Life is generally not much like a Kevin Costner movie (well, like his movies, life often sucks, but the details are different - I have never battled Dennis Hopper on a futuristic gunboat, for one), but last Thursday was no ordinary day. After two failed attempts, I had the opportunity to play Jimmy Stewart and cast my swing vote with the Berkeley City Council on two separate occasions.
The first meeting was with Councilman Laurie Capitelli and the noble group Berkeleyans for Cal. The meeting was very interesting and practically perfect, with one notable exception. Let's call this exception "Douchebag in Red". I took this meeting as a great opportunity to explain our side to Councilman Capitelli and hear his thoughts on the matter, in the hopes of coming to an agreeable consensus. DiR apparently took the meeting as a chance to browbeat Capitelli and come off as a huge douchebag, while wearing a red shirt. Mission accomplished, sir!
Kevin Costner addresses the WaterWorld City Council, sans red shirt
I have to give props to DiR for his audacity. To my knowledge, this was the first time he had attended a Berkeleyans for Cal event (I've never seen him at one before), and almost immediately he jumped in and commandeered the meeting. In the most condescending tone possible ("Have you seen Jon Stewart? You would say it's a liberal show, right? right?), he accused Capitelli of taking marching orders from the tree sitters instead of his constituents ("Who are you listening to? Again, who are you listening to?). A little patience would have revealed that Councilman Capitelli's concerns centered on parking and the financial feasibility of renovating the stadium, primarily, and not on the oaks, but better to accuse first and listen never. After Capitelli had stated his views and DiR was showing no signs of accepting the answer or moving on, an real B4C member had to jump in and cut him off ("this is a conversation, lets not make it a dialog). Several people had to cut him off at other times, but DiR never got discouraged. He remained douchey until the very end, clinging to his condescending accusations well after Capitelli (SPOILER ALERT) essentially told us that he wouldn't vote to appeal.
Afterwards, my new BFF Spazzy Mcgee and I met and introduced ourselves. Both of us were relieved that the other was not DiR. So as low as the level of discourse around here gets, know that it could be much, much worse.
By now, you have probably heard that the Berkeley City Council decided not to appeal at this time. I was planning on claiming that I had single-handedly swayed Councilman Capitelli and saved the project, but Spazzy would probably refute that. In truth, I did not speak during the meeting (DiR was doing such a great job!), mostly because I was taking notes on what Capitelli was saying. After 18 months of hearing almost exclusively from the tree-sitters, Volker, and Buckwald, it was incredibly refreshing to hear a logical, sane person's perspective. That Laurie Capitelli is a person who actually had a say in the legal process was just the cherry on top.
Capitelli's concerns, as mentioned above, included the planned construction of a multi-story parking lot near the fault and the lack of financing schedule for the actual renovation of Memorial Stadium. He voted against accepting a settlement offer from the University back in September (as did most of the COB - only Gordon Wozniak voted to accept, with Kriss Worthington abstaining) because he felt these concerns and others had not been sufficiently addressed. Due to the judges ruling and a letter from Vice Chancellor Nathan Brostrom, which stated that the University will not include the parking lot in its construction plans and provided a plan for renovating Memorial Stadium by the fall 2012, Capitelli said that the issues most important to him had been resolved, which "would lead me not to appeal". Everyone was relieved. DiR questioned him further on Jon Stewart.
I kept waiting for the other, crazy hippie shoe to drop, but Capitelli kept making logical, sensible statements. He said he was "painfully" aware (he even looked pained) when someone mentioned that the $300,000 spent on the case so far could have gone to many underfunded programs. Asked if he was in favor of renovating Memorial stadium, he said "absolutely", and mentioned that it made little sense to build a new stadium elsewhere. He also mentioned that the Panoramic Hill Association may have issues with Phase II & III of the project (the Stadium renovation phases), but that these issues would be between the PHA and the University, and he doesn't want the city to be involved. When the issue of intensification arose (the PHA has claimed that the SAHPC will bring more traffic to the area), he said "I don't see it either".
Once we had discussed the details of the case, the discussion shifted towards the relationship between the City and the University in general. Capitelli said that "at some time in the future, [the University] has to look at limits [of building and expansion]. Personally, I love that the main part of campus is relatively compact for its population, especially compared to other universities (cough Stanford), and I definitely see Councilman Capitelli's point that we don't want the University to take over the town (well, sometimes I see it). The Berkeleyans for Cal leaders responded by saying that they would be happy to become a mediator between the city and the University on this and related issues; being Berkeley residents as well as Cal grads and supporters, they (and those of us living in the area) are in a unique position to foster the best and hopefully mutual interests of both institutions.
We left the meeting with our goals accomplished and with a sense of collaboration and mutual respect. Tune in tomorrow to see if this respectful atmosphere existed at the public comment session (I'll give you a hint: it was a public comment session at the Berkeley City council).
One final note: the B for Cal folks emphasized how important it was for us to commend the City Council for not appealing the ruling. The Berkeley Daily Planet may be a rag, but it's a pretty popular one in Berkeley and it's slanted pretty heavily against us. If you've got a minute, write a letter to the BDP thanking the City Council for coming to its senses. If we demand and congratulate logical action, maybe the COB will take it more often