Berkeley / East Bay
Gray Panthers Newsletter
May 2015

6501 Telegraph Ave.- Oakland CA 94609

Tel: (510)595-9696

The May membership meeting will be on
Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 1:30pm
at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, Berkeley.

There will be a Mayfest program celebrating labor history in struggle through song and word, celebrating our victories in 2015 and forward.
Featuring David Welsh, singer, songwriter; Wobbly Woman. Halli Hammer, Nancy Schimmel, Mrs. T-Bill Banks.
All Panthers and community members welcome. Wheelchair accessible.

Board Meeting
May 13, 2015 At Niebyl-Proctor Library
Special time: 1:00pm

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Become a member of Gray Panthers!

Dues: $35/year ($15 low income)
Send a check with your name and mailing address to Gray Panthers of the East Bay, 6501 Telegraph Ave.- Oakland CA 94609.
NOTE -- Traffic Tickets can also be worked off by volunteer work for Gray Panthers

New Members and Renewals

East Bay Gray Panthers would like to welcome new members and renewals of present members.

Living Graveyard

Third Mondays, Noon - 1:00 pm.
date subject to change –– check
Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street (two blocks from 12th Street BART)
People lie down on the city sidewalk in front of the Federal Building, covered with sheets to represent the dead. 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

Every 3rd Friday, Gray Panthers and Strawberry Creek Lodge sponsor a Peace rally, at Acton and University in Berkeley. Next rally will be on Friday May 15, 2-3 pm. Come sing, wave signs, listen to approving honks. For more info, Call Fran Rachel at 841-4143

Tax the Rich Rally

TAX THE RICH RALLY meets every Monday 5-6 pm at the top of Solano Ave in Berkeley (rain cancels) 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.

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Report on April Membership meeting

The speaker for the April 22, 2015 East Bay Gray Panther membership meeting was Mary Nicely, District Director for Tony Thurmond, Assembly Member for California District 15. Nancy is a 34-year Berkeley resident who has run her own software business – Nicely Done Solutions. She has been active in Asian American and Pacific Islander issues for the Northern California Burmese community and is co-chair of the City of San Francisco’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Celebration. She also serves on Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission.

Her current areas of focus are the environment, homelessness and senior issues. Mary began her talk with a summary of the things Tony Thurmond has been working on.

Tony supports a ban on fracking and is looking at the issue of injecting waste water into drinking water aquifers.

When Tony got into office, constituents indicated concern about water, both the drought and the possibility of sea level rise due to climate change. Recent warnings indicate that waterfront areas and approaches to the Bay Bridge in Richmond and Berkeley are quite likely to be flooded if a “super storm” hits the area.

Tony Thurmond’s office is working with the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (SFBCDC) to study planning issues. “Adapting to Rising Tides” (ART) is a collaborative planning effort to help San Francisco Bay Area communities adapt to sea level rise and storm event flooding. Led by the SFBCDC, the ART Program is working towards increasing the Bay Area’s preparedness and resilience to sea level rise and storm events while protecting critical ecosystem and community services. Issues dealing with the drought include water conservation, use of recycled “gray water” and possible discounts for seniors if water utility rates are increased -- the “PG&E Cares” program. Using biodegradable soap helps. Newer dishwashers and clothes washers use less water, but their waste water is dirtier.

One clever idea, used by a restaurant in the Big Sur area, is to use compressed air instead of water as part of their dishwashing cycle. Glasses of water for restaurant customers are really not a big deal.

Mary told a story about an infrastructure repair project in Rockridge which blocked a creek. A contractor had left open one of the output spigots of a cement truck. Tons of cement went into the creek, which, due to the drought didn’t have any water in it, so none of the dumped material went downstream. The workers were able to jackhammer out the errant cement.

New buildings which are beginning to block views of the sky in Berkeley and other district cities, will have an impact on water use. Tall downtown buildings will require expensive firefighting equipment.

