Friday, January 30, 2009

Buy Curious: A Sad Farewell to Old Friends

Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 4:35 PM

The economy continues to claim more of our beloved stores: this time, longtime Berkeley boutique Dish (2981 College Ave.) and Walnut Creek store Hush (ironically, like Dish's Eastside counterpart). Both boutiques specialized in gorgeous clothes with a feminine, sophisticated aesthetic: silks, cashmere, tried-and-true names, as well as some independents graced the racks. And they were always counted on for gorgeous, last-minute, I-need-to-look-fabulous-without-trying-too-hard events (or moments). Pricey, yes, but Dish in particular helped transform the values of Elmwood locals from campus-casual to casual-elegance, cheap-and-disposable to treasure-this-piece-for-years. It was - an arguably still is - the only destination for such finds, so it's with a heavy heart that we wave farewell to our old friend. Saturday, January 31, 2009 will be the last day for the Berkeley store (due to a most untimely rent increase), though luckily we'll still have its Hayes Valley store to fulfill us. Stop by to pick up deeply discounted finds from recent and not-so-recent days. Hush's last day will be Feb. 7.

Does Chip Johnson Know Something We Don't

by Chris Thompson
Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 10:42 AM

Chip Johnson' column today is awfully odd. He does a little song-and-dance about how Ron Dellums almost tore him a new one at a press conference yesterday, and how relieved he was when the mayor pulled back and offered a little humor instead. Then he proceeds to talk about how, this unfortunate tenure as mayor aside, Dellums is a true lion of a man: "I know that he's done more for this country than I ever will. He's done more to promote equality in America and abroad than I ever will. And if you added up the time, the contributions and the sacrifices he's made to try and improve the lives of people everywhere, you would be hard pressed to find an equal." Finally, Johnson hopes that the Obama administration will give Dellums a job, and he can go out on a high note. Is that what this column is really all about? Does Johnson see the end of Dellums coming, and is he trying to make his exit from Oakland as smooth and easy as possible? We have to admit to being a little torn ourselves: Dellums is an utter failure, and we're not predisposed to make nice with the man. But if we see the back of him, we'll do our best to move on to the next chump who gets this job.

Local Firms Churn Out Ghee and Chocolate Tea

by Anneli Star Josselin Rufus
Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 10:37 AM

East Bay companies were a strong (and sweet and savory) presence at the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade's "Fancy Food Show" in San Francisco last week.

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Dellums Finally Names Lindheim City Administrator

by Chris Thompson
Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 10:06 AM

So Ron Dellums finally did it. He named his longtime friend and advisor Dan Lindheim city administrator, after a farcical seven months in which he pretended to look all over the country for Deborah Edgerly's replacement. Here's the best line in the Chron's story: "The mayor brushed aside any suggestion that his decision took too long, saying he took the time necessary to make the right choice." Seven months is the necessary time to decide you want your closest advisor, who had been doing the job on an interim basis already, to fill the position? At least this Potemkin process is finally over.

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Chron: BART Investigation Flawed from Start

by Chris Thompson
Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 9:54 AM

The San Francisco Chronicle has a thorough and unpleasant roundup of how BART officials botched the investigation into officer Johannes Mehserle's fatal shooting of Hayward resident Oscar Grant. No one among the BART cops present that night reported an officer-involved shooting over their radios, and BART employees shunted a train full of witnesses off before anyone could start asking what happened. BART police had a copy of the cell phone video in which officer Tony Pirone spontaneously punches Oscar Grant, but did not begin an investigation into Pirone until KTVU aired the video. Now, BART officials have handed the investigation over to an outside consultant, a tacit admission that they're not capable of doing the job themselves. Some BART directors have called for Police Chief Gary Gee and General Manager Dorothy Dugger to step down over the incident. It's a real mess.

Scharffen Berger Fallout

by Chris Thompson
Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 9:42 AM

The Trib has a vox populi piece about the closing of the West Berkeley chocolate factory Scharffen Berger, and folks ain't happy. Lovers of the once-local specialty chocolatier lingered in the store and the cafe, heaping much vitriol on Hershey for killing the institution in pursuit of more profits. Keep in mind: Hershey isn't losing money; in fact, its fourth quarter profits rose relative to the same period last year. So this ain't a recession thing, and Berkeley foodies have every right to be annoyed.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Recession Follies: Hotel Foreclosures

by Chris Thompson
Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 7:43 AM

The Trib's excellent business reporter George Avalos writes that two of the East Bay's biggest hotels, the Sheraton Pleasanton Hotel and the Coliseum Suites, are going bust. The owners of the properties have fallen into default on their respective ten-plus million-dollar mortgages, and their creditors are now seeking to seize the properties in court. The story focuses mostly on the Sheraton Pleasanton, which has been seriously hit by the recession; local businesses, from Chevron to Safeway, have drastically cut their travel and conference budgets, which provided the mainstay of the Sheraton's customers. Meanwhile, the Coliseum Suites are fenced off, and vandals have been sneaking in and tearing the place apart. But hey, at least we have professional cops to take care of that sort of thing, right? Oh, wait...

More Damning Evidence on OPD Internal Affairs Head

by Chris Thompson
Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 7:32 AM

Seriously, the Chauncey Bailey Project is jumpin' these days. Check out their latest story, which sheds new light on the case of Ed Poulson, the Oakland cop who allegedly kicked a man to death in 2000, pressured other cops to lie about the incident, and was later put in charge of the OPD Internal Affairs Unit. The CB Project got ahold of a 2005 confidential document City Attorney John Russo sent to the City Council, in which he states that Poulson was allowed to direct the focus of the investigation, even though he was the guy being investigated. In addition, an outside consultant examined the investigation and concluded that there was no evidence that the dead man resisted arrest in the initial reports, and that the cops on the scene got together and apparently got their stories straight before talking. Pity poor Oakland, caught between an alarming rate of violent crime and a police department as brutal and corrupt as this. Will this city ever escape its sad, violent, venal legacy?

Nuclear War-Lovin' Library Gets Its Way

by Chris Thompson
Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 7:12 AM

And we're back with another chapter in the thankfully frivolous story of whether the Berkeley public library will get to have its self-checking machines repaired, even though the maintenance company won't sign a form detailing its involvement in nuclear power or munitions! Yes, it sounds obscure, but at least it's not feds interrogating Oakland cops about corruption or incompetence, or real estate values plummeting, or a complete financial collapse of state government. So learn that the City Council has allowed the company 3M to repair the library's self-checking machines, dear reader, and take this moment to heal in the small, silly details of life.

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