At last night’s City Council meeting, Park Street Business Association Executive Director Rob Ratto stood at the podium and verbally assaulted a 76 year old man who, exercising his first amendment rights to free speech and his rights to participate in his government, expressed opinions that Mr. Ratto evidently didn’t like.
Mr. Ratto’s tirade was directed at Arthur Lipow, a 76 year old retired college professor who spoke immediately before Mr. Ratto on the topic of the Park Street North of Lincoln Plan. Mr. Lipow’s comments in no way referenced the Park Street Business Association nor Mr. Ratto, but an enraged Ratto got up to the podium saying “And again, to Mr. Lipow…” with his voice rising several decibels, overdriving the microphone and turning slightly in the direction of Mr. Lipow, who was seated in the front row behind and to the right of Ratto, then continued his rant about “naysayers” in Alameda who expressed concern about development and concluded by yelling “Well guess what, go out there and take a look pal!”
Mr. Ratto is a large and physically imposing man while Mr. Lipow has a slightly stooped back and often walks with the aid of a cane. Unfortunately, this sort of intimidation has become common among Alameda power brokers, whether they be on our City boards and commissions or the business association boards and staff like PSBA. Mr. Ratto’s assault comes just two weeks after he advised City Council at their September 16th meeting to preclude – whether it be legal or not – those who he termed as “buttinskis” from appealing planning board decisions to City Council. Mr. Ratto’s intent – like the cyberbullies who run and frequent the Alameda “establishment” blogs around town – seems to be to intimidate anyone who disagrees with him and prevent them from exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and participatory government.
See below to hear Mr. Ratto’s tirade. The video image is a single still shot, but you can hear the audio. To hear both speakers and see full motion video, go to the City of Alameda’s webcast center, and go to the 1:10 minute mark of the October 7th City Council meeting video. To hear just the audio with no image, click here.