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POLITICAL REPORT 5-28-95 Sunday, Memorial Day
It's time now for the weekly report on the political landscape from your political landscape gardener, Laura Drawbridge....yes, well, it was a tough week for the people starting off with Monday night at the Zoning Adjustments Board....score one for developer Dan Christopoulos who got an A-okay to "modify" the conditions of his use permit. Dan Christopoulos is the visionary bent on bringing even more fast food to the fast-food laden corner of University and San Pablo over the objections of the neighborhood. His use permit was granted months ago on contingent on a set of neighborhood-friendly conditions which are now all but a thing of the past, the square footage of the video outlet has nearly doubled on behalf of a tenant as yet un-named but I think not unknown...Laura Drawbridge bets Blockbuster video has its nose under the tent even as we speak, and of course the developer was allowed to reduce the fees he owed the city because, hey, Berkeley doesn't want to look anti-business, now does it? Sacrificing the peace and safety of a few neighborhoods along the way is clearly a small price to pay in the eyes of the current majority on the Zoning Adjustments Board. Keep this in mind as the Avenues Plan comes to fruition....any mitigations or promises made to your neighborhood will be drop-kicked six months later if the developer claims they're just too burdensome.
That was Monday's bad news followed by Tuesday's City Council meeting...yeeeouch! Score one for the University as it got the City Council's endorsement for yet another round of dazzling improvements for poor beleaguered Peoples Park including, of course the long-awaited attack on the freebox and the food programs. Steve Belcher rushed to assure the Council that the freebox would not be removed, it would only be "moved" to parts unknown, preferably to Florida....likewise the food programs would not be forced out of the park according to Belcher, only and I'll try to quote for you here..."encourage to relocate indoors" or some such palliative phrase, encouragement fostered most probably by the liberal use of pepper spray, because they are liberals after all! Special thanks are due to, of course, Maudelle Shirek and surprisingly Dona Spring for voting against the recommendations although to be fair Dona Spring voted against the main motion mostly because she wanted some special task force to be appointed to "facilitate" the recommendations...the new touchy feely way to screw the poor is to have a few disoriented liberals--whoops! I mean progressives "facilitating" the process...all of which makes me feel kind of old fashioned because I would rather get it straight in the schnozz without being sedated with newspeak beforehand, but well, that's me, Laura Drawbridge! Thanks also to Diane Woolley-Bauer, representative from District 5 who had the grace to abstain. But the biggest thanks goes to the people who came and spoke at Council in defense of the freebox, seven of whom managed to get their cards in and speak and sounded great.
......later Tuesday night came the lovely juxtaposition of more than an hour spent on the so-called "Arts District" presentation where property owners make capital improvements on their own property with public money, all of course in the name of culture, followed by short shrift, maybe fourteen minutes at most, spent at Maudelle Shirek's insistence on the issue of jobs....we salute you, Maudelle, for hanging in there and trying, at least, to interest the rest of the Council in something that really matters, not a fashionable move in this political climate.
Then came Wednesday...the developers score again! Patrick Kennedy got his condo subdivision at 1801 University approved despite a market so weak for condos it's practically in reverse and despite the objections of a pretty healthy little crowd, thanks, people for coming out and speaking and thanks to Clifford Fred and Martha Nicoloff of the Planning Commission for voting against the subdivision, a brave move indeed.
But my favorite move Wednesday night was upstairs at the Police Review Commission, which was attended by nobody but yours truly, Laura Drawbridge, and a couple of cops. Check it out: the chief investigator had left all the selective enforcement information at issue out of the packet, so, of course, the new commissioners didn't know beans about the issue, the old commissioners are so terrified of looking anti-cop that they've perfected the art of going around in circles and in the middle of doing exactly that, one of the cops finally takes pity on them and gently apprises them of the fact that the City Manager had just suspended the use of the law. In other words, a group of ordinary citizens, watching clear cases of selective enforcement of an old traffic ordinance solely against the poor, had on their own documented the selective enforcement with police logs and photographs, enlisted the pressure of the public and the press, and gotten the law suspended without the aid of the moribund Police Review Commission, which, Wednesday night, clearly knew little or nothing about the general crackdown and actually said things like, "well, have any formal complaints been filed?" No, dear commissioners, no formal complaints have been filed nor will there be formal complaints filed since people on the street learn the hard way that filing a complaint not only does no good, it will probably earn you retaliation from the beat cop in question. Case in point, the beat officer responsible for the majority of citations in the last month had a selective enforcement complaint sustained against him over a year ago which was unheld by the City Manager, was sentenced to (gasp!) counseling about discriminatory law enforcement and here he is out doing the same damn thing. No, Police Review Commissioners, I think it may be time for a People's Review Board of some kind. What was the Police Review Commission doing for a solid year after a similar set of selective citations was documented? Why, it's been busy buffing up its new brochure! Well, in all fairness, it's a lovely brochure! First things first, right? I mean, discriminatory cops and selective enforcement policies aren't nearly as important as having a cherry brochure, right? That's where I left off, free radio listeners....the political landscape was getting a little thick even for this gardener so I took two days off and headed for the ballpark...this is Laura Drawbridge at 104.1 FM...... .....