Public Comment

What Would An Honest Progressive Do?

Carol Denney
Sunday February 04, 2018 - 09:57:00 AM

I see the town hall coming.

Berkeley's forum on "homelessness" this Monday, Feb. 5th (6:30 pm at the North Berkeley Senior Center) will feature:

Councilmember Sophie Hahn on the proposed "Pathways Project" featuring city tents instead of personal tents relocated near the dump.

Peter Radu, of the relatively newly christened Dept. Health Housing and Community Svcs., will speak on "Current City Programs" which will predictably omit the mechanisms of middle-of-the-night tent sweeps except to cue people that if you drop enough complaints about a nearby tent city it'll be gone in the morning.

Mayor Jesse Arreguin will step right up to the myth progressives had that he would take other than his predecessor Mayor Bates' approach to the housing crisis by introducing a raft of new sidewalk laws; more ways to criminalize people with nowhere to go with everything they own and are legally limited to being in and on public sidewalks and spaces.

Then Phil Harrington of the Department of Public Works bats cleanup, quite literally, by describing "current efforts at sidewalk cleanliness, trash pickup, provision of sanitation facilities" which are truly heartbreaking except for the missing logic - without trash pick-up, bathrooms, and washing facilities people are a messy bunch.

There will be nobody speaking on behalf of those who live in tent cities, at least not as scheduled so far. 

Expect anecdotal stories from shaken pedestrians and parents of bewildered children to provide copy for the Bay Area papers of the horrors of living near a tent city, using the aberrant behavior of one to stereotype an entire group. Expect police officers and Downtown Berkeley Association members to show up in wild appreciation of more sidewalk rules. 

Expect none of these speakers to bring up that there are around 1,000-3,000 short-term rentals in Berkeley (City of Berkeley estimate, Nov. 2017), which, given Berkeley's declaration of a housing crisis, could be immediately utilized to house the mere 1,000 people on our streets any given night. This estimate does not include empty commercial and government spaces 100% of which have electricity, heat, some of which have sat empty for more than ten years. 

We don't need to build a thing to house our people. We don't need to miniaturize, and we don't need to acquire more property. We just need to prioritize our public health crisis, instead of demonizing the victims of a policy that prioritizes profits over people.