Tuesday, July 29, 2014

San Leandro and the charade of the Town Hall Meeting

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I attended a Town Hall meeting tonight to hear Rob Bonta, a Democrat in the California State Assembly. We should be clear. These meetings are not in the mold of the Town Hall meetings that took place during the American revolutionary era,  just the opposite.  They are structured events, political theater where the politicians from the two Wall Street parties like Bonta can act like they actually care about the average person.

The meeting was only scheduled to last an hour and started about 20 minutes behind schedule. I didn’t expect much from a Democratic Party politician but was motivated by a colleague to go along anyway.

There were about 17 people there, maybe 20. Jim Prola a city council member was also present and some other Democratic Party characters I’m not familiar with. When we add the cops there was perhaps 25 people.

I sat there for 40 minutes or so listening to Bonta drone on about the successes he has had in the state legislature and how good things have become since the end of the Great Recession. He said something about him and his party’s efforts returning some social services to the “High levels that existed before the Recession.” “ High levels” Is that so?

He talked of how he had campaigned to get drivers licenses for ex cons. I seem to recall him saying something about them being able to pursue a profession more easily.  The reality of course is that the best that will do is help them get to the unemployment office a little easier where they will get one of those $10 an hour jobs if they’re lucky, or maybe two of them if they’re even luckier, especially if one has some benefit plan.

He boasted about how the Democrats minimum wage plan has “kicked off” a national campaign conveniently leaving out the fast food campaign, the election of a socialist to Seattle City council that has highlighted the issue and the general mood among the low waged that something has to be done. Oh, and he seems to have forgotten the Occupy Movement which has brought some minor changes in its wake as the state responded with the carrot and the stick.

Bonta made sure to include Hilary Clinton in his cheerleading speech pointing out that the Hilary, Bill and Chelsea (not Chelsea Manning) Foundation was doing good work and he was partnering with it in Oakland. That Hilary and Bill are among the top recipients of Goldman Sachs bribes seemed to escape him as did Hilary’s contribution to the struggle for paid maternity leave in the US, the only industrialized nation that doesn’t have it.  Hilary has made it very clear that she supports paid maternity leave----------“eventually”*

Any politician representing the interests of workers and the middle class would have to be concerned that only 17 or so people would show up at a “Town Hall” meeting.  But these folks are happy with that. In fact, these meetings, like regular council meetings are designed to keep people away.  The audience was mostly, though not exclusively older and white; no youth, hardly any people of color.

As you see in the video, I was ushered out by the cops. I had a beer with lunch 6 hours or so earlier and one of the cops, the most aggressive one physically, smelled it and tried to intimidate me by threatening to arrest me. But it does suggest we don’t drink for 24 hours before a city council meeting like eating before communion.

Jim Prola, a city council member and former co-worker of mine and, was there as well.  He told me he “likes” Bonta. I am sure he does. I was at a Town Hall meeting about ten days earlier to speak against a tax increase all the council members support, a sales tax that will affect the poorest among us.  The city councilors at that meeting all spoke in favor of it and how it was going to save us all, along with the increased sales tax proposed by the county. We will have good roads etc.  Prola waxed eloquent as they all did about the private sector and the need to bring businesses to our town, especially hi-tech.  They want to make san Leandro the silicon valley of the East Bay. The reality is, no matter what these people say, they are all representatives of business. We have no workers representatives on these bodies.

The hypocrisy of these characters has no bounds.  Being a retired public utility worker like myself Prola has a pension most workers can only dream of.  I know as I have a similar public sector pension.  Coupled with social security it is a decent living barring a medical crisis. This is why the two Wall Street parties as representatives of the 1% want to eliminate the public sector unions and the benefits we receive, wages, benefits and pensions that everyone should have. We should not be ashamed of a pension we can live on; it should be expanded to every worker.

I am fortunate enough to have had a union and to have worked in the public sector.  I’m not hypocritical to the point that I could champion market forces and the private sector knowing that it is public employment that has given me a decent life.

Oh, yes. Bonta also forgot mention Gaza. The US Congress supports the present genocidal assault 100%, this includes a local politician Barbara Lee a darling of the liberals as does Rand Paul, the Libertarian. They are war criminals, all of them.

At the Town Hall a week or so ago when I spoke against the tax increase I made it clear in a conversation with a worker who happened to wander in there and felt he should support it that it’s not that I can’t afford it.  It’s a matter of principle. I am opposed to taxes on workers and the middle class as well as community business.

At some point we have to mobilize our forces and go after the folks with the money and they don’t live in our neighborhoods.

*Business Week, 7-21-14

1 comment:

Mike B said...

Again the workers who have been struggling to keep their heads above water are going to be asked to raise their taxes to pay for services. Why not ask more of these "high tech" companies they claim to be attracting to our city. Recently in the city newspaper the same issue touted the arrival of a new 20 million dollar brewery and also the placement of the sales tax measure on the ballot. What will this brewery be paying their workers? Is the tax payer going to have to subsidize low wages and no benefits like we already do for the Walmarts and McDonalds in our city and then also be asked to impose an ever increasing regressive sales tax on ourselves?