Berkeley City Council Endorses Strike Debt Bay Area’s Medical Debt Relief Campaign – Now Poised to Eliminate $1,000,000+ in Medical Debt for East Bay Residents.

June 12th, 2019

For Immediate Release

Contact: Debbie Notkin, T: (510) 418-0627 E:
Contact: JP Massar, T: (510) 883-0580 E:

Strike Debt Bay Area:

Berkeley City Council Endorses Strike Debt Bay Area’s Medical Debt Relief Campaign – Now Poised to Eliminate $1,000,000+ in Medical Debt for East Bay Residents.

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019, the Berkeley City Council endorsed Strike Debt Bay Area’s (SDBA) campaign to left the burden of medical debt from the backs of East Bay residents. As the Council’s resolution[i] attests:

  • medical debt is a large and rapidly growing problem that can suddenly confront anyone, even those with insurance coverage;
  • many individuals in the United States end up in medical debt to the tune of tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands, of dollars, with no possibility of being able to pay it off;
  • being in such debt causes serious stress, with deleterious mental and psychological effects; and

By buying up medical debt at a penny or less on the dollar, SDBA and its national partner RIP Medical Debt are in the process of turning millions of dollars of impossibly burdensome East Bay medical debt into… nothing.

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Final Victory in Court! No Appeal of ‘USPS v City of Berkeley.’

save-post-office-bannerIt may not have ended with a thrilling three-pointer by Stephen Curry with 0:00:01 left… In fact the day it ended no one actually noticed.

But on July 13th, 2018, at 11:59:59 PM, 60 days after Judge Alsup’s decision in USPS v City of Berkeley that Berkeley’s Zoning Overlay Ordinance as it applied to the Downtown Berkeley Post Office was constitutional, the clock ran out on the government’s ability to appeal.

On July 18th, 2018, Matthew Zinn, of Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger, one of the lawyers who defended the City of Berkeley, spoke to the author and informed him that indeed, no appeal had been filed by the government and thus

unless there has been some kind of major SNAFU which I am not aware of, that is definitive.”

That is, the lawsuit is over. Judge Alsup’s decision is final. Berkeley wins.

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Celebrate the Life of John Murcko – August 26th.

Celebration of Life for John Murcko.

A wonderful dedicated activist for human rights ans social justice.  John was active in Berkeley Post Office Defenders and the five year so-far successful fight to save the downtown Post Office.

No, You Can’t Sell Our Post Office and Put Up a Parking Lot! We Win!

It’s true! A Federal Court just ruled it so!

On May 14th, 2018, Federal District Judge William Alsup issued a decision saying that Berkeley’s Zoning Ordinance, restricting the area around its Civic Center from being used for commercial purposes, is constitutional as it applies to whomever might want to buy the downtown Post Office (Berkeley’s downtown Post Office, at Milvia & Allston, is part of that Civic Center area).

The Postal Service contended that such a restriction, even though it imposed no constraint on the use of the building by the Post Office (since it is a Federal Agency it is not affected by local zoning regulations) was still an unconstitutional usurpation of Federal rights in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution. They also contended that the Zoning Ordinance violated the Congressional legislation that created the current Postal Service, which gives USPS the right to manage and dispose of its property – this because it put de facto restrictions on who might be interested in buying the property, reducing the value of the property (as it turns out, by about 40%) since it could not be used for commercial or residential purposes once sold to a private interest. However, as Judge Alsup concludes:

the USPS has not carried its burden to prove that either intergovernmental immunity or conflict preemption renders the Overlay unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause. It has therefore established no entitlement to relief on its claims. Accordingly, judgment will be entered in favor of the City.



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And It’s All Over Except for… The Decision!

On April 2nd, 2018, in Federal District Court in San Francisco, Judge William Alsup heard one hour of arguments from Department of Justice and Postal Service lawyers as to why Berkeley’s Zoning Overlay Ordinance – rezoning the downtown historic plaza area around Civic Center Park for non-commercial use – was unconstitutional as it applied to the sale of the Post Office.  An hour of rebuttal was then taken from lawyers from Berkeley’s commercial law firm hired for this case, and from City Attorney staff.  Judge Alsup interrupted with questions a few times, but for the most part let the lawyers talk.

Now we wait for a decision, which could come in late April or any time thereafter; there is no time limit for a judge to render a decision.

Five years of struggle by a number of organizations and large numbers of Berkeley’s residents to ‘Save the Berkeley Post Office’ comes down to this.

We’re Going to Trial!

A hearing was held on January 11th, 2018, before Judge Alsup to argue whether either of the parties should win “by default” based on the record so far.  His decided not to award either party a victory – the case will go to trial.judge-alsup




Both sides’ motions for summary judgment are DENIED due to genuine disputes of material fact. If both sides will so stipulate, the Court will try this case on the summary judgment record based on its own factual evaluation thereof. If both sides will so stipulate, we will have closing arguments with each side receiving an hour (total of two hours). Otherwise, we will proceed to a bench trial with a fresh record. Counsel shall please promptly advise the Court how they wish to proceed.


Dated: January 23, 2018.


Deposition Hearing Transcript

trained-seal-alsup-quotesRead the complete transcript of the hearing before Judge Alsup on 10-11-17 concerning the matter of who the Postal Service lawyers get to depose (i.e., question before trial) with respect to City of Berkeley officials and staff, and what questions they would be allowed to ask them.


It’s quite technical but here are a few, choice, non-technical snippets:

Judge Alsup in reply to the Postal Service’s lawyer:

“This is too complicated. I’m sorry, I didn’t follow anything you said for the last two minutes…”

Judge Alsup talking about expert witnesses:

They always bring somebody who’s a trained seal…

Judge Alsup talking about what might happen if former Mayor Tom Bates were to be deposed (questioned):

Or he could be a trained seal and say, I don’t know. I have forgotten everything I ever knew in my retirement.

Judge Alsup on trial procedure:

…you’re not stuck with just your own hired gun and your own trained seal…





Timeline of the Richmond Post Office Fight.

Courtesy of Alicia Gallo, a Richmond Community member.

Timeline of Events

  • January – Feb: Notice of disposal action posted
    • Jan 25 – When contacted by office of Mayor Tom Butt, USPS responded that the notice had been posted in error, intend to sell was not accurate and that action related to the relocation proposal needed to be conducted first; Many community members and elected officials sent letters.
    • On January 26- councilmember Martinez drafts an agenda item contesting the notice to sell the Nevin Street post office after being alerted to the notice by a constituent.
    • February 8- resolution passed and letter sent to post office officials.

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The Fight to Save the Richmond, CA Downtown Post Office.


Have been (at least temporarily) thwarted in Berkeley, Postal Service officials have turned their sights on Richmond, attempting to move service from their existing, centrally located downtown Post Office to a badly situated site outside of the immediate downtown.

Join us in fighting this decision and saving the Richmond Main Post Office:

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