Saturday, November 22, 2003

Wow! Where did the week go?

It's Saturday again, and a full week since I entered anything in this journal. I believe this is the longest period ever, and getting back into the rhythm may take a day or so.

It's been eventful -- starting with the seating of the new governor and the calling of an Extraordinary Session of the Legislature. That turned out to be a total disaster with the session called for four o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, and the following morning it disintegrated! The newly-appointed state auditor (called from Jeb Bush's Florida) appeared before the Budget Committee, made a brief presentation, refused to take questions -- and walked out on that body in a huff. It seem that the dear woman had not been told that the 20 billion dollar bond that the new Guv was requesting for the next ballot would bump into the 15 billion dollar bond measure the former governor had already set in place. Also, there is a competing 5 billion dollar bond measure for education set for the next ballot as well. It's a total fiasco!

Spoke before the Berkeley Chapter of the Grey Panthers on Wednesday afternoon as a replacement for Loni who was at the Capitol. Great fun! These are my contemporaries, and several were old friends and allies from years ago when Berkeley was carving out its reputation as the Progressive capitol of the world. We talked budget and prospects for future legislation and what-in-the-world will tomorrow bring with this wild and crazy bunch we allowed to take over the state, the country, and the world. Loved every minute of it, and hope to be asked back when some of this is behind us. Good to learn that most are involved in Berkeley-born MoveOn, and are working hard to defeat the revision of MediCare and the awful pork-filled energy bill. Go Grey Panthers!

Won't bore you with reports of the Water Workshop of the Contra Costa Council, but it may be comforting to pass along at least one fact. There is little or no danger of having our reservoirs contaminated by terrorists (Anthrax) since any toxin used would simply become inert under the traditional water quality treatment processes. There remains, however, problems involving smaller community facilities.

With so much happening with work, and with a city melting down before our eyes (city manager -- a friend -- resigned on Wednesday for "health reasons"), I'm not sure how much writing I can get to over the next few weeks. The City of Richmond now has an interim police chief, interim city manager, interim finance director, and a mayor and city council in shock. Because of a severe budget shortfall, the council chose to create a six month rather than full fiscal year budget. In addition, Governor Schwarzenegger's precipitous restoration of the Vehicle License Fees only recently enacted, and that went to pay for public safety services for cities and counties, has cost the city an immediate additional $3 million dollars in lost revenue.

Due to the need to move out of the Civic Center complex in order to retrofit for earthquake preparedness (mandatory), city government has relocated across town to buildings that cost in rent over $100,000/month -- with the work required for the original site not yet put out to bid. Moving back in is obviously years away.

This is my city, and I'm not even sure that it's governable anymore. Find myself wondering how many other cities across the country are fighting as hard to remain viable? I suspect that this is the proverbial "tip of the iceberg." Being so close to the centers of governance where it's impossible to ignore the chaos, is pretty frightening. The fragility of systems that no longer serve us -- and maybe never really did -- makes for some sleepless nights. Seeing that the leaders we've chosen are mere mortals who must have our consent to be governed, and our cooperation in that effort or democracy will fail adds little to one's sense of security. Find myself wondering if we're not entering a period of anarchy, fostered by having been dumbed down so by media that one day the strongest, and probably not wisest among us will rise and prevail... another scary thought. And -- maybe that's already happened.

Hope continues to appear in my email box each morning when I read messages from People For The American Way, ACLU, MoveOn, The Nation, etc., and realize that a new wave of Populism is cresting -- this time through the power of the Internet and connecting the voice of Progressives everywhere. Writing checks and clicking on hyperlinks and feeling effective when I see the newspapers ads and the boxes of messages being hauled into the FCC hearings that tells me that my voice is only one of perhaps millions, and that change is still possible.

Internationally, news continues to terrify me. But I find myself less concerned with the "Terrorists" than I am of the obvious disintegration of the support our country once enjoyed. I really don't have a solid sense of just who the "We" might be? That we're standing pretty much alone, except for a misguided Tony Blair, says little that reassures.

Can't remember a time when I didn't feel a part of the "we," even when most critical of what "we" were doing as a nation. One could speak out and critique, and march, and write, always with the feeling that there were enough other voices of opposition "out there" to provide the necessary balance in order to maintain our democracy. Then there was the Supreme Court and those founding documents that upheld the right to dissent. None of that seems terribly relevant anymore, and the feeling that we have a government that has lost the ability or the desire to conform to those safeguards heralds tough times ahead, and the creeping suspicion that our foundations are crumbling ... .

Meanwhile, my agenda grows -- but so (apparently) does my effectiveness. Don't be fooled by this temporary pessimism. In the short term, I'm still hopeful. Just having a hard time dealing with history as it is unfolding in these troubling times. Will explain that more fully tomorrow.

Off to pick up Dorian ...