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Alameda City Hall to Price Dissent Out of Reach

A month and a half after learning that the (now deposed) City Manager had been hiding from the general fund $2.1 million in liabilities by shuffling it through special service funds, Alameda City Council will tonight consider a proposal to raise appeal feels by more than four times.

Evidently tired of citizens exercising their right to participatory governance, Alameda City Council will consider a proposal to hike residential fees for appeal of Planning Board, Planning Director or Zoning Administrator decisions from $100 to $400, plus up to $1,500 for city staff time and materials. Appellants for decisions related to commercial properties may pay as much as $5,000.

The City is trying to balance the general fund deficit on the backs of those who challenge the planning department’s agenda, whether or not it concurs with the wishes of Alameda residents. They are effectively pricing dissent out of reach of the average Alameda resident or small business owner. At a recent City Council meeting, Park Street Business Association Executive Director Robb Ratto, in a heated complaint about an appeal to City Council of a Historical Advisory Board decision, urged City Council to make such appeals “illegal” because they consumed so much City Council and city staff time. City of Alameda staff evidently took Mr. Ratto’s exhortations to heart, and are proposing the next best thing – making appeals so expensive, it is effectively illegal to appeal planning decisions.

One would hope Alameda City Council would be wise enough to reject this cynical attempt to supress the will of the people. To paraphrase Noam Chomsky: “In a totalitarian state, the government uses violence to suppress dissent. In a democratic state, they use fees.”

1 comment to Alameda City Hall to Price Dissent Out of Reach

  • anonymous middle class

    Those of us watching Planning & Building abuse the rights of citizens while collecting a nice paycheck and sleeping at night are not surprised at this latest tactic. Will the Council continue to allow Planning & Building department to wage war on property owners and on civil rights?