MAX TO THE MAX
Editors, Daily Planet:
Last Tuesday’s City Council meeting had a big surprise on its consent calendar. Without notice, funding was requested to start a 300-unit housing project plus commercial at the South Berkeley BART station. If the ite m had not been pulled we wouldn’t have seen Max Anderson and others glow over this wonderful opportunity, council would have passed it without discussion.
When Councilmember Anderson was running for his office in 2004 his story was considerably different. I quote a published statement:
“Redevelopment inflicted onto neighborhoods has caused many long-term problems and failed to achieve the immense promises made in city after city around the country. In recent years neighborhood initiated enterprise zones or economic development plans focused on neighborhood and community development have had mixed results. Some have been dramatic successes and some have duplicated the failures of forced government schemes. If the City of Berkeley seriously considers such efforts we must learn from the past and make sure we have an inclusive process that truly involves residents.”
Quite a turnaround! If I were a District 3 resident I would feel betrayed.
The next question is who funded Max Anderson’s campaign? Checkin g the city clerks record, the sources that gave the maximum to Max were Loni Hancock, Ali Kashani, SEIU union, Rob Browning and BCA. Loni Hancock’s support could be related as she recently got passed in Sacramento the “Transit Village” fast track legislat ion which is a kinder sounding “Redevelopment” act.
Max has already served the required six months on the council, for a recall petition to be started. The community could begin such a move for the June or November election by collecting 2000 plus signat ures of District 3 registered voters or 25 percent.
Check out the City Charter on Berkeley’s home page for details. It may be the only chance South Berkeley has to survive.
Co-Author, Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance
E ditors, Daily Planet:
I am by no means a blind flag-waver, but as a child my father taught me to treat the American flag with respect—to treat it with respect because it is a symbol of our nation. It is not about the flag, it is about the nation for whic h it stands. And very few things annoy me quite as much as seeing that flag misused.
Such as what I have seen for the past several days at the Landscape Station of the Berkeley Post Office on upper Solano Avenue. Since at least Sunday, Dec. 18, the flag has flown, night and day, in the rain, half caught on the pole, and torn to shreds. When I first saw this on Sunday (and who knows how long it had been that way) I assumed it would be taken care of first thing Monday morning. Boy, was I wrong. It is now Wednesday evening, and that tattered flag still flies.
I have no problem with people burning the flag as a form of free speech and/or political protest. I delight in seeing it flown on national holidays and on any other day of the year. These are the act s of thoughtful, caring, patriotic people. But I do have a problem with people treating it thoughtlessly. Not bothering to take it down at night (unless it is illuminated), leaving it up in the rain, taking it down and rolling it into a ball until the nex t use, dropping it on the ground. “In the old days” each flag came with instructions on its proper use—shouldn’t everyone who owns a flag know how to care for it?
Waving the flag (and the whole concept of patriotism) has been hijacked by the Conservative s to such an extent that most Liberals and Progressives seem afraid to admit to any patriotic feelings for fear of being branded a conservative. However, most of us are patriotic, which is why we often so fiercely rail against what we see as abuses by the other side. And this is what makes it especially bad when this sort of neglect happens in a liberal/progressive community such as Berkeley, because it just plays right into the right-wing-conservative-red-state stereotype of us as a bunch of America hate rs.
Let’s take back the flag. Let’s wave it proudly. And let’s take care of the ones we own.
P.S. For those who may wonder, yes, I did go into the post office to inquire about the flag. The response was “What’s wrong with it?” Then I was g iven an 800 number to call to report it. As I said, it may still be hanging in tatters...
A YEAR OF STRUGGLE
Editors, Daily Planet:
It has been a year of hard struggle in our community and our nation:
We continue to struggle against the “Trust Us, We’re Experts” argument(s) heard in the halls of city and national government. It is difficult to trust the so-called people in charge with decisions that have made or avoided making without consulting a preponderance of evidence.
One thinks of the Iraqi o ccupation, the secret holding cells for interrogation, the cuts to services and aid to needy families, the tax-cuts to the rich Americans, the slackening of protections for the environment, the attacks on the First and Fourth amendments, the racial profil ing, the false claims that we are not surrendering anything when we (a) give up the power to plan our own city’s downtown, (b) give up the knowledge that what we carry out of our library is only between us and the bar code reader, or (c) listen to the news that our “leader” has been spying on innocent citizens in the name of fighting terrorism abroad.
City services keep being cut. So do the diverse faces we need to see on commissions. We give up naming a post office after a local hero, but we badly need local heroes.
We have a governor who is the embodiment of the Biblical injunction about the sins of the fathers, but who has neither learned nor evolved beyond a drunken frat-boy chuckle and an excuse that he should have listened to his wife.
On the bri ghter side, we have much to be hopeful for:
We have this local newspaper, bolstering our hope that occasionally the real news does get printed.
We have local heroes. More coming up all the time. One thinks of the Berkeley High School history teacher who used his instinct and helped save several lives this fall.
