, because county sheriffs refused the waste-treatment boys entry to the market. Still, it looks like East Bay shoppers with a taste for the carny life will be high and dry. After all, the Ashby flea market has been colonized by Afrocentric tchotchkes and Rastafarian messiah triptychs, and the Coliseum Swap Meet is wall-to-wall low-rider culture. Where's a white-trash devotee to go? -- Chris Thompson
Painting by numbers: Is community participation in the creation of public artworks a meddlesome annoyance or a way to keep such projects close to their roots? Consider the case of Dublin, where the city council spent time during two recent meetings discussing certain minute details of its two-year-old, $250,000 underpass mural project.
One discussion revolved around whether or not the Hereford cattle in one painting should be depicted wearing a brand. Roxanne Nielson of Nielson's TN Cattle Company, one of Dublin's oldest cattle ranches, recently alerted the city council about a state law mandating the branding of all California cattle. Since the Dublin Boulevard mural contains two nearly life-size cows, Nielson generously offered up her family's brand for the Herefords.
Project manager Theresa Yvonne, Dublin's heritage and cultural arts supervisor, said the council willingly agreed to the change. "The artists can still add it on to the mural and it's not a big deal," she said. At the same time, she noted that the change wasn't really essential. "You could say the brand is on the other side and we can't see it."
The other weighty discussion related to the city's Amador Valley Boulevard mural, which will depict some soccer players modeled after local girls. One parent suggested that, in order to make the girls look more Dublin-specific, they should be shown wearing uniforms with Dublin's colors -- green and white, for the city's Irish heritage. The artists, who will begin painting the mural in the next couple of weeks, agreed to the change. But, when a councilmember suggested that the girls be shown playing against the red-white-and-blue-clad Dublin High School team, the idea was ultimately rejected. After all, that wouldn't really happen.
Over the course of the past two years, the two-mural undertaking has received disparate input from the city council, the heritage and cultural arts commission, and even Caltrans' very own art review committee. The muralists, chosen through a rigorous selection process, also gathered input at local festivals, the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, the senior center, and at youth groups, by distributing questionnaires that asked, among other things, "What three words do you think of first when you think of Dublin?" "What particular person, site, or event do you think should be represented in the mural?" and "What is your favorite thing to do in Dublin?" Happily, one Dubliner's observation that shopping was her favorite thing failed to make it into the design. -- Helene Blatter
Tales from Kensington's police blotter: January 22, noon. A woman reported hearing possible shots fired on Ardmore Road. An officer responded and located a juvenile playing with firecrackers. The juvenile was admonished and told not to play with firecrackers in the future.
January 27, 2:45 p.m. A resident living near Kensington Hilltop School reported that a fifteen-year-old white male was skateboarding at the school and telling third graders he was with the FBI and looking for a murderer. The young skateboarder left before police arrived.
January 28, 9:00 p.m. A woman on Purdue Avenue reported that an unknown party had complained about the treatment of her dog. The woman stated that when she let her dog out of the house to urinate, an unknown woman said she was going to take the dog away because she felt the woman had been mean to it. An officer responded, but did not locate the threatening stranger.
January 29, 1:00 p.m. A man reported that a pile of mulch had been dumped on his property without his permission, and that it was smoldering. Police could not determine the origin of the mulch. The fire department also was alerted.
2:20 p.m. An employee of Young's Market reported the license plate number of a middle-aged man who had just stolen a magazine. An officer located the thief, a Kensington resident who said he stole the magazine because he was in a hurry and the line at the store was too long. The officer then escorted the man back to the store where he paid for the magazine. Young's Market said it did not want the man arrested.
January 30, 9:00 a.m. An elderly woman on Kingston Road reported that her Siamese cat had been taken. When police responded, the woman explained that she had purchased the cat from the Feral Cat Foundation, but then lost it when it ran away. The foundation helped her set up a trap to retrieve the cat, but the woman was unable to open the trap once the cat was caught and called the foundation for help. The foundation then kept the cat, saying she couldn't keep it because she had let it go outside. The woman, who claims to have 55-65 years of cat-care experience, said she did not want the Feral Cat Foundation employees arrested for taking the cat, but would negotiate for a different cat.
January 31, 5:55 p.m. A woman on Lawson Road reported that her son's ex-girlfriend was making harassing phone calls to her, claiming that her son had stolen her property and was holding it at his mother's house. The items in question were a fence-post digger, a rake, and a shovel. An officer searched the woman's house and contacted the ex-girlfriend to inform her that the items were not on the property.
8:00 p.m. A man reported that someone had dumped trash on his property on Amherst Avenue. The trash included a mattress, various old computer components, and miscellaneous papers that included the suspect's name and address. Police contacted the suspect, who explained he was an exchange student from a foreign country and did not know this was against the law. He had placed the trash in the homeowner's driveway next to designated garbage cans. Police advised the student that this was a crime and asked him to remove the trash. -- Compiled by Helene Blatter