Hate and Lies: By DEAN METZGER

Tuesday November 30, 2004

With the election over it is distressing to hear our City Council and staff continue to distort the citizens’ reasons for voting down all of the city’s tax proposals. The latest example is Kriss Worthington’s Nov. 16 condemnation of the groups opposed to eliminating one of the city’s fire truck companies. He accused them of “spreading hate and lies.” 

After almost a year of communicating to the city that eliminating a ladder fire truck company for any portion of time was unacceptable to the neighborhoods and citizens, they did it anyway. There are two sides to every issue. The negotiations between the city and the firefighters union is a prime example. The city tells us that the union refused to reduce their pay so the truck elimination could be avoided. The firefighters union tells us their offer was to allow them to be in line with the other city unions. Take your pick, and argue your case, but you don’t accuse the other side of bad faith unless you have a very good reason for doing so and do make sure your own motives are clean. 

Let’s not forget that the union initially did not support Measure M. When certain councilmembers accused the union of not being a team player and threatened the firefighters with the loss of the truck if they did not support Measure M, the union changed its mind and supported Measure M with both money and time. Measure M failed. The city eliminated the fire truck anyway. So much for team players! 

Because the citizens of Berkeley believe that public safety must be the first priority of the City Council, they came in large numbers to the Nov. 16 City Council meeting. Speaker after speaker demanded that the City Council restore the fire truck. It was after the public speaking session ended that Councilmember Worthington told the audience that the speakers were spreading hate and lies and that the election results were from misinformation that had been given to the voters by the opposition.  

What is astounding about this is that during the election debate the city was unable to materially dispute any of the facts the opposition was using to state their case. Never during the campaign did I hear anyone from the opposition use the words hate or lies, instead they based their opposition to the taxes primarily on facts and figures that are publicly available on the city’ own website. The election results came about not because of any misinformation, but because, for the first time, the voters had an opportunity to learn what the city is actually doing with its money. 

There is a huge disconnect between our City Council and staff with the neighborhoods and voters. In response to this, some councilmembers have said “well we are the elected representatives of the people.” If this is true, why aren’t they representing the majority will of the people now that they have made their wishes clear? 

If Kriss Worthington and the City Council believe that the neighborhoods are spreading hate and lies, the citizens for their part, doubt the credibility of the city. The public safety issues, the creek task force decision, the city’s inability to deal with the university, and its’ failure to address the root causes of the budget crisis are only a few of the reasons many neighborhood leaders have become more cynical, less trustful, and uncooperative. 

At the Nov. 16 council meeting, the speakers repeatedly told the city that they are ready to help the city get through the budget crisis (which will be with us for years). Budget Watch has given the city a blueprint that will work. Instead we were told not to “spread hate.” 

Can someone at City Hall help? 


Dean Metzger is a member of the Zoning Adjustments Board.›