Worry Global, Vote Local

By Becky O’Malley
Thursday October 02, 2008 - 09:31:00 AM

The on-going exposure of the number and kind of misdeeds perpetrated by the Bush administration and cronies continues to be staggering. On Tuesday alone, we saw the third-in-command CIA official pleading guilty to funneling big contracts to his college roommate, and we heard that a federal prosecutor will investigate the firings at the U.S. Department of Justice. But these shocking revelations had to take a back seat to the news of the slippery financial dealings which are causing the world economy to collapse, all of which took place with the blessings of the Bushies.  

And then there’s John McCain, a man whom several respectable men I know once believed to be a person of integrity (I don’t know any women he fooled.) Wrong. Not only is he gleefully talking out of both sides of his mouth as regards the money meltdown, his choice of a ditsy but tough-talking teenager-wannabe to run for vice president is breathtakingly irresponsible, especially since he must know that his own health is chancy.  

Or does he? Evidently his estimation of probabilities is deeply flawed, judging by the tales in Sunday’s New York Times about his ties to the gambling industry and his history of being a high-roller. You read about it first in the Berkeley Daily Planet last year, by the way. 

But do we need to lecture our Berkeley readers about any of this? No, of course not. We are, as a group, much too well-informed about national-level misdeeds to make it necessary to preach to the choir any further in these pages. 

It’s our job here to subject local controversies, major and minor, to the appropriate level of scrutiny at the appropriate time, because the only way Berkeley will find out about the small (or at least small-scale) stuff is if we tell them in these pages. Which brings me to the sticky subject of ballot measures: How should the conscientious citizen vote on them? 

Let’s deal with the easiest one first. I can’t seem to go anywhere in public lately without some friend grabbing me by the lapels and saying that the Planet must endorse the bonds for earthquaking the branch libraries. Enough already!  

As previously stipulated, The Planet doesn’t endorse, but the executive editor sometimes reveals her vote. And yes, of course I’m going to vote for this one. With all due respect to our readers who say otherwise, saying that Google searches can now replace public libraries is a bit let-them-eat-cakish. Especially with big bookstores going down the tubes, there’s nowhere else that the would-be learner can get a feeling for the vast amount of available information in the world, an experience akin to gazing at the night sky and contemplating the universe. On your ballot, that would be Berkeley local measure FF. 

It’s really too bad that some citizens think Berkeley Measure KK (the initiative which would limit the city’s power to turn traffic lanes over to busses without a vote of the people) is necessary, but the City Council has shown zero leadership in responding to public concerns about the potential bad effects of the wrong kind of bus rapid transit plan. Readers of this paper know more about the pros and cons than I could ever repeat, so you’re on your own in making up your minds. I might not decide until I’m in the voting booth myself. Regarding GG (fire station tax) and JJ (permitting medical marijuana dispensaries), let your conscience (and the location of your property, if any) be your guide.  

Which brings us to Measure LL. As opponents say, HeLL No! This is a referendum on a duplicitous attempt by real estate and development interests to make it easier to tear down old buildings in Berkeley. In a period when greenishness is suddenly in vogue, the council backers (chiefly Bates and Capitelli) of the attempted emasculation of Berkeley’s current effective preservation ordinance should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. The ballot language is deceptive: Beware. 

I was unfortunate enough, pre-Planet, to have been on the Landmarks Preservation Commission during the several years the developer-funded Berkeley Planning Department was trying to advance their demolition agenda, so I know that the current ordinance with two or three lines of amendments still works just fine. If LL is defeated, the old ordinance will still be the law and can be selectively amended if needed.  

Several letter writers have informed us that Councilmember Capitelli and perhaps also the mayor’s office have been claiming that the Sierra Club supports LL, which is definitely not true, as Capitelli has now acknowledged. The huge environmental cost of demolishing buildings which could easily be re-used is well established. One more time, with feeling: the greenest building is an existing building, which most Sierra Club members surely understand. Anyone who worries about climate change should vote no on LL.  


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While we’re on the subject of pollution, a former employee here has chosen to quit, trailing a cloud of sulfurous smoke. Concerned friends have inquired. Anyone who’s heard about this and is curious is free to ask me about it. I see no benefit to anyone in airing my complaints here. The reporter did some fine work for us, giving our readers important insights into our city. We were sorry to see her leave, but sorrier for how she chose to do so.