Don Quixote: Two-term state Senator Don Perata is so confident that his pal, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, will green-light his proposed reelection bid that he's begun trolling his donor list to contribute to his "Perata 2004" campaign. In a February 20 fund-raising missive, Perata says, "I am expecting to soon receive a formal opinion from the state attorney general to validate that I am eligible to serve another term in the Senate."
Under state law, senators can't serve more than two terms. But there's a loophole for those who were appointed or elected to fill a prematurely vacated seat: If the person filling in, in this case the Don, serves less than half of his predecessor's four-year term, his first go-round doesn't count against the term cap and he can run again.
At issue is when that partial term actually starts. The AG has yet to officially weigh in on the matter. Perhaps that's because of an anti-Perata legal opinion submitted by SoCal attorney Fred Woocher, who was hired by, among others, former Assemblywoman Dion Aroner, who wants to run for Perata's seat next year (though not against the incumbent). Woocher says Perata's legal team erred by beginning the term-clock on the day Perata actually took office. The clock really started ticking, Woocher contends, when Barbara Lee quit her state Senate post, meaning Perata served out more than half of Lee's unfinished term, which means he's outta there in 2004 due to term limits. In a similar case involving state Senator Richard Montjoy, a Superior Court judge ruled in 1999 that the proverbial clock starts when the officeholder is first elected or appointed.
If Lockyer does issue a Perata-friendly opinion, it will not have the weight of law. But the AG's opinion could prove persuasive to a trial-court judge, and it's a sure bet that the courts are precisely where this thing will end up. -- Will Harper
Postpartum depression: Last summer, we reported that Berkeley's Summit Alta Bates hospital was planning to cut back on midwifery services for low-income women who get prenatal care through local health clinics ("Alta Bates Facing a Midwife Crisis," Cityside, June 26, 2002). For these women, delivering at Alta Bates became a game of roulette -- if the baby came during the eight hours when no midwife was on call, they'd be stuck with a staff obstetrician. Well, the house recently made the odds a lot worse: On February 28, Alta Bates released a memo announcing further cuts in midwifery care. Instead of having nine midwives on call sixteen hours a day, there will now be just three midwives available eight hours a day.
The veteran midwives who've been let go say this move is further evidence of the hospital's insensitivity toward them and the poor, minority, and immigrant women they serve. "This will be assembly-line midwifery care," says one distressed midwife who is part of the group that used to work at Alta Bates (she asked that her name not be used because she still works with women who deliver at the hospital). She questions the contention of hospital administrators that the rising cost of malpractice insurance prevents them from keeping a full team of midwives on duty. "They said they were in the hole, which is hard to imagine considering how busy we are."
Alta Bates delivers about 7,500 babies a year, hundreds of them to uninsured or low-income women who can't afford private midwives. "Alta Bates Summit continues to believe in and support midwifery," says hospital spokeswoman Carolyn Kemp. Just because a midwife isn't on duty doesn't mean clinic patients can't get one, she says, noting that private midwives accept Medi-Cal. She says the new stripped-down structure won't affect patients' experience at Alta Bates. "Quality patient care is our number-one goal."
But some patients have come away less than satisfied. Last summer Jessica Castillo, a 24-year-old from Castro Valley, gave birth at Alta Bates. She'd received prenatal care at the Berkeley Primary Care Clinic and arrived at the hospital expecting a midwife. Instead, she got a male OB, who she claims ignored her birth plan and openly disrespected her. "He basically had no beside manner whatsoever. He told me that I couldn't have this baby without him," she recalls. When Castillo raised concerns, according to a letter she wrote after the ordeal, he allegedly replied, "Too bad. This is why obstetrics came to be -- because women's bodies couldn't do childbirth naturally."
Though her labor was normal, Castillo says the doctor insisted on hooking her up to an IV, breaking her waters, and administering an epidural, all against her wishes. While paralyzed from the waist down by the anesthesia, Castillo claims she was given the contraction-inducing drug Pitocin without her permission. Several hours later, she delivered a healthy boy. But when she complained as the doctor started to stitch her up without a local anesthetic, she claims he barked at her: "This is what you wanted. You wanted to feel all the pain."
Horror stories like this are becoming more common at Alta Bates, critics say.
The aforementioned midwife claims the cutbacks have led to more difficult births for her patients. "Overnight, I have seen a dramatic increase in C-section rates. I personally attribute it to the lack of midwifery care," she says.
She believes the low-income patients are being used as "moneymakers" by some administrators and doctors, who profit from unnecessary interventions while moving patients out as quickly as possible.
Lorie Brillinger, another former Alta Bates midwife, says the hospital's latest move sends a clear message to women in her profession: "We're persona non grata." -- Dave Gilson
Hobo for a day: Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, already restless from the drudgeries of his new office, announced last week that he would broaden his horizons by going homeless for 24 hours. Seven Days couldn't help but kick-start our febrile imaginations at the prospect of the mayor slummin' it. Herewith we present the nonexistent diary of Bates' adventures through the looking glass, titled "When Bad Things Happen to Good Mayors."
