Seven Days 

State Senate in 2004: It's early, but count De la Fuente in

Premature Politicking: So what if state Sen. Don Perata's seat doesn't open up until 2004? Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente apparently wants to be ready when the time comes. With only thirty months left until Election Day, Nacho has formed the "De La Fuente for State Senate" campaign committee, which already boasts a modest $6,560 in its checking account. De La Fuente aide Carlos Plazola says he doesn't know exactly why his boss is getting off to such an early start. "He's very serious," Plazola shrugs.

De La Fuente may very well need to get a head start on the competition. Word on the street is that Berkeley Assemblywoman Dion Aroner, who will be out of a job next year, plans to run for the Senate seat, too. Aroner, of course, nearly defeated the Democratic Don himself a couple of years ago in a race in which her fellow prog, Supervisor Keith Carson, arguably siphoned votes from her. One not entirely neutral bystander predicts De La Fuente, despite his ties to Perata, would have a tough time beating Aroner. "She'll kick Ignacio's ass," the source says.

Who Needs Food When Youve Got Fourth Street? It's been nearly a year since the West Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation won a skirmish against Fourth Street developer Denny Abrams in the struggle to create a West Berkeley Market. While Abrams argued that the open-air market would hurt the city's golden egg -- his Fourth Street development -- neighborhood advocates argued that the market was the first step toward helping the area's minority communities become economically self-sufficient by serving as an incubator for local entrepreneurs while also providing residents with affordable goods and culturally relevant foods not found on Fourth Street.

But it's been a tough row to hoe. Willie Phillips, who chairs the WBNDC, reports that the rookie market is struggling -- and could fold. "There's good days and there's bad days," he says. "But it's difficult to retain vendors -- we lost two major farmers, because they had to commute from Fresno. We had a Thai restaurant that was there too, and he had to leave as well." Without farmers or restaurants, the market can't achieve one of its major goals -- to provide nearby residents with affordable and healthy food. Plus, food is a major draw for the street-fair-like market. "We had all arts and crafts there last week, which was not enough," Phillips says. "The food is really the clincher, the thing that draws people there."

Without some renewed interest in the market, said Phillips, this plan for restoration of the local economy may be dashed. "There's a wait-and-see attitude," he says, "and that can be very devastating. Vendors say they're interested, but want to wait and see how it pans." He's hoping that former foe Abrams might step up to the plate and help promote the market among wealthy Fourth Street shoppers, but we here at 7 Days are reminded of Abrams' words almost a year ago. Neighbors are welcome to absorb the "great public experience" of Fourth Street, he told us: "It's a wonderful place to come and get a cup of coffee, hang out, and they can come and see people shopping from other places." Just exactly how watching rich folks shop can be economically sustainable remains, to us, a puzzle.

Domo arigato, Mr. Boy Scouto: Who's to blame over the recent furor regarding the city of Berkeley's botched welcome of the Japanese Boy Scouts? Well, one Berkeleyan who wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle last week pointed a middle finger directly at Mayor Shirley Dean: "Berkeley's mayor and Boy Scouts need to stop trying to give the Boy Scouts use of City Hall and subjecting the kids involved to political whirlwinds."

The author of the missive? None other than Dave Blake, longtime grenade-lobber for Kriss Worthington, the Dean-dissing gay councilmember who clearly played a key role in spinning the "political whirlwinds" over the Boy Scouts' visit himself. Of course, Blake didn't bother to inform Chron editors or readers of his affiliation. But Blake insists that his pal didn't put him up to writing the letter and that the opinions expressed therein were his own. "Even a political operative," Blake argues, "can have a legitimate opinion."

By the by, Blake is currently assisting Worthington on the latter's campaign for the 14th Assembly District seat, though he likely won't be the top gun. Worthington tells 7 Days that he's been chatting with consultant Catherine Lew about running his campaign. Should Lew come aboard, she'd go head-to-head against her old boss and mentor, Larry Tramutola, who happens to be the lead consultant for Oakland Vice Mayor Jane Brunner's Assembly campaign. However, Lew's business partner, Lloyd Edwards, stresses that their firm hasn't signed on with anyone in the race yet: "There probably have been about three or four [potential candidates] walking through here, including Kriss."

This side of the law: Let's just say that we at 7 Days are sometimes a little overzealous in our rush to get to the office. And, alas, sometimes one must make mistakes in order to learn. One of the valuable things we have learned, after obtaining the Alameda County Superior Court's list of local traffic schools that can be entrusted with our driving re-education, is everything really is in the name. A partial sampling:

No More Tickets
Quick & Cheap Traffic School
Live 'n' Learn with Humor
Rocky Cologne's Comedy Traffic School
Pizza For You -- Comedians 2
Lettuce Amuse U Comedy Traffic School
Cheap Comedy 4-U Day-Nite Classes
The National Traffic Safety Institute

Foul air? The anti-incinerator coalition ratcheted up its fight against East Oakland's Integrated Environmental Systems last week, this time actually laying their bodies in front of the gates to prevent waste-laden trucks from entering the facility. The civil disobedience, which resulted in three arrests and dozens of people dragged from the gates by police, is the first such action by the coalition, led by San Francisco-based Greenaction. Greenaction executive director Bradley Angel says that while the environmental coalition and IES were in negotiations over the facility's practice of burning most of its waste -- resulting in, some say, the emission of cancer-causing dioxin -- he felt that negotiations had broken down as of late. "Since [IES] hasn't been negotiating in good faith and is still unwilling to commit to moving toward zero incineration, we felt that we had to stop the stalling by IES and move forward and take action."

According to Angel, the coalition's not quite done yet. A 24-hour vigil will be held on Tuesday, August 21. Beginning at noon, the event will include a candlelight vigil and more civil disobedience.

Asked about a recent announcement by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District that it is planning to conduct a two-year study on the levels of dioxin in Bay Area air, Angel pish-poshes the notion. "Yeah, they'll study it for a couple of years and analyze the results," he says. "But meanwhile, enormous quantities of cancer-causing dioxin will continue to be emitted."

Bachelors degrees just arent enough anymore: San Francisco State University proudly issued a statement announcing that their Wedding Consultation Certificate Program just graduated 11 budding wedding schemers, including one from Oakland, who will all have bright futures in the $70 billion field of all things matrimonial. Now obsessive brides will have the security of knowing that their wedding planner has endured the rigors of five classes at SFSU and received "valuable insights into the wedding industry." Next up: an associate degree in how to marry rich?

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