Public Comment

DBA, TBID - Exploiting the Moment

Carol Denney
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 04:45:00 PM

“Caner’s DBA, along with the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District, sent a letter to the city today with suggestions about how to offset the financial losses businesses are experiencing, he said. That included deferring, discounting or waiving fees and taxes; providing interest-free loans of up to $75,000 for businesses that have a 25% drop in gross receipts; and establish a moratorium on new business regulations such as Fair Workweek and Healthy Checkout.” - Berkeleyside March 16, 2020

While some members of Congress appear to have taken advantage of the Corona virus moment to dump stocks likely to take a swan dive in the pandemic, our publicly-funded business lobbies stepped up to the same greedy plate by writing a letter to the Berkeley City Council suggesting that there be a moratorium on "new business regulations such as Fair Workweek and Healthy Checkout,” according to Berkeleyside's March 16, 2020 issue. 

The Fair Workweek legislation addresses unfair and exploitative work practices, such as keeping employees below 30 hours a week to avoid health care requirements, scheduling opening and closing shifts ("clopening" shifts) which offers little time to rest, and rescheduling shifts only hours before a workday creating extreme difficulties for those with childcare needs, additional jobs, and family obligations. 

The Healthy Checkout legislation addresses the nutritional standards of foods offered in the checkout aisle, standards advised by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and adopted by communities partnering with public health agencies to provide a higher standard of healthy options to shoppers in checkout lines. 

The Downtown Berkeley Association and the Telegraph Business Improvement District get thousands of public dollars through the property-based fees they receive -yes, even public property-based fees such as public schools and university property. The public, the same public benefiting from public health ordinances the business lobbies wish to postpone, are paying the impressive salaries of the CEOs who tucked the proposed moratorium on the Fair Workweek and Healthy Checkout ordinances into a request for interest-free loans of up to $75,000 for slumping businesses. 

There's nothing like a health crisis to inspire the profit-inclined to take steps to undermine public health. 

It's time for Berkeley to recognize the extraordinary divide between the public's interests and business lobby's interests. The well-heeled property owners in our town have needs they can meet themselves without the money we pay through their mandatory fees on public property we own collectively for what should be the public's general good, not to support an exploitative mechanism for the narrow benefit of private property owners and the powerful people who control the business lobbies. Berkeley citizens have to buy their own stamps and pay their own phone bills to communicate with the Berkeley City Council about matters important to them. The business lobbies, whose governing principle is profit, should do the same. Especially in a health crisis where those shift workers on the front lines are all that's left between ourselves and the functioning businesses still open on which we all depend. 

Let's call for a moratorium on the mandatory fees which entirely undemocratic, self-appointed "Business Improvement Districts" require of all property within their self-determined maps. It's time to take a stand for public health and democratic best practices.