Berkeley / East Bay

Gray Panthers Newsletter

May 2014

6501 Telegraph Ave.- Oakland CA 94609

Tel: (510)595-9696

May Membership Meeting

Wednesday, May 28, 1:30pm
A program honoring labor history and workers
including narrative and music, possibly featuring the Labor Chorus

North Berkeley Senior Center
1901 Hearst Avenue, Berkeley

June Membership Meeting

The meeting on June 25 will feature
Richmond's Mayor Gayle McLaughlin,
speaking on things like the refinery fire, tar sands oil, soda tax
and using eminent domain to relieve underwater mortgages

===Gray Panther Committee Meetings====

Board Meeting:
May 14, 2014 2:00pm
At Margot Smith home (on Shattuck opposite Live Oak Park)

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Contribute to Gray Panthers

Become a member of Gray Panthers! $35/year
($15 low income) Traffic Tickets can also be worked off by volunteer work for Gray Panthers

We Rocked The Cradle!

The Gray Panther fundraiser on April 6 was very successful. We showed the movie "The Cradle Will Rock." We thank our volunteers: Margot Smith (movie, food), Steve Geller, Edie Hallberg, Bob Magarian, Leeza Vinogradov (silent auctioneer), Claire Risley, June Levine, Jean Dritz, Julia Cato, Carolyn Scarr, Elaine Bloom, Harvey Smith, Bonnie Hughes (the event space) and Tibetan Souvenirs Shop on Center Street which contributed auction items.
We especially thank Eugene Ruyle who provided the projector and showed the movie.

Living Graveyard

Third Mondays, Noon - 1:00pm.
date subject to change –– check
Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street (two blocks from 12th Street BART)
Covered with sheets to represent the dead, people lie down on the city sidewalk in front of the Federal Building. The names of some of the Californians who have died in Iraq and the names of some of the Iraqi dead are read during the event. A gong is sounded after each name.
Please bring a white sheet. A pad to lie on is recommended.
Info: Ecumenical Peace Institute, (510)990-0374.

Monthly Peace Rally

Gray Panthers and Strawberry Creek Lodge sponsor a Peace rally, every 3rd Friday, 2-3pm at Acton and University in Berkeley. Come on May 16 to sing, wave signs and listen to car honks. For info, Call 841-4143

Tax the Rich Rally

Every Monday 5-6pm at top of Solano Av in Berkeley to protest the inequality of taxes in our country. We hold signs saying “Tax the Rich” and “Tax the Big Corporations.” Cars passing by honk in support. Pedestrians take leaflets.

The signs and leaflets present information about the impact of tax inequities in our society, and how we must work together to bring about essential changes so that the rich and big corporations pay their fair share.

Berkeley Minimum Wage

The City Council on May 6 approved a minimum wage ordinance that extends to almost all workers in Berkeley. There is no minimum wage increase this year.

On January 1, 2015 the minimum wage will be $10 an hour, which will be only a dollar more than the State minimum wage law. On January 1, 2016, the minimum wage will rise to $10.75. So it will be two years before it reaches the current minimum wage in San Francisco.

Traffic Situation at Sacramento and Bancroft

Sadly, a 98-year-old Berkeley resident was struck and killed by a vehicle while crossing the intersection of Bancroft and Sacramento on April 4, 2014. The Berkeley Transportation Commission is to study and implement appropriate traffic calming measures on Sacramento Street between University and Dwight.

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Report on April Membership Meeting

The speakers for the April 23, 2014 membership meeting of Berkeley Gray Panthers were Sonia Diermayer and Larry Kolb from the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter. Their subject was the present drought and the history of California water management.

California Water Crisis

The year 2013-14 is the most recent of three consecutive dry years. We’ve had some rain, but it has not been enough. The Sierra snow pack is 33% of what it should be.

There are major impacts: 15,000 jobs may be lost, the ecosystem of the Delta could totally collapse. Agricultural production may be cut way back. .

Drought may be the “new normal.” Where and how we use water may be exacerbating the impacts of the current drought.

Climate change is happening. Humans have been modifying California’s water regime for a long time. Whole lakes have disappeared – Tulare Lake, Owens Lake.

The California State Water Project (SWP) transports water from the Feather River watershed to agriculture, and some of the water goes to industrial and urban users. More than two-thirds of Californians receive some water from the SWP. In an average year the SWP delivers 2,300,000 acre feet.

What's an acre foot? An acre is about the size of a football field; if that area is covered in water to a depth of one foot, that’s one acre foot of water. Historically, the Sierra snowpack is thought to store up to 66 million acre feet of water.

The Central Valley Project (CVP) diverts five major rivers: the Trinity, the Sacramento, the American, the Stanislaus, and the San Joaquin.

Governor Brown and California’s largest corporate agribusinesses have proposed building the Twin Tunnels -- two underground 35-mile and 40-foot wide tunnels to divert the Sacramento River and maximize water exports from the San Francisco Bay Delta to the southwest San Joaquin Valley. The project is similar to the previously proposed Peripheral Canal, which was rejected by voters in a statewide referendum in 1982. The Sierra Club opposes the Twin Tunnels.

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(report on April meeting -- 2nd continuation page)

The audience was cautioned not to blame only Southern California for taking water. The East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) is diverting the most water from the Mokelumne River.

About 80% of California’s water goes to agriculture; it’s only 2% of the California economy, but those jobs support some of California’s most vulnerable families.

The rest of the water goes to cities; some is left to keep water in the rivers for the Salmon runs.

California’s water comes from dams and canals and from pumping ground water.

Ground water is rain water that seeps into the ground, forming a water table. Ground water in California amounts to over 850 million acre feet. During an average year, 40% of the water supply comes from groundwater. In times of intense drought, groundwater consumption can rise to 60% or more.

For the last 50 years, California has been drawing out ground water faster than it is being replenished. Also, the ground water we have is being polluted, by runoff from agricultural fertilizer use and pesticide residues -- and by fracking.

Hydrological fracking is using fluids under high pressure to crack open rock to release more oil and gas. The polluted waste water gets into the ground water. SB1132 would impose a moratorium on fracking.


Water allocation is a political tug-of-war among cities, fish and farmers. The Sierra Club wants a share allocated to the environment.

Somebody asked about another El Niño, which might produce a rainy winter in 2014-2015. Larry Kolb said that while an El Niño is possible, we shouldn’t depend on it. There are too many cancelling unknowns.

What Must be Done

History, politics, economics and entrenched habits are causes for California’s water woes. There are few clear villains, no easy solutions and lots of potential unintended consequences.

Underlying “third rail” issues must be addressed:

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(report on April meeting -- 3rd continuation page)

What You Can Do Personally

Sierra Club website:

For a more detailed version of this report, go to