Commentary: Your Tax Dollars At Work By JUDY SHELTON

Friday November 25, 2005

Let me count the ways your tax dollars are being utilized by the folks at Berkeley Honda. We’ll just take one day: Friday, Nov. 4. 


1. Misuse of city services 

At 8:06 a.m., a police officer comes slowly down Parker Street, appraising the canopy the strikers have erected against the drizzle. The canopy did not impede pedestrians, who were able to walk under it without difficulty. But Berkeley Honda called the police anyway—as they so often do.  

“Listen,” I begin, but the officer waves me off. “Oh, that’s not a problem,” he says, nodding at the canopy, and a few minutes later he’s gone.  


2. Misuse of court system—not to  

mention misuse of the sheriff’s office—to perpetrate a frivolous action 

Around 11 a.m., Gary and the union reps come back from court. Gary is one of the strikers, and he was in court to fight a temporary restraining order issued by the county sheriff at the request of Berkeley Honda’s service manager, Barry Strock. Why? That’s what the judge wanted to know. And the judge was not impressed with Barry’s answer, that Gary posed a threat to his family. How was that, the judge asked, considering that Gary didn’t know where Barry lived? And how come Barry hadn’t told the court that Gary was a party in a strike action, which completely changes the criteria for a restraining order?  

Well, we’ll never know. But here’s what we do know: Barry had to pay for the union’s lawyer, as well as his own lawyer. And guess who Barry’s lawyer was? A woman from Berkeley Honda’s very own union-busting law firm, Littler Mendelson. Her presence confirms that in initiating the restraining order, Barry Strock was acting as an agent of Berkeley Honda rather than as an individual. But never mind that, that isn’t an abuse of city or county services; that’s only a violation of labor law. Just forget I mentioned it. 


More misuse of city services 

Alrighty, it’s around 1 p.m., and here comes another of Berkeley’s finest. He parks, walks up to the picket captain, glances at the canopy, and says, “Look, the truth is, your canopy is not breaking any laws that we know of. But we’ve received so many calls from Berkeley Honda about this, could you please take it down?” 

All that happened on just one day. Here’s a look at what’s coming: 


Future misuse of city agencies, services, and possibly the office of the  

city attorney 

Now, thanks to Berkeley Honda’s repeated calls to the police about our canopy, we’ll have to research laws about the use of temporary structures on city property, and in so doing we’ll need the help of various City of Berkeley departments. More money down the drain. And Honda will surely call the police many, many more times before this strike is done, for the same silly reasons they’ve called them in the past: We’ve harassed (i.e., talked to) one of their customers, or we’re blocking the street when we walk up to a car. 

Yep, those are your tax dollars at work. 


Judy Shelton is a Berkeley resident. h