On a recent trip to Berkeley, I discovered my new favorite destination: the Berkeley Bowl Marketplace. At this independent supermarket, I tasted previously unheard-of fruits and chose between 10 different varieties of carrots. There was also an abundant selection of dried seaweed on display. While I love nori — the dried seaweed that's used in sushi — I wasn't so sure about consuming these dried versions.
Berkeley, CA, has grabbed attention again — this time for starting a pioneering new program to provide city-backed loans for home solar-electric systems. This week the city council approved a new tax district that allows residents to finance solar energy systems through their property taxes.
Here's how the program works: the city provides the money for the installation and materials, and homeowners are able to pay back the loan at a fixed rate over 20 years. The cost amounts to about $180 per month to be added to property tax bills to eventually pay for the $22,000 system. Officials say those who choose to stick the panels where the sun do shine will recoup that cost through lowered energy bills.
Is this a perfect way for cities to make greener technologies a reality for homeowners?
Front Page: Tree-Sitters Climb Down, Quake Shakes Iran, More Calling Suicide Hotline, US Deficit at $438 Billion
- Tree-Sitters Climb Down:
After a 21-month occupation, four remaining tree-sitters in an oak grove on the UC Berkeley campus, climbed down and into police custody. School officials had cut off food and water supplies Monday and were prepared to remove the activists using force. The tree-sitters were trying to stop the construction of a $125 million sports center which threatened 42 trees on campus.
- Quake Shakes Iran:
A 6.1 magnitude earthquake has hit southern Iran near the site of a large Iranian oil refinery, injuring 22 and killing three. Officials fear the quake damaged older parts in the refinery. Iran is the world's fourth largest oil exporter, the refinery struck processes 320,000 barrels a day.
- More Calling Suicide Hotline:
More Americans are calling the government's suicide hotline, 47,000 of them in the last month alone. The line receives a 10 percent increase every month, which the staff attributes to more people knowing about it, than an increase in the suicidal. In 2005, the last year of the data, there were more than 32,600 suicide deaths.
- US Deficit at $438 Billion:
The US budget deficit is set to reach $438 billion in 2009 according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. The figure doesn't take into account government costs associated with taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The previous record for deficit was $413 billion in 2004. Last year's deficit was $161 billion.
The notorious Berkeley City Council has been busy. Last night, it moved forward a ban on smoking outside! People caught lighting up on commercially zoned sidewalks will face a $100 fine.
One Berkeley smoker told a local news station:
Out on the sidewalk, you're sucking up more exhaust walking on this street than cigarette smoke. So do we want to go to all electric cars? It's like how invasive is the city of Berkeley going to get into my life?
Really Berkeley, banning smoking outside? I wouldn't be surprised if Berkeley soon outlaws cigarettes all together. Is this law taking the rights of nonsmokers too far? Will more people quit? I wonder how the fine will be imposed on all the homeless people in Berkeley, many of whom smoke on the downtown sidewalks.
On the other side of the country, New York City's crackdown on smoking may have had an unexpected result. The city has gained 10 million pounds since it cut back the right to smoke.
Some call Berkeley's sidewalk ban a free way to improve air quality and lung health, but is there a price to freedom?
The independent group Move America Forward just released a new commercial following last month's controversial city council decisions first to ban, then allow Marine recruiting centers in the city.
The commercial features a Marine, a military mother, and a veteran, all demanding an apology from the Berkeley City Council. Move America Forward's website also has a petition for the public to sign, asking for contrition. Reaction to the ad from the local community has been less than enthusiastic, with the University of California Berkeley's paper, The Daily Californian, calling the ad "pure comedy."
Should Berkeley apologize? Is this ad the way to make it happen?
In January, the City Council of Berkeley, CA, voted to tell the United States Marines that their downtown recruitment office was to be shut down, and that they were "uninvited and unwelcome intruders." After fervent protests, this morning the City Council voted 7-2 to pass a follow up resolution written by two council members that would retract the original letter and make a distinction between opposing the war in Iraq and "our respect and support for those serving in the armed forces." The council's new position is firm opposition to the war, but that "we recognize the recruiter's right to locate in our city and the right of others to protest or support their presence."
Both sides of the controversy surrounding the initial policy and its reversal feel very passionately. One member of the pro-military group Move America Forward, whose son is a Marine said, that he wants a personal apology from council members, and that "the Marines have the right to recruit anyone, anywhere."
Some in the anti-war group Code Pink have said, "we want to ask the Marines to not recruit in our community. The majority of citizens here are fervently against the war. We're not against the Marines, but against what they're recruited to do."
What do you think? Should they have stood by their original resolution? Is the city of Berkeley within its rights to ask the Marines to leave?