We have creativity, we have initiative, and we have bigger heroes on the national and international level. Malik Rahim. Cindy Sheehan. Father Roy Bourgeois. Anyuratta Mittal. Jose Bouvais.
We c ontinue to commit ourselves, to re-commit ourselves to all that is good in us. We can do this singly and together.
It is enough.
Editors, Daily Planet:
Will transit villages, smart growth and other urban renewal and redeve lopment schemes succeed in reversing the ongoing trend of service cuts and fare increases imposed by public transit agencies? If there’s any hope of that happening in the foreseeable future why have Democratic legislators been so eager to allow illegal immigrants to have drivers licenses? So developers can continue building housing subdivisions and shopping malls that are inaccessible to citizens who don’t drive?
Many of us claim that we’re “forced to drive” but it’s puzzling that in our free country we seem intellectually challenged when it comes to identifying those who are guilty of the coercion. California state courts agree that driving a private motor vehicle on a public roadway is not a fundamental right, but a privilege. Yet as fast as we could open new freeways to traffic we posted all the entrance ramps with signs reading “Pedestrians, bicycles and non-motorized vehicles prohibited.” And those words seem to accurately describe all the new urban and suburban development we’ve been getting since.
Four times as many Americans (U.S. residents) have been killed in motor vehicle accidents as were killed in all our nation’s wars since the Revolution in 1776.
It’s depressing to realize how many people can lose relatives (a.k.a. “loved ones”) in motor vehicle accidents and still not protest the lack of safer alternatives. With friends like that children don’t need enemies. Nature still provides all newcomers with a pair of legs for transportation. Do any clergymen, theologians or medical experts consi der our excessive reliance on automobiles to be a form of
Instead of subsidizing urban renewal let’s amend state law to prohibit any new urban or suburban development that is not at least as accessible and functional for non-motorists as it is for those who drive.
SPEAKING OF PEACE
Editors, Daily Planet:
Recently, the subject of world peace was raised in these pages (Letters, Dec. 13) and since it is an important subject, I wanted to respond to t he ideas expressed.
I doubt world peace can be legislated as suggested. Neither can political civility. It takes much hard work to solve these problems and those lofty goals won’t be easily attained without changing the way we think and act; not what so meone else thinks and someone else acts. Insisting people act responsible doesn’t work any more than bombing people into peace.
Very few of us are willing or able to step up to the plate and change the destructive lifestyle and diet that characterizes the spiritual decay of modern man and fuels our descent into the abyss. We’d rather rely on doctors, lawyers, politicians and other so-called “experts” to improve our lives. These old dinosaurs have long lost their effectiveness, but they still linger. It’s time to cut them loose and set ourselves free!
The food that we eat does not only feed our physical bodies, it feeds our spiritual ones. When we don’t eat right, we don’t act right. It’s the work that has to be done on an individual level that allows r eal change to take place on a larger level.
Instead of working from the top down; through worn-out, failed political processes of the past; we should be working on ourselves as individuals. Remember, when all those people finally leave the sauna room (the remedy suggested by one of your readers), you’re still left to face yourself; a far more daunting task than another group therapy session. It’s not the sauna room where peace starts; it’s the kitchen.
OLD NEW ORLEANS
Editors, Daily Planet:
At the beginning of the 19th century La Nouvelle Orleans was a micro-model of new world culture. Ante bellum up-river plantation owners could stroll from the Pontalba building to the St. Louis Cathedral, to the Cabildo’s offices, get grocer ies at the French Market, enjoy musical evenings at the Opera House, a social evenings in the Quadroon Ballroom as well as by and sell black Africans
When post-bellum carpetbaggers gave up and went back north New Orleans sprang to life as a free-spirit ed place that would later, especially during prohibition, defined itself as a city of pleasure unlike any other.
The good times rolled along until the late 1950s when court ordered integration drove middle class whites to the suburbs.
New Orleans the n began the transition to an American city in which its unique amalgam of cultures was marketed to the world.
I left in 1945 but over the years during visits home I witnessed a slow and heartbreaking transformation symbolized by two defining changes; T he Vieux Carre became the French Quarter and Mardi Gras became Carnival. The easy-going city of my youth, a nurturing easy-going mistress, had been prostituted, voluptuously made-over, alluring and phony.
My New Orleans had real Jazz funerals; I once wi tnessed three converging on the same intersection, each juicing and goosing the others. My New Orleans was integrated; Sociologist Joseph Ficther, S.J. of Tulane University published a study in the 1940s that concluded that no one in the city lived more t han a few dozen feet from a person belonging to a different racial designation. The Circle Theater on St. Bernard Avenue maintained a tri-color division: the ground floor was for whites, the mezzanine for Creoles, the balcony for Negroes. Thus, race was m ore a social than a biological attribute. Whites, Negroes and Creoles lived in close proximity but shared little; we were mixed but did not mix.
