State Parks buys the bridge:
Report from the August Waterfront Commission meeting.

The August 9, 2000, meeting of the Berkeley Waterfront Commission featured an appearance by State Parks, East Bay Regional Parks, the planning consultant who will direct the Eastshore State Park project, and CESP members. Rick LeFlore of State Parks and Larry Tong of East Bay Regional Parks District were present, along with Don Neuwirth of Neuwirth Associates. Also attending the meeting were several members of CESP, including Ed Bennett and Sylvia McLaughlin, although they did not make a presentation on CESP's behalf.

This was the first opportunity for the Waterfront Commission to discuss the ESP planning process in general, and the role that CESP would play in particular.

As is clear from documents presented elsewhere on this website, CESP has always been a strong advocate for the Eastshore State Park, and has gone on record with some very specific policies that it would like to see implemented in the park. These policies represent only one of many "visions" for the shape of the park, and are not without elements of controversy.

Therefore it was with some concern that the Waterfront Commission learned of CESP's role as the only private organization that would receive public funds to assist with the planning efforts of East Bay Regional. The full Commission endorsed my letter expressing these concerns at the June meeting.

CESP's position, re-stated at the August Waterfront Commission meeting, is that it will be very careful to keep the publicly funded activities completely separate from its traditional role as a land use and policy advocate. And this is where we start negotiating on the price of the bridge.

Two examples of "appropriate" uses for the public money were put forth at the meeting: 1) publication of a newsletter about the Eastshore State Park and the planning process; and 2) Supplying a mailing list to EBRPD and the firm that conducts the public workshops.

It would be hard to come up with two tasks that offer more opportunity to skew the direction of the planning process. Control of the newsletter puts the CESP slant on things foremost in the public eye. Whether they use the newsletter for blatantly unbalanced editorial, or whether their bias is expressed in the more subtle techniques of selection and omission, turning over the control of the printing press to one special interest group, on the public's nickel, is a serious lapse of good faith on the part of the State and regional agencies in charge. Can we presume that all the other diverse potential park users will be allowed open access to the newsletter? Will they be encouraged to match CESP column-inch for column-inch? If you answered yes, maybe you'd like a bridge of your own.

On the mailing list: What a wonderful way to bias the character of the public workshops right from the start. Will any other advocacy groups get public money to develop their own mailing lists representing potentially competing interests?

CESP would probably claim that their mailing list simply represents people who have expressed interest in the park, and does not reflect any particular land use or policy bias.

Nonsense. CESP membership is a highly self-selected demographic with self-selected preferences for how the waterfront should be used. People who favor more active use of this land, and more facilities that support more intense water-related activities, are not likely to have more than a token presence on CESP's list.

The only way to get a mailing list from CESP and still be even-handed about this planning process is to spend the same amount of money to develop a mailing list from every other interest group that might have a stake in the park. This array of interested users might include, for example, the advocates of playing fields, playgrounds, skateboard parks, dog parks, windsurfers, sailors, rowers, outrigger canoe clubs, dragon boat racers, BMX bikers, Campers, and a dozen other activities that might be accommodated within the Eastshore State Park. Will the public money used by CESP to provide a mailing list be matched with funds to these other groups, so that the people who want those activities supported can be heard from too?

A public workshop is not a scientific survey of public opinion. Nor is it a democratic expression of the public will. CESP is fully aware of how this process can be orchestrated to yield a desired result, and they are gearing up to do a very smooth job of it. Quoting from CESP's own minutes from their July 12 meeting: "A proper outreach role for CESP will be drafted and alliances created so that our views can prevail."

Bridges for sale, cheapů