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Don’t believe the hype of progressive politicians

-Stephen Dunifer
Monday May 06, 2002

To the Editor: 


A recent announcement from City Councilmember Donna Spring called for citizen participation in a convention to select a progressive candidate to run against current Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean. This announcement proudly asserted that the last time such an event occurred it resulted in the election of two-term Mayor Loni Hancock. Given that Donna Spring, who deserves to be known as the Green Party's brown thumb, was the source of this call, this should make the whole process suspect from the beginning. 

Loni Hancock was an unmitigated disaster for Berkeley. Her hand-picked choice of City Manger Michael Brown militarized the Berkeley Police. He embarked on a campaign against dissent in Berkeley and created the police unit known as The Crowd Management Team. During that time, supposed progressive city councilmembers voted for the use of crowd control munitions - by police. These had been used on crowds protesting construction of volley ball courts at People’s Park. At the City Council meeting where the deciding votes were cast, Brown stood on the stage of the Berkeley Community Theatre and pointed out community activists to be dragged out and arrested. Some notable activists such as Carol Denney were hog-tied like farm animals. The progressive City Council and Mayor Hancock did nothing to intervene in this gross violation of civil rights and liberties. 

Loni Hancock pushed through legislation that allowed the most notorious developer in Berkeley, the university, to OK its own EIR findings, giving up the city's right to review them. This proved a clear violation of the voters’ will, as expressed with passage of Measure N in the mid 80's. This ballot measure commanded city officials to take every possible measure to ensure U.C. Berkeley’s compliance with existing zoning laws and the General Plan. So far, not one city official has made any effort to enforce the will of the voters expressed in Measure N. Mayor Hancock was totally complicit in the University's construction of volley ball courts at People's Park and lied about her involvement repeatedly. 

Spring’s record is total anathema to what the Green platform is supposed to stand for. Unfortunately the local Green Party is nothing more than a reelection vehicle for Spring and will not do anything to hold her accountable to the Green Party platform. Spring was on the committee that drafted the "poor law" proposals used to further legitimize and codify Berkeley's war against the homeless. Further, Spring, at the behest of local merchants who complained about homeless folks camping out on a bench on Shattuck Avenue, personally ordered city workers to remove the offending piece of outdoor furniture. She voted for the privatization of the city parking garages, depriving union workers of jobs. To avoid offending downtown merchants she voted against HUD money to be used to create low income housing in downtown Berkeley. In many critical votes on progressive issues where it came down to her as the swing vote she waffled by abstaining thus allowing the item to be defeated by council moderates. 

When it comes down to walking the talk, Berkeley progressives remain hobbled at the starting line by their own self-serving tendency to compromise at the first hint of opposition and timorous fear of being portrayed as being too radical rather than standing on principle. Not one supposed progressive on the City Council has denounced the illegal labor practices employed by certain city of Berkeley departments. Part-time employees of the city do not receive benefits and are limited to less than 30 hours per week, the break point between part time and full time. If a part-time employee works more than 30 hours, they are ordered to carry the extra time over to next week’s time card so they will not move up to full-time status and thus eligible for benefits. Nor have any progressive city councilmembers called for the firing of City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque who, among her many notable endeavors, has done her best to legally justify city actions against the homeless and the undermining of the Brown Act by city departments and commissions. 


-Stephen Dunifer