Bathe less for our new friends: Last week, East Bay MUD board members acted like Chicken Littles when they quickly passed the buck on a decision to deliver water to a proposed housing development in Contra Costa County. A portion of the 1,400-unit project near Danville falls outside EBMUD's delivery zone -- and developers hoped board members would vote to expand the zone to include the project. Yet board members, some of whom have made a public habit of worrying that a three-year drought could leave its 1.3 million customers on both sides of the hills high and dry, kept notably mum on the issue and decided not to decide. "They're trying to avoid the political heat," mused Elinor Buchen, an outreach coordinator for the Greenbelt Alliance, who opposes the proposed subdivision. "Our water rates are going up so East Bay MUD can acquire more water in times of drought, and the idea of expanding the service area -- on the fringe of Danville? It's outrageous." Millie Greenberg, a Danville councilwoman, described the board's inaction as "Surprising and mystifying."
Yet Tom Koch, director of community development for Shapell Industries, one of two developers on the project, says the board was correct to withhold judgment. Koch said his designers are busy drafting the most water-conscious development in the history of the state. Each unit will come equipped with front-loading washing machines, efficient toilets, and computerized irrigation systems that will set outdoor sprinklers to match daily weather conditions, so as not to "overwater." "That alone," Koch says, "will conserve between ten and 25 percent of outdoor water use."
Even so, the city councils of San Ramon and Danville drafted memos opposing expansion of EBMUD's delivery zone. And when board members fell silent last week, they pushed the issue over to Contra Costa County's Local Agency Formation Commission. The proposal still needs to meander through the Contra Costa County planning commission and Board of Supervisors, but LAFCo holds the final word. And the word is expected to arrive in March.
Whither the psychic academy? On the evening of Dec. 5, Rev. William Duby -- founder of the Spiritual Rights Foundation, the controversial Berkeley-based psychic church -- suffered a fatal heart attack while teaching a class at Berkeley's Academy for Psychic Studies. Duby, known to his followers as Rev. Bill, was 55.
A one-time street hustler who boasted about his gambling exploits, Duby founded the church nearly twenty years ago. The church prospered and bought up numerous Berkeley properties, as well as a farm on Bethel Island. It also launched publishing and real estate companies. What is to become of these assets in the wake of Duby's death? Founding board member Harpreet Sandhu recalls that Rev. Bill often told his followers to close the place down if anything ever happened to him. "There's really nobody to take over for him," Sandhu said. But that's not exactly true. Bill left behind the titular heads of his church, reverends Angela and Robin, sometimes described in the press as his "cowives." The two women did not return telephone calls to discuss the foundation's fate.
Nor is it yet clear what impact Duby's death will have upon the handful of church-related custody battles now underway in Bay Area courts (see "Consider the Children," Oct. 10, 2001). Over the past two years, several men left the church, which they call a cult, and accused Duby of turning their children against them. According to ex church members, Duby condemned men as scurrilous sex-mongers and he sometimes exiled husbands to church-owned mobile homes away from their wives. One of those disaffected dads, Steve Sanchez, predicts the cult won't last much longer without its leader. "We're theorizing that they're going to fall apart," said Sanchez. "They have no charismatic figure anymore to keep the money rolling in." (By the by, just before Duby's death, Sanchez was contacted by reps from the CBS news mag, 48 Hours, which was interested in doing a story on the psychic church.)
Blood sisters: The monthly meeting's final moments look like an abandoned Bingo marathon. The napkins are crumpled, tattered, and half damp. Buttercrust cookies and picked-at cherry pie litter the white plastic-covered tables. The Daughters of the American Revolution, Berkeley Hills Chapter, is concluding, as it always does, by reaching beyond its nearly all-white membership and reading aloud an "Indian Minute" -- part of their new, more politically correct agenda.
"The name Sacajawea was interpreted to mean 'boat launcher.' ... Her name is sometimes spelled S-a-c-a-g-a-w-e-a," reads one typical Indian minute.
Here in Berkeley, the 45-member DAR chapter is on the exclusive end of the city's members-only alliances. Groups like the Maoists, Marxists, and Moonies may require strict allegiance and yearly dues, but their only blood requirement is that it be warm. DAR, on the other hand, has an official policy of admitting only women who can document their lineage to someone who fought in or otherwise directly contributed to the American Revolution. The proof required to gain entry into DAR is difficult to find for minorities. Because the genealogical documentation required for DAR membership was rarely if ever kept for America's 3,000 minority revolutionaries, the group remains largely Caucasian.
Local DAR members see it differently. "DAR," said Daughter Stacey Ward-Roads, "has many members with dark-pigmented skin." Historians say some Native Americans helped French troops defeat the British. And there also were the occasional free black slaves -- even though they were forbidden to carry arms.
But DAR does not track the race of its 170,000 daughters. It is part of a policy of nondiscrimination and proof, members say, that all groups and peoples are welcomed with open arms, remembered and recognized. "Slavery did hurt a lot of people; however, the black race has had over one hundred years to recover," said Ward-Roads. "Some have, some haven't. Look at Colin Powell. I mean, how much higher can you get?"
For Ward-Roads -- a San Francisco legal assistant, 26-year veteran of the Daughters, and a California State Vice Chair -- DAR membership requirements are easily met. She traces her revolutionary lineage to John Violet, who watched over General George Washington's slaves while the future president fought off the British. Despite a lack of color in the faces of those at a recent Berkeley Hills meeting, the DAR agenda is rich in cultural empathy and education, much of it focused on America's aboriginal people.
"We hosted Indian dancers at the DC convention," one member declared. "We accept all races and creeds," another insists. And a shout from behind, "I just bought a dream-catcher." In April, the Berkeley Hills chapter will host guest speaker Mary Dean Alsworth who will further Native-American knowledge with her discussion, "Native Americans and their Turquoise." A "must hear," said Ward-Roads.
The Berkeley chapter also offers financial support to two Native-American schools in Oklahoma and Oregon. School books and supplies come, in part, via redeemable Campbell's Soup coupons. Daughters collect thousands and send them to the schools after DAR's annual in-house coupon drive. Moreover, the Berkeley Hills Chapter is an annual contributor to the California Native-American Scholarship Fund. Each of the 45 registered members donates about $2.22 as part of her annual membership fees, a total chapter contribution of $100 a year to California Indians. The Bay Area daughters also lend their hand to Native American "self-esteem building" -- the focus of DAR-sponsored summer camps in Oregon, Arizona, South Dakota, and Idaho.
DAR donates time, money, resources, and energy to children with learning disabilities, American immigrants, illiterate citizens, Native Americans, and other groups. But ultimately, the group is about the blood of its ancestors. "You can join another organization," Ward-Roads told 7 Days. "This [one] is designed to protect our lineage and heritage."