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PRUNING THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE...6-11-95, C. Denney
Hello, this is Laura Drawbridge with a rude, robust report on on the local political landscape that begins with a big note of thanks to everybody who made Monday's rally in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal such a phenomenal success. There were almost too many people there, if that's possible, but you'd never know that from the mainstream press, so another big note of thanks goes to those of you who monitored the mainstream media and fired off notes asking what happened to the story or thanking them for their coverage but encouraging them to go into a little more depth next time because, after all, it's a great story and you'd like to know more. Believe me, my political landscape gardeners out there, they do pay attention to those letters and calls.
That was Monday's good news. The weed in Monday's political landscape was the acquisition of proof that Aaron Handel, Dona Spring's ambitious appointee to the Police Review Commission, sent out a completely misleading press release about the suspension of a selectively enforced traffic ordinance used against homeless people. Aaron Handel's press release, prepared, by the way, without the burdensome input of the Commission itself or of anyone actually informed about the suspension of the ordinance, implied that the Police Review Commission and maybe the Measure O injunction had had a hand in the suspension of the law and offered, you guessed it, himself as the person to call for more information. As it happens, the Police Review Commission's bold vote to bravely forward some recommendations on this issue came after, not before, the suspension of the law. The Police Review Commission, in fact, lost all the information and the photographs that were instrumental in having the law suspended. In point of fact, Judge Wilken's injuction against Measure O not only was not responsible for the suspension of the law, the injunction is what kicked off the crackdown using that very law, clearly illustrated by the fact that all of the citations issued in 1995 were issued after, yes, after the Measure O injunction......the Berkeley Police Department, the Downtown Berkeley Association and the Shirley Dean administration were mightly upset that their anti-panhandling ordinance got the boot and they elected to take the traditional route of taking it out on the poor....but, of course, the truth never seems to get in the way of Aaron Handel or his appointer Dona Spring, both of whom work tirelessly to obscure the part Dona Spring played in the creation of Berkeley's infamous anti-panhandling law, yes these two really know how to put the tune in political opportunism and for proof, pick up the March/April edition of the Green Party's Consensus magazine, where an innocent Hank Chapot relied on the "facts" supplied to him by one Aaron Handel, to write a story on the so-called "Poor Laws" campaign in which, as chance would have it, Aaron turns out to be a heroic organizer instead of the jerk who privatized the electoral campaign by throwing out all of the people who collected the signatures in the first place, thus killing off the grassroots in the political landscape and dooming himself to being a political joke! Lucky for him the Green Party is letting him rewrite history not to mention Dona Spring's voting record, and hey, the fastest man to the fax machine wins the game! So here's a big Free Radio Berkeley salute to Aaron Handel, capitalizing on the work of homeless people and the one brave reporter who actually broke the story (Brian Caulfield of the Berkeley Voice), misleading the public and press, disguising the complaisance of the Police Review Commission, but sure enough getting his name in the paper after the real work was already done. Political ambition is not pretty, my friends, but I suppose somebody has to be afflicted with it.
In the meantime, a good time was had by all at the City Council meeting Tuesday night when Councilmember Polly Armstrong received her Necro-Communication award from Free Radio Berkeley for her comment that "When I think of the people that I love who've died of AIDS, I just hope they're listening and they know that I'm doing the right thing," as she voted down the Rose Street AIDS facility. Councilmember Armstrong received a Ouija Board from Free Radio Berkeley founder Stephen Dunifer, in the hope that she improves her communication with the dead.
Another highlight of the evening was developer Patrick Kennedy receiving an award for his condo project at 1849 Shattuck...yes the same project that this private developer leveraged public money to build and which he promised would be 100% accessible until he found out that this would cut into his profits. Poor guy, he thought being 100% accessible meant you put up a sign on the outside of the building just saying so! The forgiving city council, of course, let him keep the money and just encouraged him to take down the sign. You think I'm making this up, but I'm not! Patrick Kennedy's controversial project earned him enough criticism that, as one seasoned council critic pointed out, he carried his little girl and her teddy bear right up to the council in his arms as a stage prop despite the fact that his wife was sitting in the audience and could easily have taken the child.
Then we'll skip ahead to Thursday, the highlight of which was the University Avenue Strategic Plan Planning Commission Subcommittee I can't remember what that little nightmare was called. This is where a bunch of white people, almost unblemished by the presense of a liberal let alone a radical (with the sterling exceptions of course of your truly Laura Drawbridge, the stalwart Stephen Dunifer and a few others, got together at the West Berkeley Senior Center for a mind-numbing presentation by Calthorpe Associates and BayArea Economics in conjunction with the Planning Department on the economics of housing; a lot of capitalization rates and feasibility gaps later we got the punchline which is: it just isn't profitable to build affordable housing! Tough luck for the people on the street, it's easing the painful lives of developers that's Berkeley's top priority right now.
( Mention the appeal of 1849 Shattuck, plug the Council and the Thursday June 15th 2:00pm 5th Floor Conference room meeting.... ...comment on the old-school public housing look of the condos and the cappuchino & sushi theory of housing.)
And that's our report!