On Thursday, January 19th, 7:00 pm at the La Fiesta Banquet Room on Haste at Telegraph, yet another in the endless parade of powerless committees will debut with great fanfare from the university for the alleged purpose of overseeing People’s Park.
It is safe to suggest the sudden, unexplained dismantling of the previous committee six months ago will not be on the agenda.
The thousands of dollars spent paying overtime to UC employees to systematically destroy freebox replacements in the last six months in the dead of night will probably not be on the agenda, either.
The sudden birth and even more sudden death of these seemingless endless committees, boards, and advisory groups paints a distinctive portrait of a university committed to maintaining a pathetic facade of community involvement and oversight while fiercely protecting its right to override, ignore, or dismantle any committee which steps out of line.
The city of Berkeley usually joins the limp celebration of the production of yet another committee, or just looks the other way. People’s Park always seems like such a small matter compared to the future of downtown, or the erection of pedestrian overpasses which elevate the lucky few above the UC-generated congestion the rest of us must brave daily. Some entire neighborhoods are locked down with big rigs, deafening noise, and choking dust while weathering seemingly constant UC construction projects, while others watch as beloved historic landmarks disappear.
The freebox is a small matter compared to these other issues. A small group may depend on it for clothing assistance, but its larger mission of general community-based free exchange can be interrupted with only modest inconvenience. It hardly seems worth notice, although it parallels the other issues with alarming congruence.
The City of Berkeley, the community of people that cares about the park, and the appointees themselves should object to the non-democratic nature of this group, as should anyone who sees the pragmatism of democratic values. An honestly representative group, with an honest set of responsibilities and autonomy, is the only way the community, so long abused, can be well served.