The plan to allow the Downtown Berkeley Association to "implement arts and cultural programming" at BART Plaza January 23rd, 2018, is problematic given the organization's record.
The Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA) began its history trying to outlaw panhandling, helping create ordinances that targeted the poor and were overturned by the courts. Their mission of driving the poor out of shared space has never changed. We've had to battle anti-sitting laws, laws designed to target people with more than two square feet of belongings all with the same purpose: to make life as difficult as possible for the most vulnerable among us.
The DBA allowed posters in BART Plaza if they were created by the city, but threatened to arrest anyone who posted a flier from any other source, claiming in writing that the First Amendment only applied to the government. Their CEO John Caner admitted to violating campaign finance laws in his effort to criminalize simply sitting down.
The DBA ignores Public Record Act requests, and trains Green Shirt Block by Block "ambassadors" who seem to think it is their job to assault homeless people, even on camera. Their advertisement of downtown businesses is highly selective - some are celebrated while others are ignored - and there is no oversight or complaint system as was promised when our current mayor was campaigning.
The Downtown Berkeley Association which did these things is being made the arbiter of art, culture, and even behavior in a public space where they've discriminated anyone who doesn't fit their preferred profile. Please pull this item off the agenda, reduce its $50,000 cost to the $10,000 recommended by the Arts Commission, and make sure this contract is overseen by an oversight committee composed of representatives from the Peace and Justice Commission, the Police Review Commission, the Commission on Mental Health, the Arts Commission, the Commission on Homelessness, and the Human Welfare Commission so that programming and management decisions instituted have a chance of being fair.
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