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Honoree Speaks Truth to Berkeley City Council

Friday April 08, 2016 - 03:25:00 PM

On April 5, the Berkeley City Council honored author and Berkeley resident, Cecile Pineda for her 47 years as a cultural worker. The city proclamation read in part: "Whereas she has been and continues to be active in progressive political at the municipal, national, and international levels, where she reflects a need to address environmental, cultural, radical women's and internuclear issues."  

Pineda followed the city's whereases with a prepared acceptance speech: 

"I am quite happy to accept this honor from the City of Berkeley for my efforts as a cultural worker, especially from a council which recently passed a resolution urging the closure of a nuclear reactor—Diablo Canyon—which sits atop a fine network of connecting faults, a fact PGE knew as early as the 1960s but kept secret from the public till last year. 

"But if the Berkeley City Council is serious about honoring its artists, it must remember that the role of a true artist is to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted.  

It must reconsider its draconian approach to homelessness; it must take responsibility for the library directors it appoints, insuring that 39,000 more books—books which are the commons of the citizens of Berkeley—have no more chances of walking out the library back door to be pulped.  

It must guard and preserve the lungs by which it breathes and moderates its climate by protecting the 600,000 East Bay Hills trees designated for the FEMA ax, and Monsanto’s herbicides.  

It must quit selling out its city block by flatland block to the vulture flock of developers who settle in for a killing; it must regulate rents now so that people unable to afford the new “market rate” apartment rents are not evicted from existing housing stock because of rising rents.  

It must provide affordable housing for those displaced by the stampede to build market-rate apartments; it must not permit the Zoning Adjustment Board ZAB to rubber stamp 18-story-high-rise projects without having so much as looked at the engineering report.  

It must understand that one of Berkeley’s last remaining cultural vestiges is the Shattuck theater; it must protect its citizens from gross incursions by the University of California; and it must learn to value its Black community by not displacing it under the veneer of gentrification.  

It must understand finally that the concepts of wise government go back to the 14th century where its effects are vividly laid out in the council chambers of the City of Siena by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, an artist whose work was deliberately commissioned by its citizens to remind the council it must govern wisely and well, in the interest of promoting a healthy society endowed with both compassion and civic responsibility. 

Thank you very much." 

The standing-room-only temporary council chambers erupted with cheers and clapping at frequent intervals throughout her speech.