Just week’s after the city’s Peace and Justice Commission drew controversy with its Mideast resolution widely perceived as anti-Israeli, five new appointments have jolted the politically-wrenched group.
The appointments, made back-to-back on Wednesday, come from Mayor Shirley Dean, two of her centrist colleagues on the council Miriam Hawley and Betty Olds and two of the more conservative school board members Shirley Issel and Joaquin Rivera, most of whom expressed discontent with the commission’s resolution last month.
“I’m eager to see if we can change the tone of this commission,” said Hawley. “We don’t need more recommendations that seem to divide our community.”
Before Wednesday’s appointments, seven people sat on the commission, six of whom voted in support of last month’s resolution. With five new members, the count is now 12, with three seats still vacant.
The 15 total seats are handpicked by city’s councilmembers and school board members.
One of the commission’s newest members, appointed by the mayor, is UC Berkeley student Mickey Weinberg. Though known for his activism in the Jewish community, Weinberg said yesterday he intended to bring a “reasonable approach” to all social issues.
“I’m more concerned about justice than with politics,” he said.
But veteran members of the commission say the new members are an attempt by councilmembers on the moderate side to stack the commission against them.
“They’re showing a contempt for democracy,” said Elliot Cohen, vice-chairperson of the commission. “They’ve clearly pushed five appointments in one day because they didn’t like what we did.”
Progressive Councilmember Kriss Worthington, an outspoken critic of his moderate colleagues on the council, called the appointments a “political” hoist. He claimed the mayor was using her leverage over the commission to jockey for the November mayoral race.
“Basically, Shirley is trying to use this to say I’m pro-Jewish and the progressives hate Jews,” Worthington said.
The mayor could not be reached for comment before press time.
Four of the five newly-appointed seats on the commission had sat vacant for more than a year. Wednesday’s sudden and concurrent appointments came as a surprise to many.
“You have some people who don’t care about the city until there is a political context,” charged commissioner Cohen, accusing the mayor and her allies of having been disconnected until now.
Hawley said with her appointment to the commission, she hopes the group will start paying more attention to local issues rather than to international ones.
“It’s a concern of mine that we need to ground ourselves in what’s going on locally,” she stated.
In addition to Weinberg, the new commissioners include David Weinberg, Tom Seaton, Donald Brody, and Sandy Curtis.
The newly-formed group will meet for the first time next at its regularly scheduled meeting this Monday evening.