News & Notes

If the young Republican tourists won't help us clean our poopy pools, we can send 'em down to Mazzini Trattoria.

Something rigid this way comes: Try and predict the ghastly spectacle that’s slated for your local college campus. No, the X-plicit Players aren’t planning a Tae Bo seminar series outside Dwinelle Hall. Nor is Survivor’s “Don’t Call It a Comeback” tour launching from lower Sproul Plaza. But close.

Would you believe … hundreds of young Republican true-believers marching down Telegraph Avenue?

That’s right, California College Republicans, the umbrella group of campus Newtrinos across the state, has picked the People’s Republic as the host city for its annual convention! On April 25-27, up to five hundred of the state’s most enthusiastic student conservatives will descend on Cal for a weekend of caucusing, cheering, and cavorting in the heart of enemy territory. Highlights include outreach seminars for unenlightened liberals, keynote speakers (Fox News personality Sean Hannity and former Nixon speechwriter and game-show host Ben Stein are tentatively penciled in), and who knows? Maybe there’ll even be a tour of Berkeley squats to demonstrate the terrible consequences of liberal social policies. “If people go there and get to experience Berkeley and walk down the street and see gutter punks and hippies, it’ll be a good convention for us,” says Robb McFadden, the group’s executive director. “People from San Diego will be able to see that and note that this is Berkeley and Barbara Lee‘s district.”

Already, some local right-wingers are slavering over the prospect of goading the progressives — who are notorious for being born without a sense of humor. “The Berkeley left is going to go apeshit,” writes Rory Miller, a Berkeley student activist and blogger who posts under the handle Angry Clam. “Also, with the CalSERVE power on the rise in the ASUC Senate, watch for them to try and shut this one down, or at the very least, try to issue some sort of resolution against it. It’s going to be lots of fun.”

Other organizers seemed a bit less interested in the liberal-baiting tactics so dear to the hearts of rabid neocons and radio talk-show hosts.

Indeed, some CCR bigwigs come off more like earnest motivational speakers or pleasant Stepford Wives. The group’s chair, Erik Caldwell, seems to view the choice of locale as a “what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger” kind of thing. “By having our convention in Berkeley we can take the Republican fight to every college campus in the state of California — no matter how liberal,” he writes in a press release. The group’s Web site, incidentally, links to Caldwell’s personal site, which contains his résumé (“Assisted with casting and wardrobe on the set of Almost Famous …“) and his personal list of daily affirmations. One of the quotes, from confederate general Robert E. Lee, struck 7 Days as particularly surreal, since Caldwell happens to be black. As for party organizer Janelle Reilla, she wasn’t about to let our silly questions interfere with important GOP matters: “I don’t have that information on hand,” she said over her cell phone. “I’m actually under a hair-dryer.”

Sure, they may slash homeless services when they grow up, but they’ll look fabulous.

Something in the water: Speaking of ghastly, is there a serial pool-pooper on the loose in eastern Contra Costa County? Two weeks ago, a fecal accident forced the East Bay Regional Park District to temporarily close its brand-new swimming facility — Contra Loma Park in Antioch — for the ninth time since it opened in May. In a typical season, according to the county environmental health division, fecal accidents in public swimming pools only happen once or twice. The regularity of incidents at Contra Loma had one county pool-patroller wondering if the “accidents” were truly accidental.

But Ned MacKay, a spokesman for the parks district, says he doesn’t believe this is the handiwork of any one person. “The lifeguards at Contra Loma think it’s mostly kids and accidental,” MacKay reports.

So why so many accidents? MacKay reasons that the Contra Loma swimming area is massive: an acre-sized chlorinated swimming lagoon. He says Roberts Pool in Oakland, another district facility, only suffers three poop-related closures a season, but notes that it is much smaller. A similar-sized facility in Southern California reported seventeen fecal accidents during a recent swim season, says MacKay, who also theorized that the relative clarity of the new swim site makes it easier for lifeguards to spot Unidentified Floating Objects. (Hmmm, do small, floating logs go unnoticed at murkier spots like Lake Anza?)

MacKay assures park-users that Contra Loma managers are not taking the fecal issue crouching down. Lifeguards have posted signs reminding parents to take their toddlers to the bathroom before swimming, and to change their diapers pre-dip if necessary. As for adults, perhaps it’d be a good idea to hold off on those double lattes until afterward. And, hey kids: Don’t bother with the Baby Ruth gag. It’s been done.

Something for the little lady: Even the spouses of millionaire politicians can be working moms. For Deborah Stark, wife of seventy-year-old Fremont Congressman Pete Stark and mother to their toddler twins, that means looking after her hubby’s campaign committee.

According to federal campaign financial statements, Ms. Stark was paid $28,900 by the Pete Stark Re-Election Committee between July 1, 2001 and June 30, 2002 for “prof. management.” Not bad, considering that the thirty-year incumbent can pretty much set his campaign on cruise control and await the inevitable in November. Two years ago, Stark narrowly scraped by with seventy percent of the vote.

So what, exactly, is the missus — a former Clinton administration official in the Department of Health and Human Services — doing for that dough? Well, for starters, she’s the treasurer who makes sure all the donor checks get deposited so the committee can pay her $2,400-a-month wage. Earlier this year Rep. Pete told the Associated Press: “She is campaign manager, office manager, bookkeeper, you name it. My position is she’s a bargain.” However, when Pete’s grown son Jeff, now an Alameda County prosecutor, used to handle the campaign filings, he wasn’t paid a penny for his services. Explains dad, “That’s because he didn’t do anything.”

Oh, those slacker kids.

Something missing from the menu: Looking for some good Berkeley eats? Well, last week sent subscribers its top dining picks for the university town.

Among those places recommended by this Internet infoguide, a venture of Cox Enterprises in partnership with local Fox affiliate KTVU and Channel 36, was Mazzini Trattoria on Telegraph Avenue. “Talented chef William Gioia is turning out some exceptional, country-style Italian food,” the review gushed. “The pizza and the pastas are very good, but the main entrées will tempt and delight.”

Sounds yummy. Too bad Mazzini Trattoria has been closed for several months now.

One recipient of the list e-mailed the supposed “insiders” to remind them of Mazzini’s demise. The Webmaster removed Mazzini from its top picks list soon thereafter. BayInsider’s review, however, remains posted on the site. The description heading even acknowledges that “Mazzini has closed for business,” which is pretty funny considering the opening line of the review: “This Berkeley newcomer will likely be around for a while.”

A producer e-mailed one befuddled reader with an explanation. “I prefer to leave the original review as is when a restaurant closes, with a clear note at the top explaining they’ve closed. This way, our readers will still find info about the restaurant. Otherwise, readers who didn’t know of the restaurant’s closure would think we’ve simply forgotten it.”

Welcome to BayInsider’s culinary mausoleum, where fine restaurants live on in memory.


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