Democracy the machine that goes ping

I read acount in a local paper that there is an impasse declared by we the taxpayers in our negotiation with our public safety union. The union lawyer calls this bad faith. I agree.

I am disappointed with city manager Jim Keane and with Mayor Yiaway Yeh, who admittedly inherited this problem from Sid Espinosa, for the way they are treating our working-class and putting-their-lives-on-the-line public servants. And remember, a considerable amount of staff time, council time and money was spent last fall to attack and scapegoat the firefighters, an effort that resulted in the ill-advised (in my opinion, although 7,000 voters begged to differ) Measure D (for “demeaning”) which stripped that union if not both (?) from binding arbitration.

My point is that in such abundance — I personally have met here billionaires who can barely grow a beard — it seems ridiculous to focus on squeezing the working man and woman rather than being more creative and openminded (and open-heart, and open-walleted) about funding our services.

How, for example, can we tap the huge windfall of the real estate industry? The Weekly reported, for instance, that the value of Palo Alto’s commercial real estate rose from $5 billion in 1984 to $25 billion in 2010 — a gain of $20 billion (that’s billion with a B, ten figures, or eleven actually in this case, not seven figures). Who benefits from that recent $20 billion delta?

I also find ridiculous — worthy of my ridicule – the shoddy reporting on these issues. Jason Green of the Daily News (the people who bought out what was once a Knight Ridder paper but probably don’t know Knight Ridder from Knight Rider) says we are attacking the police because of a $4 million deficit. Okay, so $4 million in a $150 million budget is about 3 percent– seems pretty small, or a normal fluctuation of money flows – or what is the historical (rather than hysterical) context?

Consistently over the last three years since I have been tracking these issues — and I ran for Council in 2009 — the budget issues are almost never reported in this very simple but significant “rest of the story” context, as a percent of the budget or in historical context.

Regarding D I feel that the voters were misinformed. I don’t believe the attack on the cba will save us money. Who knows? It might backfire: we could be losing good workers, for people who appreciate them more, and we could end up with less public safety dollar for dollar or in gross.

I believe in Alan Davis, the former PAUSD board member, father of my classmate Lori Davis Cottle, and multiple-generation Palo Altan (son of Roland Davis) that when he is paid to represent the union he also has the community’s best interest at stake and is not a mercenary of bolshevik or something. I think actually that with a little outreach more voters will realize the flaws in the November 2011 initiative and seek to reverse it.

On the other hand I also like Jeff Adachi the public defender and mayoral candidate in San Francisco who seeks to reform pensions while meanwhile upholding tradional liberal values. I’d like to consult Adachi on our budget, pension and public safety issues. I worked briefly for Adachi’s campaign for mayor, as a volunteer.

Jason Green’s article, if I understood it correctly, seems to indicate the “powers that be” (my phrase) want to beat up the police union and then ask the tax payers to fund a $200 million new police station. Huh? That’s like saying “we don’t actually want public safety but we want a big shiny box that says PUBLIC SAFETY”.

Now none of this would actually bother me — I like shiny boxes as much as the next guy, although I prefer Frank Gehry to Frank Lloyd Wright — except for the fact I feel that there is a vacuum in democracy that lets, on a national level, us saunter off into wars on the same type of thinking. We like Democracy, so we kill hundreds of thousands of Afghanis and Iraquis to help advance our principles, towards world peace. We have lost more than 7,000 soldiers combined in these two theatres.

The whole thing reminds me of the absurd scene in the Monty Python movie about needing in a hospital “a machine that goes ‘ping’.”

Is Democracy becoming, locally and nationally, merely a machine that goes ‘Ping’?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arCITMfxvEc

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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