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Tony is trying to stop Governor Brown’s pet project to bore two tunnels to divert delta river water. Many vested interests are behind this sixty billion dollar project, including the big growers. But it’s not a done deal. Mary has talked with EBMUD; they think that the tunnel money could be better spent on repairing crumbling existing water structures. We need to set priorities for water use among agriculture, fish, drinking water, lawns and industry. Right now, the State is going especially easy on water cuts to agricultural interests. Mary thinks we can deal with the drought; she grew up in the Monterey area, which is always dealing with drought. Somebody in the audience claimed to have read all 400 pages of the Bay Area Conservation report. He said it’s heavily pro-development. The tunnels are for development. Mary suggested that Governor Brown wants big projects like the delta tunnel and high-speed rail to be legacies for his administration.

Mary said that everything Tony Thurmond is asking for is related to humans. He is not on the Environment Committee but he is the Chair of the Budget Committee on Health and Human Services. In the audience, Margo Smith recalled visiting a nursing home, where she saw toilets left running. Mary agreed that institutionals are big water users. Increasing the price of water won’t bother the rich people. Recently, a court ruled that people could not be charged higher water rates just because there’s a drought. People can only be charged for the water they use. Mary remarked that the people who can least afford it will get hurt by fines, while the rich people will just pay the fines and keep on using water.

Mary said that AT&T Park is encouraging patrons not to be so dirty, so the park maintenance won’t have to use so much water. Mary encouraged us Panthers to not be quiet about these things. (Somebody in the audience remarked “we never are”) She told us to let her know and she will see that institutions get inspected. She promised to keep conveners Edie Hallberg and Leeza Vinogradov informed about developments in Sacramento that Gray Panthers might want to support.

Affordable Housing and Homelessness

The topic then shifted to affordable housing. Mary said that this is a main platform for Toni Atkins, Speaker of the Assembly (who used to be a social worker). Development projects should always include affordable units; this is not happening – instead, developers pay an “in lieu of” fee. Some cities elsewhere are building whole affordable housing complexes. Somebody said that rich Republicans are moving into the expensive condos now being built in Berkeley. Mary remarked that it’s not just Republicans doing that.

Homelessness is a related issue; we need more funding for mental health services, but not all homeless people are mentally ill. Mary said the second call she got in their first day in office was from a senior who was afraid of becoming homeless.

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Rising Waters

So what can be done about creeping sea rise? Mary said we should use more recycled water. Right now, we send our treated waste water along with storm runoff back out into the ocean. A pilot project in San Leandro pumps water from a waste treatment plant into local marshlands. The group Save the Bay is doing plantings in the marshes as part of that project.

There are coastal designs for protecting cities against storm surges. One notion is the horizontal levee which is a hybrid of earthen barriers and tidal marshes.

Chevron and other companies buy recycled water from EBMUD for use in industrial processes. Some places are using clean recycled water on lawns and golf courses.

We can use some of that salty sea water. San Diego is building a huge sea water desalinization plant. This is probably the most expensive solution to drought, but it is true that the supply of sea water is unlimited.

We need better technology for rain water harvesting. We should promote permeable road surfaces, so water gets into the ground instead of running off. There’s a test strip permeable surface right now in front of Berkeley High School. Southern California and Australia are doing well this way.

Be Our Experts

What can Gray Panthers do to help Tony Thurmond?

Mary said knowledgeable people can help their office filter information. Any of us who are experts, have knowledgeable contacts or who are themselves willing to just do some research, can provide factual information to help Tony cast his votes. They need people they can call on when a contentious issue comes up.

She said that Tony, in his first year as a legislator, is plenty fearless – he’ll put up a fight for anything he thinks is going to be right. But there are a lot of loud voices out there, and a lot of them may not be the best loud voices.

If any of us have our own ideas for bills to be introduced next year, we should pass those ideas on. We may have heard of things that have worked elsewhere in the country, elsewhere in the world. “Keep talking to us,” she said.

Tony Turmond’s official website is:

Mary Nicely is Tony Thurmond’s local representative. She can be contacted at
The district office: 1515 Clay St, Suite 2201, Oakland 94612 phone (510)286-1400 FAX (510)286-1402
Capitol Office: P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento 94249-0015 phone (916)319-2015 FAX(916)319-2115

Her email is:

An expanded version of this report is available at