One can be both citizen and scientist
Does being a chemist mean that one is a second class citizen? In Berkeley the answer is yes!
As a U.S. citizen I always believed that my rights as a citizen were not dependent on choosing a politically correct profession or employer. Recently, I was sadly disabused of this notion. Because of my occupation as a nuclear chemist, employed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, I have been judged by the City of Berkeley to be unfit to serve on a city environmental commission.
Although in my day job I am a research scientist, I devote a large fraction of my spare time to issues in Berkeley, where I have lived for 34 years. During the last five years, I have served on the Parks & Recreation Commission and the Community Environmental Advisory Commission. I have also served as the treasurer for three city parks initiatives (Measures A, S & W) as well as for a councilperson. I am currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. I am also the Chair of the Division of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology of the American Chemical Society.
For the last year, I was vice-chair and more recently ‘acting’ chair of CEAC when the previous chair stepped down. During my tenure on this commission, I was active in several debates on air and water quality as well as radiation issues. In all of these debates, I have argued that CEAC should base its recommendations on the scientific facts and the merits of the issue before them.
Inevitably, my advocacy of a science-based decision making policy has brought me in conflict with a local citizens group, the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste, which feels that it is politically incorrect to base policy on mere scientific fact. In particular, they believe that when facts contradict their political beliefs, the facts should be disregarded. Unable to tolerant any dissent from their orthodoxy, they decided to remove me from the commission, by declaring that both my profession (nuclear chemist) and my employer (LBNL) are politically incorrect.
Under what I believe to be political pressure, the city attorney issued an opinion stating that I have a conflict of interest under Government Code section 1126, even though it was acknowledged that I have no conflict of interest under the 1974 California Political Reform Act. Since the Political Reform Act was passed by the voters, the Courts have ruled that its provisions prevail if there is conflict with any act of the Legislature, but the city attorney has chosen to disregard this point of law.
Although I do not enjoy being at the center of this controversy, I can not relinquish my right as a citizen to serve on city commissions. To be declared a second class citizen because of my profession and my employer is unfair and infringes on my basic rights as a citizen.
Letting this injustice go unchallenged will stand the principle of citizen involvement on it head, chill citizen participation by scientists, and frustrate the policies of the Political Reform Act. To all members of the Berkeley community who believe that scientists are full fledged citizens and should be able to participate in public policy discussions, I request that you write a letter to the Mayor Dean (Dean@ci.Berkeley.ca.us) protesting this discrimination.
In the words of Patrick Henry “If we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately.”
Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, ‘acting’ chair, CEAC
Wozniak, a man of integrity
I’ve known Gordon Wozniak for many years now. First through his work on neighborhood parks, later through his involvement with the Parks Measure S and W and most recently as a member of the Berkeley Rep Board of Trustees.
Over the years, I’ve found Gordon to be a man of real integrity.The same qualities that makes him a good scientist make him a good member of any public deliberating body. He brings an intellectual rigor to any discussion. He is even-handed. He is willing to change his mind. And he is a generous and open listener. These are, in my estimation, the attributes that should be required of any commissioner. We are lucky to have someone in this community with Gordon’s knowledge and thoughtfulness who is willing to put his expertise to work on behalf of this City by serving as a volunteer commissioner.
Work at LBNL conflicts with commission role
If Gordon Wozniak is truly incapable of understanding how his employment with Lawrence Berkeley Lab represents a conflict of interest with his serving on Berkeley's Community Environmental Advisory Board, this in itself represents sufficient reason to doubt that he possesses enough intelligence to adequately serve on this board anyways. Much more difficult to understand is how Polly Armstrong could regard him as an appropriate appointee to this board in the first place. Whose interests, one wonders, does she intend to serve by such appointments?