Let's put the J back in JOY!

Becky O'Malley
Saturday December 31, 2016 - 07:26:00 PM

A premature Happy New Year to everyone. Even though the holiday lights above our door say "Oy" instead of "Joy", it's really not as bad as it seems, trust me. As I've been telling my granddaughters, I can remember many, many years where we said that the exiting year was so bad, the next one couldn’t be worse: 1968, for example, when Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were both assassinated. And yet it didn’t get unequivocally better…or worse…in 1969, just different.

Then there was 2000, the year the Supreme Court stole the presidency on behalf of the Bushes. We went to DC with our dear friend Patti Dacey to march on the Court in the snow and ice. The weather in DC is really nasty in January, and this was freezing rain. The good thing was that I ended up marching there alongside a woman from Detroit who has also marched with us in the Detroit version of the original March on Washington, and we agreed that some things had gotten much better since then in the civil rights arena. The bad thing, which we didn’t foresee, is that Patti died a few years later, too young, but isn’t it always too young?

And of course, W stayed, but the world survived him somehow.

A friend of German/Iranian background, with vulnerable family members both in Iran and here, asked me apprehensively if I knew what I would do if there were a real fascist takeover of this country, as some are predicting. She wondered what she would be able to do, and I wonder about myself too.

I’ve heard tales of what happened when Japanese-Americans were taken away by a not-even-fascist U.S. government, and I’ve also heard that some of us, though not most, did stand up for what they weren’t even calling then “America values”. My children had an African-American teacher at Berkeley High who told her students how her family took care of the property of Japanese-American neighbors while they were imprisoned, and a friend of my parents did something similar in Watsonville. Wayne Collins, the attorney father of a Berkeley lawyer with the same name, defended the civil rights of the detainees during and after World War II. If the next administration takes out after Moslems, would we be able to do as well as they all did back then? I hope so.  

The big discussion in my family, and especially among my matriarchal cousins around the country, is whether going to DC to march once more on the day after the inauguration of President Dumpf would accomplish anything. Many of our children and grandchildren, especially those on the East Coast, currently plan to go. Most of these are too young to have taken part in marches for peace or civil rights, except for the oldest among them who were in strollers and backpacks, and I do believe they are somewhat envious of their grandparents’ experiences in those days.  

But the big difference I see between then and now is the sensitivity of the powers that be to justifiable criticism. This new guy’s vocabulary seems to be not much more than than the schoolyard nyanyanya-nyanya chant, the triumphant cry of the bully. Not much point in shaming a guy like him, is there? 

Spending the same amount of time and money that a one-time January 21 excursion would cost , when air fares will be sky high, on less visible efforts later into the term might be a better choice. Picking out a few congressmembers in potential swing districts for targeted lobbying could have surer results, either by influencing their votes on key matters or by setting them up for defeat in 2018 if they vote wrong. This could take place both in DC and/or in their home districts—and getting to know some of their voters in such locations would be an especially good idea.  

I wonder if anyone’s working on a list of places to go and people to see with the goal of influencing Congress. Here in Berkeley, some of us might be able to put together something like that with a bit of research.  

Another important avenue will be aiding in whatever way possible efforts at legal defense against any executive branch actions aimed at subverting our civil liberties or emasculating beneficial regulations, especially in the areas of health and the environment. That could include fundraising or volunteer labor.  

On the other hand, the city of Berkeley has just elected a crew of local representatives who will be quite sensitive to conscientious pressure to do the right thing, and it’s our job as citizens to apply that pressure in a fair but firm spirit. There are two places where citizens should focus their efforts. 

Despite repeated attempts to get rid of them, Berkeley’s commissions still wield a lot of potential power, and the mayor and new commissioners can amplify their authority by appointing the right commissioners. In recent years almost all appointees to the Zoning Adjustment Board have been part of—read captives of—the building industry. This must change. 

I’ve noticed, by the way, that Denise Pinkston, a development consultant, who was ex-Mayor Bates’ appointee, has been replaced by Igor Tregub as new Mayor Arreguin’s choice, but in the grand old tradition of revolving doors she’s been re-appointed by Lori Droste, who represents District 8. District 8 voters might or might not be proponents of the kind of market-rate housing expansion which has been the hallmark of the Bates era council, but they should be aware of how she votes and act accordingly.  

Another area which we need to watch is the new city staff. It’s been reported that City Attorney Zach Cowan, Deputy City Manager Jim Hynes and Code Enforcement Officer Gregory Daniels are all retiring, and all three represent an approach to law enforcement which does not represent what seems to be the current will of the people if the recent local election is any guide. The public needs to keep a close eye on who the candidates for replacing them turn out to be, and make their wishes known to their elected representatives. 

Because of Arreguin’s elevation, an election will decide his District 4 council seat in March. Candidates are the eminently well-qualified Kate Harrison and Ben Gould, a young man who’s another fervent devotee of the growth-at-any-cost school of development advocacy. To no one’s surprise, I’ve endorsed her. If you agree, volunteer to work on her campaign. 

As you might have noticed by now, I think that after the inevitable Oy Vehs, it’s just time to get back to work. Here’s a cutesy slogan to print on that big bumper sticker of your dreams: “It’s time for us to put the “J” back in “Oy”.  

We can do it, can’t we? Well, take Sunday and Monday off if you must, but then get cracking!