One of the wisest things one of my wise-ass teenage daughters ever said to me was that “unsolicited advice is rarely welcome.” That’s not only true of teenagers, it’s true in spades of elected officials. When they’re running for office, they’re all ears, but when they’ve succeeded in getting elected they’re sure that all of their ideas must be right, and they don’t need you to tell them what to do.
My computer screen and even my print publications these days are full of advice on what our progressive leaders can/must do to combat Donald Trump, so I’m not going to go there today. The obvious problem is that until you know which Trump will be tweeting at you in any given moment, you can’t figure out what to do. Everyone’s just shooting arrows into the air, with no real idea where the target is.
It’s much easier for those who have been around the local track more than once to give unsolicited and possibly unwelcome advice to those who have been newly elected locally with our support. The hugely over-quoted George Santayana observed that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The new mayor and some city councilmembers because of their age or lack of involvement missed some tricks in the city’s past history, so we feel obliged to inform them about what they can’t remember.
Exhibit A: I received this communication from a reader who is a longtime Berkeleyan:
"The Arreguin administration, with help from Ben Bartlett and Linda Maio, could manage to turn the homelessness crisis into a Patrick Kennedy giveaway.36. Referral to City Manager: “Step Up Housing” Initiative - Micro-Units to House
See the Agenda Committee Jan 9th agenda. Within that, the prospective agenda for the January 24th regular meeting:
Homeless and Very Low-Income People
From: Councilmembers Bartlett and Maio
Recommendation: Refer to the City Manager to take the following actions through the Ad Hoc Committee on Homeless Solutions: 1. Identify parcels of City owned land for citing assisted-living modular micro unit buildings. 2. Take affirmative steps to speed the permitting and approvals process for the creation of below market housing. 3. Obtain zoning approval and a building permit for a 4 story and approximately 100 unit building consisting of stackable modular units. 4. Upon completing construction, allocate $1,000/month [PER UNIT -tl] from the budget to lease the building. The actual construction costs of the building will be privately financed at no charge to the City. 5. Identify a housing non-profit to be responsible for managing and operating the building. 6. Establish criteria for selecting individuals and determining eligibility. These need-based criteria will take into account seniors, disabled people, and Berkeley natives who have become Financial Implications: Staff time
Contact: Ben Bartlett, Councilmember, District 3, 981-7130
The reader has a point, a good point, and I can gloss it a bit based on my own knowledge of history. Way back in the dark ages before the Daily Planet, when Linda Maio and I both thought of ourselves as “progressive activists”, my partner and I were invited to a brunch at her house. Since we were in a high-tech business at the time, I suppose some might have seen us as deep pockets, though we were actually hanging on by a thread at that very moment.
Kennedy proposes to build sub-standard (160 sq ft) units by slapping together prefab units and collecting $1,000 per month per unit indefinitely. (He wants more money if he has to buy the land). The city will separately pay to manage and maintain the units. The units will be exclusively for the down and out.
None of this has gone before any commission. The City Manager is now apparently a social worker ("Establish criteria for selecting individuals and determining eligibility."). No analysis has gone into whether this is a good strategy for helping people.
Where did this idea come from? Patrick Kennedy sees easy money on the table, although his proposition has already been rejected in [better-informed] cities:
It's unclear how much each unit would cost Kennedy but based on his comments elsewhere, I think it would be $100,000 or less. Assuming a 20 year lease-to-own (so after 20 years, the City gets the depreciated craptastic "housing"), this is like giving a $100M 20 year municipal bond to Kennedy with a yield of something like 4.5%-6%. In addition, Kennedy gets the tax-free use of the land. In addition, on day 0, instead of having $100M in cash, the City will own a white-elephant housing project that has already depreciated. In addition, the City and taxpayers generally will have to further subsidize the building and the tenants. In addition, this gives only 100 units of segregated, substandard housing. In addition, there is 0, nada, zilch integration of this scheme with any kind of comprehensively planned homeless crisis plan."
Much to my surprise, I discovered that all the other guests were developers of one kind or another, including Patrick Kennedy, with whom I’d been engaged in a prolonged tussle over his lust to demolish several historic buildings in order to build the Gaia building.
(I was snookered on that one. He won. He’s not stupid.)
She asked us all to contribute to a pet project she was promoting at the time, one with a green-washed veneer which made little sense to me, so I ate my bagels, went home and thought not much more about it. But I was not surprised when later on she was transmogrified into the Bates “I’ve never met a building project I didn’t like” wing of the localites formerly-known-as-progressives. Presumably the other better-heeled guests came through with the cash, because Maio’s pet project materialized on schedule.
Therefore, I was not at all surprised later on when Planet stalwart reporter Richard Brenneman uncovered these stories:
Paper Trail Reveals Kennedy and Maio Financial Dealings By Richard Brenneman 11-13-2008
Court Orders Maio To Testify Over Loan From Developer By Richard Brenneman 10-09-2008
For everything we published on this topic, see this Google list:
Evidently Maio never forgets a favor, and now she’s backkkk to return the favor with her main man, PK!
Newly elected Councilmember Bartlett can be forgiven for not knowing the back story, since eight or nine years ago he was probably just a mere child, but the rest of us should make sure that we let him know that Kennedy is still bad news. If you have any doubts, just try to take in a movie at the non-existent Fine Arts Theater, another Kennedy special with which he snookered Berkeley once again.
The agenda committee meeting on Monday would be a good place to start:
BERKELEY CITY COUNCIL AGENDA COMMITTEE
BERKELEY CITY COUNCIL SPECIAL MEETING
MONDAY, JANUARY 9, 2017
6th Floor Conference Room, 2180 Milvia Street
Committee Members: Mayor Arreguin, Councilmembers Linda Maio and Sophie Hahn
UPDATE, Jan. 9: At the agenda committee meeting today, the name of District 8 Councilmember Lori Droste was added to the list of sponsors for this proposal. There are rumors in her district that the triangle of public land on the south side of Ashby just east of College could be one of the available sites for the Kennedy project, if it's big enough. Another possibility in this area would be part of what is now Willard Park.
UPDATE 2: Councilmember Kriss Worthington has informed me that despite rumors, he's been informed by the city attoney that it is not legal to build dwellings on park land per conditions on a bond issue. That's will be a relief to those who thought otherwise, but the question of where such a project might go is still knotty.