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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Local Loons

Former resident Frank Paynter requests some Berkeley updates. “How are things going in the Peoples Republic?” he asks.

No need to wonder, Frank. The looniness is alive and well. The latest exercise in more-politically-correct-than-thou finds a passionate movement afoot to change the name of Jefferson Elementary School. After all, Ol’Tom was a slave owner and its time we got his name off the building, etc. etc.

In heated school board meetings, less important matters like graffiti on the walls, trash on the grounds, and, oh, budgeting, got tabled so that this dire situation could be addressed.

Some poor contrarian soul had the temerity to stand up at one of these simmering meetings and observe that since we have a school named after Malcolm X, recognizing that his greatness is more important than the unsavory parts of his life, why couldn’t we accord Ol’Tom the same?

Well, as you can imagine, this hapless soul was practically hounded out of the hall. He may have even needed a bit of police protection in this presumably peace-loving burg.

The board, bless their hearts, was brave enough to vote down this nonsense, three to two, and the air is thick with outrage. A recall movement will likely be the next chapter, further deflecting attention from matters that count.

How often have these kinds of scenarios been played out around here? It’s like a broken record. If you want to see a municipal government that truly doesn’t work, just come to Berkeley.


The other piece of current insanity around here is the narrowing of Marin Avenue—a street which I’m sure Frank remembers. It’s the primary artery of North Berkeley, a crucial commuter route for thousands of residents making their way to and from work every day.

Under the appellation of the euphemism to end all euphemisms, “The Traffic Calming Project” (I’m not kidding), Marin’s already packed four lanes are being reduced to two. One can only imagine the chaos that is going to ensue.

In the Berkeley mindset, the hidden agenda behind all this is that if you can make driving unpleasant enough, you will get people out of their cars and they will start bicycling to work. Yeah, right.

It might be worth a try if they all worked in Berkeley, but those already-stressed guys and gals tooling down Marin Ave. toward the freeway ain’t working around here, that’s for sure. Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear lord, for letting me be semi-retired and working out of my home.

If it wasn’t for the physical beauty of this area, the climate, the great food, the cultural amenities, and my wife’s reasonably thriving local practice, I’d be very tempted to get the hell away from this madness.

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