My New Orleans was gone long before Katrina. “This great city,” the phrase uttered by our 43rd president tw o weeks after Katrina from a cinematic stage with the 18th century façade of the St. Louis Cathedral soft-lit in the background, was actually a counterfeit. Greed had fashioned attributes of greatness from real relics.
If governing powers rebuild New Orl eans it will be to renew the pursuit of profits. The city of my growing up, the old New Orleans where you enjoyed only those pleasures you created, is gone just as surely as Xi’an, Troy, Pompeii, and Timbuktu.
Ed itors, Daily Planet:
The recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s first public reading of “Howl” in San Francisco brought to mind the early efforts of the instigator of stand-up comedy/political satire, Mort Sahl. He not only started to boom out of San Francisco’s Hungry i Christmas of 1953, but actually got his start in future Free Speech territory.
Before the UC campus spread to Bancroft Way, there was a club, The White Log Tavern, four doors down from Telegraph. It was there in 1952 that Sahl started calling out the McCarthy Era; this was a good three to five years before the likes of Second City, Lenny Bruce, Lord Buckley, etc. started to touch the national consciousness. Sahl in fact played New York and had a hit album before the end of 1955.
Let’s think about a plaque outside the Bear’s Lair on the Bancroft side commemorating this great spurt in American history. A crucial addition to our Free Speech quadrant, no?
Editors, Daily Planet:
A new study points out and confirms that recipients who received a big chunk of Bush’s tax cuts are the least likely to let loose of their loot. So much for the Republican claim of trickle down economics. The wealthy, people earning over $10 million, were found to be the least generous of wage-earners. This group is six times less likely to donate to charities than Americans who make $50,00 to $100,000 a year. The wealthy being chincy is a fitting example of greed trumping giving at the holiday season.
Nev ada City
A FEW THOUGHTS
Editors, Daily Planet:
“General Webster is right,” Mr. Bush’s text said. “And so long as I am commander in chief, our strategy in Iraq will be driven by the sober judgment of our military commanders on the ground.”
Now let me paraphrase that in an imaginary quote from the head of our local cult of the personality: “The city attorney is right,” Mayor Bates said. “And so long as I am the commanding personality in this city, our strategy in the LRDP lawsuit (or substitute any other legal matter) will be driven by the sober judgment of our professionally trained attorneys on the case.”
In other words, the people shall have no say, and the people’s government shall defer to the government’s “experts,” regardless of what the will of the people may be.
Hey Democrats and other hypocrites, “They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.” (Job 4:8, KJV.) God does not favor the Republicans except insofar as He is using them to punish the iniquity and hypocrisy of his chos en party that is pledged to care about the democratic rights of the people. My understanding is that God hates hypocrisy above all else and He will punish it regardless of the consequences. Integrity is the greatest of human virtues, and its absence is th e greatest of human vices, because it goes toward the corruption of the soul, which has a value far beyond anything in the realm of mind or body.
On another note, Councilmember Max Anderson was quoted as saying that the decision of the Landmarks Commissi on on 1901 Otis Street did not “pass the smell test” and that the commission should apply proper “standards.” No, I am afraid it is the City Council that does not pass the smell test. The Landmarks Commission was obviously making a statement on the lack o f genuine standards applied by the Zoning Adjustment Board and by the City Council. We all know that these bodies have become bureaucratic institutions incapable of responding genuinely to any matter that is put before them. God bless the Landmarks Commission for trying to make a statement, and I hope all the citizens of Berkeley are not fooled for one minute by the spin doctors on the City Council or in the Planning Department or in the office of the City Manager.
On yet another note, the acting Health Office for the City of Berkeley, Vicki Alexander, was immediately relieved of her duty for making a written statement supporting my appeal before the City Council concerning the proposed “renovation” at 2235 Derby Street. At the City Council meeting, the City Manager twice tried to put a spin on it, as though she was supporting him rather than my appeal by her statement, but apparently even he didn’t believe that, because he put pressure on Fred Medrano to have her relieved of her duty on the very day of the appeal, November 15. Moreover, he put pressure on her through Fred Medrano to recant her statement and tow the party line, which so far she has not done. She has indicated to me that she may show courage against corruption. God bless her and strengthe n her to resist the obvious tyranny of a petty dictator run amok, who does not respect the rule of law or the sincere opinion of any staff member who does.
Now, do you begin to understand what kind of government we now have in this fair city? It is not i n essence distinguishable from a Stalinist dictatorship. Whatever the People’s Republic of Berkeley may have been in the past, it now combines both capitalism and communism, taking the very worst from each.
By the way, we did get a huge concession from s taff in their recommendation to council. In their recommendation they acknowledged for the very first time that renovation debris must be placed in sufficient containers and not thrown haphazardly on the ground. Prior to the appeal, I had a heated phone c onversation with Dan Marks, in which he insisted just the opposite, on the grounds that no one in Berkeley obeys that particular section of the Berkeley Municipal Code. This concession is a victory for the people and a step toward the rule of law, but a s mall step. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
Peter J. Mutnickk