Berkeley man faces tax evasion charges

A Berkeley man was arraigned Tuesday on five counts of tax evasion and one count of stealing $80,000 in Social Security checks.

Hugh Leslie Baras, 68, is accused of filing false tax returns from 2006 through 2009. The U.S. attorney's office alleges Baras told the IRS his income was $193,385 with a tax due of $29,705 for those years when his income really was $1.1 million with a tax due of $406,447.

An Aug. 30 indictment said Baras took Social Security payments that he was not entitled to from 2006 through 2009. At the time of the indictment he was not in custody. If Baras is convicted and given the maximum prison sentence, he could get 15 years in prison and a fine of about $1.7 million.

He was arraigned on the charges in federal district court in Oakland.

A call to Baras' home was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Group plans mayoral, council debates

The Berkeley Neighborhood Council, described as "a recent offshoot of the long-established Council of Neighborhood Associations," is planning two debates for candidates for mayor and City Council.

Mayoral candidates have been invited to a debate on Sept. 30, and council candidates to a debate on Oct. 7, both at the Community Campaign Center, 1551 University Ave.,

Issues that will be raised for mayoral candidates include their positions on city ballot measures, the Downtown Area Plan, the city's financial arrangement with the University of California, Berkeley's financial health and the West Berkeley Project. Audience questions will be taken if time allows.

An open house period will be from noon to 5 p.m. and the debate will be 2 to 4 p.m.

The format for the council debate will give candidates three minutes to introduce themselves and their ambitions, followed by a question period and a closing statement.

District 2 candidates will go on at 2 p.m., District 3 at 2:50 p.m. and District 5 at 3:25 p.m. Council candidates have been given a list of questions they may be asked and the remainder will come from the floor in written form.

For more details contact Nigel Guest at neighbors@sufb.org.

Democratic club sets endorsement meeting

An endorsement meeting that will include city council candidates in Berkeley, El Cerrito and Oakland will be held by the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club at 7 p.m. Wednesday at 1714 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.

Endorsements will include state, Alameda County and Berkeley and Oakland ballot measures. agency seats including BART District 7 and AC Transit Ward 1 and at large; and Peralta College District Ward 4.

Details: www.eastbaystonewalldemocrats.com

Watershed Poetry Festival returns

The free 17th annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival will be held from noon to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at Civic Center Park at the farmers market, Martin Luther King Jr. Way at Center Street.

Talent that will take the main stage following the 10 a.m. Strawberry Creek Walk will include U.S. Poet Laureate Emeritus Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Joy Harjo, Michael McClure, Francisco X. Alarcón, Rebecca Foust, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, jazz group The Barry Finnerty Trio, California Poets in the Schools, River of Words and Poetry Inside Out K-12 student poets and the We Are Nature open mic.

"This year's festival is dedicated to the life and work of the late Berkeley author Ernest Callenbach, who wrote Ecotopia and appeared at Watershed several times," organizers say.

There will also be a River Village exhibit area with books, literary magazines, informational resources an interactive art installation and more.

Details: poetryflash.org/programs/?p=watershed_2012.

Gray water workshop part of series

The Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour is offering an inaugural series of eight fall workshops in the East Bay that will include "Everything You Wanted to Know Gray Water and Rain Water," to be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 29 in Berkeley.

"Registrants will spend the day at the home of Geoff Holton and Margaret Norman, learning about their 'laundry-to-landscape' gray water system, which supports a wetland planted with natives such as cow parsnip, rushes, and sedges, and surrounded with thimbleberry, sneezeweed and columbine," writes Natives founder Kathy Kramer. "Gray water from sinks and showers empties into two mulch basins, providing water to raspberries and other plants."

Rain runoff, meanwhile, is collected and stored for household uses.

The cost is $30 and advance registration is required. To register or get more details on all the workshops and an Oct. 7 native plant sale, visit www.bringingbackthenatives.net.

-- Chris Treadway and Doug Oakley