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Letter on Planning Board

The following letter-to-the-editor appeared in today’s online edition of the Alameda Journal, but not in the print edition:

Is Democracy dead?

Remember all of that stuff we learned in school about the democratic
process and city officials elected by and responsive to the needs of
its citizens? You probably think that’s the way it works in Alameda.
I did, until I recently attended a City Council meeting and a
Planning Board meeting regarding different developers, each trying to
advance their own profit agendas against the better interests of the
citizens of Alameda.

Then I found out the truth. The Planning Department exists to be the
developers’ mouthpiece and represent the developers’ interests under
the guise of representing the city. In fact, we could save a lot of
money by eliminating the Planning Department and letting developers
represent themselves directly. It would also be less deceptive.

I say the Planning Department is only the developers’ mouthpiece
because at the meetings I attended, the developers conferred often
with the Planning Department representative who then would present
what the developer told them to say. I never saw a Planning
Department representative confer with one of the concerned citizens
present in order to portray a more balanced view. In fact, balance is
impossible to achieve at these meetings, because citizens are allowed
only 2 or 3 minutes to speak, while the mouthpiece Planning
Department is allowed unlimited time.

What amazed me at both meetings was that the larger the contingent of
concerned citizens that were present, ironically, the less time they
are given to speak. Wouldn’t you think that a council elected by the
citizens of Alameda and a Planning Board pledged to represent the
best interests of the citizens of Alameda would want to hear what
those citizens had to say so they could better represent the
citizens’ needs and desires? Au contraire.

The Planning Board meeting was the more disappointing of the two
meetings. When the concerned citizens were speaking during their
abbreviated speaking allocation, the board members sat stoically and
seemed bored. But when the developer or their mouthpiece spoke, the
board was all smiles and enthusiastic.

I encourage you to attend a Planning Board meeting and a council
meeting. Listen to what is said and observe how the deck is stacked
against the individual citizens.

If you get the same powerless feeling of frustration that I did,
speak up at the meetings and in every forum you can. Let them know
that we are going to assert the aggregated power of the common person
and are not going to let them put the profit interests of developers
over the interests of the citizens of Alameda anymore.

Kurt Libby

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