Mayor Bates’ proposals for (once again) more taxes to soothe the budgetary woes of the city have gone down in flames, and his response is, “I don’t think people fully understood what they were doing when they opposed taxes (Daily Planet, Nov. 5-8 p.18.).” Of course not. We’re all uneducated boobs in the city electorate who don’t know what’s best for us and who are unable to appreciate the magnitude of the goodness and mercy that our local government bestows upon us. I feel bad that I am such an ungrateful slob. I stay up at night worrying about such character defects. I even have asked for divine guidance to help me to understand what I am doing when I vote on local issues, but apparently it did not help my comprehension. I am so sorry I failed Mayor Bates and all his minions.
Perhaps my failure in not fully understanding what I was doing when I voted against taxes had to with my reception at the Planning Department a little over one year ago when I tried to register a change of address for my law office. It was simple (or so I naively thought.) I was moving from one suite of professional offices into another suite, about 11 blocks away. I would register the change of address (which again, having recently fallen off a turnip truck and not fully understanding the wonderful service provided by this city ) I thought would take maybe 10-15 minutes and then I’d go off and have lunch with a friend. But no. First I filled out one form and handed it in. Then I waited for about 45 minutes until I was called to the desk again and handed another form to fill out. After that was filled out and another half-hour had passed I was given a third form to fill out, asking how much alcohol I planned to serve at my office, food preparation plans, what plans I had made for the influx of out-of-town visitors who would clog the local parking (would that it were true) what construction I was undertaking (none) and on and on and on. All the time the person “helping” me would move away to other things and disappear, necessitating me getting in back of the line again and again. When I asked why it was necessary to fill out so many forms of dubious pertinence at such length simply to move from one office suite to another and why I couldn’t be given all the forms at once so as to save some of the three hours this ordeal took, I was snidely told, “Well, you’re a lawyer, you figure it out.” Then, when it was over I got to stand in still another line to pay the City of Berkeley another $100 to compensate it for taking all this trouble on my account. I wrote and complained about the rude and demeaning way I was treated and never got an apology.
And the thing is, even with all my skill and experience gained in 29 years of practicing law, I never did figure out why all this was necessary. I never figured out why the city was paying some rude flunky—as well as guaranteeing the pension of that flunky for life plus making sure the flunky had adequate medical coverage (while I have to pay for my own and am lucky to get it) -- to insult and be nasty to people who want to set up a business inside the City of Berkeley. I came within a few minutes of saying the hell with it, I’d move to El Cerrito or Oakland. I guess the mayor is correct: I don’t understand much. I had thought maybe it was a good idea to encourage business to locate here. I had thought that it would be great if the city maintained cordial relations with the people who worked here and lived here and from whom it wanted to extract ever more tax dollars. In the words of Steve Martin: “Naahhhh.”
And here I was in the voting booth, a year later, my ability to understand such things being severely compromised, deciding whether my already bloated property and utility taxes should be further burdened so that I could make sure that Berkeley continued to provide services at such a high level as I’d experienced, and somehow I ended up voting no.
Oh, please forgive me Mayor Bates.
Paul Glusman is one of the Berkeley Daily Planet’s attorneys.