The following are verbatim excerpts:
Tuesday 3:30 p.m. -- Kissed Loni goodbye and hit the mean streets. Damn! Forgot to move the Volvo for street sweeping. Wow! People really have to pay this much? Oh, whatever. Chief Meisner will take care of it. It's kinda hot carrying this sleeping bag around -- you'd think REI's techies would've made these things light as a feather by now. Hmmm. Wonder if one of these stupid reporters has Evian and sunscreen. And a couple of brioches would go down nicely right about now. Maybe we can pop into the Bowl for a few provisions.
4:30 p.m. -- Lose the BOSS lottery for a shelter bed. Dang! Dang! That poverty pimp boona cheema's gonna get hers when the budget cuts come around -- teach her to cut me a break next time.
5:30 p.m. -- Head up to Telegraph to get acquainted with the street people. They're such lost souls, you can see supply-side economics in the whites of their haunted eyes. Well, except for the one that just spat on me. Hey, buddy, I used to caucus with Willie Brown! How 'bout a little respect?
6:00 p.m. -- Ah, People's Park. This place takes me back. Loni told me all about the time when Chancellor Tien tried to build volleyball courts here. Such passion. Such Sturm und Drang. But now I'm all conflicted about the place. Why, for instance, is everyone asking me, "What you need?" But it's time to rest my weary bones on the park's loving blades of grass. Eeew, dog poo. I thought we had a law about this stuff.
Hey, here comes Kriss Worthington. And he's holding! Excellent, Mr. Worthington. Fire that fat boy up -- it's just what I need to get in touch with the dual-diagnosed members of our community. ... Wooow! Ever notice how weird your hands are? I mean, you got these nails that are all hard and stuff, and this black goo collects under them, and when you dig it out, you don't know what it is! Is it dirt? Or clay? Hey, maybe it's hash, and you could get lit by smoking it. Wouldn't that be weird, if you could get high by smoking your toe jam? Oh man, I'm really freaking out here.
7:30 p.m. -- Got the munchies, but no money. Try panhandling students, but it feels weird. Whenever I ask, they laugh and say, "I'll have to table that motion." Bastards. Next time they want an AC Transit monthly pass, I'll tell them to kiss my ass.
9:00 p.m. -- Okay, it's getting kinda cold. Walk up to the Gourmet Ghetto in hopes of finding more-generous citizens near Chez Panisse. Mmmmm, the smell of that goat cheese and arugula is driving me crazy. Courage, Tom! Put that Gold Card back in your pocket! You're here to experience misery, and that's just what you'll do!10:00 p.m. -- Loitering outside Shirley Dean's North Berkeley cottage in hopes of lowering her property value. Maybe she's refinancing right at this minute, and her broker will look outside and see one of America's forgotten, just looking for a little dignity. A song would get me in the appropriately forlorn mood. Ahem. Once I built a railroad, made it run, made it run against time ...
11:00 p.m. -- Bedding down for the night on the Adeline median. Inventory time. Hemp pajamas -- check. Air mattress -- check. Travel pillow -- check. I meant to stuff some Daily Cals into my shoes; it adds to the authenticity of the experience, and I've gotten into the habit of, shall we say, needing more than one Daily Cal at a time. But these damn cameramen won't leave me alone for a second. They keep expecting me to say something profound. I hope they don't notice that I've been plagiarizing Anatole France all day.
11:30 p.m. -- After a quick chuckle at Calvin Trillin's latest piece in the Nation, I'm ready for some shuteye. About time, too. I feel the weariness of homelessness grinding my fragile bones. This must be how our wretched of the Earth feel, each and every day. How long will we ignore them? How long will it take for the people of this wealthy nation to wake up to the plight of their brothers and sisters? Oh wait, cell's ringing. Hi, Loni! I wuv you too, shmoogums! Yes, dear, it is very noble of me to do this ... -- Chris Thompson
Certainly damaged: Embattled college radio chartmeister CMJ has finally found a workable solution to its chart-falsifying scandal ("The Monster That Ate College Radio?," February 26). The problems allegedly started with CMJ's hodgepodge of a computer database blanking out whole charts when it didn't recognize albums submitted by college stations for inclusion in its weekly magazine, CMJ New Music Report.
This was an absurd situation, because college DJs routinely pay homage to obscure artists. Conveniently, CMJ execs made matters even more absurd by replacing the unverified chart entries with Certain Damage, the company's own commercial sampler, which labels pay $2,000 or more to appear on. When stations such as Berkeley's KALX found out their charts were being falsified, they raised hell. And when the Express started nosing around, CMJ did an about-face. It began printing "Unverified" in those slots instead. Which, of course, was music to the ears of a New Mexico-based Ramones wannabe band called Unverified.
That experiment lasted two weeks. The company has since announced that it will chart albums by unrecognized artists -- such as East Bay country outfit Loretta Lynch -- but include an asterisk to indicate that CMJ hasn't confirmed the album's existence. The new policy should mollify CMJ's college-radio critics somewhat. But whether the company will recover from the certain damage the affair has wrought on its reputation is, well, unverified. -- Michael Mechanic
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