Saturday, November 8, 2014

Missing the Storm

American Beverage Association California PAC
 takes over my local BART station and it's full steam
ahead for child obesity...   Check out the full
story here
While most people of my political persuasion consider what happened on Election Day last Tuesday to be a bloodbath, we in California are consoling ourselves with the fact that locally we have some things to feel good about.  First off, Jerry Brown, one of the few politicians I actually admire (as opposed to being neutral about, at best) sailed back into the governor’s office. His victory was sweet, even though predicted.  Ditto for his Lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom, a local hero to LGBT people for starting the ball rolling with same-sex marriage in California.  And thanks be too for Kamala Harris, State Attorney General, who won 56% to 44%.   Democrats, in fact, took all the state offices – not a bad haul at all!

The only hitch was that enough Republicans got into the State Senate to deny Democrats the supermajority they have held, but with a total democratic victory it seems a bit ungracious to want it all.

With Brown’s victory came two policies he was pushing hard – an overhaul of the way we store water in this drought-stricken state and what is known as a rainy-day fund, to set money aside for hard times.  Both of these issues sound boring as hell to most people, but they are, I think, the nitty-gritty kind of work that make all the difference in the quality of life for Californians.  It’s a rare feeling both to be in the majority and on the winning side and to be able to say positive things about the folks in Sacramento.

I’m even more in tune and even happier with what happened here in Berkeley.  We passed a tax (Measure D) on sugary sodas – 76% to 24%.   Tons of money went into that campaign.  New York Mayor Bloomberg sent us a total of $657,000 to make that happen.  Which helped counter the $1.7 million dollars spent by beverage companies to defeat the measure.  That’s $21.43 per registered voter!   One of those times that restore your faith in your neighbors for seeing through the bullshit.  [Sidenote: San Francisco, with a much bigger population, had a similar measure, but it was defeated, largely because it was constructed in a way that required a 2/3 vote.] 

I’ve loved listening to the arguments on this issue.  The American Beverage Association – the folks that plastered the Ashby BART Station – the one I use – with those No on D signs – kept arguing that it made us a nanny-state to worry so much about what people should eat and drink.  And – get this – it will make life harder for poor people if they can’t drink soda.  They don’t as much money as rich people, you see, and this law singles them out.    Can anybody spell “child obesity”?  You gotta love these charlatans.

While we’re on the topic of neighbors who see through the bullshit, hats off to Richmond, just north of us, for electing as their mayor a man with the unfortunate name of Tom Butt.  Don’t laugh, though.  He’s a very clever anti-Chevron guy in a town run by Chevron Refineries.  They spent $72 per registered voter to push their preferred candidates, but the progressives on the council, including now Mayor Tom Butt, showed that a working-class, blue-collar town can stand up to corporate bullying.  15,000 locals were sent to the hospital not long ago, you may remember, when Chevron blew up.  That was 2012, and it wasn’t the first time.  It happened in 1999, and before that in 1989.  In any case, let’s hear it for the little guy with the funny name.  Three million dollars Chevron spent on this campaign  - to Tom Butt’s forty thousand dollars.  Not a bad deal.

Getting back to Berkeley, other Berkeley issues were Measure F, to increase parks and playgrounds, add trees, landscaping, etc. etc.  Needed a 2/3 majority vote, got 76%, yes, yes, yes. And the quintessential Berkeley ballot measure, a vote to eliminate corporate personhood, Measure P, got 84%.  My only question there is what were the other 16% thinking?  Q was another nice one.  It gave workers the right to request being shifted to part-time work, when they needed to spend more time with their families.  That passed by 78%.

So while the rest of the country was out there screwing poor people and taking the rights of women to their own bodies away and making it hard for blacks to vote with the bogus claim that there is widespread voter fraud (there just isn’t!), Berkeley is slogging along doing its usual liberal number.

One could do a whole lot worse than live in Berkeley, California.

(And I apologize if that sounds like callous indifference to the rest of the country.  It is not.  It is just a way of thanking the powers, when climbing out of the storm cellar, for leaving us intact, to fight another day.)

photo source

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