Public Comment

Creating Chaos by Mistake or by Design

Dean Metzger
Friday April 15, 2016 - 03:10:00 PM

At the April 5, 2016 Berkeley City Council meeting the Mayor attempted to rearrange the agenda. It was done in a manner that left the other council members and the public guessing the new order of the agenda and how it would affect public participation.

The whole evening left one to wonder: what has happened to our city government? From the calls of disrespect from all sides, to the debate on giving a non-profit $15,000 outside of the budget process, the audience felt like we were witnessing an episode of the Keystone Kops.

What a waste of time. Why do committed citizens subject themselves to this abuse?

The disrespect goes both ways – but to get respect, you have to show respect. And the public rarely gets any.



It begins with the mayor and his majority on the council. 

When councilmembers wander off, read other material, talk to each other and play with their phones or other devises while a member of the public is trying to speak it clearly shows their total disregard of public opinion. They are going through the motions. This disrespect only adds to fiery public comment on development projects that are detrimental to diversity and neighborhoods. Instead of making an effort to mitigate the issues, time and again we see the council majority making decisions that will benefit only the developer and the bidding of its consultants. Issues from limited water supply to the added impact on our crumbling infrastructure are ignored. Projects are approved with little to no parking on site because “people will not have cars and they will use public transportation” while in actuality cars then spill over into already “at capacity” neighborhoods. 

Why do we continue to allow such disrespect? What can the public do to change our city council conduct? 

Unfortunately, current council rules of procedure allow the Mayor to do what he did: “Action items may be reordered at the discretion of the Chair (Mayor) with the consent of Council.”  

This authority should be removed from the Council Rules of Procedures and rewritten by the Open Government Commission. By adding some restrictions and procedures to the Open Government Ordinance, the chaos seen at the April 5, 2016 council meeting could be avoided in the future. While agenda items will probably continue to make for long and angry meetings, at least everyone will understand what to expect. It also eliminates possible violations of the Brown Act. 

As for other council behaviors, there is an election this year. It is the responsibility of the public to elect representatives that will honor the voice of the people. While it might seem that Berkeley is losing its neighborhoods and its diversity, we can get that respect back but exercising our right to vote and continuing to speak up at disrespectful council meetings