Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish By BECKY O'MALLEY

Friday April 15, 2005

Next week’s Berkeley City Council agenda contains a proposal from City Manager Phil Kamlarz, generated at the City Council’s behest, for cost-cutting by cutting down on a large percentage of Berkeley’s commission meetings. For example, he recommends that the Commission on Disabilities should meet only quarterly, instead of monthly, and that the Public Works Commission should meet only every other month. If adopted, this proposal would cause a dramatic change in Berkeley’s long and proud tradition of citizen participation in government. -more-

Watchdogging Government By BECKY O'MALLEY

Tuesday April 12, 2005

The front page of Sunday’s Contra Costa Times featured an impressive team effort by reporters Jessica Guynn, Lisa Vorderbruggen and John Simerman, documenting, in the words of Guynn’s lead paragraph, that “a state law to help poor people in California has turned into a tax loophole almost as big as the city of Oakland.” Their story, which took up three pages and was copiously illustrated with maps, charts and photos, looked at enterprise zones, where businesses get big tax breaks for locating in supposedly poor areas. A variety of points of view were included in the report, but the clear bottom line is that the enterprise zone strategy has become just another of the many mechanisms by which the rich get richer. Cost to California taxpayers, according to a graph of data supplied by the state’s Franchise Tax Board: $179.4 million in lost revenues, with benefits to citizens which, most charitably, can be described as illusory. -more-

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