City Hall Has Long Paid the
Chamber of Commerce,
Now It Will Pay RULE As Well
Budgets, as they say, are moral documents. They're the black and white manifestation of priorities; an accounting of what is considered valuable by a people.
The City of Emeryville's budget tells us big business is something we value here. You can see it itemized in monthly cash payouts and gifts of free rent to the Chamber of Commerce, a private corporation. The Chamber uses the money to pay Chamber employee salaries to advocate for business interests, big businesses specifically. The idea is the public money will end up helping the public because businesses will pay us taxes. Or it might be the City Council members that keep this funding scheme going are simple ideologues; they have an aesthetic bias in favor of big business. Their long voting record on the Council hints as much.
|The Chamber of Commerce, a private company,|
gets this Harlan Street storefront rent free from the
City of Emeryville. Just to the left is an empty
unit that's perfect for RULE.
Now we have a new Emeryville City Council majority presumably with different values than the traditional pro-business fare.
The logic that brought us years of payouts of government money to the Chamber of Commerce now should be expanded. If arcane notions of public largess showered on a private business used to help big businesses, trickling down and benefiting the public are considered rational, surely a more direct route of public money resulting in public benefit should be considered at least as rational. This is how Emeryville's premier citizen activist group, Residents United for a Livable Emeryville is going to start receiving free rent and cash payouts from City Hall.
RULE will use the money to force developers to enter into Community Benefit Agreements directly with the people, skipping City Hall. They'll conduct resident surveys about nascent development, they'll go door to door and hold Town Hall meetings. They'll hire lawyers to sue those that are subverting the people's interests. They'll get their own storefront headquarters and a fancy new website and newsletter. They'll still work for free unlike Chamber employees.
Since Emeryville presumably is here to help residents, the same charge RULE has, some might see cash payouts as redundant and unnecessary. But there's not a government on Earth that has a perfect, infallible and direct connection to the needs and desires of the governed. That's why citizen activist groups are so ubiquitous. The less a government represents the interests of the governed, the more such groups sprout up.
We understand the government hubris that would tend to make payouts to a group such as RULE unlikely. In the case of Emeryville, paying RULE would be seen as a tacit admission of failure on the part of the decision makers in their charge to fashion the town after the wishes of the residents. So we understand human psychology being such that it is, the Council members will likely find the idea of paying RULE repugnant. But we're not interested in the Council member's feelings. We're interested in fair and equitable government. And we're interested in the residents benefitting from City Hall's spending.
For years we've had a budget one would expect from a town in say, Texas. Now Emeryville is going to have a budget that reflects our values. RULE will be empowered to effectively deliver Emeryville values.